Big Smile from Heaven

Posted by Garry Friesen March 28th, 2015

Family & Friends,

Our family set up the Lonie (Friesen) Tucker Bible Scholarship at Multnomah Bible College in remembrance of my beloved sister.  We created an endowment over the years that topped $100,000.  The interest earned on the endowment provides yearly scholarships.  We use a difficult Bible test to select the recipients.  The top eight finalists then compete before the whole student body during a special chapel.  Sometimes there are miracles on stage.  One of them this year was Calvin who was a finalist his freshman year.  More amazing was that two years earlier he was cheating people to fund a drug and drinking addiction.  God woke him up with the pointed question of a friend.  “Are you going to keep lying to everyone?”  Minutes later Calvin was on his knees praying and urging his soul, “Mean it with all your heart”.  He meant it.  God meant it and gave him new life and new power.

In Calvin’s words, “I quit drinking two days later, quit smoking three days later and started getting honest about everything. I had peace in my heart like I have never had before in my entire life.”  He started reading his Bible, but fell asleep each time he tried.  He prayed for a desire for the Word and his prayer was answered!  “After that I didn’t put down the Bible for 5-6 hours at a time”.  James 5 moved him to clear up his dishonest money dealings.  He moved into the Union Gospel Mission in Yakima Washington and finished their training program.  His new life and new love of Scripture turned him into a preacher at the mission.  He came to Multnomah this year.  I’m sure Lonie is looking down with a big smile on her heavenly face.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Students, Home Alone

Posted by Garry Friesen March 22nd, 2015

Family & Friends,

My students at Africa College of Theology (ACT) are older with more experience than the typical American college.  Most of our students are pastors, but untrained who want to be equipped.  But, I was still nervous when I told the students that I had to leave class for 45 minutes to be in a meeting for final graduation preparation.  I said, “Practice the Walk Thru while I’m gone.” What happens when students are home alone?  I thought, “They probably will just take a 45 min. break.”  I returned and saw all 25 students standing and doing the walk thru as a group with one of the students leading the class.  Our “walk thru the O.T.” lists key people, places and events and then places all 39 books into the storyline of the O.T.  Once memorized it takes over ten minutes to say it.  They had done the whole walk thru and were on the second time through when I wandered back in.  I asked the leader, “How did this happen?”  She said, “The class just asked me to lead and I did.” I joined them in cheering when they finished the walk thru, but I was cheering the loudest. I may cut class more often and leave the students to their own devices.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Defend yourself only . . .

Posted by Garry Friesen March 14th, 2015

Family & Friends,

This Fortnightly finishes the 2 Corinthians “Ministry Principles” which I began last week.  I hope the end of this book encourages and challenges you as much as it does me.

Sacrificial ministry is simply following Christ our model (8:9-12)

Seek grace giving not guilt giving.  God loves a cheerful giver (9:5-8).  That’s why I tell people, “If you don’t have a heart to give, keep it in your pocket, God doesn’t want it.”

Boast in God for every victory and let God be the final judge of what is a victory (10:15-18).

Defend yourself only when you know that Christ will be hurt if you don’t (11:22-24).

Pray for your thorn in the flesh, but God’s grace is always sufficient (12:7-9)

Warn professing believers who live like the world – get ready for discipline or worse, you are unconverted (13:5).

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Shipwrecks & Stonings

Posted by Garry Friesen March 7th, 2015

Family & Friends,

My students often ask me to speak at their churches.  Godfrey & Peace invited me for the sermon and then a training time with their leaders after the service.  For this later training, I was drawn to my favorite book on ministry—2 Corinthians.  It reminds me that my ministry problems are small.  I have had very few shipwrecks or stonings.  I skimmed 2 Corinthians for the millionth time and summarized my favorite truth from each chapter.   Maybe you need them as much as I do:

Sufferings are a necessary part of ministry, but God comforts equal to the suffering (1:3-5, 9-10)

Our gospel is the “fragrance of Christ,” and smells like victory to the saved, but smells like death to the unsaved (2:14-16)

Our adequacy in not in ourselves, but in God who made us ministers of the new covenant (3:4-6).

Look in the right place:  Inner man not outer, eternal not temporal, future glory not present light afflictions (4:16-18)

Your position is exalted (ambassadors) and your message is powerful (reconciliation) (5:18-21).

Ministry is a paradox of the earthly and heavenly.  We are citizens of two countries (6:4-11).

Sorrow that leads to repentance brings life; Sorrow of the world leads to guilt and death (7:9-12).

More next time.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

garryfriesen3335@gmail.com

Four Thrones in Kigali

Posted by Garry Friesen March 3rd, 2015

Family & Friends,

A few days ago, I read Narnia to 20 kids and it was classic.  We are on The Magician’s Nephew.  More importantly, four of our best children were at their last Narnia reading.  After the death of our principal, Dr. Gerald, his family stayed in Rwanda.  I felt a close connection with my fallen colleague when his wife, Robina, was one of the parent’s who organized the Narnia readings.  Their four children—Bethany, Aaron, Jonathan, Josef–were the heart of the group. Their family is moving back to Uganda near relatives.  We finished our reading and I had them come up.  I presented them with a gift of a book containing all of the seven Narnia stories.  We set up four chairs and called them the four thrones of Cair Paravel.  We then renamed them.  Aaron/Peter, Bethany/Susan, Jonathan/Edmund, Josef/Lucy.  Then, all the children stood behind them for a picture.  Finally, we prayed for them in their travel and new home back in Uganda.  It was a beautiful and sad moment.  I urged them to continue to read these stories aloud as a family.  I hope someday to visit them in Uganda and make sure they are stilling following the Lion Aslan.  I reminded them, “He is not a tame Lion”, but He is good.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

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