Down but not Out!

On my way to Uvira (you-veer-a) Mbirima and I receive word as we were about to travel from Kigali, Rwanda to the Congo border, that Uvira was under attack.  Bullets were flying as rebel forces advanced upon the city.  Everyone was shut up in their home, including the wife of Mbirima, Alice, who is 9 months pregnant.  There was no way to reach the city.

OK.  Plan B. Let’s go to the border, a six hour cramped bus ride, and wait to see if things calm down.  Well, the rebels were pushed out but then the city was crawling with UN and Congolese soldiers, some of whom were looting homes even though they were supposed to be there to protect the Congolese people.  TIA (this is Africa).  The immigration officer did not want to take responsibility for allowing me to enter a dangerous place.  It was a great disappointment to me and many others who had traveled there waiting for the three day seminar to begin.

The best we could do was to bring a couple of the key leaders to the border town in Rwanda named Kimembe.

Bukavu, Congo. My view from across the river. No doubt the homes of the wealthy there.

I felt like Moses on the mountain top able to see the promised land but not able to enter.  Here I was a stones’ throw away from Congo, ready and willing to go in, but I did not step one foot there.  If I had come the week prior as I had originally planned perhaps I would have been right in the middle of all those bullets!

I had to ask the question:  “Why Uvira?”  Why, out of all the places in Congo, did that rebel group decide to attack one day before I was to enter? Perhaps the principalities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12) wanted to stop what God had planned.  It could not have been about me but about what God wanted to do.  We were down but not out!

As my two brothers traveled from Uvira they missed the first bus only to discover that it had been held up by bandits.  Everyone was robbed!  Sometimes they strip the people naked and send them on their way!  Even the bus driver, driving naked!  Before they reach town they send for someone to bring them all clothes.  Can you imagine this white man riding in a jammed packed bus stark naked?  No, please don’t.

Baguma, me, Mbirima, and Bosco

We had a great time with Mbirima, Bosco, and Baguma.  They were so hungry and thankful for the teaching, and plan to return and share with the others what they have learned.

It seems the Lord is opening many doors and our ministry is growing.  Not only do we have a church in Uvira of about 30 people, all of whom are committed to making disciples and doing Discovery Bible Study, but we have Bosco in Bukavu (South Kivu) who is also starting new groups.  Among the people in Uvira is a former witch doctor who gave his life to Christ and is committed to going great distances to start DBS groups.  Doors are also opening in Rwanda as Mbirima was invited to come teach at the refugee camp there and train others to do DBS.  On his way home Mbirima went to meet with a man who is also hungry for God in Bujumbura, Burundi, a small nation to the east of Congo.

About 35 years ago I was prayed over by a friend and mentor of mine, Ralph Torres.  He prayed Psalm 2:8 over me:  “Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession.”  I have been praying that prayer for 35 years and look at what God is doing.  I am humbled.  I’m just a little guy with a heart to be used by God, and He has chosen to reach some through me that otherwise might never have been reached.  If we all do our part, discover our calling, and make disciples as we were commanded to do, I believe we will advance the second coming of the Lord.  Are you in?

Kivu Lake near our lodge
Motorcycle taxis abound! I actually rode on one in Kigali.
Beautiful tea fields of Rwanda

Strings and Things

What normally takes five hours of travel took eight because of very poor road conditions from Lichinga to Cuamba.  We finally made it to Mincanyela (two more hours on better dirt roads) late that afternoon.  God is so good to have gotten us there trouble free thanks to your prayers.  Upon arriving I was backing up on a trail and I heard a loud noise.  Turns our the bumper was hanging low and the tire hit the underside of it.  I suppose after such a long, bumpy journey something was bound to give.  A short ride into town the next day and a few welds, she’s as good as new.

