Rwanda Trip Day 9: Akagera National Park

On our last day in the Eastern Province of Rwanda we were treated to a visit to the most beautiful place I have ever been: Akagera National Park.  We loaded everyone into two 4X4 trucks, paid our entrance fees (18,000 Francs [about $40] each for foreigners!!), got a guide and were on our way!  Our guide was a great guy named James, who amazingly grew up in Gacundezi.  What a fun coincidence.

We saw some amazing animals right from the first 5 minutes of the trip.  Akagera is home to 525 species of birds, but the star of the show is of course the big game.  We got there at around 6AM in the hope that the animals would be up and grazing early.  Since the day was cool we had amazing animals there all morning! 

Akagera is home to some amazing big game.  Within the first 2 minutes of leaving the lodge we saw three warthogs.  I thought it was hilarious that James our guide immediately made the connection to Pumbaa.  We saw some waterbucks and then two Giraffes!

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They wouldn’t be the last, for sure.  It would kill my bandwidth to try to upload many pictures, but we saw so much in the day.  We saw impala, topi, cape buffalo, bushbacks, oribi, fish eagles, a whole heard of hippos and more. 

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In the background is a topi.

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Chris is our professional photographer, and we had a blast on the savannah riding in the back of the truck.  Chris has become a good friend and has been a constant source of encouragement.  He is one of the godliest and most unselfish men I have ever met in my life.  He is a true encouragement.

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We saw giraffes out on the savannah again later in the day and had to get pictures.  Giraffes are highly organized; they will leave a few adults in the hills with the babies and send several down to drink.  Then the ones who already got water will watch the babies (who are nursing and don’t need water) while the others drink.

I also learned something amazing about impala.  They have the ability to drink through their feet!  God has made these amazing creatures so tuned to avoid predators that, if they feel threatened, they can literally open a pad on their legs that absorbs water and spreads it through their bloodstream.  If they feel safe they drink normally, but if not they keep their head up and scanning for predators while still getting a drink!

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We even saw about 7 or 8 hippos in a pond nearby!  Chris got some amazing photos of the hippos, so I will share them when we get good ones.

It is impossible to stand out here on the African savannah and not be amazed at the grandeur of God.  As we headed toward the hippos Chris and I broke out into a chorus of “How Great Thou Art.”

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These are fish eagles, and they were perhaps 2o feet from us.  They are majestic animals!

After Akagera we headed back to Kigali.  I got my first hot shower in a week, and I have never been happier for a hot shower!  We then had dinner at a restaurant frequented by Umuzungu (the plural of muzungu, “white person” or ex-pat) for a fantastic steak dinner.  We sat around the table talking about next steps and plans for what to do from here, and my head is spinning from all that God is doing.  I am literally on overload with all of the ways that the kingdom of God is being advanced here and how I can be a part of it.  I will need the hand of God and the help of many to make even a portion of what we are considering come to fruition, but if He is behind it I know it will happen!!

It is now Saturday morning in Kigali.  We will be flying home tonight.  Please pray for us, as 28 hours of flying is going to be less than fun.  Pray as well that God allows us to begin to process all we have experienced and translate it into concrete plans and goals before it dissipates.  Pray that we catch God’s vision for what He wants done in Gacundezi and Rwanda, and that we can communicate that vision effectively.

Rwanda Trip Day 8: Last Day in Gacundezi

I can’t believe that our time in Gacundezi has already come to an end.  It feels like there is so much to do and so much to see here!  It was another amazingly fruitful day of ministry here, and in so many ways it was not according to my script.

I knew going in that my day was going to be God’s day.  I had no plans, so it was all going to be His chance to do what He wanted me to!  We had breakfast and then piled into the taxi (which we affectionately named “Mabel” because the old girl wasn’t much to look at but she was faithful and true!) to head to Gacundezi.  We told JB that we would be there at 8AM sharp for worship, and he reminded me 3 times yesterday to be there at 8 SHARP.

However, Africa time knows nothing of the term SHARP.  We got started 15 minutes late, and of course this was the day that Jeffrey our driver needed to stop to get gas.  If you know me you know that I just hate being late, and this was the first time I felt that stress on the trip.  I had to pray and repent on the road to Gacundezi because this was God’s day, not mine.  I knew JB would understand.

