Jul
17
2011
0

“Real World Rwanda”

Hello All,

Lots I want to write, but been struggling to get online…and now it is getting late – I had to go watch the U.S Women’s Soccer Team play in the final of the Women’s World Cup – sad to say they lost to Japan in shoot-outs.  :(   But I wanted to write quickly to ask for your prayers.

I am leaving tomorrow to go teach at Butaka Seconday School for the week.  This is a growing school in a rural area – no electricity (unless the generator is going) and no running water.  I will be living with the headmaster, Terrence (Pastor Esron’s brother), and his wife and 7 month old son for the week.  I am excited (and just a little nervous) to experience life the way most Rwandans live it…if only for a short time.  Please pray that I can be a blessing to this family and not a burden.  Please pray also that my good health continues.

I will be teaching  biology.  While I have been given a very basic overview of what they would like me to teach – and I’ve been told they do have textbooks in English – I really don’t know what to expect…or what they are expecting of me.  Since I am a planner, this is going to be a challenge for me.  So, please pray that I plan as well as I can (in the next 24 hours)…and then I trust God for the rest.  Pray that I can have a positive impact on the students and staff of the school and that I can be a blessing to them in some way.  Thanks!

Finally, please continue to keep Pastor Esron and the Evangelical Free Church of Rwanda in your prayers.  Pray for wisdom for him; for unity among the pastors, church leaders, and congregation; and that they will have a positive impact on their community.

Thanks a lot!

God bless,

Jen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
13
2011
0

Ministry in Rwanda

          It didn’t take me long to notice the incredible number of ministries in Rwanda – churches of various denominations, reconciliation ministries, ministries to genocide survivors, etc.  I mentioned this observation to a man who works at ALARM, once such ministry.  He said, “Sometimes when a tree is cut down, it grows back stronger.”  However, he added that the pool of ministries is wide but shallow.  There seem to be a lot of Rwandans who have been searching for hope and have found it in the church.  I can’t tell you the number of pastors and evangelists I’ve met.  But there is a need for good training and discipleship.  That’s probably why a group from Community Bible Studies International (from MN!) were here a couple weeks ago…and why there are 2 different pastors staying at my guest house right now doing pastor training (one from TX who is a friend of Pastor Esron’s and is working with the EFCR).

          The need is definitely great.  Just in the past couple of days I heard two stories of current issues with “genocide ideologies.”  Part of me has a hard time understanding how that can still be going on.  And yet, when you think about it, the genocide happened just 17 years ago.  There are schools where students who lost a parent/family member in the genocide could be sitting right next to the children of the murderers.  But in the midst of this climate, reconciliation is taking place.  I heard the story of a ministry that is providing a home to a widow of the genocide…which is being built by the son of the man who killed her husband and another man involved in the killings…and she is giving them space on her land for them to build homes for themselves. Amazing!  As a Christian I definitely believe strongly in the concept of forgiveness.  But I realize…I’ve really never had to forgive anyone for anything remotely that big.  Only through the power of the Holy Spirit could that ever be possible!

         And people here are so poor and have so little.  Almost every day I am either directly asked for money or told about a situation where there is a need.  I’m left struggling with what my ministry is to be here.  How can I best help?  I am so rich in comparison.  And we as Christians are called to help widows and orphans and the poor.  I definitely have a heart for helping people meet their basic needs.  But I can’t give to every cause I see.  I met a young woman who has big dreams and is trying to make a go of her life after a fairly rough childhood.  I was feeling good about the possibility of being an encouragement to her.  Then today she asked me for a fairly sizeable (in Rwandan standards) chunk of money.  I was discouraged.  And then my new pastor friend from Scotland told me that I can still be an encouragement to her.  

          I think up until just recently my biggest concern about being in Rwanda was whether or not I would be useful.  Am I really helping out at the school?  I am doing some work at Solace, but it is just office stuff.  Am I really making a difference?  But then, it was like God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, remember that this trip is not about you.  You can have all the plans in the world, but apart from Me you can do nothing.  I’ve got things under control; you just have to trust in Me.  And maybe what I have planned for this trip is more about the difference it makes in your life and your relationship with Me.  Maybe just your presence here is an encouragement to others.  Maybe I am planting a seed for something I am going to do later.  Just leave it to Me.”

          So, that’s what I am trying to do.  I’m still not sure what I am going to do about the young woman who asked me for money or how I can best be an encouragement to her.  And I know that I am going to need that same reminder from God over and over again throughout my life.  But I think that is one of the lessons I am learning from my time in Rwanda.  Please pray that God will have an impact in and through me during the rest of my time here…whatever that might look like!  :)

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
07
2011
0

The Wall!

