Freedom Sunday & Ending Slavery

International Justice Mission (IJM) works in 17 different communities around the world to bring justice to people who would otherwise be left powerless, voiceless, and without hope. According to the Global Slavery Index, more than 40 million people are living in slavery right now. IJM is working to end slavery in our lifetime. All of us can help make this a reality. You can become a Freedom Partner with IJM and help provide the funding needed to send rescue to millions of people.

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In addition, LifePoint Church will be participating in Freedom Sunday on September 23 and 24. Our services will be dedicated to educating our congregation about modern slavery and how to end it. We’ll also make it easy for all in attendance to sign up to be Freedom Partners. If you prefer, you can sign up right now by clicking here.

How You Can Help Bring God’s Love to Rwanda’s Poorest Children

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The whole Kigali Christian School student body gathers for a morning assembly.

Each weekday morning at Kigali Christian School (KCS), located in Rwanda’s capital city, hundreds of students gather outside for a 7:30 A.M. assembly. In perfect unison, the rows of children, sorted by age, sing three versions of “Jesus Loves Me”: one in Kinyarwanda, their native tongue; a second in French; and finally, a third in English. The youngest students are only three years old.

This scene provides the perfect snapshot of KCS, which aims to provide quality education in a Christian environment—a mission that means faith comes first, literally: From the morning assembly onward, “we intentionally share the word of God with the students,” says JMV Nsengimana, the school director for the Rwamagana campus in Eastern Rwanda. Although other schools in the area might claim to provide a Christian education, “what they [often] teach is actually religious studies,” he says. By contrast, “we emphasize salvation by grace. We want to provide transformative Bible study, not only knowledge.”

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KCS students line up to sing, dance, and learn about Jesus at the morning assembly.

A secondary goal of the school is to make the country’s economic differences—which can be vast—a non-issue. “There was a time when rich parents were saying, ‘No, my child cannot study with [poor children],’” says Gilbert Muhire, school director for the Kigali campus. But, now, “when they are in uniforms, you cannot discover this one is poor family, this one is rich family,” even though nearly 20 percent of the 862 students are sponsored, meaning an outside donor pays their tuition. As Jean Baptiste Mugarura, national director for Youth for Christ Rwanda, puts it: “We have kids from the rich families learning with—and from—the kids in the poorest class. Having that kind of community has given our school a unique identity.”

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Signs on the KCS campus remind students of the core values they’re taught.

Sponsors, more than 20 of whom are from Maryland, donate $50 per month to cover the cost of one student’s tuition, daily lunch, and school supplies and uniforms. To put this in Rwanda’s economic context, “families earn anywhere from $0 a month—they’re just doing their best to survive,” says Brad Burnfield, who oversees Youth for Christ’s national ministries in Rwanda, to about $75 a month for a family of five or six.

For primary students (kindergarten through 6th grade), this $600-per-year sponsorship is sufficient to cover the school’s costs. But for secondary students (7th through 12th), the necessary funding is closer to $750, requiring KCS to supplement the tuition of any sponsored students in upper grades.

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Preschool students at the Eastern campus prepare for a day of learning.

Each year, the school can only afford to add 10 unsponsored students who require funding from KCS, which means the sponsorship program is necessary if the school hopes to grow. And, the reality is, that expansion is already happening: Two years ago, a second campus, currently serving preschool through fourth grade, opened in Rwamagana in Eastern Rwanda, a rural area with a higher percentage of sponsored students. The goal is to add two more grades at this campus in the near future, and eventually, to add a secondary school.

Most pressing, though, is securing ongoing sponsorship for 90 students at the East campus who are currently funded by one generous donor through the end of 2017. “We have this window of April to December to get sponsors for these kids to stay at school,” says Mugarura. Otherwise, they’ll be forced to drop out or attend public schools, which often have 80 children per class and questionably qualified teachers.

“Most of the students we have couldn’t actually afford this kind of education without sponsorship,” since the parents are often subsistence farmers, explains Nsengimana.

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The LifePoint team tours the Rwamagana campus with school director JMV Nsengimana (center) and national director Jean Baptiste Mugarura (right).

And it’s not just an education, both academic and spiritual, that Kigali Christian School provides. In December, a seven-year-old student from the main campus was impaled on the side while on school break, and since his mother—a widow with four children—couldn’t afford the $100 surgery, he attended school while severely injured, forcing his teachers to provide care in the classroom. In response, teachers organized a fundraising campaign, and students donated any coins they could spare; some even pulled money from their school accounts to contribute. “The teachers really demonstrated love for this child,” says Muhire. The boy was able to have the surgery, prompting his mother to call KCS her “umbrella,” a source of protection against life’s storms.