We got to the school at about 8:20, and JB had all the students on the school lawn.  He finished talking with them about 10 minutes after we got there, so being late wasn’t a huge deal.  This is when we went off the script for the first time today, as JB came over and said that the students were ready to hear me preach.  Um…preach?  I was completely unprepared to preach!  I had nothing.  Nada.  Zip-o.  JB said that the students were headed over to the cafeteria, and when they got settled there they were blessed to hear the pastor preach the word of God.

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This picture shows JB and I talking as students headed back to class after worship.

Um, Lord…a little help, please?  The team huddled up with me really quickly and said a short prayer.  The kids all sat in their benches in the cafeteria (which is really just an empty hall with movable bench seats) as JB said some words.  He then introduced me, and when he said I was a pastor (the Kinyarwanda word for pastor is “pastor,” so I knew that one!) the students applauded!  I was kinda sheepish, because that’s not a typical reaction.

So I started preaching from our team’s morning devotion in Psalm 8 and reminded the students that no matter what anyone said about them, they are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27) and they have value and worth.  To reign as God has intended, though, they must not only be made in His image but must be His children. (John 1:12)  They become children of God by faith in Christ. (John 3:16)  Then for those who trusted Christ, we considered the parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30) and I exhorted the students to faithfulness in their walk with God and their relationships on earth.  Through an interpreter, that message took an hour.  It is hard for me to keep my energy and enthusiasm while pausing every sentence for translation!

I thought I was done, but not quite.  The kids of the school have elected one of their own, a young man whose English name is Dan, to be their student “pastor.”

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Dan stood up and addressed the students after I finished.  These kids are 7th-9th grade, so I had made room for some rowdiness in the crowd.  Twice I had to say, “Students, I can share with you but I cannot shout over you” and wait for them to quiet before I could continue.  Dan got up after I finished and chewed them out!  In Kinyarwanda he told them that they were being disrespectful and shouting out of turn.  He told them that they needed to sit quietly and hear the word of God.

The funny part of this story is how I found out about it.  I heard a bunch of Dan speaking in Kinyarwanda, then in English he hollered “ONE POTATO.”  More Kinyarwanda…”ONE POTATO.”  I had helped Ann on Monday with the students as she taught them the “one potato, two potato, three potato, four” ditty as a game.  Paul, my interpreter, told me that Dan was telling the students that if they wanted to holler they should do it by singing the “one potato” song in class, not while I was preaching.  And then he said that the students needed to raise their voices, and invited a young woman to come lead the students in song to get some energy out.  The students sang a worship song together that was beautiful!

He then told me that the students would be more respectful, and asked me to come preach to the students a second time.  He promised me that they would be attentive and thanked me for coming from America to preach for them.

Um, Lord…a little MORE help please?

Dan told me that the students needed to hear the story of the chair, and that it would help them.  So I preached that story for the third time in three days as a tool to help them be better disciples of Jesus.  They were very respectful and they loved it!  They repeated back the legs in the chair to me time and again, and responded to the message.  It really resonated. 

All told, I preached about an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours this morning.  I was wiped out!!  It was amazing, but I was wiped.  The students then thanked me profusely before heading to class.  It was an amazing opportunity to preach and impact students that I wasn’t expecting.

The day just kept getting better and better from there.  Vicki was just finishing up her time of training moms to pray for the school via the Moms in Touch program, and Laura was in that with her.  Laura got a chance to share with the moms afterward about the birth kits she had brought, and praise God was able to send the 25-30 women who had come back to their villages with the kits!!  They received them with gratitude.  Laura also got to give a TON of medical supplies to one of the moms who came who was also a midwife, which was a HUGE answer to prayer as she was not sure where to give that material.  This lady’s husband is a pastor in town, and she needed supplies to be a good midwife.  She cried as Laura opened the bags with the supplies in them, thanking Laura for providing them.  To God be the glory!!  (or as she said over and over, “Imana Ishimwe” [praise God], “Yesu Ishimwe” [praise Jesus])  This was a great day for Laura, and she was beaming with excitement. 

What happened with Laura over the trip is CERTAINLY worth it’s own post, but to follow-up on my previous request God heard your prayers in a huge way.  On Wednesday she visited the hospital and ran into one of the moms she had helped labor, whose baby had been born healthy and happy.  She got a lot of encouragement from that.  Then on Thursday she was able to distribute the birth kits in a TOTALLY unexpected way and help a local midwife who worships Christ.  God totally worked everything out far better than we ever could have planned, so thanks for praying.

