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

The Future of Christianity is …

Posted by Garry Friesen April 18th, 2015

Family & Friends

My current theological wrestling is with African theology.  My African mentor, Byang Kato, got me moving to Africa.  He summarized his view.  “It is God’s will that Africans, on accepting Christ as their Savior, become Christian Africans. Africans who become Christians should therefore remain Africans wherever their culture does not conflict with the Bible. It is the Bible that must judge the culture. Where a conflict results, the cultural element must give way.” He has been called “the Founding Father of African Evangelical theology”.  No one knows what he could have done if he had not tragically died at age 39 in a swimming accident.  But, we do know what he dreamed for Africa. “African Christianity is being consumed by a dreadful disease,” he said. “We must find a cure for our theological anemia.”

Byang Kato spent his own prodigious intelligence and energy combating the “theological anemia”.  His dream was for African theologians to publish, for strong African seminaries, for an accreditation body for the continent and for an African theological journal.  His dream did not die.  Our dream is that Rwanda will join in by raising up theologians, for more colleges like ACT to be accredited by ACTEA and for the evangelism to be buttressed with strong clear and vibrant theology.  Scholars are predicting that the future of Christianity is in the south – either South America or Africa.  I urge my students, “Africa has the gospel and evangelists, Africa has strong faith and strong prayer.  We need to add strong theology and the future of Christianity will be Africa.”

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Kwibuka 21

Posted by Garry Friesen April 11th, 2015

Family & Friends,

On April 11, 1994 thousands of Tutis were abandoned by the 90 Belgian U.N. forces at a school in Kicukiro near our college.  The military moved in as the U.N left.  The 3,000 were marched up the road to a garbage dump in the pouring rain “to take out the garbage”.  In three heinous hours they were hacked to death at Nyanza.  We made that same march in the rain from New Life Bible Church to the Nyanza Genocide Memorial Site on Friday.  Eighty Tutsis survived the butchery and one of those 80 shared with our church family.  She escaped when she had lifeless bodies piled over her and was taken for dead. Our church supplied symbolic flowers for the occasion.  I was honored to place one of the dozen flower baskets on the mass grave. Then everyone was given a beautiful single rose to individually place on the grave.  The total service was six hours and longer than it took to snuff out the Tutis on that gruesome day.  A Viet Nam-like stone wall has names of those who could be identified.  “Kwibuka 21” is the remembering of the 21st anniversary of the unthinkable.  The book of Judges has new meaning for me.  What happens when people act without God’s law?  When God is not feared and God’s law is forgotten, people will act like those in Judges 18-21 and it is unthinkable.

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

Leaning Starboard

Posted by Garry Friesen April 4th, 2015

Family & Friends,

The word for “key” in Kinyarwanda is “urufunguzo”.  Why do one-syllable English words like “key” take five syllables to say in Kinyarwanda?  I’ll blame it on the Tower of Babel.  But, back to keys.  Keys are big in Kigali.  Not big like the “key to the city” big, but very important.  Anyone who wants to keep anything until tomorrow has a wall around their house, a 24/7 night guard and dozens of KEYS.  Everything is locked.  But, Keys have passed the proverbial tipping point.  At some point they stop being useful because you cannot keep track of them.  I rent a room in a house.  To leave the house for Africa College of Theology, I have nine keys.  Every room in the house has a lock & key.  The outside gates have three keys.  My wrist has become muscular and I have Popeye forearms since keys have to turn all the way around once, twice and sometimes three times to work.  Because there are so many keys that so many people need to use, you often see keys laying around for someone else to pick up. Sometimes the switch of guards requires that one of them throw a wad of keys over the wall for the next guard to find. (What’s wrong with this picture?)   When I walk, I now lean starboard because of the heavy clump of keys clanging in my pocket.  You can hear me coming from a kilometer away.  When I jangle up to a visitor, they have to ask “Are you the building custodian or the Bible teacher?”  I lean to the right and say, “Bible teacher until the Lord returns!”

Rwandan Rookie,

G

GarryFriesen3335@gmail.com

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