Thursday, September 21, 2017

Christ Our Hope Anglican Update

The first week of September was a HUGE week in the life of our new little church. It's amazing to think back to November of 2015 when God began to reveal his new call to Erin and me. And to think that now we have had our very first service. I always knew God could do it, but certainly wondered if he had made a huge mistake in asking me to be a part of things.

On September 10th, we met at 9 AM at the Wrightsville Beach Brewery for Worship on Sunday morning. It was special and a sweet sweet time with the Lord. The space worked very well. (As a complete aside. We are being charged $100 per week for rental of the space. This very low rent is a huge blessing. The owner made it even better and charged us just $1 for the first week. I was informed by the owner last week that the first 11 weeks of our rent were anonymously taken care of. I think maybe God is showing off a bit.) Our systems came together. There is a wonderful team of very talented and hard working people that have made this at all possible. We even had children's church. We call it the "REEF." The kids had a great time and seem excited about coming back for another go around this week.

We actually had music, prayers, communion, and a sermon. 47 people were in attendance. Two of our regular families were out of town this week, and we had a couple of new faces amongst those worshipping. God has mightily blessed this congregation all along. The Leadership Council voted prior to Sunday that our first offering would be sent to hurricane relief. So we are sending just over $1000 to that effort through the Anglican Church of North America.

Thank you each for making this church possible. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.  I can't wait to get back together with this family to Worship our Lord Jesus.

Many blessings to you.

Curt Solomon

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Rwanda Mission Team 2017 ~ Pastor's Summary

Dear Apostles family and Rwanda trip supporters,

The team is back safe and sound! After thirty hours of travel, we touched down in Raleigh RDU at 4:19 PM on Tuesday. Praise God for a safe trip! We had hoped to capture more blog entries before returning, but due to some technical difficulties we got out less than anticipated. However, I’d like to update you now with a summary of our trip. 

This was my fourth visit to Rwanda and easily my favorite! There was something about the depth of relationship and the evidence of the fruit of nine years of visits, prayers, and partnership that made this trip so special. I could see it in the faces of many of the people we have come to know and love over the years. I could also see it in the lives of our team, (John and Barbara Wilson, Teresa Kincaid, Chris Hendricks, and our three graduating seniors: Amanda Stahl, Abigail Jordan, and Matt Bocklage).  We had a lot of laughs, tears, and sweet times together…as well as eating lots and lots of starchy foods!

The Water Project
I could see God's fruitfulness in the continued expansion of the health center at Gikomero; an expansion that was made possible by the addition of a fresh water system supplied by Apostles in the early years of our partnership. We made the trek down into the valley where the water pump was installed. I had forgotten how far it was from Gikomero’s perch high atop one of Rwanda’s many “hills!” They have now added additional tanks for intake of the precious spring water which is pumped over a mile up the hill. 

The New Church Building 
I saw the joy of a people who had mourned the collapse of their church building as we worshipped for the first time in their new space (still unfinished but capable of hosting a five hour worship service of confirmations, baptisms, new member receptions, communion and testimonies!) One man even brought in a cow as an offering, fulfilling a vow he had made! He had been distraught at the collapse of the church building and didn’t believe a new one would ever be possible. However, when he saw it being built as a result of the people’s faithfulness, combined with the prayers and financial help of Church of the Apostles, he pledged to make a significant offering to God at the first worship service scheduled in the new space. It was a joyful thing to behold! 

I could clearly see the value of building this new church as it is capable of holding three times the people as the old structure. Although it was packed on its first day there will still be room to grow since the whole church worships in four different chapels three Sundays a month, and Sunday’s service was a special occasion attracting many visitors as well as the regulars. I was also deeply grateful to learn that one of their chapels, the Mutara parish (over an hour’s walk distance) became a self sustaining congregation that is now planting other chapels in its surrounding area. 

