Jonathan

When I set out for Africa in 2014, my interest in governance was always challenging me to consider the ideal scenario for building healthy, functional and effective Christian denominations. Of course, I knew there would be many things I needed to learn about the African context that would challenge my pre-conceived ideas. It has certainly been a bit of a steep learning curve during the past three years. But I have come face to face with some of the realities of denominational leadership in Africa recently that made me sit back and reflect all over again. And it happened at the Africa Leadership Exchange (ALE). 

Photo: Jonathan and Rev. Saphano

This picture (above) is me and Rev. Saphano Riak Chol, Secretary General of the Faith Evangelical Baptist Church — South Sudan (FEBAC). He is one of 16 exceptional leaders who gathered for the ALE retreat in Naivasha, Kenya the first week of May. If you think you have problems in your job, Rev. Saphano is literally trying to lead his denomination in the middle of a war zone. South Sudan just gained its independence in 2011 after years of conflict. But in 2015 a dispute among political leaders has led to a civil war which continues today. Here are a few of the challenges Rev. Saphano shared with the ALE group:

  • South Sudan is a big country with very poor infrastructure so connecting with churches and leaders is difficult 
  • Mobile networks have limited coverage, and in some places the government has shut them down to interfere with rebel coordination. Many places are completely cut off from any form of communication
  • Because of the civil war, it is unsafe to travel. No one is safe on the roads — even pastors have been killed at roadside checkpoints
  • Poverty is widespread because no one can cultivate or harvest
  • Millions of people are living in refugee camps or camps for internally displaced people
  • FEBAC churches are growing but they do not have qualified pastors. There are only 29 pastors with theological education for over 109 churches

Yet, despite the challenges, Rev. Saphano talked about the response of the people, and particularly the leaders of FEBAC. He spoke of their courage as they continue to minister in terrible conditions. Many pastors and evangelists have left their homes so they can work among the refugees in the camps. He said, “they are my heroes. No one asks to quit.” 

So, in answer to the question, “how do you lead a denomination in a civil war” the answer is: Trust God, and carry on. Every ministry leader has challenges and opportunities to consider, and the burden of leadership requires us to make prudent, wise and strategic choices in order to further God’s work. 

Photo: Praying for the one another. 

One of the most inspiring outcomes of the ALE was the way people responded to each other. There were four delegates from four of CBM’s African partner denominations. After each partner shared about their denominational context including opportunities and challenges, there was a question and answer time followed by prayer. When Rev. Saphano finished sharing about FEBAC’s work in South Sudan there was a groundswell of support expressed by the other three denominations. One offered to provide theological training for their pastors. One offered to provide English training for school teachers. A third denomination offered support in peace-making and reconciliation. There was a deep sense of unity in the Spirit, and the subsequent prayer time was inspiring. 

Photo: Three men from FEBAC (South Sudan), and Dr. Jonathan Wilson our Devotional Leader

What is the Africa Leadership Exchange?

The ALE is an idea that I have developed with the support of CBM to provide a forum for African leaders to gather and discuss issues relating to leadership and governance. It is not a classroom in which Canadian teachers convey information to African students, but rather, it is a place for dialogue and peer learning among African leaders in a retreat setting. This first retreat (May 1-6, 2017) brought together four partner organizations: Association of Baptist Churches in Rwanda (AEBR, Rwanda), African Christian Churches and Schools (ACC&S, Kenya), Baptist Church in Central Africa (CBCA, D.R. Congo), and the Faith Evangelical Baptist Church (FEBAC, South Sudan). 

Photo: The Africa Leadership Exchange group*

This first retreat launched this ministry initiative by casting a vision for the ALE among these four partner denominations. Leadership and governance concepts were introduced and the participants provided input concerning their perceived needs for future sessions. We plan to hold four subsequent retreats over the next two years where we can explore these topics in greater detail. As I listened to each of the partners make presentations about their denominations, I was inspired by the quality of the leaders who are dedicated to building healthy churches for the sake of the Kingdom of God. 

