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This week we were privileged to participate in the food distribution in the village of Mahama in the South East of Rwanda. During the last rainy season, the rains were not sufficient to produce a harvest and so the people in this region have been struggling with food shortages for some time. The Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), in partnership with CBM and AEBR mobilized a delivery of 73 tonnes of maize flour, 23 tonnes of beans, and 5800 litres of cooking oil to families.

Photo: A group of about 30 men unload the maize flour bags into the church

Photo: Three young boys volunteered to help (the maize flour bags left dust on everyone)

We were there when the final 2 tonnes of maize flour was delivered. It was amazing to watch this group of men carry bag after bag. They were almost running into the church. Each bag weighs 25 kilos. While it isn’t an overwhelmingly heavy bag to carry, they all made several trips and had the truck unloaded in about 15 minutes. 

 

Photo: Gabriel and Andre worked very hard to manage this distribution.

Three of the key people here in Rwanda who were instrumental in arranging the logistics and details for this food distribution are Gabriel, Andre and Ken Derksen (not pictured). They sourced food, coordinated the beneficiary lists, arranged for secure storage facilities and assembled a team to manage the distribution. It has required a significant amount of time and energy to get things off the ground. We thank these three hard working men, along with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for making everything happen according to plan. 

Photo: Beans, maize flour, and cooking oil

Based on the World Food Program standards, a month supply of food per person consists of 12.5 kilos of maize flour (1/2 of the bag shown), 4 kilos of beans (one bucket full), and 1 litre of cooking oil. Based on a survey of communities, 8 villages in the region around Mahama were chosen because of the severity of the food shortage in this region. The local village leaders, called the umudugudu leader (“oo-moo-doo-goo-doo” – we love saying that word), carefully made lists of the families in their communities and great effort was taken to ensure it was those in greatest need who received their share of the food. 

Photo: A large group of people gather around the church (notice the boy in the tree)

Photo: Line of people waiting to receive their food allotment

The staff developed an efficient method for moving people through quickly. Each person presented their ID card, signed for the food, opened a bag they brought with them to carry the beans and oil, and then received one (or more) sacs of maize flour. The logistics for this kind of operation require a great deal of planning and coordination but the team did an excellent job. By the end of the second day, the food was gone and 1365 households (5728 people) had received food for a month. 

Photo: A young girl who is the head of her household

One very moving moment happened when this young girl arrived to pick up her food. The check in person said; “Where is this young girl’s parent? Her parent should be here to collect the food for the family.” But the village leader explained that this girl’s mother left home recently, and now this young girl is looking after herself and her younger siblings. There were many elderly women and other families who clearly needed the food assistance and this made the whole effort extremely rewarding. 

Photo: For people who live at a distance, bicycle taxis are a practical means for transporting their food

Photo: Woman carries 25 kilo sac of maize flour on her head

We were asked to participate in this food distribution in order to provide an extra measure of accountability to ensure everything happened according to plan and the food ended up in the hands of the beneficiaries. As we walked among the people, we had a number of beneficiaries walk over to us and express the most sincere and heartfelt “thank you” we have ever received. We were the ‘representative Canadians’ and for this reason we received this beautiful expression of thanks (on behalf of all of you back in Canada who have faithfully given to support those in need around the world). 

Photo: Many families making the long journey home

Gradually the crowds thinned as the beneficiaries received their portion and made their way home. Even though we did not have a strenuous responsibility, we found the experience extremely tiring because of the heat (32 degrees) and the emotionally charged atmosphere. We gained a tremendous sense of appreciation for the staff and volunteers who put in very long days literally carrying tonnes of sacs of food all day long. 

 

 


 

We have a number of photos we enjoyed so much we decided we just had to share them. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. 

Photo: Late afternoon sunshine beams in through the church window illuminating the maize flour dust in the air. A woman’s yellow sac catches the light casting a golden glow. 

Photo: Beneficiaries wait patiently for their turn in the shade of a tree

Photo: A happy and appreciative beneficiary

CBM’s Andre Sibomana greets a woman beneficiary

Photo: Some women beneficiaries sitting in the hot sun (for the opening speeches by village leaders and pastors)

Photo: One of many men who carried heavy bags of beans and flour all day long in the heat of the African sun. 

Recently, we were asked if we could write a blog on food in Rwanda. Here is an overview of our experiences both in rural areas as well as urban.