The Showing of the Jesus Film
I saw God’s faithfulness as over three hundred adults and children committed or recommitted their lives to Jesus in response to sermons and the showing of the Jesus Film in their native tongue. We showed the film three different times. 120 people attended the first showing at Runda parish (the sister church to Redeemer Anglican). The second showing was in the old church building in Gikomero, and over 1000 school kids jammed in to see it. They were literally spell bound for the first thirty minutes and gave their full attention for the remainder of the film. (After thirty minutes a lot of the little kids had to hit the bathroom! 😉)  

Several of the kids openly wept at the trial and crucifixion scenes. In the evening, 300 adults and some kids attended. A Rwandan Campus Crusade worker narrated some key moments in the film and even led the crowd in cheers and hallelujahs! He then issued the invitations and both prayed with and provided followup instructions for those who had committed their lives. All of us were in awe of the effect of this movie! The Jesus Film project gifted the diocese with the projector, battery, solar powered recharger, screen and film (all of which fits in a backpack) with the agreement that the film be shown 150 to 300 times over the next three years. Bishop Jered Kalimba assured me that this will be “no problem!” as they have the capacity and enthusiastic desire to do so. I was very encouraged to hear from one of the diocesan workers that she had given her life to Christ years earlier when she had seen the same film! It seemed like icing on the cake when both Teresa and I preached on Sunday (She at Runda, me at Gikomero) and about 35 people responded to the invitation to receive Christ. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

10 Goats
We were so delighted to meet up with over 60 moms in the Healthy Moms Project. We saw how a vision of their previous pastor, Pastor Etienne, had grown from a small group of downhearted single moms, to a group who now hold their heads up, share resources, start businesses, and encourage each other in the Lord. It was sheer joy to present ten of them with goats purchased through the offerings of our Monday night women’s bible study group, as well as gifting the rest of the group with hand made wash cloths made and given with love from some of our parishioners. One elderly widow said that she had never in her life owned a goat. She was clearly moved and deeply grateful. 

A Farewell Party
Finally, I saw the fruit of this relationship in a farewell party at the bishop’s house. The evening was about as special as they come. We were hosted on the bishop’s lawn outdoors. Besides getting to meet the Bishop’s cow, Mathilda, there was music, good food, and a special cake prepared in honor of John and Barbara Wilson’s 45th anniversary. The bishop had learned of their special day that morning and had made hasty arrangements to include a cake, complete with a huge sparkler candle in the middle! Several of his staff dressed in traditional Rwandan garb and sang and danced in the old style of the African villagers. Of course, we danced with them! At the end of the evening the bishop called for speeches, and particularly asked our young people to share their thoughts. I was touched by their sincere words and the love evident in them and in our hosts. It is clear that the Lord has his hand of blessing on this partnership and that their is more in store for us as we continue to exchange visits, prayer, and partnership in the gospel of Jesus.

Thank you for all your prayers and loving support over the course of this trip. This is a church partnership and you all are a part of it. Although I had a great time, and it was deeply meaningful, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to return to you. I love Church of the Apostles and all the Lord is doing in and through you. Keep praying for our brothers and sisters in Rwanda and keep praying for the work of God right here in Raleigh as we all seek the joyful expansion of his kingdom and the honor and glory of his name.

With you always in Christ,


Monday, July 24, 2017

Rwanda Mission Team 2017 ~ Wednesday, July 19

Wednesday - Runda Parish

" I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel...I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace." --Philippians 1: 3 & 5

We spent an incredible day spent with Redeemer's Sister Church, Runda Parish and their Chapel, Muganza Chapel.  When the team arrived at Muganza Chapel, people were already singing, dancing and worshiping Jesus Christ.  Inside we were greeted by women, men and a preschool class.  The children sang sweet songs and recited the story of Creation to Christ return.  Praise God for Athansia, Muganza's Catachist.  She is a woman of God!

I had the blessing of presenting Pastor Jean Baptiste and Muganza Chapel with funds to help purchase a much needed key board.  They were overjoyed with Redeemer's wonderful gift!  I wish all of Redeemer could have experienced the love and gratitude Muganza feels for the gift.  

We were humbled to be invited to Athansia's (Catechist) home for tea and a meal.  Athanasia has been given the gift of hospitality. Afterwards, we went to Joselyn's home for a delicious lunch. Joseyln is Runda Parish's Catechist.  We felt very loved by these gifts of hospitality.

