June 2, 2016

‘You Are No. 1 in Central Rwanda’

Evangelism is over now for us in Rwanda.

The last sermon has been preached. The last goodbyes and tears have been shed. We have left for our long flights.

But what have we brought back with us? A suitcase crammed with souvenirs? Or an experience that will last a lifetime?

Yes, the church has grown in Rwanda, and the nearly 100,000 baptisms have shattered the church records. But what about me, as I go home?

Let me tell you how I learned humility in Rwanda. I’m a 19-year-old college student from the United States who loves public speaking. I’m not a person who cringes at crowds. I get thrills when I have a good message in mind and there are people in front of me to hear it. No stage freight, but more like stage height.Sophie Soler wearing the attire of Adventist deaconesses in Rwanda on a Rwandan hill. (Courtesy of author)

Coming to Rwanda, I didn’t know what to expect. But I sensed that God wanted to teach me many things on the mission trip. I sensed that He wanted me to tone down my love of the stage. In lieu of that, I was expecting to be given one of the smallest sites in the crook of some mountain, with attendance of maybe 50 people. And driving out that first Friday night to my site, it did seem that my assumptions would prove true. An hour and a half later, on bumpy roads and off too many side roads to count, I started my outdoor meetings in a valley.

But to my surprise, this little site began to attract numbers. The thousands doubled, and on the first Sabbath I could not believe how the valley was so packed with people. The numbers only increased. About 200 people were baptized during our first baptism on May 21, and 300 more got baptized on the last Sabbath, May 28.

So the question is: What was it like? Did I feel in my element? Did I feel accomplished, like I was such a great speaker?

No, actually. The strangest this happened. Instead of feeling on a high, I was brought into a state of complete humbleness. When pastors came and shook my hand, praising me for having so many baptisms at my site, I felt so unworthy. Nothing inside of me responded to that praise in the natural way. All I knew was that I didn’t do that much.

On the last night, my pastor whispered in my ear, “You are No. 1 in central Rwanda. Your site has had the most baptisms in this conference right now!”

I could say nothing but attribute God for this success. I did nothing worthy of praise.

Why do I feel this way? Because I know the Holy Spirit was in that valley as I spoke. When you are in the presence of One who is greater than you, you cannot accept praise. When you work with Someone who is the reason of your success, you cannot accept kudos. I was taught the beautiful lesson of humility in that small valley in Rwanda. It will be carried back with me home, not in my crammed suitcase, but in my heart.

If God can use this proud, self-sufficient 19-year-old to speak to thousands and thousands of people, he can use anyone. If He can use me to help reach 500 souls for baptisms, He can use you. After all, God loves to use the most cracked and broken vessels for his service. I may be considered a successful speaker in Rwanda, but I know I can only take one of the lowest places in heaven’s archives. After all, who can compare to Jesus?

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