She wasn’t the type I expected to see at Parent teacher interviews. The expected ones had been plentiful already, Moms and a few Dads with youngsters in tow, some looking exhausted and ready for another cup of coffee, trying to keep their young brood from running in different directions. Some trying to coax a toddler off the floor telling them to hurry up so they could get to the assigned classroom in time for their set appointment. Lots of school age kids had come by already, some looking less than excited and some with big smiles on their faces. Overall the mood was happy and welcoming.
We had a good view of everyone coming in to the school. A few servers from CrossRoads had laid out clothing donations on tables in the hallway and were inviting families to take what they were in need of for their children. There were many winter coats in various shades of purples and pinks for girls and blues and greens for boys, stacks of leggings and jeans, shirts upon shirts and boots and shoes were on display. Some people kindly said “no thank you, we’re doing okay”, some had commented on the generosity of the people who had donated and many had left with children wearing something that they really needed and a bag of other items. And lots of smiles were handed out and received along with a few hugs.
The number of children that had come through wearing coats that they had outgrown by a few sizes was significant. The arms way too short and the coat fitting so tightly around their bellies that I am not sure how they got the zipper done up. It was such a great thing to be able to see these kids walk out the door in a new coat that would still fit them next winter.
But this woman, she was much older and slower. She pushed a walker in front of her as she headed towards us. She walked with a shuffle and she was bent over, leaning heavily on the walker as if it was keeping her upright. After explaining why we were there she started looking through the clothes and talking, her life situation coming out in bits and pieces. She was a grandmother trying her best to fill the role of a Mother and Father to more than one elementary aged child.
She found a T shirt that said Paris on the front and immediately told us that her granddaughter dreamed of going to Paris one day…..and New York. ”And she has a very good voice” the Grandmother told us, “Who knows?”
It wasn’t too long before the granddaughter came around the corner and started looking at the clothes. As soon as the grandmother held up the Paris t shirt the girls eyes lit up and she gave the shirt a hug as she excitedly said “Paris!” It was the best find of the day!
This little family has stayed on my mind and in my heart since I met them last week.
I think about a tired grandma who probably never imagined that she would be raising children at her age. It is a challenge physically, emotionally and financially. There is heartbreak that has led to this situation.
I have thought about a little girl with big dreams of Paris and New York and singing. She is resilient and hopeful. I pray that she stays that way.
And “Who knows?”
Today is World Water Day! It’s a day to reflect on our water resources and the challenges/solutions that exist. We have abundant clean water in Canada and that is a great blessing. But today we need to also think about people in developing countries that struggle to meet their water needs.
Check out the UN World Water Day website to learn about solutions to our water problems that can be found in nature: http://worldwaterday.org/
You can also take a look at this article written by Compassion Canada that illustrates 8 different children from around the world and how they get their water:
When you need a glass of water, or you need to brush your teeth or wash your dishes, where do you get your water? Do you turn on the tap in the kitchen or get water out of the fridge?
In 2018, access to clean water might not seem like an issue that we should still be talking about—and there’s good news! Access to improved water sources has made a lot of progress in recent decades. According to UNWater, 71 per cent of people use a safely managed drinking water service. But there’s still a ways to go: 1.8 billion people are still using water contaminated with feces, which puts them at risk of diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
Here are 8 pictures of the diverse ways children in poverty get their water.
Betty from northern Uganda walks with her mom each day to find water at streams near her village. In the drier times of year, only muddy patches of water are available, which often have parasitic worms in them.
These girls, who live in northwestern Thailand on the border of Myanmar, come to this community well each day to get water for washing, cooking and drinking. An improved water source like a well can drastically reduce water-borne diseases compared to gathering water from a river or stream that animals frequent.
Ana, left, lives in rural northern Brazil, and she and her family come to the river near their home to wash their dishes and bathe. Although much of Brazil is highly developed, there are still pockets of deep poverty in this massive country.
Eric has a rainwater storage tank at his home in rural Kenya. It collects water that runs off the roof and ensures the family has water even in dry seasons. He used to get his water from the river near the edge of his village. He would take three trips every day to retrieve enough water for his family’s daily needs. Sadly, the water gave him typhoid and other water-borne diseases that kept him out of school.
