Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ready to begin our journey home

We have been without internet for about a week, so we will be catching up by writing some blogs after we return home. Right now we are in the Kigali airport waiting for the first leg of our trip home.

I've invited each team member to share a few words about their time in Rwanda.

Sue: It was a privilege and honor to be able to return again to Rwandan and actually be able to see the progress and improvement of the various Shalom initiatives. To be able to see hearts mending, home gardens and nutrition improving, women and youth programs expanding throughout the community that are improving their quality of life. We were able to work with the community to meet basic needs of widows such as latrines, access to health care and a simple mattress to sleep on. Our donation of $180 for the materials and labor to construct one latrine for a widow ended up providing three latrines because the community jumped in with so much volunteer labor and materials. I hope to return again to see how much more people are coming to know Christ and helping each other to better their communities. I hope some of you will join us.

Deb: We are returning home full having eaten our fill of a colorful and spiritually satisfying meal. We spent time with faithful, deep souls whose obedience in the face of overwhelming obstacles has inspired us and humbled us. We are grateful for Jean Paul's humble shepherd, Christ-like heart and the godly staff he has gathered around him.

Susan: It's been an incredible two weeks of ups and downs, but God is alive and at work in Rwanda. We have seen that in the work of Shalom as they reach out to reconcile and develop their communities. We have seen it in the care for the severely disabled children living at Gahanga orphanage and the wonderful work with handicapped children at Jessie's Place in Rubavu. We were privileged to join our Rwandan friends as God's hands and feet in these wonderful ministries.

Sandy: We have been grateful to see how God is expanding the work of Shalom in their community in the Shalom youth clubs, the women's groups and the youth soccer clubs. We see the fruits of their work as more people are saving for their own government health insurance, the number of women in cooperatives has more than doubled, they have graduated 27 secondary students with computer skills and the groups they work with have discovered the joy of reaching out to serve others in their community as well.

Sally: This trip has been like watching a flower open and blossom, or a toddler take off and run. Eighteen months ago I visit Shalom and saw many small initiatives just getting off the ground - offering free computer classes to secondary students, bringing together parents of handicapped children, teaching hygiene and nutrition,  encouraging supportive savings groups for vulnerable women, starting Shalom peace clubs in the secondary schools and a Shalom soccer club using sprot to spread the message of reconciliation.and
Dee: We had many Rwandan friends meet us at the airport this evening to see us off. What an honor that these new friends would take time out of their busy schedules to come and say goodbye at the airport.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

More updates from Rwanda

Saturday Sept. 23 there was a lightning strike at our guest house that knocked out the internet. Each day we were told it would be fixed that day...and so it went until we left Rubavu on Wednesday. That is why we have been out of touch. Then we went for our debriefing time at Akagera Game Park where there is also no internet. So now that we are home let me catch you up.

One of Shalom's initiatives that is really taking off is Peace (Shalom) Clubs in the secondary schools. These three groups of young people (one at each secondary school) have been through healing workshops and are committed to bringing reconciliation and hope to their peers. The Shalom staff serve as their mentors.They use music and drama to get the message across but also design their own service projects to improve life at at their schools. They have built kitchen gardens for the school lunch program, repaired broken wooden desks so more students can sit down (yes, classrooms are so crowded they sit 3 to a desk and some students still have to stand), painted classrooms and offices and installed tippy taps to encourage hand washing and hygiene.   Sandy, assisted by Sue and Dee connected beautifully with these students and encouraged them to persevere toward their goals. We left them with solar lights and notebooks and pens which they will distribute to those students most in need. They are empowered to make the decision of who will receive the gifts. We spoke at all three schools and also made contributions to each school's lunch feeding program to pay for students who can not afford it. A water filter was also left for each school.
Sandy and Sue sharing at Kanembwe I school

