I tried not to have many expectations for the Rwanda trip, but as soon as I got there I realized I did have expectations, and they were honestly pretty low. For a couple years now, I’ve really wrestled with the purpose and effectiveness of short-term mission trips. I’ve seen some short-term trips do more damage than good, or drop “gospel-bombs” with no plan of long-term discipleship. Its left me very confused as to what is the best way to get involved in missions worldwide. But this trip restored my faith in short-term work, within the right context. A couple things on this trip that I think really made it purposeful were partnering with local churches in their own communities, and partnering with Crimson Academy to reach the homes around it.
We had three teams. One worked at Crimson Academy (a primary school), and then the other two partnered with local churches in going door-to-door in their communities. The teams changed everyday so that everyone got to experience different things. I loved every minute of the trip, but I especially loved getting to know the kids at Crimson Academy. Going door-to-door also allowed us to share the gospel with so many as well as meet some incredible believers. I loved simply being able to walk or hike through the hillside. Rwanda is beautiful. Kigali is nothing but mountains and valleys. An absolutely beautiful place. I couldn’t stop taking pictures, but of course, no matter how many I took they couldn’t capture what I saw. For two weeks, I literally got to live Isaiah 52:7:
How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
After living and ministering in American culture for so long, it shocked me to suddenly be in a culture where so many people are so open to the gospel, and so freely give their lives to Christ. In Rwanda, you can simply walk down the road and preach the gospel, and people will be open to listen and receive the truth you proclaim. God has really shed His mercy on Rwanda. There are a few things that I think have contributed to this “soft-heartedness” (yep just made up that word) to the gospel, but one of them is definitely the past.
The genocide forever changed Rwanda. Hearing different personal stories from the genocide was very sobering, but at the same time very enlightening. Stories like those remind you of what is truly important in life. It makes you remember that the same potential for evil lives inside each one of us, and Jesus tells us that even when we hate our brother we’ve committed murder in our hearts. But with such a blatant outward display of depravity, it has caused the people of Rwanda to seek forgiveness and healing. We all need forgiveness and healing. The difference between Rwanda and America is that Rwandans know they need it. Americans, in our wealth and prosperity, are deceived into believing that we are in need of nothing. Even as believers, we become complacent and satisfied in our relationship with God instead of going deeper, and pressing in for more. So many people in America can’t see their need for a Savior. They are blinded to their rebellion. While America may be materially rich, so often it is actually trauma, suffering, and poverty that bring spiritual blessing. We naturally have prideful, rebellious hearts and we need God in His mercy to open our eyes and break us over our sin.
While I was in Rwanda I kept reading through Galatians, not really heavily studying it but keeping it rolling around in my mind. But what I really looked at more in depth was Isaiah 50-60. These chapters are some of my favorites, and so much of them directly applied to our everyday tasks, but what really captured my attention was Isaiah 54 and 55. Isaiah 55:1 says
“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.”
Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. Come, buy, at no cost. It is the Lord calling everyone who thirsts for Living Water to freely come, to freely receive. A free invitation. Through Christ, this invitation has been extended to all peoples of every nation, to come, eat and drink at the table of the Lord. It reminded me of the scene at Aslan’s table in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when the star tells Eustace that the food is “eaten, and renewed, everyday”. There is always more room at the table, and the food never runs out. Anyone who believes in Christ, anyone who trusts in the promise to Abraham, can be saved.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. – Galatians 3:26-29
Now in the new covenant, we make spiritual sons and daughters when we share the gospel and disciple others. Anyone can be welcomed in the family of Abraham.
“Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman,” says the LORD. Isaiah 54:1
This is a truth I’ve known, but I think leaving the country made me physically face it. It was so beautiful not only to worship with believers from a different nation, but to proclaim the good news. Jesus made salvation possible for the whole world. No matter where we come from or what language we speak, in Christ there is a unity that transcends time and culture. We are part of a family that is about more than flesh and blood.
But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, “REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.” And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. – Galatians 4:23-28
As children of promise we need to proclaim this good news for the whole world to hear, because its a free invitation. We need to stand on the hilltops and proclaim the goodness of our Lord. The gospel is too good not to share. God has made a way for us to be truly satisfied, truly delighted in Him, the source of all satisfaction and delight. He is worthy of our affections, and He is worthy of the world’s affections. So run, leap, bound across the mountains, and tell this good news.