Thursday, August 30, 2007

Last Entry From Rwanda

Dear Friends,

As we near the end of our trip we have come to the last time that we will be able to access the Internet before we leave Africa. It has been a great trip, and we are looking forward to our last day and a half of fun. Tomorrow (Friday) we are going on an African Safari! It should be a lot of fun, but we have to get up at 4 am! It's a long car ride to the park, so hopefully it will be a paved road and we can sleep! On Saturday morning we are going to a dowry exchange ceremony for an AEE staff member. Then we head out on our long journey home. We have certainly done a lot while we have been here, and experienced some amazing times, but I think that we are all ready to come home. Thank you for your continued prayers for safety and travel.

As for the past few days, we have been very busy. On Tuesday we went to visit a school for women who want to learn English and restaurant skills so that they can get jobs in hotel restaurants. In the afternoon we went to an orphanage for disabled young people. It was a very difficult place to visit, but the kids were so excited to have visitors! We had fun playing with them, giving them toys, and learning more about the orphanage.

Wednesday was mostly spent in the car. We traveled over two hours each way to get to the university in Butare. We did a panel discussion (moderated by me, with the rest of the team on the panel) on Impacting Your Generation for Christ. We talked a lot about what evangelism is and how to live a life of evangelism. I drew a great (I thought) diagram showing what evangelism has traditionally been contrasted with what I think evangelism should be more like. I have never seen so many camera flashes go off. Yes, in between the rest of the team just laughing their heads at me for my artistically challenged diagram, you would have thought that Brad Pitt had just walked onto the stage. I will post the photo some time when I have more time to give the proper explanation.

We also visited a Self Help Group that was weaving baskets. It was a real treat to see how they were made and to be able to give the women direct support by purchasing baskets and crafts directly from them.

This morning (Thursday) was the prison ministry visit. We went into a prison which houses about 4,000 men. About 400-500 of them attended the service, and the team all were given the opportunity to share our testimonies and I preached a message. There was a great response at the end of the service, and it was awesome to see how God was working in that place.

In the afternoon Brian and I went to the bank which was started by AEE, and the rest of the team went to visit the AEE Mobile Clinic. The clinic goes to different locations throughout Kigali and offers basic medical care and first aid.

And now we are in the Bourbon Cafe waiting for our meeting with Antoine, the team leader of AEE Rwanda. We are very much looking forward to meeting with him and learning more about what AEE Rwanda has planned for the future.

Just before I sign off, I want to comment on the comments about a special someone's birthday. When we left America, Brianna told me that her birthday was on Tuesday of this week. That would be the 28th. Yet in all actuality she was born on the 27th. So we (including her) missed her real birthday!! And we didn't even realize it until late on Tuesday night. It didn't matter, though, as we had a surprise up our sleeves!

Usually when we get back to the compound at night, Brianna changes into more comfortable clothing - she is not a fan of skirts! But on this night we told her that she couldn't change. And after dinner Anastase and his wife, and Noel and his wife came over for her surprise birthday party!! They brought a cake and gave her a really nice necklace, hair thingie, and earrings set. We sang to her and had a great time celebrating her 15th! (And yes, she did cry!) It was a great time and I am glad that we were able to do that for her. We have all enjoyed having her on the trip.

That's all from Rwanda! Next time I add to this, it will be from the USA! I can't wait to hug my wife and son!

May God Bless You,

Sunday, August 26, 2007

From Paul - My Kind of School!

From my earliest recollections in Sunday School, one story that has remained in my mind and heart was when children were surrounding Jesus. The disciples, considering the kids a bother, tried shooing the children away, telling them not to bother the Master. Jesus' response to the actions of his followers started out, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Kids were HIGH on the Lord's priority list, so they should be on ours, as well.

We paid a visit the other day to a unique school. It is for street kids. There is no orphanage associated with the school. The staff simply does what it can to rent homes for these children to stay in, and provide for their needs as much as possible. The school takes the kids through Primary 1, Primary 2, and Secondary. The children study Math, English, French, Kinyarwandan (their native tongue), as well as other subjects. They also have a workshop for the older kids, where they learn furniture making. The tools are all hand tools, except for the sanding. Since they have no sandpaper, they don't even use any hand tools - they use pieces of glass!

