Serving Incarnationally

Incarnational ministry” is a challenging term. I have to ask myself regularly whether I’m serving the Lord with “the same attitude as…Christ Jesus” described in Philippians 2:5-11, or just doing my job, following the Perspectives course.

The day before the Nugunu New Testament dedication in Ombessa, Cameroon on December 3, a young Gunu man, Vitus, was asking the same question about us, outsiders, when we showed up in his world for the dedication. He was just a boy during the time my family and I lived in Ombessa to launch the Bible translation program in their language. He didn’t know my history, so it was understandable that he looked skeptical and wondered what right we had to celebrate now that all the hard work was over. He approached Jaci, asked what brought us and didn’t seem satisfied with her answers.

The next day, all that changed. Vitus sought out Jaci at the reception after the dedication ceremonies were over. The skeptical sneer disappeared from his face and was replaced by a look of respect. He told her he now understood why we were there. What made the difference? Serving incarnationally. During the ceremonies, I had the opportunity to express my appreciation to the crowd for how they welcomed me and my family when we lived among them decades before. The young man heard me speaking his language, sharing what motivated me to be part of their community, to share their vision and to work alongside them to make God’s Word available. He saw evidence of the lasting relationships that were built and what a happy reunion it was for me and my Gunu friends. Despite great cultural differences, he saw I had made the effort to identify with his community, not just to get a job done.

Today, I don’t live among the language communities’ translation teams that I consult. Frequently, when I go to Africa, I work with the translators outside of areas where their language is spoken. Can I still serve incarnationally? And what about the months when I’m here in the U.S. helping African translators from the comfort of my desk? May God give all of us the wisdom and the humility as he sends us into our neighborhoods or more distant places, to go as learners and listeners, to recognize how God is at work in the people around us and to experience the power of his Spirit to connect with what he is doing.

Please join us to hear Keith and Jaci Patman speak at the Global Outreach Talk on Sunday, July 8 to celebrate a Bible translation milestone in the country of Cameroon bringing God’s Word to life in an African context.

Joy in the midst of grief

By Jean McAllister

Alexis Ruhumuriza, the dynamic young pastor of Belpres’  “new worshiping community” called New Hope Revival Church, lost his mother last week. After suffering a stroke, she was being transported in a litter carried on the shoulders of four men for an anticipated two-day journey to an airplane. She was to be flown out of the Congo to Rwanda for medical help. But she never reached the plane; her suffering was mercifully brief.

It is the cultural norm in Africa that when a death occurs, all family members, friends, and the entire community, come to the home of the bereaved person to bring comfort and practical help. When I arrived at Alexis’ home, several people were there, and many more came during my brief stay. Alexis himself greeted me with his customary cheerfulness, though a bit quieter than usual. But it was evident he was not overwhelmed by his grief. I asked him to help me understand how the culture of visiting contributed to his wellbeing and peace.

Alexis told me that from the moment his mom (called Sifa) died, the steady flow of visitors had not ceased, day and night. People came that first night simply to be by his side in vigil, to pray and be present with him. Visitors came with food and drink, as well as with the practical help of childcare and household chores, such as cooking meals for the family.  As the constant stream of friends continues, Alexis is helped by being able to share details about his mom—how she died, what he most remembered and loved about her—and in turn, they share their own stories of loss and grief. In doing so, they find their own pain easing. Sharing in this way is a mutual comfort, which builds up the community in faith and hope.

Following his mom’s passing, Alexis did not plan to preach on this Sunday—I was scheduled to do that—but he decided the Holy Spirit was telling him he had a powerful message to bring, springing from this true and joyful awareness of God’s presence and power in the midst of his grief. He told me he must be a role model for the congregation. They know him and what he is suffering, so they can be helped substantially in their own ongoing pain and grief still unresolved from their losses during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as they witness this servant of God proclaiming the power of faith in every trial.

I hope we can all be encouraged by this testimony of faith and hope from our new Belpres member.

If you would like to hear Alexis preach, you are welcome to worship with the New Hope Revival Church during their Sunday Service at 11am, UC-106.

Chris & Beverly Crowder, Serving with SIM in South Sudan

Last week we included a prayer in the bulletin for the Crowder family, who have been experiencing, with their mission community, the loss of a missionary child–the child of friends. Several folks asked for more information about the Crowders. Pastor Rich Leatherberry met Chris and Bev when he was in then Sudan, now South Sudan, with a team back in November 2006. BelPres Global Outreach has followed the Crowders ever since. Chris is now the National Director for SIM in South Sudan, and Bev serves as Medical Director. Read their biography, below.

Chris Crowder felt an almost physical pull on his life at age six. He was baptized at age seven and raised in a Christian home. However, the turning point in his life came when life choices forced him to choose Christ as his own savior, NOT his family’s.

After finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering at Baylor University he became more involved in local church life and plunged headlong into the field of wireless telecom. Several years of career success ensued but with it came an emptiness and an intense loathing of the corporate world.

After a lot of prayer and searching, Chris started to take some steps of short-term trips and more adventurous kinds of Christian service. He was discipled by an older man, something that contributed hugely to his spiritual development.

In 1998, after a brief stint in Guatemala with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Chris was ready to pray “Lord, I’ll do this if you want me to, but please don’t send me out alone.” About that same time, God began to call Beverly.

