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Category: Africa

Thoughts on my trip to Rwanda

[ 1 ] July 22, 2010

A week ago I was still in Rwanda, Africa, spending time with orphans who lived (on a good day) on bananas, beans and peanuts.  Their living conditions were mud brick houses that had no furniture.  Some of the older kids were orphaned by the 1994 genocide and others by the death of their parents through AIDS. Their medicine cabinet was often a window sill with one old toothbrush on it.  Their family was the other orphans in their community.  But they were happy; the ZOE ministry program we help support had given them hope, something that would have been impossible without outside help.

Our flight home took almost 36 hours, from Rwanda to Ethiopia to Washington DC and then back to Dallas.  Even though we had only been gone less than 10 days, it was striking to enter the Dulles Airport in Washington.  To leave a country with almost nothing and then enter the overwhelming affluence represented by the nation’s capital was almost embarrassing; I really did not know how to think.  But still, after I made some emergency phone calls back to the church (I had not had access to a phone during the journey), I paused and had a hamburger with cheese and grilled onions.  It was good to be home.

I am once again used to a soft bed, hot water, abundant food and a comfortable world with almost every convenience possible, yet the Bible says, “The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!”

When the tremendous trappings of our lives are cleared away for a few minutes, whether it is a trip to an area of the world in poverty, an experience with cancer, a broken marriage, a grievous loss or just a week where we figure out we are not really in control, we often see and experience things we haven’t been able to see in the midst of the myriads of unimportant details that seem to dominate our lives.  We discover things like faith, love, friendship, trust, family, the simplicity of a life shared with each other, with Jesus Christ, loving God, serving others, following Jesus, the day-by-day minutes that can be overwhelmed by the details of a complicated life and then set free by the surprises and the crises that may come our way.

I learned some of this by being thankful for the small banana and piece of pineapple I ate most mornings in Africa as I prepared to go out each day to experience the surprises God surely had for me.  I hope God surprises us all today!


[ 0 ] July 19, 2010

This little boy is Ernest, the same name as my father.  When I told him this, he put his head on my chest and smiled, the first smile I saw from him.  He is an orphan, has been since he was 10, living on the streets in Butare, now back in a small hut in rural village.  He will soon be moving into a ZOE mud brick house that his new family of orphans is helping him build.  He is one of 1000 orphans we plan to adopt and support through the 3 year move to independence, self respect. community, and faith, our 250,000 dollar commitment over these next three years will change this part of Rwanda and I am convinced, Jesus is pleased with this commitment and Giving Hope program.  The woman in the picture is Epiphany, the Rwandan director of the program.  she received her Masters degree while we were in Rwanda and is a survivor of the Genocide in 1994, as Gaston an assistant director of Zoe said, she is a “Fierce woman of God!”.

Shoyge Primary and Secondary School

[ 1 ] July 14, 2010

This was an amazing moment, as some would say, a big deal.  Some of our group attended the 6 hour Dedication of Shogye Primary and Secondary school.  A family in our Church made a generous donation that built this school in an area of Rwanda in much need of such an institution, one that is and will teach young people how to become teachers themselves.  Besides the some 500 attendees, the Rwanda State Minister of Primary and secondary Schools spoke, as did the Anglican Bishop of the Area, the mayor, many students, and others. We also had a ribbon cutting and were surprised when they unveiled a pillar thanking First United Methodist Church of Mansfield for this school that included a large cafeteria where the dedication service was held, a large kitchen, many classrooms, and multiple dorm rooms.  It was an amazing campus already in operation.  Of course at the dedication it was God that we thanked.   I had the unexpected honor of speaking at the dedication as well as praying the dedication prayer, with interpreter (The pastor standing beside me).  It was quite a day as we celebrated with dancers, drums, and music.  My message was simple, this school was God’s idea and in God’s heart long before it was built with God’s money, money that for a season was in the hands of a Christian family, then in the hands of His Church, and now coming to life in the lives of children.  It was nice to be a small part of such a community transforming institution.  It is honor for me to be a part of a Church family with a heart so generous that it reaches in Jesus’ name to the heart of Rwanda, a generosity that will be experienced by Children for years to come.  Who knows, it might be that one day a graduate of this school will lead the nation of Rwanda.

First year Giving Hope Orphans, Butare, Rwanda

[ 0 ] July 13, 2010

This is Donetta with her 10 year old sister and her invalid aunt.  Her mother died three years ago and she has been caring for the family since. She lives in a small hut on a very small plot of ground, barely surviving.  She grows a garden next to her hut about ten by ten and has a goat that Zoe ministry gave her.  Soon she will move into a new home that the orphans are building with the help of ZOE, a triplex made out of mud bricks, steel roof, concrete stucco, bathroom and kitchen, just a short way from here.  She is a first year Giving Hope Companion, in a previous blog I talked about the third year groups who have made amazing strides in self sufficiency.  We met many other first years, one whose father was killed in the genocide, another family of 9 children who parents had died of aids.  After the larger groups told their story, sang, and gave us some gifts, they had to leave, for these older orphans had to get home to care for the younger children who were getting out of school soon.  The last song they sang ended with these words, “This is good, but heaven is better”.  We hope to go back in three years to see how Giving Hope has impacted Donetta and the other 50 or so like her who we pray gain independence, self sufficiency, and a growing faith and trust in God. Our hope as a Church is to adopt an entire community of orphans and walk with them through the three years.  A community is a thousand Donettas.  God help us do so.

