Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Today was a day I have been looking forward to since we arrived in Uganda. Today we broke off into two groups and went into the primary and secondary schools for the morning. I was privileged to be able to observe in the primary school in the primary 2 classes. Because there are 83 students in total they put the students into two groups of 43. 43 students with one teacher. And we thought our classrooms were already overfull with students. One might think at first glance that the classes are loud and out-of-control but one of the first things we all noticed was how the students had so much self-discipline. So much more than what our kids have. Whenever the class would begin to get out-of-hand, and the kids all had a lot of energy, the teacher only gave a look and maybe said a word or two and the kids reigned it in. No yelling, but always calm and in control. I know I have much to learn from their teaching methods. The kids were all so excited to be at school and ready to learn.

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After the lessons were over the teacher, Elisabeth, invited our team to come up and teach a few words to the kids. Chantelle went to the blackboard and the kids would know what she was writing before she even finished the word. Slowly the words became harder but she eventually stumped them with photosynthesis! Did I mention that these kids were only 7-8 years old? They were so excited by this English lesson from the Canadians that when the bell rang for lunch they didn’t want to go. We wrapped up quickly as this is the only meal they receive until the following morning. They have a snack of porridge maze around 10:00, then a filling meal of rice and beans at 1:00. Every meal counts!

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We left for lunch back at our guesthouse which was another feast. We eat so abundantly while down the road there is so little! We had a few hours to rest before our next journey so a few of us played badminton on the grass (nearly lost the bird many times in the neighboring bush), while others read or journaled.

Later we drove out to Bulere, a 20 minute drive from Buikwe (where the compound is). In Bulere we learned about the Village Savings and Loans Program that the local people have started together. This program is a collaboration of each person putting money into the “bank”, which is a lock box that is locked up by three different locks. Each key for each lock is kept by a different member and the lock box is kept by the treasurer. As a need or goal arises they borrow money out to pay for it. They are then charged interest until they can pay it back. The group meets once a week on Tuesday, every Tuesday, to put money in and hold each other accountable as to where the money is going. The local pastor shared that he used the money for his son’s university education, and in turn his own son is paying for his son’s education. From generation to generation they are creating a legacy. The people were all so proud of all they had accomplished together with their money.

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Uganda is beautiful and we are all in agreement as to how blessed we are to have this opportunity. Every day is filled with new wonders and I cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store!

Sharilyn

Since we didn’t have power or internet for a while, we have two blog posts for you! After our first day in Uganda, the team shared a few words to capture what they were feeling, seeing, and thinking.

Awe;    joy;    overwhelmed with emotion;   spectacular;   colorful;   sweaty;   smoky;   random roosters;   stolen hub cab?!?;   delicious pancakes;   amazing view;   surreal;   so lush and green;   comfort sounds (grasshoppers);   hard to believe we’re here;   laughing kids;    singing kids (highlight of day!);   big smiles.

-Adam and the Team

Greetings from across the globe where the weather is beautiful and the sound of laughing children is now the norm.  On Saturday we arrived at the International Needs compound after an awe inspiring drive from the airport. We passed through the busy city of Kampala watching Ugandan’s carry out their regular Saturday routine (see Adam and Emily below in the vehicle). All of us were tired from jet lag, yet fighting to keep our eyes open for fear we would miss something.

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We are now on African time where we are learning that 20 minutes is not really 20 minutes. For example, the power was out when we arrived, and apparently it had been out for a day and half! It is a blessing not being connected to the internet and our cell phones. We are enjoying each other’s company as well as spending time with our own thoughts and meditating on God’s Word.

We were welcomed to the International Needs compound with a fantastic home cooked hot chicken dinner with rice, potatoes, and green peas. We are staying in a dorm-like accommodation which reminds me a lot of church camp. Last night it was too early to go to bed so we went for a walk. When the children came running towards us with open arms, it was at that moment all the preparation for this trip became worthwhile. The children greeted us with a song, a little dance, and singing a song about knowing Jesus as their Savior. I was overcome with emotion as these children have so much joy and love to give. They hugged us and touched our different skin.

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We are ‘gelling’ as a team as we have now all share our testimonies with the common thread of how God has changed our lives and has brought us together for a purpose. We are all humbled. This morning’s church service nearly blew the roof off! We were dancing and singing and praising the Lord – amen! Adam was invited to speak at the service this morning and give the message. He sent his greetings from the entire CrossRoads Church, from pastor Dan, the church board, the whole congregation, and it seems like greetings from just about everyone in Red Deer. I guess that’s how they say hi here!

My biggest takeaway so far is the power of a smile!  – From Sheryl and the Team

Uganda team update

Hello friends, family and supporters of this Uganda Team. Unfortunately the team has been unable to get online (lack of power and connection options) and thus no blogs have been posted. Please know they have been in touch with me briefly each day to check in and all is going well. 

