AEBR

All posts tagged AEBR

When I set out for Africa in 2014, my interest in governance was always challenging me to consider the ideal scenario for building healthy, functional and effective Christian denominations. Of course, I knew there would be many things I needed to learn about the African context that would challenge my pre-conceived ideas. It has certainly been a bit of a steep learning curve during the past three years. But I have come face to face with some of the realities of denominational leadership in Africa recently that made me sit back and reflect all over again. And it happened at the Africa Leadership Exchange (ALE). 

Photo: Jonathan and Rev. Saphano

This picture (above) is me and Rev. Saphano Riak Chol, Secretary General of the Faith Evangelical Baptist Church — South Sudan (FEBAC). He is one of 16 exceptional leaders who gathered for the ALE retreat in Naivasha, Kenya the first week of May. If you think you have problems in your job, Rev. Saphano is literally trying to lead his denomination in the middle of a war zone. South Sudan just gained its independence in 2011 after years of conflict. But in 2015 a dispute among political leaders has led to a civil war which continues today. Here are a few of the challenges Rev. Saphano shared with the ALE group:

  • South Sudan is a big country with very poor infrastructure so connecting with churches and leaders is difficult 
  • Mobile networks have limited coverage, and in some places the government has shut them down to interfere with rebel coordination. Many places are completely cut off from any form of communication
  • Because of the civil war, it is unsafe to travel. No one is safe on the roads — even pastors have been killed at roadside checkpoints
  • Poverty is widespread because no one can cultivate or harvest
  • Millions of people are living in refugee camps or camps for internally displaced people
  • FEBAC churches are growing but they do not have qualified pastors. There are only 29 pastors with theological education for over 109 churches

Yet, despite the challenges, Rev. Saphano talked about the response of the people, and particularly the leaders of FEBAC. He spoke of their courage as they continue to minister in terrible conditions. Many pastors and evangelists have left their homes so they can work among the refugees in the camps. He said, “they are my heroes. No one asks to quit.” 

So, in answer to the question, “how do you lead a denomination in a civil war” the answer is: Trust God, and carry on. Every ministry leader has challenges and opportunities to consider, and the burden of leadership requires us to make prudent, wise and strategic choices in order to further God’s work. 

Photo: Praying for the one another. 

One of the most inspiring outcomes of the ALE was the way people responded to each other. There were four delegates from four of CBM’s African partner denominations. After each partner shared about their denominational context including opportunities and challenges, there was a question and answer time followed by prayer. When Rev. Saphano finished sharing about FEBAC’s work in South Sudan there was a groundswell of support expressed by the other three denominations. One offered to provide theological training for their pastors. One offered to provide English training for school teachers. A third denomination offered support in peace-making and reconciliation. There was a deep sense of unity in the Spirit, and the subsequent prayer time was inspiring. 

Photo: Three men from FEBAC (South Sudan), and Dr. Jonathan Wilson our Devotional Leader

What is the Africa Leadership Exchange?

The ALE is an idea that I have developed with the support of CBM to provide a forum for African leaders to gather and discuss issues relating to leadership and governance. It is not a classroom in which Canadian teachers convey information to African students, but rather, it is a place for dialogue and peer learning among African leaders in a retreat setting. This first retreat (May 1-6, 2017) brought together four partner organizations: Association of Baptist Churches in Rwanda (AEBR, Rwanda), African Christian Churches and Schools (ACC&S, Kenya), Baptist Church in Central Africa (CBCA, D.R. Congo), and the Faith Evangelical Baptist Church (FEBAC, South Sudan). 

Photo: The Africa Leadership Exchange group*

This first retreat launched this ministry initiative by casting a vision for the ALE among these four partner denominations. Leadership and governance concepts were introduced and the participants provided input concerning their perceived needs for future sessions. We plan to hold four subsequent retreats over the next two years where we can explore these topics in greater detail. As I listened to each of the partners make presentations about their denominations, I was inspired by the quality of the leaders who are dedicated to building healthy churches for the sake of the Kingdom of God. 

