Selah

This mystery word from the psalms often appears untranslated in our modern texts. It is probably a musical term, and comes at transitions in the text, such as between stanzas. So think, “Bridge” or “Musical Interlude” or maybe even “Dance and Scream Until the Lyrics Start Again.” I have a friend, a contemplative, who was convinced it meant “Pause and Reflect.”

We have been in a busy season, taking on teaching from absent teachers and administrative duties from absent administrators. We were persevering, in the strength of the Lord, and refusing to burn out, rather letting the extraneous “work” fall away in this season. And yet, we did not see light at the end of the tunnel.

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Notice

Rwanda has been seeking to regulate churches and has required that Rwandan Church leaders (National level representatives and local church pastors) must have education from an accredited religious school. Since 2017, the word has slowly morphed. Pastors should be educated. Pastors MUST be educated. Religious schools should become accredited. Religious schools MUST be accredited. And last month, the Higher Education Council of Rwanda widely published a notice that all non-accredited schools teaching at a post-secondary level MUST STOP.

Our CLIR program is a bit of a hybrid, since we do not offer degrees, but do offer an academic program. Our ministry exists to “help the church of Rwanda function as the body of Christ,” and does so with a primary strategy of discipling for church leaders using the mode of educational programs. We have always been happily below the radar, while impacting pastors, their families, their churches and their communities. This model has worked well for us over the years. Do we really NEED to change?

After three 12-hour days of meetings, the answer is a decided YES.

Selah

We’re in the musical interlude between one season and the next.

We MUST pause CLIR.

So we rejoice. Because of the government, the unsustainable pace will not continue. AND now we can focus on laying a solid foundation for CLIR as an accredited religious school. AND we can build something great. While we can’t keep doing what we have been doing, being forced to change will help us sharpen our edge, evaluate the context of ministry in Rwanda, and address our program to the current needs of the church. I believe that what an accredited CLIR program has to offer is a significantly better training for pastoral ministry than any other training available in Rwanda.

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Nick, Josue, Bosco at a conference

AND we also groan in our spirits. Transition can be hard. We have seen significant transition in leadership, and now we are seeing significant transition in ministry opportunity.

In the meantime, please pray: 

  • that our students wouldn’t become discouraged, but would be patient and faithful in the waiting; and that we find places for them to study in the interim.

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    One student giving a testimony of the impact of CLIR on his church

  • for discernment, perseverance, unity and joy for our staff team and leadership as we pursue accreditation, wade through bureaucracy, etc.
  • that meeting the requirements for accreditation wouldn’t require program changes that hinder our ability to fulfill NCM’s mission
  • that we do not act out of fear or “catastrophize,” but would seek the Lord for vision and direction
  • that God would provide for all of our needs (finances, connections, favor, staff, etc.)
  • that our ministry and work would come from the overflow of abiding in Jesus

Thank you for your partnership in this work! The Lord is using your prayers, words of encouragement, and contributions to have a profound impact in Rwanda.

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Our students took a mission trip to a rural area

The True Gospel Makes a Difference

[Sorry, Prayer Team! I began writing this two and a half weeks ago and couldn’t get it finished before today.]

We are half way through our first term of CLIR, studying Man, Sin, and Salvation, so last week I asked students if they have any testimonies to share. Here is one paraphrased excerpt:

“I am a university teacher. In the past, I would hear my Muslim students and peers discussing the problems with Christianity, and I was afraid to get involved. Because of what I am learning in this class, I was emboldened to respond to their questions and ask them some challenging questions of my own. They were shocked and asked where I had learned this.”

Others spoke of new and deeper conversations with their families and friends. It is such a joy to see these students already growing in Christian leadership after only a month with us.

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Here’s the Cliff Notes, from the first day of class:

  1. God is holy and righteous.
  2. Humanity is sinful.
  3. God, in his holiness and righteousness, must punish sin.
  4. God, in his mercy and love, sent Jesus for sinners.
  5. Those who repent and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior are saved.
  6. Those who are saved by Jesus, live in Jesus.

Keep them in prayer as they study. It is a spiritual work that God is doing in their hearts and minds.  [In class last week, I challenged the students to repent of sin, and trust in the grace of God alone.  I called them to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  No one spoke up that day, but in our conversations this week, I can tell that they have been reoriented (back?) to faith in Christ alone, and not any works or associations, to save them.]

Family

Continue to keep our family in prayer, too.

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Thank you all for your prayers over the last few months. It was a significantly difficult week before that last email.  The crazy thing was, after the email, after you all started praying, all the kids got sick, but in all that sickness, Krystal and I felt the presence of God keeping us at peace. Ministry these days continues to be an exercise of faith in God’s provision for health, strength, ministry, and fruit.

Do not stop praying! While it is tempting to give in to compassion fatigue, know that your prayers are lifting us up in the storm.

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Krystal

This past year has been one of refocusing for Krystal. As you know, she taught in CLIR last term, and this term she began mentoring a CLIR student. She continues to facilitate a bible study with women from church. She also serves as our team leader, helping us new leaders grow into our roles and offering support and accountability. Finally, Krystal has returned to working in Nyabisindu clinic caring for pregnant moms and doing health checks with babies. She is wearing a lot of hats and uses a day-planner well to keep her days and weeks organized.