Our first visit to a person’s house confused us slightly as we were invited for a Fanta.  To us this meant that we were going to have a soda together and a short visit.  To the Rwandan this meant, bring a case of Fanta and we will have a meal together.  One of the cultural adjustments for us has been that one invites oneself to another person’s home.  So if we want to extend a hand of friendship, we say, “I want to come to your house for a visit.” A case of Fanta is now in order!

Photo: A typical Rwandan buffet lunch

When we are in someone’s home in the rural setting, the food is cooked over an open fire and placed in pots with the lids on.  Grace is said and then the special guests go first, then the “big men”, then the rest of the people and last the children. Rice, beans, cassava root, isombe (cassava leaves), potatoes, boiled bananas and sometimes a piece of meat (beef, goat or fish) are served regularly with a tomato sauce.  If it is a special occasion, a plate of avocados, onions and tomatoes will be served with a heaping dollop of mayonnaise. At the end there are usually bananas and even sometimes pineapple!  Fantas are always served warm and with a straw.

Photo: Buffet of rice, beans, chips, isombe and grilled talapia

A Rwandan buffet is quite different than a Canadian buffet.  In Canada, a buffet usually means go up as many times as you like until you are full.  In Rwanda, a buffet means fill your plate as much as you can as you are only suppose to go up once!  Even children manage to fill their plates to the max as you can see in this picture of a six year old’s plate.

Photo: Six year old takes a second helping at Christmas

 Only one piece of meat is allowed unless otherwise stipulated.  If you are muzungu (westerner), they don’t usually complain if you take more meat but they might charge you for the extra protein.  Cream of mushroom soup or Rwandan green soup (vegetable, dodo, etc.) is often served first at a nice buffet.  Then the usual carbs (rice, potatoes, baked beans, boiled bananas, chips, and ugali). Cooked vegetables are served depending on what is in season (carrots, green beans, aubergine) and usually some fruit is an option at the end (bananas, pineapple, passion fruit or tree tomatoes).  And of course the ever present Fanta!  But one has a choice of cold or warm.

Photo: Jonathan with a Fanta

Fast food is not really available here.  If you stop en route somewhere to grab a bit to eat, plan for at least an hour or two.  Unless you want just a snack like boiled eggs with Agabaga (hot chili oil), roasted corn, brochette (goat intestines) or a sambuza.  Often when traveling, we will grab a yogurt (with a straw) and maybe a mandazi (like a big day old timbit).  We tend to stay away from the roadside meat if at all possible as our stomachs just can’t handle it.

Photo: Hard Boiled Eggs

The urban setting is a lot different than it use to be.  Kigali has all kinds of restaurants and as Canadian Baptist Ministries staff we all have our favourites.  The Bustins love New Cactus as it has a lovely view of the city, good lemon buttered tilapia and friendly service.  The Derksens like Urban Blue as it is fast and their coffee crusted steak is to die for.  Andre Sibomana loves to eat at The Great Wall Chinese restaurant. We like The Indian Chef as it is authentic Indian cuisine.  There is even a Japanese restaurant around the corner from us now but it costs $30US per person to even have 8 pieces.  Being in a landlocked country means that seafood is expensive.   Jonathan doesn’t really care for seafood but I miss my shrimp.

Cooking at home has gotten much easier now.  When we first arrived it seemed like every day we ate ham sandwiches.  Our meals rotated between hamburger casserole or chicken & rice.  The grocery stores have a decent selection of western food but one has to be willing to pay for it.  Torilla wraps are available for about $5 to $6 US.  Kellogg’s cereal can be as much as $15 US.  But if you don’t mind some of the local brands then things are a little more affordable.  Our regular grocery store list would be: Rwandan yogurt, Rwandan gouda cheese, Rwandan coffee, oatmeal, raisins, chicken, ground beef, pasta, any thing from the expiry table that looks fun and is a good price (2 for 1).  Our house help goes to the market for us weekly and that list is usually: fresh milk, eggs, mangos, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts and Rwandan honey. We have a nice kitchen garden where we grow lettuce, peppers, onions and carrots.  Our trees also supply us with enough avacado, bananas and guava to feed the birds, monkeys and some people in our neighbourhood.  So nowadays we eat a lot of taco salad, curried rice, chili, casseroles, pineapple chicken, omelettes, smoothies, etc. We always have a case of soda in the pantry in case locals drop in unannounced for a Fanta. 