Photo: Jonathan Mills and Dr. Jonathan Wilson*

One of the highlights of the ALE was the devotional leadership provided by Dr. Jonathan Wilson and his wife Soohwan Park. A professor at Regent College in Vancouver, Dr. Wilson and Soohwan led us in the fascinating devotional series “Ancient Wisdom: Reading the Old Testament as a Spiritual Guide.” Dr. Wilson also made a special presentation on Creation Care and Integral Mission. Rev. Jeremiah was very excited to get an autographed copy of Dr. Wilson’s book on Creation, God’s Good World

Photo: ACC&S Moderator Rt. Rev. Jeremiah Ngumo Kiguru with Dr. Jonathan Wilson’s book on Creation

The retreat was not all work. Part of the experience was to provide a retreat setting conducive to personal reflection and relationship building away from the daily pressures and responsibilities of work. The camp at Crater Lake provided the perfect setting for this retreat. In fact, because of its location down in a natural volcanic crater cell phone reception was very poor — which was frustrating to be out of touch with our families but turned out to be a blessing because work could not track us down.   

Photo: Morning mist over Crater Lake

We also made sure we maximized the nature reserve setting by setting out to enjoy God’s good world. A hike up to the top of the crater provided spectacular views, and in the surrounding open spaces we encountered a number of wild animals. 

Photo: A walking safari through the game reserve

Even in the camp itself, we were visited daily by a family of Colobus Monkeys. They were not afraid of people and everyone was fascinated to get a close look. It seems the feeling was mutual as this family group climbed a tree next to our meeting room so they could listen in. 

photo: A curious family of Colobus Monkeys

The next retreat for ALE is scheduled for November 2017. At that time, the delegates will reassemble for dialogue and peer learning in areas relating to leadership and governance. The goal is to facilitate engaging and lively discussions which bring together principles of good governance applied in the African context. After this initial gathering, I am excited for the future of the ALE and the impact it will have on the partner organizations. 

Please continue to pray for CBM’s work with our many overseas partners. For most Canadians, the context of their ministry is unimaginably challenging. But the ALE partners unanimously expressed their thanks, indicating that the support of Canadian Baptists helps to give them strength and encouragement to carry on. So, thank you for your prayers and ongoing support for the work of CBM. 


For more information (and pictures) about the Africa Leadership Exchange visit the blog of Aaron & Erica Kenny, the Africa Team Leaders.  

For more information about CBM and its work in Africa, please visit Canadian Baptist Ministries website.

*These photos courtesy of Aaron Kenny.

This week we were privileged to participate in the food distribution in the village of Mahama in the South East of Rwanda. During the last rainy season, the rains were not sufficient to produce a harvest and so the people in this region have been struggling with food shortages for some time. The Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), in partnership with CBM and AEBR mobilized a delivery of 73 tonnes of maize flour, 23 tonnes of beans, and 5800 litres of cooking oil to families.

Photo: A group of about 30 men unload the maize flour bags into the church

Photo: Three young boys volunteered to help (the maize flour bags left dust on everyone)

We were there when the final 2 tonnes of maize flour was delivered. It was amazing to watch this group of men carry bag after bag. They were almost running into the church. Each bag weighs 25 kilos. While it isn’t an overwhelmingly heavy bag to carry, they all made several trips and had the truck unloaded in about 15 minutes. 

 

Photo: Gabriel and Andre worked very hard to manage this distribution.

Three of the key people here in Rwanda who were instrumental in arranging the logistics and details for this food distribution are Gabriel, Andre and Ken Derksen (not pictured). They sourced food, coordinated the beneficiary lists, arranged for secure storage facilities and assembled a team to manage the distribution. It has required a significant amount of time and energy to get things off the ground. We thank these three hard working men, along with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for making everything happen according to plan. 

