Rwanda: World Relief Recap #6

March 23, 2009 at 8:24 pm (Uncategorized)

(I’m sorry for the short hiatus from these posts but I promise to finish them out soon!)

Friday was a really different but wonderful day.  World Relief starts every Friday morning with a chapel service at their headquarters and we were asked to take part in it.  They always start by singing hymns; both native hymns to Rwanda or traditional hymns we’re used to singing-just sung in Kinyarwandan with a sick beat ☺.  They asked me to play along with them and it was one of the most fun playing experiences I ever had because their singing style is SO rhythmic!  I’m kicking myself that I didn’t record it…  They had a couple of our team members share some short testimonies and then Rich (our team leader and MBC’s pastor of Staff Development) preached.  It was a great service and an excellent way to start the day.

The next big item on the docket for Friday was a staff luncheon that we were preparing for the WR staff.  Being that it was the day before Valentines Day, we wanted to cook them an “American” meal and host a Valentines Day Party.  We spent the rest of the morning preparing food and decorating the room with a Valentines Day theme.  Because of the difficulty of transporting American food to Rwanda, we had to make a really great pasta salad and pizza for the staff (made of packaged items we coul bring over on the plane).  While it may not seem like a very special meal, it was something they rarely have and they loved it.  At the luncheon, we also told them the story behind Valentines Day as the native workers at WR had never heard of such a holiday.  We also made special Valentines Day gifts for the staff members and gave them little Valentines Day cards (like the ones you used to put in your friends baskets at school during third grade) to take home to give to their family members.  It was so much fun and they loved the change of pace in the work day.

That afternoon our group traveled to the Rwanda Genocide Memorial/Museum to learn more, first hand, about the Genocide and to see the mass graves that they are STILL filling with skeletons they find all over the region.  Reading about first hand accounts and seeing video and photographs of people actually being killed was really tough to witness and I’ll never be able to write about the terrible things that happened or that I was even able to see in our short visit to the museum.   One might compare it to visiting the Holocaust museum in DC, had the museum actually been located in Auschwitz.   If you don’t know much about what happened starting in June of 1996 in Rwanda, I strongly encourage you to read about it.  We had to read the book, “We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will be Killed with our Families” by Philip Gourevich which is mainly a collection of first hand accounts.  You can also see the Movie “Hotel Rwanda” but know that even though it is a moving film, it doesn’t do justice to what actually happened during the genocide.

With all the learning we did before and during the trip, my eyes were opened as to how tough of a task it is to minister to a people group that has been through SO much. At the same time, it is incredible to see how God has continually blessed his people and done so much to let the Rwandan people know how much he loves them.  While there is still much to be done, things even today are happening that are bringing more racial reconciliation to the great lakes region of Africa and the name of Jesus is rapidly growing more and more famous.  As of today, Rwanda is somewhere between 90-95% Christian and people are embracing the healing power of Christ to overcome a past that is still making life incredibly hard for a majority of the population.

After our trip out there, we went back to the guesthouse to debrief what we had just been through before heading out to dinner.  It was a memorable day and we all learned a lot.  Thus ends Friday.

** Some of the pictures of our trip have been posted on a picasa site which you can access here.  I’m still working on the post end of my pics but will have them up soon…I promise!**

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Forget a Bailout. Just be smart!

March 18, 2009 at 10:37 am (Uncategorized)

Saw this on CNN.com this morning and was happy to see that some people are getting it right when it comes to spending.  If we all followed this model, we wouldn’t be in the economic crunch we’re in now.  Thanks to this family for being a living example!

CNN.com

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Rwanda: World Relief Recap #5

March 11, 2009 at 12:00 am (Uncategorized)

Thursday was a big day for our team as we were hosting a day-long prayer/spiritual retreat for all of World Relief-Rwanda.  All 75 staff members from across the country came into town to be a part of the retreat we had been planning for months beforehand, which focused on Biblical Inter-Personal Relationships.  Natalie Bingham and myself had the pleasure of organizing the entire retreat and everyone in our group had either a teaching or activity role.  I shall just take you through the different elements of the retreat so you have a better idea of what we taught

Part One – Biblical Basis for Interpersonal Relationships – Activity: Fruit of the spirit; After the teaching session, we handed everyone a small banana and told them to remember what they learned from that session everytime they ate bananas (which they do ALL the time there).

Part Two – Biblical Self Esteem in Interpersonal Relationships – Activity: After the teaching session, we taped a large index card on everyone’s back and they walked around and wrote encouraging notes on their friends and co-workers cards. (see pic below…)

prayer_retreat

Part Three – Openness and Teachability – Activity: Dicussion in their tables as to things that they felt they needed to be more open about in their departments, and then offered them time to pray through them.

*Lunch*

*Rain Storm* – It was the rainy season in Rwanda and we had seen a storm or two during our trip, so to bring people back in from lunch, I used an activity i used in my classroom called “rainstorm” where we sonically created a rainstorm in the room.  It was fun and one of the pastors in attendance, actually used it in his church service the following Sunday!

Part Four – Conflict and Resolution (what is it?) – Activity: After the teaching session, we had everyone grasp hands to arm wrestle and yell at each other three things (1) My point of view, (2) My point of view, your point of view, and (3) your point of view, they started shouting it and progressively got softer a they moved away from them selves to focusing on the other person.  It was an example of accepting others viewpoints in conflict instead of holding to our own.

Part Five – Conflict and Resolution (how do we approach it) – We did a funny skit about taking the plank out of our own eye before removing the speck in our neighbors.  It was quite amusing but drove the point home, then we did our final teaching session..

