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IMG_9471 copy 3During Short Term Mission (STM) trips, we are always aware of God’s hand at work in Rwanda. Recently, we experienced an STM that illustrated for us the way in which God is intimately involved in every aspect of our work here in Africa.  When Jonathan first mentioned an IT STM to me, I rolled my eyes.  But he was right and my geeky husband’s idea has and will bear fruit for our partner here in Rwanda.

Photo: Scott Klassen and Jonathan

Scene 1: The Derksens Arrive in Rwanda

Ken and Wendy copy

Back in December 2014, Ken and Wendy Derksen arrived in Rwanda to begin their appointment as Global Field Staff with Canadian Baptist Ministries. Wendy is a CPA in Canada, and her role is to “Walk alongside African partners to provide support and guidance as they develop policies and procedures around financial management and operational systems.” 

 

At the time, the Association of Rwandan Baptist Churches (AEBR) had only one staff person in the Accounting department and out of date financial management software. And the AEBR is an organization with over 250 churches, 18 Schools, and dozens of projects funded by international partners each requiring different reporting standards. It was a huge challenge. 

Since STM’s work best when they originate from the partner’s need, Jonathan suggested we initiate plans for an STM to  setup and install a computer server with financial management software adequate to serve the needs of the AEBR. At first, the idea seemed to be more about Jonathan’s “geeky” side showing but over time it became clear that this was a significant need for the AEBR. 

Scene 2: Engaging Kanata Baptist Church

Our church in Kanata is in the middle of one of Canada’s high tech sectors and the church has a number of highly skilled IT professionals. It seemed like an ideal partnership for pursuing this proposed computer STM. In January 2016, Jonathan and I invited interested individuals to come and hear about this ministry opportunity. Thirty people showed an interest in the project, and a new “virtual” STM was launched with Kevin Burr coordinating the team and Scott Klassen designing and building and setting up the server (it was ‘virtual’ because most of the meetings were held by Skype each week). The Mission Council of Kanata Baptist embraced the project and soon efforts were underway to raise funds for this “Virtual IT STM.” 

Photo: Scott showing Jonathan how the Server is configured

Over the coming months, Annie Burt travelled to Rwanda to conduct a needs analysis, and a great deal of effort was spent investigating the software that would best serve the interests of the AEBR. As the research started to point to SAGE 300 as the ideal software platform, Scott mentioned that his mother had some experience with SAGE 300 and he was going to ask her about it. 

Scene 3: Enter Christine Klassen

To say Christine Klassen knows a little about SAGE 300 is a bit of an understatement. She is a CPA who works as an independant consultant configuring and installing SAGE 300 for clients in Canada. When Scott asked Christine if she would be able to offer some advice to the team she responded: “This is actually an answer to prayer. For the past few months, I have been praying for God to provide me an opportunity to use my gifts and abilities to serve him.” Without a moment’s hesitation, Christine embraced this project and gave her time and talent joyfully.  

Photo: Wendy & Christine spending hours setting up and configuring the Financial Software

Once Christine was involved things started moving forward quickly. Wendy Derksen and Christine began the long and complex task of setting up the general ledger accounts and all the details that go into a brand new financial system installation and configuration. They both invested long hours over the coming months to build things from the ground up. Meanwhile, Scott was assembling the server in Ottawa and preparing things for installation. 

Scene 4: Is there any work for an Electrical Engineer?

In the middle of all this work, Christine’s husband Clarence expressed an interest in helping out; “Do you have any tasks that I can help with? I’m an Electrical Engineer.” The answer was an emphatic “Yes!!”

Photo: Christine & Clarence Klassen at Lake Muhazi

This, despite a lack of knowledge concerning the specific causes of the AEBR’s head office electrical issues. All we knew was that many of the lights were not working, the building was prone to blackouts and brownouts, and generally speaking, the electrical system was in need of some expert diagnostics and repair. We were impressed by Clarence’s willingness to do whatever he could to help, and his insistence on having a Rwandan apprentice work with him in order to share some knowledge and experience with a young person. 

