Edge of the Primeval Forest

Posted by Garry Friesen February 21st, 2015

Family & Friends,

The name Albert Schweitzer has always seemed familiar.  First, as a doctor in Africa.  In seminary as part of the “historical Jesus” movement in liberalism with his influential book Quest for the Historical Jesus.  I just finished his book called On the Edge of the Primeval Forest.   At 30 years old he had an international reputation supported by a doctorate in theology and one in philosophy.  Then for good measure he added a doctor’s degree in medicine.  In his spare time, he was a world-class musician.  I felt like a mere uneducated mortal as I read.  Then I felt like a comrade.  I resonated with his trek into the unknown “primeval forest” to set up a hospital in Lambarene near the mouth of the River Ogowe in West Equatorial Africa.

He gave up a teaching career in Europe to give himself to helping Africans.  His motivation was Scriptural truth (he mentions “The Rich man and Lazarus” passage).  He takes everything he owns up the river in dugout canoes.  Cargo included a gift piano from European musicians.  He arrives, sits down and hears the beautiful singing of Africans.  It feels like a dream until he notices the largest spider he has ever seen next to him.  He is not understood.  He is revered and feared as a fetish man.  People figure that if he can give miraculous cures, he must also have the power to give miraculous curses! Anesthetics amazed them.  A girl explains,  “First of all he kills the sick people; then he cures them, and after that he wakes them up again”.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

 

Pharisee or humble Servant

Posted by Garry Friesen February 14th, 2015

Dear Family & Friends,

This evening I found a response that I wrote to a student that I mentored at Multnomah Bible College.  He asked about my practices with Scripture.  It included many things, but ended with the following words.  (As I read them, I thought, “I need to hear that again”).

“Most important I try never to study the Bible for knowledge.  My role as a disciple is to humbly learn and obey.  I want to learn the details because I’m set to obey it and want to be sure I’m obeying correctly!  I love commentaries, but make sure my Bible reading way out does my commentary and book reading.  Those who know much Scripture turn into Pharisees or humble obedient servants.  Stay on the right side of that one!”

Today was our fifth African Bible marathon and we had 22 people reading and praying.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

With our Clothes on

Posted by Garry Friesen February 9th, 2015

Family & Friends,

I have decided to read as much African literature as I can including African  history, novels and theologians.  My last book was most disconcerting.  David Adamo is an African with an impressive resume including doctor’s degrees from Baylor U. and Indiana Christian University. His important subject is how Africans should interpret the Bible. Adamo sees Africans under the oppression of a Eurocentric biblical hermeneutic (science of interpretation). In its place he offers an “African cultural hermeneutic”.

His book is called Reading and Interpreting the Bible in African Indigenous Churches.  These churches were started without Western influence and thus without hermeneutical “oppression”.  He had my interest.  He then accepts all of the beliefs of African traditional religions and combines them with Christianity.  The end result is scary.  Traditional religions have magic stones for healing.  He recommends things like: The Christian should have magic paper with Scripture written on it hung around their neck to get cured.  He quotes traditional concoctions like the blood of a chicken, crushed nuts, and soil put in water.  Then the Christian reads a proscribed Psalm into the water 12 times and the water is transformed.  Rub this water on your body to help you get a good grade or get the man or woman of your dreams.  African traditional belief includes powerful words that can do miracles.  He urges the believer to discover which words from the Bible are “power” words and speak them 27 times at midnight while naked to protect you from evil forces during a trip.  I wish I was exaggerating.

I am a rookie at African culture and like everyone else, I need help in my Scriptural hermeneutical method.  But, I will be teaching Africans to read the Psalms over and over even 12 times, but for revelation of the glory of God.  I will be teaching Africans that all the words of Scripture are powerful for forgiveness, hope and salvation.  Most of all Christ, the Word of God, is “full of grace and truth”.  And, we will be reading these Scriptures with our clothes on.

