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John Rowse - December Update

by Bob Harvey last modified Dec 14, 2016 07:51 PM
John's interesting information for prayer and praise, and a Happy Christmas to all praying friends.

Dear friends,

White Robes


I am in Kasese, SW Uganda. It is hot – we are right on the equator. I am standing in the pulpit of the cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of South Rwenzori, looking out over a sea of 700 white-robes just about to be commissioned as “evangelists”. From their answers to my questions it is horribly clear that most of them have no idea of being found in white robes that are not their own. To them, salvation is very much their own doing, with some help from Jesus! These “evangelists” still need to be evangelized.

In the half hour the bishop gave me that day, we were not going to get very far. But, no problem: almost all of the 90+ pastors they will be working with have now firmly embraced “faith alone”. We really need to thank the Lord. And thanks to you, too, for praying. As you may recall, there was strong opposition to the gospel on my last visit, so I was surprized to be welcomed back. This time, nobody mentioned the last time, and the outcome was profoundly different. Now the diocesan secretary wants me back again – to follow up with pilot programmes in some of the archdeaconries.

A Week Later

A week later I am high up in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mts – famous for the mountain gorillas. We look across a valley to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This has been a very unstable area. As we wait to go into the village church building, they explain to me that we were standing on a battleground. Rebels from the DRC had come across. After we go inside, we are engaged in a different sort of battle. The sad people are very reluctant to admit they have any sin. They insist that even the law of love, they totally obey.

I was getting nowhere, when, thankfully, the rain bucketed down on the old iron roof, and drowned out every word. I suggested they continue with the planned communion service. This gave me time to regroup and try a different approach. Perhaps the poor folk just HAD to talk up their purity because they knew of no escape from the punishment for sin. When the rain let up, I got the people to ask the main pastor, what would happen to him if he died stealing the church’s money? Where would he go? He answered loudly and boldly: “To heaven!”

Shock! Now it was on for young and old. The quiet, liturgical orderliness was blown apart. The newly-commissioned “evangelists” of this archdeaconry (seated and sacred up the front) were shouting and vigorously pointing their white-cotton arms at the pastor. Fresh from the pastors’ seminar, he stood his ground. Patiently and firmly he led them through, until they became very quiet. I just sat down and watched – it was wonderful how God was working. All that was left was a few mopping-up operations. The battle had turned. The people in the pews, too, at least the vocal ones, were now convinced.

Blue T-Shirts

In one village about 30 people wearing blue T- shirts were gathered under a large tree. On each T-shirt were the letters “MBB”: they were “Muslim Background Believers”. In this one Anglican diocese there are around 3,000 converted Muslims. The man interpreting for me into the local language was a former imam with 80 people coming to his mosque. When he turned from Christ, some years ago, 65 turned with him, and the mosque had to close. Since then another mosque in the area has closed. In that “Archdeaconry” more than 500 Muslims have converted to Christ. In the whole diocese, there are around 3,000 MBB’s. “John”, the pastor who heads up the diocese’s outreach to Muslims, gets some support from the Barnabas Fund. I had met him when I was last in Kasese. At that pastors’ seminar, “John”, unlike others, was delightfully teachable. We then had loads of time to dig deeper, as he needed a lift back to Kampala for his graduation after completing a course in reaching Muslims. Now he is going to Muslims with the right evangel, and is on fire.

About ten of those 3,000 have been killed for converting. One girl was bashed to death with a hammer – by her own father! He was arrested, but was very soon out of prison – somehow! Many others have been thrown out of their homes and left destitute. Other poor Christians struggle to help them, and BF have helped, but there is still a great need – e.g. for sewing machines. Some years ago, two pastors from this diocese and one from across the border in DRC, were shot point blank by a Congolese, Muslim rebel group for refusing to renounce Christ.

In the Cathedral

The day after the commissioning of the evangelists, I was back in the cathedral in Kasese. At one stage, everything seemed to stop, as “palace guards” escorted in a tall, stately lady. All eyes, hushed, were on the imposing sight of the queen of the Bakonso people. She listened intently to the news of how the disobedient can be freely judged to be obedient. Later in the service, she openly expressed her thanks for this news when she stood to address the people on the need for unity and reconciliation. This district has been a hotbed of discontent. In January, during national elections, several people died – there were tanks on the streets of Kasese. Since returning here to Tanzania I have just got news from the bishop that some young Bakonso militants have stormed police stations and killed 16 police, and the police have responded with an absolute massacre, even bombing the palace. Over 80 people have died, some burnt to death. The king himself has been arrested, and I have not heard any news of the queen.