They are asking for prayer as they haven’t had good sleeps and are feeling drained. Health wise all are well and the team spirit is high. 

They arrived well Friday night and slept at the guesthouse near the airport. They loved waking up to the unique sights, sounds and smells of Uganda!

Yesterday (Saturday) the team made their way to Buikwe. Today was an opportunity to worship in the local churches. I heard rumours of lots of dancing and I hear there is video! 

So please watch this space the team has some blogs to share with you as soon as they get connected to the internet. 

Around 3pm Friday our time the team checked into their guesthouse after a long but strait forward journey.  Their message was simply: “We have arrived safe and sound in Uganda. Flights were good, but long. Now settling down for the night in Lake View Guesthouse. Will update more (hopefully) tomorrow.”

After meeting at the church this morning for final logistics and a prayer send off from staff and family- this amazing team is on their way. They are now through check in and security and awaiting their 3:10 flight. 

They head from here to Amsterdam for a brief layover early in the morning, which will provide a chance to catch a walk and some breakfast. From there they will head to Entebbe, Uganda. After going through Uganda customs they will be met by International Needs staff and will be brought to a guesthouse for the night. 

I will let them take it from there. 

Please keep them in your prayers.

Pastor Tracy

Watch me!

The little dark haired boy stood staring down at his feet as the woman helping him find the right size shoes fastened up the velcro on yet another pair.    “How do these ones feel?” she asked.   The boy hadn’t spoken at all since he came into the room, just nodding shyly when he had to.    “I think these are the perfect size for you,”  the woman announced and she stepped back and asked him what he thought.   No response from the youngster.

“You know what I think?   I think you could run very fast in these shoes!”   With those words the boy looked up and started smiling until he was grinning.   His eyes opened wide and he spoke….. “Watch me!”    He ran back and forth in the small room and we all clapped for him.   “Watch me again” he said as he went out to the hall and ran up and down the hallway and came to a quick stop in front of us.   “Yay!  Good for you!   You are fast”  we said to him which just made him smile all the wider and he proudly walked out of the room to meet his Mom.

This young person was just one of the 100’s of children and youth that came through Outreach Centre during the month of August for back to school shoes.  Some came with ripped shoes, sizes way too small shoes, excited faces, sad faces, some in large families and some alone.   Each one came with a story that God knows and each one came loved by a Heavenly Father.

It was a month of God showing me how He is in control of all the details and that He is faithful to provide what is needed.   He taught me lessons on giving up control, abandoning outcomes and trusting.  Towards the end of the month our stock of shoes was running very low and kids were being turned away due to not having anything in their size.   It was the middle of the week and a few shoes had come into the church so the next morning I delivered this small offering to Outreach and was feeling a little down about the fact that more kids were going to be turned away.   I walked into the shoes room and was blown away to see a room full of shoes!  I couldn’t believe it!   All I could say  is “God what have you done? ”

What happened is that God put the need to purchase a large number  of shoes on a few people’s hearts the day before.  What happened is that God was working behind the scenes in ways that are more wonderful than I could have imagined.   What happened is that God’s ways are so much greater than mine.

And so now I sit and ponder and plan for the fall and all the opportunities that lie before us as a church with our schools and local partners and I say “God – what are you going to do next?”    And He smiles at me and says “Laurie….Just watch me!”

I was in the church foyer the other day setting up the table to display the shoes that we will be collecting during the month of August.  Yes it is Love in the Laces time again people – and even though our first official collection Sunday had not yet arrived I had received a few pairs that I was displaying and getting everything ready for the big rush I was hoping was going to happen this coming Sunday.    I say I was hoping because I always feel a little bit of anxiety over events where people are asked to give – to bring in a donation, to spend some money.

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Just that morning I had this restlessness inside of me and after reading scripture I felt even more unsettled.  What I had read did not calm me or cause me to stop feeling the way I was feeling.  I wandered and I wondered that morning and then close to noon I sat outside in the sun and I said to God “What do you want to tell me?”   In my heart I heard him say “Give it up”.    I was about to ask what I should give up but I already knew….my desire to get the outcomes I wanted from the shoe drive, reach the numbers I think shout “success”,   make sure that Womens Outreach is impressed, ensure every child who comes in for a pair of shoes walks out with a smile on their face and a new pair of shoes in their hands. God was not telling me to stop doing my best – but He was telling me to give up the outcomes to Him, and the unnecessary worrying and the desire for control over what is not in my control anyway.   “In Jesus name – not my strain” came to my mind, a breath prayer from a book that I had recently read.     “Okay God, I give this to you.’

