Sunday, December 28, 2008


"God wasn't in the wind. God wasn't in the earthquake. God wasn't in the fire. God was in the silence." I love that line and over and over again it has been playing in my heart and mind.

For the past two months I have been craving silence; time alone with God to just listen. Agendas, to-do lists, relationships, commitments, and every-day stresses have been keeping me away from taking this time away that I have so desperately needed. Not today though. Today I took a day to be silent and to just listen.

At first, I find silence to be a little bit difficult. I'm okay with no music, TV, or Internet. I'm even okay with not talking to others around me. But it is the voices in my head that keep going loud and strong, even when I have long-since stopped. Then, about an hour or two into it, I realize that I have been chatting to God about the same things over and over and I have been too busy making noise to listen! So I shut up. Only once in my life can I say that I have heard a clear, audible voice from God so I don't want to be misleading and say that's how God communicates with me. I wish He would sometimes! It's more that still silence that Rob talks about - within my heart - that I know is the Holy Spirit guiding and shaping me. Sometimes it's not a "yes" or "no" answer but just a peace knowing that He is right there and that He has everything in control. That's what today was.

Being silent before God was a discipline I learned a lot about and practiced quite often in Rwanda. Whether it was my morning runs, walks to and from work, or while doing my quiet time (there's probably a reason it's called that) on the back porch there were times throughout my daily life that allowed me to be still and silent before my Creator. My life now is so full of noise - both audio and visual - and as a part of the goals I want to accomplish in 2009, building in time for silence is near the very top of the list. I have a friend who went on a silent retreat for 5 days. 5 days! The longest I have ever gone is 3 and I thought that was never-ending! But how amazing!

How about you? Would you be willing to be silent and just listen? For how long? What would your expectations be? Would you be willing to let go of those expectations for what God wants to do instead?

*This video is a part of Rob Bell's Nooma series. The name of the video is Noise. This is not the entirety of the video and for more information on where you can purchase Noomas, visit

Friday, December 5, 2008


I don't know if anyone even checks this anymore... I didn't even check it for quite a while there!

But regardless, I want to resume my off-again, on-again relationship with my blog. If people read, great. If not, it's okay - it's simply my way of getting these oh-so-crowding thoughts out of my head.

I have been home from Rwanda for just over a month and half now and to say that it feels like a lifetime ago is an understatement. It truly has been only in the past couple of days that I have wanted to delve back into my memories, into the lessons that I learned, and fully live as the person that I was becoming while I was there. There will be more on this, I promise. As exciting as that is, there has also been some challenges - not necessarily bad, but challenges nonetheless. Things have not been what I have expected them to be since I have been home. I have had unmet expectations and exceeded expectations. I have laughed until my cheeks hurt and cried until I couldn't breathe (both of them today, actually). I don't know what God is doing. At all. I'm scared out of my mind and, at times, feel extremely lonely in this journey of putting all the pieces into their proper place. I have not the slightest doubt that He is working together something - just what, I'm not so sure!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Akagara National Park

This weekend I had the AWESOME opportunity to travel up to Akagara National Park in order to see some of the wild-life that makes it home here in Rwanda. Myal was a great host and arranged the entire trip as a Goodbye and Thank-you gift (so completely generous - I was so humbled!) and we were joined by Mike (country director for Living Water) and Audrey.

We left on Friday afternoon and made the 2.5 hour drive up north. After we arrived we set up our campsite and got to work collecting firewood, building the fire, and making dinner. It was a perfect evening as we had delicous food, an amazing view, good music, and plenty of stories to keep us laughing. We didn't get much sleep (mine was because of the fear of the snorting that was taking place in the bushes behind us by some unknown animal!) but it wasn't hard to get out of bed the next morning when we saw the sunrise. Breakfast and clean-up were quick as we wanted to get out and see the animals as they were collecting water before the heat of day. The entire day was spent driving around different parts of the park and with the help of a guide we finally found the animals that we were looking for. I kept telling Myal that he would know how thankful I was by how much I squealed when we saw the animals. Finally, we had gotten to the giraffes, our last animals for the day, and there were still no squeals so he asked me about it. I was in too much awe to squeal - my silence and awe was saying so much more than a squeal ever could! Everything was so beautiful and peaceful - there is no way that my words can do it justice.

Here are some of the pictures that I took. Enjoy!

Akagara National Park

Friday, October 10, 2008

Possible Next Steps

No, sorry, I don't have the pictures yet! I am actually waiting to get some from Myal and once I do, they will be up in a flash. Let's keep our fingers crossed for this weekend!

Anyway, that's not my point of this blog...