Photo: kitchen garden in our back yard

We really don’t want for too much although Jonathan constantly misses Twizzlers and I miss good chocolate.  Western visitors are always asked to bring these two things for us to enjoy and we seem to have trouble making them last until the next visitors come.  Sushi and seafood are my favourite foods but I ate Asian the whole time I was on home assignment so I can’t complain.  Jonathan would love to have a roast beef dinner at some point but it is hard to justify that for just the two of us.

So, if you happen to be in Rwanda, you are always welcome. If you want to drop in for a Fanta, it is ready for you. But don’t forget the twizzlers and chocolate! 

Homemade mandazi (Rwandan doughnuts) and a cup of fairtrade coffee made for the perfect start to our Rwandan night at Kanata Baptist Church. Over 100 people came out to hear about our adventures and to support the fundraiser.

Photo: Jonathan & Jan share some fun stories

Jonathan and Jan shared about some cultural adjustments.  Jonathan shared about different standards of modesty, and how he has felt “naked” both in Rwanda and Canada.  Jan talked about some of the differences between Rwandan and Canadian bathrooms.

If you missed the presentation here is a short clip:

Cultural Adjustment – Modesty from Jonathan Mills on Vimeo.

 

Sights and Sounds of Rwanda (and Burundi)

Photo: David Rukundo sings 

A friend from Matthew House Ottawa, David Rukundo, sang his original songs in English, French and Kurundi.  This young man sings from his heart with emotion and with his love for God.  It was a joy to see him again and see how God has blessed his life.

Photo: Grace and Christelle dance

Of course a Rwandan celebration is not complete without some traditional dancers. Grace and Christelle performed two beautiful dances to help the audience feel like they were in Rwanda.  “They were as beautiful as cows!” and even had the bells on to add to the music.

Photo: Sharing about the work of CBM and AEBR

The biggest part of the evening was sharing about the wonderful partnership between CBM (Canadian Baptist Ministries) and AEBR (Association d’Eglises Baptiste aux Rwanda). Integral Mission is key to everything we do together from Leadership Development to Food Security; “Embracing a broken world through word and deed.”   The ministries in Rwanda are a blessing to us as well as to the beneficiaries.

The IT Project

One Short Term Mission Team has been virtual until recently.  When the Mills asked members of Kanata Baptist Church to participate in building a server and network for the AEBR with enterprise financial software running on it, a number of IT professionals agreed to help. Over the past months this plan has seen incredible progress as the hardware, software and technical expertise have all come together.

Photo: Silicone Chip keychains. A perfect nerdy accessory

The Sept 23rd event at Kanata Baptist was a fundraiser to ensure there are sufficient funds to complete the server project. It is an exciting time for everyone involved in the project because the AEBR will finally have the right kind of software available to allow the Administration department to manage the finances of the organization efficiently.

Look who’s back in Canada for Home Assignment!

We are in Canada for the next three months and we are speaking at different churches every Sunday. We also have a few Friday evenings planned for Rwanda Nights just in case you want a more detailed update. After the schedule are a few pictures to peak your interest in the ministries that you help support.

Schedule (all dates are Sunday unless noted otherwise):

  • September 4th – Kanata Baptist Church (Ottawa) @ 9:30am
  • September 9th (Friday) – Donway Baptist Church (Toronto) @ 7pm
  • September 11th – First Baptist, Beamsville @ 10am
  • September 18th – Revive (Alexandria) @ 9am
    • Breadalbane Baptist Church (near Vankleek Hill) @ 11am
  • September 23rd (Friday) – Rwanda Night at Kanata Baptist Church (ticket event) 7pm
  • September 24th (Saturday) — Cambridge Street Baptist Church (Lindsay) 5pm
  • September 25th – Edmison Heights Baptist Church (Peterborough) @ 10am
    • Gilmore Memorial Baptist Church (Peterborough) @ 6pm
  • October 2nd – First Baptist, Listowel @10:30am
    • North Dresden Baptist Church @ 4pm
  • October 9th – Marchmont Baptist Church (Orillia) @ 10:30am
  • October 16th – Changes:
    • First Baptist Church Ottawa @ 9am (Cancelled)
    • Pleasant Park Baptist Church (Ottawa) @ 7pm
  • October 23rd – Kipling Baptist Church (Warren) @11am
  • October 30th – King Street Baptist Church (Cambridge) @ 9:45am (Combined Sunday School class); and 10:50am at the worship service.
    • First Baptist, Whitby @ 6pm
  • November 6th – Edmonton, AB (TBD)
  • November 13th – First Baptist Cornwall @ 9am
  • November 20th – Kingsway Baptist Church (Toronto) @ 10am

Hope to see you soon! Here are the photos:

1) Health Centres

Photo: Woman Technician at Babazi Health Centre

2) Schools

Photo: Students at High School in Musanze (Northern Province)

3) Guardians of Hope

Photo: Children in the Guardians of Hope Program — Psychosocial Support Group

4) Evangelism. Gikumbi church plant West of Kigali

Photo: People gather on hillside at Gikumbi church site for an evangelistic service

5) Leadership – Capacity Building

Photo: Jonathan with Rev. Leonard Kabayiza, President of the AEBR

6) Women’s empowerment

Photo: Jan with the President of Women’s Ministries, Musanze Region

When we first visited the church in Musanze, they had recently suffered a great tragedy. Pastor Dismas, the Regional Pastor in charge of this parish, was very close to completing the construction of the church building. It had taken several years to save money and arrange for the construction of the four walls. Only a week before my visit they had installed the main rafters for the roof. But tragically, a severe wind storm had come one night and all the rafters fell down, destroying them all and leaving the church community reeling.

Photo: Pastor Dismas and the damaged church rafters 

Meanwhile, back in our home church in Ottawa, Jan was having some conversations with Doug and Annie Burt. Doug is a master carpenter who has build and renovated over 50 churches in Canada during his career, including Kanata Baptist Church. When the Burts first heard about our appointment to Rwanda, Doug immediately said to Jan, “If you ever have a build, let me know.” Doug and Annie had been to Kenya on an Short Term Mission (STM) team in 2009, and Doug has also been involved in construction STM’s in Jamaica and Mexico. After visiting the church in Musanze, we both immediately thought about Doug and Annie, and we started discussing the logistics of how and when they might be able to come to Rwanda.

Over the Christmas holidays, this ‘possible’ STM became very definite. Annie made it crystal clear to Jan that she believed God wanted them to come to Rwanda as soon as possible. They had already started to take steps to come for the month of March. Everything was moving forward.

More Challenges for the Musanze Church

Shortly after the collapse of the church rafters, Pastor Dismas retired. This meant that the congregation suffered another loss with the departure of their long-serving pastor. The once strong church of Musanze was soon down to a handful of Christian men and women.

In December of last year a new Regional Pastor was appointed; Rev. Joseph Hdayambaje. He is a young, energetic man with passion and great capacity for leading the parish of Musanze, but he began with many significant problems. The church building, with its broken down rafters seemed a fitting metaphor for this troubled church community.

Jan and I travelled to see Pastor Joseph at the parsonage in Musanze in mid-February so that we could tell him about the upcoming Burt STM. As we spoke to one another, there was a loud clanging sound coming from outside. We went to see what the noise was all about and discovered a truck unloading long sections of steel tubular steel. Pastor Joseph was very happy and he explained that these had been ordered to build new rafters for the church. He told us that the church had experienced a miraculous turn around in the two months since he had arrived. The small handful of believers had already grown to over 200 Christians. Everyone was excited and eager to get working on the church again and they had already hired an engineer and ordered the materials for the church.

Photo: The tubular steel for fabricating the new rafters

Confirmation from God

My first thought, when I saw the new materials for the rafters was; “Oh no, the Burts are only a few weeks from arriving in Rwanda, and the church has made their own plans to rebuild the rafters. What is Doug going to do when he gets here?!!”  But I kept that thought to myself. Over lunch, Jan told Pastor Joseph she was excited to see the new steel arrive because there was a couple from Canada coming in March to help rebuild the church. He was overwhelmed with emotion and spontaneously shouted; “Praise the Lord!” In fact, he was so emotional at this news, it took him a few moments to compose himself. Finally, he told us why he was so emotional.

He said: “Three days earlier, he woke up in the morning and his wife said, ‘I had a vision in my dream last night.’ She told me that in this vision she had seen a group of muzungus (white people) visit. They had come to help rebuild the church.” Then he looked at us with a trembling voice and he said; “And now you are telling me they are coming!” It was a moment of great joy for us all as we started to see that all these isolated details were coming together into one cohesive plan. And we all realized that it was no mere coincidence. This was a divine moment with God moving the hearts of two families who had never met, in preparation for this important project of building up and strengthen the church.

Photo: Pastor Joseph and his wife

Day One in Musanze

Yesterday (March 11) we drove up to Musanze with Doug and Annie after a few days of orientation in Kigali. The wait was over. The time had come to roll up our sleeves and begin!

