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Monthly Archives: July 2011

I’m not leaving. Carl Wilkens finally tells his story.

A Review of book,

I’m not leaving., by Carl Wilkens

Carl Wilkens was the only American to remain in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.  He sent his family out of the country when evacuation orders came, and remained to stay by the side of his household employees who had Tutsi identity cards.    

The book title hints at the heroic themes to follow.  When I consider the legacy of abandonment that the United States left in the genocide, even the title of Carl’s book, feels like cool water on a painfully burning issue. 

I love this book.  It’s short (only 165 pages), self-published and gets straight to storytelling.  Carl does not try to extend the book with political background or much reflective philosophy.   He explains his reasons for refusing orders to evacuate, and then goes on to tell countless unbelievable stories of day by day survival and his efforts to protect orphans located in various orphanages around Kigali.  He makes simple but poignant observations throughout his book about faith, love and humanity, that knock you over with power of truth.

For me, the largest truth that I drew from Carl’s story, is the high value of individual relationship; the power of one to one humanity, over ideals, institutions or causes.

One passage drawing out this truth was letter exchange between Carl and the President of the Seventh Day Adventist World Wide Church, who ordered him to leave Rwanda by appealing to the greater good of the cause:

“Dear Carl,

I have tried various means to communicate with you personally and orally, but it has not been possible under the present conditions.

Thus I must resort to the written word.  Your total commitment and dedication is both heroic and exemplary.  Needless to say, I, and my fellow leaders appreciate you, and what you have accomplished.  However, it is for this very reason that I am “asking” you to depart Kigali as soon as possible.

It goes against my very nature to use the word “order” in this context; however, that is the word that most accurately describes the sense that I must convey.  I am aware that most of the UN personnel have left the area, and therefore expect you to determine a reasonably safe method of evacuation.

We must use your skills and knowledge to define future work in Rwanda.  Therefore we are asking that you immediately relocate to Nairobi to work with others there in the vital look-ahead plans.

Your remaining in Kigali would deny the church and ADRA the input which you could provide, and can be counterproductive.  For the greater good of the cause, (emphasis added) I want you to lay down the good work you have been doing in Kigali in order to become part of the larger task ahead.

This directive is given after much prayer and consultation.  It is a decision, not a request.  Please contact us immediately upon reaching Nairobi.  Our prayer is that Christ will be with you and protect you as you relocate.

Yours in Christ

Robert S. Folkenberg.

President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.”

Here is Carl’s reply:

“Dear Elder Folkenberg,

Thank you very much for your letter.  I am not refusing to obey your directive, but I need your help with two things before I can comply.

First, I need your help telling my friends and Rwandan coworkers that God will be with them and protect them, and explain to them why I can’t stay and rely on that same presence and protection.

Secondly, I need your help in making arrangements for the safeguarding of the two young people in my home who have Tutsi ID cards that will surely lead to them being killed.

As soon as you are able to help me with these two things I will be glad to join my family in Nairobi.

Sincerely,

Carl Wilkens”

Let us follow Carl’s example of releasing our cause, for the sake of one or two souls!  He disregarded any opportunity to “define future work in Rwanda” in order to save the life of two household employees.

There is no doubt that ADRA had done great work in Rwanda.  But too often, we put the value of a great human institution, before the value of one person.  Jesus radically showed us the reverse.  Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep, of the shepherd’s willingness to leave the many, to rescue one desperate person. 

Carl’s story goes on to describe very many unbelievable moments of decisions that lead to life or death.  While he initially stayed to protect his household employees (who did indeed survive), he ended up saving the lives of hundreds of others, working alongside many Rwandans who sacrificed themselves to protect their fellow Rwandans.  He describes how he learned to relate to the killers as human beings, and elicit their cooperation, in order to protect many orphans and people under his care.   

I also realized by reading Carl’s story that I think about justice and fighting against evil in black and white ideals.  Carl’s story teaches me that fighting for justice is a messy job that we shouldn’t judge.  A person’s desperate fight to survive or to save others, confuses the distinction between good and evil, removing clear paths to justice.

Read Carl’s book.  He will ground you back to one-to-one relationship, and simple truths of love and faith.