“We thank God for what is going on in this school,” says Richard Emomeri, the primary school director at the Kigali campus. “We see God’s love manifested through the staff…I see the teachers serving the kids, giving more than lessons.”

Want to sponsor a child? To sign up, click here.

Contributed by Laura Tedesco

Bringing Hope to Unwed Mothers in Rwanda

Anathalié Umugwaneza was nine months pregnant when she interviewed for her current job. For most employers in her home country of Rwanda, her bulging belly would have disqualified her—but at Youth for Christ (YFC), based in the capital city of Kigali, it only added to the 34-year-old psychologist’s appeal. Now a mother of two, including a three-month-old baby boy, Umugwaneza was recently hired to spearhead the organization’s fledgling Crisis Pregnancy Ministry (CPM), which will fill an obvious void in the country’s ability to care for women facing unplanned pregnancies.

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A Christian counselor, Anathalié Umugwaneza has a heart for serving vulnerable women.

Nearly half of all pregnancies among Rwandan women are unintended, according to a 2012 Guttmacher Institute report. Even more alarming is that 22 percent of these unplanned pregnancies end in abortion, although the procedure is legal only in very limited circumstances (rape, incest, forced marriage, or for health reasons). A disproportionate number—about one third—of the country’s abortions occur in Kigali, where the ministry will initially be focused.

Since abortion is mostly prohibited—and with just one doctor per 17,000 Rwandans—“women [seeking abortion] don’t approach doctors or midwives,” says Umugwaneza. Instead, abortions are often performed, illegally and riskily, at home, either by traditional (and untrained) healers or the women themselves, according to the Guttmacher report. This practice explains, in part, why 17,000 Rwandan women are treated each year for abortion-related complications, which are far more likely among poor women. “This shows that we really need CPM in this country,” says Umugwaneza, who clarifies that the center isn’t there to promote unplanned pregnancy or abortion, but rather to share the love of Christ with women and encourage them to choose life.

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Anathalié Umugwaneza opened her home to the LifePoint Rwanda team during their March trip.

It’s not just the legal and medical risks of abortion that motivate the ministry, though. Umugwaneza also hopes to combat Rwanda’s strong stigma against single mothers and women who’ve had an abortion. If you choose either path, “you are no longer accepted in society,” she explains. “Women [who’ve had an abortion] even think that if they were Christian, they are no longer Christian.” Adds Jean Baptiste Mugarura, the national director for YFC Rwanda: “If a girl gets pregnant out of marriage, the family says, ‘Get out of here. Get out of school.’”

In fact, last year, a high-school student at YFC’s Kigali Christian School (KCS) stopped attending—and the staff discovered it was because she was pregnant, and her mother was too ashamed to send her to school. “For most of them, the easy option is to remove this baby and move on,” says Mugarura. But the KCS student chose to have her baby, thanks to counseling and help from the school staff, and is now back in the classroom.

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YFC Rwandas national director Jean Baptiste Mugarura shares a sweet moment with a student on the Kigali Christian School campus.

Stories like this are why the center—which will be given a more welcoming name than CPM—will prioritize providing more than just diapers and baby clothing: Umugwaneza, along with trained volunteers, will offer peer counseling, group support, pregnancy testing, and post-abortion care to an estimated 10 to 20 clients per month. The ministry will also refer women to health care services, including hospitals, centers for sexual abuse victims, and a local clinic run by a Canadian missionary and midwife. Eventually, YFC aims to partner with the police, who could refer potential clients to the center, and start a residential program for women and children in need.

Although young women and teens with unintended pregnancies are the primary target, the ministry will also assist babies, married women with unplanned pregnancies, sexual abuse victims, young fathers-to-be, and women who require post-abortion counseling.

As evidence of the need for such a broad scope of care, Umugwaneza recalls a married woman she met who became pregnant with a baby her husband didn’t want. “Before marriage, the man said, ‘I only need two children,’” Umugwaneza says. When the woman became pregnant with a third child, her husband refused to speak to her. “Now, the lady has a young, beautiful baby, but the husband [still won’t] speak to the wife,” says Umugwaneza. This situation, she explains, demonstrates the necessity of counseling women of all walks of life—single and married, poor and rich, Christian and non-Christian.

