So… we got through security without any challenges. Everyone is quite excited and have been pounding the snacks Brittany already bought a big bag of popcorn for the plane and everyone else has purchased their caffeine and we got a picture with the Canada Leaf. Everyone waiting in the airport is praying they are not on the same flight as us. I think we will win them over.
I first have to start by saying hello to all the families back home supporting us and a big Hi to Morgann and Hunter! It is great to hear and see the twinkle in each team person’s eye as they share stories about their children, spouse and those loved grandkids. I have greatly enjoyed learning a little about each of your families and look forward to meeting the ones I don’t know yet.
I want to share about our day today as it was awesome to see another amazing project that World Relief supports in the community of Gahanga a sector of Kigali with a population of 33,000 people. We met with the CNC committee (Church Network Committee) that consisted of 7 pastors working together from 7 different churches and denominations; (there are 14 churches in the community) united to provide support to their congregations. It is very inspiring to see denominational pastors such as Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Free Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist come together to learn and mentor one another. They praised World Relief for the encouragement, support and training. We heard how the various projects in each church such as the Child Development, Savings For Life Program (SFL), Couples training, Water project and Vulnerable children’s ministry is blessing to so many in the community and the impact on the health of individuals which in turn has provided stronger and healthy churches. We praised our loving Father and sang of his love for us and gave him all the glory to make this possible. I really love when I hear the pastors say these tools empower the church not through money but skills and teaching them!
After our time at one of the Pastor’s church, we headed into the field to see the tools in action in one of the family’s house. We visited Esperance (wife), John Damancien (husband) and their 5 children. The wife spoke of how the water project and SFL project have greatly impacted their life. Their children were no longer sick from the dirty and contaminated water. As well as how the SFL project in just 9 short months has taught them a great deal about saving and now they have started to do some concrete work on the inside walls over the mud walls and this helps with a nicer look and temperature as well they look forward to one day buying a window for the space in the handmade door they have. It was truly humbling to see this beautiful family and how the church has been such a huge blessing in their life. The wife had a huge glow when her husband spoke of attending the church now! At the end of our visit their one son showed us his rabbit that he got to help make some income for his school supplies etc. which was so fun to see the difference in his relationship with his rabbit compared to Morgann’s.
After this visit we attended the Water Project site where volunteers from various churches help put together the water filters and were fortunate to be there for the distribution as they were just finished a training on how the individuals use these in their homes. They strapped them to their bikes, or carried then on their heads while having a baby snug on their back; it is a beautiful site. This project is sponsored by Mar’s Hill Church in Grand Rapids Michigan and the project is called 20L.
We all left with great hands on education and the team showed us a great time! My time here has been truly amazing and I have so many highlights and look forward to sharing when I return. When Pastor Dan spoke of our hearts connecting with the hearts of those in Rwanda I didn’t know what that would look like…( I do now). Through Christ I am forever thankful for this opportunity and my heart’s desire is to return and support this ministry, Lord willing. I sign off as we go to our last wonderful meal made by Joseph in Kigali and our last sleep in Rwanda. Looking forward to seeing my family and friends. Thank you for your prayers and support!
I think I can speak for the group when I say this morning came with mixed emotions.
Throughout the last week we had been blessed with the most awesome experiences with the most amazing people, and I’m sorry, but there are no words I can write that will give you even a glimpse of what we have experienced during this time. But I’ll jot down a few, just so you can’t say I didn’t try. We were welcomed into the homes of people we had only just met with open arms, homes quite often shared with their livestock because they had no room in their yards, using furniture which they had to borrow from their neighbors so we had a place to sit, and greeted with the brightest smiles, the firmest handshakes and the warmest hugs. We were so blessed to have the opportunity to pray with them, visit with them, laugh with them, play with them, run with them. And every stop we made, every stranger we met left us with one more amazing friend, one more loving brother or sister. On one hand, this week that none of us wanted to end was coming to a close.
