Bishop Barham University College has established a chapter of Empower. Below are the minutes from the second meeting of the executive community. We welcome them heartily!
The meeting opened with prayer led by Rev. Patrick Mbaasa who thanked God for this Ministry and asked God for guidance at the meeting.
Chairman Rev. Canon Jovahn Turyamureeba welcomed members to the meeting and informed them that this committee will be in charge of Empower BBUC chapter. He further noted that the need for the committee to run this program at BBUC arose after the intensive training in July 2012. And the Principal was requested to appoint this committee which he has done.
He outlined the committee’s responsibilities as:
- To promote the vision of Empower International Ministries at BBUC and beyond
- To organise and coordinate Empower activities at BBUC
He noted that the purpose of the meeting was to plan a way forward for the committee.
He thanked Miss Sadres Twinomugisha for the coordination so far being done and further thanked Pastor Frank Tweheyo the Director Empower Africa Programs for encouraging and supporting us to get focused and that the committee shall be involving him in its plans and programs.
He also appreciated Dr. Carrie Miles for extending her ministry to BBUC.
A letter from Dr. Carrie Miles was read to the members.
Pastor Frank Tweheyo conveyed greetings from Dr. Carrie Miles and the entire team and informed the committee that they were aware that this meeting was taking place.
He thanked the University for the warm welcome they have always accorded EIM teams. EIM appreciates participation of all the members’ commitment to trainings and the resolve to have this committee.
He noted that the aim is to redeem the family and help direct the young people before they get into institution of marriage. He further noted that BBUC is going to be a model chapter.
He informed members that Burundi is excited about the starting of the BBUC chapter and would love to come and share with the team at BBUC. He further noted that BBUC chapter will be able to influence even beyond the college.
Matters arising from the communications
A member proposed that the communications be received for discussion and the motion was seconded.
Members noted that we need to be sensitized about the program before we can take it out. Also a need for incorporating the children/young people was expressed since the program focuses on family. We need to focus on the young people to deal with what they should expect as they plan to get into marriage.
Need to come up with topics to address these challenges in view of children/young people as they get into marriage and make good families.
Another member noted that most marriages these days are accidental and therefore the need to help young people plan and prepare for marriage. We need to encourage this training among the young people if we are to redeem marriage.
Members also noted that people do not know why they marry, and that children at an early marriage are already thinking about marriage yet they do not know what to expect.
Min 4/2012 Way forward
- Resume teachings of New Man New Woman New Life.
- Must address the topics on ground e.g Submissiveness in society, challenges of modern marriage, challenges of women’s emancipation. (Rev. Mbaasa to be incorporated on the team to do write up for training)
- Need to discuss the manual/workbook in the Wednesday staff fellowship to understand it better and also be able to give our input and over the missing links.
- Intensive training for the committee on New Man New Woman New life program-Date for this to be set at the next meeting.
- Training for students to begin the first Friday after graduation at BBUC-12th Oct. 2012 at .30pm.
- Committee to next meet on the 9th Oct. 2012 at 4pm.
- Need to open an accounting for the chapter’s operational costs in Barclays Bank and the following members shall be the signatories
- Rev. Canon Jovahn Turyamureeba- Chairman
- Mrs. Dorothy Akandwanirira- Treasurer
- Rev. Patrick Mbaasa- Secretary
8. Need to make a budget and program of activities
9. Rev. Patrick Mbaasa shall be assisting Sadres when ever she is not able to come for the meetings.
Closing prayer was said by Pastor Frank Tweheyo.
Members of the committee present
Rev. Canon Jovahn Turyamureeba
Rev. Patrick Mbaasa
Mrs. Penelope Turyamureeba
Pastor Frank Tweheyo
Absent with apology
Canon Mary Dutki
Rev. Arthur Tusiime
Rev. Canon Gideon Kwizera
Mrs. Dorothy Akandwaniria
My understanding of justice has been shaped by my experience serving in a gender justice ministry in both Africa and Haiti with Empower International Ministries. We address some of the root causes of the disempowerment of and violence toward women in countries with limited Christian influence. We do this with a three-day seminar to help Christian leaders and married couples understand a biblical paradigm that gives them a basis for bringing change in their own lives, relationships and communities.
To understand justice as empowerment, we must first understand what power is. A helpful definition is provided by MaryKate Morse of George Fox Evangelical Seminary in her book, Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence. “Power is simply the ability to cause or prevent change” (p. 42).