After the obligatory introductions and speeches, Pastor Joseph took all of us on a tour of the church to inspect the current status of project, and begin making plans for the next steps. Our Canadian colleague Ken Derksen also joined the group for the day since he is an Architectural Technologist. After many questions from Doug, the Pastor called the architect who drove over and gave very helpful answers about the current walls, the planned rafters, and how things could be expected to progress over the coming weeks.

Photo: Doug Burt and Ken Derksen discuss plans with the Architect and Pastors Joseph & Anthony. They are standing in front of the tangled steel salvaged from the previous rafters. 

It is hard to describe how significant this project is for the community of believers here in Musanze. It is more than just a house of worship. It is also a place for women to learn to read; for teens to learn about nutrition and healthy relationships; for mothers to encourage one another in raising their children; for children to come and play together and learn about the love and mercy of God. We thank God for the opportunity to make an impact on the people of this region, and look forward to seeing progress over the coming weeks.

The Master Plan

You know that most cities have a master plan. It is somewhere in city hall and it lays out the future plans for the city. In most cases, the focus is on transportation and infrastructure with zoning designed to establish different types of future development (zoning for housing, industry, recreation, etc).

Since moving to Rwanda, I have thought a lot about this kind of foresight in planning. I don’t know about other countries in Africa but Rwanda has a master plan — both for the city of Kigali and also for the country as a whole. This is a testament to their well developed governance at the national level. Given the very limited size of the country (26,338 sq Km), and the growing population (11.7 Million; which makes it the most densely populated nation in Africa), they have to be extremely proactive in planning for the preservation of farmland and the creation of higher density residential communities in order to avoid disaster.

Photo: City of Kigali Plan for New City Centre

But how does a country go from a poorly planned infrastructure to a place where the buildings and roads are modern and functional? It starts with a plan, and it must be implemented step by step. As the saying goes; “You have to walk before you can run.”

The Example of Roads

When I get stuck in traffic, I often find myself thinking; “If they could change this road by adding ‘this’ or ‘that,’ they could resolve this traffic congestion problem.” But I am guilty of the most basic error of international development: a country’s infrastructure must grow incrementally.

For example, Toronto did not have a multi-lane 401 highway in the 1950’s. It wasn’t needed at that time. But as the city has grown, the roads and infrastructure have grown with it.

So, as a Canadian living in Rwanda, I might like to see a multi-lane super highway connecting the cities but that is an impossible dream for now. The country is struggling with basic infrastructure such as clean drinking water, sanitation, universal public education, and economic development. With the majority of the population having access to only one form of transportation–walking–roads are simply not the highest priority.

In reality, I need to adjust my attitude and think about the long process of development. It is frustrating at times, but just like boats riding on the tide, everything grows together.  Rwanda’s pace of development is accelerating rapidly. But even so, I need to remember ‘you must walk before you run.’

So, I take great comfort when I drive outside the city. Along all the major routes, there are red & white cement posts every km on either side of the road approximately 10 to 20 feet from the edge of the current roadway.  These posts mark the future roadway which will be built some day. There is enough space for a 4 lane divided highway. The red posts inform residents that if they build anything (a home or store) inside this space, it will be torn down when they expand the road some day. It will be many years before these expanded roads become a reality, but there is a plan.

Photo: The Red & White post marking the land reserved for widening the highway

It’s a great lesson, actually, for life and ministry. Without a plan, sometimes it’s hard to keep on track and make progress. But when we have a plan, we can track the progress and remember that we are on a longer journey which takes time. It’s gives me something to think about … when I’m stuck in traffic.

“… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:6

Since arriving in Rwanda last August, we have enjoyed a number of trips to the three main National Parks in Rwanda: Akagera Park (a typical African safari park), Nyungwe Park (a rainforest), and Volcanos National Park (the Gorilla protected area on the side of the volcanos in the North). There are also some pictures of wildlife made while travelling, and the monkeys who periodically visit our back yard.

We have enjoyed taking pictures of wildlife as we have opportunity, and the following gallery is a collection of some of our favourite photos. The photo credits are spread around: Janice Mills; Jonathan Mills; Calvin Mills; and Samantha Larsen. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

You can click the slideshow, or click a thumbnail and browse through the images – click the arrows to navigate through (the comments will only appear when you click on the pictures). Enjoy!

Rwanda is a beautiful country. We have enjoyed exploring the roads to all parts of this lush, beautiful land. The following photos are meant to give you a taste of what it is like in Rwanda: from Akagera safari park in the East, to the Nyungwe rainforst in the West, to the Volcanos to the North. We hope you enjoy learning more about the country we now call home.

