Unforeseen Lessons…

As we approach the end of our time in this wonderful country, we can’t help but reflect on what has transpired and where it will ultimately leave us. A heavier, more serious reflection will come in a few weeks as we really process what this year has meant for each of us and how God has helped us to grow in different areas. For today, though, we thought it would be fun to share some of the things we have learned that we never thought would become part of our lives. Some of these things are admittedly normal in most parts of the world, but they were new for us… hope you enjoy learning with us:)…

Christine

I had no idea that pineapples grew out of the ground!  We went on a camping trip last weekend and as we were walking, we saw a field of pineapples growing.  It was so amazing!

Much to my chagrin, I also learned that roosters first crow around 3 a.m.  I have been told that that is how Rwandans used to tell time.  They would wake at the first rooster crow and meet at the second or third one. I have also learned about adhan, the Muslim daily calls to prayer.  The first call, Fajr, starts off the day with the remembrance of God and is performed before sunrise.  Though we only have one clock in the house, with the rooster crows, Fajr, the concert of birds that come with dawn, and the sunrise at 6 every morning, I have learned to wake up early with my fellow Rwandans.

I’ve learned how to go hungry for long periods of time and then eat huge amounts of food.  When we first arrived, we were all shocked at how these thin, small Rwandans would heap their plates up and eat it all in one sitting.  Even the children were capable of such feats.  After spending 10 months here, I am proud to say, that I too now possess that same talent!  This is one of the lessons I hope to unlearn as quickly as possible!

I was impressed to see how clean the Rwandan women’s feet are.  Somehow, despite the long distance they walk, through dusty or muddy roads, in sandals, their feet still look clean.  Not only that but their heels and feet are soft as if they didn’t wear sandals and work hard outside all day.  I was quickly educated on this art when I showed Mama Hirwa the horrible state of my heels after one week here and asked her how she does it.  I now try to scrub my feet with a scrub brush, then rub them down with a pumice stone and moisturize, twice daily…  Though my feet do not look as nice as my counterparts, I am very happy to have learned this lesson.

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Rachel

I was really surprised to see that people will just come up and touch your hair or ask to take a picture with you, just because you are white. I was also surprised that we live in a normal house and there are paved roads. I thought that, coming here, there would be lions and elephants roaming in tall grass and that we would be sleeping in tents. Also, the food is so fresh and it’s hard to believe how good everything tastes. I especially like sambusa, which is ground meat fried inside a pouch of dough. I was scared to come here, because I didn’t think I would make any friends. But it turns out that everyone’s really nice and I’ve made lots of friends. I thought it would be super hot here, but the weather is really perfect. We didn’t bring too many toys, so we learned to make our own fun. We have made our own paint, kites, music instruments and made costumes out of cardboard. We even made our own “shops”, like my Bead Shop and Asher’s Science shop. Of course our products are free. Asher even made his own obstacle course. We also made our own fire pit and cooked breakfast for Mommy and Daddy on a fire in the yard.  I never knew that I would be an expert chicken keeper or have second thoughts about eating them. I don’t really notice it much, but my parents say that when we get home everything will seem so expensive. I’ve also learned to hold my pee for hours and hours and how to not get bored at really long church services. I also can’t believe that I actually got baptized here. But even though there are all these surprising things, Rwanda is my home now, and I am sad to leave it.

Asher

I learned how to get something at a store when the storekeeper doesn’t know that much English and I don’t know much of their language. I also learned how to wash with cold water and in a basin. I really like bucket baths. Also, the market we use most of the time doesn’t have a roof. I was surprised to taste new fruit like guavas, passion fruit, jack fruit, soursop and tree tomato. I don’t like that last one. I never thought I would learn Taekwondo or knew that I would get a yellow and white belt. I didn’t know we would ride motos. I never pictured me zooming down the lane on the back of a motorcycle with Daddy. I’ve also learned how to play with kids even if we don’t speak the same language.

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Josiah

I have learned to preach without a manuscript. I’m sure Pastor Belita will be proud! It could be that they have me do it so often, or the fact that witty wordplay just gets lost in translation anyway, but I have been able to trust myself to say the right thing even without having the words right in front of me. I’ve also learned firsthand what it is to have “a sermon in your hip pocket,” as Pastor Belita often says, just in case I am called upon (I often am).

