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.
We 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”.
Why would 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!
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.
5. Buy a map. Teach your kids about the world. Teach them about the different wonderful, noble, weird and heart-crushing ways people on this world live. Teach your kids God’s people can not allow there to be a single nation, tribe or people group under heaven that no one ever prayers over for salvation, just as there are no peoples, nor individual persons beyond the hope of salvation, in Jesus! Teach your children that Jesus opened heaven’s door to the whole world, when he was hung on a cross, died and rose again.
4. Teach them about People Groups. Help them to know (and make sure you know yourself) what the differences are between under discipled, under evangelized, unreached and unengaged people groups. Start praying for some group of people who have never heard the gospel, with no one planing to work with them and engage them with the gospel, till you need to do more than pray. Could you help fund a bible translation project? Could you advocate for a new mission work among them? Could you support a pioneering missionary among them? Perhaps, you could consider that God is actually calling you to them?
3. Read missionary biographies. Mix it up with modern biographies like the ‘Heavenly man’ about a Chinese brother who trailbazed house churches in China, and older biographies of people like Scotch-Irish Amy Carmichael who set up a home to save young girls given up to be prostitutes in the temples in India. Everyone should have the book From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya which gives a summary of missions history. Find a way to give your children modern, living, knowable heroes in the faith. Not safe, sanitized, heroes that do only superhuman things, that live only in our minds, but real, dangerous heroes. Dangerous because they have faults like all of us, and can fail in terrible ways, but also dangerous because they live in the real world. Because they are tearing down the strongholds of Satan. Dangerous because our children could follow their example. For example, we love to read Heartbeat Africa at night to our kids sometimes, which is our mission’s occasional magazine. The stories are of people we work with and know.
2. Remember those suffering for the Gospel. As Hebrews 13:3 commands, let us remember those in chains as if we ourselves where suffering with them. Are we not one body? Can one part of the body suffer and the rest of us not even know about it? We love to have our kids create cards and send them to those imprisoned for their faith around the world. You can find out how to do that at prisoneralert.com.
1. Love your neighbor. In the 1950’s the ever edgy A.W. Tozer made an at the time extremely edgy observation that you can’t love the African in the jungle and hate your black neighbor in the city. It is so much easier to have some vague, romantic and noble love for ‘mankind’ but Jesus called us to something vastly more specific and more messy, to love not mankind in general but those right next to us, indeed those who are geographically near, but perhaps culturally very far. If you look at the map of your immediate area I’m betting you’ll find loads of opportunities for this.
Who is your neighbor? Is it those at the methadone clinic, the prison, in the immigrant community, in a group home, a nursing home, or a community stricken by affluence and loneliness, who knows. Make sure you do. Go beyond knowing and go love, with your whole family. Let Jesus’s words haunt us, that those who greet and throw parties only for folks like us, who we are comfortable with, and who can help us, act like all the nations do, not like God’s people.
- You’ll get a week in the village, where it won’t be comfortable. You’ll walk several hours a day. Its very sunny and dusty now. You’ll have almost no privacy. You’ll eat some new food.
- You’ll have lots of time there in the village (I’ve worked it out with them to let you alone in the mornings) and throughout the month to pray for a couple hours a day, with readings to guide you.
- You’ll likely bond with a few young Rwandan guys as I am intentionally going to have your path cross with some of the same group of guys, who will be with you to help you in the village, in teaching the youth and showing you around town.
- You’ll begin to think through the heartache and history of genocide and tribalism.
- I’ll lead you through a crash course on language acquisition, a similar course is used by many organizations, all over the world. You’ll also do daily language walks while you are here, and progress further in a short time than you could of imagined.
- We’ll meet a couple times a week to process all that God might be saying to you.
- You’ll get to teach in a couple elementary schools, in English. These will be very no frills African style school, you could find in Sudan or Congo or anywhere.
- You will also ’lead’ a ‘life nights’ style afterschool program. Probably with a couple hundred kids. There will be plenty of helpers. You’ll share some part your testimony through translation several times.
- You’ll see the hands-on the work that a few of us missionaries do. You’ll be with me as I show videos in the village using the lithium battery supplies you are bringing, share seminars with youth and preach in churches in the local language.
- You’ll see the co-op Kristy works with, perhaps interview women there.
- You’ll see the facilities we have to teach pastors and interview them.
- You’ll spend time with Paul who will interview Celestine M. the head of Alarm, and you’ll spend time with him editing and talking about how he sets up shoots as he travels East Africa for ALARM.
