Last week I had an exciting time in Burundi on behalf of Empower. The journey was prompted by our desire to follow up Empower activities wherever we are operating but more so on invitation of the Anglican Archbishop of Burundi who is also the Bishop of Matana Diocese as well as the Patron of Empower there. In my prior Phone conversation with him, His Grace the Archbishop requested me to make a quick visit to do an on spot assessment of Empower activities in the diocese. I arrived in Bujumbura last Monday 17th September and was picked from the Airport by the friends of Empower, Viane and Cece Bugwiza who hosted me for the night. The next day, Tuesday, I linked up with Rev. Seth Ndayirukiye, the Diocesan Secretary of Matana Diocese, with whom we traveled up to Matana, some 100 km outside Bujumbura up in the mountains. I stayed at the diocesan Guest House and the next day traveled to Rutana, an archdeaconry center lead by Rev. Pontien Ribakare, one of the Empower Partners in Matana Diocese and the Archdeacon of Rutana. I found assembled pastors, assistant pastors and their wives ready with Empower New life books translated into Kirundi. I gave them the overview sermon and asked them what they don’t understand so far in the book. Many of them could not comprehend how one could say man and woman were not cursed as it is in Gen.3. We had to read and re-read the Bible until it entered their minds that man and woman were not cursed but what happened to them was a consequence of their disobedience. We also studied Ephesians 5.21 onwards. It is still rooted in African mind that man has authority over his wife and the household and the can rule it in any way he deems fit. It took Rev. Pontien and me a great deal of time to explain what the words “head”, “submission”, “obedience” and “love” mean in the context of the Roman culture of Paul’s time and what those words mean in Greek. Pastors went back home ready to change and teach the truth. They requested that these teachings reach the grass root as the Rutana men are so autocratic when it comes to ruling their households. The next day, Rev. Seth and Yvette Ndayirukiye, Pelagie (the head of Mothers Union in Matana diocese) and I, visited Mutangaro Archdeaconry and met 55 couples , with other women whose husbands are serving with AMISOM forces in Somalia. Yvette gave the overview sermon. Seth and I did the application, bringing the teaching to our Christian lives and our families. This is one of the most exciting dialogues I have ever witnessed! After overcoming shyness, women became so open as to tell how they are mistreated by men, how men don’t help them with household chores even when they are sick, how men just sell cows and land in fields without consulting them, etc. Men on their part said that even if they are Christians, the Burundi (read African) culture does not allow them to help their wives with household chores. They talked of sexual division of labor. Despite the fact that Seth and I gave them testimonies of how we help our wives at home and we are still men, respected and anointed, many could not take it. However some of them realized the importance of the Bible teachings and resolved to follow them while others asked for prayers because it would be difficult. One of them said” I request for prayers because I don’t see myself washing plates in the near future!” They requested for the teachings to be taken deeper and for Empower to provide New Life books for them to study in their homes and churches. We subsequently held a meeting at Matana with Reverends Yvette, Pontien, Fidele, (the Canon Dean of the Diocese), Cyriaque (Empower Facilitator and leader of Created to Belong). Pelagie and I deliberated the best ways to take the Empower teachings down to grass root. They requested Empower to be more on the ground and we also discussed other logistics. Back in Bujumbura, I preached in the 6000 seat church led by Pastors Esron and Imelda Rutayisire (Good Shepherd Church). I preached in the first service and the President of the country, His Excellency Pierre Nkurunziza, came and spoke in the second service and guess what! He spoke about the importance of family and marriage in building the Nation! He used scriptures like Gen. 1 and 2 and Ephesians 5 and 6! How excited I was! It was Empower seminar through and through. I remember that on our previous visits with the first Lady, we gave copies of the Empower manual. Who knows whether there is some influence from the book here? I had a cordial meeting with His Grace the Archbishop in the Provincial office in Bujumbura and he invited Empower back to train all his Archdeacons and key pastors so the Empower message can reach the grass root. What an opportunity! I had a meeting with our Empower Coordinator for Bujumbura, Jean Marie Nibizi, and planned to conduct more trainings in Bujumbura next year. We met with more pastors around Bujumbura who are very interested in Empower and we will have to incorporate them in our next year’s program. I came back home a blessed man! Frank Tweheyo

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