OK guys, here you go – wall pictures!  The team has been anxious to see the progress that is being made on the wall.  This week less has been done due to discipleship training that’s been going on…but it is looking good!  And Pastor Esron has been persistently working on getting the building permit.  He told me just the other day that is has been officially approved!  When it is actually in his hot little hands, I will get a picture of that, too.  :)  By the way, both Pastor Esron and Theophile send you their greetings!

Here you go…

 

First section, including spots for windows   

Pastor/Headmaster Theophile next to the first section (including spots for windows)

 

 

The start of a guard room next to where the gate will be

Pastor Emmanuel behind the start of a gatekeeper's room

 

Section past the driveway

Section past the driveway

 

 

 

Getting the first layer of bricks level is one of the biggest jobs

Getting the first layer of bricks level is one of the biggest jobs

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
04
2011
0

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July!  In the U.S., it is Independence Day today.  In Rwanda, it is a holiday as well – Liberation Day.  Rwanda celebrated its Independence Day on Friday, July 1.  So this has been a long holiday weekend, with no school on Friday or today.  On Friday, I saw truck loads of army and police leaving an event at the nearby stadium.  I’m not sure what events might be planned for today.

I am using a computer on loan from the church’s temporarily closed cyber cafe.  Very nice of Pastor Esron to let me use it.  Unfortunately, it has not been working so well for me the past few days.  So, I am going to make this brief…just in case of any problems. 

The highlight of this long weekend was a special women’s service that I went to with Kezia.  We drove a few hours to a rural church, the last bit of it along a very rough road (the team knows what kind of road I mean!).  The church was located near the area where Pastor Esron and Kezia grew up.

The church was packed with women from about 12 churches in the region!  An older woman dressed all in white led the service.  She is the women’s leader for the region, and I immediately liked her.  She wore something of a tiara in her hair, was full of smiles and energy, and gave me some good hugs!  Several of the churches had choirs sing and dance.  It was fun to see the different matching outfits they wore.  

A “mama” friend of Kezia’s came with us and spoke on Esther – how we should be women after Esther’s heart…women who are important not just for ourselves, but for the impact we can have on the life and salvation of others.  It was good.  Kezia was the key speaker.  I was asked to share something as well.  I just shared very briefly about some of the worries I had about details of my time here and how each morning God had been blessing me with a devotional and/or Bible verse that was exactly what I needed.  One of them is one of my favoriate verses – Jeremiah 29:11-13.  It is such a good reminder and comfort!

OK – this is longer than I had intended.  I wanted to attach a picture or 2, but the computer is not cooperating again.  Until next time…enjoy your parades, boat rides, and barbecues today!

Peace,

Jen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jun
27
2011
0

I’m still here!

Hello All,

This is Jen.  Sorry it has been awhile.  Just trying to get settled into a routine here.  Today I moved to the German Guesthouse in Remera.  ALARM was great – very quiet and everyone was very friendly and helpful.  However, it was kind of far away from everything.  I am now within just a few minute walk of the church and primary school in Remera!  And a little walk in the other direction leads me to a town center where I can find most things I might need…including the cyber cafe where I now sit!  :)

This first week by myself has taught be a lot about being alone and being quiet – probably both good lessons for me.  :)  I have been helping out in the primary school in the mornings (until noon).  At least I am trying to help – I realized I really don’t know what teachers in the U.S. teach 4 & 5 year olds!  So…I am observing a lot and (hopefully) helping a little.  :)  I am amazed at what they do accomplish with almost no supplies (they don’t even have a blackboard eraser for each classroom and have to share)!  The students are well-behaved and are learning English well.  They definitely know more English than I know Kinyarwanda!   But I am learning, too.  :)

On Wednesday I will meat with Jean, the director of Solace.  The guest house at Solace is the first place we stayed.  However, they are much more than a guest house.  It is a whole ministry focused on reconciliation.  Jean and I have been e-mailing, but we haven’t yet had a chance to meet.  He has some ideas of how I can help them while I am here as well.  I look forward to hopefully staying busy at the school in the morning and maybe at Solace in the afternoons…with some excursions to other places along the way.  I do hope to get back up to the secondary school in Butaka to do some teaching there as well.

OK – I think that is it for now.  Byron and the McBrides should all be back in the States now.  I pray they made it back safely, had a good trip, and are adjusting to the time change!  And I believe Rick, Shane, and Rick return from South Africa perhaps tomorrow!  Please pray for them as well!

Thanks for keeping us all in your prayers!