The day still had more blessing in store!  I got to do 2 visits in the homes of the people of Gacundezi that afternoon, and they were a blessing.  Whenever we came down from the hilltop the school sat on and into the village, the kids came running to meet us and followed us everywhere. 

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The kids are everywhere, and they ALL want you to take their picture and show it to them on your viewfinder.  We got to go into two children’s homes who are sponsored by FH, and pray with the families.  I learned a huge lesson in hospitality.  These homes are very, very rudimentary.  There is no electricity or running water, but there is joy and peace!  The mother of each home met us and invited us into their front room, thanking us for coming.  Each told us they were blessed to have us and thanked us for our support.  And each told us of the blessed life that they lived!  These people were strong believers in Christ (one was a pastoral home) whose physical needs were not of major concern to them.  They had Christ and family, and nothing else was too big a deal.

When we came back to the school we knew our time was short.  I had brought three Bibles in Kinyarwanda that my secretary Ilene found in America for about $30 each, and I wanted them to get into good hands!  We also had 2 extra English Bibles that we wanted to distribute.  The first English Bible went to Dan, the student pastor.  Next we gave a Kinyarwanda and an English Bible to Emmy (short for Emmanuel) who is a teacher at the school.

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I also gave a Kinyarwanda Bible to the pastor of the school, who only had an English Bible.  His English name is Clever.

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The final Kinyarwanda Bible was given to a teacher whose name is Dan.

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These men were so grateful to receive Bibles.  They thanked us over and over!  It was a blessing to provide them, and it made me realize what a blessing it is to have Bibles.  I probably have 10 English Bibles on my shelf in my study, and dozens of translations in my Bible software.  These men were aching for a Bible because they couldn’t afford one! 

So far we have raised funds for 50 Kinyarwanda Bibles to give to the primary school library, and it will only take $300 to provide the other 50.  We also are going to provide 300 NLT English Bibles for the secondary school that will cost about $1800 to provide (I am estimating here as I haven’t received details yet).  If you’d like to participate, please let me know!  If you have a Bible at home that you read, would you please consider donating $6 so that a family in Rwanda can have that same blessing in their life?

Wow, another amazing day.  God totally worked in amazing ways, and none of it was on my script when the day began.  I have been blessed beyond all measure to be present for the work that He is doing among His people in Gacundezi.  As we pulled out of the school, I felt a profound longing to stay and help more but a sure realization that I need to come home too.  My heart is with the pastors, teachers, and students in Gacundezi but I can do more good by coming home than I can if I stayed here.  More on that later. 🙂

Again, thanks for following along as I journal through our trip.  It has been fantastic.  Tomorrow we are going to visit the national park before heading to Kigali, and I am excited to see what the Lord brings.

Rwanda Trip Day 7: Pastoral Training!

Finally, I got to do what I came to Rwanda to do!  Today was the day that pastoral training was set up in Gacundezi and I could barely sleep last night.  I had come a long way and we had spent a good deal of money for me to be here to provide this training, and I wanted it to be good.

The day started very inauspiciously, even ominously.  I got up and got dressed, then took my doxycyclene which is an anti-malaria medicine.  About 20 minutes later Laura and I prayed together, and in the middle of prayer I started feeling nauseous.  By the time we got to breakfast my mouth was salivating and I felt like I was going to throw up.  I started praying because the only way that I wasn’t going to Gacundezi today was if I was in the hospital!  After about 5 minutes with the team we realized that doxy needs to be taken with food, so I ate some pretzels and had a cup of coffee, then the team prayed for me.  The nausea went away, thank God!

The school was in a bit of an uproar when we got there.  All the secondary students were sitting outside the school, and when I asked Jean Buscoe what was happening he told me that the students were staging a mini-rebellion!  They were in a 3-week session to study and prepare for their standardized testing, and the secondary students needed to pay 2000 Franc (about $3.20) to come to it.  The students had been given the money by their parents but decided not to give it to the school; they wanted to sneak in and keep the money!  Jean Buscoe’s heart is as passionate for Christ as any man I have met, and he assured me that the school knew the students whose families couldn’t pay and they had already been invited in.  The 2000 Franc also paid for all three meals per day for the students for the whole session, which is very reasonable by Rwandan standards.  So we didn’t feel too bad for the students.  The vice principal chased any stragglers out with a 3-foot stick, and from the look of the principal and the look of the stick it had seen a LOT of use!

