Pastor Ndabalishye Pierre is from the Nyaruguru district and is the pastor of Bigugu Baptist Church. He has been there for about five years. He shared with me that his family was very fortunate to have been spared during the genocide of 1994. As with most of the pastors the genocide was indiscriminate in its effects. Some were spared and some were not. If you were from the Tutsi tribe in Rwanda, the likelihood of death during the three months of genocide in Rwanda was great. As many as a million Tutsis were brutally murdered during this time. Pastor Pierre has a wife and 6 children.
Nkomeje Viateur is a Rwandan pastor of 14 years at the Mukoma Parich Baptist Church in Mukoma, Rwanda. He is a second generation Baptist pastor. His dad, now deceased was also a pastor here in Rwanda.
Pastor Nkomeje is thankful that his entire family survived through the 1994 genocide. He lost no one in his immediate or extended family. His church has over 500 members and is about 25 miles outside of Kilgali, and he has stayed on the compound each night away from his ministry and family in order to take this class. His spirit is infectious and you can tell by the picture that he is a happy man and is enjoying life!
Pastor Mpakaniye Boniface
He is from the South province and pastors the South Province Baptist Church. He has been here for about 2 years. He previously led the Mwendo Baptist Church in the village of Mwendo for four years. His entire family and extended family fled to the Congo during the genocide of 1994 and were spared from the carnage. He told us that he is extremely thankful for this blessing.
Today is Thursday, and now, after four full days of class, I am beginning to feel exhausted. The men were unusually full of questions today, and the questions are nearly always loaded! You have to be very careful in answering them or they can easily backfire. This creates tension and before long you can lose your audience. This is something that I must keep in check all of the time. Today, I taught the men a significant part of the morning on how to interpret, use, and preach from the story-form (narrative) literature in the Bible. In this part of the world, narrative preaching is extremely popular. This afternoon we moved to the books of prophecy, and by the day's end, we were teaching them about the use of the book of Acts.
It was a very busy day and a very tiring day. We will have one more quiz in the morning and then after compiling all of the grades, determine who needs to retest just before the lunch break. After lunch we will create the final list of who will receive a Certificate of Completion and at 3:00 in the afternoon, we will hold the first official graduation service in Kilgali (sometimes known as Kigali as well), Rwanda. I will include the final number tomorrow in my blog, but I know that the lion's share of the pastors will graduate from the first class in Interpretation of Scripture.
Also this afternoon, I had the chance to interview one of the pastors from outside the city. I hope you will visit our Facebook page to meet this second generation Baptist pastor. Tomorrow I hope to interview a few others and include them in tomorrow night's blog. Their stories are all different and fascinating. Their everyday hardships do not discourage them or make them joyless. In fact, its just the opposite. Most of the older men have seen so much atrocity and violence because of genocide, that nothing can keep them down for long. They are always ready to embrace you each morning and offer a joyful greeting.
There has been little rain here for over two months and the water supply is lacking. Several men on the property, including the pastor had to go out today to find more water supplies for the house and dorms so the men could bathe. They brought back water, but water supplies are definitely limited. Fortunately, I have not been affected by it, and they have supplied me with an endless supply of bottled and boiled water.
Well, I will have much more to report tomorrow! Please pray for the final class, the final quiz, and the graduation service. We will need wisdom and grace on how to handle all of the endless details. I have some very important news to share with you tomorrow about the Congo part of the trip, and it is good!
Blessings from Rwanda, Africa
If Wednesday is hump day, this one was a hill! We have had quite the day here in Rwanda. The power has been out most of the day, and the day was non-stop. We had our second quiz today, and the men seem to be holding up quite well. I hope I can do the same! It is inspiring to see men who have little to nothing making the effort to better their lives and ministries through education. This drives me to continually keep giving my best.
There are so many stories here it is hard to know which ones to tell. Tomorrow I will send several pictures including some of Rwandan pastors and their personal stories. As I have shared before, many of these men have personally come through the genocide of 1994. What they have personally endured and how they have moved forward against all odds is simply something to behold. It is impossible to complain after getting to know many of them.
For those of you who did not see our Facebook page, I interviewed two nephews Sunday evening whose uncle's family lost their lives in 1994. The combatants came to their home in April of 1994 intending to kill them with machetes. The father of three begged the men not to kill them that way and offered to pay them 50,000 Rwandan francs to kill them with a gun instead, a much more merciful death. The killers took their money and left. They told them they would be back in a few months. They returned as promised and met the family at their home. The father's eleven year boy knew the end was near and attempted to run. His captors caught him and brought him back to the yard of the family home. They forced them to walk a few miles to where there was a large hole dug. They men then asked the uncle how he wanted his family to die. He asked them to begin with the youngest girl, and to shoot each child, then the wife, and finally to shoot him. That is how it was done.