If you think about times you felt empowered – able to say or do something that made a difference, or disempowered – nothing you could say or do would have any effect, you can identify with her definition. She also points out that the difference between God’s power and human power is one of scale, not necessarily of quality. “Therefore,” she adds, “human beings can use power in the same way that Jesus did” (p. 42). This is especially significant for us because it means that we can empower others. We have the power to make changes in our own lives and communities, and to help others to do the same in their own lives and communities.
Injustice can be as simple to understand as basic economics. For example, saying “another mouth to feed” at the birth of a child is a statement of basic economics. But when you understand that most of the world now is – and throughout most of history has been – a subsistence economy (barely able to survive, such as in subsistence farming) you can understand why people might say, “another mouth to feed” at the birth of a daughter, and say it with great concern because resources are very limited. On the other hand, you can also understand why they might say, “another set of strong hands to help feed us!” at the birth of a son. The causes of the problem are much more complex, of course, but this gives you a quick picture of why sons are so much more highly valued than daughters in most of the world even today. And since daughters would be married off as soon as possible (so they can bear sons in someone else’s household, not to mention to “cut expenses” for the birth family, or to obtain the brideprice often paid to the fathers of daughters), having a daughter soon feels like you are raising someone else’s child, so resources (food, medical, education, other opportunities) are increasingly shifted to sons.
The biblical paradigm with which we address gender injustice is one of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. (Those who wish to explore this further may want to read The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World, by Carrie Miles, the founder and director of the ministry. In her book, however, she addresses our post-industrialized culture.)
• Creation: When the Pharisees came to Jesus with a question about divorce in Matthew 19, Jesus responded by pointing them back to God’s creation ideal in Genesis. There we see that both men and women were created in God’s image, that God gave the mandate to rule the earth to both men and women, and the blessing of children to both men and women. In addition, the term “helper” used for woman is also used for God (“The Lord is my helper”), and never for a subordinate.
• The Fall: So what really happened in Genesis 3? First, we look at the Fall economically – the human race goes from an economy of abundance in Eden to an economy of scarcity and subsistence resulting from the curse on the ground. Learning that God cursed the ground and not the woman (as traditional interpretations have reinforced for many Africans) opens up the possibility for real change. Then we look at this relationally – what these changed living conditions do to human relationships, particularly in shifting the value of both men and women (and their children) to their role in survival and creating an imbalance of power between men and women.
• Redemption: We look at the teaching of both Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul in how they address these relational issues. The Fall does not have the final word in human relationships! For example, justice can begin by doing and teaching what Jesus did and taught. With respect to women, for example, Jesus challenged the sexual double-standard in his own culture (refusing to view them as the sexual property of men, which is what you typically find in these cultures), empowered women with public roles as his witnesses, and forgave them and restored their honor even when they had been written off as irredeemable.
Justice must address the way in which those with power use it, so we look carefully at how Jesus challenged men in his day with respect to their understanding of and use of power.
Not only does Jesus lift up women, he lifts up men!
This comes across most clearly in the passage about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (John 13) and, in the first three gospels, in the passages describing Jesus’ response to the disciples’ competition with one-another over greatness (such as Mark 10:35-45). Greatness in that culture was measured by how much power you had over other people – and therefore how much honor you received from them. So being at the right and left hand of the coming judge of the world was a big deal! As an illustration of Jesus’ response, imagine two circles – one above the other. The top one is labeled, “Lord” and the bottom one is labeled “Servant.” In the study entitled, “What Does it Mean to be Lord?” we use this illustration to bring this vital point home as follows – even as Jesus did, with his own life given in sacrifice for others:
“The earliest Christian confession, that Jesus is Lord, cuts two ways: First of all, you say that Jesus is Lord. What this means then is that anybody else is out as lord. That means the emperor [or president or pastor] can’t be lord, that means that my daddy can’t be lord, that means that a husband can’t be lord. Jesus is Lord. That’s the first thing to get straight. The second thing to get straight is that Jesus is Lord. Now the only way in which lordship can be defined properly . . . within the Christian community is the way in which Jesus carries it out: Jesus fills up the entire lordship space, doesn’t allow anybody else in there, and then comes down and operates out of the servant space. He invites all of the rest of us to join him there, male and female. If the Lord is Jesus, egitimate power seeks not to control others and things but to empower the powerless, to lift up the fallen, to reconcile, to create healing opportunities, to encourage maturity and responsibility, and to restore community. Note: In contrast to dominating power, this kind of power exists in unlimited supply.” (New Testament historian S. Scott Bartchy, quoted in New Man, New Woman, New Life, by Carrie A. Miles [the Bible Study Guide that we use in Africa, Haiti, etc.])