With the official launch slated for July, Umugwaneza has a busy few months ahead: recruiting and training volunteers, visiting similar centers in Uganda, and launching an awareness campaign in churches, schools, and hospitals to spread the word about the center. Most pressing, though, is raising the funds to rent an office in Kigali or, eventually, construct a building on the school campus. Currently, Umugwaneza is working out of an office in the KCS administrative building, which lacks the privacy necessary for the ministry. “God willing, we want the ministry to take place on this campus,” says Mugarura, “and it should be a separate space.”

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A proposed site for the Crisis Pregnancy Ministry building on the Kigali Christian School campus

Women from LifePoint’s MOPS group have already donated clothing to the ministry—and now, the CPM team asks for members to prayerfully consider contributing to the ministry’s rent, estimated to be $1,000 per month, plus another $500 for upkeep, or eventually, the construction of a building. To do so, please click here.

Contributed by Laura Tedesco

Immigrants and Me: The Same Before the Lord

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You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord

A timely question: how does God want me to respond to immigrants in the US? The short answer–love. As a believer in Jesus, I should love God with all my heart, soul and mind. And I should love my neighbors the same as I love myself (Matt. 22:37-39). However, God offers much more specific instructions about how we should love our neighbors who happen to be foreigners (or aliens, or strangers, or sojourners, depending on the translation) living in our country.

We also see throughout the Bible God has been moving people across borders for millennia. The first thing he asked Abram to do was,  “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation.” (Gen. 12:1-2). And then Paul explains in Acts 17:26-27, that God has been moving people around as a part of His plan so they search for and hopefully find Him. 

If you’re struggling to have an attitude of love towards immigrants and refugees, prayerfully consider the following scriptures and ask God to work in your heart to make it more like His.

Abram, Joseph and Moses

When God chose a people to be His holy nation on earth, He began with Abram (who later became Abraham). And He instructed Abram to pack up everything–family, possessions and animals–and leave his homeland and his father’s family. So right from the start, God was uprooting His people and moving them across borders. (Gen. 12)

Starting in Genesis 37, we read that Jacob, a grandson of Abraham, was still living “in the land where his father was a stranger.” Jacob’s sons sold their brother Joseph to Ishmaelites who then sold him in Egypt as a slave. Joseph becomes a central figure of Hebrew history even as he becomes a powerful leader reporting directly to Egypt’s Pharaoh.

Generations pass and, in Exodus, we see Moses lead the Hebrew people out Egypt’s borders back to Canaan, which later became Israel. And it is from that era that we see God’s instructions to the Israelites regarding the treatment of foreigners in their land.

God’s Heart for the Vulnerable

God gave the Israelites clear instructions regarding the treatment of certain people. God knew that three types of people were (and still are) more vulnerable to abuse than many–widows, orphans and aliens. (Again, depending on the translation, it may be aliens, foreigners, strangers, etc.) Here is a partial list of verses containing those instructions:

Ex. 22
21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. 22 Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”

Ex. 23
“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”

12 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”

Lev. 19
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.”

33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Num. 15
15 “The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord16 The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.”

Deu. 10
17 “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”

Part of God’s Plans Since the Beginning

All of this moving people across borders was not random. The times at which peoples would live and the boundaries in which they would live were all on God’s mind since He made Adam.

Acts 17
26 “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

Even Jesus experienced this movement across borders in His life. Joseph and Mary had to take Jesus and flee into Egypt for safety. In fact, during that time in Jesus’ life, He fit the current US government’s definition of a refugee.

Matt. 2
13 “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.'”

14 “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'”

What About Me?

Back to my first question: how does God want me to respond to immigrants in the US? When I read these scriptures, it is crystal clear that God wants me to love them and treat them the way I want to be treated–regardless of citizenship status. Interestingly, Paul reminds believers in Phil. 3:20, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Heb. 13:2)

So no matter where you align politically, one thing is very clear, God sees us all the same. He loves every single one of us regardless of our citizenship or lack thereof. And likewise, He wants us to love our neighbors regardless of their status.

Joe Paschal
Pastor of Mobilization & Outreach

Travel! Please, travel. (Pt. 1)

 

Pastors frequently tell us to follow the example Jesus set for us. And I’m about to do it again: Follow the example Jesus gave us–travel, travel, travel!

