Africa journal entry #5

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experience overload

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 pm

We broke for lunch after teaching all morning, and Bryce and I ate rice, eggs, and fish in the big tent.  I was feeling much better than the day before, so I really enjoyed that meal. 

 

Most everybody else also had this large potato-like thing.  I don’t remember what it was called.  They also had fish.  everyone ate together and fellowshipped for a while.

We came back together for another session at around 2pm. I taught for another couple of hours – this time on the ministry of serving and leading. We had another Q&A session after that, with a lot more men asking good questions.

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Apparently the taxi we had taken to get to the church site was not available to bring us back, Bryce and I started walking – maybe a mile or two – down a dusty “road” alongside a railroad track. 

 

 

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Then we caught a “bus” which was actually an old van.  The buses did not look like Filipino Jeepneys, but they certainly “acted” like Jeepneys.  We waited for the bus to fill up, and were treated to a fight between two of the drivers/conductors in the buses just before ours on the road.  This served as our entertainment for the day.  It was actually quite embarrassing to watch that display of too much testosterone and too little maturity.

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The bus drove us further down the incredibly uneven road until we finally reached a paved section. There, we got out of the bus and into another car, hired to take us back to the hotel.  As you can see from the photo, the car had right hand drive, but we drove on the right side of the road! That kind of messed me up inside my brain, but it didn’t bother the driver.

 

We arrived exhausted, and just in time to catch the final meal.  It was too late to go to the nearby internet café – again – so, no contact with the outside world for another day. I stopped at Bryce’s room, and we talked for a bit, but I had already been starting to nod off on the ride home, so I left early and went to bed. It was an exhausting day of experience overload, but it was well worth it.

Africa journal entry #4

 

did I mention…?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 am

IMG_20140731_175451_400Bryce Whiting was a really big hit with the kids.  He was everyone’s grandpa.  In Mozambique the week before, Bryce had been teaching the men, and the North Carolina teaching team were teaching the women.  This week, Bryce would teach the women and I would teach the men.  Bryce has a special gift of compassion, and I got the impression that the group he taught really appreciated his time with them. He spoke French, which most of his listeners understood, but some needed the help of others who volunteered interpretations as needed.

IMG_20140731_102105_199 I had a healthy mix of younger and older men – most of whom were already in ministry.  Aside from the core group of nine trainers that we had met the night before, there were perhaps twenty or so others.  They had come from a long distance, and I felt challenged to share some significant things with them.  I did not want to waste this time. 

The morning session I spent teaching a condensed version of the content of my book, The Commands of Christ.  It was basically a summary of what Jesus had commanded his disciples to be like, derived from his commands in the Gospels.

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I had a very capable interpreter named Joshua.  He knows four languages: his tribal language, Kiswahili, French, and English.  He must have had a good theological education as well, considering the relative ease with which he expressed some of the concepts I was trying to teach.

 

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After each session, we had a question and answer session, and these could last quite long as well.  These men were hungry and thirsty for the word of God.  They asked practical questions – the kind that one gets after spending years in the ministry and struggling with difficult issues. I love this kind of intensive study, and it was clear that these servants of our LORD did too.

 

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It was a challenge answering the questions, because I like everything to be thought out well and scripted when I teach.  But the Holy Spirit provided a special grace for me, enabling me to say what these men needed to hear.  As the week would go on, these men’s notebooks would get filled with content from the lessons and Q&A sessions.  They were soaking up the content, and I had no doubt that most of them would be teaching these things themselves in their home communities. Did I mention that I really love this?

Africa journal entry #3

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the tent and its music

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 am

The sanctuary of El Shaddai church, where we met, turned out to be a large tent-like structure in a wide-open land.  It was dusty and windy, and scattered about were several small red brick huts.  On the church’s property, there are piles of those same red bricks – 15,000 of them says pastor Bertin Mwanya.  Those bricks will be used to construct a more permanent church building, as soon as the church body is able to do so.  They hope to get that construction done before the rainy season in October. 

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Until then, the sanctuary is a sparse wooden frame covered with various different types and colors of materials.  Inside, some of the red bricks have been piled in place, where they serve as makeshift pews.