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Team Retreat

A generous donor sponsored a retreat for our WorldVenture Rwanda team. We spent three days and two nights at a hotel working with a guest speaker to understand each other and our team culture. Krystal and I have believed that God has called us to be “better together” as a married couple. The same holds true for our team. God has put us together lift each other up and be strong where the other is weak. On the retreat, we experienced the joy of getting to “play” together, but also to know each other more deeply so that we can have greater grace with each other.

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CLIR Status

We were looking for 30, but God brought 24 for this term. Already, I have heard of students contacting their friends to apply. Who knows who God will bring for term 2?

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As we pray for students, we also pray for staff. We have several teachers who are scheduled to teach, but may face trouble. We have one teacher who must finish his Masters degree just before he teaches. Another is finishing his Doctorate abroad. Another three (two staff, one teacher) are abroad on medical emergencies. Another, a skilled disciple-maker in the Pastoral Training School in Kinyarwanda, will be solo teaching in English at the Bachelors level for the first time. Also joining our NCM teaching staff, a new family transferring from Mali to Kigali in September. For all this uncertainty, praise God with us for the growth and development and healing that it represents. God is good.

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Finally, as we consider the process of accreditation and program development, pray that we would do so with wisdom, based on a spiritually discerned strategy that fits with the purpose of New Creation Ministries and the real needs of the Rwandan church.

 

CLIR Christmas and New Year Plans

On Saturday December 15, we hosted a Christmas Party for our CLIR students, especially those who had completed two full years in our program.  I can’t tell you how encouraging that night was!  Each of those students gave a short speech, saying things like:

  • If I had to be done with CLIR right now, without the degree, I would not be disappointed because the program has already been so very transformative in my life.
  • Learning about the Christian Life and Family messed with my head!  I had to put off my wedding (which was two months away) for another eight months, because I knew that my fiancé and I needed a better foundation.  And now, I’m so glad we did.
  • Through the discipleship I have had at CLIR, I have been inspired to begin evangelizing and discipling my parents and siblings.
  • Being at CLIR has influenced how I am as a pastor. I believe that what NCM is teaching and how it is teaching is a light in all of Rwanda that will cause a shift. It is moving all of Rwanda closer to the true gospel.

Our whole team was touched and blessed to hear the testimonies of changed lives, families and ministries.  This is the work of discipleship to which God has called us.  This is our joy.  This is the work you support through your prayers and giving.  This is God’s work and God’s ministry.  May he open the door for more changed lives through CLIR.

A Not Very Good Meeting

Many of you were praying for an important meeting last Monday.  Thank you! That meeting was jarring, to say the least.

We arrived early, but couldn’t find the man to whom we were referred.  Turns out we were given the wrong name. When we did find who we were scheduled to meet he wasn’t available because the whole staff was leaving immediately for a two-day work trip.

I sat in the lobby with Eric, Director of New Creation Ministries, working out a strategy for next steps, and calling to make another appointment when a man came up to help us.  He eventually identified himself as the Executive Director of the Higher Education Council.  He asked us where we were from, and asked if we already had students.  He then advised us that we needed to stop teaching immediately because we were breaking the law.  We left amiably, hiding our crushed spirits.  “That was worse than I imagined it could be.”

I spoke with Krystal. Eric spoke with his fiancé, Fabi. We all prayed.  And felt something significant was happening.  None of us started this ministry.  All of us are standing on the shoulders of giants who worked hard and prayed hard to found these schools.  The roots of NCM were laid through impossible situations and each leader before us had to come to a place of realizing that this ministry is not ours but God’s and he will use it to bring himself glory.  Now it is our turn to persevere in prayer, in spite of opposition, to see God receive the greater glory.  Remember that Moses was told to confront Pharaoh, and told that Pharaoh would oppose him, so that God would be glorified all the more (Exodus 10:1-2).  So too, we are engaged in a spiritual battle that will test our faith, and God will be glorified.

Our Rwandan colleagues and American mentors were not discouraged, but had three important pieces of information. They said, this is the time of annual reviews for ministries, and his department has to present to the President of Rwanda.  They are very busy.  Also, their executive director knows how to manage a department, but doesn’t know our specific situation as well as the application processor who has been working with us for months.  Also, there are hundreds of non-accredited schools in Rwanda, religious and secular, that will not all be closed down immediately. Finally, NCM is registered like a church (Local Religious NGO) and we were told in 2012 that churches are free to offer their own training programs.

Plan

There was confusion about who we were (an already registered organization), and what we were asking.  It is also possible that the new policies have been written, and just not published. Either way, we need to wait until February to have a conversation with someone.  We will continue with finding people to disciple.

As I said, this is God’s ministry and he will keep it.  There are too many pieces to try to manage all on my own, so I need to trust my team, trust the Spirit leading me, and trust God’s providence to maintain us in the favor of the ones who rule.

Please continue to pray for these upcoming meetings!  Pray for understanding between us and the Higher Education Council. Pray for grace. Pray that we will be able to become one of the first Christian degree programs to be accredited in Rwanda. And pray that we would be faithful to the ministry God has called us to do here in Rwanda.

Merry Christmas!

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Gary, Barb, Grace, Rayna, Laura, Eric, Fabi, Nick, Krystal, Luke

Noheli Nziza!

Prayer List:

  • Pray for our future meetings with the Department of Higher Education –we would like to become accredited so that people who would like to teach in churches could have a education that is gospel focused
  • Pray for CLIR student admission
  • Pray for Nick as he prepares to teach in the New Year
  • Pray for our team as we have two families on our team in the States on medical leave
  • Pray for our fellowship tomorrow as we host our celebration at our house