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Safe in Addis Ababa

Good Evening,
The team made it safe to Addis Ababa with all of their bags and everyone is in great shape, albeit a little tired from the long journey. They are at the hotel and probably sacked out by now!

Thank you for checking in and for your prayers over the following week.

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Ethiopia 2017- Ethiopia here we come

Tomorrow (Friday, 14th) the 1st Ethiopia team will get on an airplane for the the long flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia going to share how Jesus Christ has changed our lives. The “journey” to Ethiopia started early this year since our first training meeting was in February over 6 months ago. Our training and preparation for Ethiopia has consisted of learning how to share the financial need in healthy ways, immunizations (shots) party and cultural awareness training, team building day, practice sharing the gospel with the evangecube, roleplaying sharing our testimonies, and giving biblical defense for the gospel for common Orthodox and Muslim arguments.

As I think about these next week 2 weeks, I can’t help but think about the people who will hear about God’s saving grace for the 1st time. Pray that God will move in people’s hearts, not just the Ethiopians, but also the North Americans. This is a unique opportunity to “unplug” for a week and think about what is most important, how much God loves us and the opportunity to share that love with others. The team is together all week as they get up early and eat breakfast together, share a devotion together of what God is teaching them, load up in vans and share Christ with Ethiopian brothers and sisters, come back to hotel and share meal together, share evening debrief time where they sing, pray and talk about all that God did during the day, and then collapse from exhaustion.

Check back regularly for prayer requests and stories from the mission field.

Please pray that:
• flights would be on time and connections would go well
• bags would make it to Addis Ababa on time
• Ethiopian hearts would be receptive to the message of the Gospel
• Unity between the North Americans and Ethiopian partners

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Closing Sessions and Closing Ceremonies

written by Dwane Rose

Today was the third and final day of the conference. The men started by learning God’s plan for healing and grieving from Jermaine and Willie. Considering the deep trauma of the area, giving them permission to grieve was needed. These men are hungry for truth. It was evident watching faces and hearing some later individual discussions that they were drinking in God’s word and being refreshed. We continued with our final session on conflict resolution by Mark and then forgiveness by Jimmy. During the forgiveness discussion, we used the example of carrying heavy rocks in a backpack. I unloaded it with my burdens of anger, sadness, fear and desire for justice. The participants have much need for forgiveness even in areas that are difficult to hear because of the depth of pain.

We continued with our final session on conflict resolution by Mark and then forgiveness by Jimmy. During the forgiveness discussion, we used the example of carrying heavy rocks in a backpack. I unloaded it with my burdens of anger, sadness, fear, and desire for justice. The participants have much need for forgiveness, even in areas that are difficult to hear because of the depth of pain. We are blessed that God heals pain and helps us forgive others.

Willie then lead us in a time where we each could give our troubles to God. Everyone wrote burdens they had, and we carried our burdens to a cross one of the participants build for us. We all had the gift of leaving them there. Some men carried their papers on their head. Upon reaching the cross, they passionately wadded up the paper and threw it in basket at the base of the cross. With arms raised, they walked back to their seat.

We then had the privilege of giving each man a couple of gifts that had been provided by Watermark. They were neckties and solar-powered flashlights. As I handed out the ties, some of the participants reacted as if I had given them the most treasured item possible. They are so grateful for everything. The solar-powered flashlights are important. As I have experienced here in the hotel, power often goes out – and that is for the fortunate ones. Many do not have electricity at home.

It has been an absolute joy to see, each day, how God has selected each man to deliver His words. The personal experience of each matched the topic at hand. Being vulnerable by relating personal failures and struggles allowed trust and understanding, regardless of country or skin color.

During the closing ceremony, several participants shared what they had learned in the three days. For the men, common themes were conflict resolution, forgiveness, and leading themselves. It was a joy to see them take responsibility by drawing a circle around themselves and aiming to fix what is inside.

The hard part of the day was saying goodbye. More properly stated, saying “See you later” until I see my new friends again. If not before, heaven is going to be a fun party seeing our new brothers!

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Serve the Lord and Trouble Might Rain Down

 

written by Kari Kurz

Conference day two began with a cooler morning after a night of refreshing rain. The women greeted us with worship, singing, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” The English words backed by their beautiful Ugandan accents could not have been more fitting for our day. Our talks with the women today were Conflict, Parenting, and Health/Hygiene. Each session brought us back to the truth that we are broken vessels in the hands of a perfect Father.