What I really wanted to write about and ask for your prayers for is my "next step". As most of you know, I will be coming home on the 19th (just over a week away!) and with that comes a lot of uncertainty about what I am going to do as far as a job, school, etc. I currently have my application in to George Washington University for their graduate program in International Education. Long story short, this masters is focused on development through education and I would be focusing on marginalized people groups. The minute I first heard about this program my heart leaped and I knew that this is where I wanted and needed to be. My application is currently in the Dean's office for final review and I should know shortly whether or not I have been accepted. I began my degree in Curriculum and Instruction at McDaniel College so I can transfer some credits and go to school part time, hopefully in the evenings.

Now, as if waiting for school acceptance isn't enough, I have to add looking for a job as well! Obviously I want to be involved in something that has to do with development and education but will also afford for me to go to school. I have about 7 applications out right now and have a few more that are ready to be sent. I have never really had to look or wait for a job before! This is a new adventure.

I know that, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is going to provide - I just have to wait to see what it is. As my grandma always says, "He's never early, Lauren, and He is certainly never late." I'm not really sure what direction my life is going in - what I have been called to do as the big picture and as much as that is a challenge for this Planner, I am so content in Today. I know that He is guiding me somewhere - that all of the gifts, talents, and experiences He has provided will be used for something. Then again, I'm learning that it's not all about Arriving...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mars Hill Water Team

Before I begin I want to give a huge SHOUTOUT to everyone who ran the Army Ten Miler this morning. Way to go! As I write this I realize that most of you have already crossed the finish line and I am so jealous! I have been praying that it wasn't so hot this year (could anything be worse than last year?) and that you broke some personal records! Can't wait to hear how you did!

Okay, now for the team...

For three weeks over the course of September World Relief Rwanda was blessed to have a team from Mars Hill Church come and serve alongside of the Child Development Program (CDP). The CDP, located in Masaka, about half-hour outside of Kigali, teaches young children sanitary and hygiene lessons and began realizing there was a gap in their program because they were emphasizing the importance of clean water but clean water was not at all accessible to the community. That is where Mars Hill came in. A team, led by Bob and Macky Johnson, came in to the Masaka area and helped install three rain water harvesting systems and seventeen biosand (slow) filters.

What are water harvesting systems? Well, basically speaking, they are gutter systems put on to large buildings (in this case, three churches - one in Masaka center, one in Rusheshe, and one in Imbebe) that funnel into a large tank (10,000 liters - I could basically live in the tank it's so big!) These tanks take only 3 days to fill once the rainy season comes!

And the biosand (slow) fiters? These are 150 liter tanks that have layers of rock, course sand, and fine sand in them that were placed in the three churches and at local schools. Water is poured through the top of the filter and out comes clean water! The way it works is that after about 3 weeks of use (5 gallons, twice a day) a bio-layer builds up in the sand and this good bacteria eats the bad bacteria in the water. It takes about 20 minutes for a jerrycan of water (40 liters - 5 gallons - about 40 pounds to carry!) to go through the filter and when it does, it is completely drinkable - even by Muzungus like myself. Just think of how this could help save the lives of children; no more treating dehydration due to diarrhea by the water that made you sick in the first place! And the best part is that this filters, once they are made, require very little maintenance and can be used for a lifetime.

The locals can buy the water from the big filters for half of what they would buy it for at the local pumps and then the use of the filters is free. The money collected from the sale of the water will go back to the interfaith committees and be used for various things such as building more filters (to put in the homes of the most vulnerable), paying the school fees for children, and much more. Each interfaith committee signed an agreement that help-held the financial and up-keep requirements of the filters.

Making these filters was no small task! Getting to Masaka alone each day was a challenge as the rainy season showed it's early signs and the narrow, deeply trenched roads, became extremely muddy at times. Many hands were also needed and we had a crew of about 30, including the team members from the States, four masons, six locals who were trained in how to construct the filters, CDP staff, WRR staff, drivers, runners, and the pastors of the churches. Each of the masons and the filter-makers were members of their local interfaith committees and were nominated by their peers to participate in this project. They were paid a salary for their work and were given certificates, recognized by the local government, stating that they were the "authorities" given the responsibility and resources to continue this project in the future. Lots of work was also ahead of time by Bob and Macky who were here a week before the team. They spent long days going throughout the city buying all of the supplies that were needed. I'll be honest, it would have been a lot easier if 1)the streets of Kigali had names and 2)companies had websites! It worked out though and by the end of the week we had filters, wood, rocks, sand, and more delivered to each of the work sites. Meals were also an adventure and I can not tell you how thankful I was for Novotel Hotel and their ham sandwiches (and to know me is to know that I can't stand ham and mayo - however, these tasted SO good).

It was a great time - lots of hard work - but a great team, great fellowship, and an amazing community. I was so blessed to be a part of their team.

