The Pastor's Conference

 Join me for a story of the 2 day conference put on together by Arise Rwanda Ministries, Grace Community Church, and the Holy Spirit!

Think about a time you had only the Holy Spirit as your companion.  For a decision or for a guide? Where you are completely and utterly dependent - without your own understanding, logic, or resources.  All the times I can think of ended with immense awe, but at the start and during were full of angst, fear, and confusion.  This is the journey I think - walking with the Holy Spirit, walking with Jesus, walking with the Father.  We take trembling unsteady steps, He catches and steadies us and we keep putting one unsteady foot in front of the other.  And then we find ourselves standing.  Steady and sure - in awe of such a Savior, such a Shepherd, such a Guide.

I must confess, because of the discomfort of the beginning and during stages of dependence, it is not a state of faith I rest in.  Though proverbs 3:5-6 has been in my memory bank for a multitude of years, rarely do I seek to follow it.  Only when my ever kind Shepherd forces me do I walk in this way.  I know I am not unique in this - as Americans we are able to depend on ourselves for pretty much every single thing.  To cultivate a close walk with Jesus takes the same effort we have to extend to cultivate healthy bodies - It is just not built into our every day.  

But God.

As I continue on to describe the 2 day conference I want you to be sure to remember - we were teammates with the Arise Rwanda staff, all of us working together as tools in the hands of a Master Craftsman.  What a privilage to be used by God in this way.

Because the Lord did not provide us much information ahead of time - we were completely dependent on the fact of the Holy Spirit in us.  I can’t speak for the others, but I for one had only that to go on.  I didn’t have any ‘felt’ evidence or confidence in the still small voice guiding my decisions and planning.  I was given a small glimpse when Jeremy and I were driving one evening about a week before this trip. We shared with each other what we had been preparing and discovered we were working on the same thing.  So we decided to work on it together, taking the same lesson to share, he with the men, and me with the women. That was a small boost of confidence that the Lord was leading us, both to Rwanda and in being ready to teach.

It is also important to remind you of the role you all have played in this conference. Your financial donations funded 2 full days for Pastors, their wives and community leaders to come together for this time of retreat.  They were provided with transportation to and from the guest house, with food while they were here, and with equipping for their very individual needs in their villages and their churches.  
By training and equipping pastors and their wives, and leaders (both men and women), they are able to take that back and the fruit can multiply and stay behind when we all go back home.  The way the Holy Spirit was at work through us - to coordinate our teachings and activities is beyond comprehension.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3: 20-21

The Worship

It is hard to describe the worship here.  Something of note - many villages and denominations are represented and yet they all know the same worship songs. There is a unity among the Rwandan Christians around their music - whenever they gather, if one is a Christian, you have been taught the same songs.  These songs have many ‘parts’, rhythms, and even motions at times.  They all know the rhythm to clap and the movements that go with the verses. They lead themselves in a way, one person sings out as the ‘lead’ and the rest follow.  The Holy Spirit directed the music in personal ways for us (songs that were especially meaningful to individuals on our team, we could recognize the tune even if we didn’t understand the language).  And as the translator would share with me the words of songs I didn’t recognize, I was in awe at how they reinforced the truths we were teaching.

The Sessions

We asked what their needs are and were sure to adjust our teaching to make sure those questions and needs were addressed.  It was important to us to not just give answers, but equip with tools that can be taken with and applied, so that these leaders are equipped and have things they can share with those they lead.   For both the men and women, we spent time in God’s word, shared personal stories, and practiced what we learned.  For the women we also included some type of art for our last session each day.

The Men

Erik used Ephesians 4 as his main theme for the teaching.  He also asked them for questions specific to their ministry and situations. Erik taught on leadership and on having solid doctrine. He asked them what the false teachings they are facing and helped them find scripture to help them address it.  He also taught on grace and how our obedience from God is fueled by love for Him, not fear of Him.  This was especially powerful and freeing for some of the pastors present.
In the afternoon Jeremy taught a strategy for Bible Study and prayer - and the men practiced the strategy with John 13:1-17 and Psalm 23.  

