As you might expect, things here in Africa don't usually go as expected. This year is no different. Originally, we had intended to do all our teaching in Fizi, Congo DR. With the situation the way it is, we decided to move the teaching to the church in Bujumbura, where I've taught before. At the end of this post, I've included a video I made last year showing the compound. Nothing much has changed, so it's still up to date.
The teaching has gone exceptionally well. Here's Martin's assessment of how things have been going:
The teaching has been clear and concise based upon the positive and curious questions of the Pastors that are present. The faces of the Pastors indicate a true desire to learn and Professor Baker has provided this climate with his knowledge and enthusiasm.
It's certainly true that the Pastor's are deeply invested in the teaching. They listen intently, take copious notes, ask insightful questions, and marvel at doctrines and ideas they've never been taught before. Just as a good cook likes to feed a hungry crowd, so it energizes me to teach such passionate students.
This year we have been reviewing the doctrine of Salvation. We haven't shrunk from the more difficult issues either. As Luther once commented, "if God revealed it, he must want us to know it." So we've delved into the tension between election and free will. We discussed how works so often wiggles its way into the gospel message. But the most exciting time was when I explained Justification.
I used Martin, Joseph, and Flory to help me act out what happens in Justification. Martin was the sinner standing before God (me). Flory played the part of Christ. Joseph was the devil (primarily because I haven't completely forgiven him for sleeping so well on the plane). Joseph accused Martin of being a sinner, and deserving death. I commented that his accusation was completely true. Then Flory stepped forward and stated how he had died for Martin and paid for his sins. When I brought down the gavel and declared Martin "Righteous" the pastor's started yelling and applauding and cheering. It was incredible and a sight I will never forget.
One of the challenges of teaching this year is the noise from next door. It seems a metal fabrication shop is right next door and the sound of the grinder is often difficult to shout over. But there are sweeter sounds as well.
On both days so far, after the lunch was served, the young women who assisted with the serving would retire to a little adobe hut next to the church and start to sing. They would worship for over an hour. Sometimes the singing was boisterous with dancing and drums, sometimes quite and reverent, but always heart-felt.
During a teaching break, I sneaked in and captured the following video. About half way through you can see that I was finally noticed, but they didn't seem to care.
When you experience the church here—a church in danger, a church under persecution, but a joyful church nevertheless—it's hard to fall victim to FUD.
No, it's not a food. FUD is an acronym that stands for "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt." It was originally coined in the computer hardware industry as they spread false or misleading information about their competitors. Since that time it's more broadly used as an appeal to fear. While the term may be relatively new, the tactic is anything but. If you were to lay out the appeal to fear as an logical argument, it would look like this:
Either P or Q is true
Q is frightening
Therefore, P is true.
Usually the argument is based upon false information. The fear is generated to move people to your position, regardless of whether there is anything to fear or not. But what about where there really is something to fear?
Here is a recent news story from the BBC:
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has expressed alarm as rebel forces advance towards the country's main eastern city of Goma. Witnesses told the BBC that rebels of the M23 group were 40km (25 miles) from the city, near the Rwandan border. They said rebels appeared to be taking towns and villages with ease, with government troops usually melting away.
The Congolese government and the UN say Rwanda is backing the rebels, a claim Rwanda denies. DR Congo has accused its neighbour of wanting to keep it unstable so it can exploit its rich mineral wealth. The Congolese government has called on the international community to condemn Rwanda.
On Sunday, rebels were reported to have seized the strategic town of Rutshuru, 70km north of Goma. A senior official at a national conservation park speaking on Monday just 40km north of Goma, told the BBC that "the rebels are very much in control of this area".
When it comes to Congo DR, at least right now, there is something to be concerned about.
The original plan had been to teach completely in Fizi. It's about 160 miles south of Goma. Tomorrow we will receive a report concerning the conditions there. We don't believe the problems in Goma have drifted this far south (yet). But we want to make sure before we cross the border. I assure you we are taking every precaution with regard to our safety.
That being said, when one believes in the sovereignty of God—I mean when one really believes it—the dangers of this world lose some of their ability to inspire FUD. God's arm isn't shortened, his strength has not diminished, he never slumbers nor sleeps.
What Nebuchadnezzar learned about our God remains true:
All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” Dan 4:35 (NIV)
Therefore we plan to be careful……very careful……but we refuse to be timid. The Congolese church lives there all the time, trusting God for their protection. Is it really so much for us to minister to them for a few days?
Please pray for us concerning out decision. I'll let you know how things turn out.