Next year

I think most of you have heard by now that we are planning to come back to Rwanda after visiting friends and family in Canada for a few months!  We are excited to return to this land and looking forward to a new project.  The people we have been working with have been very affirming and encouraging as we prepare to say goodbye for a time: it has helped us see that we have had an impact here.

Originally, we had hoped to move to (U)Mutara and work with a Dutch couple that had many years experience in missions and had lived in Rwanda for several years.  However, they were forced to leave Rwanda suddenly due to health issues almost 2 years ago.  So when we planned to come to Kigali, we prayed that sometime during this first year, the Lord would send someone so we could be a team heading to Mutara together.

(U)Mutara is the name of the region, Nyagatare is the large town we will be living in.

(U)Mutara is the name of the region, Nyagatare is the large town we will be living in.

We were quite surprised when 2 couples from Europe arrived the second week we were here and announced their intentions to come back and work on the Mutara project!  (One couple arrived last month, and the second couple will be arriving in January with their children… Click on the links to learn more about them – one site is in Norwegian but they told us Google translate does a pretty good job!)

In addition, a Rwandan couple who got married last December and then took part in the DTS beginning in January will also join us.  We have seen their practical skills and value, and could go on and on about what they will bring to the team (translation, health care skills, cultural advice, counselling skills, ability/desire to serve, wisdom, experience working with people with HIV/AIDS, etc, etc), but we are so thankful because they have also become very good friends in the last year.

We are working on a name and an official description of what we will be doing.  YWAM has already purchased the land, drilled a well, and installed pipe up to water holding tanks.  Originally the plans were for a kind of children’s village, but with the changing laws where the government wants to have each child in a home, that has become impossible.  A broad heading for what we are hoping to accomplish there is community development.  One of the first tangible things to be established will be a health clinic.  (Anne is a trained nurse, and Amiss has some primary health care training.)  We are planning to work on some agriculture techniques, natural medicine training, and some small business opportunities particularly arising out of that.  (I hesitate to say natural medicine because of what it means in the west, but some of the main things for this project include simple nutrition and sanitation, alternative malaria treatments/malaria prevention & lessening the overuse/abuse of antibiotics.)  We are planning to do some programs for youth and young adults, and to eventually start a preschool.  Once somewhat established in the community, we are hoping to do some training in parenting (the idea of being involved in your child’s development is new here: kids are left with a low level even of supervision, and beating them is the common way to communicate that the child has made a mistake).  We also want to remember that the project was started to see the lonely in families, and so we want to identify ways to help the most vulnerable children both directly (ie, through food aid and seeing orphans placed in families) and indirectly (ie, through parenting, nutrition, & medical education for the community in general) in co-operation with the new laws.

As a team, we have many big ideas, and we are looking forward to seeing them in practice!

Incidentally… (updated)

Wow, it is hard to believe that we have been here for almost a year.  We have been reflecting on our time here, and many of the important things that have happened, have happened not through our structured work but simply through living here.

One important thing has been helping to encourage our friend Celestin.  He has been working out of the city pioneering a preschool among returning refugees: we started sending him text messages once a week or so to say “Hi, how are you?”  It doesn’t take much time and isn’t a big deal, but he says, “NO, it IS a big deal!” because to him it means that he is not forgotten; that he is not working alone.

Josephine runs a small business selling cloth and making clothes.  She has been wonderful, because she speaks great English, and when I was introduced to her she explained, “I am a Christian, so I run my business like that.  I won’t trick you into paying more; I will give you fair prices.”  And she does.  Sometimes bargaining is fun, but sometimes haggling over every penny, all the time gets exhausting, so it is refreshing to have someone I can trust to buy things from and to help me know the right prices for things.  She came to a presentation about the outreach to South Sudan and came up to me after saying, “You are a REAL Christian, I didn’t know mzungus could be REAL Christians!”  (!?!)  I want to say 2 things about this: First, she deals with a lot of mzungus at her market stall, and I have been ashamed at the way I’ve seen some people treat her.  Second, to her, being a real Christian means being kind and caring for the people around you, living with honesty and integrity, praying, and caring for the needy (especially orphans & widows).  I am thankful for her friendship, her prayers, and what I am learning from her.

Many of you probably remember our laundry debate.  In the end, we hired Florence to come and do our laundry once a week, for about $5/week: it takes her about an hour.  (On a comparison scale, many people doing jobs like this get payed $50/month for full time work).  She is a mother of 2 and someone who lives with HIV/AIDS, and has had a very difficult life.  (A team was here last year and documented her story: you can see  it here.)  I have seen a huge transformation in her in the last year!  When she first started, she was afraid of us, and wouldn’t look us in the eye, and she rarely smiled.  (Part of this is because of her hurts/inferiority, and part is because she hasn’t had much interaction with mzungus.)  When she comes in the morning, she waits shyly outside our door.  Throughout this year, several Florence w.Mike & Amandathings have happened: through the visits of teams and counsellors,  she has forgiven some of the hurt that has been done to her.  APRECOM has also helped her by giving clothes for herself and her family.  And we have been persistent in our attempts to communicate and be kind.  I realized that a huge change had taken place when I returned after 2 months away: when she saw me, she broke out in a huge smile and ran into our place to hug me!  I was taken aback and so excited!

We don’t want to leave Florence without a way to support herself when we leave:  there are plans for her to start her own business.  It will take about $150   $125 more to complete what she needs, and you can read more about that here.  (Through your generous donations, Florence will be able to start her business!!)

