We just returned from a wonderful time of ministry in Rwanda. We had a team of six of us going from Wayside.
Once there we discovered that 400 senior pastors and wives had come from 18 different denominations and six different countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, the Congo, and Rwanda. This whole area has suffered so much because of the genocide that occurred in 1994 when 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis were slaughtered in a most barbaric way with the primary instrument being a machete. Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the head of the UN forces (which were a farce) has written a book entitled Shake Hands with the Devil. It is an eyewitness account of the brutal massacre. I have not been able to put the book down. In his preface he writes “After one of my many presentations following my return from Rwanda, a Canadian Forces padre asked me how, after all I had seen and experienced, I could still believe in God. I answered that I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists, and therefore I know there is a God.” This was the Devil’s doing because He is on a seek and destroy mission. John 10:10 But Jesus came “That they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” There are incredible signs of His life as Rwanda is rebuilding. The pastors and wives are key to this and this is why we target them. Hardly a person at the conference did not have a relative or a friend that was a victim of the horrific massacre. We saw the remains of the Devil’s work, but more importantly we saw God at work and shook hands with Him.
This conference was the first of any effort of this magnitude in Rwanda and judging from the comments it was greatly used of God and will probably not be the last one. I want to give you some eyewitness accounts of what happened, first from the team members who went with us from Wayside:
Marvin Eggleston, Chairperson, Africa New Life Ministries International and our very capable team leader: “What a blessing it was for Africa New Life Ministries to host attendees from six African nations for a Pastors & Wives Conference in Rwanda. Pastor Steve Troxel, from Shepherd’s Support International, delivered powerful messages to attendees and Connie Troxel, Marilyn Caton, and Ann Spence ministered to the wives. Dr. Larry Spence provided much needed information about HIV and Aids. The whole Wayside Team had an opportunity to share their testimonies and respond to questions the attendees submitted on medical and practical issues regarding their responsibilities as leaders of their churches and families. Pastor after pastor commented on the positive impact of the conference and begged to have one in their native country. Many also asked for the conference to be held annually. Pastors and wives were encouraged and received Biblical training and life applications that they will be able to share with their local congregations. I sensed that God was doing a mighty work in the lives of the participants through the proclamation of His Word. God promises through His prophet Isaiah: “so is my word that goes out from mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11” Without Marvin’s years of ministry there this Conference would have never taken place.
Dr. Larry Spence M.D., and his wife Ann wrote: “Since our return, Ann and I have both commented frequently that two of the things that most impacted us were: 1) The wonderful sense of joy and spontaneity with which the Rwandan believers worship and praise God. We think Heaven will be a much more lively time of worship around His throne than we had ever imagined. 2) That Steve and Connie have been especially prepared by God for this ministry. Their example and experience of 34 years of faithful service in the pastorate at Wayside and 8 years in other churches prior to coming to Wayside, along with Steve’s breath of knowledge and foundation in God’s Word, provide a unique combination of depth and flexibility in ministry to other pastors. This is truly God’s calling for them.”
Our final team member was Marilyn Caton: “I’ve been part of a prayer group praying for Africa New Life Ministries for the last three years and have also prayed for Shepherds’ Support since its beginning. What a privilege it was to see how God brought these two ministries together to make this conference a reality. It was a joy to see pastors and their wives of different ages, nationalities, and denominations come together in unity. As we gathered in the Life Center where the conference was held, I remembered with thanksgiving, the prayers we had prayed for God to provide a sanitary dining hall and kitchen for the New Life Christian Academy. Little did we know God’s bigger plan for that facility—to host 400 African church leaders who, being instructed and encouraged through Steve’s & Connie’s ministry, would go back to their villages and countries refreshed and strengthened in God’s Word! I thank God for this personal glimpse at His incredible plans to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.“ (Eph 3:20)
Comments from the pastors who attended were too numerous to share.
One pastor, Gatema Joseph, representing all of the pastors in Rwanda wrote: “We highly appreciate the teaching given by Pastor Steve and his delegation. Sincerely the spiritual food you have served us is full of spiritual vitamin ingredients to an extent that we shall not suffer from Kwashakor (malnutrition) when we go back to our respective homes. In that case we as Rwandese have a feeling that there is much more God has in store for us through you. Among the things we learned from Pastor Steve, it’s been our first time to encounter a person who can utter all the Scriptures in the whole Bible having not opened it.” I really had them fooled on this one. I do not know all the Scriptures verbatim. To the contrary, I feel like I know so little. But I want to share with you how God answers prayer in this area. I have discovered that when speaking through a translator you develop a rhythm that is important to keep it flowing otherwise it gets bogged down and loses its effectiveness. Turning to passages or using notes really makes it cumbersome and uses up valuable time. You also lose eye contact with the audience. So I ask the Spirit to give me total recall. He did just that. I spoke twice at the host church, New Life Christian Center on Sunday and ten times at the conference and I never had to look at my Bible or my notes even once, but I was able to give them the reference from which I was quoting. They were feverishly taking notes. I even ended up preaching a couple of messages that God gave me “on the go.” It really is a God thing. I let them know that there is nothing special about my mind or intellect which you all know. I never graduated with honor in either of my college and seminary degree programs. God chooses to give me recall in moments like that for which I am humbled and grateful. Our Daily Bread today had the words: “If we have God’s Word in our mind, He can put the right words in our mouth.” I have certainly experienced that truth. He could take it away in a minute. It was also a challenge to them to memorize scripture and let it saturate their lives and ministries. They don’t have to attend college or seminary to have an effective ministry. Perhaps they see some of that in me. For that I am grateful.
A special thanks to the organizing pastor Charles and his wife Florence, to his brother Fred and others who had such wonderful words of appreciation. They made the conference possible.
Finally, I want to switch gears to our upcoming conference in N. Croatia. We will be gone from September 6-17. They are excited about our coming. It will just be just Connie and me, and Sid and Zane Williams who will work with the children.
One of the organizing pastors of the event, Mihal Kreko, writes these words: “The organization of the conference is working well. Actually this is a miracle by itself that four leaders from different churches and theological convictions can work together. In the very beginning we were fearful. A number of pastors commented that this is mission impossible. But as the time for the conference is approaching, it is obvious that pastors are willing, able and ready to come together and seek God together. Pastors will come from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro & Macedonia. According to my knowledge this is the first interdenominational conference of this kind since the ethnic conflicts (1991) among our nations. Pastors and Christian workers are indeed eager to meet with one another. They are lonely and tired. We pray the Holy Spirit will bring renewal, restoration and refreshment to all of us. I am so glad that we could do this together, that we can serve God’s servants in Balkan region together.” Wayside Chapel is sponsoring this event for which we are grateful.
Keep running and shining,