The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9.2.
As I sat at the table on the patio of the guest house, one eye on the southern tip of Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo beyond, the other on the four people around it, I felt overwhelmed by Africa. It was our penultimate day in Rwanda and I was battling with stomach upset, mouth ulcers, and hoarseness.
The conference had gone brilliantly, and despite having to rise up and break through again and again, God had faithfully done all he had promised and I knew that the work we had come to do on this trip was finished. Yet, as Vic and I sat discussing the future with Charles from Rwanda, Agnes from Uganda and Frederick from Burundi, all I could focus on was the enormity of what God might do with The Way of the Spirit in this extraordinary continent. It was a strange moment, uncomfortable, lonely and rather disturbing.
It was my fourth time in Africa, and I sensed we were not at the end of anything at all but only at the very beginning. Charles, Agnes and Frederick – all graduates of KF Roffey Place – each strong in character and commitment, were gathered for such a time as this. Was history being made around this table? The adjoining countries they represented have knownin recent times great spiritual revival as well as terror, war and genocide. Together we talked of forming an alliance, of encouraging each others work and of The Way of the Spirit being the answer to the shallowness of the African church. (‘A mile wide but an inch deep’ is how one pastor in Kampala had described it during my last trip.) Frederick, who had traveled to Kampala and now to Cyangugu to be at the conferences, now wants a conference in Burundi.
It was clearly God who was building this work; we hadn’t arrived at this place through the engineering of man but only that of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly I could see how far things had come. Here, as in Kampala, we had more than once seen God breathe his spirit into the conference releasing joy and strength to his people; this was what he wants to do across his church – build it up through his word by his spirit bringing joy, strength and depth.
Later that morning, I was alone in the lounge in the guesthouse. The team had gone to the genocide museum, there to remind future generations of what had taken place during those 100 days of 1994. I remained behind due to a really painful stomach but also because I believed God was saying to me not to go. As I stayed and sought the Lord I began weeping deep tears. I believe these were tears from God – tears of sadness of what had taken place in that land, and tears of hope for its restoration.
At the conference the delegates had been equipped to study the bible for themselves in a way that would bring life. The mornings and evenings were times when this life was expressed through teaching, and in the moving of the spirit in worship and ministry, while in the afternoons the delegates learned to study The Way of the Spirit in groups. The delegates were themselves leaders of churches (about 40 were in Anglican ministry) and could now teach their people what God had shown them.
Charles will watch over the work and continue to disciple and encourage the people. We were able to leave him with £4,250 which will enable him to get a vehicle to get into the rural areas and to travel beyond his immediate diocese without having to rely on the unreliable public transport. Indeed, many places are inaccessible without a vehicle. Agnes had brought 15 of the Kampalan team with her and they were built up in their vision and encouraged by what they saw God do among the Rwandans. When we go to Burundi, teams from Kampala and Rwanda will come and encourage the Burundians. Now, with three leaders in three neighbouring countries, things can grow.
I thank God for the team he sent with me. We worked well together, and there were no problems between us. Each person played their part.
Vic Ford as ever was an encouragement to many on the trip. His behind the scenes work with translations and provision of materials was invaluable. He is recognised by the Africans as the overseer for Africa and people there know him to be faithful and committed to them. His love for them as individuals without looking for return continues to communicate commitment to them – he keeps coming back! I suspect his work load will increase in the coming days.
Hedley Quinton took the complete load of organising the afternoon groups from me, and I was grateful for that! He not only organised them, but also kept pace with the rate at which the groups were developing and changing, adapting and changing where necessary. He also grew in his teaching anointing by taking several sessions himself.
Was great to have Roy and Karen Floyd along. They are from our church here in Norwich and were in Africa for the first time. Roy greatly encouraged folk by boldly speaking out faith at the meetings. He faithfully interceded during meetings and ministry times, and as ever was at hand to serve as needed. Karen sang out prophetically on many occasions and built up a rapport with the local Rwandan worship group.
Steve, my older brother, also came along for the first time, fitted in really well and despite finding the spiritual climate a little intense adapted easily and quickly to become a key and popular member of the team. He did some work with a local school – teaching them to play cricket! This was much appreciated by children and school staff alike as you might imagine. Significantly I don’t think he has completely ruled out the possibility of coming along again one day.
