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Archive for the 'Burundi Feb 2018' Category

I’ve Been Impacted Here

Written by Steve Abney

The ALARM General Conference for pastors from rural Bujumbura Province has come to a close, and I have been impacted in several ways.

First, how many lives can be impacted by investing in unlikely leaders! Bishop Deo shared his story as a lost teenage orphan, determined to get revenge for the murder of his father and uncles. As he plotted to kill the children of the man responsible, a pastor (or a man who later became a pastor) decided to invest time with him and tell him of Jesus Christ and His love for him. The man told him that God wants to redeem him and his life.

Over months of returning to visit Deo in the refugee camp again and again, Deo became convinced that this man actually cared for him – so Deo became interested in his God. Over time Deo gave his life to Jesus, repented of his plan for revenge, and reconciled with the man who was responsible for his father’s death. Since that time, Deo has literally changed the country of Burundi through his teaching years at Hope University, then running ALARM Burundi for nearly a decade, training thousands of people on servant leadership, forgiveness, etc. After that, Deo was elected as Bishop of the Free Methodist Church in Burundi and elsewhere, where he disciples 600 pastors and 1200 lay leaders.

That pastor’s simple act of faithfulness – taking an interest in a young angry man – has impacted thousands and thousands of lives. That story encourages me to invest in people, because you never know the downstream impact.

Another thing that impacted me is seeing what makes for effective discipleship. After observing what has worked in my own life (thanks to Kyle Thompson) and what has been effective for the pastors at the conference, I am convinced that modeling faithful action is the most effective way to disciple people. We’ve been given instruction from God’s word on many topics, but when we support the instruction with specific examples of how we’ve executed on that instruction in our own lives, it’s like the scales fall off people’s eyes. Having an example to follow helps give vision for how to be faithful (1 Cor 11:1). This encourages me to 1) be faithful so that I have examples to share, and 2) share the examples.

Finally, our Watermark team has really loved each other exceptionally. The encouragement, support, praying, and selflessness have been something to marvel at (John 13:34-35). Our relationships will forever be changed for the better.

We look forward to returning to our loved ones soon as we start the trip back. Please pray for safe travel.

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Never a Dull Moment Down the Red Clay Roads

Written by Bryna Morrow

(See the bottom of this post for a couple of videos!)

There is never a dull moment here. The narrow, red clay roads, full of water from last night’s rain, make the drive from our hotel to ALARM headquarters so very interesting. I don’t think I will ever tire of the drive, even though it feels as though we are “slip, slidin’ away…” The bright smiles of Burundians as they wave to us, the open-air meat markets, the children who gracefully carry eggs, limes, and well… really anything on their heads as we bump along the road. There is simply too much to take in.

Day Three of the conference continued with more teachings. The male pastors attending are warming up to the guys’ teaching, and even though yesterday it felt like pushing the first domino was difficult, by today the momentum is gaining and the men opening up, confessing sins, and telling their stories is creating a ripple effect of dominos falling. We heard stories at dinner tonight. God is doing really big things with this group of men who have gone through more pain and trauma then any of us probably will in our lifetimes combined.

There was a joint teaching to men and women on Family Planning. Stuff most of us learned in 7th grade needed to be shared with these men and women for the first time. We could tell that half-truths, rumors, and flat-out incorrect thinking were coming into the light and being revealed as the lies that they are. What is so sad is that this is how these men and women have lived, all they have known for generations. How absolutely freeing it was to see them ask questions and nod their heads, like…. “Ohhhhhhhh, so that’s how,” or “That’s why.” The women broke off afterwards for another hour and a half of questions that were answered by Dr. Gilbert (Bishop Deo’s brother). It makes me think, What is it that I have lived with for so long that I believed was true? What generational thinking follows me and distorts my perceptions? I’m prayerful that the clarifications that were received today bring freedom and healing and not shame or sadness.

Along those same lines, we did an HIV/AIDS education talk as well that continued to expose wrong thinking. Truth does that, no matter the topic. We brought a tool with us to assist in teaching these principles, called the Hope Cube. Each one was given to the ladies to train them, and then hopefully be used to train others. It was effective and taken with great excitement. This opened the door to further conversations that hopefully will help in breaking the stigma of AIDS, and the lack of knowledge around it. Again, we’re trusting God with the results.