By Serena Morones

 

Carl’s book can be purchased from his website http://worldoutsidemyshoes.org, or here on Amazon.com.   http://amzn.com/1450780806  

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Posts from the Group

 

Kent Hotaling’s Selections from Giving Wisely, by Jonathan Martin

An Author who has underscored insights that many of us have learned the hard way is Jonathan Martin.  I have selected a few of his thoughts as a tease for those who might be willing to read more.   ~Kent Hotaling

 

Giving Wisely by Jonathan Martin

             “We often unknowingly have a condescending attitude towards those in the third world.  That attitude is reflected in this thought: These people cannot spread the gospel without my money.  The fact is, Christians did it in the first century, and they can do it now.  They’re very capable, intelligent, hardworking, gifted people, and their desire to please God is often greater than ours.  Their psychological well-being is often far superior to that of our own people in this culture.” 38

            “We have, as well-intentioned generous Americans, sewn the first seeds of dependency, and thus have almost guaranteed that their church can grow only as big as our western bucks can take it.” 41

            “We need to be concerned about those who cannot take care of themselves—the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the dying, those who are alone.” 44

            “Any time we can empower locals to take care of locals and make this sustainable, our dollar has been invested for the greatest return.  Never underestimate a people’s ability to care for their own—after all, they have the knowledge needed to make it in that culture, and we don’t.  They want to make it – they often just need help to get off the ground; when they get that help—watch them fly.” 49

                        “The Foundational Big Four RAISE

Relationship First

            A working and viable relationship is the foundation for wise giving.

Accountability

            To give to an individual rather than through a financially accountable organization is not a sound practice and has led to the ruin of many believers.”

Indigenous Sustainability

            Our giving shouldn’t create dependency, and it should work toward developing full indigenous sustainability.

Equity

            The financial gift should not create economic inequities in the place it is given.  Often pastors receiving western funds live at a standard high above those around them.  Ask yourself:  Does the money I give allow this man to live at a standard high above the rest of those he seeks to serve?  Does this money elevate one child high above his next door neighbor?  Find out how much someone with an equivalent education and responsibilities makes in this man’s or woman’s country, and give accordingly.”  62-65

Note taker’s note:  The rest of the book is made up of illustrations and practical issues in giving according to this RAISE principle.  I will select a portion of those thoughts to encourage you to read the book.

            “Send the cash with a trustworthy person with other trustworthy persons assuring the delivery of the gift, fellowshipping with the recipients from other cultures, seeing God work in wonderful ways, returning home as changed people and sharing with everyone in the church.” 68

            “It is far better for money to follow a good relationship than to start with money and then try to develop a relationship.  The least desirable of all is that money is given apart from any real relationship.” 75

      “I have seen too many wonderful brothers and sisters in third world countries corrupted by money that we, well-intentioned Americans, give to them when we hear of their need.  The truth is that they have never had to learn what fiscal responsibility is – for they have never had any money to speak of.  We need to do all we can to make sure we are not setting a trap for them.” 85

 “Our means for funding full-time ministry are also very foreign.  Since this is a completely unknown concept, the locals have no vision for it, and there aren’t enough believers in the local community to support them.  The foreign ministry raises the support for the national in America.  So you have the national working for a foreign paycheck and is perceived to be foreign by his own people and thus loses local credibility.” 95

 “China, by contrast:  No full-time staff?  No building?  No money? No academic institutions for formal theological training?  These are the four things we in the West deem as most important, and yet it was in the absence of these things that the greatest church growth in history has taken place.  China’s one million believers turned into forty million by the late 1980s and now perhaps to as many as 100 million.” 95

 “Money should never be used to create initiative; it should come alongside and empower those who are already taking the initiative.  When we partner with someone who’s already in motion, our money can serve to empower the already active ministry.” 103

 “This is one of the reasons it’s important for relationships to precede giving.  Without relationship, it’s impossible to know the effects of our giving—whether it is helpful or harmful.” 121

 “Who is an expert?