 

Scene 5: Putting it all Together

In January, after a year of planning, preparation, independent work, installation and configuration, it was finally time for the STM to travel to Rwanda for final installation and training. Jonathan and Ken Derksen had installed networking cables in the AEBR offices and converted a small washroom into a server room. The server had been sent to Rwanda in our luggage in November. Now the Klassens arrived with bags full of tools and equipment to bring everything together. 

Photo: The Klassens, the Derksens, Jonathan and the AEBR director of Administration and Finance, Berthe

Scott is a computer engineer, so the server setup went smoothly (apart from the times when there was no power in the building). Jonathan provided support, and learned how to manage basic configuration settings. Within a few days, everything was setup and configured, and working! Scott returned to Canada after only a week. On his last morning, the server had shut down because of a power outage. Scott turned to Jonathan and said, “Okay, show me how to restart it.”  And Jonathan did!  Very proud of this man of mine who has no formally computer training.

Christine had already finalized the chart of accounts with Wendy through Skype calls. Now the task was to give instruction to the AEBR financial department which had now grown to three people. They not only had to learn a new financial management software program but they also had to learn new principles and practices of accounting. 

Meanwhile, Clarence was working with Ken Derksen to diagnose and repair whatever they could in the two weeks they were here. His young apprentice, Jean-Paul had been trained in electronics but had very little experience. Because of a lack of hands on training at the vocational school, he had never actually used an electric drill, but he really wanted to as often as possible. So, Clarence patiently build up his repertoire of experiences through two weeks of electrical improvements. 

Photo: Clarence supervising the work of his young apprentice, Jean-Paul

Scene 6: Wrapping Up

After two very busy weeks, the Klassens boarded the plane on the way home to Peterborough Ontario. As we reflected on the events of the past year, we were all amazed at how God had orchestrated this major ministry project. Some of the ‘God moments’ we identified:

  • The Derksen’s appointment to Rwanda (contributing financial and technical expertise)
  • The connection we have with Kanata Baptist church and its IT professionals
  • Kevin Burr, Scott Klassen and Jim McMorine working for months on this project
  • The eagerness of KBC’s Mission Council to engage in fundraising and support
  • Christine Klassen’s involvement, in answer to her prayers
  • Christine’s donation of time and expertise, without which, this project would be impossible
  • Annie Burt’s availability to conduct a needs analysis in Rwanda
  • CBM’s willingness to try a ‘virtual STM’ for the first time
  • AEBR’s openness to embrace this new financial management software
  • SAGE approving Canadian licensed software being used in Rwanda
  • Special SAGE promotion: 4 seat licenses for the price of 3 (the week we purchased it)
  • Clarence’s willingness to serve and his expertise in diagnosing the AEBR offices’ electrical problems

We thank God for the dedication and hard work of all those who contributed to this plan.  Special thanks to Laura Lee Bustin for managing the finances and logistics here in Rwanda. And to Adrian Gardner in Canada for being such an encourager. It will take many more months for the staff to be trained and equipped to use SAGE 300 to its full capacity, but the journey to financial self-sufficiency has begun and we know this change will bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God. 

Photo: Clarence and Christine Klassen with the AEBR & CBM staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When CBM sends a team from Canada to Rwanda a great deal of cultural adjustment is needed.  Our Rwandan friends are very gracious about all our faux pas but it always warms my heart when I see Canadians adjust culturally.  Recently 11 women came from different places across Canada with the She Matters STM (Short Term Mission).  They led seminars on Child Development, Women’s cotton sanitary products and ministered to women from the DRC (Congo) and Rwanda who are victims of wartime sexual violence.  They learned about women’s literacy and food security as well.  But more than anything, they learned to be Rwandan.  Below are some pics of the cultural adjustments that these women were able to make.

Photo: Julie greeting an elderly woman

Greetings in Rwanda can get quite complicated.  One has to remember if you are greeting a new friend, a old friend, a man, a woman,  an elder, a big man, or a child.  In this photo, Julie Hunt is greeting an older woman with a great deal of respect as she shakes hands but also puts her opposite hand on her elbow.

