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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! 

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. 

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. 

 

 

 

Return to Rwanda

Following three months of home assignment in Canada, we boarded a plane for our return trip to Rwanda. The flights were uneventful, although it is always a challenge to adjust time zones.

We were greeted upon return by a dozen colleagues and friends. It was a joyful reunion. We were certainly happy to step out of the airport and into the warm African night air as we walked to the waiting vehicles in the parking lot. Thanks to everyone who made our return so happy. 

Reconnecting

Photo: Canadian and Rwandan friends and colleagues (at the last CIM course, the DRC students gave the Canadians and Rwandans material. Those pictured had their material made into outfits to honour their DRC friends).

We spent the first week unpacking, resting, and reconnecting with various friends and colleagues. We tried to maintain contact during out time in Canada using email and Facebook, but there is no substitution for face to face communication. One of the most interesting conversations involved our friend Andre Sibomana (pictured) who had travelled to Denmark in June. It was his first experience of travel outside of Africa and we were anxious to learn of his adventures. However, we left for Canada before he returned to Rwanda, so it felt like a long time waiting to hear the details. 

Many of you will recall our comments concerning the pace of growth in Rwanda. It has continued in our absence as a number of improvements had been made to the airport, some new roads have been constructed, and a number of new buildings are nearing completion. It is quite remarkable to see the pace of change.

Certificate of Integral Mission

Photo: CIM students and official representatives pose for a photo after graduation.

We planned our return to coincide with the fourth and final module of the Certificate of Integral Mission (CIM). Students from Rwanda, the Democratic of Congo, Denmark and Canada have been meeting for 4 week long training sessions involving a number of key issues concerning theology and the practice of ministry.  Most of the participants are project managers who are learning best practices for writing proposals, building a ‘logic framework’ to ensure our activities are going to impact beneficiaries positively, and other ‘cross cutting’ issues relating to ministry. 

Photo: Jonathan teaches on leadership.

Jonathan was involved in presenting three sessions. Two of them were in the area of leadership development. All teachers from Kenya, Canada and Rwanda were appreciated by everyone. 

On Friday, CIM officially wrapped up and the students were all presented with certificates for their hard work over the past two years. It was truly a day of celebration with representatives from the denominations present to commission the students: Rev. Dr. Molo (representing CBCA in D.R.C), Rev. Dr. Gato (representing AEBR in Rwanda), and Rev. Dr. Aaron Kenny (representing CBM in Canada). 

Back to Slow Internet

Photo: Our night guard, Asciele, supervising the workman installing the fibre optic cable

The only two negatives of our return to Kigali include; 1) we both had a brief experience of stomach issues, and 2) we are forced to adjust to slow and unpredictable internet again. It was so nice to be in Canada with unlimited high speed internet nearly everywhere we went. Sometimes we stopped at a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks for a coffee and a bit of Internet surfing when we were on the road in Canada. It is definitely not as simple here … but all that may be changing. As we write this, there are workmen installing a fibre optic connection to our house here in Kimihurura. They installed the basic infrastructure in our neighbourhood in June, and the company is offering free installation until Christmas. So, we are early adopters of fibre optics in Rwanda. We will let you know how it works out after we’ve had a few months to try it. 

That is our news for now. We trust that God will bless you and your family in the months ahead. 

And please remember to consider the CBM Gifts for Change catalogue for some life-changing ideas for gift giving this Christmas. 

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

Click Here to see the Women’s Department Happy Video

Photo: Jan and Line

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

Photo:  A piglet represents a great income generating opportunity

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

Photo: This is what makes us happy!

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

Click here to see the Women’s Department Happy Video

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

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

Literacy

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

Photo: Teaching over 70 students at a time

Photo: Heading to the fields to inspect the Irish Potatoes

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

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

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

Photo: Sharing some photos and seeing some smiles

Days for Girls Kits (Orphans and Vulnerable Children)

Photo: Girls watch Annie demonstrate kit

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

Photo: Esperence (Project Manager)explains some important information

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

Photo: A young girl receives her kit

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