Photo: Beans, maize flour, and cooking oil

Based on the World Food Program standards, a month supply of food per person consists of 12.5 kilos of maize flour (1/2 of the bag shown), 4 kilos of beans (one bucket full), and 1 litre of cooking oil. Based on a survey of communities, 8 villages in the region around Mahama were chosen because of the severity of the food shortage in this region. The local village leaders, called the umudugudu leader (“oo-moo-doo-goo-doo” – we love saying that word), carefully made lists of the families in their communities and great effort was taken to ensure it was those in greatest need who received their share of the food. 

Photo: A large group of people gather around the church (notice the boy in the tree)

Photo: Line of people waiting to receive their food allotment

The staff developed an efficient method for moving people through quickly. Each person presented their ID card, signed for the food, opened a bag they brought with them to carry the beans and oil, and then received one (or more) sacs of maize flour. The logistics for this kind of operation require a great deal of planning and coordination but the team did an excellent job. By the end of the second day, the food was gone and 1365 households (5728 people) had received food for a month. 

Photo: A young girl who is the head of her household

One very moving moment happened when this young girl arrived to pick up her food. The check in person said; “Where is this young girl’s parent? Her parent should be here to collect the food for the family.” But the village leader explained that this girl’s mother left home recently, and now this young girl is looking after herself and her younger siblings. There were many elderly women and other families who clearly needed the food assistance and this made the whole effort extremely rewarding. 

Photo: For people who live at a distance, bicycle taxis are a practical means for transporting their food

Photo: Woman carries 25 kilo sac of maize flour on her head

We were asked to participate in this food distribution in order to provide an extra measure of accountability to ensure everything happened according to plan and the food ended up in the hands of the beneficiaries. As we walked among the people, we had a number of beneficiaries walk over to us and express the most sincere and heartfelt “thank you” we have ever received. We were the ‘representative Canadians’ and for this reason we received this beautiful expression of thanks (on behalf of all of you back in Canada who have faithfully given to support those in need around the world). 

Photo: Many families making the long journey home

Gradually the crowds thinned as the beneficiaries received their portion and made their way home. Even though we did not have a strenuous responsibility, we found the experience extremely tiring because of the heat (32 degrees) and the emotionally charged atmosphere. We gained a tremendous sense of appreciation for the staff and volunteers who put in very long days literally carrying tonnes of sacs of food all day long. 

 

 


 

We have a number of photos we enjoyed so much we decided we just had to share them. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. 

Photo: Late afternoon sunshine beams in through the church window illuminating the maize flour dust in the air. A woman’s yellow sac catches the light casting a golden glow. 

Photo: Beneficiaries wait patiently for their turn in the shade of a tree

Photo: A happy and appreciative beneficiary

CBM’s Andre Sibomana greets a woman beneficiary

Photo: Some women beneficiaries sitting in the hot sun (for the opening speeches by village leaders and pastors)

Photo: One of many men who carried heavy bags of beans and flour all day long in the heat of the African sun. 

When we first visited the church in Musanze, they had recently suffered a great tragedy. Pastor Dismas, the Regional Pastor in charge of this parish, was very close to completing the construction of the church building. It had taken several years to save money and arrange for the construction of the four walls. Only a week before my visit they had installed the main rafters for the roof. But tragically, a severe wind storm had come one night and all the rafters fell down, destroying them all and leaving the church community reeling.

Photo: Pastor Dismas and the damaged church rafters 

Meanwhile, back in our home church in Ottawa, Jan was having some conversations with Doug and Annie Burt. Doug is a master carpenter who has build and renovated over 50 churches in Canada during his career, including Kanata Baptist Church. When the Burts first heard about our appointment to Rwanda, Doug immediately said to Jan, “If you ever have a build, let me know.” Doug and Annie had been to Kenya on an Short Term Mission (STM) team in 2009, and Doug has also been involved in construction STM’s in Jamaica and Mexico. After visiting the church in Musanze, we both immediately thought about Doug and Annie, and we started discussing the logistics of how and when they might be able to come to Rwanda.

Over the Christmas holidays, this ‘possible’ STM became very definite. Annie made it crystal clear to Jan that she believed God wanted them to come to Rwanda as soon as possible. They had already started to take steps to come for the month of March. Everything was moving forward.