As pastors started arriving, I asked Paul and Jean Buscoe for a favor.  About 5 or 6 young men that I had taught the previous day had expressed a desire to become pastors when they got out of school, and I wanted them to come to the pastoral training.  This was doubly true in light of the canceling of classes today.  Jean Buscoe said it was no problem, so Paul found Pastor Dan, the student who the other students had chosen as their pastor for the school.  He was able to round up 3 other boys who wanted to be a pastor, so we had 4 students in addition to the pastoral members who came.  I was so excited to see them at the training!

God has worked in ways that weren’t on my script, and this was not much different.  In addition to the 4 boys, we had 15 pastors attend the training.  Something I should have expected but hadn’t really thought of was that of those who attended, 4 were women.  One of the women attended for her pastor because he could not come, two were pastors of local churches, and one pastored a church and oversaw 10 other churches in the area (approximately what the Catholic church would call a Bishop, though not Catholic).  We had another pastor come who was a reverend in the Anglican church who headed 10 or so churches; Reverend Obed brought 3 or 4 of his pastors with him to the training.  I knew of Reverend Obed because one of his children was sponsored through FH by one of the families along on our trip.  All in all, I believe we had about 30 churches represented.

I promise to upload pictures of the pastors training when I have more.  Chris took about a million of them and about 45 minutes of video for some promotional stuff Phoenix Seminary is going to do with this trip.  For now, I have a couple of decent images.

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Sitting in the front row and just to my right in this picture is Pastor Agnes.  She was giving the boys of the school what for that morning!!

The training itself was amazing, and for me life-changing.  Before we started they spontaneously broke into song, and sang a worship song that they all knew.  I clapped along too!  Then we prayed and began.  In Rwanda relationship and trust are very important, so I had each pastor introduce themselves, which church they pastored, the greatest way that they saw God at work in their church and the greatest challenge that their church faced.  Each church shared, and the results were pretty uniform: God was winning people to Christ in high numbers, and the church struggled with high unemployment and with high illiteracy.  Almost everyone in this village depends on subsistence farming for survival, so I saw the first problem coming.  The second one made me adjust my training in some respects.  The pastors all also praised God for churches who were working together to spread the gospel, which I was really touched by.

I used the handouts I posted earlier on my blog to try to teach the pastors Bible interpretation skills first.  We used Romans 4:1-5 as our passage to walk the journey from Paul’s town to ours, and in some places their skills were strong!  They knew context and could easily grasp knowing the author and audience.  In observation skills, though, they were very weak (this is the same problem I run into with American students, so I was expecting it).  We spent a lot of time working on the skill of observation, and let me tell you that’s not easy when you’re working through a translator.

Then we went off the script.  After really digging through Romans 4 together and being reminded that salvation is truly by faith alone with no works, Pastor Josephine asked the million dollar question: could I explain how that works in light of James 2:18?  I laughed and asked her if I could make the problem even harder, which shocked my translator Paul. 🙂  I took us to James 2:24 and made the issue very clear.  I thought that it was hilarious that this pastor decided to drop me into the middle of the Lordship salvation controversy.  I wasn’t expecting it in Rwanda!  I’ve written a book on the subject, so it was fun to help them see how Paul and James are friends (check Galatians 2:9 for that), and that while Paul discusses our justification before God James discusses our vindication before men.  They got a great laugh out of James 2:14-17 when I asked them how many times people in their church saw someone in need and, instead of helping them, they wished them well and prayed for them.  It was neat to see the light in Josephine’s eyes as she realized how those passages worked together.

We then went through the handout on basic discipleship, which went over great.  I was glad that I had “practiced” on the kids the day before, because this time it went smoothly.  The only change I had to make was to the part about the Scriptures.  The pastors had told me that their people were illiterate to a large extent, so I told the pastors that they needed to help their people to memorize Scripture from the pulpit, and then make it a priority to teach reading skills so that their people could read the Word of God.  They agreed that they were blessed by reading God’s word and agreed that it would be a blessing on their people as well.

