Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Friday, May 30, 2008

Jesus the CEO

CEO leadership and the church - it's one of my pet hates.

I was recently on the board of a relatively large Christian organisation where Jesus "Leadership secrets" were offered and discussed at each board meeting.

While the intent of the person offering the "secrets" was genuine and well intended, the "secrets" often left me a little hot under the collar at times.

Rick Meigs recently comment on this same topic on Blind Beggar. He writes:

Chris Blumhofer writes a needed corrective at Out of Ur on the trend to make Jesus the greatest CEO of all time.

Reading the Gospels for leadership principles like team building, vision casting, or ’seeing the potential in others’ makes a mockery of authorial intent and historical-cultural backgrounds. Such readings appear to take the Bible seriously, but they don’t do it justice; they simply create anachronistic interpretations.

People need to stop using the Bible to justify their church-as-business paradigm. Chris correctly observes that Jesus was not first-and-foremost a leader with a message for us, but rather a savior who loved the world enough to die for it. He was consumed with the idea of servanthood. If leaders want to follow Jesus example, they too should be servants.

Something more to think about.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

On the way home

We are in Bangkok at the moment. We had a 7 hour wait in Nairobi and 11 hours here. Only 5 hours to go til we board the plane for home.

Lyss and I are in an internet cafe at the moment. We just checked out of the "day rooms" at Bangkok airport where we had a few hours kip and relief from lugging (way too much) hand luggage around.

I'll finish updating Africa when I get back to Oz.

See you then!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ikawa Inziza (Good Coffee)

One of my favourite things about Rwanda (and Africa in general) is the coffee. It's usually served steaming hot in a large thermos. Milk isn't always readily available and so powered milk regularly takes its place, even so the taste is amazing.

I find myself having three cups with breakfast most mornings - don't tell my Dr!

We've also found a great cafe this time. It's an American Rwandan but has a very Western feel, with "real" coffee and it aint half bad. They use local Rwandan beans and serve Western style food, which is great when the matoki and maize starch start to get a bit mundane (watch the burgers - mine was rare on the inside tonight). For any interested travellers, it's called Bourbon Coffee and is located in the Union Trade Centre in downtown Kigali.

Ikawa inziza Rwanda!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Expat Aussies and Embassy staff at the Kigali Serena

We left La Palisse yesterday at around noon. We were expecting our lift at 9.00, but T.I.A!

The extra time was actually a blessing as we got to spend around an hour chatting with Native American activist ,theologian and gathering speaker Richard Twiss. Richard is of the Sioux/Lakota tribe and plays a role in preserving his culture. On the last night of the conference he sang a traditional song for us to the beat of a hand held drum. The song predated whitemans occupation of North America and spoke of the existence of a supreme being to whom prayers should be offered. His point was God was with the American Indian people long before white man.

He spoke of the attrocities the whites enacted against the native Americans. Of small pox infected blankets sent out to the tribes (biological warfare), of "battles" in which the US Army wantonly killed men, women and children in order to dominate and erradicate the Indian people.

There were many analogies to our own colonial treatment of the Australian Aboriginal people. A people who also had God with them long before the white man set foot on Australian soil.

I remember a story told to me by an old Walpiri elder at Willowra in the Tanami Desert - he said the creator God was known by his people and worshipped, but his name and true identity had been lost in the passing of time. His said he was thankful for the missionary who came and reintroduced his people to God.

We chatted with Richard about his church in Seatle and about the ways in which it was finding a place among the marginalised of the city. The addicts and dealers and homeless. He said his job was to help keep the leaderships feet on the ground, not succoming to the church growth circus. Although he said there was interest in his church fom those wanting to capture what they are doing and turn it into a formula, including from one of Perth's own mega-church leaders!

He gave us some contact details for friends who are involved in a similar demographic to ours, although they are 15 years into it. Hopefully we can connect and learn something from them as we continue our work with the marginalised in Bunbury.

Last night we spent a pleasant evening at Kigali's only 5 star hotel - the Serena. We saw an ad in the East African paper at the start of the week for a gathering for Aussies in Rwanda and thought we would rock up.

We found an interesting bunch of expat Aussies. Nurses, a World Vision project manager, teachers and an agricultural consultant and a lady involved in the development of rugby in Rwanda - as well as a representative of the Australian Embassy in Kenya.

We had a nice African BBQ meal (goat and chicken and salad) and drinks, all on the Australian government - not something we were expecting when we arrived last week. I tried the local beer, Primus, and was pleasantly surprised.

Of the group only one was a bloke, the rest were women, mostly single women. One lady had lived in Kigali with her Rwandese husband for 9 years.

Today we have had a quiet morning browsing the tourist stores, buying presents for family and friends.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Amahoro Gathering - Day 3

The malaria seems to be under control. The dizzyness has all but gone and the fever comes and goes. I have been told the artemisinin treatment is strong and fast acting.