Some of the amazing young people who are working toward a new future for Rwanda

Sandy with the young men and women of Murambi secondary school - (a large school with no electricity)
A kitchen garden, made of discarded tires, being constructed at Murambi by the Shalom Club members

We also met with 5 different women's cooperatives in Rubavu which have been organized and are supported by Shalom. The Dukundane "we love one another" group in Bushengo is made up of Christian and Muslim women, working together for a better future. The Muslim women are very open to studying Scripture as a part of their weekly meetings. We brought laminated copies of Isaiah 61:1-4 which they will study together over the coming weeks and after listening to their stories we shared our testimonies and prayed with them. This group generates income by embroidering bed sheets that they take to Congo to sell. Peggy shared about her Stitch and Chatter group at St. James and what it means to her to have a supportive Christian community of women. She also presented them with sewing supplies including hoops, scissors, needles, thimbles and reading glasses along with a large print Kinyarwanda Bible for the group. 
Peggy sharing in the home where Dukundane Bushengo meet each Friday
sharing a meal with our Rwandan friends

Some of the donations you provided for our team went towards materials to construct a new latrine for one of the members of this group. We were able to lend a hand, along with the women, in collecting stones for the base of the floor which will have a top coat of concrete. We were delighted to learn that because neighbors and relatives were willing to contribute so much labor and materials our $180 was able to build not one but three new latrines. The people of this community are so motivated to improve life not just for themselves but for their neighbors as well.

The old latrine at Christine's home

Sue and Aisha collecting stone for the floor

Christine's husband hand crushing the stones to create the latrine floor

I will continue to catch you up on our activities. Thanks for your interest.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


This morning our team was "dressed" by John Paul's wife, Judith, in preparation for the three hour church service.  Peggy, we missed you and your smiling face as we began our day - we pray you have arrived home safely.

Sing Band, you would have loved the singing, dancing, and hand motions taking place all at the same time! The service was filled with joyous praises!

We have been surrounded by the Joy of Jesus in . . .
  the church
  the Shalom Clubs
  the women's groups
  the orphanage
  and in our new Sunday best outfits!  (Thank you, Judith)
Dukundumurimo (We love what we do) Youth Traditional Dancers
vulnerable youth who come together for dancing. They do paid performances and use their income for health insurance and school fees and supplies

Aphrodise, a young dancer for whom we built a small home when he and his family were living under a leaky tin sheet. He is a bright light among youth in Rwanda in spite of all he has faced

The Shalom Girls Football (soccer) team
We had such a good time with the boys team, junior boys team and girls team hearing about how participating in Shalom Football clubs has helped them to get off drugs, reconcile with family members and work toward better health and scholastic effort. The roof came off the room when we showed them the new red SHALOM uniforms, with shorts and socks, we were giving to them.

No one would even guess we were Americans, right??
Reconnecting with old friends is such a joy to me in Rubavu. This is Leah, who was in the first reconciliation women's group we met in 2010. She nearly died from HIV-AIDS, but is now doing well on her medications. She is a talented seamstress but has no access to a machine. Our plan is to work with her church to give her a machine of her own, with the understanding that she will train two other young women to be tailors. We're eager to see how this concept of passing on the gift works. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Visiting Console in her wonderful new home

If you are connected with St. James Church you know that during VBS this summer the children were bringing in money to purchase bricks to help repair the crumbling home of a dear widow in Rwanda, named Console. She also has one daughter who had gone to live with someone else because the house was uninhabitable.

Yesterday we had the privilege of visiting with Console in her new home! Her daughter Dorcas has returned to live with her now that the home is safe and dry. Peggy, Dee and I delighted in telling her all about the children at our church and the love they came to have for "grandma Console" as we talked about her throughout VBS.

