Bibliophile Heaven

Posted by Garry Friesen July 4th, 2015

Family & Friends,

I walked into the storehouse cavern and thought “iboombo”.  Not only, “candy”, but a huge “candy store” for a bibliophile.  And this book lover was in awe.  The rafters had international flags including Rwanda with its yellow star on sky blue background.  That was the sight as I trekked from the offices of Theological Book Network into their book storehouse in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I met Wayne who vetted which books were good enough for the shelves.  Greg explained how they made sure 300,000 books went yearly from TBN to the majority world Bible colleges and seminaries.  Justin showed me the huge board that chronicles how many books to which countries.  They pick a “hub” college and send high-end theological books to a group of 10-15 schools in a region.  Then the schools come to the hub to pick up the library candy.  They first interviewed me to learn about Africa College of Theology.  Then, they sent me out with a rolling library cart to select books that will be a part of our gift from TBN to ACT.  They are only 11 years old, but already scholars are donating their books at retirement and key Christian publishers are sending them extras of new books.  The receive donations of books and amafaraga to buy books to give them away.  I’ve already tried to say “thank you” to them by donating a box of Decision Making and the Will of God.  In August, a container will be leaving Grand Rapids and heading for Kigali and I will be in bibliophile heaven all over again.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Elder on Mission

Posted by Garry Friesen June 28th, 2015

Family & Friends,

What do you say to a church after 15 months in Africa and four minutes to report?  (1) Four minutes is enough since if you want more there is the “Friesen Fortnightly”.  (2) I am “elder on mission”.  It is a good title, but also embodies a paradigm shift.  I am sent and my final authority is the local church.  The mission agency is our facilitator on the ground. (3) Keep your missions theology simple.  The great commission is a clear call and no second “call” is needed.  Every believer is under the commission and must ask, “Where do I best fit in?”  (4) According to mission experts, the future strength of Christianity is in the south (Asia, S. America, Africa?).  My money is on Africa.  It has evangelism, full churches, bold faith, prayer and fasting.  It still needs those strengths united to Scripture truth.  (5) My role is in Scripture for Africa at ACT (Africa College of Theology) under Africa New Life Ministries where I am the main Bible teacher.  (6) The tragic death of our principal, Dr. Gerald, moved me to academic dean and the creation of our new academic programs for a year.  (7) My goal is to wipe out biblical illiteracy in the nation of Rwanda.  Thank you for making it possible.  I am thrilled to be your “elder on mission”.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

 

 

Theologian of Genocide, part 2

Posted by Garry Friesen June 20th, 2015

Family & Friends,

My last posting called “Theologian of Genocide,” raised a question for some readers.  What is a “theologian of genocide”?.  The conundrum of how a good God could allow evil has always been with us.  It is quickly on the lips of those who think that belief in God is a harmful deception.  Genocide is evil, so evil, that it is hard to conceive.  A genocide of nearly one million people killed in 100 days is almost impossible to understood.  A genocide using mainly crude machetes rather than bullets is too gruesome to ponder.  A theologian of genocide must tackle straight on the questions every Tutis had before his demise.  “Where is God?”  “Why me?”  “How could people be so evil?” “I believe in God, why does He not rescue me?” “Are we cursed?”  “Is there any hope for my family and nation?”  As we look back, we further ask, “How do forgiveness and justice fit together?”  “How does a nation heal from a gash this large?”  “How can we avoid another genocide?”  God is Redeemer.  Someone must rise up with Scripture in hand to give us hope that He can Redeem anything.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Theologian of Genocide

Posted by Garry Friesen June 14th, 2015

Family & Friends,

I’m on the theological prowl.  I know my target, but I don’t know how to get there.  It is too politically sensitive. It is too difficult to fathom.  It is too troubling to ponder for long.  But, it is too important to ignore.  Rwanda needs a theologian of genocide.  They must be Rwandan.  They must have a brilliant understanding of God’s sovereignty and human depravity.  The paradox of the cross must have captured their soul. The cross was the curse of all curses and the blessing of all blessings. It was the worst thing that every happened.  It was the best thing that ever happened.  It was vivid picture of God’s grace and God’s wrath at the same gruesome moment.  Jesus’ cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” has mystery and depth that may illuminate the cries of Rwandans slaughtered in churches with the same anguishing words on their lips.  Finally, they must be able to demonstrate that the Redeemer can redeem anything.  Anything, even the worst history and give hope for the future.  I am now reading the Scripture anew with genocide in my theological cross hairs.  But, I know I cannot be the person.  I only pray I may have a small part in encouraging this theologian to come.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

“Richer, wiser, stranger and ancient”

Posted by Garry Friesen May 31st, 2015

Family & Friends,

My new Kigali existence is 15 months old.  My old life seems distant.  I now call Kigali home though I am still an alien.  But Christ followers are aliens anyway and looking for better country (Hebrews 11).  I’m now extremely rich.  Everyone assumes I could fund their dream or pay their school fees.  I hesitate when someone claims me as a “friend” for I know they may have in mind that I now will pay their next hospital bill or late rent bill.  I am now respected just for the fact that I have grew hair, but have not died yet.  In the US you disappear when you get old, but in Africa you become “umusaza” – elder with wisdom.  I am now educationally elite.  There are very few PhDs in Rwanda and one earned in the US or UK is highly respected.  I am now strange. I have no wife and no children.  I have money, but still am single.  That makes no sense to an African.  I am now unbelievably old.  After a children’s Bible lesson, I opened the time for questions.  “How old are you?”  I said, “67” and there was an audible gasp.  It is amazing to me to realize that in 15 short months I became richer, wiser, smarter, stranger and ancient.  I now return to the US for five weeks and will see if anyone notices all the changes.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