During our visit the other day, we got to spend the better part of the morning with these kids - giving a message of hope, and our testimonies. I shared about my past addictions to drugs and alcohol, not knowing in advance how well it would be received. Two of the schools older kids stepped up and gave their testimonies, both of which included drug addiction! Now I know that my family of recovery is even bigger!

One other blessing I got to share with the children was to give them a science lesson. What happens when you fill a rocket balloon and then let it go? The "gas" (air) goes out one end, the balloon travels in the other - thus proving the theory of at its most fun :)

More blessings like this visit are in store for next week - I can hardly wait! Keep us in your prayers, especially for our health and energy levels. Some of the sights here are incredibly taxing emotionally, and it's easy to get overcome.

Chocolate Chip Cookies??

Ok. Let me start this post with a simple, yet powerful statement. WE WANT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!! We miss many things, and have eaten some somewhat strange things since we have been here, including liver this afternoon, but most of all it seems that many of us miss chocolate chip cookies. Note to those picking us up from the airport: see previous statement.

The past few days have been pretty busy and draining. Thursday we went to a school for street kids. There are three levels of classes there, and we visited a math class, a French class, and an English class. Then they had an assembly where we heard some of the kids' testimonies. It was powerful to hear how God had delivered a girl from prostitution and back to school. Brianna and Paul shared their testimonies, and Brian gave the message. We enjoyed some dancing, but those pictures aren't coming on here anytime soon! We were able to hand out t-shirts and balloons, and the kids were very happy to receive their gifts from America.

The next stop was the hospital. Don’t worry – it was planned! We visited the Central Kigali University Hospital. This is the hospital that is available to all. Anyone who needs care will be accepted. After sharing in a service with the hospital's ministry staff, we got a chance to visit the wards. My group visited the men's ward and then the pediatrics ward. Wow. I cannot tell you how my heart broke as I saw sick child after sick child. There was a premature baby under the ultra-violet lights who was about the same size as Logan when he was born. I prayed for that baby, as I did for every child that was in the unit. I know that God's heart was breaking, as was mine, as I met the children and their mothers.

After that very difficult afternoon, it was a nice change of pace to visit my friend Noel's (see pic) home. He has been my best Rwandan friend since my first trip here in 2005, and it was such an honor and blessing to be a guest in his home. He has been our driver and guide all week, and the rest of the team has quickly understood why he is such a great guy!

Friday was spent with LaRucher Ministry staff at their office. We held three workshops with them, with Becky, Brian, and me leading one each. After, we gave them the laptops that the Valley View folks donated, and they were very grateful. At lunch time we took a break to go visit the units in the King Faisal Hospital, the hospital for those with insurance and/or a great deal of money. The differences from the Central Hospital were striking. We ministered to the patients by sharing testimonies and by praying. Though the conditions were much better than the Central Hospital, it was still a far cry from any Western hospital's standards.

Saturday started off with the Expo! The expo is a giant fair with vendor booths and entertainment. We did a ton of shopping, and all of our suitcases will be full when we return! After the expo, we headed to a group of orphans who put on a dancing and drumming show for us. It was great to experience traditional Rwandan culture! Most of us danced (not Paul-he blames the ankle, but I’m not buying!), but all of us drummed! It was a blast! It didn't even matter that I couldn't seem to keep a beat!

After the drumming and dancing, we picked up my friend Joseph from the airport and had dinner in his home. It was fun to be there for his son's and daughter's birthday. It was cute to see them opening their presents. It was funny to see that even in Rwanda people go crazy with scotch tape!

This morning was the crusade. There were about 700 people in the service, and the service was over 4 hours long!! I preached and Brian gave his testimony. The choirs were great and many people came forward to give their life to Christ, or rededicate their life to Christ. It was awesome to see God's Spirit working.

After we got home from the church, which was over a very bumpy hour away, we headed here to the cafe. As I'm writing this, I am writing as a member of a team that is starting to get tired and really missing our family and friends. Not that we weren't missing our families already, but at least for me personally I miss my family! I went to pick Joseph up from the airport yesterday and saw a boy about Logan's age greet his father...If that don't make a grown man cry...