But on the other hand, (trying very hard to put a positive spin on this), we had been offered a great opportunity to visit an amazing part of the country’s natural wonder today. We were scheduled to take a “Canopy Tour” at Uwinka Overlook in the Nyungwe National Park, with the promises of meeting my one expectation of the trip, spotting some monkeys. And it was looking like a fun day with good friends and great weather as we made our way up into the forest. We got everything ready to go, went through our orientation with our guide as he explained about the hour and a half hike down the mountain side and across the Canadian-built suspension bridges and back up the trail, when it started. It made sense I guess, seeing as how it is a rainforest, but somehow we were still unprepared. Right as we were about to get started, as if to say “welcome to my rainforest”, God blessed us with such an abundance of rain, all we could do was laugh. And we continued laughing as we made our way down the trail, sometimes walking carefully, often sliding out of control, making our way to the highlight of the hike, the “canopy walk”. This consisted of three suspension bridges, totaling 140 meters long, at a height of at least 70 meters off the ground below. We did make it across through the downpour without more than a little bit of crying, and found our way back up to the café where we started. Once the group gathered again up top, and we stopped for a minute to catch our breath, the rain shut off and the sun came out. But I don’t really want to talk about it. We might be able to show you some pictures, if we can get our cameras dried out and working again.
We made our way back to our guest house where we were able to change into some dry clothes and get packed up for our flight to Kigali tomorrow. We had a chance to meet and have supper with the beautiful family of Albert, the man whose time we had been hording this week, who is the World Relief employee working with the Church Empowerment Zone that we had been so blessed to visit. We are so thankful to them for sharing him with us all these days.
So as the day comes to close, and we prepare for church tomorrow before flying back to big city life in Kigali, as we reflect on all the friends we have met, the prayers we have prayed and the joy we have shared, I think I can speak for all of us when I say, not that a piece of our hearts will be left in Nyamasheke, but that our hearts have been expanded large enough to take a piece of Nyamasheke home in it with us.
Sorry still have bad and inconsistent internet …
Waking up to another beautiful morning in Kamembe Rwanda, thank you Lord!! The air is so fresh with sents of burning charcoal, fresh rain and foliage. I can hear the fishermen off in the distance singing together after a long night of fishing, a roster crows and the birds are making their various songs come to life. As I write I can hear a nearby church choir practicing. Kamembe has awoken for another day it is amazing to watch it come to life … form where I am sitting I look out over lake Kivu, a calm and large body of water on which we are at the furthest south side. I look across the lake and I can see the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), wrapped in the morning mist with a few light clouds lazily hanging over top. It is a spectacular view of rolling green hills and a plethora of homes squeezed on every available space a home could reside.
And with that life goes on here in Rwanda, the sound of the welders banging as they build boats/ships in the harbor nearby begins, the sound of horns and people out on the street gets slowly louder. For me my quick and quite reprieve for the day is over and we are off again … another breakfast … load up into the trucks once again … another 2 hour drive through the tea plantations and red dirt roads of Rwanda, passing innumerous amounts of people vehicles and animals suddenly arriving again in Nyamasheke. The squeals of many children outside our vehicle windows calling out to the “muzungoos”, happily waving and smiling and chasing us down the bumpy road greet us upon our arrival. Mama’s and elder women look up from their daily duties to see what the commotion is only to see a white hand reach out of a Toyota and give a wave, they elegantly smile and return the waive as though we are long lost friends …
For the most part this is a typical morning … and thank you Lord for this unbelievable experience, I would not, I could not trade these mornings for anything in this world ….
The day started out with our heading back to the Anglican Church where we were yesterday where Pastors and their wives were attending. The males on the team met with the Pastors and Kari-Anne and Tara-Leigh met with the Pastors wives, as well as two female Pastors, for a time of discussion. The topic of discussion was about how couples go about striking a balance between marital relationship, maintaining a family and doing ministry. It was a dynamic and interactive time for both the team and the Pastors and their wives. Testimonies from Trevor were provided to the men and Kari-Anne provided her testimony to the women. During the break, there was time for some baby holding by both most members of the team and Polaroid pictures were taken of each of the Pastors and their wives and given them as a souvenir. This was a true treat for these couples and the excitement on their faces proved this to be quite the treat!