A Reminder from Alzheimer’s

Posted by Garry Friesen May 24th, 2015

Family & Friends,

The other day I was day dreaming and remembered a scene in Michigan.  I spent a year caring for my father and his Alzheimer’s.  We had an old experienced doctor looking at my memory-less father.  After talking to dad for a few minutes he assessed what we already knew.  “He has no past”.  His memory went back about 2 minutes.  “He is unable to think about the future”.  Then he added some wisdom that might seem simplistic or obvious, but at the moment I knew it was deep and wise. “Bill has only the present.” He looked at us and added.  “You can help him enjoy the present.”  All of the sudden I was not frustrated about dad’s memory or his bliss about the non-existent future.  I was determined to just be there and help him enjoy the present.  That was not that difficult because of his easy-going nature.  And I might as well enjoy it with him.  I do not wish loss of memory on anyone.  Every month as the memory fades you are dealing with a different person and must adjust.  But, Alzheimer’s is a good reminder.  It is best to not fret over the past or be anxious over the future.  Just enjoy God and others in the present.  This is my goal today in Kigali.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Proverbs from Achebe

Posted by Garry Friesen May 17th, 2015

Family & Friends,

An oral culture like Africa is bound to be rich in proverbs.  African novels are often fond of peppering them into the characters’ conversations.  The following proverbs are woven into the fabric of Chinua Achebe’s novel Anthills of the Savannah.

A wise man agrees with his wife and eats lumps of smoked fish in his soup.  A fool contradicts his wife and eats lumps of cocoyam.

Procrastination is a lazy man’s apology.

[A fool] will dig a new hole to get sand to fill an old one.

Don’t’ disparage the day that still has an hour of light in its hand.

A man whose horse is missing will look anywhere even on the roof.

If you want to get at the root of murder, you have to look for the blacksmith who made the matchet.

If you cross the Great River to marry a wife you must be ready for the risk of the night journey by canoe.

A man who answers every summons by the town-crier will not plant corn in the fields.

An animal whose name is famous does not always fill a hunter’s basket.

A totally reasonable wife is always pregnant.

And my favorite, “Age gives to a man some things with a right hand even as it takes away others with the left.”

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Risky Bible Marathon

Posted by Garry Friesen May 9th, 2015

Family & Friends,

Today we had a risky Bible marathon.  The topic was the reason for the risk.  Rwandans are afraid of the book of Revelation.  The lack of reading causes hesitation.  But, more the idea that Revelation is impossible to understand dominates the thinking of many.  The student leaders asked me to introduce the book before we read it from the isle of Patmos to the New Jerusalem (Rev. 1-22).  I discussed “apocalyptic” literature as a genre, but the most important thing I said was, “This book promises a blessing to everyone who reads it (Rev. 1:3).  It does not promise a blessing only to those who understand it all, or there would be no blessing.”  Apocalyptic was often the genre used for those suffering persecution.  Its symbols hid information from the persecutors, but revealed to those who believed.  It reminds everyone that this chaotic mess called human history will turn out with good defeating evil.  The “lamb who was slain” will turn into the Lion of Judah.  Our group loved the book of Revelation.  The prayers in response to specific verses was intense and dramatic.  No one understood it all, but all were blessed.  We were assured that He will wipe away all tears and the eternal Hallelujahs will begin “soon”.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

 

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

ACT’s First Graduation

Posted by Garry Friesen May 2nd, 2015

Family & Friends,

It was historic.  At least for us.  We had our first graduation at Africa College of Theology (ACT).  I had my simple black gown from Multnomah days, but my hood was lost somewhere between the Rose City and Kigali City.  They ordered me an official’s robe.  Wow.  Big round cap and bright colors in a flowing robe.  Immediately, I looked like a hybrid between a king of England and a peacock.  Before the procession, students were taking pictures and as their official “peacock”, I posed for a million photos with them.  The solemn graduation occasion was dignified, but mixed with rejoicing.  The prayer of dedication for the graduates was always my favorite part at Multnomah.  ACT was Multnomah graduate prayer on steroids.  All 29 graduates came forward and knelt down.  Then 30 pastors, bishops, faculty and college staff all prayed at the same time.  We moved through the kneeling students petitioning for this one and then another.  It was long enough that I was exhausted by the end of the prayer time.  And, it was beautiful.  All the theological education in the world without the power of the Holy Spirit is dead religion.  We had petitioned the Most High to create powerful ministers of the word of grace.  It was historic.  And, then the peacock went home happy and ready for the next class of students.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Pictures of my Pocket

Posted by Garry Friesen April 26th, 2015

Family & Friends,

I’ve been using my new i-phone 3 like a rookie with a new toy.  Almost all Africans have nice cell phones and I needed one!  I take most of my pictures when my i-phone is in my pocket.  But, I have figured out how to take a picture of each new person I meet.  Actually my fingers are slow so I unintentionally take about four pictures of each person I meet.  Africans are so personable and friendly.  They all remember to say “Hi, Dr G” the next time we meet.  I, on the other hand, have not perfected the subtle features in African faces.   I asked someone who looked familiar, “What is your name again?”  He said, “Onesimus, but you call me George half of the time.”  I also call George, Onesimus half of the time.  So far I have 120 faces on my i-phone photo gallery and many shots of the inside of my pocket.   Africans love to ask me, “What is your favorite thing in Rwanda?”  I can’t say the driving or the cockroaches, but the answer is easy.  I love the people.  A difficult day may have five mishaps, but two minutes with a group of Rwandans laughing and everything is wonderful in my world.  Meanwhile, I will be reviewing my 120 faces on my i-phone and doing my best to remember the name of every face that I am enjoying.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

garryfriesen3335@gmail.com