Light In the Darkness

Rwanda. A country as magnificent as it is complex. A place of breathtaking beauty, and of an unthinkably violent history. A marvelous land of a thousand hills, still haunted by an eerie morning fog that sits atop the horizon and whispers of horrors past; a genocide that shook the world so deeply, it promised, “never again.”

world reliefIt is a country unlike any other, where God’s creation is on display in all its splendor and diversity. The warmth and hospitality of a people striving to rebuild and rewrite their story. The hope of a history overcome and of a nation reborn. And it is a country where God is at work in powerful ways. Where people’s hearts and minds are being transformed through Christ. Where the church is stepping into its rightful place as the hope of the world. It is a story of light overcoming the darkness. The church established itself in Rwanda over 100 years ago, and today more than 70% of the population is in a church building every week. How then, in 1994, did a genocide of such horrific proportions and unprecedented brutality take place? Volumes have been written on the underlying causes—on the immediate events leading up to the genocide and the failure of the world to take heed of the warning signs. Little, however, was said about the failure of the church to stand up and protect the vulnerable. Fortunately, that has changed. Today’s church in Rwanda is quite different from the institutionalized church of the past. It is vibrant, diverse and growing. And step-by-step, it has begun to walk alongside its people in their journey from darkness and despair, towards hope and renewal. 

World Relief first established its presence in Rwanda immediately following the genocide. Watching the international community respond with one-off emergency interventions, we became increasingly convinced that solutions needed to center on the resourcefulness and hearts of the local people and that the church had a unique role to play. Born out of that conviction, World Relief first pioneered its Church Empowerment Zone model in 2011. Founded on our strong belief that transformational change begins with the church, we began teaching, mobilizing and empowering local churches and their networks to serve the most vulnerable in their communities. By sharing and building leadership capacity, we brought churches of all denominations together in one network  to unite under a common curriculum and leadership development program, giving them the opportunity to wrestle with common problems, share resources and join together in a common vision for their churches, families and communities.

“ We do not see one another as enemies anymore. Now we come together as brothers, bringing our strengths together. We are at peace.”
                                                                                     – PASTOR MUSEVENI

world relief 2

Today, the Church Empowerment Zone model is unleashing the potential of hundreds of churches and communities across Rwanda, building a legacy of hope, generosity and self-reliance that is sustaining progress. Local churches are no longer simply institutions for Sunday gatherings but the epicenters of their communities—transforming hearts, minds and attitudes. Rwanda is a vivid and timely reminder that there is more to religion than just showing up to church. It has revealed how essential it is for our faith to be strongly rooted in a holistic and meaningful understanding of the gospel.

One pastor in Bushenge, Rwanda, said, “Now we are caring for the poor and most vulnerable. We are creating love where the Devil was bringing hate and division. We are bringing the kingdom of God down to Earth. Our families are in harmony. And a family in harmony will prosper in everything.”

Over the last five years, we have seen families reunited and health and nutrition outcomes improved. We have seen neighbors, siblings, spouses, children and friends overcome their challenges and experience renewed and strengthened holistic relationships. We have seen the transformation of lives.

The story of the church in Rwanda is powerful and inspiring. But it’s not the only nation where the church is catalyzing transformational change. Now is the time for the U.S. church to join in this rebirth. We have a unique role to play in helping African churches increase their capacity, and they have much to teach us about what it means to truly trust in God. When we work together in harmony, uplifting one another and placing God at the center of our partnership, we have the true potential to transform the lives of millions of vulnerable people.

Written By: Moses Ndahiro, Country Director, World Relief Rwanda

Bittersweet Goodbyes

It is with heavy hearts that we announce that our time in Haiti is coming to an end. Tonight is our last night in Haiti! We have had a fantastic time here and have learned lots. Our day was a great end to this wonderful journey. This morning we finished painting our last room in the Trade School. Almost the whole team participated, and we got it done in a fairly short time. After all that painting, we had a delicious lunch. (Thank you so much to the wonderful cooks, who have made us all the amazing food!) After lunch, we walked around the community delivering gift bags to the families that the team visited yesterday. They were very grateful for them.  We finished our afternoon at the beach. It was an awesome way to relax and make some more unforgettable memories on the trip. We got a surprise treat before supper, coconuts! A staff member cut them open with a machete, and then we drank the milk and ate the insides.  It was a nice treat to have a sweet, fresh coconut. We ate our last fantastic supper here, and headed off to our last big debrief with Wade & Marilyn, and Marc. We talked all about what we enjoyed and what we learned on this trip. Then we got ready for bed. Tomorrow morning will be very early, (we leave here at 4:00 am) and we hope and pray for safe travels home. We can’t wait to see all of you again and we want to thank you for following our progress.