Before going anywhere I always pray and ask the Lord  to show me what to teach on.  I was feeling like I should do some teaching on what the bible says about witchcraft.  The first thing I notice after finally sitting down with the pastor of the church in Mincanyela was a child with a string around it’s neck.  This is very common in Moz as most people practice “traditional medicine”, which is no medicine at all but dependence upon a person who uses potents and magic.  People put various stings on their children’s bodies for protection and even blessings.  Many parents have them on their children to bless the growth of their teeth.

Pointing to the child I ask the pastor whose child it was.   “Mine”, he said.  Immediately I had my confirmation about what to address with the people there.   I told him that this practice displeased God and a little bit about why.  The next day we spent most of the day teaching from God’s word against witchcraft and traditional medicine which are so commonly practiced in Africa.  The strings came off of the pastor’s child that night I spoke to him.  Others removed them from their children as well the next day.  What a joy so see people come out of bondage

Micanyela church conference

and into freedom in Christ as many repented of various things at the end of the day.  Both the pastor and his wife also stood and repented before everyone for their part in trusting traditional medicine and not God for their protection and blessing.

The second day a friend taught Foundations for Farming principles, a powerful way to help the people learn to farm God’s way and improve their harvests.

Gezani teaching Foundations for Farming principles

Most burn their fields each year and with it burn the richness of the soil.  This is widely practiced throughout Africa causing the fields to yield less and less, creating dependence upon expensive chemical fertilizers which eventually causes the death of all microorganisms, thus the death of the soil.  Our friend Gezani came to teach about the need not to burn and many other ways to do things differently.  In the  afternoon I had a great time teaching Discovery Bible Study as a tool for evangelism.  We formed small groups and took it step by step.

Early Saturday morning we were packed up and ready for the next leg of our journey — some 500 kilometers away.  Fortunately the roads were much better, even paved.   On the way to Monapo we stopped in Nampula for something different to eat (Xima was getting old).  I ordered a hamburger and fries– a little disappointing but different none the less.   What is Xima?  Corn mash.  We ate it and rice morning, noon, and night when in the villages.  Most of the time it was with fresh village chicken and no vegetables.  Even eating chicken cooked the same way got terribly old but this is the way the people bless you.  Thank you Jesus for xima and chicken!

I pulled around the corner and she waved me to the side.  This police woman was, how we say, “hungry” — just looking for a reason to fine me.  “Your car is the wrong color.  Your tires are the wrong size” (based upon the livret document for the car).  Are you kidding me?!  Finally she caught me on something legitimate — outdated inspection sticker.  “Give me $2000 mtz or I will keep your documents”, she said.   I pleaded with her, saying:  “Listen, I am here as a missionary to Mozambique.  I am here to help your people.  I obey all the laws.  Why this trouble?”  She looked at me for a second, passed the documents to my friend Paul on the passenger side, and waved us onward.  Phew!   Thank you Jesus for xima, chicken, and a merciful police woman!  From then on I prayed for diplomatic immunity (I am an ambassador for Christ).  Only one more policeman stopped us (and there were many check points).  He approach with “Graca a Deus (Glory to God)”.  I said: “Amen, Graca a Deus” and he smiled and waved us on.    Such is life as a missionary.

Great big hug! I do feel loved.

Well, briefly let me tell you that we spend Sunday and Monday teaching in Monapo.  It was a rich time and the first day I preached a strong Gospel message and called for repentance.

The Lord moved here saving 25+ people in this little Monapo church

At least 25 people came forward and in this small dirt and grass church and there was barely room to move at the  front.  The Lord is moving there to purify His bride and we were blessed just to help them along.  Shortly upon our return we were able to arrange for Pastor Augustino in Monapo to pick up 10 desperately needed bibles for their leadership team.  There is so much we in the West take for granted.  I hope you cherish the Word of God as these dear people do, many as of yet still do not have one.

One of our new churches in Monapo

Got home safe and sound!  Thank you for all your prayers as they made a huge difference!

