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

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