God Bless,

Abbey

P.S I would also like to wish my awesome big brother Ethan a very very Happy 16th Birthday!! We love you, miss you, and can’t wait to see you in a few days!! Hope you have a great Birthday!

A great day of mixed experiences and emotions.  We started the day with presenting the table we have been working on for the kitchen staff.  It was a good experience of laughter, joy, and a prayer for God’s blessing on them.  From there we dispersed to a variety of projects to finish up – hauling wood, painting rooms, staining and sanding pews, and working in the children’s village.  At lunch many of us were introduced or reconnected  to our sponsor children.  This involved interpreters, giving care packages, meeting families, a few awkward silences and an occasional smile and hug.  Hopefully these new sponsorships will lead to more than a monthly donation, maybe they will become friendships that can last a lifetime.

In the afternoon most of us went through the village on a mission to deliver more care packages to a few families with sponsor children that weren’t able to come to the HAM property.  (Others stayed behind committed to complete the projects for the day!)  We took our time soaking up all the sights and sounds of Haiti feeling the looming departure day creeping up on us.  We have shared a few of these pictures with you, so you can get a feel for the children who greet us as we walk, the animals along the path as well as the sunshine that breaks through the trees.  In the midst of all this beauty there is also darkness and pain sometimes evident in the faces we meet.  We pass kids who aren’t in school, those hungry, the hurting, the frustrated and yes even the voodoo temple with people dancing to its music.

We have learned in every encounter we have, to simply have humble curiosity about those we meet.  We haven’t come to offer much, we are here to listen well, learn much, and give very little really.  The people whom we have listened to have taught us more through their stories than we could ever hope to offer them in return.  I am proud of this team.  It is tempting to find our days networth in the amount of activity or projects completed, but we have learned to assess our days value by the number of names we have learned and the number of stories heard.

In everything we see, the hardships and the beauty we know… God is at work and the evidence of His Glory can be seen all around.  Sometimes we were lucky enough to experience His compassion, grace, and mercy shining through us this week, and sometimes all we could do was stand back in awe and watch His Glory shine before our eyes.

Shawn

 

 

 

Best Monday Ever!

It’s amazing how a new country can change so many habits!!  Usually I struggle getting up in the morning, but here in Haiti I am up by 6:00 and love doing my devotions on the roof of the compound overlooking mango, coconut and banana trees. It is something I don’t take for granted as I know snow will be meeting me when I arrive home again.

Growing up my parents forced us to speak French at home and I hated it.  Now that I am in Haiti, I am so thankful for it as I have been able to communicate with so many Haitians.

Last night we had no ‘city power’ and the generator have had some issues, which meant we didn’t have air conditioning in the rooms, so we slept in a sauna!!  I tried to explain what a sauna was to Yvette, one of the kitchen/cleaning staff and she couldn’t understand why we would ever use one!!

This morning two of the guys got the parts to fix the bobcat, which is a miracle in a country where parts are hard to get.  It’s working great and the Haitians are happy to be able to use it instead of pick axes!!  Some of the ladies painted another classroom and while others put the finishing coat on the new outdoor kitchen table, which we hope to give tomorrow to the ladies.

We had hoped to meet our sponsor children today after they were done school but unfortunately it didn’t happen.  The new plan is to meet them tomorrow where we will be able to give them food that we bought at the market on Saturday.

After lunch, five of us with a translator and Marilyn, our house host, went out into the community to meet some families.  We met four different families and heard their stories.  It was amazing how they opened up to us and shared their struggles and joy in their lives. Yvette’s story touched me the most.  She has five children and due to financial hardships, gave up two of her children to an orphanage.  They ended up being adopted and moved to France.  She has not heard from them in over six years and prays for them daily.  Her older sons are finishing college and she hopes that once they are employed, they will help her financially.  Yet, while she shared her stories, she had such peace and it was so evident that she loved her children so much.  After praying with her and her 10 year old daughter, we left, with some of us in tears.  I thought of my four children and can’t imagine having to choose to give one up to another family.

Shortly after we got back, Charlene and I went to teach a fourth level English class.  We laughed until our stomachs hurt.  The three students had to explain a time they were in a stressful situation and one of the students couldn’t recall a time he was stressed.  His two other classmates bugged and teased him and gave different situations and in all of them he claimed he was never stressed.  It was hilarious watching the bantering back and forth, all in English.  We have been asked to teach the class on Wednesday again.

After debriefing, some of our team joined the Saskatoon team on the roof top, praising God through songs.  This is a day I will never forgot!!  It really was the best Monday ever!

