|The Bible Camp was held in a school building that was built by the Belgiums probably 30 years ago. Like most buildings in Bukavu, it’s seen its share of neglect. The facility was quite large, although we kept ourselves confined to just a couple of rooms.In all, we had about 42 campers from 4 different cities that were able to make it for all 5 days. For some reason, my wife and I thought the average age would be about 10-15 years old. They turned out to be between 17 and 27, with most of them around 20 years old. We spent the morning and early afternoon teaching on the Lamb of God, and then did crafts and games in the evening. I handled the topic from an Old Testament perspective, while Pililo (the teacher from Uvira) taught a couple sessions using a New Testament perspective. Tom Lindquist (local missionary) taught on doctrinal topics and his wife, Kathy, headed up the crafts. Regrettably, the material presented can only be absorbed in proportion to one’s education, and some of my material got a little deep. Some of gals zoned out during those parts, but some of the young men who hold leadership roles in their local churches really dug in and devoured the material. But between the four of us, we made good use of the five day camp and really did a thorough job with the topic. Naturally, with a topic like “The Lamb of God”, you can’t help but make a solid presentation of the Gospel, and show how the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is focused squarely on the life, work, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Unbeknownst to Kathy Lindquist (the local missionary who chose the subject and organized the camp), I’d been working earlier this year on studying the various Levitical feasts. So when she informed me that the topic was “The Lamb of God”, I couldn’t help but chuckle. In my studies this year, I’ve really been struck by the number of parallels between the Levitical Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Weeks) and their direct correlation, not just to the person and work of Christ, but to the specific actions that surrounded Him during His final weeks on earth. Each of the four feasts symbolizes a critical component of what it means to be a believer in Christ, to be atoned for, regenerated, justified, indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. In a sense, it’s a shame that all the symbolism of these four feasts are directly aimed at New Covenant concepts, yet most 21-st century believers (here and in Africa) are only vaguely familiar with Passover, the first of the four feasts. Beyond that, most of us have little or no idea about the rest of the feasts and how they demonstrate the Gospel. I guess it goes to show that good studying and teaching is needed in the US just as much as it’s needed in Africa.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time getting to know the deaf campers, share from God’s Word and play games with them (I about killed myself playing soccer. I’m too old for this stuff.) But spending this kind of time with them also helped us see some of the fundamental challenges they have when it comes to understanding the Bible.
To a large extent, the Congolese is an aural culture, and the primary method of passing information is by conversation and story. The idea of using an encyclopedia or manual to fact-check is something of a foreign concept. Add deafness to the mix, and the problem becomes more acute. Suffice it to say, being a Berean is completely off the radar. They knew many of the stories in the Bible – and knew them very well. But most of the campers had little or no idea where those stories were located in the Bible, and fewer still could explain the relevance of those stories or how the stories were interconnected. This is not good. And because their mindset is aural, giving them a Bible is not the solution. Most of them had Bibles, and would even jot down sermon notes in notebooks or in pages stuck in their Bible’s cover – but many had no idea how to look up a verse or how to read the context of a verse to glean meaning.
Please pray for us as we plan future trips to this region. One of the things we’re going to concentrate on is doing leadership training, specifically for those who have teaching roles in their churches. We’re collecting French/Swahili materials to take with us, but to simply give them books will not be enough: someone will have to sit down with them and teach them (disciple them) on how to understand the Bible, how to study the Bible, how to live the Bible and how to teach the Bible.
There were several top-notch candidates for this kind of training – men who immediately wanted to pull us aside and drill us for hours, asking all sorts of questions pertaining to Godly living, church management and personal spiritual growth. They had worries about their growth as well as that of their fellow believers; fears about false leaders stealing the flock (this happened in one church); and concerns about falling away from the faith (this happened with several men who went to Uganda for Bible training).
The exhilaration of seeing the Holy Spirit moving these young men in their hunger for God is nothing short of awesome! Pray with us that the Lord will use us in this capacity – to provide long-term training to key leaders like these young men so that they too can train the deaf in their churches.