Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15, 2015

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation and who say to Zion "Your God reigns!"  Is. 52:7

July 16, the COTA and Redeemer Rwanda Partnership Team will begin the journey to the "Land of a Thousand Hills."  The Team is truly grateful for the generous hearts of COTA and Redeemer.  Thank you for the miles purchased, the onesies collected, cloth shopping bags, soccer balls and pumps donated.  God always provides exactly what the Team needs each year to make this journey.  Thank you COTA and Redeemer for loving your brother and sisters in Shyogwe Diocese well!  Murakoze cyane (thank you very much) for being God's faithful, obedient vessels in living out Micah 6:8...Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

Above is the Team Verse.  We invite you to pray Is. 52:7 with us.  

The Team will share your generous hearts and love with your brothers and sisters of Gikomero Church and Shyogwe Diocese.  

Sundays, July 19 and 26 we will sing, dance and praise God with COTA Church of Gikomero.  We will praise God for your love and support as we partner with Gikomero in proclaiming the gosepl!  

We invite you to make the journey with us by following the daily  blog, providing we have internet access. 

Imana iguhe umugisha   (God Bless you abundantly)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I have heard the cries of my people...

I’ve been putting off the task of writing simply because I feel the burden of explaining all that’s happened and all that I’ve experienced over the past three weeks—and it’s been a lot. The movement has been constant, my eyes fully open, trying to take it all in. Camera poised, ready to “click” the button, but everything rushes by…blurred images leave me with only a snapshot of what I’ve seen, experienced, and lived these past three weeks. My prayer is that the Lord would help me capture, through pictures and words, exactly what He’d have me share with my dear friends and family back home. 

The interaction with friends here in Rwanda, both old and new, has been constant; and the learning curve for a new town, culture, and totally different way of life has been steep. However, while it’s been exhausting, yes, learning new things and exploring new places brings me so much joy. And truly, truly, the Lord’s unending and abundant provision has met us at every step of the way, so all I can do is step back and praise His holy name…Imana Ishimwe (God be praised) as we say in Kinyarwanda.

The entry into Rwanda was different this time. From the beginning, my mindset was one of trying to adapt long-term, not simply soaking everything up in a mere few weeks. We were met at Kigali International Airport by a glorious group of friends, twenty in number, that wrapped us in hugs and welcomed me home. Third time around, we finally reached a point of deeper relationships—but Rwanda was also the same. Same smells, same bustling of millions of people ( literally), same sights and lights of Kigali. A growing city, literally rising from the dead. A quote from the Genocide memorial has stayed with me and left its impression in my mind with three simple words…Rwanda was dead. Yes, this country was devastated, and I truly cannot begin to imagine what it was like. But now, twenty years later, Rwanda has risen from the ashes and new life is evident all around—a bright yellow sunflower stretching over ten feet out of rich, fertile soil, standing alone in all its glory next to a mud brick home, or skyscrapers pulling Kigali into the twenty-first century. Literally from death and ashes this nation has been rebuilt and it seems that they are stronger for it. A few nights ago, Dad and I spent the evening at Lake Kivu—a beautiful, beautiful place, but particularly haunted with stories I’ve read and stories friends have shared. But amidst the tranquility, suburban growth and serene landscape of today, it is nearly impossible to reconcile what truly happened here almost my lifetime ago…except God was not done with Rwanda yet. 
Exodus 3
I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land flowing with milk and honey—and now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt…Who am I, that I should go? I will be with you!

I shared these verses with our team during a devotion time last week as I kept feeling the Lord impress them upon my heart. The Rwandan people have been through much…more than we will every fully understand….but I truly believe the Lord has heard their cries and He is oh so present here. Rwanda is both literally and figuratively a land flowing with milk and honey. During our visit to Sonrise School earlier this week, Dad and I shared “African Tea” with the primary school teachers during their morning break. The tea was made fresh from the milk of 7 cows that are owned by the school and housed in a barn just up the hill. With hot milk, fresh honey from Kigali, and tea grown and produced in factories all around Rwanda. Drinking from that cup was such a tangible sign of God’s provision and abundance here in Rwanda. And for me personally, it’s been a long, hard road to get to Rwanda, as well as plenty of time spent in the dessert this past year. So I have never been more ready or yearned more deeply for the promises I know the Lord has in store for me over this next year. Thank you for journeying with me and much more to come. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Healthy Body, Healthy Soul

Healthy body, healthy soul – this is one of the main goals in the Shyogwe diocese.  It is encouraging to see how our brothers and sisters in Christ here are carrying out holistic ministry and seeking to meet the spiritual and physical needs of people in a variety of ways.  This morning Bishop Jared took our group around to various projects in the diocese at Zion Hill including the pineapple processing plant, the Mother’s Union, the RDIS for rural development.  The church has been very influential and when they were able to get a water pump and electricity in the Zion Hill area, people starting moving to the area and building homes.  The government has come to them and said “How can we partner with you and use your resources?”  Bishop Jared is a man of great vision and godly leadership and a compassionate caring heart, and he wants to share with those around the area in whatever ways the church can. 

