Last year about this time I was on the island of Lesvos, Greece experiencing things I hope I will never forget. Myself and the team I was with spent time watching for people coming over on rafts from Turkey. For those who made it to shore we spent our days feeding them, the hungry. We did our best to clothe them, the oceansoaked, the shivering and the naked. We sat with them, held babies, hugged some and tried to comfort them, the scared, the grieving, the traumatized within the confines of Moria camp – a prison. We did this in Jesus name. Literally living out Matthew 25.
It seemed like the right context to be doing those things. We were in a foreign place with people in crisis, fleeing persecution, refugees, orphans, widows, those with haunted eyes with no place to lay their heads except the ground, homeless. I gave with all I had and more importantly with the compassion, strength and grace that God gave me. Everyday I was there I asked God to use me.
And now a year later here I am back home in Red Deer, in a wealthy province, a free and prosperous country from the rest of the world’s perspective. In fact this month according to a new study, Canada was ranked as the second best country in the world to live. And rated #1 for quality of life out of 21 countries that were studied.
“Canada boasted the highest quality of life of any of the countries, meaning it is economically and politically stable, family friendly, and has well-developed public health and education systems”. *
I know I have often taken for granted the many good things of life that I enjoy because I was born and raised in this country. I have come to understand that I am placed here for a reason and that it is God who placed me here. And in that place of understanding my eyes and heart see things through a different lens. When I take a closer look around my city, when I hear reports from agencies that I visit, and talk to leaders in our schools and nonprofits I come away with a different perspective and more than just a little ache in my heart. In fact – my heart is broken and I think God wants it that way because His heart breaks too. Superficial glances around our community can be deceiving – look a little closer. What lies just visible amidst the affluence, what tries to rise to the surface, whose quiet cries are calling out to be heard? The invisible neighbor, the hungry children, the lone and barely making ends meet parent, the mom and children at the emergency shelter, the refugee family trying to adjust to a new country and culture, the new immigrant struggling to adapt and learn so many new things.
And so I ask myself why do I look at the situation here differently than I did in Moria? Why do I not live out my day to day life in a Matthew 25 attitude like I did in Moria? Well a number of reasons run through my head. The situation isn’t quite as desperate and we are a long ways away from an ocean and threats of death and bombs. We have great agencies in Red Deer who are on top of all of this. And really there is so much help available if people looked, or just asked.
But God’s call to me to give generously, love in His name, feed, clothe and visit is not reserved for short term outreaches on the other side of the world or in cases of natural disasters or acts of terrorism. It is a call to a lifestyle that reflects God’s heart every day wherever I find myself. And yes there are great agencies in our city that are doing their best to feed and clothe and minister to those who enter their doors but nowhere in scripture do I read that the job is to be left to them. It is God’s call to His people to care for the last, the lost, the least, the little and the nearly dead. It is God’s call to me after rescuing and redeeming my life to live in such a way that I reflect His character to the world around me. It is my grateful response to God who loved me when I was lost, without a true home, without knowing Him as a Father, hungry and thirsty for water that could truly satisfy, yes it is a very grateful response that compels me to look at my neighbor with Jesus eyes of compassion. It should be my grateful response to rise up to meet the need of the hungry children and those in need of warm clothing in our schools. It should be my grateful heart that reaches out to those new neighbours in my community that need a friend to invite them in, get to know them, hear their story and tell them mine.
This month of March our church prayer has been for educators and students within our local schools. Within these places of learning there is much need that we as a church have become aware of. Basic needs of food and clothing – and the hands and hearts to prepare and distribute these offerings. There is also a need for us to give of our time. There are students in large classes who need one on one attention from someone who will listen to them read and encourage them. There are teachers with many students who need some one on one time and they cannot possibly give what is needed to each student who needs it. Here presents itself a great opportunity to do what love compels.
On Sunday, March 26th please take time to read the bulletin insert, stop at the tables in the foyer and learn how you can act on what God is asking – on what His love compels you to do in His name.
The team has arrived back safely! We made it back home yesterday and everyone is resting after the long journey home.
Please keep us in your prayers as everyone transitions back into life at home while also processing the experiences in Rwanda.
Thanks for all the prayers and support! We have been truly blessed.
Dear Friends at CrossRoads Church,
World Relief Rwanda sends you warm season’s greetings from our Church Empowerment Zones in Musanze, Bugesera, Kicukiro and Nyamasheke. It was wonderful to be with you recently during my time in the US and share together about what the Lord is doing both in CrossRoads Church and Rwanda.