It has been incredible to see what has come out of the plans and programs we have been involved with during the last year.  But it is also great to recognize that we can have an impact through our normal, daily lives!  (And this is true wherever we are, but it seems here there is much opportunity to re-present the character of Christ(ians) and especially people from the west.)

Jewelry for sale!

Remember the jewelry we gave away earlier in the year?  Made by people with HIV/AIDS and widows  as a way of generating some income? (We have written before about Odeth & the APRECOM ministry, so I won’t repeat it again here.)  Well, start thinking of people on your Christmas list, because we have some unique and cheap items! We have some specific items for sale, and there may be more posted as items are brought into the shop.  If you click on the pictures, you will see a larger, more detailed picture. (I am not sure how popular this will be, if there is a lot of interest, I will get more items up.)  If you are interested in a piece, please comment below, along with which piece you want.  (First commentor on a specific piece will be able to have “dibs.”)   There are a few multiples, or a few things in different colors: there are some pictures at the bottom of more that is available but not reserved, if you see something you like in these pictures, let me know and I can send you a picture/more information. All prices have been converted to dollars (I’ll take American or Canadian).  I am hoping to see most of you before Christmas (YAY!) and we can deliver your order then, but if we won’t be seeing you, we can work out shipping.

purple hoops

Purple hoop earrings, about 2.5 inches long


dangling shiny earrings, about 3 inches long

p black hoops

Black hoop earrings, about 2.5 inches long

green circles

Green circle earrings, about 3 inches in diameter

wood bead bracelet

Wood/plastic beaded bracelet,
(ring not for sale )

shell bracelet

shell bracelet

colored bead bracelet

Coloured bead bracelet
$9 (SOLD)

coloured bead bracelet 2

same bracelet, different view

rwanda bracelet

“RWANDA” bracelet
$9 (SOLD)

B & w bead bracelet

Black & white beaded bracelet, $9 (SOLD)


misc 3misc (2) If you are interested in something in one of these 3 pictures, let me know and I will try to get a better picture of the item and or/more information. (Click on the picture to enlarge.)

Sales will close on Oct. 20.

Mourning To Joy

This past spring, I (Mike) was privileged to work with some friends of ours who set up a camp/conference during the week of mourning in Rwanda. Their ministry (called ‘Hagari’ the kinyarwandan name for Hagar) involves working on a daily basis with women who have been (or still are) involved in prostitution as a means of making a living.  (These are the same ladies we have done cooking lessons with.) They work to convince these women that there is a better way to live and to bless them with the dignity they deserve as cherished children of God and women of value. They also help those who desire to leave the lifestyle to find work and learn skills that will give them opportunities for alternate employment.

So, during the mourning week, the country stops everything and gathers together to remember, learn, grow, and grieve the trauma of the genocide in 1994. Our friends felt inspired to have a conference of teaching, food and fellowship. They hoped it would be a blessing to the women because often the grieving becomes unhealthy brooding in isolation.  They wanted to bring healthy grieving in the midst of fellowship and community.  The women have children that they bring with them to the functions of the ministry.  So in the afternoons, after teaching and food, the kids would come from the home/ministry base to the large soccer field at the YWAM campus (where we live).

I asked if I could help with the kids activities and was soon drawn into the afternoon play. mike duck duck goose Monday, the first day, there were about 115 kids who showed up with their mothers. By Wednesday, there were about one 180 kids altogether (word spread fast that there was free food and organized play).  By Friday, the last day of the conference, there were over 220 kids playing games with us! I was astounded to see that many kids in one place, filling up an entire soccer field!

I was given some time over the course of three days to teach three new games for them to play. Fortunately, my translator was very patient and willing to demonstrate (in an MIke teachingexaggerated fashion) the actions of the games. We ended up playing the same three games each day because the learning curve was pretty steep in such a mob and because, as most who have young children know, they can play the same game umpteen times and still never tire of it!

As with anything involving that many children, the activities would inevitably break down into chaos where the only thing I could explain to them to play mike catch(mostly through body language and my poor kinyarwandan) was a game I later named ‘chase the mzungu’.  (‘Mzungu’ is a word that typically means foreigner or white guy.)  After things broke down into small groups doing random things: playing soccer, Frisbee, jump rope, cartwheels, etc. I woumike game (2)ld be mobbed by 30 to 40 kids who wanted to touch my arms or beard (because I look very different).  I would then shout something to distract their attention and then bolt to the other end of the field…trailed shortly thereafter by fifty or sixty shouting 8-12 year-olds. They would catch/mob me and eventually the process would start all over again, each time the kids becoming more wary and ready for my escape. All in all a fun and exhausting way to spend the afternoon!

One side effect to all this fun, was the mothers became interested in the games. Typically the adults leave the kids to entertain themselves and don’t engage in much play with their Mike gamechildren.  By Wednesday the women were hurrying to finish lunch cleanup so they could get to the soccer field and join in the games we were playing. They got to enjoying it so much, that I received stories of the ladies talking about it for the next two weeks! It was so encouraging to see the kids (who already smile and laugh easily) and the women (who smile some and laugh less) enjoy themselves so much at the games. I think I witnessed first hand what Isaiah 61 describes Jesus is about:  proclaiming good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming freedom for the captives, comforting all who mourn, bestowing on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.