More Challenges for the Musanze Church

Shortly after the collapse of the church rafters, Pastor Dismas retired. This meant that the congregation suffered another loss with the departure of their long-serving pastor. The once strong church of Musanze was soon down to a handful of Christian men and women.

In December of last year a new Regional Pastor was appointed; Rev. Joseph Hdayambaje. He is a young, energetic man with passion and great capacity for leading the parish of Musanze, but he began with many significant problems. The church building, with its broken down rafters seemed a fitting metaphor for this troubled church community.

Jan and I travelled to see Pastor Joseph at the parsonage in Musanze in mid-February so that we could tell him about the upcoming Burt STM. As we spoke to one another, there was a loud clanging sound coming from outside. We went to see what the noise was all about and discovered a truck unloading long sections of steel tubular steel. Pastor Joseph was very happy and he explained that these had been ordered to build new rafters for the church. He told us that the church had experienced a miraculous turn around in the two months since he had arrived. The small handful of believers had already grown to over 200 Christians. Everyone was excited and eager to get working on the church again and they had already hired an engineer and ordered the materials for the church.

Photo: The tubular steel for fabricating the new rafters

Confirmation from God

My first thought, when I saw the new materials for the rafters was; “Oh no, the Burts are only a few weeks from arriving in Rwanda, and the church has made their own plans to rebuild the rafters. What is Doug going to do when he gets here?!!”  But I kept that thought to myself. Over lunch, Jan told Pastor Joseph she was excited to see the new steel arrive because there was a couple from Canada coming in March to help rebuild the church. He was overwhelmed with emotion and spontaneously shouted; “Praise the Lord!” In fact, he was so emotional at this news, it took him a few moments to compose himself. Finally, he told us why he was so emotional.

He said: “Three days earlier, he woke up in the morning and his wife said, ‘I had a vision in my dream last night.’ She told me that in this vision she had seen a group of muzungus (white people) visit. They had come to help rebuild the church.” Then he looked at us with a trembling voice and he said; “And now you are telling me they are coming!” It was a moment of great joy for us all as we started to see that all these isolated details were coming together into one cohesive plan. And we all realized that it was no mere coincidence. This was a divine moment with God moving the hearts of two families who had never met, in preparation for this important project of building up and strengthen the church.

Photo: Pastor Joseph and his wife

Day One in Musanze

Yesterday (March 11) we drove up to Musanze with Doug and Annie after a few days of orientation in Kigali. The wait was over. The time had come to roll up our sleeves and begin!

After the obligatory introductions and speeches, Pastor Joseph took all of us on a tour of the church to inspect the current status of project, and begin making plans for the next steps. Our Canadian colleague Ken Derksen also joined the group for the day since he is an Architectural Technologist. After many questions from Doug, the Pastor called the architect who drove over and gave very helpful answers about the current walls, the planned rafters, and how things could be expected to progress over the coming weeks.

Photo: Doug Burt and Ken Derksen discuss plans with the Architect and Pastors Joseph & Anthony. They are standing in front of the tangled steel salvaged from the previous rafters. 

It is hard to describe how significant this project is for the community of believers here in Musanze. It is more than just a house of worship. It is also a place for women to learn to read; for teens to learn about nutrition and healthy relationships; for mothers to encourage one another in raising their children; for children to come and play together and learn about the love and mercy of God. We thank God for the opportunity to make an impact on the people of this region, and look forward to seeing progress over the coming weeks.

Last year I posted a brief note about the annual celebration services that are held in all 13 regions of the AEBR each year. Denominational leaders and local dignitaries and officials gather for a wonderful worship service full of music, dance, scripture, and reports of what God has done in the church over the past year. Instead of having a formal, annual meeting as we might do in our churches in Canada, the AEBR churches choose to incorporate their annual reports into this worship service each year.