Elisabeth

Sunday was a great day full of worship and rest as well as deepening relationships. Our team worshipped with our friends at the Haiti Arise church. The name of the church means ‘the camp of God’. The service was lively and packed pretty full. It was a great opportunity to witness how our Brothers and Sisters in Haiti worship our Lord.

The message was given by Shawn. He shared about how the Bible is more than just a way to learn about how to gain access to God; the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is a story of God reaching out with love for his people. Shawn focused in on the story of the Prodigal Son and invited Jonathan to come up and share his testimony near the end of the message. The testimony was well received as it made God’s word so clearly relevant and it made an already solid message all the stronger. 

As it was Sunday, our team was given the opportunity to rest and recuperate from many hot and busy days. Some napped, some went to the beach, some took time to catch up on journaling, some caught the CrossRoads 9am service via livestream….. it was a laid back kind of day.

At 3 half our team joined half of the Saskatoon team (Cornerstone Church) to go present the program at Tapion Children’s Church a little up the mountain. There were approximately 60 kids at the church; small but effective. The children were shy at first but when we started to sing they lightened up, sang and did the actions for the songs presented. Someone from the Saskatoon team shared their testimony and another person spoke on accepting Jesus now. 

For dinner we all (more than 30 of us) headed to town for a traditional Haiti dinner at a local restaurant -fried plantains, coleslaw and our choice of meat (goat, beef or chicken). It was a great change of context and opportunity to hang out and see town at night.

Tracy

Chaos and Calm

Today was a full day, especially for me.  It was my turn to lead devotions this morning which we’ve been doing after breakfast.  Around 8:30am we walked to the local market in Grand Goave.  We went with our host Marilyn and two interpreters.  Our walk took about 15 – 20  minutes on dirt roads and once we got to the main town center the road was paved, but it was so busy with cars, trucks, and tap taps (public transport).  We really relied on our translator to help us all just to cross the street.  Our main focus in the market was to buy rice, beans, spices, and soap to put together about 12 or 15 “care packages” for the families we are connected to from child sponsorship that we are hoping to meet on Monday; plus some other families that Shawn has connected with over the years.  Quote of the morning by Abbey was “I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t that… I will never complain about the farmer’s market again, lol. ”

When we got back from the market Elisabeth, Tilly and I had been asked to help teach a level one English class at the Tech School.  We all really enjoyed interacting with the students and they appreciated us taking our time to come help them.  One older gentleman greeted us when we came in with “welcome and God bless you”.  I’ve also been asked to go help Frankie with his Level 4 English class on Monday night.  Frankie works in the Haiti Arise office as their Financial Controller.

After lunch we got ready and walked to the beach.  This was our first opportunity for the team to go.  It was a nice reprieve from all the work we have been doing.  The water was clear and warm, and so nice to just chill.  Another great quote of the day from Abbey again was; “the water was warmer than our showers”.  She was right!  As happens when teams go to the beach, we got to buy a lobster.  It is very fresh, grilled for us, cut open and served full lobster on a plate.  Terry and I shared one and I was pleasantly surprised how good it was.  We got back to the compound and a few minutes later it started to rain quite hard.  We made it back just in time.

While I was helping with the English class I found out that Terry had an opportunity to talk with a Viola.  She was wanting to practice her English and Terry was happy to oblige.  He said in the short time he talked to her that she really opened up and practically told her all about her life.  How God had changed her and she really loved Haiti Arise and what they do for the community.  It was refreshing to see someone so willing to open up on first meeting.  Like Pastor Dan says to have that one minute longer conversation with people.

Charlene

Farmer’s Perspective

It was a great day in Haiti today.  In fact the weather here has been sunny since the day after we arrived.  The mornings and evenings are typically very comfortable but by afternoon it is humid and hot and can be uncomfortable when working directly in the sun. But this sure beats the weather that Central Alberta offers us at this time of year.

At times our service team is spread throughout the entire complex.  It was a very productive service day with the Ladies finishing painting of the Tech School washrooms and the outside kitchen area.  The Haitian cooks/kitchen staff were very appreciative of the Ladies’ great efforts in sprucing up their work area.

Two days ago the kitchen staff had a table in the outdoor kitchen area completely and unexpectedly fall apart which does happen in high humidity conditions. The boys took the initiative to build them a new table today.  Even Tilly got into the act to help me plane the rough yellow pine we used for the project.  The construction of table and lower shelf is finished but it still needs a protective sealing of its surface. 

Some observations made during our stay to date is that the Haitian people seem to be very happy in the midst of their humble conditions.  The power grid in intermittent and a back-up generator is needed to supply power during periods of blackouts.   In our world back in Canada we take many things for granted but the question is how much do we really appreciate all that we have?  Additionally, the food has been fantastic and we are so appreciative of our kitchen staff.