I am going to try to post pictures tomorrow so you can see the actual project. If I don't get them tomorrow, definitely by the end of the week.

Let me know if you have any questions - sometimes I forget what I take for granted that everyone knows!

Yes, I'm still alive...

Embarrassingly so, I would like to begin this blog like the last one that I posted...a month ago. I have absolutely horrible about posting and for that, I am very sorry! My goal is to post about every other day from here on out. It might be a bit tricky this week as I am at a workshop from Monday through Thursday morning but I will do my best!

So where was I over the course of September? Well, with teams. Non-stop. From September 1-19th we had a team from Mars Hill Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan) who were here to create water harvesting and filtration systems. This was an awesome project and hopefully I will be able to post more about that tomorrow. Then, from the 20th to the 30th we had a team here from McLean Bible Church who were conducting workshops with pastors focusing on mobilizing their congregations in order to take care of the most vulnerable in their communities. Although the month of September was incredibly busy, it was full of laughter, lessons, things to think about, and challenges. I hope to chronicle them little by little.

It is hard to believe that I only have 2 more weeks here in Rwanda. Each day seems like a year long but as I sit here writing right now it feels like it has flown by! It is a strange mix between time racing by and feeling like my commissioning was a lifetime ago. By no means am I wishing for this time to be over - I really do love it here - but I am excited too for what the future holds.

Oh, I could go on writing forever...but then there would be no other blogs to look forward to!

I miss you and think of you often.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Long Overdue

My friends, I am so sorry that I have not been updating my blog! I could give you a million excuses - the unreliable Internet that we experienced for a while, being on the field, having work to get done, being lazy - but none of them truly excuse it. I apologize. Even though I have so much to share with you - lessons learned, questions, adventures - I thought this one would be a bit more lighthearted and focus on some of the highlight stories that I have experienced in the past two weeks.

Story #1 - The Nacumatt Experience
How many of you know what Nacumatt is? Carrefour? Anyone?

Think European SuperWalmart.

The first Nacumatt came to Kigali last weekend and of course we had to go see it. AWESOME. You can buy your electronics, toiletries, cereal, and furniture all in one stop. As you can imagine, this is a really big deal for all of the expats here. Not only are items such as lotion and familiar brands hard to find but they are expensive once you do find them (think $14 for lotion). Nacumatt has come to save the day. You can find so many products there (including Cadbury chocolate) and the prices aren't as bad as they are in other places. I'll be honest, we spent about 45 minutes just walking around the store and as we were leaving I thought, "Wow, with this here now, I could live here..."

Story #2 - Nobody puts Baby in the corner
Trivia Question: In "Dirty Dancing" what was Baby going to study when she went off to school?

Answer: Economics of Developing Countries - so she could join the PeaceCorp.

What an appropriate movie for us to watch! Last night we celebrated Sarah's (Director of Programs at WRR) birthday by eating chocolate ice cream (another reason to love Nacumatt) and watching "Dirty Dancing" projected on the wall. Sarah had never seen the movie before - she wasn't allowed as a little girl - and always wanted to see it for her birthday. It certainly proved that birthday wishes can come true! With 6 girls and 2 boys joining in on the celebration, we sang along, giggled, and were reminded why Sarah was probably not allowed to watch it (I wasn't either for a while...) It was sitting there last night that I was filled with so much joy that it brought a few tears to my eyes (to know me well is to know that isn't too big of a surprise). How often do we really stop and enjoy the simple pleasures? Do we really stop, rest, and recharge enough? I went to bed very content last night.

One of the best lines in the movie: "I have been thinking a lot about the Domino Effect lately. Do you think if Vietnam falls China will fall as well?" (remember, it was set in 1963)

Story #3 - I want one.
When Phil and Becca were out of town last week I had to come up with some means of transportation. Paying for a taxi all of the time gets a bit expensive so I decided that I was going to be adventurous and try one of the taxi motorcycles that I had seen zipping around town. I have been on the back of a bike before but this was different! The bikes are not that big (could they support both of us?), they dodge in and out of traffic like small gnats, and the road conditions here are less than favorable. I summed up the courage to finally get on one of the motos and... I LOVED IT. I rode them all day, all over town. Now, to be honest, during my first 3 minutes I told the driver to slow down about 86 times but once we got moving and I began to trust him, we really started moving and had such a good time. I am dead serious when I say that I want one and I look for opportunities now to ride. I get disappointed when a friend says they will give me a ride because it means that I won't be able to take my new favorite means of transportation.

Story #4 - Crisis Adverted
This actually comes from excerpts from a few emails that I sent out about a week ago.