Photo: The church is too small for all the guests so the service is held outside

The typical service will have three large marquis tents set up in a U shape. The guests are seated according to ‘protocol’ with the Legal Representative and Regional pastors sitting in the front rows, along with politicians, civic leaders and other high ranking officials (there is no ‘separation of church and state here.’ We have had mayors, regional leaders, Provincial governors and even Members of Parliament at many of the services).


 

Bring in the Choirs!

Photo: A choir member illustrates the song visually by building a brick wall

As the choirs sing, they always dance and use hand gestures as a way of acting out the song lyrics. It is also common for someone to illustrate the song, as this woman is doing, using some kind of object lesson. I believe it was to illustrate that the church is built on the foundation of Christ.

One of the reasons these celebration services are so long (typically between 4 and 6 hours!), is because all of the churches in the region participate and most have at least one choir. Canadians might suggest making a limit on the number of choirs in order to streamline the service, but who do you cut? It is a wonderful feast for the senses as we enjoy the many different songs of worship.

Photo: Seraphim Melodies choir

These previous two pictures are of the Seraphim Melodies choir (and the band). I joined the choir about eight months ago and it has been a great challenge learning lyrics, new song rhythms and a very different style of playing for both bass and guitar. Even though it has been a bit of a steep learning curve, it has been a fantastic experience to sing and play music in a different cultural context.


 

Fomal Introductions

In the worship services, as I mentioned earlier, the seating is always arranged by protocol. At some point in the service formal introductions are made. Politicians, leaders from other denominations, and the AEBR leaders all come forward to bring greetings and introduce themselves.

Photo: The Regional Pastors and their Spouses

Photo: Wendy and Ken Derksen and Jonathan bring greetings to the congregation

Service of Ordination

Photo: New Pastors are introduced

This was a special Sunday for the Kacyiru church because seven pastors were ordained. This photo is taken as they were being introduced to the congregation. Following a service of dedication and prayer, they received their collars as a symbol of ordination. (Blue shirts are first level ordination. Black shirts are second level ordination. Wine shirts are for Regional Pastors).

Photo: Our colleague, Justin, kneels for the ordination prayer with his young daughter


Preaching the Word

Photo: Preaching the Word of God with translator and colleague Andre Sibomana

It was a very great honour to be asked to preach at this celebration service in Kigali. Even though the Kigali region is numerically smaller than most of the other regions, it is the location of the AEBR head office and it has a significant leadership role for the whole denomination. This is also our home church (in Kacyiru) and so it was a double honour for me to be able to preach at my home church for the first time.


Traditional Dance

Photo: Children from the church stage a beautiful traditional dance

One of the wonderful traditions preserved in Rwandan culture is dance. It is always a treat to have a group of young people perform a choreographed dance as part of the worship. It is wonderful to see the way Rwandans have been able to preserve and celebrate their culture.


 

The End of the Service

After reading the annual report to the congregation, there is usually a time for final speeches; with the most senior government representative giving a short talk (usually about 30 minutes). Then a final hymn is sung and a benediction draws the service to a close.

Photo: Dark clouds start to move in

However, on this particular Sunday, dark clouds began to move in during the reading of the annual report. By the time Pastor Gato was finished, it had started to rain and everyone huddled under the marquis for shelter.

Photo: It rained so hard, the ground was covered in water within a few minutes

Soon, the sound system was dismantled and whisked away to the church to keep it safe from the rain. After 15 minutes, one of the pastors ventured out into the rain with an umbrella and shouted a benediction over the sound of the pouring rain. Despite this somewhat anti-climactic finish, the service was a great success and everyone was encouraged and uplifted because of it.

Imagine a service like this in each region for 13 consecutive Sundays every fall! It is a great way to celebrate what God is doing in the churches and to witness first hand the vitality and health of this denomination. We are so thankful to be part of what God is doing in the AEBR.

As I have been sitting in worship here in Rwanda, there have been many times that I have thought about the differences in the way they do things here. Some things seem, in my opinion, to be things Canadians could learn from while other things are areas where our Rwandan friends could benefit from a little Canadian influence. This is all part of the cross-cultural experience of worship outside of one’s familiar context.