Maria in Nicaragua gathers water with her sister each day from this hand-pump well. Before the well was installed, there was an outbreak of Hepatitis that got many in her town very ill.
Ae-plaetoo and Mue-ngaetoo gather water from this river each morning and each night near their home in northern Thailand. “The water here, it’s not clean and there’s a lot of dirt. Because we get the water straight from the river, we need a filter.”
Kevin lives in a community in Rwanda where there are many widows from the Rwandan genocide in 1994. He has a water filter in his home that the family runs all of their water through to clean it. His mom is HIV-positive, so it’s especially important that she not become ill with any water-borne diseases.
These children from northern Uganda have a community tap where they can come to get a drink when they are thirsty and where their moms line up to gather water in the morning and evening, rather than walking through the bush to a contaminated stream. It’s a source of amazement and joy for these children who not so long ago had to drink dirty water.
Contaminated water is a serious problem—more than 340,000 children under the age of five die every year from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene (UNWater).
But it’s a problem with a solution—improved water sources.
Through our amazing supporters, children around the world are getting access to wells, water filters, rainwater harvesting tanks, sanitary latrines and handwashing stations. All this is implemented by the local church, as they display the love of Jesus to their communities.
Will you join with the Church around the world to become part of the solution?
– Written by Compassion Canada
Today, let’s not forget how blessed we are here in Canada to have clean water and with this blessing we need to remember to take care of the natural resources we’ve been given. Please keep those around the world who do not have clean water in your prayers as this is a struggle they deal with daily.
With much of the last 3 days filled with vehicle, airplane, and bus travel we all arrived home to our familiar lives. We have been very close to some extraordinary circumstances, that seem very far away and foreign to us in North American. God came very close to us when we invited Him, along with the acknowledgment that He was/is in control. We have been changed because of our personal, and group experiences. It is worth mentioning that although the feeling is comfortable being home, people and the life around us have also changed while we were away. Patience will be a key for us over the next while as all of us meld back into life, while embracing the changes.
Many times while on this trip, it was apparent that when we took time to reflect on what we saw and or how we were feeling, it enabled some great memory triggers that I hope to visit often. People are not very different anywhere in the world. We all want to love or be loved, if we haven’t been hurt so bad, as not being able to admit it.
Thank you all very much for the Prayer support and concern for us before during and now as we reenter the relationships that we cherish here.
We leave this post with one last picture of us visiting Maria. This widow’s story struck us all in very deep ways.
In 2016 the visiting team, from CrossRoads Chuch, was invited to help the local church community rebuild this lady’s home. We learned that Maria lost her husband to illness, had a son at home and had no financial means. Because of the Church Empowerment Zone that was set up under World Relief, the church denominations came together to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Many people assisted by shuttling sand, mixing the stucco, and carrying water. Near the end of the afternoon we all gathered to pray for and with this lady, along with many of the community people. What seemed bleak for Maria, gave her hope, as she was thankful and tried to smile when we left her the prayer cards that we created prior to leaving Canada.
This 2018 trip, we were also at a similar home in the next community (working in the mud) when our host, Bob from WR, wanted us to stop by and visit this lady Maria. When we pulled up, I (Richard) remembered that this was the home of Maria. Well turns out that Maria still has our prayer cards, looks at them often and prays for us. She is grateful and has faith in God and her community. Her smile was almost constant with a sparkle in her eyes. This would’ve happened without us there, but was fantastic and tears of joy flood in when we speak of it. Blessed to be that close to Maria’s story. She wanted us to bring back greetings to the church that we are a part of.
Richard, Maria and Stan
Along with home visits with our friends, hearing amazing stories of hope and future we have been given time to see this beautiful part of the country. Walking in the tea fields that are operated by a large company, Learning about tea leaf picking and drying process.
What we are seeing with our eyes is that this is a very beautiful country with resources that are not wasted. In some areas the land mass is limited because of population, but these resilient people manage to seek ways to get value from their surroundings. With our partner “World Relief” and the exciting plan of “Church Empowerment Zones” where people take ownership for applying lessons of hope. Learning great truths like being part of a Savings for Life group, or Farming for Life that teaches ways to increase from what they already know. Most of the groups we have met with are all part of a group in the community, to assist in the betterment of life for themselves. This is a proven mind set transformation. All the while World Relief stands by to encourage and train not searching for the limelight.
