Mark Twain, “A classic is …”

Posted by Garry Friesen November 16th, 2014

Family & Friends,

Mark Twain said, “A classic is a book that everyone wants to have read, but no one wants to read”.  All my life I have heard about the classic novel, “Cry, the Beloved Country”.  I finally read it and the only problem reading it was when tears clouded my vision.  It is not only a classic, but it is readable and even poetic in its lyrical descriptions.  It is about South Africa, and race, and fears and hope.  It was written in 1946 when the story happens.  It is about how power corrupts and how only love and not power can change men’s hearts.

It is considered “The greatest novel to emerge out of the tragedy of South Africa, and one of the best novels of our time” (The New Republic).  I had trouble going to bed on time.  My book-loving self kept saying, “Please, just one more chapter” to my “always in bed by 9pm” self.  At the book’s end the Zulu pastor is praying on a mountain as the sun comes up.  The author’s final words are, “But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret.”  Next, time my favorite quotes from the book.

Rwandan Rookie, G

The vote passes 1-0

Posted by Garry Friesen November 10th, 2014

Family & Friends,

My students tell me that they have never had a teacher like me before.  That could be good or it could be bad.  So far, it is mostly good.  I’ve written a detailed “Walk thru the Old Testament” and created several “Draw Thru’s.  The draw thru concept has worked even better than the walk thru for many students.  The drawing is a time line with symbols to follow the history of, say, the Old Testament. The draw through of my End Times class featured Daniel 2 & 7, Daniel 9, and the events in Jesus’s Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24).  I want students to see the forest and not get lost in the trees.  After they get the forest, I push them to learn as many of the trees as can fit in a human brain.  Years ago I tried to introduce the “walk thru” at Multnomah for a Bible overview class, but the Bible department did not agree.  At ACT, I am the Bible department and so the vote was 1-0 in favor!  I thought that Africa told stories to each other all the time.  But, one of the African leaders just told me that I was only one he ever knew who gave narrative sermons by telling the biblical story to adults.  Why have we reserved the stories for children only?  I’m hoping that I will continue to hear, “I’ve never had a teacher like you.”

Rwandan Rookie, G

I Married You

Posted by Garry Friesen November 1st, 2014

Family & Friends,

During seminary days, Walter Trobisch captured my heart when I discovered I Loved a Girl and I Married You.  They are set in Africa where Trobisch was a marriage counselor and missionary. I found them here in Africa still in print.  I just reread I Married You and asked my new intern, Andrew, to do the same.  His wife picked it up and devoured it.  Andrew has read it aloud with her and discussed the issues raised by this fascinating story.  Trobisch lands in Africa and gives lectures on marriage.  Couples come to him for help with their African marriage problems.  We watch him apply universal biblical marriage principles to a trapped woman living with a sugar daddy, a pastoral couple with a demanding ministry coming between them and an engaged couple who are afraid that their differences will make their potential marriage a failure.  Trobisch’s wife comes for the last two days.  Just before the final day of ministry they have a fight.  They call in one of the Africans that they have been counseling to come and referee.  I hope Andrew and his wife enjoy it as much as I have.  Nothing like picking up a great book after 40 years and enjoying it again!

Rwandan Rookie, G

“C.S. Chinua Day”

