Friday, February 28, 2014

West Africa Update

 Laurie and I got back late Tuesday night, and despite the ordeals that accompany travel to Africa, we were exceedingly blessed on this mission trip. It was our second trip to West Africa, our first trip being in November 2012. That mission was so well received that we were asked to return, with Laurie being asked to train Christian lawyers in biblical peacemaking while I would again teach Christian leaders evidence for the truth of Christianity ("apologetics").

As we previously shared in an email blast before we left, Laurie was expecting twenty or so Christian lawyers to attend her class, and even that would have been a good turnout, given lawyers' busy schedules, and since the class was all day Monday through Friday. It turns out around 125 lawyers attended, and the response was beyond expectations. The final day of teaching ended with a ceremony lead by a High Court judge who was sad that he was only able to attend one day of Laurie's seminar. The executive committee of the lawyers is already planning for Laurie to come back and provide advanced peacemaking and mediation training for the lawyers.

I had the privilege of teaching more than 25 Christian leaders from all over Nigeria on "The Case for God, the Bible and Jesus." I created three power point presentations and brought my own projector so that there were no technical issues. The response was tremendous, and the students asked if I could send them my power point presentation via email when I returned to the U.S., which I have done.

I also had the privilege of sharing the vision of Ratio Christi, the campus apologetics ministry that brought me in as the International Director. Our host at the facility where I taught invited the Chairman of a large Christian association to meet with me. I shared with him the vision of Ratio Christi, and how we are committed to reversing the statistic that half or more of professing Christians who enter the university walking away from their faith before they graduate. This man was so receptive that he picked up his cell phone and called the president of his denomination, which is three million strong. I was invited us right over to the headquarters and was able to share with him, too, the vision of bringing apologetics and a renaissance of Christian thinking to the campuses of West Africa and to the churches.

During our time in West Africa we spent several hours in meetings with a local man who is taking his training in apologetics in the U.S. at Luther Rice University in Atlanta. He wants to serve as coordinator of Ratio Christi in this particular country, so he is my "feet on the ground" in my absence. We are in the process of formulating plans for a return trip that will include an Apologetics Conference, and formal training for students and Christian leaders who want to learn apologetics, which is a species of evangelism.

I will only give you the highlights of the trials and blessings of traveling to and from West Africa. We were flying from Des Moines to Atlanta with a stopover in Charlotte, North Carolina, before flying to West Africa. When we arrived in Charlotte we found out our flight to Atlanta was cancelled, meaning we would miss our connecting flight to Africa. We spent about three hours on cell phones trying to find alternatives, and the only way we could be in on Monday morning to teach our respective students was to fly from Charlotte to JFK in New York early the next morning, then fly all night to West Africa. We booked those flights, at an additional cost of around $1,500. The bad news was that all our luggage, including 135 textbooks for Laurie's class, had been sent on to Atlanta. Thankfully, with moments to spare, our luggage arrived at JFK just after we did, and we were able to keep our teaching schedule, albeit with no sleep Saturday night.
On our return from West Africa, the attorney who coordinated Laurie's event knew how chaotic it is to make domestic airline connections in their country, so he asked his brother-in-law to help us. It turns out that his brother is in the military and works at the International Airport, and he and two of his friends, in uniform, escorted us through the security lines like we were royalty or rockstars. It was almost surreal, but such a huge blessing.

We thank you for your prayers and support that enables us to fulfill our calling. We will provide more details after we catch our breath, which may take a couple of weeks because next week I am speaking at an apologetics conference in Vancouver, Canada, and Laurie is assisting with a marriage mediation in Spokane, Washington while I am in Canada.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day in Advance

Because of our ministry travels Laurie and I occasionally spend part of a holiday at 30,000 feet on our way to or from a teaching mission. This Valentine's Day finds us on our way to our second mission to West Africa. We put the word out a couple of weeks ago regarding how exciting but daunting is this opportunity.

By way of review, we were in West Africa in 2012 teaching select Christian leaders in an area that is the epicenter of religious violence. When we were there we were invited to address a small group of Christian lawyers. They invited Laurie to return and teach them biblical peacemaking to help them set up a mediation center where Christian lawyers can use God's love and biblical principles of peacemaking to reconcile people, including conflict between the religious groups. We spent the past year or so working out the logistics of returning to teach key Christian leaders (John's role) and train Christian lawyers (Laurie's role). I have also arranged meetings to commence a campus apologetic ministry in this country through the auspices of Ratio Christi ("the reason of Christ"), the organization that has appointed me as its International Director.

When we secured the dates to return to West Africa in February, Laurie was hopeful to have twenty Christian lawyers sign up to attend her week-long training, while I was told I would be teaching 15 select Christian leaders at a separate location. It turns out that I may now have 25 Christian leaders to teach, and Laurie has more than 100 Christian lawyers attending! We now have four suitcases each filled with books and syllabuses, and will need to put extra books in our two personal suitcases to get all the materials to West Africa. Please pray all our luggage arrives with us safely.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Great News regarding West Africa!

Good news--In a certain country in West Africa in 2013 fewer Christians were martyred than were killed in 2012, the toll reduced from 800 to 600. Better news, in response to persecution at the hands of a radical Muslim group, Christian lawyers in the epicenter of violence against Christians, have determined to create a mediation center to employ biblical principles of peacemaking in order to bring reconciliation, alleviate the violence, and present the love of Jesus as the answer to hate and revenge. Great news--an estimated 125 Christian attorneys will be spending a week this month learning the basics of biblical peacemaking and conflict resolution. The fantastic news is that Laurie will be doing the teaching!

Later this month, Laurie and I return to West Africa where I will be teaching around 15 key Christian leaders and evangelists while across town Laurie will be training the lawyers. We are excited about our return to Africa, and now with a further opportunity to introduce  Ratio Christi to West Africa (Ratio Christi, "Reason of Christ" in Latin, is a campus apologetic alliance that has called me to be the International Director). Secularism is growing in Africa, and the prospect of having trained apologists (defenders of the faith) on each university to counteract secularism and atheism is exciting.

Thanks in advance for your prayers, and we look forward to bringing you a special report when we return to let you know how the Lord used Laurie and me through Rolling Stone Ministries to make a huge impact in one of the most heavily persecuted countries in the world, but a country that is ripe for the Prince of Peace to change the hearts and minds of the nation.