Photo: She Matters Group (Congolese, Rwandans and Canadians)

Women do not always keep their head wrapped these days but our African friends love it when the muzungus (westerners) try to be traditional.  It was a lot of fun having our head-wraps done.  Congolese and Rwandans showed us how to do different styles.

Photo: Laetitia and Anne dancing

The retreat for the women involved a lot of sharing, crying and praying.  But sometimes we all needed to dance.  This is an important part of healing here.  Talking is good but dancing and singing is even better.  It is good for the soul.

Photo: Karissa carrying maize

So what does one do when one is handed five stalks of maize? One puts it on one’s head of course!  Once again we were blessed with fresh corn from the field of a friend.  That night we cooked it up and we all had a taste.  It was the best Rwandan corn I have ever eaten.  Honest!  Accepting a gift graciously and carrying it away on one’s head is adapting culturally.

This was just a small glimpse into an amazing two weeks.  If you want to know more about this trip and see more photos, let me know and I will do a second blog about it.  There is always too much to tell in just one brief photo essay. If you want to learn more about CBM’s priority for empowering and improving the lives of women and girls, visit the She Matters page at our website. 

Click Here to see the Women’s Department Happy Video

Photo: Jan and Line

Recently, my friend and colleague, Line Hylleberg from Denmark, and I have been working in the Women’s Department. As I have been travelling to the 13 different regions speaking on Women’s Rights and Freedoms, she has been busy creating a partnership between the Danish Baptist Women and the AEBR Women’s Department.

Photo:  A piglet represents a great income generating opportunity

This partnership will mostly focus on the income generating activity of raising pigs. Pigs have been proven to be the best livestock to improve income. Pigs have the highest profit potential of all farm animals because they cost little to feed and maintain, and produce much more meat than cattle, goats and sheep! However, pigs need to have certain things to thrive. Often women haven’t had training in raising pigs and then their pigs don’t survive. I was at one cooperative were they had bought one pig per person (42 pigs) and they had all died! Training is vital to the success of this initiative. This week, Laetitia (Head of the Women’s Dept.) is going for a week of training so that she can pass on this information to others in the rural areas. Then the Danish Baptist Women’s Partnership will support women in generating income activities involving pigs.

Photo: This is what makes us happy!

We decided to create a fun little video to show some of the ways that women have improved their livelihoods. Check out this link to see why we are so “Happy”!

Click here to see the Women’s Department Happy Video

Annie Burt came to Rwanda for the month of March.  As her husband helped build a church (see Jonathan’s blog), Annie walked alongside me and encouraged many of the women’s ministries.  Women’s Literacy, Guardians of Hope and Women’s Empowerment filled the week.  We ended by having a Girls Day and passing out Kits for Girls to 50 young girls and women.  Here are some photos of our time together.

Photo: Annie holding one of the youngest members in the  Literacy Class

Literacy

The week started with a “check up” to one of the literacy sites, Ndamirimirwe, with program manager Laetitia.  This is at the base of the volcano north of Rubavu (formerly Gisenyi).  The teacher has over 70 students in the morning and another 60 students in the afternoon. They come three times a week and range from 20 years old to 76 years old.  Literacy is not the only initiative in this program.  Encouraging the women to form cooperatives and work together to improve their lives is also preached.  “Open up your minds and dream big” is heard on a regular basis.  Last year’s Literacy graduates are now working together planting Irish potatoes and wheat.  They rent the two fields and rotate the crops.  It has been successful as everyone has a mattress now!

Photo: Teaching over 70 students at a time

Photo: Heading to the fields to inspect the Irish Potatoes

Guardians of Hope (helping those affected by HIV/AIDS)

Some of the Guardians of Hope groups have formed associations as well.  They have a system where everyone contributes a small amount per week.  It works like a small bank for the participants and both savings and loans can be accomplished.  Some associations work together and farm, sew or sell products.  They must report regularly to AEBR/CBM in order to qualify for  grant money.  This group pictured here was very sad as they had not qualified last year for the grant.  However, after a serious discussion and some directives, the women agreed to work together and try again.