Our team is doing well, we are healthy and getting along very well.  I think God had a big hand in bringing this harmony to our team.

Having reflected on the trip to date I believe God to be working within me to change my outlook and become more compassionate to those in need.  And that truly is God at work.

Terry

Serving the Servers

What a fun, productive, crazy, inspiring, frustrating & relational day!  Our day was full of such variety in work projects, activities and relationship building, that there was something for everyone!  From diagnosing why the bobcat wasn’t running (on a non-English speaking worksite), to building & staining new pews for the growing local church, to mixing & hauling concrete for the new duplex at the Children’s Village, to helping with the first afternoon of VBS with 120 very excited children.  It was a great day!

The biggest joy (& challenge) for me so far has been to change my focus from simply marking things off the project list, to taking the time to slow down and get to know the people we are working & serving with.  This played out in a really cool way while a teammate and I painted the outdoor kitchen on the campus of Haiti Arise.  Yes, it was on “the list” and it started out as a simple project of painting the outside of the structure, but it turned into far more than that.  As we began the project, the women who have faithfully & tirelessly been preparing the meals for the 250+ elementary school children were friendly and engaged in what we were doing.  We chatted & joked (thanks to Elisabeth’s ability to speak French!) and found out lots about what they were doing and they happily answered all of our various questions.  They then communicated that they would love the inside of their kitchen to look as “belle” as the outside, and it sparked an idea that we could continue the painting process to bless them with a new inside as well.  We worked a little longer into the afternoon and completed their “renovation” and can’t wait for them to come back in the morning to see their “belle” kitchen.  The other fun part about this is that they could also benefit from another table to help with all of their food prep, and a team member & Haitian friend will be building this gift for them tomorrow.  It is such a gift to serve those who are serving others!

Tania

Day two and the work has started in full force.  After a filling breakfast and team devotions, we scattered to the four corners of the compound to take on our various duties for the day.  Jonathon started off in the woodshop with several other members from the Sask. team and under the guidance of Ernie the Texan they started prepping and assembling some new pews for the church.

Charlene, Tanya, and Tilly got busy with painting the dining room and bathrooms in the trade school while Terry and myself discovered the joys of troubleshooting a malfunctioning projector. IMG_6900 In the heat of the afternoon things slowed down a little bit, with less focus on the tasks at hand and more time being spent on trying to interact with the Haitians around us.  Elizabeth with her fluent French is a great boon to the team and is able break through the language barrier, and is getting to know the kitchen staff and making many other great connections.  Tilly and Abbey love the kids and play with them as much they can, learning games and giving piggyback rides and having lots of fun.

The evening brought supper and afterwards we got to go sit on the roof and hear from Mark about his life and testimony, as well as his and Lisa’s dream for Haiti and its people.  It is easy see the passion and love Mark has for his people when he talks about the Children’s Village and the trade school, and all the future plans for growth in the community.  Seeing it all for ourselves and hearing about the amazing progress makes it easy to believe that Haiti Arise is truly doing the work of God and is an accurate reflection of His love and compassion.

-CalebIMG_8474

Haiti Blog

21st Tuesday

Bon Swa Canada,

Today was our first official day in Haiti. We started the morning at 6:30am with devotions with the whole team. Then we received a delicious breakfast. Afterwards we heard the children outside playing, out of our curiosity we decided to join them. We received much appreciation from the children through touching, handshakes and piggy backs, it was an inspiration to all of us how well we were received by the Haitians even though we didn’t know the Creole language. Afterwards we got an amazing tour of the compound and how the donations from people donated to Haiti Arise is working in Haiti, the trade school and the shop. I cannot express in words how much the donations have made a humongous difference in the lives of the Haitians and would like to give a sincere thank you to anyone who has donated because it has made a big improvement.

We also went to the children’s village and the new school to see where children go to learn. We also saw the goat project where grade 5 and 6 children have the chance to raise a goat for meat and as an incentive they can keep the goat for free if they care for it well. Then we had lunch.

Afterwards we went different routes to do many projects assigned to us. I had the privilege to work with the Saskatchewan team move the donated clothing and children’s items to another room, watch team members paint the computer room in the trade school, watch the Crossroads men try to fix a projector and build a stroller with a Saskatchewan team member. It was a great afternoon that I finished off with a cold shower. (No hot water available) I then had a little bit of free time where I journaled my experience of the day which I started the day before we went to Haiti and did my personal devotions.

Then it was supper and then we went to Tuesday church that started at 6pm. The church experience was a different unique perspective as there was a pastor and a translator. The congregation was very involved in the service which was great to see. It was a long full day that our team experienced but it was a moving day.

Tilly