 

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There are several musical instruments present, and all are them are percussion instruments.  There are drums made from hollowed out tree trunks.  There is also a steel drum of sorts, consisting of the tire rim of an automobile, and played with drumsticks which are two steel wrenches!  That drum can produce a lot of sound. 

 

IMG_20140731_102143_809The songs sung to this accompaniment are wonderful songs.  I obviously did not understand any of the word (my Kiswahili being somewhat rusty) but it was not hard to hear the hearts of the singers.  I was struck by intensity of the lyrics, and that impression was even more accentuated by the looks on the faces of the worshippers.  Only the song leader had a song book – a thin paperback containing only words.  My first impression was that there did not seem to be much difference in the tunes, but I learned later that much of the differences had to do not with the notes produced, but their speed, rhythm and loudness.  The singing is not all unison; additional phrases are added by singers from various places in the sanctuary.  Rather than causing confusion, that adds to to spontaneous nature of the worship.  I wish we could all sing like Africans!

Africa journal entry #2

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First day in Lubumbashi

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Bryce and I arrived in Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of Congo) airport about noon. Bertin Mwanya (the president of the DRC church conference) met us with two other church leaders.  We took a quick ride to our hotel.  My stomach was not feeling well, and the smells were getting to me.  Although I had slept a little on the plane, I was still quite worn out.

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After a nap I felt a bit better, and Bryce and I left the hotel on foot, looking for a place to buy bottled water, and a bank for him to exchange some Mozambique currency for Congolese Francs. I was so glad that Bryce was able to accompany me on this trip, since I do not know French. The banks were closed, but we did manage to find a supermarket, so we came back to the hotel with four 1 1/2 liter bottles of water.  Later, we went out again and purchased a loaf of French bread at a bakery, and came back to a meal of peanut butter and jelly on that French bread. 

About 8:00 pm, Bertin  arrived with nine other men.  These would be the trainers that we would be teaching throughout the week.  We had some fellowship time getting to know each other  outside our hotel in the dark, since the hotel did not allow visitors to enter its compound after 7pm.  I introduced myself to the group (with Bryce interpreting in French), and we talked about what we would be doing during the week.  Then we prayed for each other, and they left. 

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Our hotel did not offer many of the accommodations that Americans are used to, but it had doors and windows which locked, toilets which actually flushed, cold showers, and beds.  Of course, we were both in jet lag, so I’m sure neither of us got much sleep that night.

The next day, our plan was to gather at El Shaddai church and begin the lessons.

Africa journal entry #1

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Christian Family Fellowship–Johannesburg

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 – pm.

By the time Bryce Whiting and I had arrived and processed through immigration at the Johannesburg airport, it was about 5pm.  We were picked up by pastor Julius Goredema of CFF: Christian Family Fellowship, and his assistant, Michael.  It was cooler than I was prepared for, so the first thing Michael did was loan me a coat from the trunk of his car.  This was only the first of several acts of kind consideration that we experienced from these wonderful people.  Although we were only there for a short while, and on our way the next day, still they went out of their way to welcome us, and celebrate our relationship.

The men took us to their church sanctuary and showed us around the building.  It is in a well developed area of the city. Part of the property had been a school previously, a Julius plans to open a bible school there.  For now, Julius serves as a principal of another school in the area. 

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The sanctuary itself is L-shaped with seating coming from two directions facing the pulpit.  There are musical instruments to the side of the pulpit – this feature reminded me of the set-up in many of the churches in the Philippine cities. 

The meeting we had this night was with some of CFF’s ministry leaders.  It was an opportunity for Bryce and myself to get acquainted with these people, and share a little about our work.  After we spoke, several of the leaders shared about the ministries that they had been involved in recently.

  • We learned about a  recent women’s conference the church sponsored, empowering women who had suffered abuse to repair themselves in Christ. The theme was based on the book of Nehemiah. 
  • The head of the men’s fellowship spoke about how they are working on funding projects for new worship instruments. 
  • The finance director of the church talked about their project for helping local orphans.

I was really blessed by this brief meeting.  I saw the passion to make a difference in Christ’s name here.  Seeing that is itself worth the trip.