Sunday, June 28, 2009

Preaching, Teaching, and Growth

Just a warning ... this is a long one, so bear with me.

Its been amazing to see the growth that's happened in me since my time in Malawi and even in seminary. I look at myself and think, "who is this person?!" One of the biggest surprises has been the fact that I taught a series on the covenants!

Seminary was one of the hardest, but most growing times of my life. One of the life-changing classes, and my favorite class, was Introduction to the Old Testament by Dr. Sandy Richter. Through her class, she gave me a new love of the Old Testament, when for so long I was scared of it, b/c of all the kings and wars and things that didn’t fit or make sense. One of the ways she helped “organize my closet” was in her presentation of the OT through covenants. There is a theme in the Bible of covenants, which I had never realized. It started with Adam and Eve, then to Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and finally Jesus (the New Covenant). I could go on and on about this, but perhaps reading the notes from my lessons would be better if you’re interested! I can feel myself starting to preach!

Dr. Richter recently published a book that essentially lays out her curriculum from the class, but is meant to be read by lay people. I brought The Epic of Eden with me to Rwanda but never would have guessed I'd use it in this way. Never would I have been able to remember all the details and teachings from the class that I want to share with others, so it was definitely a God thing that I brought it.

The entire week before I presented (or taught or preached-whatever you want to call it), all I did was prepare! I mean, it was practically 24-7! I didn’t leave the house. I skipped all of my normal activities and responsibilities. I don’t think I’ve worked that hard in the entire time I’ve been in Rwanda. There was SO much information and I remember so many times when I started to have a freak-out session because of all the things swimming in my head that I didn’t know how to translate in words and on paper.

It started out as being a sermon series, but then Jen needed more time for her series so we had to move my stuff back. But I’m leaving in a few weeks, so there wouldn’t be time to do it in 4 weeks. There was no way I could get it all into 2 weeks, so I kicked it off one Sunday, then we had two special teaching nights during the week (which where translated into Kinyarwanda), and the last was given the following Sunday at the English service at church. I was able to recreate some of the diagrams and maps from my class for PowerPoints (yep, we have PowerPoint in Rwanda) ... and they made quite an impression! The full-time missionary here and her husband have been excited about the series for awhile. And they given me great feedback! The pastor of the church has requested my notes to possibly teach it to the Kinyarwanda service - this is huge b/c the relationship between he and the mission organization I work with has been very strained for awhile. It was so fun to hear about light bulbs that were going off for people, connections they were making. And they say it all made sense, it wasn’t too academic or over-their-heads and were even teasing me about what this means for the future, that I should be a teacher. Dr. Richter always told us she wanted us to be able to simply “tell the story [of God], and tell it well.” That was her mantra. SO I'm telling the story, and telling it well!! And honestly, never in a million years did I think I'd be telling it like this. Maybe to friends here and there, but not to a church ... in RWANDA!
* * * *
Its really cool to look at this whole situation and see how much I’ve grown in the last several years. I know I mentioned that at the beginning of this blog, but its big; even just last year, I would have reacted so differently to so many things about this.
1) I would have never volunteered to do this on my own – to teach, let alone teach the material of Dr. Sandy Richter, material that intimidated the crap out of me!

2) I never once freaked out in all my preparations. So many times in seminary, when I didn’t know what I was doing or was overwhelmed by the material or frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t communicate what I wanted to, I would get so emotional. I would stop and cry and doubt myself and what I was doing. I would tell myself I couldn’t do it and was crazy for even trying. Eventually I would get out of that place and be able to do what I needed to do. But this time, none of that happened. Yes, I was overwhelmed by the material and workload and thoughts in my head, but I knew that it would all work out. There was a peace that remained with me the whole time ... I didn’t know how it was all gonna come together, but I knew it would. And it would be because of God. He would give me what I needed to say, and help me communicate like I needed to. I knew this. Yes, I doubted what I was doing, but I knew I could do it. And it was more of a funny “what have I gotten myself into?” than a serious one. Does that make sense? And finally …

3) in the days before I was to give the teachings/sermons, Serge had his doubts. He was concerned that it wouldn’t keep people’s attention and wouldn’t be received well. This had nothing to do with me personally, it was more of because of his own knowledge of how Rwandans work and how they respond to African preaching, rather than “white-girl” preaching. In the past, this would have torn me down. It would have made me doubt myself and fear would have taken control. It would have brought up so many negative feelings about myself. But this time, I was so confident! I kept telling Serge, “don’t worry, it’ll be good.” I didn’t let his anxiety make me upset, it just made me more confident about what I was doing. Isn’t that awesome? SUCH a change in me, and a big one!!

