Our time in Rwanda has been wonderful. Today Bill Lemke and myself finished the whiteboards that we started yesterday. We went to town on Tuesday to buy supplies with Robert. We then glued the plywood and the white linoleum together to create the whiteboards. This morning Bill and I finished the boards by cutting them down to size. We then wrapped all the edges in Duct Tape (something Rwanda has never experienced before), hopefully to prevent the linoleum from cracking. We built four boards and hung three of them. When we hung one in the pre-school classroom Anna told us what it would be used for: teaching the teachers. She was going to begin a program to educate the teachers, up to an associates level. We then heard about one man who was teaching here and hoped to return to his native country of Burundi to begin a school there, with the education that he would get from Anna (a long term missionary who oversees the pre-school on base. It seems like such a simple thing: glue and hang four simple whiteboards… But God will use those (and the education passed along through them) to influence and touch a huge number of children.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Today I saw God’s awesome and beautiful power and purpose. In the morning I had the opportunity to go with APRECOM, a ministry here at YWAM Rwanda that works with widows, and women with AIDs, on house visits. The house visits consisted of teams of people going to encourage the women and see how they are doing. The visits broke my heart and illustrated God’s great plan. Our first visit was with a women named Florence. At the APRECOM conference on Friday, I had washed Florence’s feet, prayed for her, and then later on gave her to Jesus when I realized that I probably would never see her again. But out of 250 women that we met Friday, God laid out an opportunity for me to spend and pray more with Florence.
Later in the afternoon I again saw how God works in mysterious and wonderful ways. We visited the home of Method and Mary, the founders and base leaders of YWAM Rwanda. Method and Mary were called to start Rwanda soon after the genocide, even though there was much danger and so much work. Their stories of encouraging, listening, and pioneering in a country that was ravaged by death and suffering was amazing. 20 years later, YWAM Rwanda is a huge organization that is changing lives all over Rwanda. And one of those lives is Laura, who God led to marry the son of Method and Mary and then that would lead to our team serving here in Rwanda. God knew from the beginning that He wanted to change my heart, the summer of my senior year, in a little country called Rwanda.
I've been in Rwanda for almost a week now I think, I can't be sure because time passes strangely here. I'm surprised by how much I love it here. Obviously it's very different from home, apart from showering with buckets and cold water, or not having a real toilet, or the weather actually being warm, the people here are completely different. It may just be because we are foreigners but when we are walking down the street people will smile and say hello and go out of their way to shake your hand. These people, who have suffered so much and have so little, care more about blessing us and praying for us than fixing their own problems and their selflessness takes my breath away. This morning we walked a little bit down the road from the YWAM base to visit women who are either widows or have been effected by HIV/AIDS through the APRICOM ministry. What amazed me was how quickly you could go from stores and paved roads and sidewalks to dirt "roads" that walking down was more like hiking. The woman we were trying to visit ended up not being home but I got a real taste of the Africa I was expecting. Later in the day we visited the couple who formed YWAM Rwanda. It was amazing to learn their story, how they were called seperately to come back to Rwanda after the genocide and how much they have accomplished when all they had to start out with was $100. Over 15 years later they have this amazing base with two schools and the ability to house dozens of people. I was left speechless at their compassion and drive to make a change in Rwanda. After having delicious local snacks and getting to meet an adorable dog, we made our way back to base. At this point, if I am being honest, I just wanted to go to sleep. I mean, mission trips really take it out of you and the last thing I wanted to hear from Mike was "the next couple hours..." but oh, how I am eating my own words. We started with some much needed alone time, and for about 20 minutes we were left to ourselves to inwardly reflect on struggles and other things that are keeping us from being truly present here. That in itself was an amazing and difficult time. It's one thing to be able to point at someone else and name their flaws but it is a whole 'nother ball game to have to think about your own flaws with no distractions or excuses. Afterwards we met back in Kayla, Raleigh, Jen and Karen's house for communion. Except, to our surprise, we first had to give a confession, mainly concerning