“Missionary kids who grew up playing with the locals, then spent time back in the U.S., then ended up back on the field as adults have always impressed me as the greatest experts.  They know the language, and they know the hearts of the people on both sides of the ocean.  They tend to love the people around them because they’ve grown up with them.” 126

 “Look at the inequities we’re creating in this village.  What damage is being done to the very fabric of these communal villages by such sponsorship that chooses one child and doesn’t choose the child next door?” 139

 “It’s best to work with the community as a whole rather than singling out individuals for sponsorship.  Unfortunately, sponsoring a village isn’t as personal as sponsoring a child.  One possible solution is to financially sponsor an entire village and the projects, which include health and education improvements, but then you sponsor a family in this village with your prayers and encouragement.  While the whole village learns to work together to take care of and provide for each other, they’re all in touch by writing letters and sending pictures with a family that is praying for them individually.”139,140

“There’s a simple rule:  If you want a person to reach his or her own culture, don’t take them out of it.  Don’t take someone out of a relatively impoverished country, show him the glitter and comfort and material excess of the U.S., and then expect him to want to go back.” 165

 “Good books are empowering and really never create dependency.  Getting whole libraries into the hands of schools, seminaries, and churches that will last and be used for years to come is a gift that keeps on giving.”  169

Visit our Amazon Reading list here http://astore.amazon.com/africajourney-20 that includes Giving Wisely and other books we highly recommend.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Posts from the Group

 

We are Wealthy

By Enric Sifa 
 
On TV, in newspapers, on the radio, even from missionaries: when it comes to Africa, we hear negative things from all sorts of media. We hear about the wars, hate, malnutrition, disasters, and poverty of Africa. But are those really the only things Africa… has?
 
 I remember, in Africa, when I was growing up, I never even thought about the things mentioned above. I thought Africa was the only place people should live. I loved the animals, the sun, the butterflies, the hills, and the valleys. I remember how beautiful the lakes and the rivers were. I remember how delicious the meat was, I remember the smiles of people, the parties every Friday, all the colors, and the rest of the beautiful things that Africa has. That’s what I remember of Africa.
 
 African people are the happiest people you can ever find. One man may not even have salt in his food, but before he eats it, he says a prayer of praise to God for providing that food. He eats with a smile on his face and after he is done, he sleeps on a matt on the floor- with happiness. If a person gets a stomachache, he goes into the wild and chews a special kind of leaf that makes the stomachache go away. Another person doesn’t have any shoes, but you will still see him dancing on the hard dusty floor. He doesn’t care about shoes because he lives in paradise. He loves his life. You will see him playing soccer for ninety minutes straight with no shoes. He feels no pain. After soccer, he goes to take a bath. When he takes his bath, he may only have a bucket to use, but he is happy. That’s what I remember of Africa.
 
 I loved to play with flowers in the streets. I loved the smell of the tall grasses beside the small roads. I loved the river that was only a mile away from my house. I loved the hills on the other side. I loved the party people who came to my house every friday. Life in Africa is so beautiful. People work hard, but they don’t let work and money determine who they are as people. The community is awesome, and you won’t find a single person who lacks friends. People are friendly and they like to include everyone: strangers, tall, short, fat, white, black…everyone.
 
The music is amazing. Everyone, even a disabled person, has a beat. Everyone shakes the booty, man or a woman. If you can walk, you can dance; and if you can talk, you can sing. That’s what every African thinks, and it works well.  
 
 It’s frustrating that people don’t spend time talking about the beauty of Africa. It seems like they only focus on the negative. There is suffering everywhere. It’s good to help, but if we only talk about what Africa doesn’t have, Africa will always feel inferior. They won’t have the courage to achieve bigger dreams. I love Africa. I know the struggle. But I never knew the struggle until I left Africa. The thing is, we try to compare our lives with other people’s lives and then we come to the conclusion that if a person doesn’t have what we have, he must be suffering. Money and wealth do not make us people. We are people because we have life, and life comes freely to everyone. The president lives because of the free gift of life, just as the homeless person lives because of the free gift of life-neither live because of MONEY. Life is beautiful. Therefore, let us recognize the beauty in it and appreciate the ART of God.
By Enric Sifa
 
Enric Sifa was born in and grew up in Rwanda.  He is a singer/songwriter and is currently attending Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon.  To learn more about Enric and his music, visit www.enricsifa.com
 
 
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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Guest Posts