“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
By John David Hicks
Jesus presents two pictures in the tenth chapter of John: the Good Shepherd and the thief. The Good Shepherd loves the sheep and is willing to give His life for them. But the thief looks out for himself, for his own interests, and cares nothing for the sheep.
There are two spiritual forces at work in the universe (Ephesians 6:10-13): God and the devil; good and evil; the Good Shepherd and the thief. We are engaged in spiritual warfare. In his book on angels, Billy Graham sheds light upon this unseen war and its effects upon our visible world. “Satan, the fallen prince of heaven, has made his decision to battle against God to the death. He is the master craftsman who has plotted destruction during all the ages since he first rebelled. His ‘I will’ spirit has worked through his consuming hatred of God to write his tragic story in the annals of human history. In his warfare against God, Satan used the human race, which God created and loved. So God’s forces of good and Satan’s forces of evil have been engaged in a deadly conflict from the dawn of our history….
“We live in a perpetual battlefield – the great War of the Ages continues to rage. The lines of battle press in ever more tightly about God’s own people. The wars among nations on earth are merely popgun affairs compared to the fierceness of battle in the spiritual, unseen world. This invisible spiritual conflict is waged around us incessantly and unremittingly. Where the Lord works, Satan’s forces hinder; where angel beings carry out their divine directives, the devils rage. All this comes about because the powers of darkness press their counterattack to recapture the ground held for the glory of God.”
The Warfare in Rwanda
I just returned from a mission trip to Rwanda, where we saw God honor His Word in power – to save (1 Peter 1:23), heal (Psalm 107:20), and deliver (Luke 10:19) people. Our team of five from little Central Spanish Church in Donald, Oregon – including my grandson Alex, 9; my daughter Sandra Lucas, a marriage and family therapist; Kara Nichols, a massage therapist; and Cesilia Lopez, a recent high school graduate – spanned three generations with very different experiences and backgrounds. But we discovered quickly that God takes the weak things of the world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 2). Each member of our team offered a unique ministry to the Rwandan people.
Foremost on the mission trip, we had the opportunity to proclaim the Good News that you can know God and “be reconciled” to Him. Every day, people die without ever having known Christ and the true purpose for their existence.
Can you imagine what your life would be like if you had never been given the opportunity to know God? What if you had never experienced the joy and peace in knowing your eternal destiny? “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). We had the incredible privilege of working side by side with God Himself as we ministered. It would have been easier and much more comfortable to stay home. But Jesus calls us to go into all the world, and to help others go if we cannot.
The overwhelming wreckage humans can perpetrate on others is evident in countries such as Rwanda that have suffered so much. The principles of good and evil – the Good Shepherd and the thief – make sense in the context of suffering.
THE THIEF “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
“Thief” is a good description of the devil’s crafty nature. A thief is not only sneaky, but false and corrupt. He has evil intentions toward the sheep. Jesus pictures him as ruthless. He not only steals to satisfy his own ends, but also kills and destroys. The attack is against body, soul, and spirit. But the Good Shepherd risks His life to protect His flock.
The devil steals. In Rwanda, children are his most tragic victims. Our mission team’s main objective was to build a play therapy room at the Nazarene Church in Gisenyi. The church cares for more than 580 orphans who lost their parents to the AIDS epidemic. They have virtually nothing. They make believe a stick or a rock is their toy. They run to grab an empty water bottle tossed to the ground. It’s ownership of something. I saw a little boy holding a water bottle lid tightly.
My daughter Sandra Lucas, who is a marriage and family therapist, taught a conference to 24 lay members of the church on how to recognize the signs of trauma in children and how to use play therapy to heal trauma. The play therapy was an answer to prayer.
In Rwanda, children have to pay to go to school. The Nazarene Church in Gisenyi has a Christian school and tries to take as many children as they can, but they cannot give scholarships to 580 children.
Each day that my daughter was teaching the conference, we had arranged for a local restaurant to bring food for those attending. After the lay people of the church had eaten, they would mix the left over food in big buckets. The children who were outside waiting had their hands washed and in groups of seven or more would gather around a bucket and eat. They ate quickly trying to get as much as they could before the food ran out. This scene is embedded in my memory and I get sick when I think of this injustice of innocent children suffering. The thief has stolen the very innocence of childhood from these children.
The devil would steal everything, both physical and spiritual blessings. Without a revelation of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you live an empty life with great inner pain and strife. The devil does not want you to have a revelation of God’s love. Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The devil wants you to believe that you can live without God’s Word, God’s revelation of love and blessing. The Gospel truth has set you free from sin and bondage. The Word of God in your life is like having money in the bank, but you don’t know it. The promises are there, but you must claim them by the revelation of God’s Word by the Holy Spirit. All the promises of God are “yes” and “amen” in Christ Jesus. He alone is the source of abundant life.
The devil kills. In Rwanda, we witnessed not only how the devil steals from people but also how he attempts to destroy an entire people and a nation.
