As we rode over the rough terrain and the desolate land, I thought to myself, what is the Lord doing out here. There was nothing that resembled a road and there were few people in sight and the heat was oppressive and I was told that they received less than 3” of rainfall per year. That was my first introduction to the Pokot Tribe of Western Kenya, a then unreached people group of about 1.1 million people. Previously, Harvester’s ministry was in South Africa and Mozambique. To answer my question, the Lord was doing a great deal and that was almost twenty years ago and today the Pokot are considered a “reached” people group. Harvesters felt like Pastor Julius Murgor’s work with Pokot Outreach Ministries was such a big task that it should be the sole focus of Harvesters’ ministry and partnership.
The next eleven years were exciting as we partnered with Julius – we were digging wells to bring nomadic people to a place where they could hear the Gospel and be discipled in the Word of God. A Bible Training Center was established and pastors and evangelists are receiving training and as the Lord worked through them the ministry is expanding reaching into both East and West Pokot and even into the eastern part of Uganda where several Pokot make their home. By 2006 there was interest within Pokot Outreach Ministries to reach into southern Sudan where there are four unreached people groups with similar culture and traditions to the Pokot.
This outreach is becoming a reality through a graduate from Scott Theological Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya, Pastor Rubin Meriakot. Pastor Rubin was sent to the Kenya/Uganda border to be a church planter. One of his friends at Scott was from the Sudan that he has stayed in touch with following graduation. Rubin has visited there twice and during those visits Rubin’s heart was drawn to the enormous spiritual needs in that part of the country. Upon his return from his second trip he shared his heart’s desire with Pastor Julius Murgor and Julius immediately saw an answer to pray as well. Rubin has plans to marry a Scott classmate in April of this year, he, Julius and Harvesters are now praying for the Lord to make provisions for this young couple to be missionaries in the Sudan, sent out under the umbrella of the Pokot Outreach Ministry. God is doing an amazing work.
It was that same year, 2006, during a mission trip, that I met a Pastor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the guest house in Nairobi, Kenya. Pastor Habimana was a big, impressive, teddy bear of a man with a warm heart and gentle spirit. He invited Harvesters International Ministries to visit him in the Congo which we did the following year. Our initial trip was delayed by political unrest. The area around Kivu province has the world’s largest UN Peacekeeping force and the US government was not recommending travel to the area. We kept getting reports of the conflicts and the terrible conditions of the people in the refugee camps, so when we finally made our visit we could see how this “gentle giant” of a man was using his holistic approach to ministry to make an impact in the lives of people torn apart by death, destruction and physical abuse. Pastor Habimana, like most of our other partners, was concerned with making disciples to share in the task of restoring a broken nation by sharing the Gospel. He was unanimously made a partner of Harvesters that year and we could see the Lord expanding our boundaries.
One of Pastor Habimana’s disciples was a young man from Rwanda, a bordering country that experienced the massive genocide that took more lives than all of World War II. Like the Pokot, Pastor Habimana was reaching across the borders to help to heal broken relationships and to bring people together in peace and harmony through Christ. To say there was bad blood between these two countries is an understatement, but the love of Christ has no boundaries. Pastor Habimana’s “Timothy” was Aphrodice Mutabaruka and these two men built a discipling relationship over a period of three years, at which time Pastor Habimana assisted Aphrodice in starting his own small ministry in Kigali, Rwanda.
This past January J. Lucarelli and I boarded a plane from Nairobi to Kigali to reconnect with Pastor Habimana and to meet up with his disciple, Aphrodice. The plane was on time, and as soon as we met up with these men they took us to the Genocide Memorial Museum. Many of you may remember the horrible Genocide that took place in Rwanda around 1994 or saw the movie produced about it “Hotel Rwanda” as I did. Nothing in my 68 years of life has gripped my heart as much as this experience did! I am convinced that only Almighty God can heal this country from the enormous pain and suffering that continues to this day. And I am also confident that Aphrodice will be one of the servants the Lord will use mightily to accomplish this healing process and many will become followers of Jesus. Please pray with Pastor Habimana for another neighboring country, Burundi. Pastor Habimana’s heart’s desire is to disciple another “Timothy” there as well. At Harvesters’ last Board of Director’s meeting it was agreed that “Girimpuhwe Nawe”, Aphrodice’s ministry, would fall under Pastor Habimana’s umbrella as one of our partners.
The Lord also opened the doors for us to partner in Uganda with Pastor Samuel Mswesigwa and his wife who we met through an Evangelism training program that we have helped to bring to our partners. Pastor Samuel serves in a predominately Muslim area of eastern Uganda that has very little Christian influence. His ministry has had an amazing impact in that whole area of Uganda to the point that his life has been threatened numerous times because of his boldness with the Gospel, “the way, the truth and the light”. Harvesters’ Board of directors voted to make “To Africa with Love” a partner in 2010. Since that time his ministry has grown by leaps and bounds and includes several small church plants, a Christian School and a small orphanage.
Each of these ministries is no stranger to struggles, yet despite terrible opposition they are reproducing themselves and multiplying. This is of the Lord!