At church we learn some songs. We like to listen to the exciting music. These two songs that we will sing for you are two of our favorite songs. They are called: “Tambira Jehovah” which means Dance for Jehovah, and “Hio Hio Calvary” which means just that.
Our Parents are too lazy to do gym class during homeschooling, so this is what we do instead…
Last month we started Taekwando. It happens at the Cultural Center, near the beach. It is very fun. In the beginning we thought it was hard, but now we really feel like we are making progress and doing much better. I (Rachel) love all the different kicks! I (Asher) love the kicks and punches. Our friend Moses comes as well, which makes it more fun. Taekwando is about 4 times a week and the lessons last 2 hours. Pacifique (he has a red belt) is our main teacher, but the head Master’s name is Master Martin.
Our Guests of Honor
In the beginning of February Ms Joy, Ms Louise, Ms Donna, and Ms Joyce came to visit us. My (Rachel) favorite thing about their visit was that we didn’t have to do school! I also enjoyed eating their gourmet breakfast at Serena Hotel. Asher’s favorite part was that it was fun to see them and to swim at the pool. Daddy loved the hot showers in their hotel room. They also brought gifts from all our kind friends. Thanks everyone!! Thanks so much for coming to visit !!!
Last week we went to visit our friend in Uganda. It was our first time leaving Rwanda. We took a 5+ hour bus ride to a city in Uganda named Kabale. The next morning we took motorcycles, called boda bodas to our friend, Ahyeong’s, village. I (Rachel) really liked Ahyeong’s house. She lives in a rural village and the boda boda ride there was over two hours long and we went through the mountains.
The border crossing.
This is us on the road!
A pig we spotted on our ride.
Happy to be together
We had jackfruit for the first time.
On the way home we stopped for a night to camp at lake Bunyonyi. It was super fun and we got to swim in the lake and go canoeing. We also had a campfire and roasted a banana, nutella (no nutella for Asher though) burrito for dinner!
Rachel: We are really enjoying our life here in Rwanda and there is still so much more to experience. Some of the amazing things about Rwanda are: the beautiful sunsets, the nice people, and the yummy yummy food.
Asher: Living in Rwanda is a new life. It’s just different and I like that.
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.
The church in Mudende now has a roof with more improvements to come
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.
Many reasons for celebration
Picking up my parents at the airport the next day
Their very own Birthday Cakes
We had facepainting
Sitting outside to fellowship
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.
This past Sunday, November 25th, we spent almost the entire day in church. This was the big event I alluded to a few weeks ago. All four Churches of the Brethren converged on Gisenyi and had a big day of Praise, Worship, Teaching and Fundraising. Each church’s choir combined into a mass choir from the respective congregation, we had two sermons and a special choral presentation from the indigenous people who attend our Mudende congregation. It was a long day, to be sure, but a beautiful snap shot of what being a part of the COB-Rwanda is all about. Dwelling together, praising together, dancing together, giving sacrificially together.
If you haven’t already heard, The government of Rwanda has dictated certain specifications that every church must meet. Thousands of churches are being closed every week as a result of not meeting specifications. Presently, only one of our four churches would pass this inspection. The effort to get each of our church buildings up to government standard was the reason for this big fundraising event.
The goal was to raise around $2,000 USD. If I’m honest, which I generally am, I thought the goal was not realistic. But I was wrong! Even though many here have little or nothing, God took our fishes and loaves and multiplied them to exceed the goal. We were able to raise $2,500 USD from members’ and their friends’ contributions.
Outside of leadership, the members aren’t aware that I’m sharing their story of faithful sacrificial giving.
In my last post, I mentioned that you should be on the look out for ways you can help the churches here. Well, here goes nothing…
As friends of COB-Rwanda, We invite you to join us in this sacrificial giving. We invite you or your congregation to pledge a match of funds raised, to take a special offering for this purpose or to personally contribute toward the Lords work here in Rwanda.
Southern PA District- Church of the Brethren already has a system in place to get funds sent to COB-Rwanda, so rather than reinventing the wheel, we will use what is already in place.
