Almost five years ago as “The Father’s Call” began, I was contacted by a friend who put me in touch with a long-time member in Rwanda who had expressed interest in being with us. We contacted him by phone and arranged to visit him in his home near Muhanga, Rwanda. The meeting was most cordial and it was clear that he wanted to continue with us. In addition, there were other family members who wanted to be baptized — one of whom had already participated in baptism counseling with a minister from South Africa.
With time, four more family members were baptized and also a close friend of the family.
Though I had had experience with some other languages, I was not up to the task of learning more than just a few words of Kinyarwanda — the national language of Rwanda. I needed to rely on our contact to translate much of what transpired. (Two of the new members spoke a little bit of French and some English, but fluent communication was a challenge.)
With the passage of time, age has an effect on our various capacities. In my case, I find myself unable to deal with languages on the same level I could as a younger man. Our contact person — several years older than I am (and believe me, they have been hard years for him) finds himself faced with some of those same struggles with multiple languages.
The situation arose that there were two more people requesting baptism and they spoke only Kinyarwanda. Speaking at length with our contact, we came to the mutual conclusion that there was a real need for the participation of a minister who speaks their language so that the people requesting baptism could be counseled properly.
It came to our attention that the Church of God — a Worldwide Association (COGWA) indeed has a local Rwandan minister and he lives only about an hour away from Muhanga.
I discussed the situation with our Ministerial Council, and it was decided that we would approach the other group with an eye to seeing if they could step in and begin caring for the spiritual welfare of the Muhanga brethren. I got in touch with an old friend in the sister association that I knew from my days at Ambassador College. He immediately said that they would do all they could to help. COGWA’s local minister in Rwanda contacted each of them individually to ascertain if it were their desire to be cared for by their group. All were in agreement.
On Monday the 5th of November I went to visit the members in Muhanga. I found them all in basic good health. They have now, as of a few months’ time, been absorbed into the Rwandan division of our sister association. For the older contact person, it was his first time to attend an organized Feast in many years. For the others, their first time ever. They have been received as brothers and sisters in the faith and are enjoying being able to hear sermons in their own tongue.
On this last trip, I was also able to visit with the minister who will be caring for them. It was a most pleasant visit, and I believe we were able to establish a rapport which will allow me to continue contact with him.
Though it has been in one way sad for me to step aside as their pastor, the Ministerial Council and I felt that it was the right thing to do. Their spiritual well-being had to come first. Having someone to pastor them who is of their same language and culture is proving to be a tremendous aid to their spiritual growth.
My plan is to stay in touch with them, and I do not rule out the possibility of another visit with them further down the road. We will have to see what God has in store.
On the 8th of November, I boarded a day flight from Kigali, Rwanda to Nairobi, Kenya with the final destination of Antananarivo, Madagascar (called Tana by most). The layover in Nairobi was a mere 11 hours! This schedule put me in Tana at 1:50 am and in my hotel at about 3:30 am. (This jet-setting lifestyle is such fun!)
The Malagasy brethren and I enjoyed services together on the Sabbath and a lovely meal afterward. As has been our tradition, we all got together for a group activity on Sunday. This time the congregation treated me to a version of their Feast Family Day Talent Show. Each family practiced and then presented various traditional Malagasy dances — in traditional costumes — from various regions of the country. I’m not sure who had more fun; them having fun doing the dances or me having fun watching them have so much fun! It was a joyful day.
Monday and Tuesday were taken up with counseling. On Wednesday Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) took me back to Nairobi, Kenya in time for a midnight flight of 8 hours to Amsterdam. A short hop from there got me back to London, where I arrived home on Thursday.
The brethren in Madagascar all wanted me to convey to you how thankful they are for the care extended to them by God’s Church.