the struggles you thought about during your alone time, with another person on the team. Truthfully I had a couple moments of panic. I had never made myself that vulnerable in front of another person but after a few deep breathes to calm down I realized if I had to confess to anyone I would want it to be one of the people in front of me, probably any of the people in front of me actually. So Carin and I seperated ourselves from the group and we had the opportunity to be completely honest with eachother. For the sake of confidentiality I won't say much more about it other than how much, in that moment and all of the time I guess, I love Carin. (Hopefully you'll read this Carin!) After we each confessed to the other we met back with the group for communion and a little impromtu singing. As I am writing I am sitting outside listening to my team sing in the candlelight (the electricity here can be pretty spotty sometimes) I can't help thinking how grateful I am to have the opportunity to be in such a beautiful country with such beautiful people. Just a short week from now we will all be on an airplane traveling back home, but until then I can't wait for all of amazing experiences, whether it be washing the feet of widows, learning to cook over a fire, or simply walking down the streets of Kigali, that we will share.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Sunday, June 24th
Francesca - Today, we had the opportunity to visit a local church in Rwanda that some of the YWAM staff attend. The travel there was quite the adventure! After two hours of switching busses and driving on bumpy dirt roads, we arrived at a small building full of people excited to worship God together. As the congregation was singing, dancing, and praying, all I could do was stand in awe. I don’t think I have ever seen something so beautiful. It showed me how church should be and how passionate we should be when we pray and worship. I had the opportunity to talk to the congregation about integrity. Speaking to a group of Rwandans in a church was something totally out of my comfort zone, and I was far from excited when I was given this task. It turned out to be one of the most fulfilling, impactful, and powerful moments in my life.
Hayden - Today I, along with Francesca, Mike, and Joel, attended a small local church. Joel, Fran, and I all sat in the pastors section along with Mike and all preached to the congregation. It was a breath taking experience. I was so nervous that my testimony would go horribly wrong but it went the exact opposite and turned into one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It was amazing watching them worship because they do it with so much passion and power. Every prayer and song is filled with a fire that you don’t always see back home.
Jasper - I was excited to go with Kayla, Katlyn, Scott, Jordan, Bill, and Isaac to a nearby church only accessible by a huge, muddy, cratered road. While I had already been overwhelmed by the passion and intensity of worship here, the service at church absolutely set me on fire. The congregation was predominantly young people, and seeing guys my age moved to tears made me realize how much bigger God is than my understanding. I think my favorite song was the one called “Hosanna,” where the title was the only word sung and was accompanied by mandatory jumping. In fact, if you didn’t start jumping, an enthusiastic young man would come over and beckon with open arms, pantomiming the jump-dance until you gave in. I have never seen an entire church leaping and screaming, praising God not just with their words but with their whole bodies. It makes you think about church back home. When was the last time any of us left church dripping in sweat? Worship should be loud. Worship should be sweaty. Worship should be shameless and real.
Best dancer award: Scott Mulhern. Best quote: Isaac Morse, during his testimony- “boy, it sure is raining out there.” Best snack: cornbread muffins that I snuck while the 4 hour service wound down. Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, I remembered to take my malaria pills today, and I haven’t gotten kidnapped yet.
Saturday, June 23rd…
They are not kidding when they refer to Rwanda as the Land of a Thousand Hills. The hills are everywhere, lush, green, and beautiful. We drove about an hour out of Kigali City to see more of the beautiful country of Rwanda and experienced just a small portion of these hills. Our destination was New Life Christian Academy. This is a Christ-centered community that provides incredible opportunity for orphans of Rwanda as well as an integration program that allows other children to attend with payment of school fees. The orphans are sponsored and for $60 a month they are provided with a safe home, food, healthcare, clothing, and education. New Life Christian does this so well, in fact, that the Rwandan government has partnered with them to help expand to other communities to reach more of Rwanda. The focus is on developing community by inspiring each student to pursue excellence in character, academics, service to God and the nation.