During this training time, Justin and Tara-Leigh went with Emanuel and Albert (World Relief) into the North of Rwanda to attend a funeral service for Edward, a World Relief worker whose father had just passed away from medical complications. It was a very long but beautiful drive and we arrived just in time for the burial. We climbed high onto a mountain top to find the community gathered around an eight foot deep, hole. The Pastor spoke of Edward’s father’s step into eternity at which time the community broke into about six hymns of which Justin and Tara-Leigh knew approximately four. This allowed us to sing along quietly in English or hum. At this time, the casket was lowered into the ground and the men of the community proceeded to work steadfastly at filling the hole with dirt. There were no tears on anyone’s face; just the beautiful and harmonious melody of the African voices being raised to their Father in Heaven. It was at this point that the community began their descent down the hill. We began our trek back to the guest house but were stopped on our way out of town. Edward had stopped the car and asked us to join us for Fanta soda and we were able to spend some time with him and share our condolences with him and his family on behalf of the team. It truly was an honor to have been included in this sacred event.
Meanwhile as the rest of the team shared time together we had lunch together. This consisted of many dishes that were best described as starchy and somewhat bland. Two of the well received dishes were silver fish and pineapple. Many of the local people found it necsesary to load their plates as this might be the only time they eat today.
We spent the balance of the time sharing stories about life and asking questions about doing life as couples. Something that we will have World relief staff collect, are prayer requests from this group. We prayed for the Pastors and wives, as a group, before parting ways.
This morning started like most mornings this trip, waking up to the wonder of being in this beautiful country, having an amazing breakfast and then heading out to meet some wonderful people. Loading everyone up in the trucks and getting out onto the road lined on both sides with people on foot and on peddle bike, always in wonder that everything could run so smoothly and without incident. Unfortunately for one man this wasn’t the case this morning. As our caravan of trucks came up the hill, one Rwandan was coming down on the other side of the road on his peddle bike loaded high with his morning delivery of goods at an amazing speed, and although some of us watched it happen, we’re still not entirely sure what went wrong. Before we knew it he was laying on the side of the road beside his bike, in need of help. As we all jumped out to see if he was OK, I was relieved to see him awake and moving, and led by Kurtis our team came together and did everything we could to help get him to the local hospital. At first I felt as though we saved this man, and wondered what he would have done without us, but in no time at all the many Rwandans on their morning commute rallied around this man and the cargo he likely makes a living with and once again I was in wonder at how well this community supports each other and cares for its people. I was honored that God would use us here this morning to help this man, but humbled by the reminder that He can do it all without us.
We did make it to our meeting, and I think even on time? On our schedule this morning was a meeting with the Church Network Committee, which is made up of a group of local pastors and staff that represent the community of individual churches in the area. They explained to us how World Relief has taught them the scriptural importance of shedding their ideas that they are individual churches each more important to God then the next, and instead come together as one body under Christ. And through a great time of conversation, they explained to us how much their churches and communities have benefited and grown in so many ways, spiritually, financially, socially and more simply by putting aside their petty differences and realize they all serve the same God who loves each and every one of them equally and unconditionally. Once again, I find myself feeling like I learnt more from them then they did from us.
Our next stop was at a local church where some members of a great initiative known as “Savings For Life Group” where running a sewing machine and what appeared to be a loom (so I was told, not sure I know much about either!). It was so inspiring hearing their story about how World Relief taught them to look into their own resources and share together to be able to grow their finances as a team. Now these women and men are able to make and sell beautiful clothing and dresses at the local market, putting funds into the group, their own homes, and even able to tithe back to the church. This from a group that felt lost and alone only a short time ago.