At the same time, though, I know that I am in the right place at the right time, and that God is working in me/us and through me/us here in Rwanda. Thank you all for your prayers and comments. It is really a blessing to receive emails and comments from home.

From the Land of a Thousand Hills,

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day 5, from Paul - a lesson in reconciliation

A few months back I can remember someone saying something to went something like "You know, I just can't be so-and-so's friend anymore. They do this, they do that, they do the other thing. They're always thinking of themself, they never consider what I want to do." Does that sound familiar? Do you think I might be picking on you a little? Even if it's not you, I'll bet you can think of someone who has said something similar to you, and I myself have been guilty of it - we break off relations with someone for reasons that seem really important and justifiable, and sometimes we even give ourselves a pat on the back for at least not saying anything snotty. Then comes today - read on...

Today our group traveled to the village Nyamata. There we met with a group of men and women who were involved with the genocide. The picture you see with this entry shows three men I want you to take a REAL good look at. The man in the stripe shirt is Elijah. He is a Hutu. The men in the white shirts are Gastou (the tall one on the left) and Celestine (on the right). Those two men are Tutsi. During his childhood, Elijah's parents and grandparents impressed upon his young mind that Tutsi's were evil and should not be allowed to live. When the genocide started, there was nothing to stop him, so Elijah did as he had been programmed - he started killing Tutsis. He killed 3 - including relatives of both Gaston and Celestine!

As the advent of the genocide subsided, Elijah's conscience bothered him so much that he became a changed man - first, he confessed to God and received Christ as his Savior, and then he turned himself in to the authorities. He served time for his crimes, and then was released to return to the community where he had lived - and where he had committed his crimes!

He began working at a local shop, only to have Gaston as his first customer. Gaston's father-in-law had been one of Elijah's victims. Gaston had struggled since the end of the genocide, and could not work because of debilitating headaches. Upon seeing a doctor, the physician's recommendation was that he had to do something to let go of the hatred that was binding him so much spiritually and emotionally that it was having literal, physical effects. At a reconciliation workshop, he came across Elijah. Over a short period of time the two were reconciled, and Celestine soon added to their trio. The three are now not only fast friends, they are brothers in the Lord! They travel to prisons and offer their testimonies, and those stories are now changing lives - not only in the community, but across the country!

Do you have a troubled or severed relationship with loose ends like those of these three men did? Is there hatred or bitterness separating you from another? Please, for your own sake and the sake of the other party, RECONCILE NOW!!! If these three men can do so after the atrocities and barbarism of a genocide, you can too.

More later...keep us in prayer, as we do you!!!


Dear Friends,

First of all, THANK YOU for your comments! It is encouraging for us all to know that we still have connections in the states! And thanks to Becky, I have now been able to add Paul as a poster, so you will be getting both of our comments! Now about our last couple of days:

Monday and Tuesday have now gone, and we are finishing up our day in the Bourbon CafĂ© – the only place in Kigali with FREE wireless internet! All you have to do is order a drink! Wow – that sounds bad, but we’re just talking coffee, people!

Monday was spent in Nymata with a group called Wirira, which means “Don’t cry/weep”. These are women who were widowed and raped during the genocide of 1994. We joined them for songs and sharing, where Brianna and Paul gave their testimonies and Brian preached. After, we had an absolutely incredible time of prayer. Even though it was not translated for us, we could truly feel the Spirit of God at work. It was awesome.

When we concluded with the prayer service, we went on to a hall to have a meal and hear testimonies from the ladies. It was a very moving experience as woman after woman share their horrible stories of torture and rape. One woman showed us her scars from the machetes that struck her – one on her back was actually a burn because the man put the machete into boiling hot water before he struck her. The fact that these women can have hope and faith in spite of these circumstances is evidence of God’s amazing and all-powerful Spirit.