I had been having this awful thumping in my ears and I was scared (thanks to WebMD) that I was 1)going deaf 2)had cancer or 3)had gotten a parasite - yes, in my ear, so I went to King Faisel Hospital, just down the road from World Relief. One of the receptionists there was very nice and she gave me all of my instructions in English. I filled out my paperwork and then went up to stand in line at the counter in order to check in. I was standing about 2 feet behind the person who was being helped and not 1, not 2, but 3! people cut in front of me. I have talked to some of my African friends here and there are varying opinions about it being just bad manners, I was not aggressive enough, people are not used to using the "queue"(not an original part of the culture), some think they are more important than others, etc. It didn't matter - I was not feeling well and I was going to be late - not a good combination. I FINALLY got up to the counter, put down my paperwork and smiled at the lady. She not only did not smile back, but proceeded to ignore me and do other work. I will admit, this is where I lost my culturally-savvy cool, grabbed my paper, mumbled "FINE" and went over to the other receptionist who was open. She got to see my smile and I was quickly processed for the small fee of $20 (yes, this is all my doctor's appointment cost - without insurance). I was then ushered to another receptionist in a different area and she took my paperwork and told me to have a seat. My appointment was at 3:40pm and it was now 3:45 (It was the unresponsive receptionist's fault - I was there at 3:15!). I sat there, and I sat there, and I sat there... 40 minutes after my appointment was supposed to have taken place I asked the previous receptionist, who was wearing a very pea-green blouse, when I could expect to be seen. I was extremely polite and non-confrontational. She responded, "After the person in front of you is finished." My bad. One hour and five minutes after my appointment was supposed to take place, I was seen by Dr. Jeffrey I-can't-pronounce-your-last-name, ENT. We hit it off famously! He checked my ears, nose, and throat and found nothing wrong. He said that it was probably just from all of the dust (darn dry season) and the irritation from being on the moto (trust me, this will not stop me from riding again). He prescribed some drops and said that I could use them if I felt like making sure my ears were totally cleaned out (I told him my mother would be proud to hear that I have dirty ears - although I don't, I clean them fanatically). He did check my throat to make sure that I did not have Thyroid Cancer as WebMD, as I said, had me convinced this was a valid option. He also took my blood pressure and he said that it was low. I asked him if I was dying to which he responded, no. PHEW. He did, however, say that women who are expecting can have a low blood pressure... I assured him this was not the case and, in fact, the words "Immaculate Conception" were used. He then sent me on my way and on my way I did go. I'll be honest, I still have no idea why my ears were bothering me. They are absolutely fine now. Maybe I just had to learn a new aspect about the culture - customer service and rights. Huge lesson.

That's it for stories (well, at least for now). We have a team coming from Mars Hill to do a Water Harvesting project starting on Monday. Please keep us all in your prayers. I promise, I will be more diligent and will write more soon.

Imana Ishweme!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Few Of My Favorite Things

It is hard to believe that I have been here for four weeks already! In many ways it feels like the time has gone by very, very quickly. In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was saying goodbye to my mom and brother at the airport. Regardless, I have come across many things that I love here in Rwanda and I thought I would share some of them with you:
  • Walking to work and then home again in evenings and being stared at by the schoolchildren. Most are brave and say, "Bonjour" and their smiles become a million miles wide when I start speaking French back to them.
  • Going for runs in the morning and seeing the sun rise over the hills of Kigali
  • Chapati - why I have to run in the first place
  • Clemence, my office mate, who makes me laugh more than anyone else here
  • The guards - whether it be at the office or at home - they are so cute and I just want to hug them all (no worries, I won't)
  • Song 146 in the green song book. I don't know what it says but I constantly have it stuck in my head
  • Spending time journaling. I don't do it nearly as much as I wish I did but when I do, I love it
  • Getting emails and facebook messages from home.
  • CitrusMint gum - my after lunch treat
  • The smiles of the pastors that we come in contact with and the huge hearts that they have for their congregations
  • The old women who always hug me and and grab my hands. I'm not sure what they are saying to me but I could "talk" to them all day
  • Walking home past the embassies and the Rwandan "White House" every day - kind of like DC...
  • The 75 degree weather every day

I'm sure there are a million more but these are the ones that come to mind immediately as I sit here. Life is good and I'm happy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My New Home

This weekend I said goodbye to Kayijuka and his family (well, goodbye in terms of living with them - I still work with Kayijuka every day!) and moved in with Phil and Becca. Phil is the country director for World Relief Rwanda and both he and Becca have been wonderful in welcoming me into their home. They have a beautiful home - complete with it's own African Crested Crane, Umasambe (which means "Crested Crane" in Kinyarwanda - it's like the people who name their cat, Cat.) The story goes that Umasambe was brought to the house while the previous country director and his family were living there. Apparently one of their little boys was nervous about people breaking into the house and so he was given Umasambe as a "guard bird". One of yesterday's adventures included Becca and Baptiste trying to clip Umasambe's wings. There was NO way I was going to be a part of that! Baptiste was able to catch and hold Umasambe while Becca clipped away and I watched from a safe, responsible distance. Umasambe has a "beautiful" call that sounds a whole lot like a bad bike horn and likes to eat bread (who doesn't?) If you aren't careful with the front door it is pretty possible that she will end up in the living room!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008

Back from Congo

I figure that it is easier to update everyone on here rather than to send out 2395872359 emails!

