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...