Today we went to a group called Duharanire Ubwiyange, which means “Strive for Unity.” This is a group of men and women who have come together to minister to one another in spite of the fact that there are both victims and perpetrators of the genocide in the group. We heard the testimony of a man named Elijah who murdered three people during 1994. Then Gastou and Celestine shared their testimonies, and revealed that Elijah killed or was party to the killing of their families. I saw what genuine forgiveness looks like in that moment. What could I ever face that I cannot follow in their example of forgiveness? Becky shared from her heart a message about living in such a way as to bring about the Kingdom of God in the present. Brianna and Paul followed with testimonies.

Then we were able to share a meal with them – the meal that the members of Valley View donated for at the church picnic. It was a good time of fellowship and we were able to hand out toys and t-shirts. It was truly a blessed time.

Tomorrow (Thursday) we are going to the street kids’ school and ministering at a rural hospital. Friday we are going to be working with Mercy Ministries in a day-long seminar which we are conducting. During our lunch break, however, we are going back to King Faisal Hospital (the largest hospital in Rwanda), to minister to the patients with the ministry team there.

Saturday is Expo Day!! The Expo is a gathering of many shops and cultural events all in one place. There are booths galore, and we are going to SHOP!! If you have any special requests, now is the time to post a comment! :-)

Thank you for remembering us in your prayers. We are all healthy again and are looking forward to the next few days. Sunday is going to be a big day for me personally, as I have been “booked” as the key-note speaker for a crusade. I have no idea what that exactly means, but I am to speak on the Power of the Cross. Pray that I will be empowered and guided by the Spirit and that many will receive the message of the gospel.

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Photos

The first photo is Brian sharing at the hospital.
The second photo is the team with the ministry members and leaders of the King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, the largest in the country.

Below is a photo of a boy we met at the church on Sunday. You can see that the kids are very excited (for the most part) to be in photos. They love to see themselves on the screen after!
Thank you for your prayers!!

Day 3

Greetings Friends!!
We are in Kigali now and have finally had a chance to get online! We are in a coffee shop that is owned by a man from Seattle and a man from LA. The coffee is great (I'm told - I'm a hot chocolate guy), and the food is incredible!!
Yesterday we met a man named Francois who shared with us his story about being in exile during the genocide, during which time his mentally ill father died after many failed attempts at help. He is now struggling to survive, and praying that God will bring him a wife. He is also working a book which he is going to be sharing with us when he is finished.
Today (Monday) we met with a non-denominational church called Agape Community Church. They bought a large parcel of land for a new building - they paid only $3,600 US!! They were surprised that we could only buy a cheap, old car for that!
The team is getting along very well, and we can tell that you are praying for us back at home. We have been very moved by the stories that have been shared with us. To hear first hand accounts from men and women who survived the 1994 genocide, and the wars prior to that, has been very moving.
This morning we visited with a group of Christians who all work at the largest hospital in the country. They shared stories of healing and of people coming to know our Lord through their ministry there.
I preached at a church on Sunday, and Becky, Brian, Brianna, and Paul taught Children's Church. Paul's balloon animals were a huge hit!! Becky and Brian shared this morning at the hospital, and the others will be sharing soon.
Becky is still not feeling great, but the rest of seem to have gotten over our sicknesses. Please continue to pray for our health and for the ministry opportunities that are coming up for us. Tomorrow we are going to Nyamata to minister to women who were raped during the genocide, many of whom have been infected with HIV. We will be sharing our testimonies, as well as hearing their stories.
I personally have felt very blessed by our time here and am so thankful for the team that God has privileged me to travel with. I also feel blessed to know that you at home are praying for us. I thank the Lord for hearing our prayers! Please do not forget to minister to our families while we are here! They need your love and support (and maybe the occasional meal!)
We hope to provide you another update soon, and we thank you for your comments! It is great to have some contact with our own culture.
Many Blessings,

Friday, August 10, 2007

Here We Go!!

Welcome to our 2007 Valley View Christian Church Rwanda Trip Blog!!

We are going to try to post to this blog as often as possible to help keep you all informed about our trip! We will post prayer requests, reports, and reflection upon our work with the wonderful people of Rwanda. Feel free to leave comments - we will try to respond as much as we can. We probably won't have any way to upload photos while on the trip, but we will try to get some up after we get back.

Thanks for checking us out!!