Photo: Annie and Ernestine (Program Manager) with GOH group

Photo: Sharing some photos and seeing some smiles

Days for Girls Kits (Orphans and Vulnerable Children)

Photo: Girls watch Annie demonstrate kit

Above these girls are laughing as Annie actually puts on a pair of underwear over her pants to demonstrate the product.  I didn’t think Annie would appreciate the picture of her doing this in the blog so instead I am showing you the girls’s faces.  They were so excited to get these kits.  If you haven’t heard about this initiative, check out the website: www.daysforgirls.org.  Many girls miss school when menstruating as they don’t have any supplies.  When your family doesn’t have enough food to eat, it is too difficult to ask for money to go get Kotex.  So instead, they stay home in order to cope.  At the end of the session, the girls danced and sang to thank the givers in Canada.  One of the girls said, “Now we are rich!”.  Oh the things we take for granted…..

Photo: Esperence (Project Manager)explains some important information

Fifty young girls will benefit over the next 3 years from the kits Annie brought with her.  It is a great initiative and I encourage you to think about starting a group in Canada yourself.  Eventually we hope that the kits can be made here in Rwanda/Kenya but for now there are many more girls who could benefit from this gift.

Photo: A young girl receives her kit

Annie and Doug are back in Canada now but the impact they had continues on.  Many people think that it is better to “just send money” and not do Short Term Mission trips. But the ministry of presence is invaluable.  Building relationships with our sisters and brothers globally has long term implications for both those in Canada and those in Rwanda.

 

It is hard to imagine what it is like to live on $2 a day.  This is the average income of a person in Rwanda.  Living in a house made from mud bricks, fetching water from the river, eating rice and beans every day make for a simple life.  In some ways it almost sounds appealing to leave behind the hectic lifestyle of North America.  However, the Grande Prairie STM (Short Term Mission Team) got a first hand account of what it is truly like.

Photo: Stephanie and Andreas fetch water from a local stream

Ten members from Webster and McLaurin Baptist church were looking forward to spending a day with a Guardians of Hope beneficiary (for an explanation of this program, see below).*  They went in teams of two with a translator to a traditional Rwandan home.  Most of the families couldn’t believe that these muzungus (white people) were willing to humble themselves and do every day chores with them.  Fetching water from the stream, carrying the jerry can on their heads (or attempting to do so), working in the fields, and cooking a meal were part of the experience.

Seeing Pastor Luke peeling potatoes in the muslim home was a moving experience.  The wife has been a part of the GOH group and her children have been attending Sunday School. But  the husband has not accompanied them.  He was quite overwhelmed by the situation.  His words later were, “Now this is love in action!” Since eating together is an important part of Rwandan culture sharing lunch with the family made a big impact.  It is said, “We can’t cry together unless we have eaten together first.”  The young three year old even shared her potato with Pastor Luke after taking a few bites herself.  She cried when they left and still asks after them today, more than a week later.

Photo: Pastor Luke peeling potatoes with Joanne and their translator Laetitia

However, not all families were able to eat with their guests.  Father and daughter team (Trevor and Stephanie) went to the home of a young 23 year old girl.  She had returned home from the city to raise her siblings after her mother died from AIDS.  Unfortunately the mother had sold everything to feed the children in her last days even the roof and the land surrounding the small house.  Inside there was a mattress, a pot (for cooking) and a jerry can (for carrying water). The GOH group had managed to put a new roof on the little house and secure the windows. The team members had brought food with them as a gift but there was no way to boil water without wood or charcoal.  A child was sent to borrow a charcoal burner and buy some hot coals.  A small pot of porridge was put on for the children.  Trevor and Stephanie went without food that day in order to leave more for the children.  This is especially important to note that HIV/AIDS meds can only be given if children are eating regularly. Often the young 10 year old is denied medication until the older sister is able to feed her. The pastor of the area is mentoring this young woman to be self sufficient and to set up a fruit and vegetable stand in order to earn income for her young family. The teenage boys have left for the city to order to try and find work.