Over and over we talked about humbling ourselves and pursuing Colossians 3:17.

These women thirst for truth. It seems God is giving us a taste of his joy in his children as we watch the faces of these women light up as they connect with the messages. Just as a proud parent watches a young child grow and learn, the Lord delights in us as we sit at his feet reaching for his truth rooted in love. I watch these women react profoundly to our teachings, but the reality is that they are reacting to the work the Holy Spirit is doing in their hearts. It is an incredible gift to be in front of these women, where I am given an unobstructed view at the work of our God.

Today was a good day. Truth was shared, questions were answered, our God was worshipped, and we all grew in our affections for Jesus.

When the Spirit moves, the enemy does too. Thankfully, he’s got nothing on our God, but he is pesky. While we were reminiscing on our conference time before heading to the bus, one of the massive, vulture-turkey-crane-like birds decided to relieve himself right above me, leaving me with a gift I never wanted down my back. It honestly could have been quite the disappointing ending to our day, but it brought much laughter and a great memory. Not today, Satan! Not today.

This was the day that the Lord made. We rejoiced and were very very glad in it.

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God Builds a Team to Impact the World

written by Jimmy Comeaux

Today was another long but exciting day for our team. It’s so clear that God is at work through His people in Hoima. It is also clear that the team of men He sent was no mistake. Each of the men serving Uganda faithfully on this trip was called for a clear reason.

Hoima suffers from land-wrangling, due to oil discovery… and God sent faithful lawyers on this trip. Hoima needs a precise message on how to resolve conflict… and God sent an engineer with experience in reconciliation/recovery. Hoima struggles from unhealthy marriages, divorce, and polygamy… and God sent a Re|engage leader. Hoima needs to have its leaders motivated/energized… and God sent one of our most dynamic young teachers. Hoima needs a vision and a strategy for the church… and God sent one of the most successful businessmen and servant leaders in our body. And He sent the perfect leader to prepare, guide, and encourage this group of men.

Today we had a larger crowd and had to move the men to a bigger room! These men are hungry for truth and have been so teachable. Today we taught God’s truth on the problem of evil/pain/suffering, leading organizations, a strategic vision for Hoima, marriage, and conflict resolution. We also had lots of fun with candy, Chinese handcuffs (a conflict resolution lesson), and our Bible timeline dance (including Farkle consequences in front of the hotel staff at breakfast).

The men have also been asking some outstanding and tough questions. We ended the day with a panel discussion to answer their questions. I’m so encouraged by the wisdom of our team to respond from Scripture even when faced with tough questions on family planning, polygamy, and the church’s role in politics.

Can’t wait to see what God has in store for us tomorrow!

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Views from the Men’s Conference (with Pictures!)

written by Jermaine Harrison

Greetings from Hoima, Uganda! After about 24 hours of travel by plane and a few more by bus through the countryside, the Watermark team made it to the site of the first ever ALARM conference in this region of Western Uganda.

About 200 men & women – most of whom are pastors, church leaders, and businessmen & women – have made the journey to be a part of this conference. They are excited and hungry to learn, grow, and be even more faithful stewards of God’s word in their country.

On the first day of the conference, the entire group met together for introductions and to be reminded of the truth recorded in 2 Corinthians 5:18: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” (NIV).

The 100 men present were taught the benefits of leadership & conflict resolution and given a short overview of the Bible, complete with actions and sounds to remember the timeline of Scripture. Next, they learned how to lead themselves, by “drawing a circle around themselves and changing everything inside it.” Finally, they learned to lead their wives and children by choosing to humble themselves and turn to Christ.

In addition to all that they learned, the men taught us how Ugandans connect with God through songs of worship. It was basically a mini dance party. You simply had to be there.

We ended the day by gifting every conference attendee with a new Bible. All I can say is I don’t think I’ve celebrated the way they did for any gift that I’ve ever been given. It’s been such a blessing to encourage our Ugandan family and to learn from and be blessed by them. And we are just getting started.

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Grateful… for Us?

written by Julie Nicholson

You know when it’s clear that God is present and active in a place? That happened today. God showed up in the faces of nearly 200 Ugandan pastors, their wives, church leaders and community leaderspic1.