Once we had our time of visiting with them, and time for the women put in their order for dresses (and a shirt for me, of course), we made our way outside. At this point, with a fairly open afternoon and on such a beautiful day (no different from every other day so far, really) we opted out of getting back in our trucks and asked them to wait for us up the road a ways (on the other side of town, you might say, if this town actually had another side). So for the next 45 minutes or so we spent walking (running, dancing, playing, floating) up the road with what seemed like every kid in town not in school, being greeted by the all the people we passed on the way, and enjoying every second of it. I know for me, the joy that spilled out of these people filled me so full my eyes may have leaked a little. The only bad part was it seemed like no time at all before we reached or vehicles at the top of the hill, and had to wave goodbye as we headed back to our Rwandan homes.
For the rest of the day not spent in the dining hall, we had the opportunity to happen across a group of local fishermen while enjoying a lakeside walk, and as they prepared their meal and their boats in what I assume is typical fishermen fashion (not always for the easily offended), we stopped for a time of prayer and I realized that it was likely from a similar group of these rough, tough, intimidating men that Jesus recruited some of his closest companions.
May the Lord be with the cyclist from this morning, that he may be healed and that any setbacks be minimal, may he bless the leaders of the churches so that they can work together without unnecessary disagreement so the entire community can come together under Christ, may he touch the machines making clothes so that they work efficiently and effectively for those people using them to sell their clothing at the market, may he continue to fill the people of that town with joy and love for each other and every person who comes up their road, may his presence be felt tonight amidst the men fishing the lake, may he bless our group with a good sleep and a refreshing start to tomorrow, and may he instill knowledge and obedience to the staff at World Relief who are leading us along our journey in Rwanda. Hope this finds you well!
PS: Kurtis got doo-doo’d on by a ceiling-dwelling lizard.
Up and at emm, 7:00AM breakfast again and off and running on a full days adventure.
Today to me felt like the first day, the first of many, the beginning of why God has us here, our true introduction to Rwanda…
We headed out very shortly after breakfast as the church services we were to attend both started at 9:00 and we had a 45-55 min drive to get there and it is 8:15… All good were on Rwanda time and everything is OK. [A slight miscommunication between our drives and our fearless Rwandans leaders on travel time] We split into two groups this morning heading out to two different churches for there Sunday morning service. If it wasn’t a personal sermon just the 50 minute drive to get there I don’t know what would be… Driving thru the hills, valleys, jungle, bush and red clay roads just to get to church and watching all these beautiful people walking for miles to get to the same place were going or a church of their own was humbling to say the least. They pull out there very best clothes and shiniest shoes and start there trek for their church with their family to get there cups filled up and oh how they do…
We arrived at our visiting church for the day a little late but not to worry as they were all patiently awaiting their guests, Treating us like royalty ushering us in the church right up on stage and sat us down on stage in the nicest chairs they had as the choir didn’t miss a beat ever so enthusiastically worshiping the Lord. They had a number of songs being performed by a few different choirs in store for us from the children’s choir to the adult’s choir to some sort of mixed group in between but all had the same enthusiastic outcome of ground shaking, dust flying, and ear piercing praise going straight up to the Big Guy. [Did I mention we were at a Pentecostal Church?] If I didn’t.. Yes indeed we were. The energy of the praise, the volume and directedness of the sermon and over all love of the lord in this building was truly awesome to be a part of. A few of us had the opportunity to share with the Rwandans in one way or another from a Greeting’s speech to sharing testimony with them. The audience was truly captivated each time one of us spoke sharing our story and sharing God’s grace and hope for them all. Truly yet another humbling experience watching them react to our speakers. So simple yet so deep!!
Well 3 plus hours of church [Felt like maybe 1 hour] and we are off, Heading back to our home base to have a quick lunch and get organized for our afternoon activities. OH Ya it wouldn’t be a trip unless you completely have your vehicle surrounded by children jumping up and down and screaming with their hands out for a rainbow loom bracelet…..
Part two of the day consisted of more driving to get to our destinations and the destinations were truly beautiful parts of Rwanda and great photo ops but just the driving around and taking in everything around us is the Lord at work, Truly amazing watching the Rwandans.
I truly understand why they call this place “The Land of One Thousand Hills and Two Thousand Smiles”
To keep you informed as to our wellbeing and where we are all at so far.
