" Don't Let Me Miss The Glory"
God's Glory is all around us, but sometimes we're just too busy to notice.
Gods Finger Prints
It says in John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Aahh, there it is, FAITH
Many times I ask God to reveal Himself to me and he always does, If I really pay attention. It’s not always the way I would like Him to. You really have to pay attention to even the smallest of things, the things we often miss because its not the way we asked for it.
The truth is if we really pay attention, His finger prints are every where. I recently came across this video which shows Gods finger prints on even the smallest things. Rick
My Journey to Africa
reconciliation to hold retreats for people who were victims of the genecide. It was a life changing experience and to this day my heart and mind return there often as I remember friends made and continue to pray for them. It is my prayer to some day return to be obedient to what I know God has put on my heart. Below was my journal while I was there.
While writing this journal, I often found myself with out words, unable to express the thoughts that raced through my head and my heart. A man by the name of Ed Penny spent about 2 months in Africa working with the Rouners. Our path crossed only once, but as I read his blog, I found that he was able to put words to experiences I was un-able to. The words in green belong to him .
Sunday, February 5, 2006
1:00am at the Nairobi Serena Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
Back in New Hampshire it is 5:00pm Saturday afternoon.
We arrived In Kenya about 4 hours ago. The Hotel here is beautiful. It appears to be an oasis in a land where poverty is the norm. In the airport, it took about 15 minutes for someone to try to scam me for money. I was saved by our driver. He saw what was happening. At our meeting and bible study tonight, I got some more insight into what I may expect. This may be a difficult 3 and a half weeks for me. This is way out of my comfort zone. The lounge down stairs is playing some very African music, even on the 5th floor, I can hear the drum beating. I haven't seen Africa in the day light yet but it sure feels like I’m here. I’m missing my family, realizing just how far away they are.
Sunday, February 5, 2006
Got up this morning and we had breakfast out on the patio by the pool. What a beautiful spot. It was about 75 degrees, the pool is surrounded by beautiful gardens. We then took about a half hour drive out to the African Nazarene University. Along the way we passed Mathare Slums in Nairobi Kenya. I never saw any thing like it, and just minutes away was the paradise we were staying at. As we traveled along the road we passed thousands of people walking by the side of the street. Many were well dressed on their way to church. Every so often, a family of baboons would be seen running along side the road along with some of the skinniest cattle I’ve ever seen. The roads are mostly dirt with huge pot holes. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of rules about driving. No traffic lights, they drive on the opposite side of the road as us . It seemed we had near head on collisions several times..
We arrived at the Nazarene university and caught the tail end of their Sunday service. The university is better than I expected. There is a 24 year old man attending school there which the McFarlane's are helping support, and we met him at the church. We had lunch with them in the cafeteria and then I sat with him and did a video interview. He was from Rwanda, the son of a Nazarene D.S.. They were Hutu’s but they hid about 40 Tootsies in their house to protect them. The Father was killed in the genocide for his part in protecting the Tootsies. He was asked to be the interpreter at a reconciliation retreat last year so he did. While at the retreat, he noticed a man in the room who had participated in his fathers killing. He to needed reconciliation. This man was a Nazarene pastor serving under the man he helped kill. About 2 weeks later, this pastor showed up at the door of his family, confessed that he participated in the killing and asked the wife and children for their forgiveness. They forgave him and call him a friend today.
The McFarlins presented him with a laptop computer, support for his schooling and some clothes. We returned to the hotel, took a nap, had supper together, then had a bible study and went to bed. I couldn’t sleep thinking about the events of the day. Got up at 4:00am to catch an early flight to Burundi.
Arrived in Burundi at about 8:00am. As I looked out the window on our final approach, the view was what I would expect Africa to look like. We are staying at a very nice place surrounded by guards and tall brick walls and solid gates. As we drove around the countryside, there were UN trucks everywhere, armed soldiers every where. The mass genocide has stopped at least for now but the killing hasn’t stopped and was as recent as three days ago. Burundi is the third poorest nation in the world and it is evident every where you look but there are pockets of the more affluent. The peace is unsettled, reconciliation is the only hope.
I find myself going through hourly cycles of absolute excitement mixed with thoughts of “what am I doing here”. It’s hard to think about it, it is just too much to take in. Where do I begin to describe this journey. Words fall so short of truly sharing my heart.
Today we met the national directors for the pilgrim center. They were our tour guides and wonderful people whom God is using in a powerful way. The ministry of reconciliation goes deep with these people. Susan, the wife of Artamon has a powerful ministry with women. She has prayed the prayer of Jabez, that God would expand her territory and he has. She has a big vision for Burundi for women and orphans. The women’s ministry she has been doing for several years, this is for women who have been abused, beaten, raped or women she has taken in as street children who were sold into prostitution.