The pastors loved the systematic theology handout I made, and then threw me for another loop!  Apparently in Rwanda there is a controversy over the need for baptism for salvation as well as a controversy over what mode of baptism (immersion, pouring, or sprinkling) is best.  They wanted me to clear it all up for them!  I did my best to defend faith alone in Christ alone for eternal life, and we were in agreement on that point by the end.  For mode of baptism I knew I had Catholic, Anglican, Assembly of God and other denominations present, so I tried to remind the pastors not to make this a fellowship defining issue.  I taught them why I was immersed and why we practice immersion, but also told them about friends I have who believe in the other modes and how we didn’t need to divide over this issue.  This brought joy to the pastors.

After we were all done, Chris asked if a couple of them could stay for a short interview.  9 pastors stayed!  It touched my heart that they one and all said that they were blessed by the training.  The story of the stool really resonated with them and several were excited to use it as a tool.  Many said that they would be better Bible students because of the skills they learned, though my prayer is that they put some of the skills we talked about into practice as they can!  They asked me to come back next year and their request was that I not only teach their pastors, but their churches.  I am humbled and blown away at their hearts and their generosity.

We finished and the pastors all were incredibly thoughtful and kind.  Hospitality is a big deal here in Rwanda, and they all thanked me for coming.  We ended the day by listening to Ann finish her teacher training, which went great!  She rocked the house by showing the secondary school teachers the traits of a good teacher (which she got from Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit!).  We then headed back to the Blue Sky Hotel in Nyagatare to round off the day and celebrate.

What an amazing day today was.  5 hours of training FLEW by.  I saw God at work today in amazing ways; He is so faithful even with the little bit that I have.  Thanks so much for coming along for the ride!!

Rwanda Trip Day 6: Gacundezi

Today was so different than yesterday.  I am blessed to be here and joyful!  God is at work in many ways, and it is fun to see how He is working in those differences between days.

Today was supposed to be a day for me to observe teachers along with Ann and Vickie.  I had planned on taking it easy today, maybe playing some games or getting to interact with some of the teachers about the needs of the students at the school in Gacundezi.  However, God had other ideas.  There is an election on August 8th here in Rwanda, and all the teachers got pulled away from school to attend training for the election because evidently the teachers are going to run the polls.  That means no teachers, so no teacher training at the school!

However, it did NOT mean no students.  We had 9th grade there in the morning, which was about 60-80 kids.  Those kids ranged from 14 up t0 20 or so, most of whose English is spotty at best.  One of the tenets of short term mission work is “embrace the change,” and we definitely had to do that.  Ann and Vicki jumped right in to teach the kids who had come; they read stories in English and we answered a LOT of questions about America.  When the kids found out that I am a pastor, I got a round of applause! (it was weird…I’m more used to having to dodge flying rotten produce) They wanted to hear a Bible lesson.  The majority of the kids at the school know Christ and the school worships on Monday and Thursday morning.  (I have been asked to preach on Thursday morning as well)

Rather than try to make something up on the spot, I decided to do a trial run of my lesson on discipleship for the pastors.  It’s got some meat in it, and also a good memory “hook,” so I thought it might work.  It took me about an hour or so to get through it with a translator, and the kids had a great time.  After an hour I offered to take a break, but they wouldn’t hear of it.  They wanted more preaching!  We went about an hour and 45 minutes total, and then I was pooped.  Chris and I talked with the boys about some serious stuff, including the genocide here in Rwanda and a Christian perspective on it.  It would have been very rude for either of us Mizungus to bring up the genocide, but one of the kids asked our opinion on it.  Chris did a phenomenal job of talking about justice and forgiveness from a biblical perspective; he has officially been “outed” as an excellent Bible teacher.

The kids also wanted to know about how America felt about having a black president.  Of course they all knew President Obama, and one of the kids wondered how white people felt about a black president.  It was really great to be able to address from a Christian perspective the sin of racism, and what God’s Word says about loving one another.  It was a VERY fruitful morning of ministry and encouragement. 

In our time together, I learned that only a relative few of the students own Bibles.  I talked more with Jean Buscoe, who preaches at the school and teaches geography and history.  He practically begged for Bibles for their students and said that about 100 or so of the 987 have Bibles.  For students here, a Bible costs about 2500 Rwandan Francs.  That is about $4, though it is only a New Testament.  Most families here in Gacundezi can’t afford that, so the only Bible teaching the students get is in church and school.  They all responded that they would love their own Bibles when I asked.