I am very thankful for safe bus travel. The journey there was very long – not helped by having to wait five hours in the hot bus before leaving Kampala – and then all of us being moved to another bus.

The Church of the Resurrection

The day after arriving back in Kampala I was trying to convince another Anglican church of the gospel – “The Church of the Resurrection” in Bugolobi. It is so sad, especially when you consider that the Anglican Church here was planted by evangelical missionaries. It is more “Low Church” – although some of the bishops like to look pretty. (In Kasese I had to resist a strange urge to remove the purple pom-pom from the bishop’s bereta.) I was invited to preach at the second and third morning services – all packed. I arrived in time to hear the pastor telling the first morning congregation the opposite of what the later congregations were to hear. But again, thank you for praying. There was a real openness. Do pray that those who received the gospel will pass it on.

A Lively Pastor's Conference

Travelling to the next pastor’s seminar was much easier. Steve Forsythe – and a whole group of others from the old MAF Tanzania – are here now. They were very hospitable and it was like old times. They are right behind this ministry and want to assist me in the future. They flew me for an absolute song – the cost of a bus fare – to Soroti, where the “Mothers’ Union” car from Kumi Diocese took me to their centre at Ng’ora. For those of you who know Hugh Prentice, this was the old hunting ground of his folks many years ago, and they are still remembered with great affection and respect. Because of some major goings-on in the diocese, we only had about half of the pastors, and not all of them were there when we started. It got very lively at times, but again, they had a lovely, teachable attitude. It took some time, but here, they gave me four full days, and it seems almost everyone turned, as you will see from the separate attachment (if you are getting this by email) showing how they answered the same questionnaire before and after the teaching. (Sadly, the time was too short to do the questionnaire in Kasese.)

Ian and Norma McIver

On my way out of Uganda, it was really encouraging to meet up again with Ian and Norma McIver, to enjoy their hospitality and to meet the principal of the new Presbyterian theological college in Kampala where Ian is teaching. This is where we are now hoping our Pastor Mwambola will come to study (See the last prayer letter). Do pray for Ian and Dave, the principal, and for Pr Mwambola. We are trying to get him into an English course here in Dar es Salaam, run by the British Council. (By the way, after talking to Pr M. some more, I see that the Anglican bishop I spoke about in the last letter really was convinced by him of justification through faith alone. You may recall, when the bishop firmly closed the door on me, God opened another door to him. In God’s providence he was sharing a room with my Lutheran friend on a trip to Israel. Thankfully he started running me down to Pr M., and it has had marvellous results.

If you recall the amazing saga of Kintu, whose life God saved through my American doctor friend, he is still going strong. But the doc. has been very concerned about the state of Kintu’s church. I had begun to teach them, but Kintu’s illness had cut that short. There was no time this trip to go back there to Lake Tanganyika, but the other day I got through on the phone to Marcel, the pastor of the church. As we talked about grace, he was VERY surprised, but it seems he was convinced – so much so that he later called me back to say he had talked to a number of his people and now they too were convinced. Do pray for them, especially the fishermen among them, that they might take the word across the lake to the Congo.

Prayer Issues

  • There is still no word, sadly, on my friend who went missing last year.
  • Please keep praying for Pr Travol Muwapa and Doris and their lovely family in Zambia. He has still not been assigned to another church twelve months after they admitted he had been wrongly dismissed. And they have given him nothing to live on.
  • Daudi Ores, our man near Lake Victoria, has given me some great news. After he was robbed of his welding machine (his livelihood), appreciative pastors he has explained the gospel to have rallied around. He now has a new one – and it is insured.
  • After a mountain of paperwork, my applications for a work permit and a residence permit for the next two years have reached the final stages. Please be praying about that. Please also pray for safe travel back home this week.

 

A number of folk are still sending gifts to the old account. In case you did not see the changed bank details for donations, you’ll find them attached.

Happy Christmas!

John – with love from Kay and Asha, and Philip and Rebecca and their families, and I’m sure Timothy would add his too, if he could talk.

Please pray for our dear Chisola, in Zambia, who has had a severe stroke, and cannot talk or walk.

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