Giving Glory to Giants / Å gi ære til kjemper

In Uganda, educating children is like a pyramid. When a Ugandan little one starts school at age six, he or she has 6 million classmates. By the time she’s in high school, that number drops to 800,000. When she goes to university, she’s looking at a mere 8,000-10,000 of her peers having joined her.

    Our friend Jonathan explains this to me as we roll past baby goats and motorbikes, thick farmland everywhere we look: cassava leaves, pineapple and jackfruit in abundance. Brick makers are going about their day, leaving mounds of fired bricks like little monuments on the roadside. The concept of locally sourced is almost laughable here, since the papaya I had for breakfast yesterday came from outside our window and Jonathan just bought pineapple off of some guy’s bike as we head towards the church.

    As I write this, my friend Renske is teaching on the book and life of Joshua. We, as a group, just told the story of Joshua and Caleb and the band of spies, sent to survey the promise land in Numbers 13. My friend Kristin is arm in arm with her Ugandan Joshua to one side of the stage, and I am on the other with my band of ten Ugandan spies.

    I can’t help but feel like it isn’t the first time I’ve played this role before. God, please help my unbelief.

    We talked about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, our next destination, over breakfast this morning, and I asked the question that had been nagging me this whole time: how can you look at a place like the DRC, in all of it’s richness and complexity and issues, and believe that a simple gospel like the one we have could make anything other than a marginal difference? Seeing the Bible as a way of changing nations just didn’t feel like enough, fast enough. It was the question I had been asking for months now.

     I had read all the books I could find on the DRC: it’s history and culture, it’s people and it’s issues, and the solution I held in my hands felt vastly too small.

    Like Caleb and Joshua in Numbers 13, I want to believe the God I can’t see over the giants in front of me, giant like most children will never step foot in school beyond eighth grade. Giants like the damage Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army left in their wake after 22 years in Uganda and Sudan, priceless, precious lives stolen. Boko Haram in Nigeria stole 600-something girls while they slept, for the simple act of pursuing their education. Remember #bringbackourgirls? Sixty of those girls were recently released. If that’s not a giant, I’ll pack up and go home.

     Because God, there are giants in the land. God, make us a generation of Caleb’s. Does our enemy believe in the word of God more than I do? The damage he’s doing on countless souls leads me to believe that might be closer to the truth.

    People like our friend Jonathan are dragging in grapes the size of our heads while we stand there in awe of giants.

     While I read countless books, news stories, and UN reports, Jonathan has eighteen children, some orphans, some not, but so fully loved.. And a school, giving 150-plus children an education, health care, and sometimes even a place to live. And a store, filled with handmade items, employing women to sustain themselves and their families. Jonathan, moved by the word of God, unintimidated by the surrounding giants.

    As Jonathan tells me his story, he tells me of being moved as a young adult by just two little girls. Those little girls are now grown adults, and sixteen more fill his kitchen on the muggy Saturday we go to have lunch at his house,we lounge on couches and chairs, back porches and concrete floors. We talk about school, and laugh at our ridiculous dance moves. He tells me that the reason the school was started was because he couldn’t fit them all into his house. They’re all my children, he tells me. After seeing both his home and the school, called Covenant Community, I believe it.

    Are we giving glory to God? Or giants? Because there’s only one who deserves it. Are we looking into the face of the God who is more than capable of building and restoring nations, and making excuses?

    I sat at breakfast with a lump in my throat, and my processing in overdrive. I’m thinking about my sister Haylee. She loves school, she’s a question asker and an avid learner. I hope and I pray, and I truly believe she’ll never live in a world where her education isn’t a given. Where what happens to countless children across the world will happen to her.

   I sit here in this Ugandan church asking God to teach me a different story. Father, lift my eyes from giants ten times my size, to who you are, creator of the world, greater than even my imagination. Help me to carry the weight of both hope and honesty, knowing that things will not always be easy, but that joy and justice are worth the fight.

    Father, help me to believe you more. Even the demons believe and tremble. I want to believe you and see mountains move. I want to believe you and see the giants fall.

