Mutara Update

One of the things that I have been doing for the last few years in Rwanda is helping people communicate.  I have worked a lot with Amiss on newsletters and different updates.  (His spoken English is really good, but when he tries to write… it is very difficult to decipher.)  (Sorry Amiss.)

He is a great storyteller and communicator – so usually he dictates and I type – I make small grammar changes or ask him to clarify if I think things are hard to understand.  So the rest of this post is one of the recent updates we wrote together.  I thought it would also give you a good idea of how the project is continuing (but nearly in someone else’s words).

line

We are thankful for what God is doing among the support group [for people with HIV/AIDS].  They are growing in their relationship with God, and they are building their families on God’s foundation.

We have several members whose spouses did not want to attend the group, because they were afraid for people to know that they are affected by HIV.  However, because of what our members have been learning, they have wanted their spouses to come.  We are very thankful that four people have convinced their spouses to join us, so we have 4 couples attending together.  The more people come out to the support group, the more we can reduce the spread of HIV by teaching them not to sleep with multiple partners.  Also, the more we interact with people, the more we know how we can assist them.

There is one lady who has come to the support amiss update1group; her name is Ainna.  She came to the group as a Muslim.  A few months ago, she received Christ into her life.  It impacted me deeply to see the big change in her life.

About 1 year ago, we gave 6 families female goats to help them begin to earn income.  Once each female has 2 babies, they give one back to the support group (which we pass on to someone else), and then they can sell one, as well as future offspring.  They can use the profits to start another business or to buy health insurance.   Another benefit of the goats is that they can use the manure as fertilizer.  Currently, three families have goats they are preparing to give back to the support group, and so the next round will begin.  (Ainna’s family was one family who received a goat.)

amiss-update2.jpgIn January, we started a preschool in Ryabega.  Forty percent of the children are children of support group members.  We are glad that they are going to this school – it is a good school.  They are receiving quality education and care in an environment that focuses on child development and supporting the whole family.  One of the children loves his teacher so much; he tried to put some of his breakfast in his pocket, to take as a gift to share with Teacher Robert.  (He is the boy in the orange shirt.)

As we have been trying to get the proper papers to establish the preschool, it has lead to visits by leaders from various levels.   They were excited to see what we are doing, and are happy to collaborate with us.  We have struggled to make the right connections with leaders who can make the recommendations we need, so that our ministries can have official approval.  The visit to the preschool is a big breakthrough for us.

During the long school holiday from Amissupdate3November to January, we had many students who returned from school to our football team.  It was a good time of discipleship, and some of the students gave their lives to Christ and joined churches.  Some of students also stopped drinking and/or smoking.  As more people from this generation come clean, it brings hope for our nation.

Five of our sponsor kids had national exams this year.  Three passed and will move on to the next grade level at a good school.  The ones that didn’t pass will take their next grade level at a lower quality school.

On a personal note, Nathan is doing physio.  We have good insurance for him, which helps us cover his medical treatments for now.  Friends and family have been standing with us to make sure we can care for Nathan well.  The YWAM leaders in Kigali have helped us by providing daily transportation to and from the hospital for our family.  The doctor we are working with is professional, helpful, and good at answering questions and providing additional information.  We are seeing improvement in Nathan’s condition, and are so encouraged by that.

Finally, we are thankful to welcome our friends Mike and Amanda back to Rwanda.  They have spent time with us in Kigali, and it has been good for us to stay together and share our lives again.

 

 

Advertisements

Tax Time (or, Why I Love YWAM part II)

For the first time ever, we got an accountant to do our taxes this year.  We are out of the country through most of tax season, and there are a few things I wasn’t sure how to deal with – and for now I am farming out all of the hard things I can.

(Let me say that I am happier than ever to live in a country where our taxes pay for some amazing things, like roads and health care, but this does make me laugh.)

 

An accountant was recommended who was familiar with YWAM.  (Because of the way we raise our own support, we are in a weird income tax category.)    One of the things he said when we met with him really struck me.  I can’t make an exact quote, but it was something like this,

“You YWAMers.  You shouldn’t have to pay much income tax because you give away so  much of your income.  It gets used for your work and donated to people who need it.  You give more than any people I know.”

This wasn’t exactly news to me.  I know how much of our “income” actually goes towards things for work, and I’ve seen statistics on how much the average Canadian (and Canadian church-goers) give to registered charities.  (And known that the dollar amounts we give are way above that, despite the fact that our income is much, much lower.)

This isn’t to pat myself on the back – generosity is woven into the DNA of YWAM as an organization, and certainly we are far from exceptional among our colleagues.  But I have been thinking a lot about this accountant’s words, and pondering  some of the “why” of this, and have a few thoughts.