Today was another full on day. The morning featured presentations by local Christian organisations involved in the reconciliation process - uniting Hutu and Tutsi. We heard directly from Hutu perpertrators, including a lady who was fairly high up in the Hutu administration at the time of the genocide, a Hutu lady who was married to a Tutsi man who was killed in the genocide and a Tutsi woman who lost most of her family. I have never heard the tribal differences spoken about as openly. Previously I had been told that it is illegal to publically speak about the tribes in this way. The government is promoting one Rwandan people, and in the process pushing discussion of ethnic differences and opinion underground.

I met a Rwanda guy the other day at lunch who now lives in Sydney. He spoke about the reconciliation process in Rwanda and his own journey towards reconciliation. This was the first time he had been home to Rwanda in many years - he's lived in Australia for 12 years. He said the institutionalised form of reconciliation promoted by the Rwandan government was not working. Simply not mentioning the tribes has done nothing to heal the wounds and ethnic tensions still existed.

He hoped Amahoro would provide some answers to genuine reconciliation for Rwanda. Reconciliation from the heart and not from the government.

The feeling I get when I speak to Rwandans is the genocide may be 14 years in the past but the tensions that lead to it are still very real in the present.

The situation in Kenya was also addressed through a presentation led by a man I am privellaged to call a friend, Pastor Edward Simyu.

Like a Kenyan Martin Luther King, Edward led a convoy of Christians through the road blocks in January, risking his life in the process, to take Jesus message of reconciliation to the people behind the ethnic violence.

Edward introduced us to Joy, a Nairobi residence and member of his peace convoy to Eldoret. He also interviewed a number of Kenyans who had experienced the violence first hand. One guy, a pastor called Peter, still lives in a displaced persons camp as his home was destroyed.

There were different opinions on the source of the violence. One thought it was spontaneous - a direct result of the elections, another believed it was planned before hand as an act of ethnic cleansing. Whatever the cause, there is little doubt Kenya, like Rwanda before it, has a long road ahead.

I felt humbled and honoured when Edward asked me to pray for his country at the conclusion of his presentation.

Can the church be a part of the solution?

This was the question addressed by Brian McLaren in his presentation on pre-emptive reconciliation. Obviously it is too late to pre-empt the trouble that resulted in the Kenyan violence and the Rwandan genocide, but there is an oportunity for the church to act now. To be a part of the healing process. Bringing people together and promoting forgiveness.

McLaren portrayed the kingdom of God as standing over and above the kingdoms of the world. He described Jesus story as being superior to the stories of domination, revolution, purification, isolation, and alienation (I might try and expand on this a little later). Instead of domination McLaren says, Jesus calls us to servanthood, instead of revenge, reconciliation. Instead of purification (or ethnic cleansing), acceptance, healing and love. Instead of isolation, engagement.

As I think about everything that has taken place over the last few days I am feeling a little overwhelmed. I'm also feeling again like I am participating, in a very small way, in something big,something of global significance.

Today we head back to the guesthouse. The rest of the week will involve business meetings and trips to view projects we sponsor. We are also meeting with the Australian Ambassador to Kenya this afternoon. I hope to be able to discuss Australia's future involvement in Rwanda.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Malaria - Amahoro Gathering Day 2

Day 2 of the gathering has been a write-off for me. For the last few days I have been sweating profusely and feeling a little off colour. Yesteday morning I awoke with fever and dizziness. It turns out I have contracted malaria.

I spent the day in bed and was given a treatment by a local doctor which I had heard about while still in Australia. It's contains a substance called artemisinin which is a powerful anti-malarial, only recently discovered.

As a result today I am feeling much better, though very week and still feverish. I hope to attend the presentations and thus be able to report back here later on.

I have told my African friends that I have now been initiated and am an African now for real!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reconciliation - Amahoro Gathering Day 1

The focus of the Amahoro Gathering this year is the Gospel of Reconciliation.

Today we had introductory sessions from speakers from Rwanda, South Africa and Australia.

Sean Callaghan, a South African now living in London, spoke about the relationship between our theology and our concept of God, and therefore reconciliation.

He started by saying for a long time we have had things round the wrong way. Our ecclesiology (mode of church) has informed our methodology which has led to the tendency for Christians to compartmentalise people into two groups – those who are “in” and those who are “out”. However a theology of reconciliation, says Sean, gives us something different.

He pointed to the Trinity as the ultimate example of a reconciled community. A relational, loving God. This view of God informs our own praxis of mission.

He went on to look at the broader African context in relation to reconciliation; the Rwandan context (the 1994 genocide); the relationship between reconciliation and truth, justice and restitution and finally, pre-emptive reconciliation.

In terms of my church context a couple of things grabbed me. Sean asked the question; “What does the church I am from say about the God I represent?” He talked about the way in which the church has been complicit in atrocities such as the apartheid system in South Africa and the Rwandan genocide. This, he says, is because of a misunderstanding of who God is – the God of “ins” and “outs” rather than the God of reconciled community.

Another interesting point related to the relationship between theology and justice. Is our view of God as a criminal judge (a punitive theology) or do we view God as a judge who wants to set things right through restoration? A social justice rather than a punitive justice.

It will be interesting to see where this discussion leads us over the next few days. I think while there is an obvious relationship to the African continent, the topic is also very relevant for Westerners, and Aussies.