Our team from Watermark isn’t a sought-after group of speakers. No camp or American conference is clamoring for many of us (me!) to come speak. And yet here we are. These 12 broken, earthen vessels, ready to pour out God’s truth – and instead being poured into by these participants.

The first thing I noticed was their eyes. Big, bold, ready to listen and learn. Grateful. Imagine that – grateful for us! Remember that part about broken, earthen vessels? They were grateful for us! There was no flashy presentation. No multimedia anything – in fact, we had a flip chart! And yet these ladies leaned forward to hear everything the interpreter repeated for them. I was greeted by so many who said, “You are welcome,” which is their way of saying they are thankful we are here.

After a break, the ladies started singing in their language. It took my breath away. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I found myself weeping, grateful for them. Grateful for the King of Glory, in His kindness, to show me a glimpse of heaven.

Speaking of eyes, mine were opened anew to how truth is truth, no matter where you are. The Bible is real and relevant, no matter where you are. God is God, no matter what language you speak. And we are all His children, no matter what.

It took us 25 hours to get here, and if it was just for that day, it was worth it.conf2

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Free Indeed

written by Becky Lyus

Today was one of the most emotional joyful days I have ever experienced. I still cannot grasp how God deems us worthy to be with these beautiful, surrendered, hurt, yet fiercely in love with Jesus women.

Our days have started with exchanging smiles, hugs, and handshakes – and many laughs with the women. It’s crazy that our only communication with these women is nonverbal, or through interpreters when we teach, or holding their precious babies. Following our sessions, the women break out in song and dance with JOY and honest praise towards our Savior for all He has done, and for His faithfulness.

Britt led the day by sharing her experience with grief and trauma and how she found healing in Christ. She encouraged the women to write about a suffering they have experienced – one they now see how the Lord has redeemed. Julie followed with a powerful talk on forgiveness, which Betsy followed with amazing personal testimony about conflict resolution and forgiveness.

In the afternoon, we led an exercise to “take it to the cross.” In short, we urged the women to write one of their deepest pains/hurts, done to them or by them, and someone they needed to forgive or seek forgiveness from. They broke out in smalls groups and shared if they felt led to. We then gathered in a large circle around a fire pit in the room. We all prayed over our specific paper – that we would leave this pain at the foot of the cross and ask Jesus to heal our wounds and recognize He bore the pain and hurt we experienced. We were asked to repent before we went to the fire.

The women were singing through their tears in pain, kneeling before the Father, calling out to Abba Father to heal and forgive. The Spirit of the Lord was overwhelmingly present in the room. I was overwhelmed by the Lord’s grace and forgiveness towards me, and overwhelmed that he would allow me to be a part of these women experiencing chains breaking and freedom from bondage. I too found healing in an area of my life I held tightly to.

God is alive and is in the business of healing, and boy did he move mountains today. We closed in worship, praising God. Women then shared some of their deepest hurts, and it was overwhelming to hear such hurt but also see their hope and trust in Jesus. I wish I could share more but we will just have to save the rest for in-person!

I am eternally grateful for the honor and privilege to come to Burundi. My word for the trip is “free.” May we all live as free in Christ as these women do. Amen.

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9 Surprising Things We’ve Learned about Burundi (So Far!)

written by Drew Zeiler

Our trip to Burundi Africa has been a memorable one to say the least. And it’s only just begun. We have met very humble people who live with very little, yet are full of joy. We have heard crazy stories of persecution – everything from the theft of family animals to assassination attempts for trying to make disciples. But for this blog post, I would like to highlight a few miscellaneous things our team has learned while being here. Some of these I will elaborate on; others will stand for themselves.

