This morning we were in the Pajero at 7:30. We had our pain aux raisins and our café au lait. It really is coffee with milk, because the waitress brings us a packet of Nescafé and a small pitcher of hot milk to pour into the cup. The milk, in the European tradition, has not been homogenized, so a film of milk fat forms on the top of the coffee. Americans tend not to like that, but many European children love it; it’s the best part..
I bought more water, I was going to present this morning and would probably drink a whole liter-and-a-half bottle during my presentation (I did).
We arrived before 08:30 and everyone was ready. So I asked God’s blessing on our work and started in on the day’s lesson: Our Example to the World and the Church. I covered the material in about 75 minutes and took questions for about 45.
Some of the questions included (my answers follow – thanks to Lee for writing them all down):
· Can a Christian contribute to family or friends funeral expenses? Yes, as long as there is nothing occult involved in the rights.
· How to manage tithes and offerings that may come in? Tithes are for the work of the Church, they should not be used to cover anyone’s living expenses in this area. They can be used to cover expenses such as transportation, or phone units for church related work. We have not employed you, nor should you plan to live off your volunteer work for the Church. Most of our church elders are not salaried, they volunteer what time they can after working to take care of their families. This is what you should plan to do. We do not plan to employ you. It is important to keep a ledger to show any and all funds that come it, and every purchase that is made, with receipts. This is a protection for each leader and for the Church.
· But didn’t the disciples and the apostles live from the gospel? Yes they were called to full-time work and lived from the gospel. We have some ministers today who are called to such work. If I had to work to support my wife at home I could not travel for weeks at a time to serve in so many places. But most of our fellow-workers are not in that situation and while we appreciate your service very much, you are not in that situation either.
· Are offerings administered differently that first tithe? No.
· What is the veil for women discussed in 1 Corinthians 11? We believe this is a reference to a woman having long hair.
· So women don’t need to wear a veil? No, just feminine long hair.
· Can a woman shave her head as some tribes do when there is a death in the family? She should not. This would be a case of obeying God rather than a human custom. An exception would be for a medical emergency, an operation of some kind, when part of the head might need to be shaved. This would be a matter of the spirit of the law (saving a life) superseding the letter. [I didn’t think of it quickly to include this in the answer but for information, the Bible says: “You are the children of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead” (Deuteronomy 14:1.)]
· Women are not to pray but you read 1 Corinthians 11:4 where it speaks of women praying? Christian women are to pray as men are, just not out loud in a church service. Women are not to preach in church, but they do say “amen” at the end of the prayer which mean they do pray. Women can sing special music is our services but not to preach. The problem was that some women in Corinth were coming to church with inappropriate head coverings and it was a dishonor to the service. It is important for Christian women to pray in their homes and with their children, so little girls learn how to from mommy as well as daddy.
· I’ve been married by local custom for 20 years, should we also be legally married? Yes, if you can do so that is preferable.
· Can you help us by providing ledger books to record church accounting? Yes.
Then we stepped outside to take a group photo, and I counted out some money for member transportation and a simple meal for tomorrow. With the five men who are preparing for baptism, Lee and I moved outside under the shade of a small tree (more air movement) and sat on chairs to continue the preparation. First we did our homework: what had they found about the letter and the spirit of the law for the remaining commandments? We went the first: You shall have no other gods before me.
The Spirit: Don’t let anything come between you and your faithful obedience and submission to the will of God: not money, not romance, not status, not power, not food and drink, nothing. Anything that we pursue with our might, will and energy can become a god if it displaces the true God.
We did the same with the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 9th commandments as well. I can’t say this concept was really obvious to them, but with some coaching, they seemed to understand it pretty well by the end of the exercise.
Then we talked about believing the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). What was the Kingdom of God? What is the good news about it? This lead to a discussion of the steps in God’s plan revealed by the annual Holy Days. So we went through each one and discussed what it showed about the plan of salvation, in other words, how people can enter the Kingdom.
Then we discussed faith. Not only must we believe the gospel of the kingdom, but we must believe God is always good, and always keeps His promises. We went through Hebrews 11 and Romans 4 among other passages.
I gave them some homework to think about, and said I would see them tomorrow after services. I hope there will be some baptisms, which seems very likely.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped in a business supply shop to look for ledger books. They didn’t have any. They called around to the other shops. No one had any. We’ll have to buy them in Abidjan and ship them up.
Lee and I had a light lunch. I then worked on writing my weekly newsletter to our French-speaking members. I finished the draft and sent it off to Texas for proofreading (that’s kind of amazing when you think about it – a letter written in rural Africa, proofread in Texas, finished in Africa and e-mailed to people on at least three continents, all in one day), and did some other office work too.
Lee will present a Bible Study to the local leaders while I get the letter out, and we’ll meet back here for dinner. Tomorrow should be an exciting and rewarding day.