Friday, August 28, 2009

Home Again

Dear Friends,

We’re home and beginning to think back on all God has purposed and planned for the Pastors of Burundi and Kenya. As you step into the ravaged, impoverished places of Bujumbura and Kilifi, it’s a wonder how people are so friendly. When you meet the people of God, you can’t help but see a glimpse of the character and Grace of God. Men and women, who do not have the books, education, a comfortable physical environment or cultural and political advantages we do, are growing, vibrant Christians. God is simply amazing in what He can do in the hearts of His people according to His grace.

We had gifted men to translate for Alan, in ways that the Africans would best understand. The narrative approach to teaching systematic theology, that Alan worked on before going, was well received beyond our expectations. The African believers were able to see how these concepts come out of scripture and how they relate together. Also, there was a huge and unexpected impact on their marriages and families. We are thankful to God because it was so helpful and blessed the African men so much. In fact we were told how they appreciated the fact that Alan got deeper with them and that they were learning so much and were thinking hard together about how they needed to change as a result of what they had learned.

My time with the women was equally as appreciated. I addressed what the bible has to say about our biblical role as a believer, wife, mother, friend/mentor and partner with our husbands in ministry. I shared stories of women from the scriptures that illustrated my points. In Burundi, I quickly realized that most of the women were not pastor’s wives and probably had little bible knowledge so I revamped some of my material and was careful to see that the gospel was woven in throughout the time. I was also asked to address issues of child bearing and child rearing. My interpreter was a man who was gentle but impatient with all the children and goings on. He told me he wasn’t very knowledgeable of women’s issues. The Lord just gave me grace and perseverance and I was well aware of His presence with me. Then we went to Kenya and I tasted the delight of teaching women who were thinking with me, eager to apply it practically and asked lots of questions. I praise God for the experience because again when I went to Czech the women were attentive, thinking but not at all interactive, verbally or non-verbally. I am sure it is partly my inexperience and the cultural issues that contribute to responses. I am content to just do as much as I can to prepare my heart and studies ahead of time and leave the results to God. My “social” times with the women were definitely productive and there were teachable moments throughout those times as well.

Of course Satan delights in frustrating our efforts and downright sabotaging what he could in order that the church continue to be hindered. However we could tell his fiery darts couldn’t get very far and that your prayers here in the states were effective in the battle with us. Please don’t take lightly the power and eternal work you do when you pray. We had peace that moved us through the challenges with calmness and assurance that He would prevail. Believe me that is not us in the flesh.

Briefly, Burundi offered no concern for safety. We were busy all day teaching and handing out glasses. The bags and bibles in both places were greatly appreciated. We are so thankful for the opportunity to provide such gifts to them. We knew they had never done something like this and this was our first experience with teaching in Africa so our expectations were low. We learned so much about what to be aware of and how something like this needs a liaison from the US to work out the details. As it was we ended up with significant extra costs for the training to continue. Our recommendation would be for the ReachGlobal Africa staff to work with the Burundi Free Church to help them mature in some of these areas. They have so many needs and they need help in how to manage that beyond thinking money is the answer. We look forward to seeing their progress in the years ahead.

In contrast, the group of churches we worked with in Kenya, the FGP was much further along in their thinking. They have been building a relationship with the Canon City Free Church through a man by the name of Jim Watson for close to 5 years. His wise and patient relationship building made working through logistics much more culturally and biblically compatible. For one thing, the attendees were indeed all Pastors, along with their wives and a few key church elders. We knew our roles and were able to give our all to that. As newbies we also learned how to work with the culture and people through the observation of the church leaders, Jim Watson, and by their interaction with us. It was almost a “too good to be true” experience especially given what we encountered in Burundi. It gave us an invaluable resource to draw on in future planning of training conferences. We anticipate going back next year to do more teaching there.

One of the highlights of our trips to each of these areas is visiting churches. Sometimes Alan would preach if it was a Sunday, but other times we would just take time out to see what is going on in various areas and meet the congregations. God’s people are friendly and warm wherever we go it seems. The children are a plus too, so much fun for us.

It was with great joy that we joined with the Czech City Team to minister to believers there. As much as we delighted to come and serve them by teaching on the Holy Spirit, I think they served us more with their love, encouragement, hospitality and generosity. We are so thankful that God has joined us in a special way with these ReachGlobal missionaries and we anticipate that God has a purpose beyond what we know for the relationships there. A special treat for us was a crossing of paths with Gary and Elizabeth Inrig. They, along with their church, put on the European regional conference and were taking a few days off in Prague. We were invited by the Prague team to join them for a tour of a castle. It was such a good time to renew our friendship with them and of course Elizabeth has had enormous impact on my life, in preparing me for the ministry God has given me today.

Soon we will hit the road again visiting Churches to update you on God’s activities and our participation with Him. We want to share our experience as we continue our efforts to equip the church through the building up of pastors and their wives. We plan to post some more stories and details on our blog in the coming days. Stay tuned!

With hearts filled with thankfulness to our great and awesome God,

Al and Edie Lewis

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