This is aptly illustrated by Beverly Bell’s Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance, a collection of oral histories of dozens of Haitian women compiled by the author. (Disempowerment of and violence toward women in Haiti is pandemic.) In her chapter entitled “Resistance Transforming Power,” she summarizes the personal stories in the chapter by pointing out how the shift from a vertical understanding of dominating power to a horizontal understand of power opens the possibility for a humane society where, instead of a “zero sum” understanding of power (if I gain some, you lose some), power is experienced as a “positive sum” (if I gain some power, I can use it to increase yours, too). This is the very paradigm shift that Jesus conveyed to his earliest disciples.
The ultimate question, then, for us as to whether we are both pursuing justice and living justly is to determine whether we are operating in the “Lordship Space” or, with Jesus, in the “Servant Space.”
The world, however, is not the “servant space,” which we can sometimes forget due to the influence of Christianity in Western culture, where even corporate, political and military leaders often speak of “servant leadership.” For example, the result of the gender discrimination against girls described earlier, according to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, the two New York Times reporters who wrote Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, is that at “least two million girls worldwide disappear” every year. The authors go on to describe how, in contrast to the gender discrimination in developed countries, gender discrimination against girls (resources being shifted to boys) in much of the world is actually lethal (page xv ff).
What Empower ministers encounter in traditional African cultures where we conduct our seminars could be seen as the “tip of this iceberg:” Masculinity is expressed in very self-centered and even violent ways (e.g., heavy drinking, spending family money on personal consumption rather than on needs of children, sexual promiscuity, and wife-beating, all of which are culturally expected as “manly” things to do). Even among Christians, a man will typically tell his wife, “You speak once; I speak twice,” reflecting the disempowerment of women. According to customary practices, women tend to be viewed as the property of their fathers or husbands. If they do not bear children – particularly sons – they can be sent away or supplemented by an additional wife (one of the origins of polygamy). Not only this, but women do 70-80% of the farm work in Africa, in essence a reflection of their status as “beasts of burden.” In addition, cultural taboos often restrict women from access to the more nutritious forms of protein.
In this situation, “justice” means bringing the empowering message of the gospel to bear on the lives of those we seek to impact and transform. Not just the “good news” that they can be “saved to go to heaven” but the “good news” that the life-giving values of heaven – of God himself as demonstrated in Jesus Christ – can become a reality right now in the lives, relationships and communities of the women – and men – of Africa and anywhere else where Empower International Ministries is invited to bring this message.
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
Report on New Man, New Woman, New Life seminar conducted in Kitwe, Uganda, Sept 2012
by Frank Michael Tweheyo
Kitwe town council in Ntugamo district, S. Western Uganda is just at the intersection between three countries: Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. The people are a mixture of Banyarwanda, Bakiga and Banyankole, some of whom are Bahima cattle keepers.
Here is a vibrant Christian Fellowship Church one of the several dozen that are under the oversight of Pastor Frank Tweheyo. Several leaders, 74 in all gathered together from churches around, including a Lutheran priest!
Here, Frank and Edward, one of the Empower Kabale Chapter Master Class finalists joined with Pastor Reuben and Moses Ntagahinda, also Master Class finalists of Empower, to pilot the New Life book newly translated into Lukiga.
We missed Anna and Robert (originally scheduled to facilitate this seminar) because Anna was involved in a near fatal accident with her kids few days to this training.
We were amazed by the sharpness of this class, their engaged discussions, the quick grasp of information, the Aha! phenomenon now common with first timers to New Life material.
One of the ladies said she believes women are still cursed up to now! You should have seen her unwind that information, as it sank into her that God never cursed human beings but that what happened to them was a consequence of their disobedience!
The Lutheran Priest, whom Frank gave lift for about 30km back to near his home, said he has been to many Bible Schools but no one had ever explained as precisely as he had learned in the two days about Creation Ideal, Fall and Redemption. He felt rejuvenated to go teach the truth that had eluded him for a long time!