The second speaker was Frida Gashumba, who, as a 14 year old girl, miraculously survived the genocide, while the rest of her immediate family were killed. She has written a book about her experience which I am going to see if we can purchase to sell through Day 4.

We also heard from a Hutu lady called Maria who has embarked on the courageous work of calling members of her tribe to repentance. As a result of her work she is unpopular with many Hutu’s. She made the point, while the government in Rwanda is trying to publicly eliminate the tribal system, the reality is it still exists and many of the feelings and philosophies that resulted in the genocide are still festering away in the community. She believes the only way to truly move forward is for an acceptance of the existence of different tribes and the taking of responsibility by the Hutu tribe for the genocide. While many Hutu’s did not participate in the genocide (including Maria) I imagine the kind of response she is seeking is similar to that of the recent churches apology to the Australian Aboriginal people and also that of Aussie PM, Kevin Rudd. Not necessarily a blanket admission of guilt, but a taking of responsibility as a way of moving forward and experiencing genuine reconciliation.

The afternoon concluded with a talk by fellow Aussie, Fuzz Kitto on truth in reconciliation.

Dinner featured a welcome to Amahoro and included traditional Rwandan and Burundian dancers and drummers. Unfortunately about half way through the outdoor gathering the rains came, bringing a rather abrupt end to the night.

Long post – the day was jam packed as is the rest of the week. So much information, so hard to post it all. Muramuke – Catch you tomorrow!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Joy of Worship

Well, we're here! The journey was long and tiring. Cramped seats, long waits at airports, but in the end it's good to be back in the “land of a thousand hills”.

Yesterday we worshipped with the Christians on the mountain. I was struck again by the joy these gentle people exude in their worship. The dancing and singing and hugging.

I always feel we are somehow missing something in our sedate services - yet I know culturally, it would be difficult to feel comfortable worshipping at home in Australia in the way of the Africans.

I think the picture (above) captures the joy and enthusiasm of yesterday’s service.

We have just arrived at the La Palisse hotel for this years Amahoro gathering. I am going to try and take notes during the sessions and post blogs. I am full of expectation - the focus of the conference is reconciliation. A tough, personally challenging topic. But I can't think of a better place to be discussing such a thing - Rwanda!

See you soon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Off to Africa

I'm just about to leave the kids with their grandparents and jump in the car with Lyss on the first stage of our journey to Rwanda.

It's the plane-travel bit that I dislike the most. Even though I've lost count of the number of times I've flown, I still can't shake that whole "tin cans shouldn't be flying" feeling. Pray for me! :)

Will post again when I get a chance - probably from Kigali on Friday, maybe from Bangkok tomorrow.

See you on the other side!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Incarnation is not ...

"...incarnation is not about reinventing and compromising faith to fit into contemporary culture selling out, but is getting down and dirty: making the move to be amongst and one of whilst yet retaining purity and modelling holiness in the midst." Ian Emery - posted on Journey's In Between by Matt.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


What a 24 hours.

Lyss called me just after 3 yesterday with a rather rattled and rushed message; "go to the school right now! Sam's been involved in an incident. I'm on my way, will see you there."

I didn't really know what was going on but headed for the school anyway. The minute I set foot in the administration building I was met by a tearful Sam (our 10 year old). He threw his arms around me and kept saying "I can't remember anything daddy, I can't remember anything".

I sat down with him and tried to find out what had happened. He had no idea, other than that he seemed to be experiencing some form of memory loss. He even pinched himself, at the same time asking me if he was dreaming! He said he had a terrible headache.

It didn't take long to work out something really wasn't right. He's memory seemed unable to stretch any more than about 30 seconds into the past before resetting - it was like he was on a 30 second loop. He kept asking the same questions without any idea he had, only seconds before, received an answer to the same questions. He had no recollection of how he came to be in the admin building, of me arriving or anything much after lunch time that day.

The school wasn't able to tell us much at all, other than they thought he had been hit by another boy just after school finished at 3pm.

Alyssa arrived and we rushed off to the hospital where he was admitted fairly quickly through the emergency deparment. Even though they were incredibly busy they still gave him priority which was a great relief.

His memory loss and 30 second loop continued on for around 5 hours. He would just say the same things over and over. At one point I pre-empted what he was going to say and he asked me "how did you know I was going to say that?" I told him he had only said the same thing around 50 times already! He just gave me a funny look as he had no idea!

The did a CT scan, ECG and blood test, thankfully they all came back normal.

He was admitted and spent the night in the hospital. Lyss stayed the night in the room with him. This morning when I went in before work he was much better, almost back to normal, and more interested in the Nintendo in the games room than anything much else.

We went to the school mid morning and found out he had been hit - twice in the forehead - after stepping in to help a mate who was being harrassed by another boy.

Tonight Sam still has no recollection of anything that happened between 1.30 yesterday and about 8.30 last night.

All in all a pretty scarey afternoon. Thank God he is ok, and looks like staying that way. He's off soccer for 2 weeks and off school until Monday and under orders to "take it easy", which is something I think he is going to find very difficult!