Aug
17
2011
0

Farewell…for now…

Hello All,

I think this will be my last post on the blog…at least for now.  I am safely back in the USA.  And while it is definitely good to be home and to see family and friends, it was also hard to leave my new family in Rwanda.  They asked me to greet you all!  :)

Please continue to pray for them – for the church, the schools, and all the people.  Pray that God would protect them and meet their needs…which are many!  But especially pray that they would continue to praise God in all they do – that that would be the center of who they are – and that the love they have will pour out and make a difference in their community and throughout Rwanda.

In Jesus’ name – Amen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Aug
11
2011
0

Ode to Rwanda

While I don’t think this will be my last post, it may be the last one I write in Rwanda.  I depart for home tomorrow (though I won’t arrive until the next day).  It has been a great experience for sure…and Rwanda is a wonderful country!  

Though I don’t write much poetry, I felt inspired one afternoon and came up with something.  I’m not sure it is in its final draft, but I thought I would share it with you anyway:

R  Red sunsets each night as your mamas make chips over outdoor fires

W  Winding roads through the countless fields that quilt your 1,000 hills

A  Arms outstretched as you dance and praise your faithful God

N  Noises of children and laughter brighten your darkest of nights

D  Dresses of bright cloth carry your wares above and your little ones behind

A  Always remember; never forget.  Rwanda – Africa’s lesson to the world

Blessings,

Jen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Aug
09
2011
0

Project Updates

 

The almost completed wall!Here is the almost completed wall!  And the bricks to finish it are already made and just need to dry.  :)  In fact, I believe they have already started making bricks for the next side of the wall.

 

P8090685

Here is a view of most of the garden.  It may not look like much, but you should have seen it before – full of trash, etc!  Team, you’ll see that there is some trash there now…and some parts of the wall are coming down…  However, Kezia has really been committed to work on the garden.  They don’t really weed or clean up the garden much, but Kezia is really caring for each individual plant.  Because it is the dry season and the sun is pretty intense, it is a difficult time to get things to grow. Quite a number of the seeds we originally planted didn’t make it.  However, we are making much use of the hose and watering cans.  And you will see in the next photos some of the plants which are doing well.

 

P8090687The cabbage has been the most successful crop we planted.  You can see Kezia put some dried grasses down – I think that is probably to try to hold in some of the moisture.

 

P8090688Here is some spinach that will be ready to be eaten soon!

 

P8090691Tomato plants – remember, everything was started from seeds.

 

P8090692Collard greens

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Aug
06
2011
0

Stories of the Genocide

Today I visited the Ntarama Genocide Memorial which is maybe 45 minutes south of Kigali outside of the town of Nyamata.  I had heard about this site and wanted to visit it…and I am very glad I did.  We had gone to the big genocide memorial in Kigali (Gisozi) with the team back in June.  And while that was a good experience and very informative (and even has some remains of victims and mass graves containing 250,000 of those who were killed), for me the experience at Ntarama was much more powerful!

The memorial site was a small Catholic church where 5,000 people were killed in just 2 days! There are no signs explaining things.  It is small and simple.  But the stories of the guide and the sites you see tell it all.

Ntarama is in the Bugesera district.  According to our guide, starting in 1959, this is where many Tutsis were sent to live because it was a forest filled with wild animals and tsetse flies…and it was thought that many would die.  So, there were many Tutsis concentrated here.

And while there had been periods of killings for many years prior to 1994, no people had ever been killed inside a church.  Churches were considered to be safe places.  But some would say that they were already preparing for the mass genocide of 1994.  Again according to our guide, in 1992 they started taking Hutu boys to train them how to fight…but not to be soldiers…  At the end of the training, they were given axes.

On April 9, 1994 the Hutu militia came to the area of Ntarama.  The people there were able to resist for a handful of days.  People fled to the church for safety.  So the militia sought more help/force.  On April 15, with the help of bombs/grenades, the militia broke into the church..and killed all 5,000 people gathered there over the next 2 days.

