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. 

On Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017, Jan and I had the privilege of attending worship in the small village church in Musave just East of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Our friend and colleague, Justin Uwubuntu (AEBR’s director of Education) started as pastor of the church just six weeks earlier. Together with his wife Esperence, they have seen incredible growth: from 16 people to 108 people in just six weeks (including children). The following is a short photo essay of our wonderful experience. 

Photo: The church in Museve. The roof was erected without proper supports, so it will probably have to be torn down. But for now, it keeps people dry when it is raining.

When Justin asked me to preach on Easter Sunday, I was very excited to say “yes!” I always consider it a privilege to preach and it is always wonderful to meet new people and encourage them. This Sunday, however, presented some unique challenges. Justin explained that this region was deeply affected by the 1994 genocide and many people continue to struggle. He asked if I could speak about that in the sermon. 

Photo: Jonathan preaching with his translator Simon Tumushime

The genocide against the Tutsis began on April 7, 1994. That was the Thursday following the Easter weekend. People who had been sitting next to each other in church, turned against each other just four days later. Even though 23 years have passed, the scars run deep. Every year on April 7th, people gather in memorials set up in villages and cities around the country and remember.  

Photo: Pastor Justin leading the service. The congregation is seated on 6 rows of benches. 

I decided to preach on John 20:1-18. It’s the story of Mary Magdalene as she visits the garden tomb. The focus was not on the joy she experienced when she saw Jesus, but on her grief and sorrow. While the rest of the world celebrates Easter as Christ’s victory over sin and death (and this is true), Rwanda’s Easter services are inextricably connected to the genocide, and Mary’s grief reminds us of the tragic suffering of Christ and the devastating loss experienced by His disciples. 

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden, and he speaks her name, “Mary.” At once, she recognized him, and cried out “Teacher.” There is great intimacy in this moment — a distraught disciple, discovering the truth of the resurrection through this one word. For the congregation in Museve, the message is that Jesus comes to us in our time of grief and speaks our name. Like Jesus, we always carry the scars of life’s tragedies with us. But we do not carry them alone.

Photo: The Sunday School being held in a field next to the church

Watching the Sunday School children outside in the beautiful Rwandan countryside it is hard to imagine the violence that broke out in this country 23 years ago. We pray that the trauma experienced by their parents and grand-parents will never repeat itself in Rwanda or any other country. 

Photo: Janice & Jonathan with Pastor Justin Uwubuntu and his wife Esperence

It is hard to put into words the privilege we feel being able to worship in Rwanda on Easter Sunday. Not only do we have the opportunity to work along side such fantastic colleagues (and friends) as Justin and Esperence but we also represent Canadian Baptists here in the field bringing hope and encouragement on behalf of churches from coast to coast. 

May God grant peace and joy to you and your family this Easter Sunday. 

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! 

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. 

They often say that the best way to learn about your own culture is to visit a different one. This has been my experience as I have had the privilege of travelling extensively over my 50+ years. This truism was made even more clear to me as we visited Canada for our recent home assignment, which provided Jan and I the opportunity to travel extensively in Ontario and Alberta visiting churches and individuals to share about our ministry in Rwanda. Many times I thought to myself, how would I describe the Canadian climate to my friends in Rwanda who have never travelled outside central Africa (some have never travelled more than a day’s walk from their village). 

Today, I wanted to turn this question on its head, and describe for Canadians some of the different experiences of living in Rwanda’s climate. 

12 Hours a Day: 7 days a week, 365 days a year

Sunlight in Ottawa, Canada. 

In Canada, there are extensive changes in our experience of daylight hours because of our latitude in the Northern hemisphere. Summers are characterized by long, warm nights with spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Click in this Interactive Sunlight Graph for the city of Ottawa, Canada.  

Photo: a screen shot of the sunlight graph of Ottawa (click the link below for interactive data)

Move your mouse over the sunlight graph and you’ll see specific information for each day. At Summer solstice (June 21) Ottawa has 15:40 hours of daylight, and twilight lasts 1:15. In contrast, at Winter solstice (Dec 21), Ottawa only receives 8:42 hours of sunlight with 1:08 hours of twilight. 

Sunlight in Kigali, Rwanda

We live in the city of Kigali, Rwanda which is located just South of the Equator. Rwanda’s days are consistently 12 hours in length year round. Click this link for an Interactive Sunlight Graph for the city of Kigali. Notice how straight and consistent the lines are.

Photo: a screen shot of the sunlight graph of Kigali (click the link below for interactive data)

If you click on the Summer solstice for Kigali, the daylight hour figure is 12:00, with twilight of 45 minutes. At the winter solstice this changes to 12:14 hours of daylight (twilight is unchanged). The difference is barely perceptible. The passing of time becomes so routine that you really don’t need a watch as the position of the sun is a good indicator of the time of day. 

One of the difficult adjustments for North Americans and Europeans is the sunset at 6:00 pm every day, and short sunsets.

Photo: A beautiful sunset over the city skyline. Sunsets are shorter than in Canada, and seldom feature deep reds. 

Song Birds and Sunrise

The natural rhythms of nature also take on a predictability that is generally unknown in Canada. For example, the song birds begin their singing each morning just before dawn. We generally leave our bedroom window open at night, so when the birds begin their songs it can be quite loud. Generally, they sing between 5:15 and 5:45. I’ve included a few samples of morning bird songs to give you an idea (sorry, I don’t know which song belongs to which bird. I’ve included some bird pictures for fun). 

This first bird call is very beautiful and it is nice to awaken to it each day (even if it does come early at 5:30). 

This second bird call is also very beautiful (feel free to click your mouse to skip the quiet sections in the middle). 

Finally, a less interesting bird call, but a familiar sound for us each morning. 