Photo: Trevor and Stephanie with their host family

Two of our team members, Andreas and Tabea (brother and sister) got to help build a house!  The woman they were visiting had asked for prayer just the month before because she was living on her own with 8 children in a 10 x 6 ft. stick home.  The government had come through with some iron sheeting for a roof.  The GOH group helped with bamboo-like supports for the walls and roof.  Then Andreas, Tabea and others helped make mud bricks to build the walls.  This was quite an exciting day for the family and the team members.

Photo: Andreas puts the finishing touches on mud bricks

Photo: Tabea helps prepare food for lunch

Courtney and David spent the day with Beatrice, a widow who lives with her 6 children and her 104 year old father. She radiates joy and hope in her every action.  Cheryl and Randy helped at the home of a grandmother who also has HIV.  She has only one of her own children left at home but is also raising many of her grandchildren.  She has been quite resourceful as a business woman in the community.  Whether she is selling fruit and vegetables, eggs, manure, or milk she is a great example to the group about hope for the future.

Photo: Beatrice with Courtney, David and Michel their translator

The STM learned a lot from this day but it also helped the GOH participants.  They are often ostracized by the community because of the stigma of being HIV positive.  Having muzungus in their home raises their status in society.  Not just for the day but for many months to come.  It gives them hope for the future that someone cares and is praying for them.  Regular check ups on each of these families is done by field staff and we are looking forward to the future for each of them.

Photo: Cheryl and Randy visit a woman raising her grandchildren

It is building partnerships like this that making being the Global Discipleship Facilitator so very exciting.  Many people question whether STMs make any difference in mission work.  Maybe sending money would be better.  But when you see the smiles on the faces and the joy in the hearts of both the team members and the nationals, one sees the importance of relationships in mission work.  God uses us in ways that we can not imagine and we need to be open to whatever He calls us to do.  Even if it is peeling potatoes…


*Guardians of Hope is a CBM/AEBR program that helps families affected by HIV/AIDS. Click this link for more information about CBM’s strategic work in AIDS and healthcare, or here for a Fact Sheet.


 

 

Piglet

“So how does a pig help a family in Africa, anyways?” our son, Calvin, asked while eating a ham sandwich. Funny you should ask as I was just about to blog about that!

Meet Pastor Jean de Dieu. He is a mentor Pastorin the Orphans and Vulnerable Children project in the town of Mutarugera, Rwanda. He encourages and guides those who have no parents or whose parents are not able to be involved in their children’s lives. He has a family of his own with four small children and a church to manage at the same time. He lives in a small parsonage next to the church.  He was struggling to provide for his family. Two years ago, he received a pig through one of CBM/AEBR projects to help stabilize his family’s life.  It has changed his life.  The potential that a pig gives to a pastor and his family is truly a miracle in our world today.Children
Meet Pig (see photo above). She was just a small piglet when delivered to Pastor Jean de Dieu. But she grew quickly. Within one year, she had her first litter. Eight piglets were born. Pastor Jean de Dieu gave one piglet back to the project. He sold the other 7 piglets. His pig has had two more litters in the last year and has produced 35 piglets in total (photo of this productive pig below). Jean de Dieu has now given back three piglets to the project so that others can benefit as well. With the profits of the sales, he has been able to send his children to a good school, bought land and plans to build a rental property so that his family has continuous income. He also sells the manure to other farmers for fertilizer.
“By why a pig and not a goat or sheep?” asked Calvin. Goats and sheep are good also.  However, pigs have the highest profit potential.  First of all pigs reproduce really quickly.  One mature sow (6-8 months old) can have two litters a year.  Each litter can be as large as 18 piglets.  The only other farm animals that produces this quickly are chickens.  Secondly pigs are the most efficient at turning food into meat.  Their food consumption is very versatile as they can eat kitchen waste, grass, forage or the feed of other animals. They produces more meat than cattle, sheep or goats as they have less waste (fewer bones).  Thirdly, pigs have a high resistance to illness.  They hardly ever get sick.

