Ministry

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. 

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. 

Within the Baptist denomination worldwide there is a commonly held belief that in order to be a believer, a person must make a personal commitment to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, Baptists wait until a person is old enough to understand the meaning of the Christian Gospel before they are baptized. The precise details of how baptisms are practiced are sometimes different from place to place, but the basic baptism formula is fairly consistent. A pastor asks a candidate if they have repented of their sin, if they have made a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. In response, the pastor baptizes the person “… in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19). 

The Regional Baptism Service at Kacyiru

Because the Kacyiru church is the main church in this region, and because most baptist churches do not have their own baptistry, candidates from all over Kigali come to this one big baptism service. Traditionally, baptisms are held around the new year. In this case, the service was Saturday morning, December 31. Here, Pastor Joel introduces the baptism candidates to the congregation early in the service.

Photo: Pastor Joel introduces the baptismal candidates to the Congregation

The service featured special music guests from the Democratic Republic of Congo. This brass band made the trip to Kigali in order to share their music. It helped make the whole service more of a festive event. 

Photo: A brass band from the Democratic Republic of Congo

The great time of celebration has arrived! The candidates are all ready to be baptized, and are lined up in eager expectation. 

Photo: People lined up to be baptized

This panorama photo shows the whole church (click on it to see more detail). On the left is the front platform which contains the baptistry. Many people are standing up front to assist with the service; some are leading singing; others are taking photos; others are providing towels. Down the central aisle of the church, you can see the line of baptismal candidates all waiting their turn. 

Photo: Pastor Capitale and a Woman Being Baptized

This is a very special photo. Pastor Capitale is standing in the baptistry with the very first candidate, and woman who is elderly and frail. She was so weak that she needed to be helped into the baptistry and the pastor is holding onto her so that she does not slip or fall. It was inspiring to see this woman’s determination and faith as she followed through on her commitment to be baptized in the church. 

The Baptism Service at Kiyovu

A week after the Kacyiru service, Pastor Andre celebrated the first Sunday of the new year with a service of baptism at his church in Kiyovu (also in Kigali). This was a very special service for our friend and colleague Andre, because three of his own children were baptized: Princess, Aaron and Marie Therese. 

Photo: All the congregation gathers around the baptistry to watch

The Baptist church in Kiyovu is smaller than Kacyiru, but it is a vibrant community with great passion and enthusiasm. You can see by the way the whole church gathers around the baptistry that they are excited to witness these young people making their profession of faith. 

Photo: Aaron being baptized

Reception at Andre and Theresa’s house

Following the baptisms, there was a reception at Andre and Theresa’s house. They want to honour their children and celebrate their step of faith — and celebrations are always done in community in Rwanda. So, they rented a marquis tent and 100 plastic chairs and hired a caterer to prepare food for all the church members, friends and family, and delegates from other churches in the area. All tolled, there were over 90 adults and 30 children. 

Photo: Back at Andre and Theresa’s house for a reception

Since Andre is our colleague and friend it was a pleasure for the global field staff of Canadian Baptist Ministries to be able to attend the reception. There was a buffet lunch, fanta, singing, a few gifts, and many many speeches. Everyone was in a happy mood and the atmosphere was very festive.

Photo: The Guests of Honour: Marie Therese, Aaron and Princess

We thank God for these many young people in Kigali who have made their profession of faith through baptism. It is the first step of a long journey. It is a recognition of the power of God at work in their lives to draw them out of their life of sin, and into a life-giving relationship with the Lord Jesus.

It is a joy to work with a ministry partner like AEBR. These baptism services are an indication of the spiritual vitality present in this denomination. We pray for continued growth as the AEBR reaches out to the people of Rwanda in word and deed. 

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

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.