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’!
We have safely arrived in beautiful Rwanda! Stepping off the plane and breathing in the familiar air brought back memories for those of us who have been in East Africa before and major excitement for those experiencing it for the first time. It was such a blessing to be met at the airport as we walked out the doors by the amazing and beautiful World Relief staff. There is nothing greater than a big hug and smile after long flights and lack of sleep!
We had our first full day in Rwanda today and it was filled with meeting new people, African rain and excitement for the reminder of our time here. We were blessed with the opportunity to spend the morning with the World Relief staff in a time of worship and a challenging message. A highlight for myself today and others on the team was being able to sit down and talk with the WR staff. It was awesome to see the different conversations everyone was having and to hear more about the amazing work WR does. We were truly blessed!
Tomorrow we are heading to Nyamasheke where we will be spending the majority of the remainder of our time here in Rwanda. We know God has great things in store and we are excited to see more of what WR is doing here in Rwanda. Please keep us in your prayers! We appreciate all the love and support.
In case you didn’t know it already, we have great partners in World Relief! They respect us, listen to us, teach us and care for us. They invite us to the table as we partner in Rwanda. They also assist us where they have more expertise such as refugees and the persecuted church. They send us their people to bless us (Moses, Gil, Craig and Scott) as we reciprocate and send them our valued teams as well. One just left yesterday!
I could go on and on about this amazing partner but one thing I value so much is their willingness to hold us up in prayer as a church. Consistently they have reached out and asked us what they can be praying for and they will share these requests with their staff in Rwanda who meet every Friday to pray but they will also post these on their ‘Partner board ‘in the hall of their head office in Kigali.
As they commit to pray for us, would you please pray for them as they have requested below:
As we have done in the past, I wanted to reach out to you and ask if you can share with us some prayer requests of the city of Red deer and the Church at large.
I would like to publish these on our partnership board this week so that as an organization we can pray for you.
Send our greetings to everyone at CrossRoads Church.
As an organization please pray for us:
- For the refugees and other immigrant populations impacted by the Administration’ s previous and pending Executive Orders. Pray that God will protect, encourage and provide for their needs as many weather intolerable conditions still escaping from danger or in refugee camps around the world or face deep fears and uncertainties in the US.
- That God would use World Relief as His agent to fan the flames of compassion and that the commitment of the US and global church would deepen toward refugees and vulnerable people around the world. That this moment would become a movement where the Church would speak boldly for love, compassion and generosity and against bigotry, hatred, and intolerance. That God would mold the hearts of our leaders and they would assist and protect our vulnerable brothers and sisters around the world with generosity and welcome.
- Pray for growth and expansion of our work in Nyamasheke CEZ.
Strategic Partnership Officer
Thank you for your prayer CrossRoads!
After months of training and preparation the day has finally come! Everyone is excited as we are getting ready to board our flight soon! God has great things in store as we head to Rwanda and are blessed with the opportunity to see the amazing work World Relief is doing.
Please keep us in your prayers!
Chantelle, Linda, Tara-Leigh, Sheila, Mila, Nathaniel, Monika
At 11:00 today, this team of 7 left CrossRoads Church to begin their journey to Rwanda. The team will be on the ground there for two weeks. They will be representing Christ and our Church in and around Kigali and Nyamacheke; they will be renewing old friendships and making new ones; they will be challenged and find God in amazing new ways. One thing; the team does not travel alone, they travel with the prayers and support of friends, family and strangers called to support them. Join us!
Specifically, we will be praying for:
- team unity
- a real sense of belonging for the team when they arrive
- physical healing for those of the team with health issues
- protection from injury or harm during the mission
- that the Lord’s will be done during this time
Our partners in Rwanda, World Relief, have asked that we uphold them by praying for growth and the expansion of their work in the Nyamasheke Church Empowerment Zone.
The team will do their best to share their journey with us via this blog, so stay tuned!
Lots of fun things happen in December and some of the most fun things of all happen when we serve others. Better yet when we serve in a group!
Take a look at these fine looking ornaments!!!
These are just a sample of the keepsakes that were made by students at “Christmas at the Dawe”. There are some very creative kids around and some very interesting snowpeople and reindeer like creatures that made their way home with students that night. Yes there was a bit of mayhem from time to time but for two hours people from CrossRoads had the privilege to help 135 kids make an ornament to take home and remind them of a fun evening celebrating Christmas.
Did you know that Pastor Denise is so crafty? Well she is, and she even brought her husband and her son although we have no documentation of either of them helping with a craft. That little guy added to the enjoyment of the evening though.
One of the groups of women who meet for Bible Study and prayer every week decided to bless the Single Moms group with a bit of homemade baking this Christmas! (Just a bit). Every woman in the group contributed some baking, brought it to the church and packed tins and prayed for the Moms who would be receiving them. What a practical way to bless and serve as a group. Thank you.
Another great event was serving a delicious meal to the kids and families of the Hope Missions Kids in Action program. It was a packed house, the food was great, the music was amazing and team of servers had a lot of fun together.
The idea of serving is sometimes perceived as hard – or boring. Or maybe we think it is supposed to be hard and boring. There are times when service costs us our time, our priorities or our money, but what is gained from it? What was the benefit of all this serving in December? Hundreds literally, of smiles, sounds of laughter, full tummies, keepsakes to treasure, happy moments to recall, time spent in the company of friends, new friendships formed, kindness shown, songs sung together, the Christmas story told, the name of Jesus heard, a glimpse of hope in a weary world.
Thank you for serving!