Rwandan Rookie, G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Ordination, African Style

Posted by Garry Friesen February 2nd, 2015

Family & Friends,

Last Sunday afternoon was the ordination testing of four pastoral candidates.  I expected a distinctive African flavor.  I predicted instead of 90 minutes long, it would be four hours long.  That was correct.  The rest was a surprise.  About 200 people came to watch and cheer on the new candidates.  They were asked to summarize Scripture books and theological topics.  After 3 hours it went into high gear.  Each candidate was asked to quote 50 Bible verses.  They did not falter or hesitate.  Each one started then picked up speed and more zeal as they quoted.  The audience started to respond right during the quoting.  They stood up as the quotes rose to a fever pitch.  Then they began cheering and taking pictures.  The candidates were not just reciting, but passionately declaring the words of Scripture as the best news ever heard.  It was better than football, because the audience felt every verse was a glorious goal.  When the four finished quoting, the audience surged forward to hug, kiss and congratulate their husbands, fathers and friends. The candidates beamed and sweated with relief. The council went out to deliberate, but I thought, “If they don’t come back with a positive report they might have a church mob on their hands.”  After four hours we had four new victorious candidates.

Rwandan Rookie, G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Stress Reduction

Posted by Garry Friesen January 24th, 2015

Family & Friends,

In Portland I used to have a time/money ratio.  How much was a hour worth to me?  I decided that I was willing to pay $50 to save an hour.  I would buy a DVD on line before seeing it and give it away if I didn’t like it.  My logic was that it would take me nearly an hour to go rent a movie and return it or $50 by my time/$ ratio.  I would hire someone to clean up my apartment for $100 and go speak at a retreat where I would earn more than $100, and enjoy ministering more than cleaning windows.  In Rwanda I’ve had to make a paradigm shift.  Time is always an issue, but in Rwanda stress is the greater issue.   Now I ask, “How much am I willing to pay to save an hour of stress?”  For example, I can run off my class syllabus for free at church, but I know that there are five stressful reasons that something will go wrong.  Power might be off, the copier is on the fritz, or out of ink, or not available, or the office is closed for a holiday I never heard of.  Instead, I take the notes to a print shop and pay 50 francs per page almost stress free.  I visit a coffee shop if I need to wait for the order.  So, I thank you for your financial support, because it is paying for a lot of Kigali stress reduction on my new stress ratio.

Rwandan Rookie, G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Scriptural Fireworks Display

Posted by Garry Friesen January 17th, 2015

Family & Friends,

I’m texting these days.  I have no choice.  African phones won’t record messages so texting is your only option.  Last Saturday I got two phone texts.  “We are done, it was the most wonderful time ever.  We had 17 members ooooh what a move of God, thanks a lot for bringing this in our country.  God bless u emensely.” And “We were blessed by these epistles and had  atime of interaction.  People were excited!!!” Emmanuel and Andrew were referring to our fourth African Bible marathon.  It may have been the best one yet, but how would I know. I was home sick.  But, I was praying for them and reading along with them in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians.  God knew it was time for Andrew and Emmanuel to lead this marathon on their own without the old guy.  Africans don’t read much which makes Bible reading as rare as the back legs on a Rwandan chicken.  But, once you get Africans together and read Scripture in community, they explode with faith, joy and prayer.  Our Bible marathon team has concluded, “The difficulty in Africa will be getting people to a marathon.  Once Africans arrive, the Scriptural fireworks will always begin.”  Now, to start inviting some people to the next fireworks display.

Rwandan Rookie, G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Greaser Shoes

Posted by Garry Friesen January 10th, 2015

Family & Friends,

People often ask me, “What do Africans wear?”  Actually, no one asks, but now that the subject has been brought up, I’d like to say a few things.  American men are easy to spot because they are sporting colorful African shirts.  Kigali men, however, are wearing American shirts and jerseys with the names of every American college in the contiguous U.S. of A. The women are 50/50.  Half are wearing beautifully colored African dresses.  The rest are dressing to look like an American woman they saw at the movies.

The most obvious African characteristic is that they dress nicely for most occasions.  They may not have ten sets of clothes, but they have one for dress up and it looks “smart” as they say.  At church they dress like Americans in 1955 used to dress for church or a wedding.  If the temperature goes below 80 degrees, the winter coats come out.  On a day of 80 degrees sweaters are often worn. The Kigali motorcycle drivers are dressed in winter leathers all the time.  They drive fast so they don’t sweat to death.  And shoes!  Do you remember the long pointed men’s shoes that were around in 1960s?  At my junior high, the “greasers” all wore them.  The shoes were so long and pointed that they had to walk up the stairs sideways.  Somehow, these shoes arrived in Africa and found their way onto Rwandan feet.  Meanwhile, I’m wearing American shirts so I can fit in with the African men.

