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!
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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.

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