Four summers ago (ohmygoodness, it has been that long?) I nannied for two great kids named David and Amanda. David had this CD that had a song that chanted "Nothing can go wrong-o, I'm in the Congo" (you have to love kid music). I would like to say that I was mature enough not to sing that constantly while we were there but then I would be lying. Thank you so much for all of your prayers while we were away. God really used this team from FMC in Indiana in amazing ways.

Our 12 days in Goma and Rutshuru, Congo (DRC) were spent doing various activities based on Servant Leadership. About a month ago FMC had sent a team to work with local pastors and train them on the concept of Servant Leadership and the Church taking care of the most vulnerable in their communities. The purpose of this trip was to do follow-up with these pastors, encourage them, and partner alongside of them in their outreach activities. Some of the activities included building houses for widows, cultivating a field that the Churches had rented to grow a crop that would support the needy in their communities, providing food to the prisons, and doing home visits to those who were sick or without a support system.

It was incredible to see the team and the pastors experience the true power of serving others. One team member had that "A-ha" moment one of our last days and he couldn't keep it in any more: "In serving others, those who are being served are then encouraged and impacted and then they want to serve others and then the whole system keeps expanding!" YES! He got it! While we were washing our hands before a meal one evening, I overheard two team members talking about how true service is giving in abundance out of what you have rather than waiting for an abundance in order to give. Amazing.

A beautiful example of these concepts was shown through one of the widows for which we had built a house. She and her three children had to flee their previous home, in the middle of the night, due to it being set on fire (probably the actions of military or rebel forces). Not only did she and her children join us as we were building the home but every day, at each new outreach activity, she was the first one there, ready to lend a helping hand. Her life had been impacted and now she was going to impact others. All along it was God and His love being manifested through us and the workers (including the widow) that was given the glory. What a wonderful picture of God reconciling hearts and lives back to Himself.

It was also really neat to see pastors from various denominations lay aside their differences for the greater purpose. They truly understood that those small things that divide us are not the things on which we should be focused. It is an incredible example that should be noted and followed. The pastors that we worked with are not about programs but people. People's lives and their hearts are what God cares about.

Personally, this trip was good and challenging for me. The things that I have just told you about were incredible to witness. It was also so good to be able to laugh with a team, try new foods, perfect my already impressive bucket bath skills, and play with a million children. In terms of being challenging, I saw another level of poverty (including IDP camps) than I have seen (or processed) before. I also had to wrestle with my own personal role in helping those with which we interacted and with my role in relation to the team. With all of that came questions of the purpose behind my time here in the Great Lakes region as well. I do know that God has me here for a purpose and there is no way that I want to cut my time here short (no matter how much I miss Dairy Queen). I want to wrestle with these challenges - journal about them, pray through them, talk to others - and live in every single moment.

I am going to work on getting a album of my pictures (including some stories) on here within the next day or so. Check back!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kayijuka's Church Part II

All last week Kayijuka kept asking me what I was going to preach on at his church on Sunday (a small, rural, Anglican church just outside of Kigali) and I seriously thought he was joking. Apparently not. On Saturday night he confirmed that I was to preach no less than 30 minutes and that Julienne would be interpreting for me. I was so exhausted Saturday night but it didn’t matter – I had a sermon to prepare! I gave a sermon on worship* and how worship can not only be our songs and prayers but our lifestyles/work an acts of service as well. At first I didn’t know what I was going to say or why I was preaching on that – their worship (singing, dancing, and drums) is absolutely amazing and there is no doubt in my mind that heaven is going to look like that. I told them that and they all cheered. My heart burst as I watched it all going on. That was probably my favorite moment so far.

Here is a picture of all the little children waving goodbye! LOVE THEM.

*Dear John McGowan, contrary to how it looks, I did not steal your message. I promise. I did the research and came up with the points on my own. :)

Off to Congo

Well, I didn't get as many pictures posted as I would like but I promise I will do them when I get back...