To partner with the churches here in Rwanda by matching funds, love offering or personal donation, you may send a check made payable to Southern PA District with Africa Great Lakes in memo line to:
Thanksgiving is my (Josiah’s) favorite holiday every year. I think it is because, since I can remember, it is always the same. This is the holiday when I get up early, go out to breakfast with my dad on our way to his High School’s traditional Thanksgiving morning rivalry football game. The game is followed by feasting, games, watching football and enjoying wonderful fellowship with my family. Over the last few years, we have started some new traditions, most notably placing a small token (rock, gem or other memento) in a vase and telling everyone why we are thankful this year. Thanksgiving is also the holiday when my High School friends who have moved away come back home and we get to hang out the way we always used to. I just love everything about it. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure what this year would look like, and honesty dreaded it a bit, as I figured it just wouldn’t be the same. I was right. It wasn’t the same. How could it be? And I was also wrong. There was no need for dread, because this year’s Thanksgiving was still pretty great.
Because of technology, I was able to take part in the vase tradition with my family and also got to peak in at the High School friend get together. So unbelievably thankful for both of those opportunities. On Thanksgiving Day, Christine and I attended the weekly prayer and fasting service at church and it was so beautiful. It only hit me afterward how much of a counterpoint it was to my normal Thanksgiving. Instead of feasting and doing things largely for myself, we fasted and gave God the praise that He alone deserves.
The other thing that made this year special was meeting a wonderful family several months ago who have already blessed us so much. The first time we were with Tina, Thierry and their family was a much needed dose of home with wonderful American food (Tina grew up in upstate NY). During that first visit, I mentioned how I wasn’t looking forward to Thanksgiving this year, and Tina says, “Well, you have no need to fear. We have a big get together every year and you guys are invited!” What a blessing to spend Thanksgiving Saturday eating some familiar foods and some new ones (Akabenz is pretty great!) with some known friends and some new ones. Similar to my birthday, this year’s Thanksgiving was definitely different, but nevertheless was very special and fun.
As many of our friends are in the throes of the holiday season, we thought we’d share with you some of what we are thankful for this year.
I am thankful for our PHYSICAL COMFORT here. I thought that living in Rwanda would be physically difficult and yet we have all remained in perfect health. The weather is amazing; the sun still rises at 5:45 and sets at 6 every day. It’s still 65-85 degrees every day. The birds still wake us up, hopping around on our tin roof and the rooster still crows every morning. Another physical comfort, as many of us know is food! The food is so fresh and most often right off the tree or dug up from the earth. It is also very simple. There is one brand of flour, one kind of sugar, the only fruits and veggies available are the ones in season, and the meat is cut right off the back of the animal when you buy it.
Sunrise from our porch
Sunset from our porch.
I am thankful for the KIDS ADJUSTMENT. They spend their days practicing their ninja moves or making plans to capture the dragons that Asher saw flying across his window. They are now content to sit with and “play” with the church kids when the service gets too long despite their lack of a mutual language. And the reward of a Fanta is enough to make a long house visit “Totally worth it!”. I am learning so much from them; the simplicity of children. How to be content where I am and to delight in the small blessings.
Lastly- though my list could go and and on… I am thankful for FRIENDSHIPS. I’m sure Josiah will expound on relationships we have built here, so I will let him explain but I am truly thankful for the people we have connected with. And I am so thankful for you, my friends, that are not here with us in Rwanda. I have some close girlfriends and my family that have been supportive through all the ups and downs and have continued to share their daily lives with me and that has kept me from much homesickness. So many others that offer words of wisdom and encouragement. How can I not be thankful for you!
I am thankful that we like Rwanda and that we have made FRIENDS. My closest friends names are Carine, Sandra, Hirwa, Belize, Robert, and Rebecca. They all speak English and are very nice and love hanging out with me.
I am thankful that we get CAKES from our friends from church who make birthday and wedding cakes as a job. Most people don’t have ovens in Rwanda, so a cake is a special thing.
I am thankful that me and my brother are GETTING ALONG well. We play spies and save the birds in the rain. We’ve also made 2 clubhouses and have lots of fun in our backyard.
I am thankful for VIDEOS (Thanks Uncle Tony!!!). We have movie nights with popcorn sometimes and I get to watch Netflix too.
I am thankful for MAIL because it’s so nice! Sometimes we get amazing stuff and I just love checking our mail box at the post off ice to see if anything’s there. Rachel and I always try to be the one who gets to open our box. When there’s actually something there, I just love it!