You will remember from the news in 1994 that genocide took the lives of more than a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The killing spree occurred in a short 100 days, the quickest and most brutal elimination of a people in modern history. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing but not until after many had retaliated. The United Nations stepped in and tried to help the 2 million refugees that fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the former Zaire. The formed Hutus extremist insurgency that is across the border is still bent on retaking Rwanda. With international assistance and political reforms there has been some peace. But Rwanda continues to struggle to escape its bloody legacy.
With the war in 1994, the health care system collapsed and sickness began to spread. Many lost their homes and property as people relocated to avoid being killed. Today, 13 years later, poverty is rampant, with few jobs and few paved roads. Almost everyone walks. The AIDS epidemic has swept through the country. But spiritually the church is alive. Believers understand the spiritual conflict and have taken the position of the Good Shepherd. We wanted to help, to encourage the church in Gisenyi, and to minister to the hurting, broken, and lost of Rwanda.
On the first Sunday about 1,000 people gathered to worship God in the Gisenyi church. After I preached through a translator I gave an altar call, and the altar was filled with people seeking God and God was changing lives.
A rebel soldier from the Congo came forward to give his life to Jesus Christ. The church is a mile from the Congo border. The pastor prayed him through to salvation and he asked for prayer for his paralyzed hand. In the last battle he was in, his hand had frozen to his AK-47 automatic rifle. They had to pry his hand off the rifle. He was now useless to the rebels so they released him. I prayed for him to be healed in the name of Jesus. I then told him to stretch out his hand and pick up my Bible. The Lord healed him and he went away rejoicing in what the Lord had done.
The next day, as the pastor, Simon Pierre Rwaramba, and I were walking up to the church, a woman who was sitting in front of the church office asked if it was OK to sit there. She said that she was a Muslim and stopped because she was in great pain in her back and legs and could walk no farther.
I asked this woman if it would be OK if Jesus healed her. She said yes. I prayed and told her to get up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ. The Lord healed her. I told her to thank Jesus for healing her. With joy and thanksgiving she thanked Jesus and then told the pastor that she would be in church next Sunday.
The next week I trained the pastors in ministry to the sick, broken, and hurting. Many pastors were healed, including a pastor who was going blind. We are to be Christians to our world, followers of Christ, ministering as Jesus ministered. Our actions come from our identity – Christians are people who are “in Christ” and are to be Christ-like.
The devil destroys. Throughout Rwanda we saw how the devil destroys relationships with people and a nation. Most people in Rwanda have lost loved ones and friends who were murdered. There was not a person we met who was untouched by the genocide or by sickness. All have lost a family member prematurely.
Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments by telling us that all of them would be fulfilled if we just loved God with everything that is within us and loved one another. The devil wants to destroy these relationships. The second week I did a pastors conference for 43 pastors. Five of these pastors have put their lives on the line to minister in dangerous areas of Rwanda. This is truly loving God and man and sacrificing for the needs of others. The devil would not have us make such sacrifice for others.
Jean Bosco, my translator, is in seminary in Kenya studying for the ministry. His father, the former Nazarene district superintendant of Rwanda, was killed in the genocide for saving people’s lives. Jean de Dieu Mihigo is principal and a teacher in the Christian school at the Gisenyi church. He saw all his family killed in the genocide. Each of these men had to experience God’s forgiveness so that they could forgive others. Many of the murderers were their neighbors. Can you even imagine the devastation the devil has inflicted on these two lives? They had to work through their bitterness. The biggest test of life happens when the unthinkable occurs and reveals a man’s heart and character. But what the truth of the Word demands grace provides.
The devil inflicted suffering and injustice, but through Jesus Jean Bosco and Jean de Dieu Mihigo were able to turn this tragedy and extend forgiveness. One of the men knows who killed his mother and has since befriended this man. This kind of extraordinary forgiveness is unthinkable outside the realm of God’s grace.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
In contrast to the thief who takes life by stealing, killing, and destroying, Jesus gives life – spiritual blessings, healing to the body, and restored relationships.
The life He gives is richer and fuller than anything this world has to offer, and it lasts forever. It starts with His forgiveness, love, and mercy. God’s life is eternal. The word translated “to the full” is better translated “abundant” or simply “more.” It’s inexhaustible. It never runs out. And it is never-ending, eternal. Life abundant means to have a superabundance of something. It is like an artesian well of spiritual power within you, satisfying and enabling you to live the life (John 7:38). It is a depth of living now and length of living in eternity. It is not only life as good as it can be, but also life beyond what we can imagine!
A Roman soldier came to Julius Caesar to request permission to commit suicide. He was a dejected, disheartened man with no vitality. Caesar looked at him. “Man,” he said, “were you ever really alive?”
When you try to live your life outside of the vine relationship (John 15), your life will be dull and dispirited. But abiding in Christ produces a new vitality, His life in us.