Talk about the Weather

An unexpected corrolary to the consistent 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness is the consistent weather. While it is true that Rwanda has four seasons, they are very different than Canadian seasons. 

Canadian Seasons: Hot, Cooling off, Cold, Warming up. 

Canada is well known for its four distinct seasons. Particularly in places outside Ontario’s ‘banana belt’ (Southern Ontario), the cold winter weather makes for a very unpleasant season … if you don’t get outside and engage in winter activities and sports. Friends advised us to develop outdoor activities in Ottawa’s winter and we have found it makes the season much more enjoyable (although I remember a youth event skating on the Rideau Canal with a temp of -40 C with bone chilling winds. We lasted 10 minutes before going inside for hot chocolate and Beaver Tales!!). Canadians will tell you that there are some places in Canada where you can experience all four seasons in one day (Calgary, the Maritimes, etc). 

Rwanda’s Four Seasons

The four seasons we experience here are far less distinct. We really have only two wet seasons and two dry seasons. Rwanda is actually well blessed with rain because its altitude. Kigali is at approximately 1500 meters elevation above sea level. Musanze in the North is at an elevation of 1,860 m, with the summit of Mount Muhabura (a dormant volcano) rising up to a height of  4,127 m. The result is a much higher average precipitation in the North, with seasonal rains in the South. 

Photo: Mount Muhabura. The range of volcanoes forms a natural border between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The rains come suddenly and often violently.  But they are predictable for the locals and you get used to the patterns with experience. Most days (regardless of the season) begin with sunshine. During the rainy season, cloud cover builds throughout the day, and strong winds give warning of an impending downpour. In most cases, these storms pass quickly, often within 30 to 60 minutes. 

Photo: Heavy rains fall on our back yard, but in the distance, sunshine is already breaking through the clouds. 

Surprising, with the frequent experience of sunshine and rain together, one might expect us to see many more rainbows. But sadly, this is not the case. I think it is because the sun as so high above us (almost directly overhead) that the angle is wrong for seeing a rainbow. Nevertheless, I did capture one on my Blackberry just over a year ago. 

Photo: A rainbow over Nyarutarama

Aside from the rainy season, there is not much to talk about with the weather here. The temperature is very steady with daytime highs between 26 and 30 degrees C. We Canadians all have sweaters and light jackets, but we never wear them. 

On our most recent trip to Canada, we stayed from August to November. We soon got into the routine of checking the weather each day before going outside because it is important to dress for the conditions. 

Getting Ready for Christmas

Last night at 7:00 pm, as we were feeling very warm after a long sunny day, Jan said: “Do you feel like putting up the Christmas tree?”  We both decided that it didn’t feel very much like Christmas and we would put it off for another couple of days. It is very strange to have banana trees growing in the back yard during the Christmas season, but this is our home and this our reality. 




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

A few weeks ago, we posted photos about the long journey which led Doug and Annie Burt to Rwanda for a building project. Follow this link to read Building a Church Roof in Rwanda part 1. Also, Annie was busy visiting women’s groups while Doug was doing all this construction work. You can read about Annie’s adventures at A Week with Women.

Photo: Doug and Annie show photos of their family to Pastors Joseph & Anthony (Partially finished church stands in the background)

Preparing for Work in Africa

Despite having many years of experience building churches in Canada, Doug knows enough that you don’t just climb a ladder and start working on a church in a different country / continent. Building standards are different, tools are different, safety standards are different, and building materials are different. There is definitely a learning curve involved in this kind of undertaking.

Photo: Doug measures the wall for the proper positioning of the trusses

Fabricating the Building Trusses

The first order of business was fabricating the building trusses. In Canada you send the drawings to a shop and they get delivered to the job site. Here in Rwanda, you have to build them yourself. The process involves finding a level spot and carefully piecing together the first truss. Then, one by one, additional trusses are build on top of the previous ones. Once they have all been fabricated and welded, they are removed from the pile, flipped over, and the welds are completed on the opposite side. They are painted to prevent rust, and then carried by hand into the building.

Photo: Doug and the Engineer examine the fabricated trusses all stacked one on top of the other

Photo: A workman welds the truss together

Lifting the Trusses into Place

While there are cranes to do heavy lifts in Rwanda, these were not in our budget. So, Doug learned how truss lifting is done by hand. Once they were fabricated and carried into the church building, the crew prepares the tops of the walls to evenly carry the weight. Working together, a group of men lift one end up onto one side, then the other end onto the opposite wall (it is inverted when they begin). Next, they lift the truss until it is up as high as the men can lift it by hand. Then, they get long lifting sticks with a Y on the end. The sticks are carefully place into the truss, and the lifting continues. Eventually, the truss is lifted and secured just before it reaches 90 degrees (it will rest on the supports to keep it in place until they are ready to secure it later).


Photo: the workmen lift the first truss into place

Photo: The third truss is lifted into place

Fastening the Cross Members

Finally, the trusses are welded to each other using cross members. These cross pieces will eventually be used to hold the “iron sheets” on top to make the roof complete. But as you look at these photos below, you will see that this ‘high steel’ work is not for the faint of heart, nor those who are afraid of heights.


Photo: Cross members being fastened. Note the handsome guy in the overalls (front right). 

Photo: Climbing up to the very top with an arc welder to fasten the cross members in place

Photo: The view from the truss as it is being lifted into place

The Finished Church

Unfortunately, Doug’s month in Rwanda ended before the iron sheets could be fastened to the trusses — completing the roof project. However, the team appreciated Doug’s energy and enthusiasm, along with his wise advice on the job. Together, they build a structurally sound church building that will be a hub of spiritual growth and activity in the Musanze region for years to come.

Photo: The roof is beginning to take shape

Photo: Putting up the last truss

Photo: Doug and Simon, his translator for two weeks

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


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.