Rwanda is a beautiful country. Hilly, lush and green, one would never know travelling on the road between Kigali airport and Cyangugu that it was the most densely populated country in Africa or that it was the second poorest. Since the genocide in 1994 when over 800,000 were massacred by neighboursand fellow citizens the country has made much progress. Nevertheless, the nation is still traumatised. Only recently, for instance, 12 years on, have people began putting out flowers in front of their homes again. Noneof this pain is immediately obvious yet isn’t far from the surface. There is much healing taking place and God is turning the country around –there is much still to happen.
What must happen to prevent a reoccurrence? The ’94′ genocide wasn’t an isolated occurrence. Each time in recent Rwandan history there’s been a spiritual revival (and there have been several), a war or genocide has risen up to quash it. I spoke to the bishop of Cyangugu at the end of our trip – he closed the conference – and he expressed his belief that Rwanda was key in the spiritual destiny of Africa, that he saw a starkness in the expressions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in its history (me: reminiscent perhaps of the picture painted in the book of Revelation). He sees revival as the only answer and longs for the church to wake up and deepen its roots in the bible and in discipleship. It is perhaps rather shocking to reckon that the country which was said to have been 95% Christian pre-1994 witnessed the butchering of 800,000 citizens by fellow citizens. What did that percentage mean?
So, into this context God brought us, and deposited something of his life among the Rwandan leaders. No wonder that at times it felt like a battle. I’m used to having to push through during a conference but here wehad to push through again and again! I battled against lost voice and other ailments connected to my mouth/throat/voice; against intimidation and fear, and I even whacked my head against a very solid chair whilst getting out of bed one night. It produced a cut on my forehead that could have been much worse if it had caught an eye instead.
The next day I relayed the tale of Smith Wigglesworth – I’m sure you know it – where Satan visits his bedroom one night. He awakes, looks up and says ‘who’s there?’ Seeing who it is, he turns over, says ‘oh, it’s only you’, and goes back to sleep. Well. A couple of nights later, I awoke to see my curtain blowing furiously into the room in a gust of wind followed by
seeing the end of my bed shaking violently. I decided to emulate Smith, turned over and went back to sleep. I awoke the next morning to discover there’d been an earthquake during the night. Anyway, none of any of this was particularly disturbing, just annoyances to push through. When you know Jesus has already won then you can resist anything else and it must flee.
On the Friday at the end of the first week I heard God tell us to go into the Congo and pray. There were a couple of Congolese pastors at the conference so they came with us and we crossed the border on Saturday afternoon and travelled about 40 minutes into the country. The landscape was quite different from Rwanda, very brown and impoverished. The atmosphere was unappealing and so was the squalor many obviously lived in. We visited the home of one of the pastors, where his family of wife and ten children lived. We worshipped and prayed with his church in his one-room house perched on a hillside down a muddy slope.
After this we just had time to visit a refuge for women who had been raped. The refuge was simple, cramped and again… unappealing. It quite simply was a different world, one that would challenge the most hardened westerner. We prayed with the women, left a gift for the work and hastened back to the border before it closed for the night. Only a year ago we wouldn’t have been allowed to cross it at all. Over 2 million people have died in the recent civil war. Not something that we hear much about in the west.
The bishop closed the conference. He was appreciative of our coming to his country and over lunch we chatted about the challenges facing the church in Rwanda. Agnes got new strategy for the work in Uganda, and Fredrick left hopeful of a conference in his country soon. Charles was full of joy at what God had done and by the gift of money that would buy him a vehicle.
Many in the UK had carried the burden of prayer for this mission. Thank you so much! It made such a difference. A mission prayer network now needs to emerge to support all that is happening in the three countries and beyond, and for the future work of The Way of the Spirit abroad. I’ll be in touch with those who were on e- mail, and will be seeking God for how to respond to what he is doing now regarding funds, future trips, teams to go out and follow up, etc.
Thank you to all who faithfully gave in any way towards this trip. We give all glory to God for what he did.