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I’ve also learned that NOT having my own car and allowing others to drive is WAY less stressful. Riding motorcycles with professional drivers, jamming into a small bus, or taking the bigger express buses is actually cheaper and your MORE guaranteed to get where you are headed than if you drive yourself or ride in someone’s private vehicle.  Fun fact: In Kinyarwanda, the small bus taxi is called a “twegerane,” which literally means, “We are all squished together”. It’s called that for a good reason…

I’ve learned that meat isn’t a necessity, but rather a nice treat. And fresh food is super delicious. I’ve also learned how to go to order at a restaurant 90 minutes before I want the food to be ready.

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I’ve learned that western eyes are weaker because we are inundated with so much flashy bright light. Light bulbs here are dimmer, electronic screens are lesser and flashy advertising is all but non-existent. When we walk through the village after dark, the locals can point out rocks and puddles we can’t see. It’s crazy.

I’ve learned that turning on a light switch, going onto the internet and turning on a faucet are all acts of faith, as there’s about a 25% chance they won’t work.

I’ve learned that you can have an awesome time praising God even if you don’t exactly understand what anyone is saying. Praise is a universal language! A similar lesson has been that being physically with someone is more important than anything that is said during that time. I can’t tell you how many times I was with people where little was said (due to language) and everyone left closer than when we came together to begin with. At home there’s this need to relate or to understand, but here, it’s not about you, what you’ve experienced or what you know. It’s just about being together.

We’ve learned so much this year, and are truly grateful for all of the experiences. Hopefully some of these more lighthearted learnings brought a smile to your face or made you say, “Huh. That’s interesting.” If a deeper more in depth reflection is what you’re looking for, check out our next entry which should come in the next few weeks. If you are a Church of the Brethren person in the US, check us out at the BWM breakfast on Annual Conference Saturday or our Insight Session which is also on Saturday of AC. If you’re local to the Harrisburg area, we’ll be seeing you shortly.

Sawa!!!

 

 

 

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A Time For Reflection…

by: Josiah for the Ludwicks

This month is a very special one here in Rwanda. It is Genocide Memorial Month. It is a time for remembering the lost, the atrocities perpetrated through hatred and ignorance, a time for healing and reconciliation and a time for recognizing the blessings of the present while striving toward a brighter future.

As an outsider, I do not pretend to understand all that is happening this month, but it is impossible for it to not have an impact on my mind, body and spirit. There is an obvious heaviness in the hearts and minds of people I have grown to love. There is a definite desire to share memories, thoughts and feelings at this time among a people who are otherwise somewhat reserved. What has become regular life for us has a slight interruption as businesses, transportation and other things we rely on take a break during certain hours on certain days for times of remembrance and reflection.

As I personally take time to reflect, I can’t help but be excited about what God is doing in our families’ life as well as in the lives of our brothers and sisters here in the COB-Rwanda.

Small Victories

There have been some small victories. For instance, one of the young families in our church welcomed a new baby into their family (which is by no means a foregone conclusion here) and moved into their own home which they had built not far from the church in the same week. Our kids have made some really close friends and have been able to be a blessing to them as they have gone through a tough time in their own family. Even though, they don’t love it, the kids have done a great job in homeschooling and are really progressing well through their lessons.

Victories in Disguise

There have also been some victories in disguise… you have read about our ordeal with our car here. Well, this ordeal is over as the vehicle will no longer be in our lives. I am happy to share the story on a more personal basis, but the end of the story is that it caught fire while technicians attempted to repair it. No one and no other property was hurt, and the resolution is that we no longer have to worry about it. Honestly, a weight has been lifted, as strange as that may sound. Also, this has transpired late enough in our time that we know how public transportation works, we have friends who can help out, and getting from here to there really isn’t that hard for us.

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Christine’s time at the hospital ended up fizzling out, but this freed her up to be involved with our friend’s NGO and the women of our church. Every Wednesday and Saturday she teaches the women of each group, respectively, about health, anatomy, disease and any number of other topics. This has been a great opportunity for her to use her expertise and also to build relationships here.

Larger Scale Victories

We have also had some larger scale victories. For me, one of these has been the outpouring of love, support and visits from all of you. It truly boggles my mind to think of all of the ways our friends back in the states have blessed us. Pastor Etienne told me the other day that we are truly Rwandese now, because we always seem to have visitors. Even as I write this, we are looking forward to a visit from my dad and nephew the week after Easter, and my great friend in youth ministry, Donna, the end of May.