One does not need to travel around the world to have a cross cultural experience in worship. I remember how different it was moving from a rural church in Nova Scotia to a big city church in Toronto in the 1990’s. The country church was informal, casual and generally stuck to a few favourite hymns of the faith (Fanny Crosby seemed to be on the list every Sunday).  In contrast, the city church was liturgical with an emphasis on excellence in music. There was a definite preference for classical music and everything was done with great dignity and formality.

Learning and Sharing

We have posted a previous blog on worship in the Baptist Churches in Rwanda. At that time, everything was so new and interesting. Now,  seven months later, things are becoming more familiar. We enjoy the vitality and the energy of the worship here and even though we still don’t catch very much of the language, we feel very much a part of the worshipping community. There are definitely times when I think to myself, “I wish I had experienced this when I was getting started in ministry since I could have benefitted from the way the Rwandans lead their services.”  And there are other times when I think to myself, “In this area, I think our Rwandan friends could learn from the Canadian church.”

So, this blog is about the sharing of strengths between Rwandan and Canadian Baptists. Some personal reflections on two very different kinds of worship.

An Introduction to Rwandan Worship

A typical worship service starts at 9:00 am and runs until around 12:00 noon. It starts with the worship team leading the congregation in singing, followed by the presentation of songs by the choirs. Interestingly, every choir starts with a short ‘warm up’ song (usually a familiar chorus) which is not rehearsed. This is followed immediately by their anthem. Our church has 6 or 7 different choirs and each choir sings two songs (this is one of the reasons why the services are so long). Interspersed in all the music are a variety of Scripture readings, formal greetings (welcoming newcomers, testimonies, etc) and the offering. Finally, the Pastor preaches for about 60 minutes. Then there are announcements and the final worship song.

So, I have compiled a few short video highlights of some things which are very different in the Rwandan Baptist churches (compared to Canadian Baptist churches) — followed by one comment about a possible lesson to learn.

1) Movement; No Words; Call and Answer

This is a short video of the worship team singing. Notice that they cannot sing without moving (noted in our previous blog). Also, there are no words for the worship team or congregation to follow (they do have a song book, but it is seldom used). Instead, the music tends to be structured in a ‘call and answer’ format. You can hear the worship leader giving the first words of the following line of music as a cue which the worship team and congregation follow. While this style is more challenging for the worship leader, and tends to be more repetitive, it is wonderfully liberating to focus one’s attention on worshipping God.

*Canadian Church take note: You can learn to sing songs from memory.*

2) The Choir Warm Up Song

This is a peculiarity of Rwandan worship I have not encountered elsewhere: each choir sings a short warm up song before they sing their main anthem. This very brief video captures the initial moment when the choir song leader begins singing the warm up song. Listen carefully and you will hear the pianist search for the key. This is because the singer always starts first, establishing the key for the song (and the musicians have to find the key before they can play along). [All my Canadian musician friends are having a heart attack at the thought of having to adapt the music to any key signature (five sharps anyone?)].

*Rwandan Church take note: Good preparation (at practice earlier in the week, and vocal warmups on Sunday) should prepare you to be able to start singing your anthem without the need for a warm up song.*


As a side note, my musician friends will be intrigued by the Kinyarwanda song book which does not use musical notation but rather the do re mi scale for the tune. I’ve never seen this before, but it is quite useful since the songs seldom have a consistent key signature here. Look at the top of this example to see Song #75 – What a Friend We Have in Jesus written in ‘do re mi’. (you can click on the image to enlarge).

3) Enjoy the Music!

Here is where the Rwandan Baptist worship is full of joy and enthusiasm: movement and dance. In this video, the whole congregation is moving in sync  with the worship team. The ladies immediately in front of us are dancing! If you can catch a glimpse of the worship leader in front (in the yellow shirt), he is jumping up and down. The song is about being liberated of our burdens and the worshippers respond with joy when they declare God’s goodness.

*Canadian Church take note: Loosen up! Worship and music are to be enjoyed!*

4) REALLY Enjoy the Music!!!!