Posted by Garry Friesen October 25th, 2014

Family & Friends,

Mark today, Friday October 25, on your calendars.  Call it “C.S. Chinua Day”.  It may become a national holiday in Rwanda, but first someone needs to know that it exists.  On this day I was asked to lead a C.S. Lewis Narnia Chronicles reading group.  We will start with 10 children age 5-10 and I will read the Narnia stories to their virgin ears.  Since coming to Africa, I have found my African C.S. Lewis.  He is the most celebrated African novelist and essayist, Chinua Achebe.  Today I found the link—The C.S./Chinua link.  On the same day, I read Achebe’s essay given at Cambridge, “The Education of a British-Protected Child”.  I learned that the link was the famous James Welch.  Who is he?  What! Next you will be asking what is “C.S. Chinua Day”?   Welch was a missionary and professor of religious studies in Nigeria, head of religious broadcasting at the BBC, chaplain to the king, and principal of a theological college.  AND he was Achebe’s college teacher in Ibadan, Nigeria.  AND He was the one who talked C.S. Lewis Lewis into giving theological radio talks during WW2 to England.  Soon his voice was best-known in England next to Churchill.  The talks later became the book, Mere Christianity.  The “Link” is James Welch!  Why are you sitting there reading the Friesen Fortnightly?  Get up and mark Oct. 25 on your calendar as “C.S. Chinua Day”.

Rwandan Rookie, G

ACT praying thru Acts

Posted by Garry Friesen October 18th, 2014

Family & Friends,

We just finished our first Bible Marathon with Africa College of Theology (ACT) students.  Our internship team of 3 students planned it.  My schedule for the four hour marathon did not account for the slower reading pace in English.  But, the feature of reading “Scripture in community” was just what the African doctor ordered.  Rwanda is not a reading culture, but our 20 students were a constant encouragement to each other to keep reading.  We read 22 chapters from the book of Acts. We stopped periodically to respond in prayer.  A person reads a verse that was significant to them and then prays in response. The roof lifted during the prayer times.  Africans love to pray.  Add Scripture to African prayer and the mix is explosive.  As one prayed the rest urged them on. It was encouraging to hear Hassan pray with passion about Ananias and Sapphira lying about money to the apostles (Acts 5:1-11).  There is a huge lack of financial accountability in Africa. God heard Hassan’s prayer that they would practice honesty with money in the church.  What could be more fitting than students of ACT reading ACTS and praying up a storm?

Rwandan Rookie, G

“Everything is good in my world”

Posted by Garry Friesen October 11th, 2014

Family & Friends

I tell friends about my experience in Africa.  One common thread is saying, “No matter how things go wrong in my third world country, when I join 20 students singing together, everything is good in my world!”  Recently, the rutted dirt roads and the cobblestone streets finally got the victory over my tires.  My first flat occurred near my house on Saturday evening.  On Sunday morning I was preaching, but first had to replace the dead tire.  It had been 30 years since I had the privilege.  My roommate was experienced.  He guided the process and I was on time for the church service.  Several days later, I drove down a busy highway and blew another tire.  I limped to a nearby parking lot (“parking lot” is a euphemism for an uneven dirt field).  Two Africans appeared quickly to inform me of my mishap.  Then they happily joined me in changing the tire like Tom Sawyer’s friends.  The same week I needed cash, and went 0 for 4 on finding a bank money machine that worked.  But, that night our class joined another for the opening songs. The singing started and saturated the room.  The dancing started and rocked the room.  Soon the whole class was in a dance line circling the classroom in joyful song and worship.  I paused between songs, and said to no one in particular, “Everything is good in my world.”

Rwandan Rookie, G

Wrinkles on My Wrinkles

Posted by Garry Friesen October 4th, 2014

Family & Friends,

Africa College of Theology sent me and our president, Charles, to Johannesburg, South Africa.  We were visiting SATS – South Africa Theological Seminary.  This completely on-line seminary was interested in pursuing a partnership with us, and we with them.  The meetings went very well, but the high point for me was the hot showers.  We stayed in a bed and breakfast place.   I worked hard to be sure that I needed a shower, maybe two, each day.  It had been about three months since I had experienced anything, but a shower out of a bucket.  The Johannesburg shower water was hot, steady and most important, plentiful.  I lingered under the jet stream, loitered below the lovely spray, hung out in the heavenly flow, lounged in the liquid surge, and delayed under the delicious cascade, until my wrinkles had wrinkles.  The next J-Burg newspaper edition had a story about hot water shortages on the east side.  I was going to turn myself in, but I wanted to take another long shower the next day.  It was a good trip, but after three days, I missed Kigali.  When we landed at the airport, it felt like getting home with or without hot showers!