Alone In Africa

Well as I write it is 3:50 am.  Woke up praying asking God for more laborers and more wisdom.  One of the good developments here is that the Lord has answered my prayer to be able help our team become more self sufficient by sending me an agriculturist named of Diana.

Diana teaching the team effective farming methods

She is an agricultural scientist and now works with Foundations for Farming out of Zimbabwe. Diana is teaching all here how to farm “God’s way” and we are all very encouraged as we believe we will see a significant increase in our farming efforts.  This will provide more support for the families of the guys who work with me and additional monies for the ministry needs.  She is a real answer to prayer.

My time here without Katherine has been very busy.  The only time I get lonely is at night but we call each other twice a day and the Lord grace is upon me. Our plan is for Kath to come out in November, spend 3 months here, and then we’ll return to the States together after we attend the MVI conference in SA.  In the mean time I have a week long bush trip planned for August 23rd.  A couple of the guys and I will go to two distant places where our ministry has grown.  I am working on developing a mini seminar on scriptural principles based upon Anton Bosch’s book (Building Blocks for Solid Foundations) and will share that with many as I go.  In addition, my good friend Mbirima in Congo is working on providing me information on how to visit there.  Mbirima is also part of our team and is doing an incredible job there in Uvira, Congo.  The plan is to go, Lord willing, sometime in September before the rains come.

While Kath and I were gone the team harvested the maize and rice.  We didn’t do as well as we hoped but it is encouraging to see at least some profit from our efforts.   I’ve learned much about what to do and what not to do and with Diana’s help this year I’m confident we’ll see much better results.  In the photo here the guys are carrying large bags of potatoes grown in our garden which went immediately to market.  We still have much more to harvest but we’re going to allow the spuds to grow bigger this time.

Last Monday the team and I had a wonderful, sweet time of worship with some simple songs which I led with guitar.  The Lord’s presence was strong among us and each one prayed beautiful prayers.  I could not understand the languages of Makua, Yao, Chichewa, and Portuguese, but I know they were praying with all their hearts as many shed tears and cried out to the Lord with such passion.  We put a list of the villages on the white board had to strategize how we would cover the villages where Tony (who is no longer with us) was going .  So far the Gospel is going out into more than 18 villages.  Seems so insignificant with so many unreached, but I have hope that the Lord will help us multiply ourselves by making many more disciples in the years to come.  Please pray for this and for me to be a wise leader.

Though we have had some setbacks, I am more encouraged than ever.  I think of that verse “the kingdom of God suffers violence, but the violent take it by force”.  We will not relent.  We will not retreat in fear, but continue to run with the Gospel wherever there are thirsty souls and open doors.  “If God be with us, who can be against us?”

Smiles

Project Green thumb is beginning to pay off. Tony and I went to Assumani to pick up a huge bag of freshly picked maize to bring to market. Actually, it wasn’t Tony and I who lifted it into the truck but Tony and Saide. At 59 years I reserve the right to not have to lift anything heavy due to possible complications.

God is working in Saide’s life. He is a single Muslim man, estranged from his wife and works next door to our garden. I first met him when picking up some sand as he had a pile to sell. It was then that Tony, Nelson and I began to speak to him about God. Because he showed real interest in knowing more, I encouraged Nelson to begin a DBS (Discovery Bible Study) with him. And so it began soon thereafter.

That day we went to pick up the maize held by Saide, he was very excited to see me again and was all smiles, especially when I spoke a few little things in his native tongue – Yao (I know very little). As Tony continued to speak to him all the sudden Saide runs to the house. I asked Tony what is going on, “Oh, he is going to get the bible Nelson gave him to show you”.

Running there and all the way back Saide had a great big smile. He was so excited to have received this Yao New Testament and to learn more about Jesus. I asked him if I could read him a couple of verses and so we first turned to Yohane 3:16 (can you guess?) “Pakuwa Mlungu (God) wacinonyele (loved) cilambo capasi mnope mwakuti jwalakwe wampelece Mwancace (son) jwakwe jumopejo, ni kuti jwalijose jwakukulupilila mwa jwalakwe akawa nambo akole umi wangamala.”

