Reading our last blog post, I realized that a lot and, at the same time, not much has changed over the past month. I’m going to be honest, the last two months were really hard and our Thanksgiving post was an intentional focus on all the good that we were surrounded by, as we often felt weighed down with the difficulties. Since I am admitting to the difficult times, it is safe for you all to assume that we have come through it, and are hopefully better from experiencing them!
Last blog, we mentioned in our prayer requests the possibility of moving and also gave thanks for having our car back. Well, we have not moved and we don’t have a car!
Let me explain… Since our arrival, we have been told by many people that we were paying too much money to rent our house and that we were being cheated. When the landlord arrived in November to stay in the compound with us for 6 months, he did not uphold the agreements we had made with his property manager. He also seemed to be manipulative and unkind. So we decided to look for a new place. That decision brought on many interesting adventures and we got to experience first hand house hunting – Rwandan style! We found two possibilities and invested significant time and some money in negotiations, but both of them fell through at the last minute. After the second house fell through, we decided that it would probably be best to stay put and accept the broken contract with our landlord and love him despite some of his actions. It just seemed as though God was closing doors; we could force the issue or we could exercise what we are learning and be obedient even if it’s not what our first choice would be. So we have remained in our compound. We now have 2 neighbors, our landlord and the property manager, and we are getting along well and thriving. The kids even got some chickens which they are responsible to care for, and they are loving these new “friends” and the daily chores that come with them. This whole house hunting adventure showed us that we actually are not being cheated. Though rent is considered high by Rwandan standards, it is a fair price for a furnished place with running water (most days) AND electricity (also most days)! There are also fewer rental properties available currently as compared to before. We live 1.5 km from the Democratic Republic of Congo and many Congolese have moved into Rwanda in anticipation of the instability that would ensue with their recently held elections. We have been told that “a peaceful transition of power” following these elections would be the first such occurrence in DRC in decades. Our congregation has been praying about it for months and thus far God has heard our cry.
As for the car, it has been a thorn in our flesh. If we could go back in time and change one thing about this whole experience, it would be the purchase of this car. We had some minor problems with it initially; it needed 4 new tires, a new fan belt, and a new battery. Yes, these were our minor car problems! Then, one day, as we were driving up the mountain from picking friends up from Kigali, the timing belt broke which basically wrecked the engine. We were advised that we should fix it and told it would take $600 and 2 days. Well, it’s been over 2 thousand dollars and has taken over 3 months! At one point in time we sat down with two of our pastors and told them we did not want to put any more money in the car and that we wanted to just sell it for parts. We were strongly advised that we should continue to work on car repairs and that: “It is the Rwandese way, to trust that it will be fixed”. So we are following this advice given to us, again being obedient when it wouldn’t be our first choice, and we are waiting until “tomorrow” when it will be fixed.
Through both of these misadventures as well as through many other interactions and instances, we have been learning to hold on very loosely to our “rights and possessions”. Fifth-century monk and bishop Paulinus of Nola wrote, “We have no rights to our possessions; they have been entrusted to us for the good of all. Let us then invest with the Lord what he has given us, for we have nothing that does not come from him.” This is very counter-cultural to the American way that has been ingrained in us and has been very hard for both Josiah and I. We come from a “cold-climate” culture that values time, efficiency, and precision. We are now living in a “warm-climate” culture that values relationships above all. So what is “mine”, is really to be used freely by all. A person’s words are said to promote feelings of well-being and good relations and is not meant to be taken at face value. We have been learning to give freely of our time and money and to hold loosely to promises made to us; but we have also received the gift of so much time, kindness, and grace extended to us. In both our experience with the car and our housing we were never in it alone. There was always a community praying, giving their time, and walking through the challenge with us.
A great example of time, kindness, and grace granted to us is our journey regarding our visas. A local pastor and friend has given us many hours (even days, if we are honest), and has helped us make the necessary connections to FINALLY GET OUR VISAS!!! Thank you for joining us in prayer regarding this matter.
Things with church and ministry have been fantastic.
First, we want to thank everyone who saw fit to donate toward the building projects here. I won’t give an exact figure here, but let us just say that it was truly humbling to see the response. It is still not too late if you’ve been meaning to partner with the COB-Rwanda. See our last post for information. On this front, the work in Mudende and Gasiza has begun and we are hoping to start building in Gisenyi by the end of this month. Leadership is also working on getting their official documentation with the government to be a recognized denomination here. To this point, we have been operating under the “covering” of another ministry, a common practice here in Rwanda.
In addition to work in this area, we have begun meeting once a week with people from church who want to learn to speak English. To call these ESL classes would be overstating it a bit, but we have been using simple Bible teaching and memory verses as a way to teach the language. This is a great need, especially in areas outside of the capital, as English is supposed to be the national language here. We have found that very few people feel comfortable to even attempt speaking. School age kids can read and write at a decent level but listening comprehension and speech remains a challenge for many. We are learning as we go, and if nothing else, will continue to form relationships with the people coming to these gatherings
When we were blessed by the visit from Chris Elliott, Caleb Sylvanus and the Hackmans back in November, they brought a book on “Brethren Beliefs and Practices” with them. This book, originally written for and in collaboration with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) had been translated into the native tongue of Kinyarwanda. At that time, we decided that the deacons and evangelists from each of our four congregations would go through this book study. Each church has selected leader to facilitate discussion at their site. Josiah has spent the last month or so meeting with these leaders to walk through the book and answer any questions about things that may have gotten lost in translation. These site leaders will then walk through the book with members of their congregation. This book has been and will be very helpful in explaining to the COB-Rwanda members what we believe and why we do what we do. Due to our baptism last month, we have spent some extensive time talking about this topic and Josiah is planning on some instruction around Love Feast at each of the churches in the coming months. This semi-regular gathering of site leaders has been an especially cool experience for him
Some of you saw pictures of our Christmas Holidays posted on Facebook. The Holidays began with Josiah officiating his first Rwandan wedding on December 22nd. There was a baptism at the lake that morning that Josiah led as well. Then, my parents came to visit on the 26th of December for a week. It was such a treat to share our current life with them. We had a joint birthday party for Rachel and Asher one day and it was also a great opportunity for my parents to meet all of our friends. We also went on a 2 day Safari at Akagera National Park. It was an incredible experience. Let me share some pictures of all this fun with you.
We are now at our half way mark in our time spent here in Rwanda. We will be returning to the US in June as we plan to be present and share about our year in Rwanda at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.
The Prayer Requests
- For the book study with site leaders. Brethren Beliefs and Practices are very new here, so this instruction is very important. We are praying that these gatherings will be fruitful and that the site leaders will feel confident in their own understanding as they walk their congregation’s leadership through the 10 week book study. The goal is to begin this study in each congregation by the beginning of February.
2. For our English classes. These have already opened the door for some new relationships with the young people of our church. Pray that we would continue to hone in on the best and most effective way to teach these lessons
3. That God will continue to bless the building efforts here and will move still others to partner in this work.
4. That a volunteer opportunity outside of the home will present itself for Christine
5. That relationships we have begun will continue to grow and flourish.
6. Please pray for our Pastor and church in the US. Pastor Belita has experienced some health challenges which leaves a significant hole in the ministry of the church. Please pray for her recovery as well as for wisdom regarding how to fill in for her during this absence.
7. Please also pray for safe travels for our First Church friends who are traveling to visit us in early February.
Thanks again for all your love and support,
Much Love – Christine for the Ludwicks