Reflections from Africa, 23 June 2019

Reflections from Africa
Kirk & Heather Schneemann

Big Idea:
God is on the move…here and all over the world.

There’s no place like home!

I love First Alliance Church. I love our tribe, the Christian & Missionary Alliance. We both have a rich history of more than thirteen decades of serving not only this country, but nations around the globe. In fact, about 90% of our Alliance family is outside of the USA. Missionary is our middle name!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

I love how we have a multi-faceted focus. Jesus instructed us to care not only for our city—our Jerusalem, not only our region—our Judea, not only the outcasts, strangers, widows, and orphans—our Samaria, but also the ends of the earth—the whole world.

Another thing I love about First Alliance Church is its growing diversity. I’ve marveled at how God has continued to bless us with people from so many different zip codes, educational backgrounds, ethnicities, and income brackets. This past week at Sports & Arts Camp, I was thrilled to be in a group with white, African-American, and Asian kids. My love for diversity is not related to political correctness or cultural trendiness. It’s the heart of God! If you don’t like variety in this life, you’ll hate what follows!

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

They cried out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to
our God.”

People from every nation were claiming God as theirs.
People from every tribe were claiming God as theirs.
People from every language were claiming God as theirs.

And you thought Christianity was an American thing! Ha!
If you’ve never traveled abroad, I encourage you to make at least one trip. It will change your life. This past week I sent a note to last year’s Envision Dominican Republic team, encouraging them to reflect upon our week together in Santiago. It’s a week I thought of often while we were in Burundi.

is a small, landlocked country in central Africa about the size of Massachusetts. Although it is loaded with natural beauty, it is one of the poorest countries in the world as a result of many years of bloodshed and genocide. Many are familiar with the horrific conflicts in Rwanda between the Hutus and the Tutsis. The same tribes live in neighboring Burundi and have had numerous civil wars resulting in massive deaths and widespread devastation. Virtually every person in Burundi has experienced severe trauma.

In 1993, David N. was a pastor training eleven men to be pastors, a mixed group of Hutus and Tutsis. One day while David was teaching, troops ran out of the forest, ambushing the campus, lining his students up and killing them with their bayonets. David fled to a nearby garage where he hid in the oil change bay beneath a car for many hours, listening to the soldiers outside, praying his life might be spared. Miraculously, it was, but later he was involved in the burial of 25 bodies, including 8 of his 11 students.

Needless to say, David was filled with trauma and grief. “God, why is this? Where are you? Why did I not die with them? Is God even real?”

Later, David encountered the man who ordered the soldiers to kill his students. He didn’t plan to do it, but he went to the man and said, “I know you are the one. I want you to know I have forgiven you.” He then realized why his own life was spared: to promote forgiveness in the process of creating healing and peace.

God wastes nothing. He is a master at redemption. What the enemy intends for harm, God can use for good, and David’s horrible ordeal lead him to start THARS: Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services. They say,

The seeds of tomorrow’s wars grow in the soil of today’s unhealed traumas.
The seeds of tomorrow’s peace grow in the soil of today’s healing and reconciliation.

About a decade ago, our friends, Chris & Kim, started talking about Africa. Chris loves to travel, and Kim had been invited to participate in a THARS conference in Burundi, a training for counselors who have little education by our standards, yet deal with trauma every day, both personally and with their clients. A group of Christian counselors from the state of Delaware went to Burundi in 2011, returned in 2013, and had a planned trip cancelled in 2015 due to unrest in the country.

In 2017, David N. wanted to not only train counselors, but also offer a conference for pastors and a leadership training for young adults. He had requested a pastor and someone with experience in drama and working with children to join the regular team from Delaware, and Heather and I knew it was time to go to Africa!

Our trip two years ago was amazing, training young leaders and pastors. Most of you know about my souvenir from that trip—Malaria—yet when we were invited to return to Burundi this year, we both had a clear sense that God wanted us to return. We now know why!

Investing in the next generation.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

  • - Servant leadership

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

  • - Equipping pastors to equip others

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

  • - Make disciples

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

  • - Sustainability and reproduction

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

So What?

  • - Thank you for the prayers (health, fruit)
  • - Please pray for Burundi, its pastors, its youth, its government (election in 2020)
  • - Ask God to show you how you are to be making disciples
You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.