Photo: Jonathan Mills and Dr. Jonathan Wilson*

One of the highlights of the ALE was the devotional leadership provided by Dr. Jonathan Wilson and his wife Soohwan Park. A professor at Regent College in Vancouver, Dr. Wilson and Soohwan led us in the fascinating devotional series “Ancient Wisdom: Reading the Old Testament as a Spiritual Guide.” Dr. Wilson also made a special presentation on Creation Care and Integral Mission. Rev. Jeremiah was very excited to get an autographed copy of Dr. Wilson’s book on Creation, God’s Good World

Photo: ACC&S Moderator Rt. Rev. Jeremiah Ngumo Kiguru with Dr. Jonathan Wilson’s book on Creation

The retreat was not all work. Part of the experience was to provide a retreat setting conducive to personal reflection and relationship building away from the daily pressures and responsibilities of work. The camp at Crater Lake provided the perfect setting for this retreat. In fact, because of its location down in a natural volcanic crater cell phone reception was very poor — which was frustrating to be out of touch with our families but turned out to be a blessing because work could not track us down.   

Photo: Morning mist over Crater Lake

We also made sure we maximized the nature reserve setting by setting out to enjoy God’s good world. A hike up to the top of the crater provided spectacular views, and in the surrounding open spaces we encountered a number of wild animals. 

Photo: A walking safari through the game reserve

Even in the camp itself, we were visited daily by a family of Colobus Monkeys. They were not afraid of people and everyone was fascinated to get a close look. It seems the feeling was mutual as this family group climbed a tree next to our meeting room so they could listen in. 

photo: A curious family of Colobus Monkeys

The next retreat for ALE is scheduled for November 2017. At that time, the delegates will reassemble for dialogue and peer learning in areas relating to leadership and governance. The goal is to facilitate engaging and lively discussions which bring together principles of good governance applied in the African context. After this initial gathering, I am excited for the future of the ALE and the impact it will have on the partner organizations. 

Please continue to pray for CBM’s work with our many overseas partners. For most Canadians, the context of their ministry is unimaginably challenging. But the ALE partners unanimously expressed their thanks, indicating that the support of Canadian Baptists helps to give them strength and encouragement to carry on. So, thank you for your prayers and ongoing support for the work of CBM. 


For more information (and pictures) about the Africa Leadership Exchange visit the blog of Aaron & Erica Kenny, the Africa Team Leaders.  

For more information about CBM and its work in Africa, please visit Canadian Baptist Ministries website.

*These photos courtesy of Aaron Kenny.

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! 

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

Babazi-Health-Centre-Director

Photo: The Director of the Babazi Health Centre

The Association of Baptist Churches in Rwanda (AEBR) operate two health centres in Rwanda. Despite many improvements in national delivery of health care in recent years, there is still a need for regional health centres in the rural areas.

Photo: The hilly terrain of Western Rwanda. Many villages are only accessible by foot or motorcycle

Here in Bubazi, the health centre has been serving the region for many years providing diagnostic services, basic surgical care, maternity and delivery, medical counselling, and emergency care. More significant medical emergencies are referred to hospitals nearby.

Photo: A lab technician provides important diagnostics for local residents

When I was very sick and in the hospital last year, I remember how much of a relief it was to know that the lab would determine whether I had malaria or not and soon start treatment. I just remember lying in the hospital bed recalling the words of my friend, Dr Tim Kelton: “Malaria is probably not going to kill you, but you may wish you were dead.” Apparently, that’s how bad it feels to have malaria. It turns out I only had amoebas. But I’ve never been been so thankful for the lab technicians making their diagnosis so the treatment could begin.