 


I Uganda er utdannelse av barn som en pyramide. Når et barn i Uganda begynner på skolen i en alder av seks år, har han eller hun 6 millioner klassekamerater. Når hun er kommet  til videregående skole, faller dette tallet til 800.000. Når hun går på universitetet, er det ikke mer enn 8 000-10 000 jevnaldrende som har sluttet seg til henne.

    Vår venn Jonathan forklarte dette til meg da vi kjørte forbi baby geiter, motorsykler,  og rikt jordbruksland overalt hvor vi ser: kassava blad, ananas og jackfrukter i overflod. Arbeidere som er i gang med å lage murstein etterlater seg høyder av mursteinsrester som små monumenter langs veikanten. Begrepet “kortreist” er nesten latterlig her, siden papaya’en jeg hadde til frokost i går kom fra utenfor vinduet vårt og Jonathan nettopp kjøpte ananas av en syklende mann på vei til kirken.

    Når jeg skriver dette, underviser min venn Renske Josva’s bok og hans liv. Vi, som en gruppe, fortalte nettopp historien om Josva, Kaleb og spionene som var sendt ut for å speide løfteslandet i 4. mosebok 13. Min venn Kristin er arm i arm med sin ugandiske Joshua på den ene siden av scenen, og jeg er på den andre siden med min gjeng på ti ugandiske spioner.

    Jeg kan ikke hjelpe for å føle at det ikke er første gang jeg har spilt denne rollen. Gud, vær så snill å hjelpe min vantro.

    Vi snakket om den Demokratiske Republikken Kongo, vår neste destinasjon, over frokost i morges, og jeg spurte spørsmålet som hadde plaget meg hele tiden: hvordan kan du se på et sted som DRC, i all sin rikdom, kompleksitet og problemer, og tro at et enkelt evangelium som det vi har kan gjøre alt annet enn en liten forskjell? Å se Bibelen som en måte å forandre nasjoner på, føltes bare ikke som nok, raskt nok. Det var spørsmålet jeg hadde hatt i måneder nå.

     Jeg hadde lest alle bøkene jeg kunne finne på DRC: Landets historie og kultur,  folk og problemer, og løsningen jeg nå holdt i hendene, føltes bare for liten.

    Som Kaleb og Josva i 4. mosebok 13, vil jeg tro på en Gud jeg ikke kan se fremfor kjempene foran meg. Kjemper som at de fleste barn aldri vil sette sin fot på skolen utover åttende klasse. Kjemper som skandalen med Joseph Kony og the Lord’s Resistance Army etterlot seg etter 22 år i Uganda og Sudan, uvurderlige dyrebare liv stjålet. Boko Haram i Nigeria stjal rundt 600 jenter mens de sov av den enkle grunnen at de forsøkte å fullføre sin utdannelse. Husker du #bringbackourgirls? 60 av de jentene ble nylig sluppet fri. Hvis det ikke er en kjempe, kan jeg bare pakke sammen og reise hjem.

     Du ser  Gud, det er kjemper i landet. Gud, gjør oss til en generasjon som Kalebs. Tror vår fiende på Guds ord mer enn jeg gjør? Skaden han gjør på utallige sjeler fører meg til å tro at det kan være nærmere sannheten.

    Folk som vår venn Jonathan drar inn drueklaser på størrelse med hodene våre, mens vi står der i ærefrykt av kjemper.

     Mens jeg har lest utallige bøker, nyhetsoppslag og FN-rapporter, har Jonathan atten barn, noen foreldreløse, noen ikke, men like høyt elsket…. Og en skole som gir 150 pluss barn en utdanning, helsevesen og noen  til og med et sted å bo. Han har også en butikk, fylt med håndlagde gjenstander, som gir kvinner mulighet til å forsørge seg selv og deres familier. Jonathan gikk på Guds ord, uberørt av kjempene og omstendighetene.