One of our tenets on this trip is sustainability; we don’t want to come with handouts, but to help the people here be self-sufficient as a community (and as a community in Christ).  So we came up with a plan to provide 200 English Bibles for the secondary school library, 100 additional Bibles in Kinyarwanda for the primary school, and 100 Bibles for the secondary school to give to students who earn them and show interest in them.  The secondary school wanted Bibles in English because they are dual use, being helpful for Bible lessons and English lessons.  The younger kids will have an easier time with Kinyarwanda.  And we are already working on an Awana-style plan to encourage kids who want their own Bible to learn Scripture from what they have available and therefore receive their own Bible as a reward.

If you’d like to help with Bibles, Kinyarwanda Bibles can be found here for about $6 and I am guessing that we can get English Bibles in the container they are shipping here for about $5.  I want to get simple New Living Translation Bibles, as well as some basic theology texts.  I am guessing NLT Bibles will be about $6 in hard back.  If you would like to sponsor a Bible, email me at pastorjohn@westgreenway.com and I will tell you how to make it happen.

We also got to do some home visits after lunch, which were awesome.  We were like the Pied Piper, as kids followed us throughout the village!

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The little one in the yellow in front really liked my sunglasses because he could see himself in them.  It was great just to play with the kids and bring joy to them.  I even got to ride the moto that Paul brought!

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100_1023 We spent the afternoon playing soccer and frisbee with the kids, laughing and having fun.  I also got to have some great and meaningful dialog with the kids who had Bible questions, including the 7 or 8 boys who said that they want to be pastors when they grow up!  I am going to invite them to my pastor training tomorrow, so pray for them.

Thanks for reading along.  Pastoral training starts tomorrow, so pray that pastors come and that I am able to build trust with them.  Pray as well that it is a fruitful time and that I can be an instrument that God uses to His glory.  Please pray as well for Laura, as she was a little discouraged with her first day of clinic visits.  Her translator was a man and couldn’t come into the labor room, so she really struggled to communicate and build relationship with the clinic staff.  She learned a lot in this visit, so please pray that she can have some encouragement with tomorrow’s visit to a different clinic and see what God is doing there.

Rwanda Trip Day 5: Nyagatare and Gacundezi

MOST. AMAZING. DAY. EVER.  I seriously don’t even know where to start.  Just before we left one of the matriarchs of our church, Becky Kerger, said that she was more excited for what God would do in us and for our vision for the future than for the fruits of this particular trip.  Now I know what she meant.

My mind is completely, thoroughly, and utterly blown.  I had a great time in Brussels and Brugge seeing some amazing sights, being awed by God’s glory, and adjusting to the time difference.  Kigali was awesome, and worship on Sunday was moving.  All of that was the opening act for today.

We started actually last night.  Rob stayed with his wife Patti at Dwight Jackson’s house last night, because Patti wasn’t feeling well.  That was fine, but it meant that I needed to take a more active leadership role.  So I decided that we were going to do team devotions on Sunday night as well as Monday morning to prepare our hearts for coming to Nyagatare and Gacundezi today.  Devotions among the remaining 6 team members were a special and close time, and I felt like we really grew close as a team through them.  We also prayed for God to heal Patti of her stomach bug, and He did!  She felt much better today and joined us this afternoon in Gacundezi.

After devotions, 6 team members (the full 8 minus Rob and Patti) jumped in a taxi that Food for the Hungry had rented (and used before, so they were trusted) and drove east to Nyagatare.  The drive was beautiful!  It amazed me how quickly Kigali evaporated and the countryside opened up.  The country is very different from Kigali; it is very open, very green, and beautiful.  We had two amazing theological discussions among the team while on the drive.  The first one was on Christianity and self-defense (my specialty!), and the other on overt sin (particularly homosexuality) and church membership.  They were both fruitful discussions and I think that they fostered a good amount of thinking and discussion among the group.

Rwanda has absolutely enthralled me, and it started with the drive.  In America roads are for cars; in Rwanda, roads are for transportation.  That means pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses, and any other mode of conveyance you can imagine all share the road.  People walk along the roadside being passed by bicyclists who are mostly hauling water or sticks for fires or plantains.  The bicyclists try not to get struck by the cars speeding by, carrying passengers or material or a combination of both.  Through all of that, though, the people are wonderful.  Not ONE person I waved to was unfriendly; they all smiled and waived back at me!  Kids here just LOVE seeing white people, and when they do they waive and yell “Mizungu! Mizungu!” in hopes that you will wave back.  (Mizungu is the Kinyarwanda word that is roughly means “white person”)  We were stopped at police checkpoints three times, and at one the policeman noticed us and asked us some questions.  He found out that we were American so he tried to speak a little English to us!  “America!  Hello, very good.  Barack Obama!” (I am not exaggerating)

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This picture was taken of a youth political rally right next to where we got stopped by Officer “Barack Obama.”