This afternoon we visited a few different projects in the Hanika parish of the Shyogwe diocese.  As we arrived in the van, kids were coming out of homes and saying  “Muzungu!” (white person).   We met with women in the Mother’s Union there and listened to the pastor of the parish share about the work of the group and the impact that Christ is having in the lives of the women.  It was encouraging to hear one woman share about the powerful healing work of Christ in her marriage and family.  These women pray for, care for, and take care of each other so well – it is such a godly example to us.  We also got to dance with the women in worship as they celebrated and thanked God for His provision and the work that He has done in their lives. 

This was a full day, and I am so glad we are in partnership with our brothers and sisters in Christ here.  We are seeing and hearing about the gospel lived out in their lives and ministry and I thank God for them.  Praise be to God – Imana ishimwe


Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Prayers of Many

Prayers of many…                                                                                                                         
You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.               --2 Cor. 1:11

When the Rwanda Partnership Team traveled to Shyogwe Diocese in June 2013, Rev. Canon Emanuel Gasana shared that the Shyogwe Parish is committed to prayer because it is the engine for revival in the church.  The Lord used Rev. Gasana’s vision of prayer and how the people are living out their faith through prayer to nudge my heart to re-examine my prayer life.  After some time of reflection, the Holy Spirit ignited a flame in my heart for a stronger commitment to Intercessory Prayer.  Throughout this past year, I have been so grateful the Lord used Rev. Gasana to search my heart and show me an area where I needed to grow to honor Him for the sake of others.

Prayer has been woven throughout our time visiting the Gikomero Health Center, Mother’s Union, the Healthy Mum’s Project at Gikomero and Hanika Parishes.   Also, with the Single Women Who Come Together of Gikomero.  Sue and I had the opportunity to pray with sick women at Gikomero’s Health Center.  The presence of the Holy Spirit was amazing. With the Holy Spirit interceding for us, there was “no” language barrier!  Felicima, Pastor Etienne’s wife,  brought a woman to us in need of prayer, as well.  Wednesday, Eric led a time of Marriage Teaching.  Jim, Curt and I shared our testimonies.  Many of the women shared stories with us because they were able to relate to our lives. These women asked if we would please pray for them, as they pray for us.  Another woman stood up and said she had heard we pray for sick people.  She lifted up her disabled little boy and asked if we would pray for him.  I was in awe of how the Holy Spirit was moving in people’s hearts.  He was generously pouring out His grace on each person.  It was  humbling and amazing.  Imana ishimwe!  (Praise God)

Today we had the opportunity to hear Church of Gikomero’s Vision for the church and 4 chapels.  We had an amazing time of questions and prayer requests.  It was such a blessing to share in regard to COTA’s “Unto the Harvest Church Plant.”  Each person received a Rwanda Partnership Prayer Card with a picture of Ford, Lindsay and family with prayer needs.  Pastor Etienne read the card to everyone in Kinyarwandan and asked all to prayer for Pastor Ford’s family and the church plant. The response was beautiful, with an eagerness to pray!

My heart is overflowing with gratitude to Jesus Christ for the lessons of humility, trust, faith, honesty and power of prayer this week as we are sharing our lives with our precious brothers and sisters of Gikomero and Shyogwe Diocese.

The “prayers of many” is a thread God is using to weave His tapestry of COTA’s relationship with Gikomero and the Shyogwe Diocese.  In Matt. 22:38, Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  As we commit to pray for our brothers and sisters in Gikomero and Shyogwe Diocese, we are unified in Christ.  Amahoro y’Imana abane namwe (God’s Peace be with You)!     

Tereza (new name as spoken in Rwanda)    

Reflections from Jim

The Shyogwe Diocese, led by Bishop Jarred for the past 17 years, encompasses roughly ¼ of the country of Rwanda and now includes 33 parishes, each of which is represented by a main church and smaller chapels covering its geographical area.  Gikomero, our sister-church, is one of those 33. 

As a business guy,  I was incredibly impressed by the Bishop’s clear mission “a healthy body and a healthy soul” for the people of Shyogwe, which he was proud to share with us at the beginning of our visit.  The mission is clearly stated on a sign at the entrance to the Diocesan property.
After 3 days on the ground I am even more impressed seeing the mission lived out in the parishes we have visited. The Bishop’s vision is based upon a holistic ministry model incorporating evangelism, health and education.  People are getting access to water and electricity, children are being educated in schools, adults are being taught skills and trained to start and run small businesses,  health centers are providing care to people who previously were not reach, but most importantly people are finding the healing power of Jesus and salvation through the church which is the center of community change. 