I am so thankful for the INCREDIBLE PEOPLE here in Rwanda. Especially here in Gisenyi, God has given us many people who truly look out for, care for and love us with all of who they are. Through car trouble, issues with our visas, our pending relocation and other everyday run-of-the-mill challenges, as well as my birthday, Thanksgiving and other everyday run-of-the-mill victories, the people have made our time here so rich and wonderful. This includes both church people as well as the more random relationships God has placed in our path. I’ve already given you the Thanksgiving example of how one family truly has blessed us. Rachel has alluded to another family who, when making a cake for their family business, makes a little extra batter so they can bring our kids a small cake as well. There’s the friend who takes me to the barber shop to make sure they don’t mess up what little hair I have left (they have no idea how to cut white people’s hair here). And another who spent almost an entire week at a car garage making sure our car got fixed properly. And I could go on and on. I don’t want to list names, because I don’t want to miss anyone. Suffice it to say that God has placed many wonderful people in our path, and they have blessed us beyond measure.
I also continue to be amazed and blessed by our FRIENDS BACK HOME who continue to love, support and make us a part of what we would otherwise be missing out on back stateside. Whether it’s something big like video chatting about something big happening in each of our lives or just messaging about how disappointing the Eagles have been, I have really appreciated staying connected with people. A special blessing has been a group of friends who sent a whole bunch of notes and cards with us that we are able to open at different parts of our trip. Whenever we are feeling especially homesick, we go to the pile of cards and open a couple. It has really kept us going. Just connecting here and there and knowing what is happening in people’s lives is so nice, and it helps me to be praying for what’s happening back home too. Just know that we miss, love and appreciate all of you.
I am also thankful for the BEAUTY that surrounds us everyday. This includes the people certainly, but also just God’s wonderful creation. Some of you may remember that my big fear before coming here was the volcanos erupting or other events that could plausibly occur (look up what is directly beneath Lake Kivu sometime, if you wanna know what I’m talking about…). Interestingly, The glow from the volcano has become one of my favorite sights in living here. Photos really can’t capture how beautiful the people and landscape are here, but seeing them is a daily reminder of how Great our God is.
I also could go on and on, but I’m lastly thankful for the RICH FAITH COMMUNITY here in Rwanda. It is a blessing every time I’m with the people in worship, prayer, visits or just hanging out at a life celebration. It’s challenging and humbling to see how much the people pour into their relationship with God and their relationship with one another. To be even a small part of it has been truly remarkable and challenging. If you haven’t yet heard, you will soon hear about how you can be a part of partnering with this incredible community God is growing.
1) We had a big problem with our car this month. Thankfully we just got it back, but we are praying that this will be the last problem we have with it. Stress and financial challenges have come along with this latest repair.
2) Our visa situation continues to be interesting. We are praying that things will be resolved shortly. All of our paperwork has been accepted and is in process, but we are still waiting for final approval. This has been an ordeal, especially for Christine, and we are praying for a quick (in African adjusted terms) solution.
3) Our housing situation has been in flux since our landlord moved in next door a few weeks ago. Due to the fact that he is unwilling to abide by our former agreement, it looks like we will be relocating in short order. We are continuing to look and trusting God to provide the right place for us to live.
4) We are praising God for a wonderful visit from Galen and Doris Hackman, Chris Elliot and Caleb Sylvanus Dakwak in the beginning of November. The event they led introducing our churches to Brethren Beliefs and Practices was wonderful and having friends from the US and Nigeria dwell with us was such a blessing.
5) As always, we are thanking God for each of you and your continual thoughts and prayers as we continue to embark on this adventure. Thanks for all of your love and support.
Stay Tuned In The Next Couple Days For Ways You Can Partner With The Churches Here in Rwanda!!!
We’ve done some exciting activities in Rwanda. Some are American activities and some are Rwandan. We want to share some of these exciting things with you. So without further ado… Let’s get this started!
In church we sing a lot of songs. Daddy – otherwise known as Josiah – is in the worship team. They usually start the singing in the service. Some of our favorite songs that they sing are: “Io, Io, Calvary” and “Tambira Jehovah” (which means dance for Jehovah). This worship time is followed by 3 different choirs that sing for us. The worship and singing time is fun but after that there is a lot of talking – which we don’t understand since it is in Kinyarwanda – and that is so so so so so boring. BUT… about 6 weeks ago we began going back to Children’s church during the sermon and have a translator. We have really enjoyed that time. In Children’s Church sometimes we sing songs or play games. We also have a lesson. I (Rachel) learned that there are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. I (Asher) have learned new games. Here is a video of two of the songs we sing during Children’s Church.