Today, when you go inside the church, you see shelves filled with skulls and other bones of victimes…piles of the clothing they had been wearing…and some of the supplies they had brought with them into the church.  You also see some of the tools/weapons the perpetrators used.  There are a small number of coffins…but these are only the remains of victims found in the immediate area just this year.  In fact, when we went to the sacristy (in addition to seeing some Bibles, books, and student notebooks), we saw a bag holding the remains of a woman who was discovered just yesterday in the garden of a nearby church.

There are 2 other buildings on the site.  One is the home where 2 people lived which was destroyed in those 2 days.  The other is a building that was used for Sunday school…and was the site where absolutely horrific means were used to torture and kill women and children. While there is very little that is in that building, what is there gives a picture that is too gruesome to write about.  

And what made it all the more difficult to see was the fact that our driver shared his story with us on the way there…and what happened to members of his family were some of the things we heard about at the memorial.  Our driver was 15 years old at the time of the genocide, and he survived by hiding out in the sugar cane fields for a month.  All he ate for that entire month was sugar cane.  And when the killers came looking for the people hiding there with dogs, he would jump into the river to hide.  He was so sick and injured that when he was found by Kagame’s troops, he was taken immediately to the hospital.

And then tonight, the young gatekeeper at the guesthouse whose English is not very good at all, tried his best to share with me his story.  He was only 5 years old at the time of the genocide. He lost both of his parents.  One sister who was 9 was the only other member of his family who survived.  She lives a few hours north of here.  He is alone in Kigali living in a place with 2 small rooms and no electricity.  He invited me to visit his home tonight.  And yet he has hope.

With all this, it is amazing to see how well this country is doing.  There are definitely still issues, and yet there is progress being made – not just in terms of the country’s development, but even in terms of how people are healing and learning to forgive!

(*Note: While you are not allowed to take pictures inside of the buildings on the memorial site, I did take some photos outside that I wanted to share.  The computer is not cooperating with me…perhaps it is just as well.)

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Aug
05
2011
0

Schools

 

The McBride women and Headmaster Theophile in front of the EFCR Primary School in Remera

The McBride women and Headmaster Theophile in front of the EFCR Primary School in Remera

 

Remera school children

Remera school children

 

Morning exercises

Morning exercises

 

Nursery students having their tea and bread

Nursery students having their tea and bread

 

P1 (like first grade) students hard at work

P1 (like first grade) students hard at work

 

Some of the sweet P3 boys

Some of the sweet P3 boys

 

Eager P3 students

Eager P3 students

Part of a P3 English test

Part of a P3 English test

 

 

The shool staff

The shool staff

 

Students in the "multi-purpose room" at Butaka

Students in the "multi-purpose room" at Butaka

 

One of the Butaka choirs

One of the Butaka choirs

 

Students dancing for us at Butaka

Students dancing for us at Butaka

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

Worshipping in Rwanda

Pastor Esron's church in Remera

Pastor Esron's church in Remera

Pastor Esron & Rick Hendel inside the church

Pastor Esron & Rick Hendel inside the church

The women's service I went to with Kezia (and the cool lady who is the leader of the women in this area)

The women's service I went to with Kezia (and the cool lady who is the leader of the women in this area)

One of the choirs at the women's service

One of the choirs at the women's service

The church Terrence attends up at Butaka

The church Terrence attends up at Butaka

A district service up north in Byumba (sorry it's blurry, but notice the fresh flowers hanging as decoration)

A district service up north in Byumba (sorry it's blurry, but notice the fresh flowers hanging as decoration)

A Solace Ministries group counseling service

A Solace Ministries group counseling service

A small chapel on the grounds of a convent where Jean Gakwandi (founder & director of Solace) and I stopped for lunch on the way back from Butare in the south

A small chapel on the grounds of a convent where Jean Gakwandi (founder & director of Solace) and I stopped for lunch on the way back from Butare in the south

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

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