Prayer Stations – We finished up the retreat with 4 prayer stations following the ACTS acrostic, which ended up being very powerful.  For adoration, they picked up a card with a different name of God and drew a picture of what that meant to them and thanked God for it. For Confession, after reading a few selected passages, they would write down something they wanted to confess and throw it away at the foot of a cross.  For Thanksgiving, they took a little paperkin doll , wrote their name on it, and used hole punchers marked with different sins to punch “sins” in their personal doll to represent their personal sin.  Then they would glue another doll that was the same color over top of it marked “Yesu” (kinyirwandan for Jesus) to represent Jesus covering our sins and then thank Him for it.  In the final station, Supplication, they broke into small groups, shared prayer requests and spent some time supporting each other in prayer.

The prayer retreat lasted the whole day and i can’t begin to tell you how much joy it brought us to conduct, and how much more Joy it was for the staff at WR.  They have never done anything like this before…in fact, it’s rare that they ever have their entire staff together in one place which made it really special for them.  A lot of the activities and lessons we talked about with them, while they seem fairly common in our American church setting, were things that they have never done before.  In fact, just having an opportunity to see how much others thought of you on a simple little card was HUGE for them!  It was a lot of work and preparation for us, but SO worth it and the staff couldn’t stop telling us how much they gained from the day.

It can be a very tough thing to walk into another culture and try to put on an event that is relevant to them and it was only by God’s grace that we were able to get through it.  It’s very different when you have to teach through a translator and remember to have all your materials prepared and translated before you even step on a plane.  But we all learned a lot from it and I sure hope i have the opportunity to do something like that again sometime!  Thus ended thursday 🙂

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Rwanda: World Relief Recap #4 – MY BUDDY!!!!

March 5, 2009 at 4:40 pm (Uncategorized)

nate-an-gatera

As promised, this post is on my buddy from Rwanda and some of the things I learned from him.  As I mentioned earlier, we were all paired up with a staff member from World relief, of whom we were to get to know before we left, spend time learning about their job while we were there, and find ways to encourage and support them. As you can imagine, working for an organization with such a large mission while trying to support a people group that has been through so much trauma can be quite a daunting task. My buddy’s name is Celestin Gatera and he is in charge of the Micro-finance division of World Relief. What does that mean? Let me explain.

Most people in Rwanda have little to no money, and when they do have it, they spend it. Unlike in the States, the mentality in a lot of places in Africa is “If I have it, use it OR give it away to someone who needs it.” They don’t believe in saving or insurance because there’s too much of a possibility of not ever using it (i.e. what if something happens to me tomorrow? I will have saved for nothing!). Now of course EVERYONE doesn’t think like that, but a very large majority does. Also, if people wanted to save or even apply for a loan, they generally don’t make enough or even have enough collateral to have either approved. I tell you this to help explain what Gatera is working to help. World Relief has created a savings program called “Savings for Life” which is a church centered program that enables families to learn how to start saving small amounts of money and apply for loans to help make purchases. They also do a lot to educate families about how to manage finances effectively AND biblically. Basically, they do this through volunteers who collect and record savings primarily from the wives in participating churches (the wives typically manage family funds and enroll in the programs). Then the program can go to a bank and deposit all the deposits in order to have a large enough account to be active. Then they can make withdrawals and apply for loans that can be divided up between all the parties that want to apply for smaller loans. In a nutshell, it’s like having a bank within a bank.

Now Gatera specifically oversees this program, not just in Rwanda, but also in Burundi and The DR of Congo (now that’s a scary job!). Gatera does a lot a traveling within these three countries, as well as all over the world to speak at national conferences. He showed me his passport and I couldn’t believe all the Visas and entry stamps he had! Oddly enough, he hates traveling because it takes him away from his family. He is married to Josephine and they have 6 kids, Dorcas, Deborah, Nehimiah, Issac, Boaz and Claudine, who they rescued from the bush and took in as one of their own during the genocide.

Talking about his family is a great segue into some of the things I learned from Gatera while I was there. From day one I could tell that he had a lot he wanted me to leave Rwanda with and I’ll do my best to summarize some of that. Community in Africa, means so much more then we ever view it here in the US. In Africa, a family doesn’t raise a child, the community does, and that can mean A LOT of people. I’m talking discipline, special events, going to church…you name it EVERYONE is involved! Everyone chips in to help out and they share EVERYTHING like its no big deal. As I mentioned earlier, if you have something and someone else needs it, they give it to them. If you visit someone UNANNOUCNED and don’t stay for dinner, it’s even more disrespectful then not finishing the food on your plate. I got to see this all first hand because Gatera had me come spend the night at his place one of our last nights in Kigali. As soon as I walked in the door his wife took me by the arm, back into the kitchen to see all the other people that they had helping out to cook and do other chores, and who were also eating with us that night (about 3 large family’s worth!). It was incredible. They are SO passionate about others that it made me think about how we don’t care enough about those, even in our closest community.

Africans also have a great saying that Gatera shared with me that speaks about their pace of life. They say “Americans have watches, but Africans have time.” It was so true and SO refreshing. People there aren’t in a rush and time is relative. One of the reasons we stood out on the street (aside from all being white…) was that we walked super fast! I have to say that one of the things I really miss the most was being able to enjoy every moment of life when we were there instead of rushing to get as much done as possible. It was SO refreshing!

There were so many more things that I took from him and his family that I will never be able to write about, but what I can say is that I’m so thankful for the time and life we got to share with each other and because of it, I have left Africa Forever Changed. Does Africa get everything right? Heavens no, but there are many things we can learn from them if we would only take the time to investigate rather then carry on our American mentality that we know the best ways to fix everyone else’s problems. Thank you Gatera for everything and I can’t wait to see you on your next US Visit!!!

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