One of the American things we have done recently is celebrate Trick or Treat. We think it is the first Trick or Treat in Rwandan history! Our friends came over and we all made our own costumes. Carine was a teacher, Hirwa was a cat, Asher was chef, and Rachel was a rock star. We had 3 pieces of candy each to collect for trick or treat, but we were so excited, we ate them all before trick or treating! So for trick or treating, we got some chocolate and peanuts. Here is a picture of us, followed by a video of the actual event.
Here are a few more pictures that we have taken over the past few weeks.
Even though we miss our friends in America, Rwanda is really fun too. One of the things I (Rachel) like a lot about Rwanda is how often they drink soda. When you visit someone, you are frequently offered a soda and we do the same when we have guests over. SUGAR FEST!!! I also like how fresh and yummy the fruit is. I (Asher) likes when mom and dad go out and we get babysitted by Mama Hirwa. The thing I (Asher) miss the most is that there is only one small park in Gisenyi. For me (Rachel) I miss understanding what people are saying the most.
I’ve been thinking of language a lot recently.Professor James Vuningoma, the Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture has put into words what I have been feeling.He states that : “Language is a key and driving force that facilitates human contact, communication, and conversation.” He goes on stating,“Everyone makes use of it, be they a beggar or a king; from the first day we are surrounded by it. Language is the flesh and blood of culture. You can’t separate language from culture. They are intertwined.”He underscores the importance of language in the process of building human relationships noting that “language makes us what we are.It’s a vehicle through which people express their thoughts, feelings, ideas – a revelation of their being what they are.It is also a means of social cohesion, social change, and community advancement.”
So how do we connect and really know people when we don’t understand their expression of thoughts, feelings, and ideas?Kinyarwanda is one of the three official languages of Rwanda; the other two being English and French. However, only those with secondary education or higher speak some English or French.Everyone speaks Kinyarwanda.I have made a good effort at learning the language…but I still don’t understand the language and cannot speak it.I can greet people very well, ask them how they are… and then the connection ends.I can go to the market and buy food, but cannot go deeper.
We have had paid translators to try to overcome this barrier; but their mastery of the English language is inadequate to really bridge the gap.And yet, connections are made.We have been welcomed into the church family and embraced. I threw a surprise birthday party to celebrate Josiah turning 40 at the beginning of the month and many women helped me organize it and cook and it was a great time together with some of our new friends.
There is also a couple in our church who bakes cakes; when he found out our kids LOVE cake he stopped by one day with a small cake that he made for the kids from the leftovers of a job.
Most recently, one of the church members had a traumatic experience this past Saturday and many church members went to her house to help her. The next day, she stood up in church and asked everyone who helped her to come up front and sing a song of praise to God with her.As they were singing, she fell on her knees crying, looking up to God as she sang and others did as well.Josiah and I were moved to tears.We were part of the despair and praise, despite the lack of understanding of the specific words being spoken.
This experience is opening my eyes to the plight of immigrants, refugees, and displaced people.It is giving me a better understanding of how isolating it is to be surrounded by people and yet unable to connect; not understanding the meaning of words being said, expressions being used, and actions and decisions being made. I’m also realizing how difficult it is to learn a new language, especially when you are adapting to new surroundings.
OK.Enough musings…lets get to the good part… the pictures and news reports!
I started work at the hospital.I go in two days a week for about 6 hrs each day.I was placed in the HIV clinic and sit with the nurse as she hands out HIV meds.It is a long and boring 6 hrs, as everything is done in Kinyarwanda.The workers are kind, though, and we are forming a friendship as most of them speak either some English or French.I was told we would re-evaluate this situation in 3 months…so I am learning to sit patiently!
This is the ER. The hospital composed of many different buildings, one building for each speciality.