The Giving Hope (ZOE) orphan families

[ 1 ] July 12, 2010

Today was amazingly eventful as we toured the 3rd year of the Giving Hope Program.  We have been a part of this through ZOE ministry already supporting the program up to this point.  Our goal is to adopt 1,000 more orphans who will begin the first year and walk with them to the third year of independence, a journey from hunger, isolation, abuse, and hopelessness, to hope, independence, community, faith, and life.  We toured a cassava plantation and later a coffee plantation run by the orphan families, saw homes, animals, the orphans themselves adopting other children, and communities created that provided security, education, food, and so much more.  This photo is the last part of the day when many of the orphans and their created families met with us.  They danced for and with us, sang, did some dramas they use to teach the younger children about aids and possible abuse, and fellowshipped in a remarkable way.  The event ended as we held hands and prayed together in Jesus Name.  I am convinced that God is leading us to step up in Rwanda as we get to partner with Jesus in the amazing recovery of a nation that has been wracked by genocide, civil war, and disease.  These children were born the first time in a season of strife and despair, through Giving hope they are being born again to a life of hope because Churches like ours are listening to the voice of Jesus.

Church, 3 hours with Jesus in Butare, Rwanda

[ 1 ] July 11, 2010

Sunday in Africa

[ 1 ] July 10, 2010

One of the difficult things on a trip like this is the time change, but the good think about that is we wake up early and see the sun rise. We arrived in Butare last night so just a few minutes ago I could look out the window.and see what this part of Rwanda looks like.  You see in this photo what I see;  beautiful isn’t it.  Banana and palm trees and an African man just barley visible who is cooing breakfast on an open fire. I wish you could hear the birds. We are preparing to go to Church.  In my devotional I read the verse, “as the deer thirst for the water brook so does my heart thirst for you O Lord!”.  God is good, His presence and love is the same everywhere.  We will go to a small pentecostal church near where we are staying, one many of the orphans in the Giving Hope program attend.  So not only will we meet God in a worship service, but we will meet some of the kids for the first time.  We are excited, to be in Africa, to get ready for Church, to get started with the Giving Hope ministry our Church will support at the level of 250,000, for the next three years, and to connect with  God, in worship, in the beautiful creation that surrounds us, in the friendships and partnership we are building, and in the hearts of us all as we thirst for God and prepare to drink.  Prayers for you.


[ 0 ] July 10, 2010

Saturday was an amazing day.  We made the long drive to Butare where we will work directly with the giving hope program but along the way eventful things happened.  The photo is where we stopped to tour the school we will dedicate on Tuesday, a school that a family in our Church made possible.  It will be a tremendous impact teaching more than 300 students a year who will become teachers themselves.  There are multiple classrooms, cafeteria, dorm rooms, a kitchen, bathrooms, and a visible presence in the community.  We were highly impressed.  The people milling around are part of our church team and  groups from several other churches traveling with us.  On this same day we visited the Rwanda Genocide museum, after this sobering experience of learning more about the almost one million Rwandas who were killed sixteen years ago it was a blessing to see this tangible school that will make such a difference.  But we have seen more, Rwanda is rebuilding, infrastructure, churches, schools, homes, business, and even more importantly hearts.  Rwandans have made a commitment to put the past behind and build a new Rwanda that has no divisions and hate.  Our guide said it well, there is no longer any Hutus, and Tutsis, there are just Rwandans.  You can feel hope in the air.  We hope God can use us to help just a little as well as bring back the Spirit, Faith, and hope that so pervades this country of ten million.  What seems to be the key, an amazing ability to strive for justice for the victims, but also to forgive.  I think we have something to learn.  In ways Rwanda is a miracle.  What should could have totally destroyed a nation has not.  It is being born again with the help of people all over the world, and a spirit of hope and toil that is tangible.  It is great to meet the people and experience the faith they have and adding a little of our own (we ate lunch just a few feet from a hand-full of secretary birds,  Google secretary bird and see an amazing creature).


[ 2 ] July 9, 2010

Me, Teresa Sherwood, our Director of Missions, and Epiphany, the Local Zoe Ministry Representative, standing in front of the Rwanda Airport.

Epiphany met us there and we headed into the capital city of Kigali.  We are spending the night at the Iris guest house lodge, will visit the Genocide Museum in the morning, and then head out to connect with the orphans that we will be working with in the Giving Hope program the next 3 years. Rwanda is tropical and beautiful, lush and green, and packed full of people.  Pray our Church together can make a difference in this amazing part of the world.  We are also looking forward to the Secondary School Dedication on Tuesday.  Pray for me, Teresa, Debbie, Donnie, Kathy, Amy, Barbara , Jan, and the children we hope to impact in the next few years.  God is good giving us this opportunity as we represent Christ and you in this special season of Hope.  (By the way, if you ever get a chance to eat papaya, don’t, the pineapple tasted good though.)


[ 1 ] July 8, 2010

We arrived safely in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a short time ago and will have an all night layover.  We will fly out for Kigali Rwanda in the morning. Thingss are going well as we connected with a Florida group that is going with us. We are all excited as we prepare for our mission as soon as we recover from the 22 hours or so on the airplane.  I did discover that our Church is one of the most important supporters of Zoe ministry as well as learning of the significance of the new school dedication.  This completed school has upgraded ZOE and Zoes on ground leader Epiphany a great deal.  The footprint of Christ’s love and grace is growing just like we hoped.  I will blog as I find access to Internet.  (can you say sporadic and slow).