One factor is that we are often in positions where we see the value of the work.  I’ve seen some of my colleagues having tremendous impact over the years.  Sometimes the best way I can lend support is through my skills or encouragement.  Sometimes the best way I can lend support is through sharing our finances.

Another factor is that we are often rubbing shoulders with people in real need.  We are in positions where our hearts (and wallets) are moved by compassion.  If the hospital is going to stop caring for my friends’ baby because they can’t pay an $800 deposit (and then the baby will probably die)?   No, I don’t have $800, but I can get $800, and figure out how to adjust our budget to accommodate later.  (Because what’s the value of $800 compared with the life of my friends’ baby?)

Most of the needs are smaller, less dramatic, and more regular than this.  Our friend’s dad is in the hospital, and she wants to travel to him to take some food.  A missionary friend is trying to raise the cost of books, so that her kids can have a decent education.  Another friend has health insurance, and so will be cared for at the hospital, but needs money to pay for the trip to the hospital.    You get the idea.

Sure, there are other ways I would like to spend that money – other things I had planned to spend it on (often things we “need”).  But I find I don’t miss it.

Our Team (Or, the People Who Have Saved My Sanity, Part III)

This has always been the planned third post in this series. (The first and second posts are  here and here.)  It has taken on a bit of a different slant, now.  (Not only because my sanity might be in question.)

 

We have met and worked with some really incredible people in Rwanda.  We moved out to the village Ryabega over 4 years ago with 3 other families we hardly knew to pioneer this project.   We have wildly different backgrounds (including 6 nationalities), experiences, education, skills, theology, and personalities.

team at the tank

team-at-tank-02

P1000035

Cooking with Amiss & Marieth, when we lived with them in their house.

Professionally, it has often been difficult to work through issues of direction and how to get there – but we have consistently come up with better solutions together than we would have alone.  The variety of skills and passions across our team has allowed us to have impact and insight into various areas.  It has been a privilege and an honour to serve alongside such excellent individuals.

P1000355

P1000607

cleaning the tanks

P1000628

 

Personally, these people are my dear friends.  We have walked together through more than our share of tragic and dramatic.

I would far rather be the one helping than the one needing help – but in these last months especially, these people have generally been there for me before I have even asked.  And on the occasions when I have asked, they have responded without hesitation.

There have also been all of the

e
Our Aussie team member, making sure we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. (She also took many of these pictures).

ordinary, daily experiences: coffee and cake (CAKE!!  you have no idea how good cake can be when you rarely get treats); parenting advice, support, and encouragement; and practical help (once we had invited everyone over for a meal, and I went outside to find two of the guys replacing the broken backflow valve on our watertank).

 

 

 

 

And they loved my child.  They played with her, valued her, and helped us be better parents.  Their kids played with Beatrix, and she adored them.  (They are great kids.)

IMG_4660

After swimming.

IMG_8662

IMG_8675

All 3 siblings trying to help Beatrix ride the bike.

P1050008

The picture just before this shows mama and friend distressed, as Beatrix was trying to crawl onto the baby – but they patiently helped her figure it out – Beatrix just wanted to give her a hug.

IMG_5504

IMG_5347

There are more pictures, and so many more memories, but I think this is a good selection.  When we were thinking of moving to the village to work on this project, we knew that we couldn’t do it alone, and that we would only go if others came to work here, too.  But we had no idea we would meet, live and work with such incredible people.

 

Odd & Awed

We are spending some time in Europe on our way back to Canada.  We are debriefing, visiting, and resting.

I have a strange life.

I have many moments where I catch myself, stand back, and think, “My life is really weird.”

Sometimes it is because I am totally bewildered, and have no idea how I ended up in this moment or how to move forward.  Sometimes, it is because some very strange set of circumstances has collided so that I find myself in the midst of an awesome experience, and I stop to be grateful for the privilege.

In the last months, we have been in some beautiful places.  I have had those moments, where I have nearly stopped and thought, “My life is really weird.  This is awesome”  Each time, my brain has stopped itself before the thought has been entirely completed, interrupting itself with a second thought, “But I wouldn’t be here if my daughter hadn’t died, so really, there is nothing awesome about this situation.”

 

On Easter Sunday I was walking through the woods, and my brain started this same thought.  (I was walking through the woods, in Denmark, near the ocean.  Where we were staying with friends at a seaside cabin for the Easter weekend.  I’m sure you can see how the thought was sparked.)  This time, though, as my brain started arguing with itself that I don’t really appreciate the amazing set of circumstances that has brought me here, there was another argument – that even so, even given the pain that we have been through, it is still awesome that I get to heal with such good friends – in such a beautiful place.  I never would have imagined myself wandering through the woods near the Danish coastline – but here I am, and it is awesome.

P1060444