We also traveled to the capital, Kigali, on Saturday the 14th in order to get our car inspected.It was a wonderful 4 hour road trip up and down the mountains with a safe arrival at our guest house.We had heard horror stories about the inspection itself; how people had to return time and time again and it took weeks to pass inspection. It started off a bit scary too; we pulled up to the inspection center and were surrounded by police with machine guns who told everyone to get out, other than the driver! It was a bit startling until we realized they just meant no one but the driver could enter the Inspection Center. So, poor Josiah had to drive in alone and navigate the system, while we walked off and had a tour of the market and connected with a friend from the US. Fortunately, our car passed inspection on the first round. Unfortunately after the inspection and our visit, our car broke down and we had to stay another night in Kigali. During this time though, we had many Rwandese with us to help us get around, navigate the inspection process , and also to find a mechanic and get our car repaired and get us back to Gisenyi. It struck us how fortunate we are to have so much support after such a short time here.
On the car ride there, they listened to a downloaded book.
Our guest house. It was on beautiful grounds.
We met up with Owen, from our church in Harrisburg who is spending a year in Kigali. Yusef is from Kigali and he helped us naviagte the craziness of the two days there. He was such a blessing!
In Kigali, walking to the restaurant.
Our view during our drive.
Homeschooling is going well… according to the parents.Rachel states, “I’m not very fond of it, and it’s awful,” and that she, “can’t wait to go back to regular school!”We spend about 3 hours doing school work in the morning, focusing mostly on language arts and math and then we do some science, or art, or gym in the afternoons on occasion.
We really appreciate your comments on our blog and your support through prayers and encouraging words.Here are our current prayer requests.
Three Americans and one Nigerian are coming in the beginning of November to do some teaching on Brethren practices. Please pray for safe travels for them and a fruitful time when they are present.
Please continue to pray for us as we adjust. We have mostly adjusted to everyday life but we are still struggling with cultural and language differences.
We are in the process of applying for our resident Visas. Please pray that our paperwork will be accepted and that we will not run into to many barriers. Our tourist Visas expire on November 16th.
Mostly, please join me in praising God and thanking Him for His provision and goodness. Josiah and I have been able to rest and slow down. We have been growing in our faith and understanding of God and it has been such a blessing. We have also been enjoying more family time. Many evenings are spent playing cards as a family and Josiah and I are really enjoying playing Hearts and Rummy with the kids. We are LOVING the weather and the food and have formed some good relationships as well. So we are so thankful for this opportunity and for your support and we thank God for this time here.
OK, enough for this post…. I hope this finds you well,
Muraho from Rwanda! The title of this post is a saying in Rwanda that seems to inform much of our time here. I first heard it from a friend who spent a semester in Kigali and have heard it many times since being here (especially when someone wants me to slow down because the “road is bad”). For the first couple of weeks, it really felt like we weren’t doing much, and everything seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace. But as we learned from the tortoise in the famous fable, slow and steady wins the race. I am by no means saying that we are at any sort of finish line. Nothing could be further from the truth, but in just six short weeks of feeling like things have been moving very slowly, I look up and see just how far we have come and just how blessed we have been to be right where we are.
I will try to sum up where things are as a form of an update. Over the course of the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to preach several times (another coming this Sunday), to teach Sunday School and Bible Study lessons and to participate with the Worship Team every time we have been to the local church. These experiences have been really great for me, and I especially have enjoyed experiencing worship and different celebrations here. We have had the opportunity to worship in 3 of the 4 Church of the Brethren congregations thus far and have met many of the key leaders from the fourth. We have also been able to take part in a special worship concert which involved several churches and their choirs and worship groups, a church member’s civil wedding ceremony, and a baby presentation celebration. These have all been really neat experiences.
What I have learned so far about the churches here in Rwanda is that they are all incredible. The people are faithful and exuberant in worship, yearning to hear the Word and excited about conversing over spiritual matters. A little goes a long way here, and I will say more in the future about ways you can possibly help the churches here. You’d be surprised how an incredible worship experience can be had with one outlet and a power strip! It really is amazing to see what God is doing here. The church here really is the church. They live all of life alongside one another, bearing each other’s burdens, seeking God together, fasting, praying, worshipping… it’s not just a Sunday thing. They are truly a part of each others’ lives, and this is truly a beautiful thing.
Here are a couple clips of interesting things that have happened this week. The first is of a baby dedication at church this past Sunday… Pastor Belita is always trying to have dancing at church events in Harrisburg. Maybe this is a way to incorporate that:).