photo: a traditional Rwandan stretcher

This is a photo of a traditional Rwandan stretcher. We had seen one in the museum in Butare but we were told that they are not in use any longer, so it was a surprised to see this one. If you look at the cross beams supporting the stretcher, you can see some round banana leaf rings near the ends. The stretcher is carried on the heads of four men – and the leaf rings provide a little cushion. These men carried this women for several kilometres over treacherous terrain to bring her for treatment. This is a great example of how the community members support one another. Believe it or not, in the above photograph the woman is still in the stretcher. She was very very sick, as you can see from this next photo.

photo: A very sick woman is helped from the stretcher to the triage room

In recent years, the health centre’s role has changed somewhat. Today, they send health workers into the local villages to meet people and provide basic health care information. It is a more proactive role that is aimed at prevention. Visiting the centre was quite inspiring knowing how much of a difference these men and women are making in the lives of thousands of locals in that region.

photo: A well equipped bathroom

It may seem strange to be taking a photo of a bathroom, but it was to remind me of the challenges they still face out here in the countryside. This health centre has excellent facilities with showers, sinks and hand washing stations, and toilets — but the water pipe that services this area has not been operational for more than 5 years. This means the centre has to have its water carried in ‘gerry cans’ every day. It also means that proper sanitation is a much bigger challenge than it would be if the water was hooked up. We are hoping a water project will happen in the near future to address this problem.

photo: One of the offices where dedicated medical professionals provide advice and assistance to local villagers

 

 

Whenever you go on a Short Term Mission (STM) team, you never know what might happen. Take for example the recent visit with Randy and Cheryl Vanderveen from Grande Prairie, Alberta. They visited a literacy graduation presentation in the remote village of Nyangahinika. Following the service, Randy wanted to get a good photo of all the graduates, so they assembled everyone for a nice group shot. Just as everything was ready to go, a cow decided to photo bomb the scene leaving everyone smiling!

Photo: A cow brings smiles to the literacy graduates

No problem. They sometimes have stray cows in Grande Prairie too, don’t they? Randy handled the situation in stride, and the group photos eventually were taken.

Randy is a professional photographer who has produced a number of beautiful show books following previous STM trips to Rwanda. CBM’s communication department took notice of his excellent photos and entered into discussion with him about the possibility of a specific STM aimed at taking quality images for CBM to use for various projects. Before long, Randy and Cheryl were boarding a plane in Canada in early November for a three month experience of Rwanda.

Photo: Speaking of unexpected things: The Women’s cooperative group gave Cheryl & Esperence each a Live Rabbit

The Vanderveens are no strangers to Short Term Mission experiences. Nor were they unfamiliar with Rwanda having served on several STM trips with their home church in Grande Prairie over the past 10 years. McLaurin Baptist church, and their sister church Webster, became STEP partners with CBM 10 years ago, and the Vanderveens have been key leaders for many of the STM’s over the years.

Photo: Randy working his magic with the camera

Randy wasn’t the only one using his talents for good use. Cheryl applied her experience as a nurse in a number of settings including our walk through of one of the AEBR’s rural health centres. In addition, she was involved in many conversations with everyday Rwandans in various settings including the gentleman (pictured below) who had suffered a stroke a few years earlier. Cheryl showed great patience and love as she learned of his daily challenges. After prayer, we made sure he had some essential food provisions before driving back to Kigali (Rabbit stew, as it turns out).

Photo: Cheryl speaks with an elderly man in his home

We enjoyed having the Vanderveens in Rwanda for their three month visit. Only now, a few weeks after their departure, are we hearing stories of how many lives have been impacted by their gentle, compassionate relationship building. A number of families have reconnected with the church and recommitted their lives to Christ after being visited by Randy and Cheryl. Perhaps one of the enduring symbols of the impact they made, are the names given to them by the church in Kinigi. The Rwandans were finding their names difficult to pronounce, so they gave them the names Amahoro (peace) and Urukundo (love).

Photo: Jonathan saying goodbye to Randy and Cheryl at the airport

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