Alec -Today I experienced the wide open country side of Rwanda. Driving through massive hills we got to see what I had always imagined Africa to be like. Banana trees, monkeys, and a variety of people carrying an assortment of fruits and vegetables on their heads. After our drive we arrived at the number one school in Rwanda. Here not only orphans but also the mayor of Kigali’s children attend to learn general education and the glory of God. At this school, I immediately found myself a buddy who latched on to me the second I sat down. Frank, 12, spoke great English and was an incredible goal keeper even for his short stature. Sadly I never got to say goodbye to Frank for he went to change his cloths after soccer and I was never able to meet up with him again. One day ill see him playing for the Rwandan national team. Also grandma if your reading this I still get to watch the EuroCup games, go Italy!
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Jordan: Today, we spent the morning helping out at a conference for APRICOM on the YWAM base. APRICOM is an organization that aids widowed women, many of whom are HIV positive. The goal of the conference was to simply serve and love them. Throughout our time there, we washed their feet, prayed with them, and had an awesome time of worship. My favorite part, was when Mike got up and shared. He would speak and someone would translate and the group of women would respond accordingly. They would say “Amen,” or cheer or nod in agreement, and In that moment, something very special happened. We went from being two separate groups from two separate cultures and two separate backgrounds to being a family in Christ. In that moment, we saw how God meant for his children to be: together.
Kayla: Early this morning we had a team meeting. At this meeting, we were instructed to find a partner and pray for them. We did not pray the usual “Dear Jesus, I thank you for ____. She is so wonderful” prayer, we simply asked God for one word or phrase to pray. My lovely partner was Jasper (: Jasper said that the words God prompted him with were “comfort zone”. Both he and I found this rather strange because whoever knows me knows, stepping out of my comfort zone is not very difficult because it is so big. We laughed a little and then continued on with our day. Later on in the afternoon, we were invited to serve at a banquet of sorts for widows (many infected with HIV/Aids). I was promptly placed at the door to be a greeter. At that moment, Jasper’s prayer began to become eminent. For starters, I greatly value personal space and these beautiful Rwandan women do not. They do not merely shake hands, they fully embrace you and touch their cheeks to yours. I greeted over 100 women just like this. It was beautiful once I let my guard down and allowed myself to fully appreciate the moment. As I was thinking my “comfort zone stepping” was over, I was prompted by the holy spirit to do one last daring move. In African churches, they do not sit quietly and worship. Worship to them is a full body experience with singing, praying and absolutely amazing dancing. I am very white. I do not dance. Or at least, that is what I thought. Of late though, I have realized that what I think doesn’t really matter. It’s all about God. As I was contemplating this concept, I found myself in the center of the dance floor surrounded by dancing and joyous people. They all looked at me for a second as if I were crazy thinking, I’m sure, “crazy muzungu! (white person)”. That second, to my relief, passed very quickly and I was welcomed into the group of dancers. They counted me as a part of their family, even though we have such different lives. It is amazing to me how they can allow us to serve them with no apprehension. This concept is very difficult for me to grasp, for I am very uncomfortable being served. These women showed me so much about God and how he can be worshiped in so many forms. The small town in footloose would have had a cow at this hectic worshiping scene of Rwandans. Christianity is so amazing to me because of all the different cultures it envelopes. God can hear praises from someone speaking Kinrwandan, English, French, Chinese and it is all beautiful. Just as amazing, Rwandans, Americans, Dutch… we can all feel the intense love of God through our own expressions. The world of the spirit is incredible, it leaves me in sheer wonder.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
We just completed our second full day in Rwanda. The day was spent serving on the YWAM base in a variety of different ways. The students did everything from helping to prepare for a large conference on Friday, time in classrooms, cooking meals, organizing keys, to cutting bible stories out of felt.
Below are a few experiences as described by Katlyn, Madi, and Isaac.