As I began to write this, I decided to look back at my prayer requests from six weeks ago, and I am just awed at how God has answered:
The first was for the time of prayer and the meeting of key leaders that occurred early in our time here. I was mistaken about the fasting and prayer being a special event. This is actually a weekly event, one that we have begun to take part in each week. Talk about a group of people who have their priorities in order! I truly believe that this is a practice we can learn from back home. Also, the meeting with the leaders is a semi-regular event as well, one that happens three times a year. This one was very timely as it gave us a clear picture of what is currently happening with our four churches and plans for the future. I will say more about some of these plans in the prayer requests at the end.
We are still struggling with the language a bit, but are now able to greet people, ask them how they are doing, and have a few key phrases that are useful in church settings. I think this will continue to be something we work on for the bulk of our time here as Kinyarwanda is very difficult. We are looking into the possibility of hiring a language coach to really help in this. With that being said, relationships seem to be sprouting right before our very eyes. Just a few short weeks ago, I felt like I didn’t know anyone, and shared this concern with several of you. As each day passes, it has felt like we are getting to know people, and they us, more and more. Pastor Etienne has set up a schedule of visitation in which we visit church members on Wednesdays and Saturdays, two visits per day. This has been a great way to learn names, learn what children and youth belong to what parents, and just to have some dedicated time with people. It’s amazing how this has also effected interaction on Sundays as well. In addition, we have taken it upon ourselves to pursue several people God has laid in our path, and this has been very fruitful as well.
When I asked for prayer for the kids, it was because they were having a tough time adjusting and making friends initially. They spent a lot of time looking back at what we had left behind instead of experiencing what was happening day to day. They still have moments where they miss home or their friends, but God has answered this prayer too. Some neighborhood kids are over just about everyday (not much different from home, True:) ). They are getting used to having Mom and Dad as their teachers and are getting used to our regular diet as well. A big change for them also occurred when we realized that most of the kids were leaving service during the sermon. This enabled them to be a part of the kids time and has helped them make some church friends too. We have also started a couple weekly family traditions like going to a restaurant or making popcorn and watching a movie that have helped as well.
One of the relationships God has placed in our path has borne much fruit as he was able to set up a lunch meeting with an important physician at the local hospital. We left this meeting with the assurance that Christine would be able to volunteer their several times a week. This has begun this week, and she is easing into things in the HIV medicine department. Yet another answer to prayer.
I really feel like God has been moving in each of our lives and teaching us patience, to just be and to take what each day brings. It has been cool to see how our daily devos, both personal and as a family have dovetailed with teaching at church and discussions we have had with church members. He really does have us on a journey and we are seeing Him move in a real way just about every day. Though things don’t always happen as quickly as we want, we are learning to take them buhoro buhoro (slow by slow).
A couple prayer requests:
1.Two big events in the life of the church:
A) In the beginning of November we are excited to welcome visitors from the States, Galen and Doris Hackman and Chris Elliott, who will be coming to present some teaching on Galen’s book about Brethren Beliefs and practices that was recently translated into the local language. This will include instruction here in Gisenyi with the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda, as well as some other Church of the Brethren groups. Please pray for traveling mercies, for logistics to work out for full participation, and for the evnt to be enriching for all involved. In addition, we are praying a member of EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) will be along for the trip as well.
B) Our 4 churches are also holding an event near the end of November to learn more about what it is to be the Brethren Church in this region. This is a massive fundraising event that will hopefully jumpstart building projects that are so needed here. As stated earlier, you will hear more about this from me in the future. I’m just amazed by a people who don’t have a lot being willing to sacrifice and give to the church, truly exemplifying the example of the widow giving her two pieces of silver. If I was them, I would come with my hand out, asking for help, and yet they’ve decided to invite everyone they know to an event in the hopes of raising the resources to literally build the church. Be on the lookout for ways you can help in the next month or so.
2. Pray for the opportunity beginning at the hospital which has gone from being an idea to a reality. This will greatly change Christine’s experience, and mine too. Pray that God uses her and that she has a good enriching experience as she both learns and teaches
3. For our continued efforts to learn the language. That we will find ways to learn or people to help us communicate well with others.
4. That God would continue the good work He has begun with providing opportunities for us to form relationships. I am so thankful for all He has done already!!!