Jul
26
2011
1

A Day in the Life of “Rwanda Jen”

My friend, Theophile, has told me he has 3 wishes for me:

 1) That I get fat…so when I go back, everyone will know I was well taken care of in Rwanda.                                                                                                          2) That I get married (you are something of a second class citizen here if you are single after a certain age).                                                                              3) That I become “Rwandese.”

I told him “no” to the first wish (that I didn’t think it would help me with wish #2); “ok” to the second; and “maybe” to the third.  :)

So…today I will write about my life as a “temporary Rwandese.”

6:00am – Wake up.  Spend some time doing a devotional/in God’s Word and praying.  Perhaps shower/perhaps not  :)   Eat breakfast – usually peanut butter (not made in Rwanda) on bread with a couple small Rwandan sweet bananas 

7:30am – Walk down to the primary school (just a short walk…not more than 5 minutes and all downhill).  Participate in morning exercises/warm-up  (very cute with all the kids).  Help out in one of the classrooms (Nursery 1, Nursery 2, P1, P2, or P3) 

10:00isham – “Recess”…which usually involves about 6 kids trying to hold my hands at the same time!  :)  Then back into a class…for math, Kinyarwanda, English, French, etc (& a little science, social studies, etc)

Noon – School is done…and I am tired!  Lunch (usually on my own back at the guesthouse…which is a short walk, but all uphill).  Then head to Solace…usually walk 15 minutes to the “taxi” (bus) stop…though have taken a “moto” (motorcycle taxi) a couple times (they are everywhere and very convenient, but not as cheap…and a little scary)

2:00pm – Help out around Solace (responding to e-mails regarding rooms at the guesthouse, editting a “Guesthouse Guidelines” sheet to put in each room, interviewing various ministry heads so I can use the information in a newsletter and brochure, etc…even helped clean rooms one day)

5:00pm – Head back to the German Guesthouse (harder to find a spot in the bus – as it is, they cram about 19 people in a van!  But, surprisingly not smelly). Dinner is sometimes out at a restaurant or otherwise prepared by the guesthouse – always very good.  Typical Rwandan food includes: rice, beans, chips (fried potatoes/French fries), a little bit of tough beef, and “sauce” (not really sure what’s in it, but it is good over rice and beans)…with bananas and pineapple for dessert      

6:30pm – Sunset.  Journal, e-mail, read (I’m on my fourth book, which is amazing for me)

Anywhere between 8pm-1:00am – Go to sleep (anyone who knows me well knows it is much more likely to be before 10pm!)

Then start all over again the next day!

Actually, this routine is switching up now.  The students took exams last week. That means that they are off through Friday of this week so that the teachers can prepare their reports.  They come back on Friday to get their reports, and then they have about a 3-week holiday before the next term begins.  The school year currently does not run Sept-June like ours does; however, I have heard that it used to and that they may be going back to that system. 

So…for my last 2.5 weeks here, I will spend more of my time at Solace.  I hope to finish putting together a newsletter and brochure for them as well as visit their clinic (just as a visitor; not as a patient!) and at least one of the 56 communities they have around the country.  Tomorrow I will also spend some time with some of the women of the church who will be making the famous paper bead necklaces.  Cool!  This weekend we will visit another church in the north.  And I am interested in visiting one of the other genocide memorials before I depart.  So…I’m sure my time will fill up quickly and go by fast.

Please pray today especially for Theophile and his responsibilities.  He is the headmaster of the primary school, oversees 8 churches in the Kigali area, and has a family of 5 daughters.  In all three of those areas, the needs are SO great and the resources are SO few.  The cool thing though is that when I ask about the needs, he always says that the number one need is for prayer.  :)

God bless,

Jen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
24
2011
0

Butaka photos

 

This is "Butaka" hill.

This is "Butaka" hill.

 

The volcanoes

The volcanoes

 

This one supposedly is the second highest point in Africa (behind Kilimanjaro)

This one supposedly is the second highest point in Africa (behind Kilimanjaro)

 

This volcano in the distance is an active one in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This volcano in the distance is an active one in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
23
2011
0

My accomodations

 

My nicely prepared room at Terence's house.

My nicely prepared room at Terence's house.

 

"Toilet" on the left; "shower" on the right - not ideal when you are sick, but otherwise very clean.

"Toilet" on the left; "shower" on the right - not ideal when you are sick, but otherwise very clean.

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
23
2011
0

Butaka

This is the name of the seconday school where as was in the northern province up near Volanoes National Park.  I found out that the school gets its name from a “small hill” nearby, and the word means “soil.”

While my time there was brief (I didn’t have much time in the first place, and then I got sick so came home early), it was good.  I am praising God that the headmaster, Terence (Esron’s brother), and other teachers are saying the couple days of teaching I did really impacted kids.  It was challenging.  I taught biology, so that was nice.  But some of it was at a higher level than I’ve taught for awhile…so I had to dig back in my brain for some information.  :)  But what was the most challenging was not really knowing how detailed to get.  I found that they have learned some terms that I do not teach my students at a similar level; other concepts that I cover, they don’t.  Plus, some terms are just different.  :)

It was also just nice to see the area and experience life there a little…although, they wouldn’t think to let me help prepare meals or clean-up or anything – I was a guest.  Very kind of them!

I wish I had stayed well (Looks like I may have malaria after all.  Don’t worry – the meds are working great!  They have a very good clinic staffed with good nurses near Terence’s house.).  We had planned a girls “football” match one afternoon and some visits to the areas where some of the students come from the next.  Can you believe that some students walk 3 hours EACH WAY to school!  And others left their homes 2-3 hours away by car to live with “strangers” in the area so they can go to the school.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the school itself (maybe I have some from earlier – I’ll have to check).  But here are some other pictures of my time there:

 

Markey in Ruhengeri (on the way north)

Market in Ruhengeri (on the way north)

 

Headmaster Terence in his potato fields

Headmaster Terence in his potato fields

 

The long line of children leading us up to Terence's fields.

The long line of children leading us up to Terence's fields.

 

A closer look at our "guides."

A closer look at our "guides."

 

Closer yet...and the cloud of dust that follows them everywhere.

Closer yet...and the cloud of dust that follows them everywhere.

 

Me, Gary, and Clemance (Terence's family)

Me, Gary, and Clemance (Terence's family)

 I want to post a few more pics, but the computer is being SO slow.  So, I’ll sign off for now.

Thanks for your continued prayers – they are being answered!

Blessings,

Jen

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

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