Saide’s life is changing. He is only beginning to understand who God is and how much he is loved by Him. His smiles tell of his hunger. Pray that he will be able to renounce Islam and fully follow Christ.

P.s.  Just before posting this article I was told by Nelson that Saide’s  estranged wife is considering returning to him as she is seeing a change in her husband.  Pray also for God’s redemption in this marriage.

Cheap Rocks

For the first time in her life the old woman heard the story of how God created the world and how much He loves her.  Overwhelmed with God’s love, tears filled her eyes.   She asked,  “Am I too old to know God?”  Tony reassured her that there was no way she was too old.

I drove out one day with Tony to pick up some rocks for my new carport posts.  About 15 km north of Lichinga there are some folk who sell different sized rocks for construction.  I was looking for smaller rocks to mix in the cement.  Their piles are about 18 inches tall and vary in length, but they are all broken up by hand and hammer.  The going price for my small truck filled is about $400 mtz, which is about $5.70 USD.  I know, it’s incredibly cheap but the food here is not!  It all balances out.

As we waited for the local guys to shovel the rocks into the pickup bed, Tony began to relate to them, telling them who we are and what we do – mainly Discovery Bible Study.  They welcomed us to come so Tony made arrangements for Sunday.  That Sunday I dropped Tony off on the way to pray for Musa.  On the way back we stopped for Tony and prayed for a woman there who had her hand amputated by the hospital because of a severe burn (I know what you’re thinking – cut off because of a burn?)  This is the way it is.

Somehow that prayer touched their lives and they opened up all the more.  The chief of the village encouraged Tony to come on Friday so he could invite the whole village as most are working in their gardens on Sunday.  They say they want God, that they don’t want to be Muslims any longer, and they don’t want to go to the witchdoctor anymore!  This is huge.  This is God.  It remains to be seen what happens there, but I’m telling you the harvest is ripe and plentiful.

That day I picked up a truckload of cheap rocks.  The cost of getting there was relatively cheap for me, but not for The One who gave His life for those precious souls.  In the song by Michael W. Smith ‘Here I am to Worship’, part of the chorus reads: “I’ll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross…”.   It cost me a little to go to that obscure little village, the name of which I can’t even pronounce, in a land far, far away from everyone I love and what I am comfortable with as an American.  I had to leave my family behind.  Jesus left the glory of heaven, the presence of His Father, and who knows what else to take the form of a humble servant only to die the death of a criminal. He paid the ultimate price for me, why shouldn’t I sacrifice for Him?  In the words of a great missionary who gave his life attempting to reach the ones who eventually killed him: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  Jim Elliott.   What are you keeping?

Musa

My friend Musa died today.  Tears flooded my eyes as I tried to tell the team what happened.  I have seen more death in Africa than in all my 50 years in the States, but I still have not grown accustomed to it.

I met Musa four years ago in the bush.  I was out cutting down trees for our African cabana and he walked up to me wearing a t-shirt that said:  “Eu amo Jesus” (I love Jesus).  I knew that God had sent this man into my life.  I was at the right place at the right time.  Funny in a way that I could be doing such an “unspiritual” thing, as cutting a tree down but be right smack in the center of God’s will.  If I had never obeyed the call to go to Africa, if I had decided not to go cut trees that day, if….  I don’t know.  I just know that God loved that man and sent him to me.

From there a relationship began.  I’ve been to his home in Kazegwa, way out in the bush, and also his home in the city.  As a Muslim man Musa had married two wives 45 years ago and through the years was faithful to both.

Then I was sent out of the country in 2012 for nine months until we could get our visa situation worked out.  After that we kind of lost touch, although I had communicated to him a few times through David, one of our team members.