So there I am a few hours later in the foyer just putting the finishing touches on my display and I turn around to see a young Mom and her little ones coming through the door with a wagon.   It wasn’t until she got close to me that I could see the wagon was full of shoes.   38 pairs to be exact!  That’s a big wagon full of shoes!  I asked her for permission to share what brought her and her husband to purchase 38 pairs of shoes.   She said that her husband had recently received a bonus at work and they went to God and asked Him what they should do with the extra money.  Wow.  I don’t know everything God told them but she shared they were directed to purchase shoes for the Love in the Laces campaign.   One pair in each size for a girl and one pair in each size for a boy.   And then they wrote a note to accompany each pair of shoes.

We visited for a while longer and as she left I was overwhelmed by how God is so faithful to speak to us when we ask Him  “What do you want me to do?”    “What do you want to tell me?”  Through this young couple’s example  God enforced His message to me of giving up the outcomes to Him and also showing me how He does long to speak to us and be a part of our decision making – all we have to do is ask.  He is working in hearts of those who are seeking Him and listening to what He says.   This is God’s work and for His glory.   I am so excited to see what He is doing!

Bring on the Best Love in the Laces year yet!

 

(Be a part of this amazing journey by applying for our next team to Rwanda in February. Applications due to missions@CrossRoadsChurch.ca by August 1st.)

WR cez

Picture a village. Remote, undeveloped, overwhelmed by poverty and characterized by broken relationships. Where malnutrition, illness, and a small number of positive role models oftentimes leave children extremely vulnerable. And where the perpetual cycle of poverty cripples entire generations, decade after decade.

Now picture that same village in community. A community characterized by thriving relationships, strengthened families, spiritual richness, economic sustainability, and good health. Picture community leaders and church pastors, once isolated and fragmented, sitting together, in conversation. Learning, talking, sharing, and envisioning. Eager to connect, encourage, and challenge one another. Eager to love and serve the most vulnerable, to fulfill the Great Commission, and see the next generation renewed, restored, and transformed in Christ.

What if I told you about a unique and innovative model, pioneered by World Relief, that fulfills this very vision? A beautifully biblical and thoughtful process by which communities are truly being sustainably changed from the inside out. Where the cycle of poverty is being broken, and communities are beginning to experience a fullness of life unlike anything they’ve ever experienced?

Here it is. It’s called the Church Empowerment Zone (CEZ) Model. And it changes everything.

“World Relief helped us to understand we are many parts of one body, and that we have a responsibility to come together in unity and serve the most vulnerable. That we have to be the answer to our own problems. Now we share our community’s burdens. we care 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.
— Pastor Radolpho

Pioneered by World Relief in Rwanda over the last 7 years, our CEZ model is a powerful, unique model that adopts best-practice thinking on “moving from [interventions] focused on community deficits and professional-client relationships to a model that empowers the community by building on local assets and professional community partnerships.” [1] We do so by establishing local ownership from the outset, focusing on leadership development and capacity building, and building upon our core tool: a transformative curriculum that works to eliminate the underlying causes of poverty and end the vicious cycle once and for all.

World Relief’s “Transformation Tree Curriculum” (TTC) focuses on better equipping local pastors—inspiring and faithful servants of the Lord, who are genuinely called to serve with all their capacity and might. They are resourceful, and their strength and enduring spirit blesses their communities abundantly. And so we stand with and alongside them, sharing in our knowledge and resources.

Our TTC grounds these leaders in the scriptural calling to care for and shepherd all people. It addresses foundational beliefs concerning God’s compassion for the poor, the root causes of poverty, and our call to love and serve one another. We teach pastors that in order for the vicious cycle of poverty to truly end, value systems, beliefs, and ultimately behaviors must change. We demonstrate that in order for holistic physical transformation to take place, spiritual transformation must first lead the way.

Impact is catalyzed as these leaders are brought together and equipped, not just as a distribution mechanism, but also as change makers and kingdom champions. They are developed as true leaders. They are inspired. They learn to shepherd and, in turn, teach others to be shepherds. They are equipped to transform their communities. And they themselves are transformed—as leaders, teachers, community activists, neighbors, wives, mothers, husbands, and fathers.

But it doesn’t stop there.

““We used to see so many of our church members not living out their faith. Since the introduction of the World Relief trainings, their lives have changed. They are integrating word and deed. Helping one another, praying, and understanding the word of God.”
— Aurelie Uwinana, Volunteer Leader

Once foundational beliefs and values are in place, and World Relief staff have served as initial trainers and catalysts, we equip hundreds of “ordinary people” to take part in this great kingdom work. Through our Outreach Group Initiative, we use local church volunteers to reach their neighbors and communities, enabling us to address the deepest of issues that extend beyond the ‘front door’ of the home. Lessons begin with biblical teachings that provide spiritual building blocks for our technical interventions. Parents are taught about the obligation to care for their children as a blessing (Psalm 127:3; 1 Timothy 5:8), farmers about the honor and privilege of tending to land (Genesis 1:28, 2:15), families about the importance of saving and sharing money (1 Corinthians 16:2, Proverbs 13:22), couples about respect and support for one another (Hebrews 10:24, Ecclesiastes 4:9), and many more.