Here are a few pictures from that wonderful day:
walking down the path to Console's house (on the left)

Peggy, Dee and Console entering her new home

Console's kitchen area with new utensils thanks to Shalom Minstry
Console shows off her new latrine to Sally

Saying goodbye to Dorcas and Console

A dance of gratitude with Console and her neighbors as we were leaving
Dance Peggy Dance .    Dance Dee Dance

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday with Shalom in Rubavu

We were thrilled to finally begin our work in Rubavu today with our partners and friends at Shalom Community Development Ministry. We will be here for the next 8 days.

Heath, Nutrition and Kitchen Gardens: Today our team met with the leaders from 5 women's groups in Rubavu who have learned about making kitchen gardens near their homes to improve family nutrition.  Eighteen months ago I brought 5 pencil like cuttings of a plant called Chaya to the Shalom office in Rubavu. Chaya is a Mexican plant often called a spinach tree because it is a perennial shrub which produces a continuous crop of highly nutritious leaves which are prepared like spinach. One Chaya bush planted by a home can provide a significant change in the nutrition and health of an entire family. The Shalom staff has grown on the original cuttings and now have 5 large bushes which are providing cuttings for many new plants.    

                                                                   March, 2016                                                     
Today I shared about the benefits of Chaya with this group of women leaders. "Chaya is a new food God has provided for you just as he provided manna, which people had never seen before, for the Israelites in the wilderness." Then we gave out cuttings to each participant to be planted at their homes.


After that we were given a tour of the large demonstration garden and tree nursery Shalom has developed as a way to educate the community. This is all a continuation of the hygiene and nutrition training brought to Shalom by our teams in 2013 and 2015. We taught about the importance of eating a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables. What really MADE MY DAY was what I saw as we were leaving the gathering after our lunch of rice, Chaya greens, plantains and beans. I saw this lovely young mother scooping up fingers full of rice and greens and feeding them to her baby. That means the learning has taken root and been accepted by the women as something good they want to do for their families. That was really encouraging. 
 Transformation: This young woman is named Francine. She and her baby had suffered at home from loneliness and depression from early traumas in her life. She was invited to a healing and reconciliation workshop last April, run by Shalom, where she experienced God's inner healing and also discovered the joy of finding community with other women. She is now employed by Shalom to maintain the kitchen gardens and assist with future workshops. In this picture she is proudly holding the government insurance card which she has purchased with her own earnings for $5 each. She is excited about the future for herself and her child.                                                                                                                                                                                 Reconciliation work is at the heart of everything Shalom does.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Today we also ran into Marie Chantal. This young girl and her mother were present at the 2015 gathering we had with several mother's of children with significant disabilities and their children. Marie Chantal has major physical challenges, but she is very bright and has learned to write with her feet. Shalom has helped to grow in confidence and she is now very verbal and the Shalom staff refer to her as an advocate for the disabled. When she discovers there is a disabled person, especially a child, in a home, she enters right in and encourages them to live life as fully as possible. More transformation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Bright Hope for the Future  Our afternoon was spent with local high school students who have formed Shalom (Peace) Clubs at their school. Though they have all come from very difficult backgrounds (lots of alcoholism, abuse, bitterness and ethnic hatred in their homes) these students meet regularly to think together about how they can serve their fellow students and the surrounding community. They perform drama and poetry about peace making, they improve their schools by planting kitchen gardens and placing trash bins around the campus. They have painted classrooms and rebuilt broken desks so more students can sit during class. They were extremely well spoken and confident as Sandy led our team in getting to know them. We all saw Sandy's giftedness in working with young people shine! Dee and Sue were by her side. We shared from I Timothy 4:12 about youth being an example to those around them and also from Deuteronomy 31 where old Moses is giving charge of the people to young Joshua saying "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  Rwanda's future is bright because God is transforming lives at every level, and he is allowing Shalom to be his instrument in that transformation.                                                       
Students as we told them we had brought 6 laptop computers given by our friends, including other high school students from our church. That really made an impression!