It is this vitality that we saw in the Rwandan people as we labored alongside of them to advance the kingdom of God. Pastor Simon told us why 580 orphan children come to his church in Gisenyi.
A few years ago, just down the road from the church, another organization that had funding from the United States opened a program for the orphans. They had lots of money and resources with buildings and people, but the orphans stayed away. The organization tried everything to get them to come, but nothing seemed to work. Instead, the children flocked to the church. “Why?” the well-funded organization’s leaders wanted to know. The real reason was that they were hirelings who cared nothing for the children.
“Our church volunteers do not get paid,” Simon told them. “We serve the kids out of love and they know it. That’s why they come here. We love them.”
When you serve God out of a sense of duty or need, there is no joy in it. Performance becomes your idol. The childlike attitude is gone. Paul said it was the love of God that compelled him. That love comes from a dependence on God. Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” Then, “out of your innermost being will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). John explains that Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit that shall be in you. Your entire reliance in life is to be on the resurrection life of Jesus that lives within you (1 John 4:4). The thief would take away your love for others, but also your dependence and trust in God.
Pastor Simon also told us the story of how he built a church to seat more than 1,000 people. The general church gave them $10,000 in alabaster offerings to build a church that would seat 50. With the same amount of money, another church in Rwanda could only lay the foundation for the building.
In the Gisenyi church, however, the people were too poor to give money so they made commitments of their time to work on the building. Church members pledged their time to walk and get bricks to build the church. Many would walk seven miles to the brick factory and return with 10 bricks on their head. God blessed their efforts and they built the entire church for $10,000.
The missionaries could not believe it when they saw the church finished. They thought a “secret” work and witness came and helped build the church or donated money for its completion. But the people believed God, depended on Him, and He blessed them and built the church.
Prayer Makes a Difference
I had a great time in Africa and appreciate your prayers and support for my trip. Pray about these needs with me. If God puts it on your heart to help, then respond:
*Medical insurance for 580 orphan children at $2 each for one year.
*Bicycles for 43 pastors at $100 each.
*Scholarships of $1,000 each per year for three students: Jean Bosco, my translator, is in seminary in Kenya studying for the ministry. Jean de Dieu Mihigo is principal and a teacher in the Christian school. He had to leave his wife and children for a year to go back to seminary to finish his degree. Evariste Nsabimana was also a translator and is a seminary student.
*I have been asked to come back and minister again to five more districts. The cost for one airline ticket is $2,500. I would like to take six people on the next trip.
Please visit my Web site www.faithencounter.org under articles for photos and information on “The Good Shepherd Mission Trip.”
Report from the District Superintendent of Rwanda
We are thankful to the Lord for this team of five: Alex, Sandra Lucas, Kara Nichols, Cesilia Lopez, and Evangelist John David Hicks. No other mission team has impacted Rwanda emotionally, physically, and spiritually as this team.
The team built a play therapy room for the orphan children. Sandra did a workshop for all the orphan workers. The team left behind not only their watches and personal clothing, but also their very selves. The whole congregation was happy because of what God did through their ministry.
Evangelist John David Hicks did a pastors conference for 43 pastors. He talked about the importance of growth in the ministry and faith, the basic things a minister must know to minister effectively. This was mapped out by Scripture and experience. John also taught on how to pray for the sick and challenged the pastors to expect answers to prayer. He emphasized that pastors are to be humble and meek in the service of almighty God. John’s teachings touched the whole person.
Having given the spiritual food to pastors, John also fed them physically with a balanced diet, and pastors were joyful for such nice meals.
This was not the end of the matter. John also clothed them, and on top of this he gave a special gift of a Bible to each pastor with a bag to carry it. Many of them did not have Bibles; some of them had only a New Testament Bible.
In Rwanda, we have lots of sickness – HIV/AIDS, stomach problems, pain of various kinds throughout the human body; people work hard and eat an unbalanced diet. Rev. Hicks had a healing service where pastors were trained and people were prayed for. The Lord healed many completely. Glory to God.
We are still receiving testimonies from many people. Here are two:
“I am Bahati Julienne. I thank God to have healed my back that I suffered from for many years. This happened when Rev. Hicks prayed for me during the church service. I’m able to do my work effectively. Let the Lord’s name be exalted.”
“I am Benimana Adele. I was extremely suffering from various sicknesses such as stomach, backbones, and many others. I was prayed for and after prayers, I received immediate healing. All diseases got out of my body. I am well and I am bringing thanksgiving offerings in the house of the Lord. May the name of the Lord be praised.”
May the Lord abundantly bless Evangelist John David Hicks. May the Lord award him with a long life to complete the work of the Lord he commenced in Africa.
We are praying for him and trusting God to make it possible for him to come back to Rwanda and also in other African countries next year. What the Lord enabled him to do in Rwanda indicates that his ministry is much needed in other parts of Africa that are experiencing difficulties of various kinds.
—Simon Pierre Rwaramba, District Superintendent Rwanda North West