The nephews were permitted, after the genocide ended a year later, to exhume the bones and bury them on the family property. For most of us, recovering from such horrific personal tragedy would have been next to impossible. But for these men and woman, they have had no choice but to move forward in their lives. The greatest victory of all has been their ability to forgive the killers and now almost 15 years later, call them brother and sister Rwandans. The grace of God is simply greater than any human tragedy or horror.
To God be the glory
Its after 7:00 o'clock here in Kilgali, Rwanda, and the day's activities are drawing to a close. Today was our first quiz day. We had 55 men in class this morning who took their first quiz. It was quite the event for all of them. The session began with some lively African singing and prayer, and then I went over the questions for the men so they there would be a minimum of misunderstood directions and subsequent answers. A five question quiz literally took us over an hour and a half! I am always amazed at the number of questions that can be raised when there are language, culture, and other barriers to cross. It is truly amazing and requires the patience of Job.
The session ended this afternoon at 4:30 with the preparation of the men for tomorrow morning's second quiz. I guess I am a glutton for punishment. The great takeaway from today is the sheer joy of knowing that the investment of time and effort into these men's lives will bear eternal dividends. I pray constantly that God would raise up many of them for greater and more effective Christian service. Some of them show great potential, great leadership qualities, and there are some about which you simply cannot tell. But it is worth every cent of physical and financial investment. One of my students, a pastor, had the honor of representing this group of churches in a government office with Rwandan officials today. He is bright, articulate, and has the joy of Jesus Christ all over him. We can only ask God to raise up more young pastors like him who God can use to change Rwanda and the continent of Africa.
Tomorrow will be another grueling day of teaching. Please pray for strength and wisdom for me. Just like last year, the men pepper me with constant questions about ministry and particular issues they face in their churches. I am always amazed at the number of ways in which they are like us westerners. Their churches reflect similar issues and problems we all face. One of the prevailing problems among them however is the poverty in which they live and labor for the Lord. But you would never tell it by their faces. The joy of Jesus constantly lights their countenances. They don't complain, they just keep going. Their testimonies are always about how God is blessing them and meeting their needs in supernatural ways. They know the power of God and never seem to tire of their battles. I wish that we all could live like that!
Time for something to eat, and then its bedtime.
Well the day is about over, and it has been a long one. It started a little late because of some late pastors from a another sector of the Kilgali region. They cannot afford to come for the entire week. The blessing is that one of our supporting pastors and his church anticipated this and gave us a generous love gift to make it possible for people just like this to attend! We are thrilled to be able to help them this week to get the training they desire.
The first day of class today has been a typical first seminar day. For the Africans, they have their own cultural manner of dealing with difficulties. By days end, we have most of the logistic problems worked out. Tomorrow we will get back to the grueling schedule of 8:00 am to 4:30 p.m. lectures. Today we went about five and a half hours. The men have their first quiz in the morning and I could tell that they are a little anxious. This is predictable because they really don’t know what to expect. Hopefully we can get them all through the first one and set a good template for the rest of the week. They all want to receive that certificate of completion on Friday afternoon!
I have had some really good video moments. Last night I ran into two thirty-something year old men whose uncle’s family was killed during the genocide of 1994. I hope you will take the time to watch this interview with these two nephews on our website - www.gbtf.net. It should be up there by tomorrow. It is absolutely stunning and overwhelming what they conveyed to me in the interview about the killings. The most amazing part however is their unequivocal forgiveness of the murderers and love for those they now call their Rwandan brothers.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Rwandan genocide, it was simply a civil war between two rival tribes the Hutus and Toutsis. The Hutus had the advantage of having a Hutu president who was unwilling to step in and stop the violence. Unfortunately, this did not stop his own murder. And the country was plunged into a mass genocide of the Toutsis. There were nearly a million people who died in the murders, the main portion of them were Toutsis. It was one of the most tragic events of the century, decimating the population of Rwanda.
I trust you will pray for this ministry. The future of Rwanda is really in the hands of Christians who love their brothers and sisters despite their ethnic background. We are training the present generation of pastors who are ministering in the post-genocide era. It is a divine privilege to train these godly men who desire to minister to their people more effectively.