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.