I had a very vivid real dream last night. I can’t remember the last time I have had any kind of dream, especially one like this that seemed so real. I woke up with a start thinking that I was getting bit hard by some kind of bug. I looked down next to me where I thought I was getting the bite and I saw a big spider the size of my hand that was bright yellow with big fang like teeth. When I went to kill him he ran off into the sheets. I reached over and grabbed my phone to use as a light and began frantically tearing my bed apart looking for this vicious bug. It was about then that I realized that this wasn’t real and sheepishly looked over at Brad’s bed to see if he was watching the show I was putting on. He was sound asleep and in the morning said he didn’t hear anything. I have heard that the medicine I am taking to prevent Malaria can cause dreams, and boy, did it. I am kind of looking forward to tonight to see what kind of adventure I have while sleeping. We had another great day at Grace Bible Institute teaching the Pastors. Today we talked about barriers to church growth. Things about our churches that discourage unbelievers and unchurched people from coming and attending our churches. We talked about legalism and how churches often make a long list of rules that define holiness. The pastors said that it was especially bad in Africa. After we kicked it around for awhile with a number of them getting very heated and emotional, I shared that we needed to keep the rules to a minimum and only what was very clearly spelled out in the Bible with no stretching to include our favorite prohibition. And even with the short list we needed to remember that people become part of God’s family by faith, not good works or the absence of bad things, and that the pursuit of a godly lifestyle happens after we are born again, not before. They are an incredibly teachable group of guys who love Jesus and want to be good Pastors.
As I taught the pastors today they would periodically interject a condition in Africa that they thought prevented them from doing as pastors what I was teaching them to do. When they threw it out as a real problem they assumed that it wasn’t that way in America, therefore I had it easier than they did and they were justified in not growing as a church. In every instance Brad and I would say, yep, I know what you are saying, it is the exact same way in America, and then we would tell a similar story. One was, “here in Sierra Leone, if you say something they don’t like or if you don’t meet their needs like they think you should they leave!”, another one was, “people find so many things to do on Sunday and they don’t come to church much!”, and this one was a little unique for them, “I discipled and trained this guy to be a leader in our church and an Elder and then he announced to me that he was going to get a second wife” , in the U.S. they try and keep it a secret when they get another woman in their life. So we agreed together that people are the same all over the world, and getting people to love Jesus and follow him with all their heart was very hard work, but not impossible. It is rare to find people who have faith in Jesus and also a strong commitment to obey and follow Him, but that is the goal of our ministries. It has been a lot of fun teaching and interacting with them. They are very teachable and truly want to serve the Lord as they lead their churches.
Today was the day that I taught on goal setting to the pastors at our Bible Institute. It was incredibly rewarding to hear them share some of the goals they were making for their lives, ministries and churches. Conditions are so bad here it is very easy for the Pastors to become “small thinkers” in regards to the possibilities that they have in their churches. My personal goal in teaching them is that they would dream some big dreams and not be afraid or intimidated to go for their dreams. I was pretty sure a couple of them would come up with some reasonably aggressive growth goals, but I didn’t think they would be willing to share them for fear that the others would think they were crazy. But they all were amazingly bold and excited about doing something big for God. They just shared a little bit today, tomorrow the assignment of writing 12 goals is due and they are to read them in class. I can hardly wait to hear what they are going to share. Today they read their personal prayers of commitment that they are committed to praying every morning for the rest of their lives. It was so cool to hear them read commitments like, “I will love my wife like Jesus loves me”, “I will read my Bible everyday, everyday, everyday”, “I will pray for every person in my church every week”, “I will not get angry at anybody no matter what they do”, and on the list went. It was enough to get a non-emotional guy like me all choked up, and a bit misty eyed.