Rwandan Rookie, G

Anomaly in the Bathtub

Posted by Garry Friesen September 29th, 2014

Family & Friends,

Anyone who takes a hot shower in Rwanda, enjoys it more than you do in the States.  You can take a nice shower and think about the upcoming events of the day.   You end up clean, but not necessarily happy.  A hot shower in Kigali can make us happy all day.  The planets have to align themselves just right for such an anomaly.  Will there be water?  Will there be pressure if there is water?  Will there be hot water if there is pressure?  If there is pressure, will your shower turn from frigid to scalding.  If the pressure is steady, will a cockroach want to join in the experience.  Sometimes, I look at the shower and say, “I think I’ll just heat up some water on the stove and take a bucket shower.”  But, trust me, when the heavens align and the shower is hot and steady, it makes an American shower seem routine and uninspiring.  In Kigali a hot shower can give you an unexplained boost of joy even if you miss your personal devotions.   Americans, enjoy your shower, but I bet that I enjoy mine more . . . when it happens.

Rwandan Rookie, G

Kinyarwanda Baby Blues

Posted by Garry Friesen September 20th, 2014

Family & Friends,

For the last six months I’ve been trying to learn the hardest language that I’ve ever tackled—Kinyarwanda. People who know the grammar say it is one of the most difficult languages to learn.  Native speakers don’t know its grammar, but they do tell me confidently, “It is an easy language to learn.”  When I say, “Easy?  It has ten categories of nouns which means that it has ten ways to say “this”, ten for “that”, ten for “these” and ten for “those” and only one will work in a particular sentence!”  They give me a puzzled look, ponder for moment, and then say, “But, it is an easy language to learn.”  Rwandans love it when you try to learn their language.  Rwandans laugh when you try to learn their language.

At our weekly staff prayer meeting I always bring my Kinyarwanda Bible.  They asked me to read our passage for the day in 1 Peter.  This was literary suicide.  I did not know most of the words.  I read.  Shortly after, our president arrived and learned that I had read Kinyarwanda aloud.  He said, “Read it again.”  I took a second torturous run through words I did not know.  They clapped and then they laughed.  The clap said, “Thank you for trying to learn Kinyarwanda.”  The laugh said, “You have a long way to go.”  In Kinyarwanda, I’m a baby, about 2 years old.  It is hard being a baby after teaching college for 38 years, but there is nothing wrong with humility!  I’m hoping and working, and God willing, I will soon be a 3 year old in Kinyarwanda.

Rwandan Rookie, G

More Dr. Gerald Golden Rules

Posted by Garry Friesen September 13th, 2014

Family & Friends,

After the death of our beloved principal, Dr. Gerald, I asked many students and staff a question.  “What did you learn from Dr. Gerald?” What they told me, I wrote down.  I got about 20 truths worth repeating.  Here are the second ten which I call “Dr. Gerald’s Golden Rules”.

11.  Have a two-table office: one for work and one for people.

12.  Be generous with your finances and your time.

13. Know the language of the people you serve.

14. Be a student of God’s Word your whole lif

15. Regularly encourage team members around you,

16. Love God above all else.

17. Let the joy in you greet others with a smile.

18. Preach the gospel & Scripture with words and with your life.

19. Accept your weaknesses and learn from everyone.

20. Be close to students and incarnational in your ministry.

We ask all our faculty to sign a values and doctrinal statement from ACT.  We just added the signing of “Dr. Gerald’s Golden Rules”.  We are hoping that every faculty member will help reflect our fallen warrior Dr. Gerald.

Rwandan Rookie, G

P.S. I’m still raising funds for purchasing African authored books.  If you have interest contact me at the email below.  Thank you for those who have donated.