The second day Erik continued with Ephesians 4 and also answered the list of questions that the men had given the day before. The men also had times of fellowship and group discussions, along with deep and powerful worship.

The Women

The first day we began with the gospel accounts of Jesus and His disciples on the water, where he calms the storm, and where He walks on water.  We also introduced and practiced a Bible study strategy with Psalm 145.  Jennifer Woods lead our last session using a Bible verse adult coloring book that she brought.  Each woman chose a page and gathered around tables outside with their colored pencils and fellowshipped while they colored.  For some it was the first time they’d colored, for others, it was a new idea that adults can color.  We too gathered at our own table (we don’t speak each others language, and the important thing is for these leaders to build relationships with each other)  This was a good bonding time for all of us, conversation flowed as our hands were busy, the women at their tables and us as a team still getting to know each other. 

(while this was going on Chelsea and Mary were at Kivu Hills Academy teaching the Art club students.  I will share an update about this and the additional work being done and programs of Arise in the next post, but here is a photo just for fun!)
 The second day, Donna Woods shared a strategy she had brought on how to share the stories of Jesus orally and with pictures.  The beautiful thing was that the examples she brought were from the scripture the Lord had given me (Mel) to open the first day with. (Jesus calms the storm) Then we shared scriptures that addressed specific issues they are facing in their villages and congregations and also the how of finding scripture to help with specific problems. 
    After tea, we spent time doing the same lesson Jeremy had taught the men the day before - strategies for Bible Study and prayer.  The women practiced the strategy with John 11 - where Jesus comforts Mary and Martha and raises Lazurus from the dead.
  Mary and Chelsea closed out the second day with a watercolor lesson. For some it was the first time they’d used a paint brush, for others they remembered painting at school when they were children, but hadn’t considered it something adults do.  For many they were afraid and intimidated, but they all tried anyway.  At the end, many stories were shared about how they didn’t want to paint at first, but then became so filled with joy in realizing they could and also how it ministered to their heart, reinforcing all they had learned that day. Because of your support we were able to send each woman home with their own watercolor paint set. 

At the beginning of the conference, the women were guarded and their countenances unsure.  By the end of the conference they were full of smiles and shared stories of the immense joy they felt from the various activities and teaching we had done together.  As we as a team walked with the Holy Spirit, pivoting as directed (and often!) and the joy that was given to our hearts I believe matched the joy that they were given.  

To God be All the Glory!

For this conference we did not meet as a planning committee, to organize and coordinate the lessons, theme, and direction.  We did not organize a worship team to lead.  And yet, the depth of meaningful and enhancing worship, the consistency of teaching between the men and women and the coordination of activities,  you would never know that we hadn’t planned together.  The Holy Spirit unified and coordinated all of us before we came without us even realizing what He was putting together.  We each came with what we had to offer, and it all fit together perfectly.  This was God’s conference, and He knew what His children in Rwanda and His children from America needed.  That He was able to successfully use us to accomplish His plan reveals His mighty power and it is a gift and privilege to have gotten to witness it.

Thank you for the prayers you have given that enabled us, your representatives, to be used in this way.  Thank you for the money you have given that enabled the pastors, pastors wives, and leaders to attend and be equipped, strengthened and encouraged.  As they gathered together with their certificates, what a joy it is to realize the villages and churches represented and the continued impact in their communities this 2 day conference will have.  To God be the glory, great things He has done!
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1 Comment

Barbara Miller - July 2nd, 2024 at 8:18pm

Praise the Lord for selecting each of you "teachers" and "students" to participate in this meaningful act of love for the Lord and for each other. It sounds like the experience was powerful for the men and their good to include the women for their support and knowledge can definitely impact their villages. Thank you team for being the "hands and feet" of Christ in Rwanda this past week. ♥️🙏😊