Richard, Stan and Maria
Today we left for Nyamasheke by 05:30, to meet with a Savings Group that get together once a week. We drove to a school in the area, before it was light, in order to be there when the members showed up.
Some members of this group walk for 30 min. to arrive on time. Any person (including guests) arriving late must pay a penalty. It is strict and orderly, keeping accurate ledgers along with accountability. World Relief has continued to be available to groups like these throughout the area.
Some points to maintain a group such as this, it may have 10-25 members, having a 5 person leadership where 3 must be women, lock box has 3 separate locks and dispersed key holders in the group. This specific group has been together for the last 4 years. We heard from them about how their lives have been changed since the group was formed. Someone mentioned that they didn’t have community friends before this group and another told of how they learned about planning for their future.
We were invited into some of the members homes were we had an opportunity to meet their families, pray and encourage them. Then to see some of the plans they are making for their future. Plans like buying some livestock to increase household profits. It was a large blessing to be in the homes of these humble, welcoming people.
Greetings from Kamembe Rwanda !
Due to a tropical downpour and a power line repair our communication methods were compromised for the last few days.
A few days ago we had the opportunity to meet with the church empowerment committee the committee’s is comprised of pastors of various denominations, who’s goal is to bring unity through church services, fellowship and prayer.
That afternoon the pastors invited us to participate in the distribution supplies to the patients in the maternity and recovery ward. The simple goods such as soap and sugar were well received by the patients. These items are not readily available in the rural setting.
Yesterday we had an early start and assisted in building a house for a single mom of one child. The team contributed by hauling water to mix with dirt to create mud that was then used to pack the walls and a tin roof was also installed. Unity was prevalent as we observed tasks being executed by members of that community. The locals enjoyed trying to get us splatted in mud which attracted many children and curious bystanders. This participation was another testimony of community involvement and unity of spirit. We ended our day in prayer and thanksgiving to each other.
Today we visited a few farmers that are participating in the Agriculture for Life program. The program offers training in livestock handling and crop production management. Along with World Relief, test plots are being done with conventional practices , organic and chemical fertilizer applications. New farming techniques have allowed farmers to produce higher yielding crops and larger kernels on their corn. With this success, community members are eager to jump on board with training and growth so they can create sustainable farming practices.
They have come together in unity in different communities offering hope to the vulnerable through different programs such as health care support, home renovations and home building, Ag For Life. These programs offer education and hands on training.
Maria and Stan
We traveled from Kigali to Nyamasheke and arrived just as the sun went down. So many sights of this lush land and we can completely understand why it is called the land of 1000 hills. Stan mentioned that there will be very little need for any gym memberships as the people walk and ride bikes everywhere. On a side note, the country of Rwanda has had great success with cycle teams.
It was raining slightly as we checked into the Peace Guest House and found our rooms in time to get the evening meal. As we were eating, the “African Rain” came and was so loud on the roof that we couldn’t hear each other speaking very well. Still being challenged by jetlag we managed to spend some valued time talking about our belief systems and being aware of God moments.
This morning the air is humid and promise of another beautiful day ahead. The picture is the view of where we sit to have our breakfast.
Praise God for our safety and our health, also that we can visit many people today.
Muraho, (Greeting in Kinyarwanda)
We have arrived in Kigali, tired but joyful after about 36 hours of travel. Tired, because we had a few changes in flights as the first flight out of Calgary was late to leave. By the time we arrived in Montreal, the flight to Brussels had departed. (Maria nicknamed this “The Amazing Race”). Pastor Tracy had learned about the delay and got a message to us that we should ask to switch flights, and go with Turkish Air to Istanbul. The reason was to keep moving, by not having to wait overnight in Montreal. We managed to arrange for our luggage to be on the same flights as we rerouted to Istanbul. The flight from Istanbul to Kigali was delayed by almost 2 hours, but our World Relief hosts had already been apprised of this.
We are joyful to have had many prayers, and behind the scene plans in action, allowing us to arrive unscathed. Praise God for the energy that we have, along with continued safety over these next 2 weeks. Have a Super Sunday!
Richard Vander Leek
This article was written by Doris Fleck and graciously offered to us.