As we begin a new year, we are even more so determined and encouraged as World Relief staff to increase our impact and work towards uplifting the local churches’ role to promote sustainability when working with the most vulnerable in their community. We thank you for continuing to be by our side, your friendship, support and commitment to helping the world’s most vulnerable is what makes this great work possible for yet again another year.
As we began this New Year, this scripture has been our guide, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV). For sure He will not
let His Church down.
Joyfully serving the church,
World Relief Rwanda
Monday was a very busy but great day for us! Our morning began with the opportunity for us to go and see a water project known as 20 Litres. This project is through Mars Hill Church in the U.S. and its goal and purpose is to bring clean water through a filtration process. We visited Gahanga and were able to see them assemble the filtration system and give us a demonstration of the process. It was very interesting to see! There isn’t a filtration system in every home yet and those that do have them have been recognized by the church as being the most vulnerable therefore they have received them. However, the homes that do have them share the system with their neighbours. This helps bring community and friendship amongst one another.
In the afternoon we met with a church network. This group was composed of pastors and volunteers. They talked about how they are bringing different lessons, information, etc throughout their communities through volunteers. Each church has 10 volunteers that are trained and equipped. We were able to hear some of the volunteers share their experiences with this program. One thing we noticed was that the majority of the volunteers are women! We were told that they are wanting to equip and empower women and that is why many women are becoming these volunteers and helping their communities.
After the meeting we split into two groups and were able to visit two different homes that have been impacted by this program. Myself, Monika and Nathanial visited a home where we were able to hear the testimonies from two different families. We were told by both families that before this program came into their homes there wasn’t much care about how their money was spent and the majority of money earned was spent at the bar by the men of the homes. Once the volunteers came into their homes things started to change. The change first started with the women in the home and through them the men started noticing a difference in their wives. The men began staying around for the teachings and God did a great work and has transformed their homes! It was so beautiful to see the smiles and joy light up their faces as they talked about what God has done!
One thing that has been so beautiful to see and has brought joy and fullness to my heart has been the smiles and joy that fills the people we get to talk with here in Rwanda when they talk about what God has done in their lives! We serve such a beautiful and big God!
Although our day was long we all enjoyed it greatly and it will be a great memory for us that we will hold dearly.
Thanks for the prayers and love:)
Today was a very busy day! We arrived back to the guest house not long ago and everyone is getting ready for a good nights rest!
Will post more tomorrow on the adventures we had today:) Please keep us in your prayers as we only have a few days left in Rwanda and we want to keep focused on what God has in store for us for the remainder of our time.
Sat. February, 25
Today we did Umuganda with a community from the Bushenge sector in Nyamasheke.Umuganda is a day when the community participates in a Public Work project such as; cleaning the ditches, picking garbage off the street, or helping build a vulnerable person’s home. We ended up doing the latter, which was educational, relationship strengthening, and fun!
We first helped harvest and carry some small, long trees to the site, then we helped place mud to create the walls. We passed large balls of the mud from one person to another. This was a mixture of dirt, water, and straw stomped together with their feet. From there we stuck the balls of mud on to the skeletal frame of the house. If there were any spots that were not covered by mud, we would take fist-sized chunks and throw them at the house. Then another person would smooth the mud out with their flat hand. It was really exciting as people laughed and talked together while we worked. I, Nathaniel really enjoyed working with the people of the community! It just so happened that I got to meet the Vice-president of the Bushenge district (whose name was Martin) while building the house. The wood we helped carried was used to finish the structure of the building (which was only half complete when we arrived).
Afterwards, we attended a village/community meeting, which we (unfortunately) did not fully stay for. It was said that the community leaders would give medals to some of the people who were outstanding citizens. Participating in Umuganda is mandatory and everyone must help. Those who did not help were fined 5000 Franks ($ 6.09 USA), unless their baby was sick, one of their animals got lost, or they had a very good excuse; then they would not get fined. (5000 Franks is A LOT for some of them.) For example, if a farmer worked hard all day, they would earn around 1000 Franks, and a taxi driver would make 2000 to about 3000 a day.
We headed back to our lodging both very dirty and tired, but very spiritually satisfied.
We met with different pastors from the Church Network (including a female pastor) in Bushenge Sector. Some of the denominations that came together were, Pentecostal, Anglican, and Catholic churches. Together they formed a Savings Group to help one another and their most vulnerable. They are a great example of how different Churches that did not work well together, are now meeting regularly and caring for each other. Reminding us that we are more powerful together in community, than apart.