Please be praying for Myal, Marcel, and I as we lead a team into the Congo (DRC) this week. We will be gone for two weeks. During our time there we will be helping build houses for widows or orphan-headed households, giving encouragement to local pastors, conducting compassion activities (visiting hospitals, helping till a field rented by some churches) and doing a special activity with WR Congo staff. Please pray for our safety and health, for those who we will be interacting with (that they may be encouraged) and for our lives to be changed and our view of God to be expanded.

*For a great read on the history of Congo, I would highly recommend King Leopold’s Ghost. I don’t really like historic books and I devoured this one.

Genocide Memorials

It really is amazing to think of how much the genocide destroyed this country and still effects it today. Anywhere between 800,000 and a million people were killed in April, 1994. Brothers, neighbors, congregations, and friends turned against each other. For more information or insight into this tragic event, I highly recommend We Wish To Inform You That Today We Will Be Killed With Our Families.

I had the opportunity to go to the Genocide Memorial Museum in Kigali last week. Here are pictures of the museum, some of their gardens, and one of their 15 mass graves. I was struck with the contrast of these mass graves against the backdrop of the busy and very much alive, city. It was the stories of the young, innocent children who were killed for no reason that broke my heart.

I also went to one of the churches (Nyamata) where 10,000 people were killed. They had gone to the church for refuge and instead, were attacked there. Grenades were thrown through the windows and doors and no one survived. The church floors are covered, knee-high, in clothes from the victims. Behind the church are more mass graves. I had the opportunity to walk down into one of the mass graves to see many of the coffins and unidentified bones. It was probably the single most chilling experience of my life.
It is so easy to question how God can still be good after seeing this. I met a girl from Saddleback at the Memorial and we began talking about this. It is something that I’m not sure I can reconcile the “why” for. However, I know that it is the result of a sinful, fallen world and that maybe this helped open the doors for churches and organizations to come in and share the reconciling, restorative message of Christ.

What We Do

By no means am I going to do World Relief justice but I am going to try to explain to you what they do here in Rwanda (at least from my understanding). For a better, more concise description, check out their website at

Very basically, WRRwanda has 4 major development programs going on throughout the country. The first one is the Child Survival Program which focuses on teaching communities and mothers how to help their child survive past the age of 5 (1 in 4 children do not live to be 5 years old). This is a neat program because WRR goes into a community, teaches 10 women the basics of childcare and child health (such as what to do if the child has diarrhea – contrary to the popular belief, you do have to feed them and give them fluids). These 10 women then go and teach 10 more women and visit each of these women and their families once every 2 weeks. It’s a Trainers of Trainers (TOTs) program mentality. The second program is the Child Development Program which is much like the first but focuses on children ages 5-14. The third program is Mobilization for Life which is also a TOTs and peer education program that focuses on HIV/AIDS education (children ages 5-24 although we don’t know of any 24 year olds still in the program!) Obviously the curriculum is abstinence based but we do have a relationship with the Ministry of Health who talk about safe-sex practices (ignorance is not bliss in this instance). Our final program is our Microfinance. Going in, I though Microfinance was only small business loans – how wrong I was! Yes, that does happen but education about money and saving and group savings programs take place (for example, 10 people come together and each pay $5 into the pot each month. Then each month one of the ten people gets the $50 in the pot to pay for whatever it is they have identified as their goal). It’s a great system because these families may not have the means to save on their own to pay for a big item (maybe a wedding, maybe a cow… or a wedding where they present a cow – it happens) because society would put pressures on them to share with their extended families/neighbors if everyone knew that they had money to spare. There is also a program that WRR helped start, but is now independently run, called Ikirizi and it is an essential oils program. Basically, people are brought into a co-op and given land and materials to harvest geranium oil. This oil is then sold back to Ikirizi and they sell it to companies that use the oil in their products. WR’s goal in all that they do is sustainability and development. They want all of their programs to be self-sustaining if they were to ever leave the area. That’s where the local churches come in. The vehicle to getting these programs running at the grassroot level is the churches. The pastors and their congregations are the ones who volunteer, participate, and take ownership over these programs. WR is not evangelistic in nature but empowers the Church to be the Church and in that way share Christ.

My job, for the next three months, is to help out when church teams come over from the US to work with and see these programs going. Not only do these church partners support WR financially and in prayer but sometimes they have awesome skills that help out the programs as well such as IT, pastors’ training (for example, how to teach them how to recruit and train volunteers), encouragement and much more. I am also working on a special staff development project about cross-cultural communication and understanding.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


On Sunday morning I had the opportunity to go to church with Kayijuka and his family. This was no ordinary service as they had a very special guest, the Archbishop of the Rwandan Anglican church. The church was beautifully decorated and many came who were not regular attenders of the church, including the governor of the district, village chiefs, and local officials.