Next month, Red Deer will be one of only three Canadian cities to host Brother Yun, a key leader behind China’s explosive house church movement with an estimated 100 million adherents.
Exiled from the Communist country since 2001, Liu Zhenying, known as Brother Yun, will be speaking at CrossRoads Church on March 12 at 7 p.m.
“We are extremely honoured and thrilled at this chance to host such an instrumental servant of God!” says Tracy Minke, pastor of Outreach Missions at CrossRoads. “As Christ followers in North America, we tend to lead lives ― that are so full and so fast ― we often don’t make space for the Holy Spirit and can miss hearing the Spirit’s whisper that is so important in following Him.”
Yun’s best-selling autobiography, The Heavenly Man, chronicles his conversion to Christianity, the persecution he endured, as well as God’s supernatural intervention and miraculous healings.
The title comes from the name by which Brother Yun was known among the house church networks.
During one night of police interrogation, he answered, “I am a Heavenly Man!” instead of revealing his true name, to protect other Christians.
Co-authored by Paul Hattaway in 2002, The Heavenly Man has been translated into 50 languages and sold more than 1,000,000 copies.
Now, at age 60, Yun is the highest profile proponent of the Back to Jerusalem movement, an evangelistic campaign by Chinese believers that began in the 1920s. The goal, as Brother Yun articulates it, is to send at least 100,000 Chinese missionaries to the 51 countries between “the Great Wall of China and the Western Wall of Jerusalem.”
With a large part of the ministry focus at CrossRoads on persecuted believers, supporting national pastors and work with Muslims, Minke explains, “The ministry of Back to Jerusalem is a perfect match.”
Yun became a Christian at the age of 16 in 1974. With his father ill with lung cancer, his mother ― who had grown cold in her faith ― felt a deep sense of desperation. If her husband died, it would leave the family without any income, so she contemplated suicide. But one evening she heard a voice saying, “Jesus loves you.” In tears, she repented, immediately rededicating her life to God. Then she gathered their five children to pray for her husband. The next morning her husband was well and everyone in the family, including Yun, put their faith in Christ.
Yun desperately wanted a Bible, but under Chiang Kai-shek’s Communist regime, anyone found with God’s Word could be imprisoned or even killed. Yun decided to fast and pray, eating only one bowl of steamed rice every day. On the 100th day of his fast, he saw a vision with three men walking down a hill, pulling a large cart of fresh bread. The old man leading the cart asked Yun if he was hungry. Yun said “Yes!” The man took a red bag of bread from his cart and asked his two servants to give it to Yun. When Yun put the bread into his mouth, it turned into a Bible.
When he woke, Yun heard a faint knock on the door and someone calling his name. Standing before him were the two servants he had seen in the vision. One of them held a red bag in his hand and in it was a Bible.
Yun read the Bible in less than a month and began memorizing whole Books. As the story of how he received this Bible spread, Yun evangelized throughout China, leading about 2,000 people to the Lord in his first year as a Christian.
He soon became one of the most-wanted “criminals” in China. For spreading the Gospel, Yun was repeatedly imprisoned, beaten, tied up, tortured with electric shock batons and had needles jabbed under his fingernails.
Yun continued his ministry in prison where many prisoners and even some prison officials became Christians. He is renowned as the only person to ever escape the Zhengzhou Maximum Security Prison. In obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he simply walked through a series of doors and out the main gate, apparently invisible to the guards.
The main sanctuary at CrossRoads can hold 1,200 people, but the church is preparing for overflow options. An offering will be taken for the ministry of Back to Jerusalem.
We are blessed here at CrossRoads to partner with such amazing organizations. One of these great organizations is Haiti Arise.
They have sent us a special Christmas greeting! To view this Christmas greeting click on the link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0qwoayxckadcehl/CrossroadsHA.mov?dl=0
Please keep Marc and Lisa Honorat and their family in your prayers as well as all the Haiti Arise staff over this Christmas season and into this next year. God has great things in store for Haiti Arise!
Please also keep the team that was in Haiti last month in your prayers as they process their time and everything God has done in their lives through their time with Haiti Arise.
The team will be sharing about their time in Haiti on January 8 at 7pm here at CrossRoads Church. Please feel free to come out and hear more about what God is doing in Haiti.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!