Blessings,

Jen


Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jun
21
2011
0

Saying “Good-bye” for now

Well, we have had an awesome week in Rwanda!  Sunday we went to the Ev Free Church in Remera.  Another great service in which we were warmly welcomed and there was great singing and dancing.  It was also wonderful to hear Esron preach.  After about a 3 hour service, Esron invited us to join him and the church leaders to his home for lunch

Monday we made the drive north to Butaka secondary school.  It was the same drive as we made on Saturday to the church in Kabali, BUT also some crazy rough, rocky roads.  Ask Shane and Rick about riding in the back of the 4Runner where the spare tire was supposed to sit!  You might still be able to see the lumps on their heads.

Even with one flat tire and all the bouncing around, it was worth it.  As we drove into the area, dozens and dozens of children yelled out “Muzungu” (white people) and ran after our cars.  We got to stop and meet the mayor.  And then we finally got to visit the school.

We went into a couple classrooms to greet some of the students.  The fist room we entered had over 90 students in it, sitting 4 to a seat!  They were so well behaved and excited to see us.  I was impressed to see hand drawn diagrams of internal human anatomy on the board in the second classroom – yeah, science!

Then we went out to the “multi-purpose room” – aka the yard – to greet and be welcomed by the whole school…all 430 some of them!  They sang, danced, and read poems for us.  We were able to give them some soccer balls,  many textbooks, etc.  The headmaster was very pleased.  They, too, blessed us with a meal before our trip back.

Today (Tues) we went to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali.  Incredible stories, pictures, artifacts…and even mass graves.  Horrific.  Lots of healing continues to take place to this day.  Byron flew home at 1:40.  Pray for his flight and transition back to work.  In the afternoon we went to a market so the McBrides could buy a few souvenirs before their flight out at 6:40.  They are headed to Kenya for a safari before returning home.

Rick H, Rick M, Shane, and I went back to Remera this afternoon to see the progress on the wall.  They started laying bricks today – looks great!  They have already had people stop and ask them about buying bricks…and the assistant mayor is coming to see the wall tomorrow!  Very cool!

Rick, Rick, and Shane take off tonight (actually 2 am) for South Africa.  So then I start the next phase of my time in Rwanda.  Please pray for safe travels for everyone and for clarity of details for me.

Thank you and blessings!

Jen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jun
20
2011
0

Additional Rwanda Service Trip Pictures

Written by admin in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jun
19
2011
0

More Pictures from Rwanda!

Elizabeth and Student:

Walking

Children:

Child

Child

Green Shirt Child

Byron Berry and Hydraform Machine:

Byron

Rick and Hydraform Machine:

Hydraform Machine 750 Bricks a day!

Wall2

Meghan and Sweet Child:

Meghan and Child

Wall Construction

Working on Garden:

Garden 2

Elizabeth:

Sweet Children

Elizabeth and Children

School

Beautiful Children

Children

Wall

Bags of items given to EFC Rwana

McBride Girls and Children

Rick, Esron, Shane

Written by admin in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jun
19
2011
0

Elizabeth’s view of Rwanda

Amakuru?

Rwanda is incredibly beautiful, exciting, and positive. The hills are really pretty. They are covered with TONS of plants! Rwanda is exciting because there is always something going on. People are singing, dancing, driving, walking, gardening, working on Hydraform machines, talking, and most important; praising God. You can tell it is positive by just looking at their happy faces.

The week has been really fun! We have done so much! The guys worked on the Hydraform machine, the ladies helped Kezia and some of the other women from the community clean up trash, tarrace, and plant a garden.

Meghan and I have especially enjoyed playing with kids. They love balloons, soccer (football), hackey-sacks, beach balls, temporary tattoos, face paint, hugs, high-fives, chance (knuckles), shaking hands, and listejning to us try tospeak their language!

Kiwandan words we know;

Amacuru: how are you.

Ni Mesa: I’m fine

Murah kozee (roll the r): thank you

Chance: knuckles

Musasa: old man

How they say something’s in English;

goodbye: gootbyee

Elizabeth: Eelisabet

Jennifer: Jenneefah

Well anyway… Thank you for your prayers, they really help.

Murah kozee!

Elizabeth McBride

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jun
18
2011
0

A trip to the country

We took a road trip today to southern Rwanda to visit a rural church. The drive was long, but incredibly beautiful! The “land of a thousand hills” has been rightly named. We were amazed to see people ALL along our route…even when we were far from the city. The hills are terraced and planted with various plants and crops. Very little land was unused.

We were warmly welcomed when we arrived at the church and were quite humbled when we heard them sing praises to God with their whole hearts. Their joy was evident in their faces & voices, their drumming, their clapping and their dancing. I should mention that one-fourth of their roof was missing due to recent wind damage, the floor was cobblestone, and the walls cement. The hardship and circumstances did not rob them of their joy or their faith. They were very encouraged that people in America are praying for them. Please join us in doing so.

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |

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