Cows, goats, rabbits and chickens also help improve a family’s stability here in Africa.  But until recently, the pig has been undervalued.  Perhaps because of the Muslim population and the fact that they do not eat pork has contributed to this attitude in the past.  Now with increased tourism and immigrate workers, pork consumption has increased.  Pork is the most consumed meat worldwide and Africa is starting to see this as a viable enterprise.

“So Calvin, that’s how a pig helps a family here in Africa!”

CBM has provided a helpful resource with details about the challenges faced by pastors in Rwanda. When you support pastors like Jean de Dieu through CBM, you make a huge difference in their lives allowing them to focus on ministry instead of where the family’s next meal will come. If you want to make an online donation, you can do so on the CBM donation page.

Over 130 pigs have been given to families in Rwanda in 2014.  Thank you for your donations.

Sow and Piglets

“That’ll do pig. That’ll do.” (quote from the movie Babe).

For more information about pig farming in Africa, click this link: start pig farming in Africa.

Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Meet my new friend, Nadine.  No, it is not her real name but Nadine means “hope” and she is full of it. She has a smile that lights up a room.  Below she is sitting in their kitchen ready to light a fire and cook her favourite food – rice.  Good job she likes it as that is what she eats every day.  If there is a enough money then there are some cooked beans to go with it.  She doesn’t know if she likes meat as she has never tasted it.  She does like apples though although they are expensive here so she doesn’t get to eat those very often.

Sitting in the outside kitchen
The family (minus two) outside their front door

Nadine is one of seven children.  She has one older brother and five sisters.  Her father left before her youngest sister was born.  He had HIV/AIDS and led an unhealthy lifestyle.  Nadine’s mom started to get sick. She dropped to 30 kg and was very ill from HIV/AIDS.  Unable to feed the family,  the children were suffering from malnutrition.  She could not pay for rent so all eight of them had no place to go.  She had little hope.  Pastor Jonas heard about their situation and arranged for them to live in one end of a parsonage.  He recommended that the Children of Hope program could help.

Nadine and her little sister

Nadine goes to school now!  She has hope for the future since she started on medication for HIV. Yes, Nadine was born with it.  Her mother is also on the medication and feels much better. She has been given training to sew and also has a pump sewing machine.  The rest of the children have received schooling also. Her older sister has gone to hairdressing school. And her little sister will start school next year.  She is really happy that her little sister does not have the disease. She wouldn’t want her to go through all that.

Future Nurse

Nadine wants to be a nurse. She wants to help people the way that the nurses  helped her to feel better.  She loves school and loves life.  With her mother able to sew and make a little money the family is doing better.  Her big sister hopes to get some work in the hairdressing field as well.  Also they recently received a goat from CBM to help the family establish themselves financially.  Thankfully Pastor Jonas found this family when he did.  This is one of many families and children that he has helped over the years.  Many are orphans but many are vulnerable children like Nadine.  With health care, schooling and nutritional coaching this family is planning for tomorrow.  Planting a small garden and a goat has changed their lives significantly.  They are now able to eat at least one meal per day often with rice and some vegetable from the garden.
To learn more check out: http://www.cbmin.org/our-work/children-youth-at-risk/

I am inspired by this young girl.  She has a smile on her face constantly.  She has “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”.  Can’t wait to see her again!  I think I will take her an apple.

Food Security in Rwanda

Robert, Field Supervisor, comparing a crop with mulch to one without mulch.

I, Jan, took a field trip recently to the Eastern Province to learn about Food Security. It was great to see so many villages and farmers excited about their crops and harvests.  This food security program is funded by CBM, Canada Food Grains Bank and the AEBR (Rwandan Baptists).  Field Staff go from village to village to encourage farmers and to instruct them in Farming God’s Way.

A couple Farming God’s Way! They have taken in four orphans as they can feed more people now.