Katlyn: Today I had the privilege of helping the YWAM staff prepare “The Hall” for tomorrow’s APRICOM conference. 250 widows, many of which have HIV/AIDS, will gather here to pray, worship, hear God’s Word, and simply be loved by the people here at base. We mopped (more like a squeegie on a stick) the floor, washed the windows, and set up many chairs. We had fun chatting with the base staff as we cleaned. I remain in awe at how welcoming, genuinely nice, and extremely sincere everyone here is. We able to pray over the area and for those who will be here tomorrow. I look forward to tomorrow and helping with the conference. We will be dressing in traditional clothing, praying and talking with them, humbling ourselves to wash the widows feet, and showing them how significant they truly are. I hope we can show them at least a glimpse of the great love God has for these wonderful people.
Madi: Today I got to work with the preschoolers, ages 5 and 6. Ive never felt so welcome! Every child wanted to hold and hand and sit in my lap. I met so many children and all had a kind and helpful personality. A boy named Kevin laughed at me when I tried to say thank you in kinyarwandan. He then proceeded to say it was okay, took my hand and told me how to sat in the “real way.” I was introduced to the class as teacher madi, so the whole day the children called me “teachah.” I learned that children of Rwanda are patient and very very smart. They loved any form of affection, especially holding onto my hands and arms. In the three hours I got to work with the class, they made me feel like family. God has blessed me beyond belief on this trip. Glory to Him!
Isaac: Today I had the privilege of working in the kitchen with the cook Emanuel, a very humble Rwandan on the YWAM base. Not only was the task fun but it really enlightened me to how much preparation and hard work is put in to have meals here. The meal consisted of rice, squash, and a soup consisting of peas, carrots, and tomatoes. Haydn, my partner for lunch duty, and I had to peel and cut every single piece of food eaten which was then boiled to become edible. The rice was already taken care of by Emanuel. After that about 30min before lunch actually started we poured the soup and all the other foods into more manageable containers to serve the many people here on base. After this whole task I really respect the people on this base for all the hard work they do to barely scratch by and survive. They deserve more for how loving they are. They are so selfless and caring when they already have nothing. It helps show the beauty that is here in Rwanda and it makes me feel bad for how well I have it at home. That’s all I have to say for now.
After three flight and numerous in-flight games, laughter, movie watching, and sleeping, we made it safely to Rwanda. We are starting our second full day here and have been completely overwhelmed by the warm welcome we were given when we arrived by the staff, the people or Rwanda, and Laura and Robert.
Our first day was spent at the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. Robert and Laura led us to memorial in vans where we saw Rwanda for the first time (during the day). So much to take in. All of our senses were on high alert as we passed all there was to see. People everywhere, smells of fresh fruit and breads and also of cars and other city smells. When we arrived at the memorial we had an idea of what to expect, but nobody really knew how powerful it would actually be and how it would affect each of us. We spent a few hours at the memorial and when were debriefed about the experience later that evening, we had each students write in their journals some reactions from what they had expreienced and what they were feeling while at the Genocide Memorial. Here is are their responses:
Keegan Amrine: The genocide memorial today. First, I was struck by the images of rotting corpses strewn abou the countryside. Then, on the second floor, there was a presentation on several other genocides through history, including Bosnia, WWII, Cambodia, and Armenia. I was filled with a righeous anger at the seeminly insurmountable weakness of man that this continues to happen. I want insight into the healing process, but even more, I desire for this to be totally taken from the world. How can I reconcile such boundless evil with the knowledge that all men are created in God's image?
Alec Cluff: One should never have to read an 8 year old's last words or cause of death. The memorial center sparked many questions, I can't understand how friends can turn on eachother in an instant.
Raleigh Winchester: When walking through the memorial, I mostly experienced anger. Anger that genocides keep happening and nothing is being done and no one is learning. One question that is always asked is if God is a loving God, how can He allow such suffering. My answer has always been that we as humans have free will and we are allowed to make our own decisions even if it is against Gods will, and its what God does with the tragic event that matters. How he is able to rebuild and reunite a nation given the fact that millions of people were murdered. But if he can make something good out of this, why couldn't God prevent it? So my main question is what is the point of these genocides and what is Gods role in all of this?