She just purchased a building which is being converted into an orphanage, however, it will be set up as family units by matching widowed women from the genocide with homeless children who just live on the street. It’s a win, win situation for both sides, but they need funding.
Tuesday, February 7th, 2006 the youth retreat started. These are mostly collage students and youth leaders in their churches. There were perhaps 25 of them who came and they are all very friendly. Their first language is French but most have learned some English in school so, for the most part, we were able to communicate fairly well. They were very willing to talk one on one about there hurts, some have said their wounds go deep and they cant imagine how they can heal. Well this is day one and I already see God moving. Molly was amazing, what a gift and calling God has given her.
I am so honored to witness to their courage.I think about my own wounds and the courage to do the necessary "heart" work required for healing and peace.
Wednesday, February 8th, Today they talked about the bloodshed and hatred and then brought it around to the cross. In the afternoon was a special time of prayer where each person could share what was heavy on there heart.
Some needed to ask for forgiveness and others needed to forgive. This was a powerful part of the conference. Before it ended, We washed their feet as as Jesus did for His disciples. John 13
The people we are working with are great. Sensitive, tender and so desire the recovery from the past years of fighting, fleeing and finally finding some sense of life. So many scars, losses and each has a story that ends in a desire for forgiveness and healing. They come open and hungry, courageous and committed to take the next step on their own journeys. They have so little that there is no risk in being open and honest. Such a contrast to us in the West that have so much. It all seems to get in the way of transparency, vulnerability and growth.
Today is Saturday, February 11, 2006. Some went to a wedding. I was HOT and STICKY and didn’t feel like dressing up . They said it was interesting. The bride and groom didn’t look like they cared too much for each other. Around here, they are arranged marriages. It cost the grooms parents a couple cows to buy their son a bride. How would you like to be worth a couple cows? If you don't have any cows, then you pay about $350.
I did go to the zoo. I got some great footage with the monkeys. They liked me, it’s like we were related.?? Then I got to witness some live guinea pigs meeting their fate with some crocks, CRIKEY.
The past few days we have been doing our 2nd retreat which is with all government officials. This one has soldier commanders in it who confessed to being part of the genocide and were asking for forgiveness. That’s pretty moving. I was running low on tapes so I had the driver take me to a store to get some. On the way we drove through the ghetto. That blew my mind. In fact, I really cant even come up with the right words to describe it. I didn’t have my camera with me. My driver got out and went looking for some one. I was alone and soon I found myself surrounded by children. Many just wearing rags looking like they have never had a bath. Many of them were homeless and orphaned and the only food or clothes they got, they had to beg for. Some of the local families, although very poor themselves, will put out a bowl of food for these children much the same as we may do for a stray cat. By the time the driver came back, there were about 50-70 children surrounding me with their little arms reached out wanting anything I could give them. Mainly food. We had nothing. As we drove away, they chased after us asking for food and help. My emotions have never been so overwhelmed and over loaded, in my life. It was more than my mind and heart could process. Their little faces and hands will never leave my mind.
Today is February 13, We arrived in Kigali Rwanda and stayed at the Presbyterian guest house yesterday. NO HOT WATER! Not as nice as where we’ve been. We went out to dinner at the Hotel Rwanda and we met madam Futuma, (Secretary of National reconciliation) We talked with her for about 2 hours. Very interesting! She shared with us what the government is doing for reconciliation and how far they still have to go. We shared with her what we were doing and she was very interested. When the team comes next year, she invited them to meet with the president.
My head seems to spin daily with the excitement of the unknown and questions of what does this all mean and how might I integrate what I have learned and experienced, when I get back home
Today some of us went to the genocide memorial in Kigali. Very interesting but difficult to see. There was a room with the remains of about 100 people on display in glass cases. On site, there are over 250,000 victims out of almost a million, buried there. Driving through the streets of Rwanda felt very strange knowing that the streets were once littered with close to a million bodies. The parents of our driver were killed in their church along with hundreds of others.
Later this morning, we headed for Cyangugu Rwanda which is about a mile from Congo's border. This is the region where the Hutu’s who participated in the genocide headed for and currently live in this region. There still are uprisings, hopefully not while we’re here. To get here we had to travel almost 8 hours through the rain forest and many small villages. We saw many monkeys running across the street. Tonight we are staying at a Catholic retreat center. We traveled several miles up a muddy mountain with washed out roads to get here. My room looks a bit like an old gas stations bathroom with a bed in it. I’m tired. nite nite
February 14, I woke up this morning to a cow mooing outside my window. In Africa, they compare their wives to cows. One of the best complements you can give a women is to say she has the eyes of a cow..??? That statement would not go over big in the U.S. would it.
