5 ways working at NCM has been better than I could of imagined.

JB teachingOkay let me admit I started out with high expectations of NCM, which stands for New Creation Ministries, the organization I work for as a teacher before coming to Rwanda.  I mean I wasn’t going to move half away across the world, with my young family to a developing country without being apart of something doing a challenging and significant work for the Lord.

But sadly, often when you move closer to the heart of any or organization like a school. church or business, you find that the closer you get to the center of it the less it lives up to the hype.  Sometimes you can even become disillusioned by it.  However I can say the more I get involved and work at NCM I find that truly the reality is greater than what it seems to be. Here are 5 ways working at NCM has been better than I could have imagined.

  1. Students aren’t just taught they are pastored.

At NCM we have the opportunity to lead a majority of the students who come to us to the Lord.  How in the world can it be that normally two out of three pastors testify to being converted at school!? Well its the reason NCM exists! To talk about the history, context and needs of the Church in Rwanda would take away longer that I can write in this post. Let’s just say you are a lot better pastor when you know for yourself what your preaching, knowing personally the love of God in Jesus is a huge step. But so many of these guys have not been pastored. I remember vividly sitting next to someone who asked ‘How can an orphan know how to raise a family, how can we shepherd others when we ourselves have never been shepherded?’ I am stoked to be apart of a school that not only teaches good content, but prayers with students, visits students in their homes, walks with them for four years, with a responsibility for them, not only for coursework as teachers, but for their souls as pastors, and often the first real pastor they have ever experienced.

  1. Students aren’t just graded they are followed up with.

Yes we give grades, and see broadening their horizons and stretching them academically ascritical, but more than that we follow-up with our students. Yesterday we sat in the office with three students we visited in the village just a couple of weeks ago. We talked with them individually how they are doing training up their deacons, and elders, we talk to them about how it seems their children and wives understand the gospel and the basics of what it means to follow Jesus. We don’t just teach them principles about how to start a children’s ministry, a ministry for widows, or a small group based in various communities, we go and see what they are doing and show them what they are doing right in their own lives, with their family and in their churches and what they still need to work on. Man, do they have a long way to go so often, but even though they may not reach all our goals for them while they are with us, even if they hit half of them they have revolutionized their family, their farms, and the churches for the Glory of God in their villages.

  1. Students aren’t just counseled they are mentored.

It’s typical for a school to give career advice, and to occasional counsel students when they get stuck. But at NCM we have the opportunity to come alongside these guys in a special way. In times of prayer every morning and on special days of fasting and prayer every term we model how to pray and live out of God’s word, which itself is a massive part of what it means to follow Christ. We also sit with the students in small groups and one on one, and work out with them what to do for example when visiting preachers come and try to destroy all they have built with lies, and scams to take people’s money, how to build up leaders when all the available leaders in their churches can’t read or write, and on and on. We are looking to strengthen and extend this ministry through launching a small magazine full of practical biblical wisdom written by our teachers, to further equip students and the many folks who have already graduated who have been hungry to continue to be mentored by NCM in their lives and ministries

  1. We work not just for the success of our students in their coursework, but for success in their everyday life and that of their wives, children, churches and communities.

For example an agriculture program (with demonstration gardens, pigs, rabbits and chickens, etc..) designed to help pastors be blessed by biblical principles, so that they learn to be good stewards and not just feel like victims of fate, so that they learn how to make the most of all that God has given them as Pastors who are also subsistence farmers. Not so they can just increase in wealth but also to increase in generosity. Every year we bring the wives, and teach them, and at the end of the program the women and the men study together. Through this process many difficult things come to light, like abuse and infidelity. But Jesus came not for the healthy but for the sick, and if he can heal these marriages, there is hope for all in the villages the pastors represent. We fight to help our students understand the importance God gives to the least in society, like children and the disabled, and see God raising up a completely counter cultural mindset in our Pastors who rearrange their churches to serve as the body of Christ.