Click individual images to view them (with an explanation below), or click the slideshow.

 

Christmas Eve in [Rwanda] Denmark

Our Christmas celebrations started with an afternoon singing carols at the Bustin’s. We sang in both English and Kinyarwanda and enjoyed some delicious home baked cookies. When we started making plans for Christmas we expected to learn about Rwandan customs and traditions celebrating the birth of Christ. And, while these have certainly been important and interesting, we also had an unexpected (and delightful) experience of Denmark on Christmas Eve.

We have mentioned in our previous blogs that there are two young adults from Denmark who are working with the youth department here in Rwanda. The Baptist Union of Denmark (BUD) is also a partner with the AEBR with a long tradition of working in partnership in Rwanda (and Burundi). Anna and Steffen have been great ministry partners during our time here and we have enjoyed their friendship. Since they are so far from home at Christmas, we decided to invite them to join us for Christmas Eve. Soon, we discovered that Denmark has many traditions associated with Christmas which are very different than our Canadian traditions. As it turns out, we have a wonderful time learning from Steffen and Anna about how they celebrate Christmas back home.

Dessert and Dancing

Anna and Steffen (at left) proudly sharing their traditional Danish rice pudding
Anna loves to bake and so she has enjoyed coming to our house to use the oven to make many baked goods. Thankfully, we are able to sample the fruits of her labour.
On Christmas Eve, Danish families gather for a traditional dessert which is a kind of rice pudding made with cream, almond pieces and cherry sauce. As a special treat, there is one whole almond in the pot and the lucky person to find it in their bowl receives a special treat.After dessert, we moved the Christmas tree into the middle of the living room so we could dance around it. In fact, it wasn’t ‘dancing’ per se, but we held hands in a circle around the tree (think of the Whos in Whoville) and we sang songs as we walked around the tree. Steffen and Anna led the songs in Danish as the Canadians all listened and joined as best we could. It ended with a rousing song which got faster and faster as we moved around the tree in what resembled a conga line. It was a lot of fun!
Anna consults with Steffen on song lyrics
We were really glad that our new colleagues, Ken and Wendy Derksen, were also able to share in the fun.Normally, after the singing, Danish families will then proceed to open their presents on Christmas Eve. This was where we differed from our European friends as we decided to continue our Canadian tradition of opening our gifts on Christmas morning.

Rwandan Christmas Celebrations

Our first Christmas in Rwanda featured a very busy Christmas holiday. Generally, Christmas is not as much of a commercial frenzy as it is in Europe and North America. However, it is a significant holiday for the Christian community with many special services and activities. In the Kacyriu church (where we normally worship) they held a baptism service at 9:00 am on Christmas Eve. Remarkably, there were approximately 50 people who were baptized in this morning service. What a great celebration!

[Photo: Pastor Manasse presents the young people to the congregation following their baptism earlier in the service.]

We are not certain whether it is customary to have a baptism service at Christmastime, but this added a great deal of excitement to the whole day.

Pastor Capitale baptizes a young man

Later in the day (Christmas Eve), the Seraphim Choir organized Seraphim Day. This choir of young adults decided to serve others in practical ways. We started with a blood donor clinic in the morning. After this, the choir went to a hospital which serves the poor (who cannot afford the annual cost of $5 CDN for health coverage). We visited the patients to give a message of encouragement and hope, then sang songs and prayed for those who wished for prayer. We also distributed milk for the children, and other practical necessities like toilet paper and laundry soap. Lastly,  before leaving we took up a collection which was given to 4 individuals who could not afford to pay for their surgical procedures and several bags of clothing were donated to the hospital social worker for distribution to patients as they have need. In the evening, there was a Christmas Eve service which featured many bands, soloists and encouraging messages.

The most important part of celebrating Christmas here in Rwanda happens on Christmas day when there is a big service of celebration at the church. The church is full and the service lasts for several hours. The fellowship is enhanced by a community lunch after the service.

Merry Christmas, from the Long-Mills Family

We are so thankful that our children were able to join us for our first Christmas in Rwanda. Everything was very different compared to the white Christmases we have had in the past. This photo was taken Christmas morning in our back yard. Clearly not in Canada! But Christmas is a time for sharing with family, and this can happen anywhere in the world.

Merry Christmas to you all!
December 25, 2014.

Merry Christmas from Jan (Sadie), Robert, Will, Spencer, Kate, Wes, Krysta, Calvin, Brad and Jonathan