Sep 11, 2009

10,000 Attend First Night of Festival in Bujumbura

The meeting area, about two acres in size, was tight and squished. Every part of it had been set up for the people to sit. 10,000 chairs total and they were all filled to capacity with some overflowing.

The people of Burundi have great rhythm in their step. The place was vibrant with singing, dancing, and rejoicing. Children, adults, the elderly, they all sung and danced rhythmically.
After we were introduced, Dan Dye shared his testimony of how he came to Jesus Christ. The audience connected well with him. I was then invited to bring the message of Jesus Christ. I preached from Luke 21:34-36. I felt God's Spirit moving through the word as I preached.

Expectant hearts sat on the edge of their seats taking in every word. I warned them of the soon coming day o f the Lord. I exhorted them of the Lord's call to repentance. I invited them to embrace the grace of God which is available through Christ. I called upon them to reject the ways and patterns of this world. I counseled them against drunkenness, fear, worries, witchcraft, dissipation, and idolatry.

Finally, I invited them to come to Jesus Christ so they may receive their gift of salvation. To the glory of God, about 89 people did respond to the call for salvation. I then invited those that have other needs in their lives to bring them to Christ. More than half of the audience had a need they wanted met. In faith, we prayed for them from wherever they were standing or sitting, believing God to minister to them.

God has started a good work here in Bujumbura and we are eager to see what He has in store for the remaining three days. Tonight we expect even larger crowds of people being a Friday night. Please pray for the sound system. Last night we kept having interruptions as the translator's microphone kept going on and off. Not a good thing.

Ephesians 6:19 "And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel."

Sep 10, 2009

206 Leaders Attend Bujumbura Conference

We thank God for what He is doing here in Bujumbura. Over the last two days we have ministered to Christian leaders from across the region. On Tuesday, we had 150 leaders attend the conference at the Kings Conference center. On Wednesday, 206 attended.

Some of the leaders have travelled by road for 24 hours from Goma and Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and from Rwanda into Burundi for the conference. I am totally blown away by their faith, dedication, commitment, and desire to be part of what God is doing in this region of Africa.

Initially, Burundi's President Piere Nkurunziza was invited to come and open the conference. He, however, send his minister for Good Governance Hon. Martin Nivyabandi to do so on his behalf.

We are informed that the country's political parties are having tension and disagreements that could potentially turn violent and derail the recent peace accord. Consequently, the president has called for a weeklong retreat for all the political parties so that they may iron out their differences. He is preoccupied with that. The country has recently emerged out of a civil war. The last rebel group signed a peace accord with the government two months ago. Pray for continued stability of this nation and for the healing and restoration of its' people.

When Martin opened the conference yesterday morning, he told us that it is a real point of praise to God for the five rebel groups that had been fighting with the government to have finally signed peace agreements to work with the government. Many of the formerly rebel forces have been integrated into the regular army. "In Burundi, we have no choice but to look to Christ for our solutions as a nation," he added.

Due to the on-going retreat called by the President, we will also not be holding the Executive leadership conference as initially planned. It was to be attended by the President and Burundi's members of parliament. It is, however, a possibility that on Sunday night we may meet with President Nkurunziza at the presidential palace.

Dan Dye and Steve Wareham as well as Pastor Ken Kimiywe, who travelled as part of our team from Nairobi, have done a fabulous job ministering to these leaders in the area of Leadership. The energy in the room is palpable. There is clearly a connection between the speakers and the audience during both days. We are all healthy and none of us has experienced any sickness.

Personally, I have exhorted the leaders in the opening sessions each day to shine the light of Jesus Christ in their communities. I have pointed out a number of the issues that they are dealing with in their leadership contexts. Our desire as a ministry is to help them address some of those issues throughout the conference.

One specific issue that seems to get the attention of everyone, including the government minister, is that of the big-man syndrome. It appears that many leaders and several church pastors in the city (and the region) set themselves up as big men. They do not interact with the common folk who are mere mortals. This is of course counter to the Transformational leadership model that this conference is addressing.

Then there is the issue of accountability. Some of the leaders seem to excuse themselves from the necessity of being accountable to their congregations or others under them on cultural grounds saying it makes them too vulnerable. We addressed the issue and hopefully it caught on well.

We have ended the conference with a wonderful time of prayer and altar call response (see pic). We prayed for deliverance, strength, and fresh anointing for many of the pastors and leaders present.

Earlier in the day we also prayed with a gentleman who we were told has come to Christ last week. He was one of the two Muslim Sheikhs at the local Mosque. He says that a week ago the Lord appeared to him. He then gave his life to Christ. But as a result he is suffering tremendous persecution. His Arabic wife and children have been taken away from him. His properties have been burned down and his life is on the line. He has nothing left and he looks very scared. Pray for him.

Well, the Festival of Hope for the city starts today, Thursday night. A moment ago I got awakened from sleep totally exhausted in my spirit and had a strong urge to pray (it is 2:00 AM as I am writing this). There are strange powers of darkness over the city that we are going against. It seems like we are specifically going against the occult. It is, however, also clear that God intents to set His people free from the oppression. Please pray with us.
More later.