The women’s final teaching was on parenting God’s way which is a HUGE topic to cover in an hour. We were going smoothly until we hit the section on disciplining children. That’s where we were met with quite some resistance regarding methods. It made for a lively and interesting afternoon. With every teaching we leave them with, I am comforted that God knows exactly what they need to hear, regardless of our effectiveness in presenting it. I leave it at His feet.

As a team, we are all well. Sleep and health have been steady for most. We just can’t believe we only have one more day of the conference left. Time has flown, but the red, clay roads are feeling familiar.

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A Terrible Challenge & a Powerful Opportunity to Teach

Written by Graham “Grah-hahm” Robbins, Men’s Team

It’s not unusual to hear from women and men that marriage is hard and is not what they expected it to be. However, on our day one debrief, the ladies on our team shared the difficult news from their participants about the overall mistreatment of women by their husbands.

We know that this does not represent 100% of marriages here. However, the ALARM staff confirmed that this is a real challenge they face. As our team dinner progressed the other night, it was clear that the Lord has prepared the men on our team to double down on training these men for God’s design for marriage. We prayed for the Lord to guide our steps, reached out to faithful friends back home, and established a clear teaching outline on God’s role for marriage. Matt Dobbertien also offered to share his testimony and experience with abuse and loss.

It’s hard to put into words what we experienced the next morning, as the plan to teach and admonish the men in our conference unfolded. Steve Abney opened the morning by allowing the participants to come up with words describing Christ’s love for the Church, followed by words that describe the Church’s love for Christ. The attendees passed this quiz with flying colors, pulling truth straight from Scripture.

Matt followed this exercise with his powerful testimony of trauma, a deeply wounded heart and the hard work of trusting God for healing and restoration. This spoke to the pastors, and when asked to pray for Matt, ten men came up to bathe him in an extended session of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving to God. I couldn’t decipher a single word; it didn’t matter. We were completely surrendered in awe of the power of our mighty King and Savior. It stirred my affection and love for God deeply, and it was a worship experience I will never forget.

Steve followed up by taking the list of words describing the love of Christ and the Church, using it to complete the comparison for biblical marriage. God says (in Ephesians 5:22-33) that a man is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, and a wife is to love her husband as the Church loves Christ. It was powerful and called the men to understand and be obedient to the high calling of marriage and how they are to protect, cherish, and serve their wives – and be willing to lay down their lives for their brides, in obedience to God.

Barrett then taught on how God could allow evil and suffering in the world, Matt on healing the wounds of trauma, and Graham on seeking and understanding forgiveness – a topic he has much experience with. We were able to also draw from the testimony of Bishop Deo, as he clearly presented the gospel and the power of Christ to remove the burden of unforgiveness and provide healing and reconciliation. God rescued Bishop Deo as a young teenager from a six-year saga and plot to avenge the murders of his father and uncles and eventually led him to seek forgiveness from the man who committed the crimes. He was 18 at the time he reconciled with this man.

We get to have dinner every night on a balcony overlooking an unsuspecting city, with the chants from a Muslim mosque in the distance. We get to praise God for the opportunity to participate in His work here in Burundi. I am truly in awe of our God.

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One Word: Perspective

Written by Meghan Cushman, Women’s Team

As I sit down to reflect the second day of the ALARM conference in Burundi, I cannot help but want to move and dance in my seat to the beat of the African worship music the men and women have sung over us these past few days. The joyful worship of the women has penetrated my soul. Although we cannot translate the words being sung over us, we worship the same God and sing praises to His name. Knowing the lyrics to their worship songs is not of importance, but knowing the one true God we worship is the tie that binds us together.

Today, our women’s team had the privilege of teaching the women about Health & Hygiene. The participants were so eager to learn how to protect their families using good hygiene through clean drinking water and handwashing. They shared how difficult it is to gather water for their families. Providing clean drinking water for our families back at home requires absolutely no effort from us. These women have to labor to gather water and have no means of keeping it from being contaminated. They asked how they could wash their hands well if they had no soap to use at their home. When the women learned that they would leave the conference with bars of soap to take home to their families, they shouted, “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.” What a beautiful reminder to our team that we have so many comforts back at home, including clean drinking water and bars of soap to help us clean our hands. One word: perspective.