Thanks to each one of you who have helped to make this trip possible through your love, support, donations and prayers. We are here on behalf of all of you.
Sally, Sandy, Sue, Susan, Deb, Dee and Peggy


Monday - from Sue

Such an experience - not sure how to describe.  We spent today at the Gahanga Orphanage which houses severely disabled children. We toured the grounds where they garden, grow banana trees, papaya trees and raise 4 cows, 1,000 chickens and 2 pigs to use for food and some they sell to generate income.  Very, very primitive - very poor.

We fed the children their lunch as only a few are able to feed themselves.  The nuns love these children and are so protective of them. Their income is so low and they need so much.  The nuns are exhausted as they live on the premises and are caring for these children 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

We were thrilled as the new laundry facility can now be built as the permit was finally granted. This is a major accomplishment as a covering is a necessity due to the rainy season and the heat.  So much laundry - ladies hand washing all day long.  This Orphanage is not receiving funds from the Catholic Church even though it was opened as catholic and organized by nuns. Very political.

Just wanted you all to have some idea of our mission here in Rwanda. I am understanding Sally's passion and her desire to be instrumental in the care of these people whether disabled children or facilitating a leadership workshop to help groups assist due to the aftermath of the genocide. So much to share.

Tuesday in Rwanda

This morning our team headed out for Rubavu (also called Gisenyi) in northwestern Rwanda. It is a four hour drive up and down green hills and valleys where every square inch is cultivated for beans, maize, potatoes, rice, bananas, carrots and anything else that can feed a family. The rainy season is about to start so fields have been freshly prepared and new crops are just sprouting. Those on the team who are new to Rwanda enjoyed watching the steady stream of people and bicycles along the road hauling everything from sugar cane and huge sacks of potatoes to furniture and chickens on their heads. School kids played soccer on open fields and mothers and toddlers weeded the fields in preparation for the new season.

The half way point on our journey was Ruhengeri, the jumping off spot for people who are coming to see the mountain gorillas that roam the nearby Virunga Mountains. Our team however had a much more precious encounter to enjoy - we were meeting 6 Compassion children we sponsor at a local Methodist church. Susan Mitchell connected with three girls they have been sponsoring for about 8 years, Sue Chandler made a second visit to Obed, age 11 and I visited Cyuza King David, age 13, who has recently been sponsored by our son Scott. I also visited Mukeshimana Alice, 11, who is sponsored by my good friend Phyllis Clerihue. Each of us had the chance to spend time in each child's home, meeting all of the parents, brothers and sisters. I even got to hold the 3 month old sister while we talked and prayed together. Each of them have had so many opportunities open unto them because they are sponsored.

After a full afternoon of child visits we loaded back into our van to complete the trip to Rubavu. As evening came we watched smoke curl up from cooking fires in every home and flashed of colorful lightning over the mountains. After a slight delay from a broken hubcap we glided into our guesthouse at about 8 pm. We were very enthusiastically greeted by the staff of Shalom Ministries and look forward to beginning our week of ministry partnership with them starting at 8 am tomorrow.  The internet is down and we have temporarily lost water, but are hopeful both will soon return. Welcome to Africa.
 Sally sharing the Good Shepherd story - Grace, to children to her right would be the lost sheep and Emmanuel, the boy to her left, would be the Good Shepherd who went out to find her. The squeal of delight from Grace and Emmanuel were unforgettable.
The team outside of Julienne's home on Sunday. The little one is Iradukunda, who is in need of major surgery for her legs and arms, and 11 year old Kellia was celebrating her birthday that day. Our dear friend Gilbert is on the right.

Susan with her three sponsored girls, Diane, Jeanne and Chantal

Sally with King David (13) and his mother. King David is sponsored by Scott Stuart. He is fluent in English and wants to be a doctor.

Mukeshimana Alicia (11) is a delightful young lady being sponsored by Phyllis Clerihue. Though they only see each other on Saturdays at the Compassion center she and King David are best friends. He likes that she is smart and happy. She likes that he is a good student and calm.