As I stepped outside, people were coming with the hope of healing wounds from the past. Wounds of the heart that weigh heavy and block a life of peace and joy. Wounds that find their place inflicted on others, pain transferred through malicious acts tearing apart relationships, families, communities and nations. But yet they come, they come for three days with the hope that it will end. Stories are told and histories are shared, many for the first time. Out of the shadows come the wounds to be heard, seen and felt. No place to go but a cry out to god for forgiveness in the community of other touched hearts. As these courageous people reach out, something happens, through the tears, anger and sadness, there is a resurrection, a renewal of spirit, a rebirth of life, a new found place of hope. Over and over again I have been witness to so many reconciling their lives to god and to those that have been the transgressors.
.So this has been my journey, traveling with a small team through mountainous jungle, arid desert basins into the bush and remote areas of Africa. Going where we are called to witness the healing of the land, one heart at a time. In so doing, as I have said before, one doesn't experience this without being touched and healed himself. Henry Nowen spoke of the "Wounded Healer". I think he was referring to the reality that it is difficult to lead others to places you have been reluctant to travel yourself. So true has this been and continues to be my experience in Africa.
I expect it will be well after I get home before my heart and mind can even put those thoughts into words. I’ve tried to do it a few times and have many thoughts and feelings but I haven’t yet found the words that can do it justice. This next conference is now beginning so I need to get set up.
February 14, Valentines day. Wish I was with mine! After meeting the people from this retreat, I'm really blown away. I met a man named Oscar, he’s 25 years old, over 50 people in his family were killed, all that is left is his younger brother, his grandmother and himself. He escaped death by hiding under the body’s of his dead family members and covering himself with their blood so that he would appear to be dead as well. His BEST friend tried to kill him because he was told he had to. Oscar escaped and became a refugee in Uganda along with what is left of his family. He has now moved back home and reclaimed his family’s land. The people who killed his family still live next door. They asked for his forgiveness and he forgave them.
A pastor came who had a church of over 200 before the genocide. The church is now closed. 40% were killed and 60% fled the country and are still refugees. Another pastor’s church is made up of mostly of widows and orphans. There are tens of thousands of homeless children living on the streets. One of the pastors lives in an all Hutu area and says they are all talking about more killing.
Today, 2 Hutu ex-cons came and spoke to our group. Both have killed many but were released because they confessed and asked the family’s for forgiveness. They both now travel around speaking to other Hutus asking them to do the same. Most every one at this retreat has had massive loss of family and friends. Their lives are in shambles. There's no work around, no infrastructure and a constant threat that it could all start again.
In the rain forest on the way here, there were heavily armed soldiers walking along side the 100 mile road. We were hoping they were on the right side.
Tomorrow, we finish up here and leave sometime after lunch and head for Bukavu Congo only a few miles away. Once we cross into the Congo, that’s rebel territory. We’ll spend two nights there then drive back through the rainforest to Kigali. That will end the retreats. Then back to Nairobi Kenya for a night then a few days at the Masai Mara Game Park then off to London for a few days.
Today we passed over into the Congo. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Armed guards held us there for a few hours. I felt like an animal at the zoo as they were standing there arguing and watching us. I have to confess, I was a bit worried about what the final outcome would be. THEN ARTHUR steps out of the car. He had enough. I thought for sure that was it. We were goners, he actually shamed them and they let us through. The day after tomorrow we have to go through it again. I hope we don’t have the same problems. This place feels pretty unsettled. The freedoms we enjoy back home are not here. I’m typing by candle light because there's no electricity. So, to sum it up, we are in rebel territory in the dark with a town full of people who murdered a million people just across the border. In this part of Congo, to this day, more than 30,000 people are killed each month.
Never in my life have I had more respect and love for the freedom we enjoy in the USA.
Africa can be a very Dark scary place.
Now the other side of that coin is that the Christians here are amazing people. After spending one day with them, it’s like you’ve been friends for years. There are people here I will never forget. I’m over whelmed by the size of the need here. The work of the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation Is very needed and extremely appreciated here by all who partake in the retreats. You can feel the spirit of God, You can see lives being changed, deep wounds and pain being healed. It’s incredible. These people live in horrible conditions and yet they worship our God like nothing I’ve ever seen. My life will never be the same again. The faces of the street children will never leave my head, and yet to them it’s normal. Well, I’m still processing this. It may take months maybe years for me to sort this all out in my head and heart. I know I can’t solve Africa's problems, so what should I do? Since I can’t answer that now, I think I’ll go to bed.