After chasing a loan from a bank for a full year, many would not qualify for one. Now, with the Savings For Life Program, individuals who need a loan can borrow one to provide for their families. They can buy land to farm and sell their crops or animals to raise. This program gives opportunities to even the poorest. It has also taught the community to come together in relationship with one another. As well it provides the members to learn about health and nutrition for their families. They then encourage that person to go and teach others in their community. This also educates their youth to plan for their future by saving $ for their future and themselves for marriage. With the help of World Relief, hard work, and the grace of our Lord all things are possible!
Highlight of the day was when we had an only woman fellowship! Albert sent out an invitation to the women of the community to come join their sisters in Christ, from half way around the world. We were not sure how many would show up since they were not given much notice.
Women kept showing up and coming in that we needed more room for them to sit. After sharing my testimony we opened the room to questions. I was moved at how the women responded. They shared their hearts and were free to talk about anything. Some sharing private stories of their own and others thanking me for sharing mine. One lady, Felicity, said that she learned that even though we live in different cultures we still have very much the same lives.
Imana iguhe umugisha! (God bless you!)
Your sisters and brother in Christ
Rwanda has been referred to as the Garden of Eden, with all of its beauty-the land of a thousand hills, this can’t be disputed. It is so good to return to this land for my third time, seeing familiar faces, familiar landmarks yet new experiences are ever waiting. Every morning, I am serenaded by groups of fishermen returning from a nights worth of fishing in their boats returning to the shoreline of Lake Kivu in front of my window. Their melodious Rwandan voices are raised in unison as this brotherhood sets sail at 5pm and returns at 600am as predictable as is the waters coming to shore. What a treasure to be awoken each morning to this.
It has been a busy day for us! We made our way into Nyamasheke in the trucks again, riding the rough roads in this rural area which for some, like myself, I quite enjoy riding on. For others, the ride was not quite agreeing with their systems. Perhaps it will take some getting used to. We spent time at a Pastors meeting in Shengai where upon greeting the pastors, I was able to greet one by name, Pastor Damien, as I had stayed in his home during my previous visit to Rwanda. I wish I could describe for you the look on his face when I addressed him by name! It was a privilege to bear witness to the unity of the churches within this district who work together, regardless of denomination, to pool their resources to provide for the needs of the most vulnerable within their midst. They reported how they were able to have met some of the needs of their most vulnerable people together in their communities thus far, and too, laid out their ambition plan for the future knowing full well that God is perfectly able to meet that need. This group of pastors are strong in their faith and asked CrossRoads church to pray for the security of their people and the country of Rwanda, for the good work of the church to continue and not to become deterred by the devil, and for the church’s “conditions” to be blessed that they may continue the activities they are wishing to create for their community.
We walked from this meeting to another one surrounded by many children and adults. We met three individuals who work out of the Pastors committee, who spend time with the sick and dying, in both the hospital and in homes, particularly with those who have no family. It was touching to hear these individuals speak of how out of Christian duty they are care for the infirm. When I asked about their self-care strategies in trying to balance their care of family, home and the sick, this concept was lost on the Rwandans. Self-care is a Western construct, one born out of individualization not out of community based society. Their response to this was that care was out of duty, and for community and family. My realization is that what our focus is on in the West/Canada needs to be carefully considered when in an international setting. It was a great lesson learned.
The group split into two and visited two different Orphan Vulnerable Children. The young woman I met was Amminiz. She was about 13 years of age and was residing with her “mother”, as was her brother, who was married. She apparently lost her father from a stomach issue. She states that she likes chemistry and biology but not math, and has dreams of becoming a doctor. However, she is not passing all of her classes as she is not able to get her homework done as there is no power in the home, so she attends school early however, she does not have fees to pay to stay and eat at school so much leave to come home to eat, but often there is no school. It is a vicious and complex cycle of poverty for which there is no easy solution. It too reminds me, that I need to consider that there may be other sides to this story that need to be considered as well.
