Pastor Orr is the Senior Pastor at Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. In July 2019, he traveled to Rwanda with a group of pastors to learn from World Relief’s peacebuilding and racial reconciliation efforts in Rwanda.
Q: Tell us about your trip. How did it compare to your expectations?
I’ve always been impressed with the way World Relief helps our church accomplish its mission by bringing the world to our backyard. We believe Jesus’ mandate in Acts 1:8 is not optional. Any church can accomplish this mission by partnering with organizations like World Relief. Brown Baptist has always been a big advocate for racial reconciliation in Memphis, and I was expectant for what I might learn from the reconciliation efforts in Rwanda.
I was also eager to get away with other pastors and hopeful that the trip would be a good spiritual reset for me. It must have worked because one of my members came to me after the trip and asked me when I was going to go back out. He said when I returned, my preaching was so much better!
Q: What was the most memorable part of the trip?
Two things stood out to me. First, was the community Savings Group. Twenty or so people worked together to save about $63 U.S. dollars. They used those funds to build homes and better their community. It would have been easy for any of us on that trip to reach into our pockets and give them that small amount. But sometimes it’s not about using money to solve an issue; it’s about empowering people to be the change in their own communities. Often, we take our Western mindset and try to solve everybody’s problems the way we think they should be solved. World Relief has a great model for empowering communities to identify their problems and equipping them to make change.
Second, was the reconciliation efforts in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. We were told that even church leaders of different denominations were at odds with one another during the conflict. But through grassroots peace efforts, victims and perpetrators of the genocide came together and found forgiveness. We read about that kind of forgiveness in the Bible, but these people are actually living it out. That’s powerful.
Q: Did anything about the trip make you think about church or community differently?
Most definitely. Every community and every country has its own set of problems. Yet when people come together, in unity, it’s possible to find solutions. If Rwanda can experience the change they’ve seen in the last 25 years, I have hope that we can see something similar in America. This trip gave me a greater determination to continue working with other churches and leaders in the Memphis area to better our community. Recently, 400 pastors from Memphis came together around an initiative to see every school in the area adopted by a faith community. Our goal is to see our faith community supporting students through mentorship and tutoring, and resourcing teachers with the things they need to give their kids the best classroom experience they can have.
Q: Did anything shift in your own life because of something you experienced on the trip?
The Lord spoke to my heart that maintenance is mandatory for ministry. If we are going to be the best we can be and do what God has called us to do, we have to shut down at times in order for that to take place. We must close our eyes to get rest; we must close our ears to get receptive; we must close our mouth to get refocused, and we must close our door to get reconnected.
Q: What’s something from the trip you brought back to your own congregation?
In addition to rest, The Lord gave me a sermon series from the book of Ephesians about how everyone matters to the Lord. I am more convinced than ever that we need to stay the course and strive for reconciliation within our church and our community. I believe the church can be a catalyst in bringing about revival in our land. The spiritual renewal God gave me personally on the trip has given me new hope for the renewal He can bring to our nation.
Hear more from Pastor Orr:
Rachel Clair serves as a Content Writer at World Relief. With a background in creative writing and children’s ministry, she is passionate about helping people of all ages think creatively and love God with their hearts, souls and minds.