All of the sudden I hear he is in Sanga and would like me to come visit.  I jumped on the opportunity and made the arrangement with the guys to find the place.  So Sunday morning we head out.   Little did I know what I would encounter.  Musa was sick.  He was skin and bones and had been fighting illness for nine months.  Oh, if I had only known sooner, but Jesus knew and got me there just in time.

I’ve seen the look of death before, but I have never backed down from praying.  Healing a body is nothing for my God.  Before we prayed for him I had the opportunity to speak with him about our Jesus.  “Do you remember the first time we met?”  “Yes”, he said with great effort to communicate.  “Do you remember the shirt you were wearing?”  “Yes, I love Jesus”, he said.  “Do you love Jesus, Musa? Do you know that the Bible says that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to God except through Him? Not through Mohammad, but only through Jesus.  Do you believe this?”  “Yes” he said, “I believe”.

We prayed for Him.  I held his hands and looked into his eyes with a smile on my face.  I loved that man.  He smiled back as he lay there with head in the lap of his wife.  We parted and decided to come back again in a couple of days to pray some more.   That opportunity never came.  The next morning I received the call.  He was gone.

I believe Musa is with Jesus today.  I believe that God brought him to me four years ago, and I believe yesterday God brought me to him.  Like the thief on the cross to whom Jesus declared “Today you will me in Paradise,” Musa did not have opportunity to live for Jesus or even be baptized, but he lives with Christ now.

I went to the funeral this morning with Tony, Nelson, David, and Boa.  I was the only white guy among a few hundred men and women.  We sat quietly on the stoop of the dirt porch.  I had no clue what was going to happen.  As I sat there I looked around the courtyard, fenced with capi (tall grass) with wood posts.  Two of the posts stood out to me because they had began to grow.  Most posts, having been cut in the bush, don’t come alive again.  They are cut and that’s the end of it – they’re dead.  But then there were those two, out of maybe 60 or so.  I asked the Lord, does Musa live?  He pointed to the post directly in front of me.  Yes.  Though he died, he now lives!  Boy, I wanted to get up and preach right then.

They invited me to come into the house where Musa lay and pray.  So I and the guys went in and knelt down next to the covered body.  I prayed, not for Musa, but for that family and that village.  It was an emotional moment and I put my arm over the shoulder of Musa’s son kneeling next to me.

Gravesite. Not much of a photo but I was trying to be sensitive.

As they brought the casket around everyone put his hand to it to help pass it along.  I did the same.  Then we sat again in silence and some of the men did some Muslim prayers.  The temporary casket was put into the bed of a pickup and all the men followed.  Some got rides, most just walked.  The women, including the two wives, were not to go to the gravesite.  At the gravesite they sang and prayed, each giving a helping hand to put dirt over the body.  A body that will one day, unbeknown to them, will rise again when that trumpet sounds!  And we will be joined together with those who have gone on before us.  I will see Musa again. I long for that day.

Come and See

Yesterday my grounds keeper sent me a text telling me he was sorry for not being able to come to work because a new friend came to see where he lived.  If this happened in America it would be grounds for a write up or maybe even firing someone.  What kind of nonsense is that?

When someone in Africa says to you: “I want to see where you live” it is not as strange as it may sound to us westerners.  Folks in the market used to say this to Katherine all the time.  She just figured they want to come and see our house so she paid no attention to their request.  After all, strangers do not need to see where we live!  They might come and rob us!

In African culture “I want to come and see where you live” is not meant to be intrusive, in fact, just the opposite.  It really is a friendly request. What they are actually saying is that I want to know you better, I want to be your friend!  For us it seems quite strange that someone we might only know as an acquaintance makes such a request.  Here in Mozambique and other parts of this continent called Africa, if you want to have relationship with someone this is what you do.  You invite them to see where you live, or invite yourself to see where he/she lives.  It is quite normal.