During the service there was a time where members of the congregation brought forth the first fruits of their harvest as a means of tithing. The neat thing was that these items - bananas, papayas, cassava, etc. - were not simply left at the alter but after the service they were auctioned off and the monies went back to the church. It was a fun time as the auctioned took a turn and people started purposely raising the prices and people paid what they bid, regardless of whether they won or not.

My favorite part of the day though was getting to play with the children. When we first arrived we were greeted by many stares - who would be the first to say hello to the Muzungos? Slowly they came up to us and within a few minutes Diana had all of them singing and dancing. There were a million of them - all different ages, boys and girls, big and small. Some of the girls danced for us as well. I tried but I don't really think my body is suppossed to move that way! During the auction I made two friends, one named Estelle who was a bit disappointed that I did not have any candy to hand out and the other, Shadrach Meshach (yep, just like in Daniel) who was content sitting on my lap as we drank some Fanta (Citron for me) and Coke.

I loved the whole thing and the hours flew by. I still have song 146 (from the blue songbooks) stuck in my head.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Achors of Hope

Have you ever come across a passage of scripture that you forgot that you loved or clung to at one point? It happened to me last night. I was doing my quiet time and I don't know why but the song "Acres of Hope"* by Shane&Shane came into my head. If you have time, I would highly recommend downloading it (make it the whole Clean album while you are at it). It is based off of Hosea 2:14-16 and speaks of God redeeming Isreal, bring her back from the wild ways that she had wandered. Personally, I feel like this is what is happening here in Rwanda. I was not necessarily wild this past year but I was certianly rebellious and stubborn. I feel like my heart is being softened again and that concept of God being "husband" rather than "master" (or, I will sadly admit, I saw more like "unpredictable, unreliable dictator/puppetmaster") is a possibilty and reality. It is a beautiful picture of redemption and grace - because it is so undeserved, so generous, and so complete.

14 "Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.

15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

16 "In that day," declares the LORD,
"you will call me 'my husband';
you will no longer call me 'my master.'

*I'm not really sure why it is called "acres" when the word is "Achor". "Achor" means "trouble" - a more suiting description in my opinion

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Where I Am Living

I wanted to show all of you where I am staying for my first two weeks. Below are pictures of Kayijuka's family (Top Row: Julienne, Olivier, Kayijuka Bottom Row: Diana, Esther, and Daniel), the view from the front porch (where I spend many, many hours sitting and reading), their home, and my bedroom (complete with mosquito net and it's own bathroom). I really have been blessed to be able to stay with such a wonderful family. They have been gracious hosts who have taken care of me very well; including many avacados, chapati, and all the bottled water a girl could ask for!

Friday, July 18, 2008

First Day in Kigali

I have arrived in Kigali and am writing to you as I sit at my new desk here at the World Relief Rwanda headquarters. I arrived last night around 7:00pm (1:00pm for you at home) and was greeted by a handful of the World Relief staff at the airport. Thomas sends his hello's to everyone! I didn't get to bed until about 11:00pm because I was having a wonderful time getting to know Kayijuka and his family. They have been great hosts and have made sure that I am well taken care of.

This morning came quickly as we had to be at hq early for the chapel service and then Myal and I went over my job description, expectations, timelines, etc. It is going to be a busy three months and it is going to go by so fast! I have been given some neat projects and I am very excited to do them and to do them well. In many ways I view my success here as imparative - almost redemptive - to my own sense of self. I know, my identity can not be found in what I do - I get that - well, sometimes - I'm growing in that. I do, however, think it is important to be able to use your gifts and passions. There is a sense of fufillment that comes from that and in some ways, that has been so lacking in my own life.

I have included a few pictures so that you can see where I will be working (well, part of the time!). There are two pictures of the view from Headquarters and then Headquarters itself. There will be many more to follow so keep checking back!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And we're off!

Here I am, sitting in terminal C5 of BWI and I'm going to be boarding my first plane in about 12 minutes. I absolutely can not believe that this day has arrived. It has felt like such a far-off, unattainable thing for so long and now, here it is! I didn't cry as much as I thought I would but there were a few tears as I hugged my mom and brother goodbye. I know that this experience is going to be amazing and honestly, there is nothing that is making me super nervous - it's more that I just have no concept of what to expect. Maybe that's good - to not be constrained by and contained to my own expectations. I think I have packed everything that I need (although Beau talked me out of packing my lotion and now, knowing that my bags were underweight, wonder if I should have reconsidered that decision!) and I know that I will be well provided for there. I am ready! Ready to learn, ready to experience, ready to serve.

Make sure you email! I might not always be able to get back to you as soon as I would like but I will always be very grateful to hear from you and what's going on in your life.