In the afternoon, the Team showed the Jesus film.  What an incredible experience to partner with Pastor Jean Baptiste in sharing the Gospel.  It was a powerful 2 hours!  Twenty people gave their lives to Christ!  Yesu ashimwe!  (Christ be praised)  We also fed everyone a basket dinner and they were thrilled to have a delicious meal.  The people were nourished spiritually and physically!  Jesus is the Bread of Life!  

Our day with Runda began at 8:30 am and we returned to the Guest House at 9 pm.  We were tired, but energized by the power of the Holy Spirit, also!

Imana ishimwe (God be praised) for His many blessings with Runda Parish.  I am excited for Redeemer's partnership in the Gospel with Runda to continue growing, as we share the love, grace and mercy of Christ!

Imana iguhe umugisha (Many Blessings)


Rwanda Mission Team 2017 ~ Tuesday, July 18

Muraho! Greeting with Rwanda! 

We have continued our journey with Christ and our adventure in Rwanda with the Compassion children! Compassion is an international organization which seeks out children in need and couples them with a sponsor. The funds sent supports the child's education, health and overall creates a better quality of life. Currently, Compassion is serving over 85,000 children in Rwanda alone and is continuing to expand. 

Today we met with Teresa and the Wilson's compassion children. John and Barbara sponsor a young girl named Annunciata who is eleven years old. Teresa's children are named Fiston (4), Thirry (9), Solange (11), Alexia (14) and Gentile (18). We were able to meet all the children except for Teresa's oldest child who was away at boarding school taking exams. The children were very sweet. They sang and danced for us and even let us join in, which was a good activity to break the ice. Then, they each present their Compassion parents with a present and the parents gave their kids each a gift. It was like Christmas!  Each kid was given a backpack with notebooks, pencils, crayons and various toys to enjoy. Fiston in particular loved his toy truck and we enjoyed playing soccer with the rest of the kids. 

We visited with the Compassion kids for almost four hours, enjoying their company and their smiles :) It was sad to say goodbye, but it was a great visit. A little later we walked to the Zion Hill Projects and were greeted by a whole school of children singing songs to end their school day. We introduced each of ourselves and the children were especially happy with Patrick because there was a girl named Patricia in the group. They were confused when Chris told them he was ten years old, but they also thought it was very funny :)

Overall it was a great day.  Looking forward to the great days to come. 

Abigail Jordan 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rwanda Mission Team 2017 ~ Monday, July 17


Today we ventured to Kigali, where we met with Archbishop in the morning. In this meeting, he spoke to us about the various ways the Anglican church in Rwanda is working to train up their multitude of staff members. We also talked about the many differences between American and Rwandan churches, and how each country could learn from the other. After finishing up with the Archbishop, we traveled further into the center of Kigali for lunch. We had very delicious Sambusa along with many other delicious foods. 

Our final stop for the day was the National Genocide Memorial and Museum. At the museum, we were able to learn about the genocide, and understand further the horrors that occurred. Over 250,000 victims of the genocide are buried at the memorial, so we were also able to visit their memorials and pay our respects. 

As we rode back from Kigali, we began to prepare for the Compassion children's visit the next morning! 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Rwanda Mission Team 2017 ~ Sunday, July 16

Muraho to all!

Today we visited the Nteyno Parish and attended their Sunday service. We were welcomed into the service by one of the four choirs, and we were able to dance with many of the parishioners. At the service, Pastor Amos and Mattias, along with Patrick and Teresa all spoke to the congregation. Both Luke 8:1-15 and Deuteronomy 28:1-8 were preached on. 