With the building blocks laid and beliefs and values instilled, technical interventions become rooted in powerful scriptural support, and adoption for long-term behavior change becomes possible. We then see the gospel work powerfully through the servants, initiating transformation in their communities because the gospel has become powerful in them and among them.

Evidence of change is not simply anecdotal. Not only did our most recent evaluation reveal significant progress in health behaviors and economic standing (the use of clean latrines up 55.4% from 4.4%, and the expansion of income generating activities up to 90% compared to 67% outside our intervention areas), but also in family strengthening and relationships. 84% of beneficiaries claimed their spousal relationships had improved significantly, and 96% reported better relationships with their children. 75% of couples responded that they now made joint decisions, as opposed to 47% in the comparison area, and attitudes toward domestic violence changed drastically, with less than 15% of respondents justifying wife beating as opposed to over 45% prior to intervention.[2] There is no doubt that these numbers showcase visible, tangible transformation in our targeted communities.

Trosha’s story is one example of the powerful narratives of transformation behind these statistics. As I sat with him in a small community in Bushenge, Rwanda, he told me his story:

“My wife is HIV Positive. I am HIV negative. Three years ago, we were barely surviving. The conflict at home was unbearable. There was no peace. The issues of HIV in our home led to fighting so bad that we were close to killing one another. So the church came to us, and volunteers invited us into World Relief’s Mobilizing for Life Program. I began to learn how to treat people with HIV/AIDS, how to support them and give them hope. I began to understand my responsibility for taking care of my wife, and began to care for her and help her with her medicine. After 11 years of pain, we began to live together in peace. Since then, we’ve discovered many of our friends are facing similar issues, and we’ve gone to over 6 homes to share our lessons and council friends. Now, we join together as happy homes, transformed through our churches and this program, and in community together.”

I met Trosha and his wife sitting on a small wooden bench under a tree, just down the road from their home. At the end of our time together, Trosha invited us to see his humble home before we began the long trip back to Kigali. As he led the way through a small opening in the trees, a clearing came into sight, upon which stood several buildings. On this once small, rented plot, he had created a beautiful, thriving home. A house for his family, a kitchen garden for their food, an animal paddock for their livestock, a clean latrine, an outdoors space for friends and family. This was a little slice of God’s kingdom, here on earth, blessing Trosha and his family with riches, both spiritual & material, far greater than they could ever have imagined. What’s more? His neighbor’s homes were beginning to look strangely similar… And it was a beautiful, inspiring picture.

Trosha’s story is one of hundreds coming out of our Church Empowerment Zones. The evidence of visible, tangible transformation occurring across multiple domains of intervention, and the corresponding change in belief and value systems, are contributing to truly transformative outcomes in the lives of leaders, volunteers, and beneficiaries alike. Our CEZ model is empowering hundreds of local churches to begin building a legacy of hope, generosity, and self-reliance that sustains progress long after we depart.

“Jesus is the one that started the work we do, and we are told to do it. This is why I am doing it – because it is like Jesus.” — Outreach Volunteer

 

[1] J.P Kretzman and J.L. McKnight: Building Communities from the Inside Out: A path towards finding and mobilizing community assets. (Evanston IL: Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, North Western University 1993.)

[2] Integral Mission Outreach Groups. Pilot Project Final Report Evaluation. Bugesera, Rwanda. May 2017. World Relief.

 

Written by: Francesca Albano currently serves as Product Development Lead at World Relief. With a background in strategic marketing communications, she connects her interests in brand strategy, audience engagement, and storytelling around her passions—children, disaster and humanitarian relief, human rights, and poverty alleviation. Francesca best describes herself as a storyteller, writer, foodie, globetrotter, and humanitarian.

I posted this article a year ago at Ramadan and felt it would be good to repost. Note this year Ramadan begins 26th of June (evening) and goes through the 24th. Please pray for spiritual awakening and Truth to be found.

CrossRoads on Mission

ramadan image This time of year my mind wanders to my time spent working and living in Eastern Chad. While I served there, half of my staff were Muslim (as required by the Government). During the month of Ramadan I had to adjust my expectations of my Muslim staff as I knew they would be fasting during the day and having late night feasts and gatherings each night. Their productivity would definitely drop. It meant on those days when we would typically have a meal together or simply share a cup of tea, now for this month of Ramadan, I had to either abstain or do it more privately to not make them stumble as they were fasting. It also meant our cooks, who were Muslims, were preparing food for the lunch of the Christians but were unable to eat themselves. As I walked around my hot, sandy little town of Goz…

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