  1. We aren’t just a school, but a catalyst for a Gospel movement.

Since NCM has been ministering in Rwanda since 1992, there is 24 years of momentum behind its ministries. Now we see students who come from churches connected to former Alumni. We have seen students band together and pray for each other, support each other and preach in each others churches to strengthen their unity in the Gospel. We have seen students willing to lose their livelihoods as pastors as they stood with integrity about what the Gospel is and stood up to corruption they face in their churches. What we are seeing God do, is bring a small but significant movement of the Gospel through Rwanda through NCM that has impacted the lives of thousands. It is a beautiful thing. Sometimes on visits to pastors you can stand on one hill, and point to hills near and far, where you know NCM trained pastors live and serve, from dozens and dozens of different denominations. Behind each of those students are stories of lives transformed, of husbands reformed, of wives whose eyes have been opened to their value on Christ, of children coming to Christ, of hundreds leaders being trained by our students, all within a region you can see with your own eyes standing on the top of one of the many beautiful hills of Rwanda.

These are just five distinctives I could keep the list going, like how all our teaching is funneled through the context of needs our students have and in the language they understand, like how our team of Rwandan and Expat staff enriches the whole ministry each person bringing such unique gives to the table. I could describe how incredibly unique and blessed it is to work in a ministry where staff meetings are also run in kinyarwanda, which means us newer foreigners need to rightly learn from both our wise Rwandan teachers and those who have put in many years in Rwanda, because we can’t just drop our fresh ideas down without filtering them through wisdom, experience and ability to articulate them in a language that is still new to us! What a blessing!

However, here I will stop and I will ask you to pray for NCM. Pray for our Pastor Training School and the 50+ pastors currently being trained and the hundreds that have passed through our school over the years. I also ask you to pray for CLIR, the new degree level program we are launching at the start of next year. Pray God would bring a great class to start and that all that this new program would be another tool to continue to catalyze movement for Jesus in Rwanda.

The ghost of future me…

If I could give advice to myself just before we came on our first term of service to Rwanda, here is what I would say!

 

Future1.  PACK LESS, this is a touchy subject sure to divide expat workers in developing nations.  I don’t have a hatred for things that make life more simple (where that is possible, because often more things complicates life!), and allow us to focus more on our work.   Nor do I simply enjoy punishing myself for no apparent reason.  Nevertheless, I still would encourage younger me, bring less stuff.  One, you can figure out how to live on whats locally available and two, hauling a load of stuff is going to stress you out, and do nothing to help you connect with people.

2.  PRAY MORE, you can’t do this on your own, don’t try.  Assume from the onset, that all your systems of spiritual, and emotional support that you enjoyed in your home country are going to be turn upside down.  You are going to need new habits, new routines, and a new commitment to pray and find yourself refreshed and renewed in the Lord.  You have an amazing opportunity to lean on the Lord like never before.

3.  PRACTICE YOUR LANGUAGE, don’t hold back!  Get your flash cards, and bang those first thousand words as soon as you can into your head.  Miss no opportunity to chat with native speakers of the language, every day, as much as possible.  The quicker you learn, the better life will get on every level in a new country.  Make sure you break down your learning to manageable goals, you have each week, that build up to bigger ends.  You can learn to share your faith, and explain the gospel in your new language within 6 months.

4.  PURSUE YOUR FAMILY, outside of pursing Christ, which is the only source of hope, and power to do the rest, if you come with your family, pursue your family!  I thank God so much how this first term has forced me to learn all kinds of new ways to love and pursue my family.  There is a new sense of loyalty that you need to appreciate as a missionary family, churches will change, fields change, extended family are there to support, but can’t be there for every moment of life, and friends come and go.  But your immediate family is given by God, and will outlast just about every other relationship.  Make it as rich as possible.

 

Who is the friend of sinners?