One of the favourite worship experiences in Rwanda is when a song picks up the tempo and the song leaders begin to dance with great enthusiasm. It is not uncommon for this dancing to be contagious and a number of people leave their seats and run to the front to join them. Only the woman in the pink dress is part of the worship team — the rest of the dancers are men and women who came to the front to join in the fun (they are using a traditional Rwandan style of dance).

 

*Canadian Church take note: As David danced before the Lord, there is great joy in using your whole body in worship (1 Chron. 15:27-29).*


We have thoroughly enjoyed the worship in Rwanda (even when it goes on for 4 or 5 hours). It has been my experience over the years that there is always room for growth no matter where/how you worship. I hope this blog can be an encouragement to all worshippers (in Canada and Rwanda … or elsewhere) to constantly seek to learn to grow in the art and practice of worship.

Capacity Building: Investing in People

Jonathan’s work is in the area of Capacity Building. This is a term which is used by the United Nations and World Bank in reference to a nation (or organization) and its capacity to accomplish it’s goals. Whether at a national or organizational level, it is important that organizations have the capacity to identify and implement goals and objectives and carry them out effectively.

When we consider the important work of capacity building we may tend to focus on the structural and procedural issues which enable organizations to function more efficiently. This is the ‘governance’ and ‘management’ side of capacity building.

But an organization’s capacity is always limited by the capacity of the people who lead it. This means that healthy, growing organizations require people of skill, passion, vision and dedication. For this reason, Canadian Baptist Ministries is very intentional about investing deeply in people. We come along side and build into our ministry partners through mentoring and encouraging which goes beyond basic skill development.

Ordination Services

Pastors ordained in Byumba

Since the AEBR is a Baptist denomination, one of the key aspects of developing leaders is through theological education and training for ministry. It is always a great joy for us when we see people grow in their ministry to the point that they are able to take on greater leadership responsibility. One of the ways that this happens formally is through the ordination of pastors.

As I (Jonathan) attended the many regional celebration services across Rwanda this fall, I was able to watch many new pastors who were willing to take the next step in their journey of faithful service. These pastors are actively engaged in sharing the love of God through word and deed, and there are more pastoral leaders joining their ranks all the time. It is inspiring to see the commitment of these dedicated individuals and recognize that God is at work drawing people to Himself.

Andre Sibomana

Andre Sibomana taking making his ordination commitments

It was a very special day of celebration in Kigali when our friend and colleague Andre Sibomana was ordained recently. Anyone who has visited Rwanda on a short term mission (STM) trip will know Andre because he has been a dedicated leader working diligently in the main office of the AEBR. As the STM coordinator Andre has taken on a key role in explaining and interpreting the history and culture of Rwanda for visiting Canadians.

Andre is an example of the emerging new leader in the AEBR. Beyond his warm and engaging personality, he brings a wealth of skill to the organization. Andre is fluent in four languages (Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, English and French). He is well educated with a BA degree and a Master’s degree in Strategic Planning. On top of all this, he brings a passion for the poor and marginalized, and a heart for God to everything he does. So, when Andre was ordained recently, it was a significant day in his life and a time for celebration in the local church and in the denomination.

Levels of Pastoral Leadership in the AEBR

In these photos you will be able to see that pastoral leadership in the AEBR is different than it is in Canadian Baptist churches. One of the things immediately obvious is the use of clerical collars for the clergy. In Canada, a Baptist pastor may choose to wear a clerical collar for chaplaincy work (for example in a hospital or prison) because it provides immediate recognition as a pastor or chaplain. But in the day to day work of ministry, Canadian Baptist pastors tend to avoid wearing a collar.

Andre receives his clerical collar as a sign of his ordination

But pastors in the AEBR wear clerical collars as an important symbol of their ordination to leadership in the church. And, you may notice that there are three different colours of collared shirts in these photos — each representing a specific level of leadership in the denomination. The first level of ordination entitles the pastor to wear a blue shirt (see above). The second level of ordination entitles the pastor to wear a black shirt (this is Andre’s level of ordination). The third colour of shirt is red, which is worn by those leaders in the denomination who have a high degree of responsibility (eg. Regional Pastors).