As a team, we spoke to the women participants on conflict resolution. It was beautiful to guide the women through what the Bible has to say regarding how to respond to conflict. We left encouraged by their desire to resolve conflict and seek forgiveness within their communities. They are truly leading out in conflict resolutions within their communities. Our team thought we were coming to Burundi to teach these women, but instead they are teaching us about how to be faithful servants of Jesus.

To conclude the day, we walked through the healing process of grieving. We wrote laments to God – crying out to Him about our pain, asking Him to heal us and proclaiming our trust in Him. We “took our pains to the foot of the cross” and gave them to the Lord – seeking healing from our pains. We collectively burned our laments and found freedom and healing by proclaiming that we trust in the Lord to use our pains and suffering for His glory.

Today, I found healing. He loves me so much that he gave His Son, Jesus, to die for my sins and carry my pains on the cross. I found freedom today from my pains alongside my sisters in Christ in Burundi. The women of Burundi have changed me. They have changed my perspective – I am forever grateful. We serve a good, good Father together.

-Meghan Cushman

 

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God’s Love for Burundi: A Video

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Conviction & Community in Bujumbura

Written by Barrett Lemmons

Good evening from Bujumbura!

Today was the first official day for the ALARM conference. We taught and facilitated on topics like self-leadership, understanding the Bible, servant leadership, sharing our struggles authentically, effective communication, and the importance of biblical community. The participants were engaged, asked great questions, and were able to inform and instruct each other from the word of God.

Personally, God is peeling away more of my old self. After two days here He is showing me that the purpose of this trip had NOTHING to do with anything I could possibly bring to the table. If I had any doubt before today that Jesus and His message are the only solution for our broken, hurting world, that is 100% gone. It has to be Christ or nothing. I have been allowing biases based on race to corrupt my view of these people before I knew them (which is racism).

The Burundians and the ALARM staff are loving and serving us so well. They keep thanking us for the sacrifices we have made to be here. Nothing I have done here has felt like even the tiniest sacrifice. I feel our common bond in Christ, and that we truly are one Church. They serve others selflessly, and their humility and joy are palpable.

I was weeping today during our worship times. It was truly a glimpse of heaven to me. This is the church as Jesus intended, and they are getting after it. I’m ashamed of my inaction and myopic view of God. I’m so grateful for this kindness He is showing me right now, as it is leading me to repentance. I want to find more opportunities to serve and involve my family. I want to truly live out my faith because of the loving kindness that God has shown me.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:9-12 ESV)

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Arrived and Ready in Burundi

Written by Brenda on Sunday

Amahoro!  Peace from Burundi Africa, our home for the next 5 days.

13 Fort Worth Watermarkers traveled from DFW to London, on to Nairobi, with a final destination of Hotel Dolce Vita in the capital city of Bujumbura.  Travel took approximately 26 hours, and it was obvious that the Lord was sustaining the team every step of the way.  Some of the ALARM staff graciously met us at the airport at 2 in the morning, and from the moment they saw our weary faces they have done nothing but serve and love us.  We live continents apart – with a stark contrast in our day to day life – yet the love and sacrifice of our good, good Father binds us as brothers and sisters.  We have discussed that, although they are complete strangers, we feel a strong bond and instant love for them. The light in their eyes and joy in their hearts is magnetic.

After a night of sleep and many cups of deliciously strong local coffee, we headed to the ALARM headquarters for a meet-and-greet followed by lunch.  It was our first chance to see the countryside, and God completely outdid himself with the beauty of His creation through flowers, mountains, and the vegetation.

The ALARM headquarters is bigger than I had anticipated. You can tell that great thought and prayer went into how the facilities could best serve the people of this country.  The staff is warm, welcoming, humble, servant-hearted, respectful, and others-focused.  Qualities I “think” I possess – but when I was hot, hungry, and tired last night, those thoughts were the furthest from my mind.

Back at the hotel, we are enjoying time together working on lessons for the conference and streaming the worship service live from Dallas.  I am one of 5 on our team who have never served on a discipleship trip, and I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the conditions I saw locals living in while we have access to WiFi, air conditioning, and hot water.

As we prepare and lead the conference please pray for the safety of participants traveling, energy for the ALARM staff, continued health and cohesion for our team, and that we would be open to the adventure the Lord has called us on.

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