Monday through Friday is the day’s Grace Bible Institute has class for the pastors of the churches we have started. Today was the first day of class and it went very well. There is very little electricity in the country so we had a generator and ran wires and extension cords to laptops, projectors, fans and lights. It all worked super. We had class from 9 to noon and from 1 to 4 pm. Today I taught about leadership, how to earn the right to lead, and the goal of leadership in a local church. I also got started on goal setting and how goals give us the tools for becoming a visionary leader that people follow. It is fun to teach them because they are so hungry to learn, to grow personally, and have their churches grow. Pastor Brad Ils who pastors Turning Point in Turner, Oregon, one of our daughter churches, came on this trip with me and he is team teaching with me and it is making it so much easier on my voice, and he does a super good job teaching as well. I gave all the pastors some homework tonight to write a personal prayer of commitment to the Lord that they can pray each morning. They will read them in class tomorrow so that should be very moving for me. It is humbling to think about how things have worked out over the years, doors God has opened up, and here I am in Africa teaching Pastors how to successfully reach the lost, lead their churches and grow. It is a great blessing to be used by God.
one of the things I do at home is ride my exercise bike an hour every day. It is the most important thing I do to keep my Parkinson’s Disease at bay. I notice a marked loss of mobility when I miss even a day of riding. I didn’t know what I was going to do on this trip to Africa for two weeks. I considered bringing my “under the desk” exercise bike I have at my office but I was sure it weighed more than 50 lbs so I decided just to forget it and see what happens. Right after we arrived here in Sierra Leone we came to the Newton dam sight where we have a fenced in compound with a number of small apartments, and we are staying here with the team we have here overseeing the work. As we were chatting and getting to know each other I was asked about the recent bicycle trip and one question led to another which led to my expressing concern about no exercise bike to which they replied, “there is one here in the storage shed and no one uses it so several hauled it down to our front porch and I rode it this morning for 30 minutes. Because of the temperature and humidity there was a lake of sweat under me when I finished. I am so thankful for that exercise bike. I am feeling good and I am feeling confident that my health won’t keep me from coming back again.
I am always bragging on all of the trips over here that I never get sick because of my dairy farming background, and last night I got sick and was up all night running to the bathroom. I have what the Africans call “runny belly”. Pastor Ben came to pick Brad and I up this morning to visit some more schools and churches, and I opted to stay behind close to a real toilet. At noon the African fellow, Julius, who is overseeing the Bible Institute here that I will be teaching in, and whose apartment Brad and I are staying in stopped by with a group of 4 pastors who lead churches in the area of different denominations. He has a Bible study with them each Saturday and they were just finishing. In the course of greeting each other one asked a question that I answered which prompted another one which led into an hour long question and answer time that was very enjoyable for me in that they were all so hungry for wisdom and very teachable. We discovered that African pastors have the same problems that Amercan pastors do, they have a lot of pride and don’t want to be transparent for fear that someone might discover how weak they really are. Goal setting and accountability were new concepts but ones that they seemed to immediately be drawn to as they intuitively sensed the effectiveness to change and grow through this tool. My statement, “growing pastors have growing ministries” and “people may not know if we are growing, but God does, and He is the one who causes our ministries to grow or shrink”, really grabbed their attention, and caused some obvious conviction. I shared my goals with them and suggested that they each write 12 goals, 6 personal and 6 for their church and each Saturday when they get together they take a little time to report to each other, encourage each other and pray for each other to be good leaders. I think they are going to do it. I would write some more, but I have to run!
we slept in this morning until 9 am, which really wasn’t sleeping in because it was 2 am at home, but the sun was shining. We had pineapple and bananas along with fried eggs for breakfast. All the coffee in Sierra Leone is instant, which is really hard for a coffee connoisseur like me to take, but I didn’t complain, instant coffee is better than no coffee. I put two spoons of instant in instead of one and that helps a little bit. We drove around and visited schools today. Starting schools is probably the best thing we have done here. The kids have Bible lessons every day, memorize a bunch of Bible verses, and also learn a lot of Christian songs that they sing, as well as their regular education. When we show up they enjoy performing for us, singing songs, quoting Bible verses and quoting poems and other things they have composed. There is very little in the way of text books or writing material for the kids. Every class room has an old chalk board in the front and the teacher writes information on it and the kids recite it all together. They are all very well behaved even though they are crammed into class rooms like sardines sitting on wooden benches just inches apart. Probably one of the reason they are so good is that there is an adult patrolling the room carrying a little switch. Even though I have been here over 20 times the first day is still very emotional for me as I observe all of the poverty and the general difficulty of life. I have so much more in Jefferson in the way of possessions and comfort, it isn’t even close. I renewed my bow to be very appreciative of everything I have and grumble about nothing, not even instant coffee.