Rwanda is known for its beautiful green hills and vegetation but there are many parts of the country that don’t get enough rain especially with the climate change.  The farmers have used the same agricultural technics for centuries.  However, the rains are less now and the crops are not surviving.  Farming God’s Way is a system that helps prevent evaporation and keeps the soil moist and healthy.  Farmers are taught to use mulching and crop cover to keep seedlings moist.  They are shown how to compost and then to use this and manure as fertilizer.  Spacing, holing, timing and rotation of crops is also vital to the program.  Results are evident in the size of the produce as well as the smiles on the faces of the people.

Truck delivering mulch to cover seedlings

But there are some issues. Because people are realizing how beneficial the mulch is, many are starting to farm this way making mulch expensive and hard to get.  Using another fast growing low lying plant as crop cover is the other option but it is expensive to buy the seeds.  CBM, CFGB and AEBR have limited funds and give the farmers the training and the first year of seedlings and mulch.  After this point, it is hoped that the farmers have made enough money to buy the seeds and mulch or crop cover for the next season.  If the rains are good, this can usually happen.

Cassava harvest (10 times greater yield than the traditional way of farming)

New techniques for planting cassava are also being taught.  The results are unbelievable.  Spacing and holing along with compost and fertilizer are reaping great rewards.  The cassava harvest below shows a dozen roots when in the past one or two would be normal.  One large root can feed a family of eight to ten for supper.  This is one of the main staples in the diet so the farmers are committed to planting this way and are teaching other to do the same.  The results convince people immediately and whole villages are now Farming God’s Way.

Please pray for the rains in the Eastern Province.  The rains have begun every evening in Kigali (as our roof can attest to) but the villages are still in need of much precipitation to have healthy crops and abundant harvest.  If you would like to support projects like this one, please make a donation.

As I sit here to blog, African drums are in the distance, birds are singing, a monkey is eating from our guave tree and some school children are singing “Mr. Sun” (not quite right but it is still helping them learn English).

Me in the kitchen with our little ‘cooker’

It is hard to believe that we have only been here for four weeks.  We have found a house and bought all the basics for every day living.  Jonathan knows the city really well and can find any place (at least it seems like that to me).  Robert is doing well at school and is even on the basketball team.  (He still dislikes school but he is coping). And Sadie is getting used to the creepy crawlies and monkeys that she faces on a daily basis.

Woman passenger on moto with child on her back

When we were heading to a hardware store the other day, we were about to park when a friend said, “We will just wait for the chickens to get out of the way first.”  This statement struck me as really funny and I started to laugh.  It is surprising how quickly one gets used to a new environment.  I remember being in Kenya and a pastor asked me, “Jan, how do you keep the goats out of your church in Canada?”.  This is no longer an odd question for me as it really is a nuisance when a goat comes into a church service!  But I also realized that we have become accustomed to our environment.

Woman carrying bananas on her head
A boy carrying a pail on his head

A typical view on the street involves hundreds of people walking, babies on backs, three people on a moto, trucks stacked twice as high as they should be, and fruit everywhere. I love how African woman can carry anything on their heads!  Seeing someone with a load of fruit or water is normal.  But just as normal is seeing someone with furniture balanced on their heads! We saw a man yesterday with ten mattresses.  The strength of the Rwandan people is admirable.  Physical strength and emotional strength are both evident.  But there are sad moments as well-  a young child picking through the garbage, a woman with a baby begging for food, and many, many amputees from the event 20 years ago. This is the daily view, yet we see hope for the future in people’s smiles.

So with what do we become comfortable?  It is a fine balance between adjusting to one’s

Young child from rural Rwanda

environment and accepting many things as “the new normal” but also not becoming overwhelmed by the poverty and need of the people.  Many people in the city live in mud homes with few luxuries. Those in the rural areas have even less amenities and have to walk for miles just for water.  A cart boy said to me yesterday, “You have a blessed life.”  Not sure if he meant it as a wish for me or if he was making a statement.  I took it as a statement because he is right:  I do have a blessed life.

Today, I am thankful for the mattress on which I had a good night’s sleep.

I am thankful for filtered water to drink with my meal.

I am thankful for my environment into which I am settling into quickly.