Having committed to mission service before they met, they began a search together and found a mutual passion and calling for Sudanese people, especially the Lost Boys of Sudan living in Nashville, TN.

SIM was a logical choice because of Bev’s abilities as a Family Nurse Practitioner and Chris’ interest in evangelism, discipleship, Bible Translation and a myriad of other things.

They spent a wonderful first year seconded to Samaritan’s Purse,– Bev doing medical work and medical training; Chris doing evangelism, church training, and community development.

Little Thomas was born Nov 11, 2006 having spent his entire gestational life in various parts of Sudan. Chris began serving his first term as director for the two Sudans in July 2008. Jonathan was born in August. Then in February of 2010, Bethlehem Joy was born.

BelPres, let’s remember the Crowder family in our prayers, especially now as their mission community grieves the loss of a child.

Welcome Home Jean McAllister

Jean McAllister first experienced God’s call to be a missionary while she was on an Impact Team Mission Trip in Rwanda in 2004.  She heard God say to her, “You could live here.”

After returning to the U.S., Jean prayed a lot, read Scripture and consulted with friends, family, and pastors here at BelPres.  Through this process, Jean felt strong confirmation that God was inviting heJean & Alexisr to move to Rwanda.  Jean remembers the chorus from one song being particularly meaningful; “Here I am Lord; is it I Lord?  I have heard you calling in the night.  I will go Lord; if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.” This is what Jean has done since she moved to Rwanda in 2005.

Initially, Jean went to work with Naomi Club (a ministry to help Prostitutes start a new life and get off the streets) and AEE.  Jean hired a language tutor and at the bright, young age of 70, Jean began learning a brand new language called Kinyarwanda.

Jean soon became an advocate for kids living on the street, ages 8-18 years old, who were going to schools called “Catch Up” schools.  The purpose of these schools was to catch kids living with homelessness up on all the education they missed and prepare then for secondary school.  Jean also began personally sponsoring some older students so they could go to college and she helped other young people find sponsors here in the U.S.  As Jean’s mastery of the language increased, she began accepting invitations to teach and to preach in local churches.

One of Jean’s great accomplishments was to develop a network of small local Rwandan ministries with a primary focus on children living on the street, prostitutes and poverty.  Through constant encouragement, casting vision around the benefits of working together rather than separately, faithful perseverance and provision of resources, Jean sustained and matured the network until she was able to hand her leadership over to Rwandan believers.

Jesus has used Jean to change many lives both in Rwanda and here in the U.S.. Catch Up Schools has been able to purchase land and provide teacher salaries; young adults have graduated from college; many Rwandans have been mentored and their needs cared for; individuals and teams from the U.S. have been graciously hosted; a network of ministries to the most poor and vulnerable has been sustained and new initiatives developed; a water project was completed and dedicated in the name of someone from Belpres; and the list goes on and on and on.

Jean’s life is a testimony to the amazing ways Jesus works when we say, “Yes!” to His calling.

Jean’s ministry in Rwanda has come to a close and Jean moved back here to the U.S. earlier this week. We are so thankful for Jean, for the fruit of her ministry in Rwanda, and for the ways she has partnered with Jesus in bringing His Kingdom to earth. Well done, good and faithful servant! Let’s welcome Jean back to Bellevue. Greet her when you see her, but more than that, be ready to abide with her as she grieves her life in Rwanda, and as she finds her way among us now. The transition from mission life to country-of-origin life is a challenging one, and Jean will need our congregation to love, to listen, and just to walk with her through it.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.”
Colossians 1:3-4.

An Update from Lynn Pelton in Sierra Leone

Lynn Pelton, our BelPres member currently serving as an Ebola nurse, has posted an update on the Greatest Goal Ministries blog. We invite you to read her updates and join us in praying for her safety and for the people of Sierra Leone.

You can find her update here: December 22: An update from Lynn in Sierra Leone

Disabled Children Get New Mattresses- Thanks to BelPres!

Highlighted Global Ministry: African Inland Church Childcare Center, Kenya

Children at the AIC Childcare Center in Kajiado, Kenya are anxiously awaiting the delivery of the new mattress which were purchased this year by the support of BelPres Global Outreach.  The center (a project of Lift Up Africa) serves children with physical disabilities who are treated with corrective surgeries and physical therapy. They are looking forward to the added comfort and good night’s rest, especially critical in for these children’s recovery.

AIC kids

It is located in a remote area in Kenya, where children with disabilities and their families face have many challenges to overcome. There is widespread poverty in the area, with many families struggling to make ends meet. Dealing with day to day tasks is trying enough, and the extra care these children need is too overwhelming for most to handle on their own. In addition, there is widespread stigma surrounding disabilities which prevents these children from getting the resources they need. AIC Childcare Center address the physical, educational, and spiritual needs of children with disabilities as well as works to educate parents and the community to reduce stigma.

So far this year, 98 children have benefited from corrective surgeries through the center. Physical needs are met for the children living at the center, and also through the home care our outreach program offers. The 57 students living at the center attend integrated schools in the community. We are so proud seeing the kids grow up and succeed; three students are enrolled in college and two are in vocational programs.  AIC Childcare Center does all of this as an extension of the love of Christ. The students are encouraged to be active in the community church, and many show off their musical talents in the church choir.  By connecting these services to Christ’s love and healing, students and their families gain spiritual as well as physical strength.

For more information on the AIC Childcare Center, click here.