- You’ll spend a few days with the Tyrrells, missionaries from Australia. See the farming demonstration they do, the participate with him in the English lessons he does, and see the church plant they have help start, near the volcanoes. They’ll also share with you all the challenges they have faced in that pioneering work.
- You’ll get a couple days out to a work camp, setting up for the youth camps coming up after you leave. Meet our former team leaders from Switzerland who pioneered the work in Rwanda twelve years ago.
- You’ll spend time in the NW of the country visiting schools, churches, a compassion international site, and interview people to make a brief film for the Evangelical Friends Church of Rwanda.
- You’ll also make a short video for us, that we can use on Home Assignment this October.
There is a prophecy, in Isaiah 42:3 and quoted in Matthew 12:20 to describe the ministry of Jesus as the savior who would ‘Not break a bruised reed, nor snuff out the smoldering wick.’ Meditating on this has been extremely helpful to me, there is an incredible book on the whole ministry of our Lord with us, as frail, broken sinners titled A Bruised Reed by the puritan pastor Richard Sibbes. When all we can see in someone is smoke and ashes, Jesus can see the small but genuine spark of spiritual life behind it, and He will blow on it in such a way as to not put it out. While others see simply someone who is damaged goods, beyond repair, our Lord is gentle with our souls and does not break us in the process of saving us. If there is any genuine faith and repentance no matter how imperceptible it is to us or others, or how weak it may be, our Lord will honor it, and will cause it to grow, and not in frustration take what little we have away from us.
As ministers, especially in a cross cultural setting we need to follow Jesus in this. We need to be careful of speaking in a way across languages and cultures that is informed, sensitive and full of compassion. This of course is a lifelong project! But how easy it is for words of correction to sound like words of condemnation, when speaking the same language let alone when speaking in another! Jesus was of course the master at bringing everything about us to light, but in a way that is full of mercy. Lord have mercy on us, so that we may not break the bruised reed, nor snuff out the smoldering flax!
Yet there is another prophecy, also from Isaiah, led as he was by the Spirit to describe the ministry of God’s annotated one to come some six hundred years later. In Isaiah 61:1 he describes the future ministry of Jesus as one anointed by the Spirit to ‘bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to prisoners.’ Jesus refuses to leave us in our mess and bondage, He came to do something about it! We must also follow our Lord in this.
Let me suggest that in our attempt to correct the sins of our fathers, that we have found a new way to be incomplete disciples of our Lord. In the past we know of those who came as colonialists, setting up their own little kingdoms among a vulnerable people, we know of those who never sought to understand the people they sacrificed so much to come and preach to, and only sought conformity and blind obedience to what they thought was best for those they came to minister to.
Perhaps now in not wanting to ‘break the bruised reed’ along with that we’ve allowed a diseased status quo to remain. We’ve got not the courage, nor the authority, nor the ability to speak into polygamy, rank child abuse, witchcraft, a kind of tribalism that invalidates the sufferings (and at times the humanity!) of others, a power-mad celebrity mentality among the clergy, a lax attitude toward infidelity, a lack of personal and family spiritual disciples, and on and on. Are all the troubles of the church and society to be dropped on the laps of cross-cultural works who have come to help out? Absolutely not! However can we just be silent?
I’ve been to several meetings of others who are seeking the best way to serve more often than not the general feeling seems to be that, we should by default hold our tongues. There is this insidious mentality among us at times, that we are simply on some kind of journey of self-discovery. That since all cultures are so different, our main purpose is to sit back and collect new experiences in the world, that we have everything to learn and nothing to share. We wouldn’t want to offend, we wouldn’t want to break the bruised reed, right? We’ve come to believe that somehow our presence alone is redemptive. What if its not?
This is a such a faux brand of humility, that in reality is simply a lack of conviction, except in oneself.
I pray that we could be servants of God who know how to not break the reed, but have the courage to break the bondage and status quo all around us that we see. That we would learn how to challenge, with out condemning.
When we had access to Netflix in the states, my wife and I enjoyed watching various reality series on surviving in the wilderness. I always found the various ways to start a fire fascinating. Especially when the characters on these shows had impossible odds, like in a freezing rain forest in Alaska, everything is cold and wet. Yet the skilled knew how to do CPR on the smallest spark, and create the life saving fire they needed to survive the night.
My prayer is that we would learn how to do spiritual spiritual CPR on those who feel their strength is almost gone! I pray we would know how to walk gently with others, win their trust, love them, and truly learn from them. I pray that we would not break the bruised reed, but also not be content to leave a diseased plant in the way of destruction, because we lack the conviction and the courage to do any more than just observe. That we would take the risk to replant, restore, establish a trellis so that the bruised reed can be healed, and thrive.