On Tuesday, we made our first 45-minute trek to Gikomero, our sister-parish.  As our van pulled into the village – men, women and children of all ages (including babies on backs, school-children, and elderly with canes) came from all around with huge smiles and cheering to greet us. The greeting resembled a large family reunion yet we were clearly very different.  The only explanation for the enthusiastic familial welcome is our relationship through Jesus which has been developed and nurtured over the past five years.  The fruit of the relationship is evident on the people’s faces and throughout their village.   

Honestly the welcome was a bit overwhelming, as a first time member of the team.  Nothing could have prepared me for the twenty plus minutes of multiple hugs, handshakes, greetings, “MooRahHoh” (hello), and smiles.  As soon as people realized I was “Hillary’s Papa” I had another large crowd of people to greet.  As a member of the Apostles Team – I was immediately loved and I  too was family.  With greetings complete, we were ushered to the center of the village where Gikomero’s pastor, Pastor  Atienne and the crowd excitedly pointed us to the largest structure in the village – their new church which is 70% complete.

A beautiful banner hung from the main entrance,  “Gikomero - Church of the Apostles ”.  I was especially excited to see the Carolina blue color chosen for the roof Apostles provided the money to have built.  I am not sure who was more proud,  the people of Apostles or Gikomero.  Thousands of miles away from Raleigh – we are at home here!

After a time of celebration in the church, Pastor Etienne took us to see the well project Apostles-Raleigh built and then the development that has resulted. To provide a “healthy body and healthy soul” (the Diocese mission) water is crucial.  It was great to hear members of our team who visited four years ago describe the transformation water has had on the village. Water pumped from the valleys to the top of the hills where the villages are located provides sanitation, fresh drinking water, and in Gikomero’s case it allowed the health clinic to open its doors and provide healthcare to over 14,000 people.

Our team devotions Tuesday evening were from John 4 – the Samaritan woman at the well;  “Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”  The sister-parish partnership gives Apostles-Raleigh the opportunity to be an integral part of the work the Lord is doing in Gikomero.

Gikomero is not a project it is our family.  Tuesday we spent a couple hours hearing testimonies of our brother’s and sister’s consistent prayers for us – our pastors, previous and past and current team members by name.  That love was evident on each break as you would find an Apostles team member at the center of huddles around the property.

Four members of our team met with 35-50 people for 2 hours Wednesday morning preaching and teaching on marriage, while 2 were in a local health clinic training nurses and 2 others were teaching English in the school.  In the afternoon,  Eric and I had the privilege of being directed to a primary school class room to teach English.  Now I understand how Daniel felt when he was thrown in the lion’s den.  45+ wide-eyed 7-10 year old students what Eric and I had for 2 ½ hours to teach. 

Knowing many of you were back home praying for our team is the only thing that kept me from turning and running.  With NO supplies, books, or lessons – Eric and I were given a couple quick ideas and told “good luck.”  The class’ teacher spoke very little English herself and seemed to enjoy watching Eric and I sweat and work really hard!  Counting to 10, saying and singing the ABC’s,  and reciting the days of the week filled some of the time.  Eric rescued us by drawing pictures and making flash cards while I worked on introductions.  We drilled the students as they learned to say and write the English word for the item on each flash card.  The children’s highlight was using Eric as the model to teach body parts and watching him lead the class in “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” at increasing speed and then ending with the “Hokey Pokey”.

The most rewarding part of the day was teaching the students how to introduce themselves in English…  “My name is….” I pray that one day the students English skills will allow them pursue education through high school which only a fraction of the students have the opportunity for today.   At the end of the afternoon,  Eric and I went around and shook each child’s hand as they introduced themselves to us in English looking us in the eyes and saying their name clearly.  As we left the classroom  the teacher asked, “when will you be back?”  When we said “next year”… she simply would not accept our response – insisting … next week… next month…

You may be thinking, as I have been the past 4-5 years;  “yes… isn’t that wonderful – a great project that I feel good to be a part of.”  I was sadly mistaken. Rwanda is not a “feel good project” it is a way of living for Apostles-Raleigh.  The partnership is a real opportunity for you and I to fulfill the commandments to love God and to love our neighbor and to fulfill the great commission.  Loving my neighbor in Rwanda includes building a relationship with them; getting to know their names, their needs and praying for them.  I thought Gikomero needed our money - and while money is appropriate at times, I know that they want our love, encouragement, and support more. They love us and want to get to know us and spend time with us.  They are thrilled to have us here. While money is much easier to give than ourselves, God’s goodness and abundant blessings await Apostles in Raleigh and Gikomero as we love our neighbors in this way. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Daily Sights Around the Diocese

Bishop Jared proudly displays Diocesan Fruit Products  

Fresh Avocados in season!
Mother Teresa and Claudine