Jonathan Menn - ECLEA Director
Report of trip to BURUNDI and TANZANIA - Jan-Feb 2020
This has been a unique trip to East Africa so far. Here's why:
Bujumbura: Book of Revelation
The week began with my teaching the book of Revelation to approximately 30 interested church leaders for 3 1/2 days in Bujumbura (Burundi's capital). Most of Revelation--it's message, structure, purpose, theology, etc.--was completely new to the students. Nevertheless, they appeared to follow the discussion. This was confirmed in that days 2-4 all began with about 1+ hours of Q&A. And most of the questions were right on point, indicating that they were tracking and understanding what I was saying. This is most heartening, particularly for a book that is almost entirely symbolic.
Lunch in Bujumbura
The "most unique" thing (if I can risk being ungrammatical) is that, after finishing Revelation in Bujumbura, we drove 4 hours to Cankuzo for a very important event: the graduation of the first group of students who had completed all 14 of ECLEA's courses! Forty students began the program 3 1/2 years ago and 28 students completed the entire course (homework and all). This was a wonderful moment. It was a fine, long ceremony, with gowns, mortarboards, and all the trappings. I was honoured to give the commencement sermon and participate in handing out the diplomas. One touching aspect of the ceremony was that the spouses of the students were asked to accompany the students as they received their diplomas. I am very grateful to have been a part of this. These are the very people who can deepen and strengthen the church in Burundi and throughout East Africa. ECLEA is making a big difference! Thank you, friends and supporters.
Cankuzo graduates head to the church Cankuzo kids More Cankuzo kids
After leaving Burundi, I went to Tanzania. The first week we were in Arusha, where we went through Christianity And Islam: The Essentials with approximately 28 participants. In this course, we discuss an overview of Islam, compare the most essential things--Jesus and Muhammad, Sin and Salvation according to Christianity and Islam, Yahweh and Allah, and the Bible and the Qur'an--and consider ways to bridge the divide between Islam and the gospel, primarily by using the Qur'an and Islamic culture themselves. The book is primarily based on the primary sources: the Bible, the Qur'an, and the Hadith (the traditions and sayings of Muhammad, which is the second most important authority in Islam after the Qur'an itself).
A number of the participants said, "We now know Jesus Christ better--who he is and what he has done."
On the other hand, one participant who had been raised as a Muslim and had grown up in a 100% Muslim village, said that if she had known the things we had talked about (including what the Qur'an and the Hadith actually say about Jesus and certain aspects of Muhammad's life as revealed in the Qura'an and Hadith, she and many of her friends "would have run away from Islam."
Truth can be powerful. But this is not just a matter of one's eternal state. There are important sociological implications of this (of which, unfortunately, most Westerners are completely unaware). For example, according to the Hadith, Muhammad married his favorite wife, Aisha (one of about a dozen wives), when she was only 6 years old and began having sex with her when she was 9 years old (i.e., she was a pre-pubescent girl). He was about 52 years old at the time. The former Muslim remarked that, based on that example, young Muslim girls are often encouraged to do poorly in school. When they drop out, they are then married off to older men.
Please hold these church leaders up in prayer--that they would learn this material well, teach their own people, and speak truthfully and lovingly to their Muslim neighbors. I thank you for holding ECLEA up in your prayers and for your (tax deductible) financial support. You are making a difference in vital aspects of life in perhaps the most spiritually important region of the world.
My last conference was Christianity & Islam in Babati, Tanzania. The conference lasted four full days and included about 30 participants. In my opinion, this course is incredibly important and necessary. The reason, of course, is the aggressive advance of Islam and the almost total ignorance of Islam--what it believes, teaches, and implies--by most Christians and Christian leaders. Unfortunately, many Christians are also unsure or unlearned about the most important aspects of Christianity itself.
Several times various participants commented at how deep our book Christianity and Islam: The Essentials is. I think this book is empowering because, not only do we discuss in detail the most important aspects of both Christianity and Islam, but most of the teaching concerning Islam is direct from the Qur'an and the Hadith (the sayings and actions of Muhammad) themselves. In other words, contrary to Islamic propagandists, people can know right from Islam's primary authorities what Islam actually is like.
Sometimes there are public debates between imams and Christian pastors. However, one participant said that Muslims may present one of their own as a phony Christian pastor who makes bad arguments in order to win people to Islam. This, by the way, is in keeping with official Islamic doctrine (called taqiyya) which permits and encourages lying and deception when dealing with non-Muslims. In any event, if the participants learn what we have presented well, they will have powerful weapons which Muslims cannot contradict, because they are from the very sources Muslims are required to believe.
A huge question is what the church leaders will do about this. More than once I said that they have to get together, work together, and strategize. This includes making a concerted effort to provide practical assistance to Muslims who come to faith in Christ (such as safe houses, jobs, other financial/material assistance, and a welcoming environment where they can be accepted, loved, and discipled). The reason is that many Muslims who leave Islam face persecution by other Muslims including by their own family members. I am personally aware of many accounts of this happening in East Africa. This all goes back to Muhammad himself who said that anyone who leaves Islam should be killed.
Please pray for these church leaders. I am convinced that if they deeply grasp what we taught and act upon it, it can transform their churches and can lead to many Muslims seeing how they have been held in spiritual (and other forms of) bondage. As Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32).
I am now scheduled to be home until the latter part of March when I go to Kenya.
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