And so my groundkeeper, who also works as an evangelist with Great Harvest, invited someone to come see where he lives.  It doesn’t matter how far or how long it takes to get there.  Some will travel hours for a visit, expect to be fed, and maybe even spend the night!  Can you imagine people doing this to you in America?

This is how one shows his earnest in building a relationship here in this nation where I live.  For my groundskeeper I was glad to hear it.  He is building lasting relationships to win the lost to Christ.  It cost him time and perhaps precious food, but those he is inviting to see where he lives will be changed by a God who is inviting them in to see where He lives as well, through this simple, but powerful way of friendship.

In contrast to my last article “Things I Hate”, this is something I love about Africa.  Not all is evil here.  In some ways the simplicity of the culture is profoundly inviting.  Perhaps we should start a new movement -“Come and see where I live.”  Maybe if we started inviting the lost to our house and began to build relationships in this way, evangelism might be a whole lot easier.  I dare say few would come to church if we invited them, but most would come to our house for a meal, good conversation, and perhaps even one day a little bible study.

This is what we do here for Jesus.  It starts with an invitation to “Come and see”.

Things I Hate

I hate it when a mother and father pour gasoline on their young daughter’s back and light her on fire to teach her a lesson.

I hate it when a mother is tired of her daughter’s friend coming over to eat so she decides to poison her. Bringing out two separate bowls of food and handing the poison bowl to her child’s friend she then walks away to eat her own food indoors. The little girls decide to switch bowls. The mother spends a week in jail for killing her daughter (she was able to pay her way out).

I hate it when a young man works hard in school, passes all his exams, and is eagerly looking forward to seeing his name on the graduate list. When it did not appear, he goes to the teacher who demands a bribe. He cannot pay and has to go through another year of school.

I hate it when that same young man noted above has the opportunity to report this teacher to the Corruption Board but will not do so because of fear of retribution.

I hate it when a pastor is given money to buy bibles but spends it on himself. That same pastor was given five sacks of maize to help feed hungry people and no one is helped.

I hate seeing a dozen or so young boys (8 to 10 years old) taken by a witchdoctor to the bush for the purpose of sexual training (called Unyago). They are told that they must be sexually active or they will lose their manhood. The parents pay a huge amount of money to the witch doctor. Upon returning there is a huge drunken party for three days. Any women attending must give themselves to any man who approaches them.

I hate it when a young girl, learning about Jesus decides she does not want to participate in Unyago, but is forced by her parents to go.

I hate it when I pray for someone to be healed and they begin to get better, but then they decide they need the help of the witchdoctor as well. In the end the devil wins and the person dies.

I hate it when a young man decides he wants to become a teacher but is told he must pay $20,000 mts to get the job. They settle on $10,000 so he borrows the money, pays the bribe and later discovers that the job was given to a higher bidder. He requests his money back and receives this response: “What money?” Not only does he not get the job but is now in debt for a huge amount he cannot repay. He could end up in prison for not paying what he owes, or for trying to cheat.

I hate it when other missionaries tell me, “This is the culture, you can’t change it.” What do you think? Is it true? Should I just accept this wicked culture as being unchangeable? Why are we here if we have no hope of change? One by one. Disciple by disciple we CAN make a difference! We are making a difference. Who will join me in prayer for the Yao? Who will stand in the ‘gap’? Who will pray with me the prayer that Jesus instructed His disciples to pray: “God give us more laborers!” ? Give us faithful Yao men and women who will be transformed and help to transform their world, their nation, their culture. With God all things are possible.

Most of all I hate the devil, the author of evil who blinds the minds of unbelievers. And he hates us, created in the image of God, for whom Jesus died and rose again. Is it possible that the devil hates us more than we hate him? Is it possible that we as believers have become the proverbial “frog in the kettle” by accepting what is evil in our homes, in our work place, in our relationships, etc. because there is no apparent pain? Perhaps after reading the above accounts of what I know to be true, you will stop and think about it.

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” Proverbs 8:13

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.” Proverbs 3:7