We dropped of our bags at the Blue Sky Hotel in Nyagatare, and the staff was very friendly.  One young man in particular was very helpful, whose Christian name is Frank.  Frank got Laura and me a room with a bigger bed because we were a couple, and was very friendly to me.  More on Frank later.

We drove to Gacundezi and met Dwight, Rob, and Patti there.  I was absolutely not prepared for what God was going to do there!  We hadn’t done really anything at all, but got to meet some amazing people.  We met Jack the headmaster of the school.  The primary school (1-6 grade) has 1400 students; the secondary school (7-9 grade) has 987 right now.  Those 2400 students use less combined classroom space than you can imagine.  The average primary school classroom has 45 students in the morning and 45 in the afternoon.  It is amazing what they do with students there.  We also met other teachers: Felix, Jean Baptiste (JB), and Emmy (short for Emmanuel).  They were great guys one and all.

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Left to right: Jack, school head master; me; Jean Baptiste; Emmy.

Emmy and JB are kindred spirits, and where God really began to blow my mind.  After walking the school for a bit I asked Emmy if he went to church.  He said he did, and loved to pray to God and sing.  When I asked him what his favorite song was, it took him awhile but he decided on the Kinyarwanda version of “Jesus loves me.”  So I stood there in the road and sang it with him!  It was amazing to connect with him so quickly, just with “Jesus loves me/ this I know/ for my Bible tells me so.”  He was so happy that I knew his favorite song!  We instantly connected as brothers in Christ, as culture barriers came crumbling down over worship together. 

JB is like my Rwandan twin.  He pastored a church for years, and preaches every Monday and Thursday at the school for 2400 students.  He teaches history and geography there as well!  So here is this man, whose name is John, who pastors a church, preaches, and teaches in a school.  He is my buddy!  So right off the bat I had two great friends.  They showed us around the school and introduced us to some of the kids there.   The kids were awesome, and very welcoming!  Also, Dwight got to talk to the headmaster about some exciting opportunities to benefit the school, including using some of their fallow land to farm and make the school some money to operate, plus launch a life skills center for students to learn the rudiments of agriculture, technology, home ec, and business.

My heart was so full when leaving Gacundezi today, and so full of plans that God has for us.  It turns out that the best was yet to come!  After dinner, Frank from Blue Sky came outside to see Laura and me enjoying the full moon.  He showed us around the extensive facilities at the Blue Moon and really “clicked” with us.  I had found out that he is a believer in Christ earlier in the day, and now that paid some amazing dividends.  He showed us around and talked about what God was doing in his life and how God was leading him.  He is a bright 20-year-old man, and within an hour (I am not joking) asked us if he could call us mom and dad.  He has graduated 12th grade (rare in Rwanda) and, God willing, will go to university in the fall.  He asked us all to pray for him, so please join me in praying for Frank. 

That’s not the end either.  Rob and Patti joined our conversation near the end; Patti works in IT and Rob is a businessman.  When Frank said that he was studying engineering and technology at university, Rob basically offered him a job on the spot to help him with all of the projects he is working on in Rwanda! (they are extensive) Rob needs bright young Rwandans, especially ones whose heart is set on God, to help him make sure that the projects are on time and successful, so this looks like a great fit.  We ended our time by praying over young Frank that God would lead him and give he and Rob guidance in how to work together for the glory of God.

There is so much more, but long blog posts get boring.  I talked with Dwight for half an hour about a plan to bring students here from Southwestern and Phoenix Seminary on mission trips that fulfill their cross-cultural ministry requirements.  Dwigt has a PhD so I am thinking it may work out!  We are already thinking about more churches to partner with us and more ways to be a part of the community of Christ here in Rwanda.  The list goes on and on.

God is at work in BIG ways, and mostly on my heart.  I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to see it happen firsthand.  I am overflowing with gratitude just to be here, seeing Him do what He does and being grateful to be swept up in His plan.

Thanks for praying with us and for us!