We also wanted to launch out more Empower facilitators, and now Edward, Moses and Reuben are more confident to carry on with little supervision. That was a great achievement.
We also checked through the book mistakes which will be rectified in the subsequent printing.
All in all, we give glory to God for the 74 leaders who were Empowered to take the message of Agape Love and Redemption, Equal Worth of Human beings, Man and Woman both created in the image of God and redeemed back to the same position they occupied before the Fall.
David Wanyonyi is an Empower partner in Bungoma, Kenya. He is very active in conducting Empower seminars and translated New Man, New Woman, New Life into Swahili. Here is his amazing report on a program conducted the first week of September in Uganda. Be sure to read the part in bold.
Love and greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ Son of God. We are excited of what the Lord is doing with New Man New Woman Teachings wherever we are teaching. We were surprised of the great response we got in Mityana District, Buzibazi Town. Men and women received the teachings with a new zeal. They confessed that they had been reading Genesis but they had never come across the revelation that is in your materials we taught.
They corrected what they had understood previously that man and woman were cursed. At the end of our teachings they were refreshed that man and woman were not cursed but they only received the consequence of their disobedience.
Furthermore men discovered that God did not create women as their subordinate but God created to them an “ezer kenegdo,” a help meet for him. Not a slave, not a worker, not one who was only married to give birth, but one who was created to be face to face with his husband, who should enjoy the ideal relationship of which God created them.
At the end of the seminar men did not resist the fact that they should ask forgiveness to their wives. In Africa, a man is supreme and he cannot go down to a woman and ask for forgiveness, but by the Spirit of God many came down with tears and asked for forgiveness.
We witnessed women also confessing that when the men mishandled them, they also in return behaved badly to their husbands, and that brought their families to become not enjoyable, tough, and bad.
The place we were having the teachings, people keep cows and do farming. We saw men literally ordering their wives to leave to milk the cows. In the morning, the men were the first ones to come for the seminar and we asked why? The answer was that the women have to do all the jobs in the home, take care of the children, send them to school, milk the cows, send them to the grazing place, prepare the food, and the husband waits to eat.
By the third day of the program, however, the women came first. We wondered what had happened. I boldly asked. The women said the Lord has delivered their husbands. The men changed dramatically. We rejoiced in the Lord and celebrated that the cultural understanding was gone in Jesus mighty name. I am getting calls from some women who attended the seminar and they are saying that everything is changing in their families. One man called me and told me that his friends who never attended the seminar were wondering what had happened to him, because he was behaving in a total different way.
Every day I get calls from there. In the next district, they want us to go there and have a seminar with them. We pray that the Lord will provide in the near future for us to go and minister to them for the glory of God.
One thing I know is that all these happened because you are praying for us. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for appreciating the work.
We greatly bless God for the revelation God gave in this book. Thank you also for allowing us to help with the ministry of teaching. I am proud to work with Empower International Ministries.
With greatest regards. Looking forward to hear from you soon.
Below are some photos from our July trip. Here is our impact story #1.
Pastor Frank Tweheyo sat in with the small group that was working on one of the studies on Ephesians 5 and 6, which cover what the Apostle Paul meant when he instructed the entire Christian household (not just wives, mind you) to “submit yourselves one to another out of reverence for Christ”. An important part of that study looks at Paul’s instructions for how Christians were to treat their servants.
One of the Christian leaders in this group owned a cabinet making shop. Apparently he has never or rarely paid his employees (yes, people get away with that in Africa. Work is so hard to find that people will often work as ‘volunteers’ to get experience). Convicted by Paul’s words (“You have the same Master in heaven, and He does not acknowledge status differences between you”) the man hurried home from the seminar to pay his workers.
Imagine the lives that will be changed as a result of that one simple decision. (Imagine how your life would change if your employer suddenly started paying you!) That’s the power of the Bible.
|Empower Bondo team: Frank Tweheyo, Don Hammond, Carrie Miles, Mimi Haddad, Sarah Nutter, Donell Peck (Margaret Kiswiriri and Dave Nutter not in photo)
Below are some more photos from our July trip. Here is our impact story #2.
This is a little story but put it into its context of a much bigger story that cost nearly a million lives.