And we're off!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Support Raising

Over the past few days many of you have asked me how I am doing with raising support. I know that sometimes addresses and websites are hard to remember so I thought that I would post the information here. I am at about 2/3 of my financial goal and I can never get enough prayer support! If you would like to help support my trip by making a tax deductable contribution you can donate online by clicking Here or you can write a check made payable to World Relief with 107P000 AGLE Coord- Ellis in the memo line. Their address is:
7 E. Baltimore Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

I firmly believe that God knows everything that I need and He will provide! As I mentioned before, I can not get enough prayer support. Please be praying not only for me but for the World Relief staff in Rwanda, the local churches, and those whom they serve.

Thank you!

"See You Later"s

I wanted to just take a few minutes and thank all of you - whether it be individual friends, the CCPS girls, or those who braved the torrential downpour last night - for the time that you have taken out of your busy schedules over the past few days in order to spend some time with me. I have been so encouraged and have felt so loved because of all of these times and I really have treasured them. Thank you for sharing your lives with me and letting me do the same. I am looking forward to hearing from each and every one of you. You said you would write and I'm holding you to it!

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I know, you probably don't think it's really that big of a deal but you have to remember who you're working with here...

I finally set up my Skype account! If you have an account as well and want to be able to communicate, let me know and I'll email you my name.

11 days until departure!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

July 3rd

It's 11:31pm and I desperately want to get this post completed by midnight (hopefully you'll see why) so please excuse me if there are any mistakes!

I have to be honest, I have been holding my breath the past few days, knowing that July 3rd was quickly approaching. You see, over the past three years July 3rd has been a significant date for me; each July 3rd has marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It was almost like Noah's rainbow - July 3rd was the reminder and the manifestation of the "bigger and better" things that God promised me when I cried out and came back to Him on March 25, 2005. I was apprehensive about this July 3rd because I wasn't going to be starting anything new - instead I was packing boxes (not fun) to move out of my host home. Was God going to let me down? Was He done showing Himself in really amazing ways? This fear was just another example of what I have been wrestling with lately - dealing with unreasonable and then unmet expectations of God and how to have expectations of Him without confining Him to my personal expectations (if you think that was confusing to read and comprehend, imagine actually wrestling with it!)

With these thoughts in the back of my mind, I went to dinner with some dear friends of mine. As we ate we began talking about our current relationship status with the Lord (although I'm tempted to make a DTR comment here, I will hold my tongue). Although our situations were not all the same, we could all agree on being in a certain spot. Have you ever had one of those times when you felt like you were throwing a temper tantrum in front of the Lord? And then, once you've had that temper tantrum have you have felt like you were still "sitting on the floor" because you know that as soon as you stand up you will have to let go of your pride, face God, and admit that you're wrong? Even though you know there is no condemnation there is conviction and you just want to skip that stage and just go back to everything being okay like it was before. But you can't, because that's where redemption and the lesson come in. I would say that it's probably just me but the girls agreed with me - they were there as well. As I listened to them talk and we expounded on this analogy I realized I was talking in the past tense. I was talking about a feeling I had, not my current state. For a little less than a year now I have been that temper tantrum thrower and in the past month or so I have been avoiding standing up and growing because I knew I would have to face unpleasant things and admit I was wrong (ugh! my pride!) But then, all of a sudden, there I was at dinner, thinking, "Okay, I'm ready". This could have only come from God Himself. I don't know what standing up will look like or exactly how to go about it but at least I'm willing. My heart has been softened and I'm okay (dare I say, "looking forward to"?) the maturity that will result. So, today did not hold a new job, a new adventure, or anything else exciting but that doesn't mean that the July 3rd tradition didn't hold up - I let go of my expectations and God came through, showing me just a glimpse of a renewed relationship with Him that will be much "bigger and better" than even just a day ago.

I didn't make my time goal - maybe next time...

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Title

It is said that Shane Bernard wrote "Embracing Accusations" after running on the beach one day, contemplating Galatians 3:10 which states, "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written “cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” How awesome it is to continue reading in Galatians 3:13, 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written "cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."'

This is my constant wrestle. The first three lines of the song is the exact way that the enemy gets my heart. I have to believe that Jesus did pay it all and was more than enough - He owes me nothing and I owe Him everything.

Praise God that Jesus Saves!

Father of lies, coming to steal kill and destroy

All my hopes of being good enough

I hear him saying, “cursed are the ones who can’t abide”

He’s right, halleluia, he’s right

The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed

That I am cursed and gone astray

I cannot gain salvation

Embracing accusation

Could the father of lies be telling the truth ofGod to me tonight?

That if the penalty of sin is death, then death is mine

I hear him saying, “cursed are the ones who can’t abide”

The devil’s singing over me an age old song

That I am cursed and gone astray

Singing the first verse so conveniently over me

He’s forgotten the refrain: JESUS SAVES!!!