I was asked to write an article in our mission’s magazine.  Click on the image below to check out a digital version, the article starts on page 14.  I write about the lessons we take with us from 9 years in the inner city, in serving the beautiful yet broken land of Rwanda.

friend of sinners

Bless pastors with Kinyarwanda Study Bibles

bibleWe are raising money for Kinyarwanda Study bibles for Pastors in Rwanda.  Imagine if your pastor had no guide or help to read God’s word.  Imagine if he had no library whatsoever.  These bibles will go to pastors who have no other resources to understand His word.  I will train them in the local language in how to read the word of God in general, and how to make the most of this incredible resource.  It is a translation of the NIV study bible notes.  The notes and the text are in kinyarwanda.  You can help one pastor have this amazing resource for $25.  Our goal is 30 bibles so I can do a seminar before we leave for home assignment.  Let’s see if we can do this in the next month!   To give to this project online click here.  You can also send a check written out to AIM International, Peach Tree City, Ga 30269, PO Box 3611, write on a separate paper, not on the check “Joe & Kristy Marlin – Kinyarwanda Study Bibles”.

 

5 ways to bless us on Home Assignment in America.

Why wo9937_10201640757516977_1825705826_n (1)uld I write such a self-serving post?  Well first of all, of course I do want make the most of our time home, and if a few folks read this and it paves the way for a bit more mutual understanding, then there is nothing wrong with that.  But I also hope this would in general helpful to others who interact with brothers and sisters re-entering the States from a term of services to the Lord overseas.  I’m sure what I write here doesn’t apply to us only!

*To see our schedule for Home Assignment in America from October till the end of January click here.

5.   Have patience with us, we probably can’t carry conversations on through pop culture references.  I remember having many people look at me sideways when I came home after a year in 2002 and had no idea what American Idol was all about.  Living the past two years  and working with a very international team, in Rwanda has only confirmed my suspicion that Americans feel really comfortable when they can keep a conversation going in continual references to pop culture.

4. Let’s share our stories!  Life surely has gone on for our friends in America, and though many folks back home have heard the highlights of our life through prayer letters and updates, we have missed two years in the lives of so many people that were really precious to us.  Bear with us, we missed marriages, new babies, and all kinds of milestones and hardships in peoples lives.  Let us catch up, we don’t just want to give our ministry update and move on, we want to reconnect with people we care about.

3. Invite us out / or stop by.  Seriously the first term for us has been difficult.  Always pursuing relationships, always hosting parties, almost never receiving in any way in return, and add on top of that all kinds of cultural and language barriers that we’ve had to navigate.  Will we be ‘crazy busy’ when we are home?  Yeah we will, and its not easy with three small bambinos, but we would be blessed to be given the opportunity to try!

They'll need help to learn about the newest gameboy, but they can fill in their friends on tormenting live in house workers with dead lizards!

They’ll need help to learn about the newest gameboy, but they can fill in their friends on tormenting live in house workers with dead lizards!

2. Don’t forget those bambinos.  We are really praying that our kids can have the wonderful revelation that they can love America and Rwanda.  For kids transitions can be tough.  For our littlest, in just two years she’s lived most of her life in Rwanda!  Please pray for them, have grace with them, and if you’ve got kids that were friends to our little gang, let’s see how we can get together.

1. Join our team!   God’s plan for funding this ministry is %100 churches and individuals giving in faith.  We miss home, we love home and we look forward to returning!   But we know God has us here in Rwanda for now.   We simply will not be able to return to the work God has for us unless he provides our support through people like you.  We are going to need something like 25 people to join our team.  Our average supporter gives each month $60 but we will need those who give far more and far less than that.    Check our the ‘give‘ page to find out how to join our team.

 

 

And for a bonus :) We need access to some wheels!  (As of 7/14)  We are praying for a car we could use that might just be sitting in someones driveway, something we would keep up, and pay insurance for from October till the end of January, let us know if you have any leads!  Email me by clicking here.