One pastor who attended the seminar in Rwanda had been separated from his wife for more that 15 years because of the genocide (no doubt they were from opposing ethnic groups in the conflict). They were finally reunited but faced a lot of discouragement from the pastor’s fellow Christians, who argued that he should not take her back as he could not trust what she had been doing during those years they were separated.
Encouraged by the seminar’s message on marriage, the pastor decided not to listen to what other people were saying. He committed himself to love his wife more and without regret.
|Sarah Nutter, translator Antoinette, Carrie Miles
I was invited to present two plenary sessions at the international conference of Christians for Biblical Equality. My second session addressed the widely held belief that God cursed the first woman (Eve), and therefore all women, after humankind’s Fall from grace in Genesis 3. That the woman was cursed is not an unusual belief even in the United States. Americans don’t normally practice witchcraft, however, and so don’t understand the full meaning of what it means to be cursed. In societies that still use curses, the words pronounced as a curse are believed to come literally true. If a father says to a child, “You will never amount to anything,” or if someone hires a witchdoctor to curse a neighbor whom he envies, everyone expects those cursed to sicken, lose their possessions, fail their exams, and otherwise wither away.
So when Genesis 3:16 is believed to be a curse from God, women appear doomed to fulfill its words: Woman must bear children in sorrow, serve men as work donkeys, and also as their sexual property. Further, if woman is cursed, she no longer shares in the blessings given to both man and woman in Genesis 1–dominion over the earth, children, and every good thing for food. If any particular woman has access to more than the necessities of life (and sometimes not even that), it is entirely at the pleasure of her husband.
Imagine what it means for a woman to believe that God is trying to hurt her, that God wants her to be treated as an inferior, and that God wants her to suffer. A cursed person has no claim to better treatment. Further, how hard will even Christian men work to increase the welfare of women when everyone, even the women, believe that God doesn’t want any better for them?
The biggest surprise in the New Man, New Woman, New Life seminar is the study on Genesis 3. We point out that a careful reading of Genesis 3 reveals that only 2 things were cursed: the serpent and the ground. We teach that the bad things that God says will happen to the woman and the man, including the rupture in their relationship, are consequences of humankind’s choosing to live outside of God’s abundant provision. The human beings were not cursed, not even the woman! (In one of the Bondo seminars, the group gasped audibly when Paul Ololo, who was debriefing this study, said that God did not curse the woman.) Instead, God wants to restore them both to the blessings for which He created them.
I first taught this interpretation of Genesis 3 in 2007 in Matana, Burundi. There was a lot of surprise expressed by the audience, and I wondered if they really understood what I said. I got my answer when the group reassembled after lunch. As we reconvened, a choir sprung up and began to sing in the local language. There was not a choir scheduled, but I thought nothing of it. Then my translator leaned over and whispered, “They are singing about when King Balak sent Balaam to curse the children of Israel.” Do you remember the story? God did not want his people cursed, and sent an angel to block Balaam’s path, but no one saw it except the ass Balaam was riding. Balaam, impatient with his balking beast, beat the animal until it finally turned and spoke to him. The lesson gleaned from the ass and the angel, and the title of my talk at CBE, is the song’s refrain:
“You can’t curse what God has blessed.”
God created us all in his image, and blessed, male and female. God intended us for blessing, not curses. You can’t curse what God has blessed.
“Your lectures in Limuru were excellent….When you said that ‘You can’t curse what God has blessed,’ I felt uplifted and a big burden taken away from me. This was excellent and good news to me.”–conference participant Christine Omolo.
|Empower/Uganda president Margaret with Ugandan ladies performing a cultural dance|
|Bishop Johannes (our host in Bondo) speaking at conference
By Frank Tweheyo: Feb 5th, 2012, found Phobice and me with our good friends Pastor Francis and Dorothy in Kigali, Rwanda. Francis is also our Empower contact in Rwanda. We preached for him that Sunday, having been dropped by Ben (a British missionary to our church) at the Katuna border that morning. After Sunday service we relaxed with Francis and family, who dropped us at the Kigali Airport early Monday morning.
Rwanda Air flew us to Lagos, Nigeria. We were met by Pastor Leo, a friend of Rev. Joses Hizkiah, our Lagos contact. He helped us get to the airport for local flights where we caught the last plane for the day to Benin City.
Our good friend, Rev. Godwin Chika was at the airport to meet us. Rev. Chika has been interested in Empower since 2008, and was our chief host in Nigeria.