This teaching is probably the highlight of my time in Rwanda. The biggest and most rewarding thing I’ve done. Rewarding from the preparation to the delivery to the emotions tied to it. God’s been growing me, and maybe He needed to bring me to Rwanda to show me this one particular way I’ve grown.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Kamari Family

I've talked about Jen and Serge throughout my posts, and wanted to give them their own special entry! In case you missed it, they are the full-time missionaries with International Teams here in Kigali and have served as our leaders/mentors/friends. They're awesome, what more can I say. Although we love to cut up with Serge, he is one of the most genuine people I know and I'll never forget his grin. Jen - I'm grateful for her investment in my life (and the lives of Natasha/Jocelyn) and for her unconditional support ... I always felt so very validated in whatever I was feeling, which meant more than she'll ever know.

Isabella (one of 3 Kamari kids) - 3 going on 30!

Friday, June 12, 2009

God Provides

I’m thanking God a lot right now! I left my job in January to come here, knowing there was a good chance I wouldn’t get it back. But, they had told me that if they could, they would love to have me back but it just depended on their situation in July. Not long after I left for Rwanda, the economy took a huge downfall and they like many were affected, having to lay off a good amount of people. At that point I knew my chances of going back were slim. But it turns out since then, they’ve gotten some large projects and are in a lot better place financially ... and have offered me a postion to come back. So I have an income waiting for me when I get back; such relief!

God, again, has taken care of my needs … He is good!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Back to Malawi

I think I shared with you that I've been praying about going to Malawi while I'm in Africa to see some of the people I worked with when I was there a few years ago, particulary my dear friend and sister-in-Christ, Wezzie. Well, I went! It all happened very fast. Just a little over a week ago I was in town with David killing time before we had to go to Mama Bridgette’s, one of the street kids houses. So on a whim, I went to a travel agent that was in the “mall” we were in, just to see how much a ticket to Malawi would be. It turns out the airfare wasn't as expensive as I thought it would be – it was like $1000 cheaper! At that point, I couldn’t not do it ... I knew I’d regret it. So, I bit the bullet and made the trip! (Don’t worry, it was my own money, no supporter funds). Its been so good to reconnect with a few good Malawian friends. Wezzie and I have been trying to reunite ever since I left, and there've been several times it almost happened but every time a roadblock surfaced. So this was quite special to see each other again. Mada, one of the aunties (my favorite auntie, whom I had lost contact with) I worked with just had a baby - 4 days old - so I guess I picked the perfect time to visit! It was a short trip and I wish I could have visited more people, but it was still worth it. Good to be around people I love and to remember my time in Malawi in a new way.

(pictured: Wezzie, Mada, myself)

On a side note, Wezzie has hot water! Oooh, I've never felt so clean in my life. Pure bliss.

It was good to be back in Malawi. Sometimes it doesn't feel like i'm here, but just the thought of it is nice. I was hoping we'd get to go back to Chiwengo, the village where I spent time and where all the kids are. But its two hours away and their car is broken, so that is a problem. But as Wezzie and I were talking, I realized that a lot of the aunties aren't there anymore (got married, etc) and a lot of the kids are probably gone too, to secondary school, so it probably wouldn't be what I pictured anyway.

Its so weird to see Wezzie as a wife. She works like crazy - ALWAYS cooking or cleaning, in addition to her regular job. Being married has really made her grow up (she was quit naïve and childlike when I was with her in Malawi years ago), so although the same Wezzie is still there, she's different too. In a good way.

Funny story – before I left for Malawi, Serge kept telling me about how iTeams had a new staff person in Lilongwe. She was from Italy and was about to marry a man from Burundi, who would soon be on staff with iTeams as well. They had all met a couple months ago at the iTeams Africa conference. Well, turns out the guy lives behind Wezzie!!! The couple goes to their church! Wezzie started talking about her neighbor, about how he was about to marry an Italian, etc and I instantly knew they were the iTeams people Serge had talked about! I went outside and chatted with the guy for awhile and he later brought me a document to give to Serge when I returned to Kigali. I know Serge and Jen will flip out! Small world.

Wezzie’s church is the church I attended whenever our team in Malawi was in the city, so it was fun to be back there. SO many people spoke English! A lot of missionaries attend there, but Malawi’s second language is also English b/c they were settled by the English. So my entire trip to Malawi was interesting in that it almost felt like I was back home b/c of all the English (vs French in Rwanda) around me!

Being here, connecting with a good friend and being around those I love and am comfortable with, makes me miss my friends at home ... one in particular! But the good news is that it won’t be long till I’m back in their presence!