Day 2.1 – Hallelujah!

Looking forward to our first full day in Kigali, we questioned — perhaps even dreaded — one item on our schedule. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to go to church on Sunday. We just wondered if we would be in any shape to survive the projected 4-hour service with somewhat serious jet-lag. Hallelujah! God had other plans.

As we were escorted to the front pews — actually plastic lawn chairs — on the front rows of the Itorero Methodist Church, we became fairly positive that nothing about this service was going to make us sleepy. (That thought proved optimistic by the time we got to the visiting preacher’s sermon, however.)

Full of energy, we were treated to a kids’ choir, a young peoples’ choir, and the main, serious-dressed choir. And the kids and our new friends blessed us with praise and volume. We even had a guest appearance by a famous Rwandan Gospel singer, whose name escapes me at this time. A number of personal translators came to our sides. We heard announcements, were greeted warmly as visitors, saw 2 new members embraced into the fellowship of this church, heard more and more songs.

And we learned about “Hallelujah!”

“Hallelujah!” a speaker would call out and the audience would answer with “Hallelujah!” and “Amen!” It became our rally cry as well.

Invigorated from our time inside the cavernous church building — with open screens to permit ventilation and open windows below — we made our way outside to be greeted by the congregants and, of course, the children.

And all we can say is, “Hallelujah!”

 

2 Days and Counting – Balance

So, our heads are filled with visions of what we will see and tones of what we will hear. In 2 days we will wait for our boarding groups to be called and we’ll make our way down the jet bridge to our plane and find our seats. As we settle in for the first of two 10-hour flights, we will wonder about what directions our first exposure to Africa will take. We’ve prepared well and we know that the things we will experience will range from sobering to exhilarating. We pray for balance.

Back in Abilene, on the campus of Abilene Christian University, one of the favorite fitness hotspots is the Lunsford Trail. A two-mile ribbon of pavement wrapped around the home of the ACU Wildcats, the loop is known for the special messages and symbolism portrayed on inset stones and on monuments of various stature.

At the head of the trail, Mile Marker 0, a large stone pillar is set to the side and bordered by shrubbery. It’s a favorite spot of mine because of the scripture etched in that stone.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

2014-09-17 18.53.03In our studies of conflict and peaceful resolution, we rely on concepts of men to determine our best practices. One of the cornerstones of our teaching is the Dual Concern Model. From it we derive some sense of the ways that each of us deals with conflict. I’ll save you the long lectures and more tedious explanations. But basically, the “dual concerns” are that of self concern and concern for others.  Most theorists also 2014-09-17 18.53.06equate self concern with a sense of justice and concern for others with a predisposition toward mercy. And while  much can be said for either the pursuit of justice or the pursuit of mercy, those who seek lasting peace have learned that it’s the balance of justice and mercy that brings us peace.

In keeping with the teachings from the Old Testament book of Micah, we see that God provides what is good. And for us to claim what is good, He asks us to act justly 2014-09-17 18.53.12AND love mercy — to balance those two forces. That balance, plus a humble spirit, will bring us God’s good — His perfect peace.

As an overarching prayer, then, we ask for that balance and that humility as we meet and serve the good people of Rwanda and Kenya. “He has shown us, O mortals, what is good.”

God, bless Robyn and Malcolm and Dan and Allison and Aaron and Betty and Joey with peace that comes from acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with You.  Amen

5 Days and Counting – Sundays

The next two Sundays will be special ones for our team. While in Rwanda and Kenya, we will have the opportunity to join our new African friends in worship. Spirituality comes in many different flavors. We can’t wait to share in this time of faith stories and common belief.

Well, “can’t wait” may be a little overly exuberant for some of our group. A few have expressed a little anxiety over what shape we’ll be in after flying halfway around the world, arriving on Saturday evening, and attempting to adjust our sleep cycles to the time. I have a feeling that the exhilaration of that experience will far outweigh any latent anxiety.