After the service, we were able to meet many of the parishioners and speak with them before being given a tour of the primary school housed on Ntyeno's campus. The wonderful staff members of the school then hosted a wonderful lunch for us in one of the classrooms. We are so thankful to have arrived safely in Rwanda, and to have spent our first day in the country worshiping alongside many of our brothers and sisters in Christ! 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jesus in My Place

As we loaded up the minivan this weekend to head to the beach, I’m not sure any of us could have imagined what the Lord had planned for the COTA Women’s Retreat. Sure, we may get to stare out at the ocean from our hotel room on a dreary February day. Yes, we would hopefully meet some new women from Apostles. We would probably enjoy our speaker, Kathy. And we had heard there might be a pretty fun dance party one night.

But the Lord had abundantly more for us. We didn't just stare out at the beach, we walked in the sand on a sunny, 75° February day. We did not just meet new women, we heard real stories, we bonded over shared life experiences, we forged new friendships. Kathy did not just speak good words; she dug deep in scripture and in her own heart and shared the powerful, raw story of redemption—in her life and ours. And oh, we would definitely forego a restful night of sleep to dance all night with a whole bunch of women.

Raleigh Fellows at the 2017 Women's Retreat

And our God worked. The Spirit moved. Jesus redeemed. There are stories of healing—from deep down in our toes to deep down in our souls. There are stories of experiencing God through new gifts. There are stories of Jesus showing up, even in the midst of pain.

My story (in a very abbreviated version) is when Jesus took my place at the table. In a very powerful moment of prayer, I was asked to go back to a moment in my life where I felt pain and rejection. I went back to that moment, and struggled to find Jesus there at first. But, after some conversation and questions, I was able to confess some unforgiveness, admit my deep need for Jesus, and then it happened. I went back to that painful memory, and I looked for Jesus. And there I saw him. He was sitting at the table, in my place. The hurtful words and insults still came, but Jesus took them all. As I sat cowering behind the chair I was previously sitting in, I no longer heard the insults because they went through Jesus first. I watched him take my pain and my hurt. I watched him pick up my burdens. Yes, Jesus took my place. The chains began to loosen, I finally tasted the ice cream, and it was delicious. I felt free.

So, thank you, Apostles women, for choosing to love. When a confused, hurting 23-year-old girl admitted that confusion and hurt, you did not run. You prayed. You asked questions. You spoke truth from the Lord into the deepest places in my soul. You pleaded with Jesus on my behalf. You did not even know my name, but yet you called me sister, you called me daughter, you called me friend. Thank you. 

Carryl Tinsley
2016-17 Raleigh Fellow

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Baptism Story ~ Stephen Sumrall, Raleigh Fellow

I sat completely alone in the church pew. All ninety pounds and five-and-a-half-ish feet of my skinny frame hunched over trying to be even smaller than I already was. Eyes closed and head resting on my forearms. Forearms firmly crossed over my knees. I desperately wanted to disappear. 

You wouldn’t think someone would dread celebrating their sins being washed away by the blood of the lamb. But I dreaded communion Sunday like the plague. Growing up I loathed the fourth Sunday of every month because communion wasn’t for me. I hadn’t been baptized into the church and so I was rightly told that I couldn’t partake of communion. Instead, I sat in that church pew all alone feeling as though the eyes of the congregation were boring through my soul. 

I felt like it would rock my little world of Christian friends if they found out that I didn’t believe the gospel. I couldn’t take and eat of his body broken for me. I couldn’t live my life for Christ. In some ways I never shook that feeling that I couldn’t believe, that a life wholly given to Christ wasn’t for me. 

I never shook that feeling until Sunday January 29th, 2017. On that day I was blessed to be baptized before Church of The Apostles. The ceremony was performed by my dear friend and mentor Eric Bolash in front of many people I’ve come to know and love. I finally felt that the Lord’s table was for me. That he was pierced for my transgressions too, he was crushed for my iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds I too was healed.

Though I did feel those things, I can’t say that the heavens opened up and I suddenly knew how to live my life in new commitment to Christ. That day was a blessing and a turning point, but it was just a beginning. I want to wake and live every day for Christ because he died for me. I want to feel Jesus’ love in the depths of my soul. I want him to be the most real thing in my life. But, even after being baptized, I can’t do any of those things. Only he can in me. I hope and pray for the day that he does.

Stephen Sumrall
2016-17 Raleigh Fellow