Now that Celestia and I have been back from Africa for about 6 weeks, we’ve had time to reflect more deeply on our experiences there. And we’ve gotten many reports from those we’ve trained. If we were to summarize our work in Africa with a single word, it would be “privilege.” We feel incredibly blessed to serve the most amazing, courageous, godly leaders imaginable. For example, in the short time we’ve been home we’ve personally received over 30 reports of new trauma ministry trainings being conducted by those we trained in May. And the vast majority of these are in “red zones” as they call them—in the geographic heart of the Ebola epidemic and or in the areas with the worst active militia violence. Yet they go into these zones boldly at great risk for the sake of Christ.
This week I was reading Revelation 14:4. It is very relevant to our African leaders and to us. (While many view Revelation as only about the future, it is unequivocally a message for the church today—see Rev 1:3 and 22:7). In this paragraph in chapter 14 the Apostle John is describing the 144,000 who have the Lamb’s (Jesus’) and God the Father’s names written on their forehead. That is, they were wholly devoted to Christ and they are fully identified with him, not with the deceptive world system empowered by Satan. In a context of great opposition and persecution, they “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” What a description of discipleship—following Jesus wherever he leads and at whatever cost that extracts. This is breathtakingly risky discipleship. And it would be folly to follow anyone else “wherever and at whatever cost.”
The very title John uses here for Jesus—”the Lamb” is very helpful in understanding this radical obedience. Twenty-seven times in Revelation 4-22 John refers to Christ as the “Lamb.” This is ironic in light of the fact that in Revelation Jesus is pictured as the mighty One who is coming back to utterly conquer his foes—human and demonic. Lambs don’t conquer. They are weak and vulnerable. That is the beautiful irony of Jesus—he is both the lion and the lamb (Rev 5:5-6). This is the Lamb who gave his life to redeem us (Rev 7:14). This is the mighty victorious Lamb who will abolish death, suffering, and Satan (7:14; 19:15). This is the Lamb we will joyfully spend eternity with (22:3). So, of course the people of God should follow the Lamb wherever he goes. But in this world it is very tempting to cut such radical blind obedience short.
Thus, I am particularly grateful for the bold faithful obedience of our African partners. Over and over we get wonderful pictures of various teams conducting new training at great cost, often risking rape, sickness, and death because Jesus told them to go serve the traumatized. Inevitably with these reports is an urgent request—please pray for our trainings. So here are some pictures to go with just a few of those requests:
1. Here is a picture of some of the children in the Gratia summer vacation school led by Daphrose and her staff. What an amazing outreach to traumatized and vulnerable children and youth.
2. Here is a picture of Dr. Sylvee at the hospital in Beni using Mending the Soul material to help family members of Ebola victims. Sylvee will be leading another training soon in Mutwanga for a couple dozen church leaders. This town is at the foot of the mountains and in one of the most violent areas of the country. Sylvee is one of our most courageous and energetic trainers.
3. Here is Dr. Gloria with IDP residents (internal refugees). She is another of our most courageous and energetic trainers. She has organized a “rapid response and disaster” ministry. She goes into communities immediately after militia attacks. She needs our prayers.
4. Here are two pictures of Pastor Richard and Mama Leah. Leah is the woman who was kidnapped, assaulted, and put into a pit by armed militia and choose to later to back into the bush to find her abusers so she could share Christ with them. Pastor Richard and Leah conduct trauma outreach continually. Note the sketch of our own Nora Poling they had a local artist draw so they could share Nora’s 5 heart story as part of their trauma healing presentation. Notice also the flannel visuals Mama Leah has on her dress to tell the story of abuse trauma healing. The other picture is of their team of 15 trainers.
There are so many more names and pictures—Pastor Masereka who has been training chaplains; Pastor Jonathan who leads one of the largest training teams in the entire red zone; Pastor Kyose who is also conducting a series of training in Buyinga,–an area ruled by the militia. Suffice it to say, they need our prayers. We are blessed by their example.
Your fellow followers of the Lamb,
Steve and Celestia