Lo and behold, RAIN ! After two months without rain in Kabale, a welcoming rain was very refreshing and also prophetic for fruitful time in Nigeria. As we finished saying our last prayers at the end of that week, it rained again. We believe it was God’s welcome and stamp of approval!
Rev. Chika helped us find a good hotel, Doris Dey (which I recommend for future Empower teams) and we had a good deserved rest. Nigeria is generally hot and so the hotel rooms have fans and AC and a powerful generator to cure the great Nigerian disease of power (electricity) cuts.
Rev. Chika had arranged for us to speak at a gathering of pastors (the United Pastors Prayer Association, which has about 200 members) which we did Tuesday morning. We introduced Empower, gave an overview sermon, shared from the Word of God and distributed Empower brochures. There was scramble for the brochures since we had few. We also shared our program for the rest of the week with them. Some of these pastors joined us Thursday to Saturday as well as some from Pastor Chika’s ministry, God’s Family Bible Church(es).
Thursday 9th to 11th were very exciting days. By Saturday we had nearly 50 pastors and leaders at the seminar, some of whom had just attended only on Saturday because they are workers.
I want to thank God for Apostle Chika. He is a great man of God and a great mobilizer. He made sure everything was in place and on time.
The first day of the training we put people in groups as they came and they began the introductory discussion questions, as follows:
1. What are the challenges of Christian marriage
Some of the responses: Lack of love in the couple, marriage based on infatuation, immaturity leading to early divorce, comparing partners with other people, lack of forgiveness, sexual denial leading to extra-marital sexual affairs (rampant in the society), lack of communication, favoring some children above others, usually boys over girls…the list goes on and on.
2. What customs interfere with Christian marriage today?
Some responses: Traditional beliefs persist even when one turns Christian, men given prominence, woman a work donkey, in-law demands on the wife, like doing work for them even when pregnant or sick, no welcome in family meetings with the woman regarded as a foreigner.
3. How is modernity and western Influence affecting marriages
This generated the greatest concern and debate. People thought the results of western influence on marriage are more negative than positive. The list is too long but few examples are: dressing code changed, with a lot of immodest dress, especially by women; economic translocations, with men going to work in far places including abroad leaving wife to fend for family; pornography; homosexuality; contract marriages; divorce; e-marriages; carefree life in parents and children…list goes on and on.
4. What are the burdens of women in our customary culture?
Women have no voice, position or inheritance. Widow neglect and property confiscation at the demise of a husband; delay in marriage due to dowry; cohabiting rampant. In some cultures women can’t eat certain parts of a cow except the bottom part (call it the anus)!! Woman is a slave, a. work machine. She works for money and the husband takes it for his pleasure. If you can’t produce a boy you are not a woman. And in some churches, women are not recognized in ministry.
For the next three days, pastors kept coming and more were added every day.
People were so interested in our small group approach, as they discussed issues in depth. All could participate and teach it there and then.
The most surprises (as usual) were about Gen 1, 2, and 3: Man and woman created equal, Adam and Eve (man and woman) being together as woman was being tempted, the debate on who or what was cursed and who or what was not – this all generated a lot of debate and the AHA AHA!!! phenomenon that has now become a signature tune for Empower trainings.
At the end of three days, there was excitement among pastors. They convened a meeting without my input and decided to meet in March and lay strategies of taking this message to all churches. Pastor Chika said he will teach it to the church systematically. Rev. Robinson who owns a bible school would like us to give him permission to add the New Man, New Woman, New Life manual to his curriculum.
We got invitations to take this teaching to towns like Ekpoma (we had one delegate, Pastor Dabala , from there) and to different states where Rev. Chika has churches.
We preached in God’s Family Bible Church on Sunday 12th Feb attired in Ugandan traditional attire and really enjoyed the typical Nigerian dance. The week ended with a sumptuous meal of Egusi (melon) soup and foo foo, a wonderful bread made of cassava and yam. It was truly a refreshing week!
The next day, Monday 13th Feb, we traveled back to Lagos by bus and enjoyed the country side. We were received by Pastor Leo, who had received us the previous Monday from Mutala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos. We next met Rev. Joses Hizkiah and his wonderful wife Love, who gave us a great lunch. We were also received by Rev. Simeon Folorunsho who together with Rev. Joses and Pastor Leo united to become our hosts for that week.
Keep watching for the next part of our report.