PREPARING A TESTIMONY
While in Rwanda, it is common to be asked to give a greeting or share an encouragement with a crowd. This may be at church, in a school classroom, or in a less formal gathering.
Every believer should be prepared to share his or her testimony. Your testimony can be the story of how you came to know Jesus. It can be, but does not have to be, your story of coming to faith. A testimony can also be how the Lord is working in your life now through what He is teaching you. Christ makes a difference in our daily lives; it is an important relationship to share!
While in Rwanda, it’s important to make sure your testimony can be understood across cultures. Try to use images that Rwandans can relate to and avoid American concepts. For example, East African concepts are shame and honor versus sin and praise. If you have questions about how to present your story, ask to talk with a Rwandan church leader during your first few days in country.
Here are four steps to help you prepare your story of coming to faith. If this is your first time preparing a testimony, it is best to write out your thoughts. Often, weaknesses in verbal communication show themselves better on paper.
Four Topics to Prepare Your Story of Coming to Faith:
- Life before Christ: What was most important to you? What common attitudes or circumstances could Rwandans identify with? What substitute for God did you use to find meaning in your life (sports/fitness, success at work, marriage, sex, making money, drugs/alcohol, entertainment, etc.)?
- Realizing your need for Christ: What significant steps led to your conversion? What needs, hurts or problems made you dissatisfied with the way you were living without God (consider choosing a theme from step one)? How did God get your attention? What motivated you?
- Committing your life to Christ: How did you specifically commit to Christ (repentance, conversation, prayer)? Where did that happen? What did you say in your prayer? Be specific and avoid Christianese or church-like phrases such as altar-call, asked Jesus to come into my heart, prayed the sinner’s prayer, etc.
- The difference in your life: How has Jesus helped change you for the better? How has influenced your relationships? How do you choose Jesus each day?
Review Your Testimony
- Aim for something approximately 5 minutes long, accessible to non-believers, which includes the gospel message, and emphasizes Christ in your life.
- Can Rwandans relate?
- Avoid using idioms, slang, or long phrases.
- Make it easy for translation.
- Do not talk about cultural taboos or money, and do not refer to specific geography in the U.S.
- Read more on Cultural Sensitivity
If the situation is not right to share your whole testimony, that is OK. It may also be appropriate to discuss themes to which all humanity can relate. If someone is struggling with a certain issue, you may be able to share how the Lord is helping you with a similar problem. Here are some themes to which you may relate:
- Anger, Forgiveness, Faith, Jealousy, Financial Problems, Grief, Anxiety, Loneliness, Poor Health, Comfort, Justice, Caretaking, Manipulation, Selfishness, Marriage Problems, Addictions, Guilt, or Finding Joy
There will be time most days for team members to have personal down time. This may be in the early morning before breakfast or in the evening as the day winds down. Either way, we encourage you to take this time to process your thoughts and feelings about what you are experiencing. Africa New Life provides a custom-designed journal to most teams for this purpose. Use devotions or journaling to record how the Lord is shaping you through this stretching experience. Take this time to process your cross-cultural interactions and what significance they hold.
Don’t wait until you come back home to try and process everything you felt. Try to note the highs and lows as you are living them. This journal can then serve as an encouragement and a reminder to what God has done on the trip! Keeping a journal can also help you tell your story upon return home. It will be a place to record anecdotes, prayers, thoughts and memorable stories.