Isaac Morse: when walking through the memorial the more i got through it the more diguisted i felt. I literally wanted to get out of the museum I started feeling so aweful. I also felt so sorry for those who had lost something or were affected by the genocide. The thought of how powerful sin can be also ran through my head during this. But then so did the thought of how unbelievably powerful God is. He uses things just like this to bring his gospel, truth, and glorification of Himself into presence even more powerful then it was before. It shows in the beauty that I see here now. Every little kid and person on this base i feel loves and are more selfless than me when they already have nothing. Am I worthy to even step in the museum when I come from a country who could of helped and didnt, I come from people just as bad as those who killed in Rwanda.
Jordan: It was remarkable to me how little the western world did. We were so able to help. We were so well equiped, and yet we shut our eyes to Rwanda. How could we stand by and do nothing? How could we so easily ignore the atrocities taking place?
Madison: I was challenged today. Every new picture made me angier. Meeting all of the wonderful, kind, beautiful people of Rwanda made going to the memorial heart breaking. I saw one coloful sweater, the size of a 5-6 year old, had four slashes all over it. I was challenged by God. Why Rwandans? Why these kind hearted people?
Francesca: Today, I experianced beautiful pain...my heart was broken for what breaks God's heart. I saw things that I could have never imagined before. Realizing that people lost their families, that little innocent children had their lives taken and that human beings had the ability to hurt other human beings so badly overwhlemed me with mixed emotions. I was sad and angry yet I was joyful about how God has used the genocide to further Rwanda. What I excperinced today, was beautiful.
Katlyn: Today I had my heart broken at the genocide memorial. There was a room upstairs dedicated to the children that were lost. The walls displayed pictures of children, and below them were listed things such as their favorite food, sport, activities, etc. However, then it came to cause of death. To see how the lives of these innocent children were taken brought me to tears. I thought about the many times the Bible talks about how Jesus loves the children. They are innocent and truly precious to Him. I found myself angry. They were supposed to be living their childhoods, being protected and watched over. Yet many of the people who were supposed to protect them were the ones that ended their lives. I asked myself how could God allow such a thing? I'm sure I will never truly understand. I am still caught in a wave of confusion and sorrow for these children. It was a powerful experience that I will never forget as I struggle with the questions over the next two weeks.
Joel: The room that really struck me was three cases of human skulls. Each with a story, family, friends, and lives. The worst part of this exhibit was that most of the skulls were broken and/or missing sections. I can only imagine what happened to those people as they were dying to leave such tramatic injuries. Two stood out to me; the first, everything below the eye brown line was missing. All the nose, eye sockets, jaw, everything, gone. The other was a full skull with a complete hole the size of a lemon in the side. These impacted me the most.
Jasper: My question is how and why people could simply stand by. It does not escape my notice that most of the violence of the genocide took place within churches. It does not escape my notice that people fled instinctively for protection in God's house, and were rewarded with pain. Today, for the first time, the genocide provoked a reaction not of anger but of shock and being overwhelmed in me.
Kayla: What shook me the most was not the pain that the country experienced 18 years ago, but the intense and overlooked pain the country is experienced today. It breaks my heart to hear about all the post tramatic stress the victims and the persecutors are having to live with every stinking day. It blows my mind that first of all, people were not willing to help when it was dangerous. What is even more unreal though is that the country is in peace, they are welcoming outsiders, and still nobody is willing to sacrifice time to help. People are dying to tell their stories and to be counceled through their pain but nobody is servicing their needs. It breaks my heart that people are still suffering perfusely.
Haydn Wooster: Normally I am a very patriotic person but looking at the memorial today I became angry at America. It is amazing to me that the people of Rwanda are so friendly and carry out their daily lives with a massive smile on their face(even with all the crazy drivers.)
As you can see, the Lord is already challenging us to ask difficult questions about the evil that took place in this country. It’s difficult to figure “why” and there is always an opportunity to ask “what if,”. We are thankful that we have more time to hear more stories and see what God has done and is continuing to do to redeem and restore the people of Rwanda.