    Jonathan forteller meg historien sin, om hvordan han ble rørt som ung voksen av bare to småpiker. De små jentene er nå godt voksne, og seksten jenter til fyller kjøkkenet på denne grå lørdagen da vi går for å spise lunsj i huset hans. Vi sitter på sofaer og stoler, verandaer og betonggulv. Vi snakker om skolen, og ler av våre latterlige dansetrinn. Han forteller meg at grunnen til at skolen ble startet var at han ikke fikk plass til dem i huset sitt. De er alle mine barn, forteller han meg. Etter å ha sett både hjemmet hans og skolen, kalt Covenant Community, tror jeg det.

    Gir vi ære til Gud, eller til kjemper? For  det er bare en som fortjener det. Ser vi inn i Guds ansikt, som er mer enn i stand til å bygge og gjenopprette nasjoner, mens vi kommer med unnskyldninger?

    Jeg spiste frokost med en klump i halsen, mens tankene raste rundt i hodet. Jeg tenker på søsteren min Haylee. Hun elsker skolen. Hun spør stadig spørsmål, og er ivrig til å lære. Jeg håper og jeg ber, og jeg tror virkelig at hun aldri vil leve i en verden der utdanningen hennes ikke er en selvfølge. Hvor det som skjer med utallige barn over hele verden skal skje med henne.

   Jeg sitter her i denne ugandiske kirken og ber Gud om å lære meg en annen historie. Fader, løft øynene mine fra kjempene som er ti ganger min størrelse, til hvem du er, verdens skaperen, større enn til og med min fantasi. Hjelp meg til å bære vekten av både håp og ærlighet, å vite at ting ikke alltid vil være enkle, men at glede og rettferdighet er verdt kampen.

    Far, hjelp meg til å tro på deg mer. Selv demonene tror og skjelver. Jeg vil tro på deg og se fjell bli flyttet. Jeg vil tro på deg og se kjempene falle.

Changing Lives in Congo, One Clean Foot at a Time

anna hobbesNathan “Hobbes” and Anna Wagner are the school leaders for the Bible School of the Nations (BSN). This summer, they were outreach leaders for the BSN outreach to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they partnered with the BELT (Biblical Education and Leadership Training). Part of this program and their outreach included teaching biblical seminars to local pastors and community leaders. Anna and Hobbes describe some of their experiences and the impact the BSN outreach had on the people of Congo. 

After our plane ride to Uganda, a night spent sleeping on airport chairs, an 8-seater plane ride to the Congo and a 12-hour jeep ride down a very bumpy road, we finally arrived in Poko, a town in a far-off corner of the jungle in the Congo. Over 300 people surrounded the car to welcome us with singing and dancing. It was all a little overwhelming, but we also felt very honored. We’ve never seen a welcome like that before! The day after our arrival, we started the BELT seminar, which we taught together with three of the BSN students on our team.

It was a hot afternoon, and we were over 100 people in the church. The theme we were teaching about was forgiveness and reconciliation. After we finished the teaching, people began washing the feet of those they had forgiven or had asked forgiveness from. At first, we thought that people were getting out their handkerchiefs because it was so warm outside, but then we realized that many of them were crying as relationships were being healed: between tribes, generations and people of different positions. One lady was crying as she washed the feet of her husband who now lived with another woman. When she could have so easily chosen bitterness, she chose forgiveness. Seeing people changed in these ways makes it easy for us to travel to remote places and do what we do.

foot washing congo

Relationships were healed as many of the participants washed each others feet, asking for forgiveness and praying for one another. 

During our outreach, we also partnered with Kairos, an organization which is working to make an oral Bible available for local languages all over the world.  According to statistics, almost half the population of the Congo doesn’t know how to read. With over 200 known languages in the nation, many people don’t even have the Bible in their own language yet. That’s why it was so exciting for us to partner with Kairos to make this oral Bible, in the local language of Zande, during our time in Poko. Six Zande speakers recorded 70 stories and we edited them with the help of a local school teacher –all with the sounds of goats and chickens in the background.  The finished product was put onto solar powered audio players and distributed, to the joy of the Zande speakers.

We are so thankful for the passion that Anna, Hobbes, and the BSN have for bringing God’s Word to the nations. Please pray for the continued work that BSN and BELT teams are doing- that more people would be equipped, trained and transformed with the Word of God through these programs. You can read more about BSN here and BELT here.