Supporting AEBR Leaders

AEBR leaders pray for Andre

It is a great privilege to be able to work along side gifted and capable leaders like Andre Sibomana. In the Kigali office of the AEBR we have discovered a great number of young emerging leaders who, like Andre, have a very good education as well as a passion to serve Christ making a difference in the world. As global field staff, we are able to build the capacity of the denomination by building up these leaders.

We invite you to join us in prayer for the leaders in the AEBR. We pray that God will continue to strengthen them and build them up so that they increase their capacity for leadership. We also pray that their work will continue to be used by God to make a significant impact in Rwanda for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Visit from the Kennys

This week Erica and Aaron Kenny spent the week in Kigali to meet with the CBM team and develop plans for the coming year. The Kennys are CBM’s Africa Team Leaders and so they are responsible for keeping tabs on all the various staff and projects throughout Africa. They are based out of Nairobi in Kenya which is a short one hour plane trip from Kigali (I don’t even want to think how long the drive would be, going around Lake Victoria through Uganda, or around the Masai Mara through Tanzania).

L-R: Jonathan Mills, Laura Lee Bustin, Jan Mills, Darrell Bustin, Andre Sibomana, Aaron Kenny, Erica Kenny

It was our first chance to sit down and have a focused conversation about what we will be doing here in partnership with the AEBR (Association of Rwandan Baptist Churches). We knew in very general terms what our work would entail, but now we are starting to develop strategies, goals and specific tasks in order to make sure we are on target.

A big part of our work for the near future will be to continue learning the culture and language needed in order to do our work effectively in the years to come. African culture is very relationally based, so it is important to have a good relationship with our colleagues as a starting point for working together. In the next few months we will be ‘tagging along’ with the AEBR team members to see them in their work environment and learn about what they do. But most importantly, we will begin the process of building the kinds of strong, trusting relationships which will create a foundation for years of constructive work together.

Our Kitchen Cabinets

When we moved into the house last week, it was completely unfurnished. The owner wanted to build the kitchen cabinets in consultation with the tenants (us), so he waited until we had signed a lease before arranging for the final details in the kitchen. It has certainly been a cultural experience seeing how the workmen do things here!

When they dropped off the cabinets, they were simply pieces of MDF board cut into the basic shapes needed to build the cabinets. Then, two workmen showed up and started assembling the cabinets on the back step. They had the most basic tools: an electric hand drill, a hand saw, a small square, and a pencil. I was amazed to see them making precision cuts with the hand saw (perfectly straight), and drill out all the precision holes for the door hardware. In the end, the final product is slightly less ‘finished’ than we would expect in a Canadian kitchen, overall it is amazing that they could do all this essentially by hand on site.

The Furniture is Coming

Last week we told you about how different it is to have an abundance of low cost labour. We saw the benefit of this on Saturday when the carpenter arrived with some of our new furniture. Through a friend here in Kigali, we had been given the name of a local carpenter and we went to visit him at his shop to discuss having some furniture made. We ordered two bed frames and a desk. On Saturday, he showed up with the finished pieces and they are beautiful. I can’t imagine what it would cost to have custom built furniture in Canada, but these items turned out to be much less expensive than the furniture at the local department store. It was very nice to get our mattress up off the floor and sleep in a proper bed for the first time since moving in.

From the Bookshelf

The Sacrifice of Africa. by Emmanuel Katangole. This may be the most helpful book Jonathan has read about the lasting legacy of colonialism and the many challenges facing Africa. Katangole, a Catholic priest from Uganada, brings an academic rigour to his writing mixed with deep insight and helpful reflections from a Christian perspective.
It’s Our Turn to Eat. Michela Wrong. Some have said that politics in Africa is like eating. This concept is the overriding metaphor in this compelling book about exposing back room politics in Kenya.