The Church work here has been so great. God and many of you have blessed this ministry. As a result, church buildings are being built, families of faith are growing and people are really living out what they believe. Three highlights from this work are:

  1. Construction continues to progress. Here’s a before and after of our churches in Gasiza and Mudende. These buildings should be complete in the next few weeks.
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Gasiza- August
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Gasiza-March
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Mudende- August
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Mudende- April

2. I have met regularly with leaders from each of our four congregations to study a                book of Brethren Beliefs and practices that has recently been translated into the                  local language of Kinyarwanda. This training was complete in the end of February.            Each of these leaders have now begun leading their congregations through this                  book, written by Galen Hackman in collaboration with the Church of the Brethren              in Nigeria. It has been really neat to see how our members have been drawn to                  these teachings. image1 (1)

3. During Holy Week we held the third ever Brethren baptism (trine immersion is very new here) and the very first Love Feast here in Rwanda. For any non-Brethren readers, feel free to ask me on the side what this stuff is:)…

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For those who have attended Love Feast in the US, this is how the Agape Meal was celebrated at the first Love Feast in Rwanda. A little different than the quiet murmurs around our tables as we share our regular communion soup :)…

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1NccfM9LJcdX9MZg40LfNkBRPnwVBerrP

Another major victory has been overcoming fear. When we came, Asher’s biggest fear was hippos getting him.  Rachel’s was leaving her home and all of her friends. And Christine’s was civil unrest. Mine was something involving volcanic activity. One by one, each of these will be conquered. Asher actually got into a boat back in December that took us through waters filled with hippos. Rachel has kept in contact with friends back home, made some great new ones here and really wants to come back to live in Rwanda again. Civil unrest is just part of the reality here, and we have visited friends in Uganda, will have a trip to Nyungwe National Forest and also to plan visits to DRC, all of which are in various states of unrest. Christine has not let any of this quell her spirit for adventure. In May, Christine and I will climb the volcano with the largest lava lake in the world. This is a once in a lifetime experience that I really look forward to, as it will cement the overcoming of my biggest fear…

Something we probably expected that has taken awhile to get used to is the stark awareness that we are not in control of so much. In the States, we have the illusion of control because we have access to so much that gives us power to control some things. This just isn’t true here, and it has actually been a breath of fresh air in so many ways. I wouldn’t say that we have gotten comfortable with our lack of control, but we have all had to at least get used to it and it has become more normal. I think we all will take this lesson home with us. To truly just let go and Let God… We often say in church that God is in control, but this truth is ever more apparent to us now. As we look toward returning home, we are trusting God for this transition, for Christine to gain employment that is rewarding and to continue the good work He has started both here in Rwanda and in the life of our family.

Our Life in Rwanda

by Rachel and Asher

Our Church Life

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.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-dQrJp_kchGMxRtj_I39v5-knnh7vHAa

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1VktzUCWO5wtyDdl8Jrt3iuv3E-AVyG8-

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.

 

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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 !!!

 

 

Our Travels

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.

 

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!

 

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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.

See you next time!!!

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.

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! 

The House

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.

The Car

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. 

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This is our car getting loaded onto a Daihatsu after the initial break down; when they finally loaded it on, they realized the car was too long to fit!  

The Lessons

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.

The Visas

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.  

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The Ministry

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

The Fun

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.

 

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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

  1.  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

 

 

 

 

Look What God is Doing!!!

COB-RWANDA EVENT

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.

Mudende Batwa Choir- https://drive.google.com/open?id=1g5dXX6-5J8_X7k95lpO2E–YHY5cH-qE

Gisenyi Mt of Olives Choir- https://drive.google.com/open?id=1LzhU4mK7gjL76PBD0G-8hiUkwEmihH3m

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.

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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.

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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:

Southern PA District
A tax exempt receipt will be sent upon funds received. I also pledge to keep all those who partner with us informed about how these funds have enabled us to progress.
Thanks for your interest and partnership.

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

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.

CHRISTINE

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.

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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.

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Showing off their Ninja poses!
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This is what I saw this past Sunday when I looked out our church window during a exceptionally long service.

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!

 

RACHEL

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.

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ASHER

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!

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Some of the “amazing” stuff they have received in the mail!

JOSIAH

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.

Prayer Requests:

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!!!

 

 

 

Fun Times

by Rachel and Asher Ludwick

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.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1P4Lp510goox5VmHHnXOC9uxjfMlrvw09

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.

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https://drive.google.com/open?id=1r9GZCo0aNkw-xHTNOwL7py5WAmM3mxKV

 

Here are a few more pictures that we have taken over the past few weeks.

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This is us eating Ugali. We use our hands to grab the Ugali and dip it in sauce. It was messy!
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Can you find us?! This is a nursery we walk by when going to the post office.
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We call this the “Jade Palace” because it reminds us of Kung Fu Panda.

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.

bye bye!