After the much needed rest and being able to finally lie down we slept. The rooms are set up in a bunk-style with good foam matresses. All that is needed is a sheet and a light blanket; no air conditioning is available and we all sleep under mosquito nets. We have WI-FI here at the guest house, however we are uncertain of our WI-FI capabilities in Nyamesheke. So please give us a day or two.
Breakfast at 7 a.m. with fresh bread and buns provided courtesy of Joseph. Fresh fruit consisted of pineapple, tree tomatoes and bananas. Joseph would also fry an egg if we wanted one. Coffee and tea are very good as well.
We met with World Relief Staff for devotion time, where we were asked to participate in prayer time. we then had fellowship, what they refer to as “pizza” time aka, peace of time or coffee break. Bob gave us a tutorial of “do’s and don’t’s” with the culture. We then went into the city centre and toured up and down the hills, visiting Hotel Des Miles Collines, which is Hotel Rwanda.
Temperature today was 28/29oC. We came back to WR for a lunch prepared by Joseph of chicken, rick, potatoes and vegetables. Myal Green, the Country Director of Rwanda spent time shared World Relief’s vision and goals with the team.
We had some down time today for the team to enjoy the immediate sites.
PS. Duane’s “essential oils” have us never wondering whether he is close by …
Muraho from Rwanda! (That means hello in Kinyarwanda language) but you already knew that right? We have safely arrived here in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. We are now at our host organization World Relief’s guest house. Thanks to the cook here, Joseph, we are all happily settling down to our mosquito net covered bunks for some deeply desired rest and relaxation! We left Red Deer at 9 am on Wed May 28 and spent pretty much the next 25 hours on planes with only about 2 ½ of those hours in layovers (which isn’t really that much!) Lots of book reading, movies, snacks, small sleeps and bathroom trips made up most of that time. The flights were very nice and the food was even quite good! We were warmly greeted by staff from world relief, Bob, Janno and Domarcelle (2 out of 3 of these names are most assuredly spelled wrong )and are so thankful to God for our safe arrival with almost no complications! Thank you for your prayers! All people and bags are accounted for and we are ready for what God has in store for us while we are here. First impressions of Rwanda, although being at night, are that this is a beautiful city. Smells like campfire and warm summer air. Bob commented on how much change he has seen in Kigali since he moved here in 1994 as a boy. It feels like a busy but lovely mountain city. After our sleep tonight and breakfast tomorrow, we will be joining the World Relief team for one of their Friday Chapels and “pizza time” where we’re told there’s not actually any pizza but is a time of fellowship and possibly communion. We then will have some time to spend touring Kigali a little and seeing our surroundings before heading out to Nyamesheke region on Saturday, I believe. uraho from Rwanda! (That means hello in Kinyarwanda language) but you already knew that right? We have safely arrived here in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. We are now at our host organization World Relief’s guest house. Thanks to the cook here, Joseph, we are all happily settling down to our mosquito net covered bunks for some deeply desired rest and relaxation! We left Red Deer at 9 am on Wed May 28 and spent pretty much the next 25 hours on planes with only about 2 ½ of those hours in layovers (which isn’t really that much!) Lots of book reading, movies, snacks, small sleeps and bathroom trips made up most of that time. The flights were very nice and the food was even quite good! We were warmly greeted by staff from world relief, Bob, Janno and Domarcelle (2 out of 3 of these names are most assuredly spelled wrong )and are so thankful to God for our safe arrival with almost no complications! Thank you for your prayers! All people and bags are accounted for and we are ready for what God has in store for us while we are here. First impressions of Rwanda, although being at night, are that this is a beautiful city. Smells like campfire and warm summer air. Bob commented on how much change he has seen in Kigali since he moved here in 1994 as a boy. It feels like a busy but lovely mountain city. After our sleep tonight and breakfast tomorrow, we will be joining the World Relief team for one of their Friday Chapels and “pizza time” where we’re told there’s not actually any pizza but is a time of fellowship and possibly communion. We then will have some time to spend touring Kigali a little and seeing our surroundings before heading out to Nyamesheke region on Saturday, I believe.