Sep 8, 2009

Bujumbura Leadership and Governance Conference

Here, Burundi's Minister in the Office of the President for Good Governance Martin Nivyabandi speaks to leaders during one of the sessions. 206 Christian leaders from across the spectrum participated in the conference held at Kings Conference Center, Bujumbura. 

Above, SWIM director Sammy Wanyonyi speaks to the leaders as Dan Dye looks on.  Below, Pastors worship in song and prayer during one of the sessions.  Next they share in a beef stew and rice lunch.

Below, Ben Otube (right) from Nakuru, Kenya who served as SWIM's Conference and Festival Director/Representative embraces Pastor Manasse Mberabagabo during one of the sessions.  Next, Ben follows the conference along with other pastors.

Below, Steve Wareham and the Burundi government minister share a moment during the conference.

Dan Dye makes the vision presentation from a biblical and corporate perspective

Pastor Manasse Mberabagabo, who was the main host for the meetings shares with the audience from God's word. Next, Pastor Kennedy Kimiywe from Nairobi-Kenya speaks to the leaders on pastoral matters.  Ken pastors a congregation of 12,000 members in the heart of the city of Nairobi.

Below, part of our team of speakers and presenters.  From left, Ken Kimiywe, Steve Wareham, Martin Nivyabandi, Sammy Wanyonyi, Dan Dye and Manasse Mberabagabo.

Sep 7, 2009

In Bujumbura, a City in the Valley

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks of believers being like a city on a Hill. He says, "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." Such a city is visible from a far.
That is what we are. In following Him we become contagious, combustible, dynamic, visible, and engaging to the world.

Well, it is two days now since we arrived in Africa. Yesterday was quite an awesome Sunday. We joined worshippers at Christ is the Answer Ministries (CITAM), Nairobi, Kenya for the worship service. The Bishop of CITAM, Boniface Adoyo and his wife Addah and many of his pastors are wonderful friends of ours. Senior Pastor of Nairobi Pentecostal Church, Valley Road, the largest of the congregations under CITAM Kennedy Kimiywe had invited us to join them for the service. They are celebrating 50 years of ministry in the city of Nairobi. Kennedy is also accompanying us to Bujumbura as part of our speakers panel.

They held one grand service at the Nyayo soccer Stadium attended by most of their 60,000 members. Aong the guests for the occasion was Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki and several of his cabinet ministers, members of parliament, civil servants and the Nairobi Business community. Looking at the audience as quite a sight to behold. CITAM are definitely shinning the light of Jesus Christ all around the country of Kenya. SWIM is honored to be a partnering ministry with CITAM in Africa.

In the meantime we are here in Bujumbura. The weather is hot and humid. Significantly uncomfortable. Thank God we have air conditioning in our hotel rooms. The city is set in a valley. Several hills overlook it. The city itself overlooks Lake Tanganyika. It speaks of great potential that remains largely untapped. The people are kind and polite. But they need to shed off the valley mentality and build their lives on a hill.

Tomorrow morning we kick off the Leadership and Governance conference. There is great energy and passion from the local Christian leadership, coming in large numbers. We will have more than 200 pastors, business and community leaders in attendance. I am told there have been as many as 400 requests from many pastors from neighboring Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo to come. But we did not make room for that many on our budget. So we are sticking with the plan as much as possible.

Initially Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza was scheduled to open the conference. However, due to pressing political responsibilities he is sending his minister for Good Governance and Local administration Martin Nivyabandi to open the conference. We will visit with the President a little later in the week. They are requesting for prayer as they have had some wrangling between political parties. That is why the President is not available tomorrow. Pray for us and come back to tomorrow to know how it went.

I promised you the other day to tell you what God did. Two months ago I applied for my Green Card with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The minimum it takes is at least three months to process. So obviously I was late if I wanted to receive it ahead of our travel to Bujumbura. We, however, did not have the needed funds to apply for it earlier. My wife and I had agreed that we were not to use our credit cards but rather wait on the Lord to provide first.

When we applied, we requested for an expedited release of a travel document that would allow me to leave and re-enter the U.S. without having to forfeit my application. For the two months it wasn't forthcoming.

By Thursday last week, with one day left to go, I still did not have it. So my wife and I did some research and found out that there is a local USCIS office in Bloomington by the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. We went in and requested if they could process one for us. The officer we talked to denied us. For a moment we didn't know what to do. I could not get back into the U.S. without that document.

Then the Holy Spirit reminded us that God has already made a way for us and his favor rests on our lives. It was already obvious through the provisions we have experienced. He whispered to me to call Steve Wareham, the MSP Airport Director and explain to him the situation. We did.

Steve then called the Director of Homeland Security at the MSP airport, who then called the Minnesota State Director of Homeland Security and requested them to issue me with the travel document. The lady director complied. I was given her direct number and called her. She was very apologetic for what I had undergone, being denied the document. She personally came to receive my wife and I when we went back. The officer who had denied us was called back from his lunch break to process it immediately. Within 20 mins, we had the document and were ready to go.

So, I am coming back to Minnesota. Guess who is most delighted…My wife (and baby) of course! YEY! Thanks be to the Lord our God who goes before His own children to part the Red Sea. Uftah!!