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,


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