Rwandan Rookie, G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

“A Gridiron Worm goes farther”

Posted by Garry Friesen January 4th, 2015

Family & Friends,

In 2008 the Detroit Lions became the first professional football team to go 0-16 or as the Detroit newspaper headline said, “PERFECTLY AWFUL”. The NFL football playoffs have begun and I’m at full alert since the Detroit Lions are in the “second season”. Fan’s biggest complain this year is that one division had no team with a winning record.  The Carolina Panthers took first with a miserable 7-8-1 record and all division winners are automatically in.  They quieted our grumbles with a suffocating defense that held the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals to a new playoff low of 78 yards gained for the whole game and only 12 yards in the second half.  A gridiron worm goes further on a rainy day and it was raining that day.  Arizona actually had gained 96 yards, but on the last play of the game, they started lateraling the ball backward to teammates to avoid the final tackle.  Their maneuver netted a loss of 18 yards and some dubious pigskin history.

BUT, the biggest news for us Detroit fans was that San Francisco missed the playoffs and their great coach was without a job . . . for several minutes.  Coach Jim Harbaugh is now the new coach of the Michigan Wolverines football program. After 38 winning seasons, Michigan had fallen on hard times.  Ann Arbor, MI has been renamed Ann Harbaugh, MI and the greatest rivalry in sports (Michigan/Ohio State) will soon be back.  Maybe Jim Harbaugh vs Urban Meyer will be as great as the famous rivalry of “Bo vs. Woody”.  But, first they must get some good nicknames.  “Jim vs. Urban” does not sound like prime time.

Rwandan Rookie, G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Because they are Goats

Posted by Garry Friesen December 28th, 2014

Family & Friends,

A few thoughts on goats.  I’m not a farm boy like my dad.  When I looked at a room to rent, my housemate said, “We have chickens, rabbits, five goats, two dogs and a cat.”  In deference to their Creator, I will call goats interesting rather than strange.  Our daddy goat was tied up so he would not abuse the younger goats.  One day I heard some neighborhood kids making bad imitation sounds of goats.  I looked out to realize it was the goats.  They sound like sick sheep.  Like whinny petulant children when they don’t get their way.  One day I heard crash on the metal bars across my window. After I got over the fright.  I whipped open the drapes to catch the intruder.  I immediately was face to face with a goat.  It had leaped up three feet to stand on a six-inch window ledge.  Goats like to climb.  Why?  Because they are goats.

I looked out one day to see mama goat nudging something on the ground.  I finally concluded she was cleaning up a slimy new-born baby goat.  Apparently, the rope around papa’s neck did not stop his romancing.  I watched in amazement.  She was cleaning the new kid, stopping to munch some grass, and then while she stood there, number two was born.  It crashed to the ground or rather oozed to the ground.  Once cleaned up they were unbelievably cute.  They started following mom around hours later and days later were scampering after her when they wanted milk.  My father would be proud that his son is at least a little countrified.

Rwandan Rookie, G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

“Home please, Moses”

Posted by Garry Friesen December 20th, 2014

Family & Friends,

During my last year in Portland, night driving got increasingly more difficult. I got a routine eye exam.  The doc said, “You have cataracts on both eyes. Let’s get a calendar to see if you can get them done before you leave for Africa”.  We used four different offices that had openings for the eye prep, left eye operation, right eye operation and final exam for new glasses. My eyes have arrived in Rwanda.  I was very disappointed to learn that my two cataract surgeries did not make enough difference to allow me to drive at night.  But, that may be God’s grace and a blessing in disguise.  I now hire a driver at night.  My classes end at 8:30pm.  Then 17 students ask for a ride home.  My driver does triage and only five get the nod.  Then we head home with stops along the side of the road for each student.  Finally, we call ahead to have two metal gates opened by the night watchman.  Then the driver gets paid and heads out to find a moto to get him home.  In the U.S.  I was just another old slow driver trying to look younger in a Mazda Miata, but in Rwanda I have a chauffeur, close my eyes and say, “Home please, Moses.”

Rwandan Rookie, G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com