I was inspired to post a few thoughts after I listened to an interview with Jeremy Courtney and absolutely loved how he described the importance of traveling! The following is an excerpt from that interview (you can find the whole interview on the New Activist podcast by clicking here).

new-activist“How do I start to be a better neighbor? How to do I broaden my tent poles of who is included in my tent. How do I extend the table and put another leaf in the middle so I can welcome more people to my table ? I don’t want to make any bones about how hard that is. If you’re surrounded by a certain kind of tribalism that only wants to regard itself as right and righteous and worth it–breaking out of that might be difficult. Geography can play a limiting factor. Travel is one of the great normalizers of the world, one of the great battering rams of tribalism. It blows through walls and helps us see the other more compassionately and humanely. Travel if you can, if not to another country, another city, or another tribe inside your city. Travel to another denomination, religion, political party, ethnicity than your own. Walk across some street, barrier or boundary into other land and get to know those people. Listen. Go humbly. Do that incarnation thing. That’s the story: travel. It’s an inward journey more than it’s an outward journey, but we have to make that journey.”

Jesus traveled from His home with God to come to earth and inhabit a human body. The all-powerful creator of the the universe and humankind came into this world He created and took on flesh and bone. That’s the “incarnation thing.”

Jesus’ travels had a very specific purpose. He came to teach us that we could have abundant life (John 10:10). I am challenging you to travel with a very specific purpose. Leave the familiar behind. Get out of your comfort zone. Intentionally seek out people you don’t know in a place you don’t understand. When you get there, get to know them. And like Jeremy Courtney said, “Listen. Go humbly. Do that incarnation thing.”

But why? What’s the point of this challenge? 

The point is to learn how to love your neighbor the way you love yourself (Matthew 22:39, Luke 14:12-14). It’s difficult to love your neighbors if you don’t know them. And unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to have negative feelings toward them because of stereotypes and prejudices–even though you’ve never met them.

So travel! Please, travel. Put yourself in a place where God teaches you how to love your neighbor. Maybe you need to travel outside your familiar neighborhood to meet some people that aren’t like you. Maybe it’s a visit to a church you wouldn’t typically go to. Maybe it is a short term mission trip. Ask God to help you! Ask Him to give you the opportunities. He will.

Joe Paschal
Pastor of Mobilization and Outreach

 

Mission Trips for 2017!

We have several teams visiting our partners around the world in 2017! We hope many of you will join one of these teams. This year, and most years, during the summer, we send a team to each of our partners. And then there are other trips throughout the year, and those vary each year. So its good to always check our church website for the latest information. You can click here to check it out.

At the time of this posting, here’s the rundown:

Haiti, June 28-July 5 Deadline to apply is 12/21 click here for trip information then apply here
Guatemala, Aug 13-20 Deadline to apply is 1/31 click here for trip information then apply here
Ukraine, estimated dates of trip Aug 3-14 Deadline to apply is 2/2
click here for trip information then apply here
Rwanda, Aug 5-14 Deadline to apply is 1/23 click here for trip information the apply here

5 Years in Minotirie, Haiti!

2017 will be our 5 year anniversary of working in Minotirie! That’ s the village in Haiti we have visited multiple times a year since 2012. In his sermon on December 3 and 4, Joe Paschal described his recent visit to Haiti told a story about a single mom there named Gabrielle. You can watch that sermon below.

And if you want to be on the Anniversary Team that visits Haiti in the summer of 2017, you can apply here!

 

Making a Real Impact in the Lives of Orphans

The picture below is a significant one. It appears to simply be a crowded lobby at LifePoint Church. But its so much more than that. This is a crowd of people that want to know how they can help orphans and children that are vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment. In the middle of this crowd there are volunteer ministry leaders for Ukraine, Haiti, Guatemala, Rwanda and Legacy Orphan Ministry. This happened after our services on October 22/23.

That weekend, 38 kids were sponsored in 4 different countries.
74 different people signed up to learn more about being engaged in Global Outreach and orphan care.

This is just the beginning! We’re excited to see how God continues to use LifePoint Church!

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New Partnership in Ukraine!

We’re so excited to have Orphan Outreach partner with us and Alpha Life in Ukraine! Now you can sponsor these amazing young men and women (click here for sponsor site). And check out this great video for the story!

New Media about G.O. & Legacy!

We’re excited about a new booklet we’ve created to highlight LifePoint’s Global Outreach and Legacy Orphan Ministry. Click on the picture below to have a look!

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