But none of you are paying any attention to that because I titled this post "Rwanda?" and you are more interested in knowing what exactly I mean by that. We aren't really thinking of going there, are we?? Well, yes. In fact, at this point that is the only place we are looking at. There are still a lot of opportunities for God to close this door, but until He does so (or we arrive there!!) that's the direction we're pursuing. Yes, the first words that come to my mind when I think of Rwanda are "genocide, war, violence." Yes, I have a husband who melts and withers in the slightest heat wave and Rwanda is right in the middle of Africa (ok, a little right of the middle, but who's looking at a map right now anyway?). No, I don't want my children to be raised in a war zone. No, I don't think it's good to be married to a withered, grumpy, hot (not in the "attractive" sense) man. So what on earth are we thinking!?!?! (all of A's aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc were wondering that anyway when we proposed moving "somewhere, probably Africa," but now I'm sure they all really think we've lost it!!)
I would like to start with telling you all the reasons why we feel like God is leading us there, but I don't think anyone will really read it until I dispel a few concerns. First, the genocide. It happened mid-nineties. Every teen and adult that we meet there will have been alive during that time, and I would imagine is deeply effected by it. Does everyone in Rwanda have PTSD? I don't know--I have no idea how widespread the violence was. Is it PTSD if the whole country has it? Maybe it has just changed the culture in general. We have some serious learning to do before arriving. But I do know this: about ten years ago, stability returned and it has been stable since. Does that mean there is no more violence or unrest at all? Again, I don't know, but it can't be as severe as it had been in then nineties or the US Embassy wouldn't be allowing people there; missions organizations wouldn't sending people there. Maybe relief organizations would be there, but not Bible teachers. We've lived in Chicago long enough to know that there can be a lot of violence around you that still never directly effects you. And maybe Rwanda isn't violent at all anymore--I simply don't know. But I can't imagine that it could be too much worse than some of the Chicago neighborhoods. But maybe I'm ignorant about it---again, we have a lot of learning to do. I will say this, though. I have a lot of faith in the US government when it comes to protecting their people on foreign soil. If the Rwandan government still had as much unrest as everyone assumes that there is, there wouldn't be Americans there living normal lives.
Have I appeased your worries enough for you to hear the good stuff? Oh, I forgot about the heat. Rwanda is typically 70's and 80's year round because it is a mountainous country. Have I mentioned that I LOVE LOVE LOVE mountains?!?!
So why do we want to go? The easiest way to describe our excitement for the work being done in Rwanda right now is to share with you the most recent update from one of the missionaries currently working in Rwanda:
Today was an awesome climax to two exhausting weeks of teaching almost sixty first-year pastors. Last Monday (January 18), we welcomed fifty-nine new pastors into our Pastoral Training School. All of these men are in ministry – some oversee multiple churches. They come from fourteen different denominations, including one in Burundi. For the last two weeks, we have been teaching two classes – “The True Gospel” and “The Christian Life.” Over and over again, these men have commented on how new these teachings have been and how they have been teaching wrong doctrine in their churches for such a long time. One man openly confessed last week, “We have been building our churches on the wrong foundation!"
This afternoon during a prayer gathering, assuming that there were probably some in the group who have never understood what it means to be a Christian, we offered the pastors a chance to respond to the call of the Gospel. Twenty four pastors quickly stood to their feet to declare in front of everyone that they were trusting in Jesus and what Jesus has done for them for the first time in their lives. Praise the Lord! These men are on fire! Next week we will finish their studies, at which time they will return to their homes and churches. Please pray that the truth of what they’ve experienced and embraced would radically change their lives, homes and churches.
I feel like just ending this post with that. Need I say any more? Is there a more worthwhile work that we could do? Pastors, the men ordained to lead the Church and guide God's people to Truth, who don't even understand the foundations of God's Truth themselves!!! Think about how many lives will be changed by these influential men spreading the Truth even further.
Since I've been so concerned about defending our sanity in this, I haven't really let on to the million questions and fears I have. I mean really, Rwanda? What are we thinking? We've got a one year old child, and we ultimately want more children. Are we really considering moving to the middle of Africa with a young family, probably dealing with pregnancy and birth there?!?!? They've got a good thing going without us, do they really need us to go there? Did we rush into this decision? Do we have a stable enough marriage and family to go halfway around the world and live in less-than-ideal conditions? Are we really sure that that's what God wants with us? Maybe we're just getting caught up in the excitement of it and not thinking about it realistically.
But we've prayed about it. A lot. When we started this process, it was a cautious "God, what do you have in store for us after L is done with school?" The response? Every person that we sat down with to ask if they could see a place for us to use our gifts and passions to serve God overseas said yes. So we started to officially pursue "missions," still waiting for God to close the door. We were directed to a number of different locations that could potentially be a good fit for us. But the moment Rwanda was even mentioned, we both felt drawn to it. Neither of us admitted that until later, of course, because really, Rwanda? The process of corresponding with missionaries and talking with our church and talking with others who know us well and praying together and talking together and researching together continued. The entire time, L and I both felt drawn to Rwanda, and the work that the team is doing there right now. It is a pull that I can't describe. But despite how crazy I (sometimes) think we are, neither of us can shake it. It just seems right. How's that for a vague, wishy-washy answer? But I don't think it is wishy-washy. I think God sometimes chooses to direct us by giving us an uncanny peace about what He wants. And as far as the other concerns like, "are we cut out for this?" That's why we have both a church and mission board evaluating us. Maybe we aren't. Maybe God just wants us to go through this process so we can be drawn closer to Him, and in the end we won't end up overseas at all. I don't like that possibility, but God is God and I am not--He can do with us what He wants.
So now we have a lot of work to do. We both feel like we just want to study every aspect of Rwanda's culture and history and people. We have an application to fill out with our church so they can approve for us to apply with the mission board. Then we have that application. It's like a full life study of both of us---every aspect of our life and history and marriage and theology and who knows what else?!?! Somewhere in there we want to (and have been strongly advised to) take a 2 week trip to Rwanda. When do we do that? Do we take A along? How do we pay for it? Do we raise support? I feel like we should do it sooner rather than later, since that seems like the most likely way for God to confirm that we should go there, or close that door for us. Then (or maybe before we visit Rwanda) we go to the mission's headquarters (in November, if our church approves) and go through their evaluation time. Then, if we're approved by them, we start raising support and prepping to go. THAT IS SUCH A LONG PROCESS!!!! And I am not a patient person.
Wow. I just re-read everything I wrote. Is anyone still reading this? That's lot of reading. I'll end now because I'm not sure what else to say and this is already gettting super-long. More later.
Meanwhile, the journey continues and God is good.