We are eager to share in yet another bit of tradition and culture that involves our spiritual nature. Communion among new friends, acquaintances, and strangers gives us insight to the essence of God and of his far-reaching love for every creature and, especially, all individuals.

This Sunday — today — is a little different for me. In one of my teaching roles, I find myself in Little Rock, Arkansas conducting a weekend class. Not my favorite arrangement because I lose the opportunity to attend a house of worship, but it’s still a Sunday and special.

For almost 5 years — 4 times a year, I’ve made this trek north to teach this course. And, almost every Sunday my church has been the downtown Starbucks where I find myself now, writing this post. Although there is no liturgy or order of worship, no singing or preaching, no designated deacons or elders, there is community — and thus a form of communion.

As I scan the busy coffee store, I see two people who have been here almost every Sunday I’ve visited. Two other “old friends” were here a little earlier. The rest of the customers passing through seem to represent a wide spectrum of backgrounds and pursuits. Some will linger for a while, talk with friends, read their papers, or browse the internet. Others will place their orders, grab their brews and head back into life just a bit better prepared — or at least caffeinated.

Not my typical Sunday experience, but in many ways, a routine that brings comfort and helps me reset my life.

Sundays hold special meaning for most of us. A good number have the memories around attending local churches. Others have not participated in that way, but our Sundays have been special days of rest and recreation. Sundays have been that quiet place to reflect and restore and prepare for the coming week.

On this Sunday, just before our trip to Africa, I hope that each and every one of our team have that opportunity to reflect and restore and prepare. All Sundays are filled with promise. But the next two are going to be awesome!

We will be far away soon. But we will be close to all of you. Enjoy your Sundays!

10 Days and Counting – Prayers

Prayers. Prayers are offered. Prayers are given. Prayers are worded. Prayers are essential. In 10 days, we leave for Africa.

As we continue our preparations, our thoughts turn to the work that lies ahead. This prayer, penned by team member, Robyn Short, in Prayers for Peace, brings our mission into focus and into alignment with our relationship to God.

Dear God,

Each morning I awake to a new day filled with many opportunities for practicing peace.

May all my efforts and all my interactions glorify You and deepen the experience of Your love here on Earth.

May the work I contribute have a positive and lasting impression on all those who experience my efforts and contributions, and may the world be better as a result.

May my heart, mind and soul be nourished as I consciously give of my talents.

May Your love be at the very center of all my actions, and may peace ripple out from me into all the world.

I thank you and acknowledge the blessing that each and every day I am able to awake to a new day filled with opportunities for me to contribute passionately and purposefully to this world in which we are co-creators.

I am blessed.

Amen

 

Hear our prayers.

28 Days and Counting – Recognition

We are only 28 days from departure. Our preparation for Africa comes with a special recognition and a prayer. We seek to help in God’s good work of bringing peace to a world in conflict. We want to see Him in others and pray that they will see Him in us.

Image Credit: eyebiz @ FreeImages.com

Robyn Short, a member of our team, published a book in 2013 entitled Prayers for PeaceAs I pick it up each day, I’ve found peace by saying the prayers she has penned. This one, in particular, has blessed me as I think about our trip and the work ahead in Africa. Yet, it covers each and every day at home.

Dear God,

I pray your blessing on myself and all those whose lives I touch today. May every encounter be a holy encounter filled with opportunities for giving and receiving. May I give with a pure heart and receive with gratitude. May I recognize the Divine in each person I encounter, and may each person in turn recognize the Divine in me.

I choose to recognize that every interaction I have with another individual today is an opportunity for practicing peace. May my heart become so skilled at peace that practice quickly becomes permanent and that I may become a constant embodiment of Your love in this World.

Amen

“May I recognize the Divine in each person I encounter, and may each person in turn recognize the Divine in me.”

That’s the reason why peace is so important. It is through peacemakers and people of peace that we see God.