April 24, 2005

Hotel California Rwanda

Last week I was privileged to jaunt off to California for a week long conference on the Purpose Driven Church…..the offspring of the Purpose Driven Life book and philosophy. My two faithful readers may have noticed the lack of posts for the week. =) The conference was at Saddleback Church which is a huge, growing church in Lake Forest, California. Everything was inspiring and well done….I have never been to a more professional, well equipped conference. And I am not a conference person. It drives me crazy to sit and listen for hours on end, no matter what the topic or who the speaker is. In fact, after the first day of general conference time, I opted to sit on the patio area, listening to speakers on the glass wall of the church. (through which we could gaze upon all the little conferees who were sadly stuck in rows, wondering if they could scoot out to use the restroom without too much distraction) I could move when I wanted to, put my feet up and watch all the patio people while hearing the inspirational speakers and music.

One of my favorite things to do is people-watch. I like to watch people relate to each other, I like to watch what they do when they think no one is watching, when they are bored or distracted, when they are trying to attract or detract attention and (this week) when they are listening in a church (or conference) setting. I even read a blog that someone writes about the conversations he overhears in the various coffee shops or restaurants he goes to throughout the week….eavesdropping or creative curiosity??? I saw 3500 people from over 47 different countries and about every Christian denomination worshipping, listening, agreeing, wondering, meeting each other….trying to talk to each other. That was interesting, trying to talk with people from another language group and sharing the space around the lunch tables each day. People sat in all kinds of places to eat their lunch, which was a box lunch provided by the conference each day. They sat on the beautiful green grassy areas, on benches under trees, and on large round table under awnings. One day I ate lunch somewhere between Brasil and Rwanda! Our new Brasilian friends were a pastor’s family, husband, wife and adult son. (who translated for us) He talked about coming to America to start a Brasilian church in Florida. Can you imagine leaving the country you live in to minister to people in a totally new country who are from your original country? …..interesting….

Our new Rwandan friend made the biggest impression on me of the whole week. We introduced ourselves and it’s hard to chit chat with someone from Rwanda. I haven’t seen Hotel Rwanda, but I plan to when it is out on video. Knowing it is one of those emotionally devastating movies, I waited until I could watch it in the privacy of my own home, just in case heavy crying jags resulted in the viewing. But I have heard of the genocide, how the death total was near or possibly surpassed the Jewish holocaust in Germany. How can you chit chat with someone who has come through something like a holocaust? So I asked him how we could pray for his church, for people in that country. And he began telling me, very eloquently with his lovely accent about the needs. I was soon rustling through my purse to grab my notebook and write down what he was telling me. The main things were that there are a lot of pastors in his area who have not been trained in studying the Bible or in basic Bible teaching. They have a newly established seminary to train their indigenous pastors, but need scholarships, books and supplies to keep the school running. Also Rwanda is one of the African countries ravaged by HIV/AIDS. They need training in lifestyle and morality to avoid spreading the disease and also care for orphans left in the wake. HIV in Africa is most commonly spread because the men of the country are used to having mistresses. The third thing he wanted us to pray about is the hatred in his country….there is still a lot of hatred between races there, resulting in genocide and war. His country is full of strife, full of disease and ignorance about the disease, and it is full of people who want to be effective ministers, but need to be properly trained and prepared. During the general conference, Rick Warren was telling how the government of Rwanda voted to implement the Purpose Driven Life ideas into not only their churches but the government! They are becoming the first Purpose Driven country!! So Saddleback church brought a lot of the pastors from Rwanda to California for a week to learn more about the principles of PD Life.

Please, please pray for Rwanda and especially for these pastors who are serving their people and Christ there.

Something really hit me while I looked around and watched us all intermingle. These people from most other countries in the world are so humble, so grateful and so strong in their faith. The comparison would be the Americans I observed who love the Lord and want to serve Him, but we are so prideful, so demanding and need our constant entertainment to add to our faith. (myself included) I needed a reality check and I got it. We should be so grateful for our freedom, protection and opportunity to share our faith and spread God’s Word…..we have the resources to be so generous, yet we are so self-centered.

I have no excuse…I need to be more like Christ…what would He do if He came to live in America today….I wonder…

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