When the elections happened last Tuesday I was in Rwanda with a mission team (I did vote by absentee ballot ahead of time). As things played out during the week my staff asked me to consider writing a letter that they could read in church while I was away. Since my return from Rwanda yesterday, a number of people asked me if I could share the letter with them in print form so here it is.
Dear Eastbrook family,
I want to thank all of you who are praying for me and the team here in Rwanda as we minister to men and pastors here. We have felt your support and prayer throughout the week, and as you read this we will be concluding our time and boarding flights back home. Thank you for being a church who I know will truly pray for us while we are away.
It has been a very interesting experience to be here, watching the presidential election results displayed on the BBC while surrounded by brothers and sisters from another nation. It has reminded me that our God is bigger than any nation and that our family is bigger than any ethnicity, language, or people group. Earlier today, one of the pastors here in Kigali, Rwanda, prayed for us, for our churches, and for revival in the United States. It was not that different from our moment together last weekend in services at Eastbrook.
For some, the presidential election is a victory while for others it is a defeat. Some of us are encouraged today and some of us are discouraged. While we all still consider what this means for our country, I am reminded of two truths from the Scripture. The first comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel when the wicked King Nebuchadnezzar was rebuked for his pride and sinful ways: “the Most High is sovereign over all the kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:32). Daniel remained faithful to God as an exile through the reigns of many kings who came and went. God reigns over all the nations, and he gives and takes power from human beings. Sometimes God gives us the leaders we desire or, perhaps worse, deserve. The second truth is from Paul’s letter to the young pastor Timothy: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). No matter whether we live in a first century empire or a twenty-first century democracy, we are called to pray for leaders. We must live by these truths.
In light of the deep divides in our country, the demeaning rhetoric that abounds, the sense that some people are not valued as highly as others, and the overall lack of moral integrity in leadership, we must walk in a different way as the family of God at Eastbrook. We want to be a snapshot of the Revelation 7:9-10 church. This means we will live primarily as citizens of the kingdom of God and as exiles in this land. This means we will walk together and not let the divisions of this world pull us apart. This means that we will speak with truth and love, and not stoop to name-calling of one another or others. This means we will be a voice for the voiceless, care for those in need, and welcome with hospitality the foreigners in our midst. This means that we will carry each other’s burdens and seek for all people to experience the full dignity of being made in God’s image and entering into the joy of the gospel.
So, let me say that I cannot wait to see you again soon, Eastbrook family. Your brothers and sisters in Rwanda send their greetings and prayers your way. I believe we can learn a lot from their experience of God’s grace through hardship, God’s healing from wounds, God’s reconciliation amidst conflict, and God’s beauty from ashes. God is our shepherd and we always come back to the words of Psalm 20:7 – “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”