With a few of the team not feeling so well, the rest took a trek to the Congolese border. Our World Relief Field Co-Ordinator stated it was a 20 minute walk which must have been African time because our North American clocks indicated it to be approximately a 45 minute walk each way! If ever a time to start off a weight loss program, this is the walk to do it with the incredible downhills which inevitably turn into an uphill! It is always an interesting experience seeing the changing milieu at the Congolese border from that of Rwandan culture. Of note, as someone that is not ashamed to disclose her “issues” with snakes, I caught up with a group of Rwandan men who found a snake on the sidewalk- I could tell you that it was huge, but others will attest to it that it was small. Believe what you will. The men were trying to kill it with their bike. Let’s just say that it tainted the rest of my walk to the guest house, calling me to look at the sidewalk. For the individual out there- and you know who you are, who said there were no snakes in Rwanda- yah, whatever.
Some of the team are missing in action this evening, having called it a very early evening and will hopefully be feeling better in the morning. Tomorrow will be a new day with the serenading beginning bright and early. This adventure in Rwanda is still in its infancy, yet anything that presents is a God opportunity if we are willing to receive it. What is God teaching me through each person I meet on this journey? What am I learning during those times that I want to fix but know that I cannot without causing more pain and oppression? And, what does Rwanda have to teach us back in Canada?
The 2017 Rwanda trip leader,
On Tuesday, February 7, we kicked off the very first Communities of Compassion group! This month’s primary focus was Uganda and CrossRoads’ partnership with International Needs. However, the room was filled with people that have interests in mission generally.
The evening began with stories and memories being shared as people mingled around and got to know one another. There was a great variety of experiences among those that came out. There were people from previous STO teams, people who had spent part of their lives living in Uganda and all who have a heart for missions. It was exciting to see the interactions being made within this beautiful group of people! I loved seeing someone with a passion of Greece sharing with someone else that had experience in Rwanda or the Middle East!
After everyone had the chance to talk together, GCC member and Country Co-Lead for Uganda, Adam Minke, led the group through the different interactions and events throughout the night. The group participated in a game to test their knowledge of the GCC and partnership with International Needs and were given a tasty treat for their correct answers! This was a fun time as answers were coming from people of all ages!
The group was “introduced” to Paul, the Headmaster at the Hope Trade School through a video where he sent his greetings and thanks to CrossRoads church for their investment in the trade school which is giving students practical skills that will better their future. This was a great way for everyone to see and hear about the work CrossRoads has been supporting and investing in.
A highlight of the night was watching a clip from one of Disney’s newest releases, Queen
of Katwe. This movie realistically illustrates the life of many Ugandans and it allowed for great conversation amongst the group. People were asked to look at the different social issues that many Ugandans face daily and to see the different things that International Needs is wanting to eliminate to better the people of Uganda.
As the night was coming to a close, a short video on living compassionately as we are taught in the Bible was shown and this opened up the conversation for small groups to share with one another. People shared their thoughts on what living compassionately in the world looks like and more specifically here in Central Alberta.
This evening was a great opportunity to hear each other’s hearts as well as pray together and for our partners.
Don’t miss out! We gather the first Tuesday of the month so our next Communities of Compassion gathering is Tuesday in March 7th in the Worship Room at CrossRoads (enter through the Youth Wing and walk towards the cafe- you can’t miss it!
Chantelle – on behalf of the Global Compassion Committee
Today is our first full day in Nyamasheke and our first time to the Pentecostal churches! Our Rwanda team split into two different groups and each group went to a different church. The ride there was absolutely beautiful… there were rolling hills upon hills lined with squares of fields of crops, trees, bushes, and the soil is very red. We rode on a bumpy road which threw me around in the back a little but it was still SOOOOOOO awesome! I waved at so many people and the children yelled to their friends, MZUNGU, MZUNGU! I’ve never in my life seen kids so excited to see me… or anyone. Church is different than the churches in Canada in different ways. One noticeable way was the pace of the music and dancing during worship.We all introduced ourselves to the congregation which was about 300 PEOPLE!!!! Any-hoooo, I gave the greeting from Crossroads and they all did a wave motion with their hands. The Church service was about 2 hours and nearing the end of it began to rain. And when it rains…… it POURS, a lot. It is like standing under a mini waterfall. It makes all the mud turn to clay and when that occurs the van is hard to drive. We were sort of rushed out of the service so we wouldn’t get stuck. The rain stopped right away and I literally waved at every single (they could be a couple but still…) human beings. Most of them waved back, even the ones on the boda boda’s (motorcycle taxi). I found that really cool.
This evening Ms. Joy, Mr. Isaiah, Nathaniel, and I played GO FISH. I think we played about 5 rounds back to back. It was fun, like, REALLY fun. So now I am here writing this blog while everyone is telling funny stories of their life and making comments that keeps everyone laughing. I am so glad I was put in this group. I love em’!