  1. Central Africa has beautiful weather. A common question asked of us is, “How do you feel to be in Africa?” At first it was a confusing question. We were not quite sure what they were asking us initially, but after thinking about it, they’re asking us what do we think about Africa’s weather? A common perception is Africa has miserable weather. The truth is Burundi is beautiful and the weather has been almost California-like. bur17-IMG_0287
  2. Like America, Satan has launched an all-out assault on the family.
  3. To overcome denominational differences in Burundi, people focus and what they have in common. Jesus is God. Jesus is the source of life. We should make disciples of Jesus Christ. I sat in a circle today will three Catholic priests and many other denominations confessing unforgiveness in their heart. This was a new experience for me.
  4. One of the biggest differences between Americans and people in Burundi is education. Education is a total game-changer. A large number of Christians want a Bible but can’t afford one. I asked a man, “So if someone from your congregation wants to read the Bible, what do they do? He said, “They come over to my house, and we read it together.” I think if that was me, I would change the saying we have at Watermark from “devote daily” to “devote monthly.” We have all grown in our appreciation of the availability of God’s word in America.
  5. Our interpreters have incredible stamina. They are incredibly faithful servants of Christ. Our interpreter Jarrod never complains, and he doesn’t even seem to be tired. He translated for close to 6 or 7 hours one day; I spoke for 1.5 hours and am very tired. When I asked him how he got into interpreting, he very sincerely said that when he was younger he gave ALL of his life to God. That includes his talents and even his weaknesses. And he asked God to use him for His glory. God is using him in incredible ways. Watching his faithfulness and his work ethic has impacted all of us.
  6. 55% of pastors in Burundi beat their wives and think they are not doing anything wrong. A man today in our confession time, after our sessions on seeking forgiveness, confessed that at times his wife is hard on his children, so he beats her. Because of the trainings today, he said, “I will seek forgiveness from my wife and will no longer hit her.”
  7. The truth of God’s word is powerful. We have all witnessed its raw power. Because of translation and lack of resources, our trainings are not flashy at all. In fact, they are down right awkward at times. However, these Christians are so hungry for God’s word that it has incredible power. Someone on our team said it well when they encouraged us to rely on the truth of God’s word and not our strengths. “The truth of God’s word is like a raging bull – all we have to do is let it loose, and it will make its impact.”bur17-IMG_0285
  8. Two major issues plague the churches in Burundi. 1) Pastors and church leaders will take Scripture out of context for selfish gain and without fear of being challenged, due to lack of education. 2) Many people in the church here use deception and underhanded methods. We heard story after story of people trying to turn others against each other by spreading lies. I guess that isn’t just an American middle school problem after all.
  9. Lastly, unresolved conflict is an epidemic here. AIDS has killed many. Many have died from Malaria, diarrhea, or hunger. But it seems all of them are spiritually rotting internally from unforgivness and unresolved conflicts. I hope to post soon about some of the craziest stories I have ever heard about men hoping to pursue reconciliation from the hurts of others.

We can already see God is working truly beyond our understanding and expectations. Please continue to Pray for us.

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Burundi conference is in full swing…..by Betsy

Amahora! Hello from Burundi!!  I sit here before this computer speechless because there is just too much that I want to be able to tell each of you reading this! What an incredible privilege and honor it is to be here as a minister of the gospel of Christ.  Thank you so much to everyone who has made this possible and to everyone who has been praying for us!

We have had an incredible day 2 of the conference.  The men taught on why God allows evil and suffering in the world, healing from grief and trauma and forgiveness. The women taught on servant leadership and marriage.  We have seen the men and women at the conference open up already about the struggles in the their lives and it is so encouraging to see their faithfulness in suffering.  And the way that they are wanting to honor the Lord with how they respond to the people in their lives who have caused them pain.

The men broke into smaller groups where the pastors shared trauma that they had not yet healed from, offenses which they have committed against others and need to seek forgiveness and reconciliation for, and offenses that were committed against them and their families which they felt moved to forgive.

Romans 1:11-12 says that “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong–that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”  And I can’t express to you how true these verses are proving to be true here in Burundi.  We have been teaching them numerous topics from parenting to leadership to forgiveness and in turn we have learned so much from them in just 2 days time.  I have learned from the women that….

….. possessing God’s written Word is an absolute treasure that I should never take for granted.

…..possessions and nice things do not lead to joy.  I know this because the joy that is present when they break out in song is one of the most beautiful and contagious gifts I have ever been given.

…that faithfulness to the Lord is possible even in the midst of impossible situations

….that through Jesus, our greatest suffering can be turned into growth and joy

…..that God’s love and goodness is the greatest power that men and women will ever be able to experience

….that God is continually working miracles in the lives of men and women all over the globe who love and trust in Him alone.

There is so much more that we can’t wait to tell you about when we get home! But for now, just remember that God is SO good!!  I hope and pray that each of you reading this will know and understand God’s great love for you today.  We love and miss you all!

Betsy

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