Milestone Day

May 15, 2009 at 3:09 am (faith, Random)

I didn’t wake up this morning expecting today to be so significant (or even to write a blog…haha) but i found a Hawaii State quarter this morning.  Why is that so milestone?  Well, that quarter completes the binder of the 50 state quarters my Grandfather gave to me 9 years ago for my birthday.  Ever since, whenever i found a quarter i didn’t have, it went in the binder and tonight, it is completed.  Thanks Bampa, for your lesson in patience, perseverance, and joy.

In other news, i watched the season finale of LOST tonight…one more season to go and i CAN NOT wait until January for it to begin again.  I would like to reinstate a statement i made 3 years ago when i first started watching this show.  A large number of people are going to come to Christ through this series.  I believe it and I even pray that it happens; in fact i already know that it has happened.  But God’s going to continue to use it and to me, thats awesome.


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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 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!

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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…)


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.


*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)


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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S’Wonderful – Frank Sinatra (another fun little game)

February 28, 2009 at 8:17 pm (Uncategorized)

I promise that I don’t have a ton of time on my hands, but i heard of this little idea and had to try it out too. Here are the rules, and have fun with it!

1. Put your MP3 player, iTunes, Zune, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
4.Tag at least 10 friends
5. Everyone tagged has to do the same thing.
6.Have Fun!

Collapse – Saosin

Summer Wind – Michael Buble

The Truth – Relient K

Call to Worship – Vicky Beeching

Runnin’ – PJ Morton Band

By The Way – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Son of a Gun – Search The City

How do I breathe? – Mario

Signs – Bloc Party

WHAT IS 2 + 2?
New – Bethany Dillion

In Christ – Big Daddy Weave

Can you feel it? – David Crowder Band

Whirlwind – Dispatch

My Brightness – Charlie Hall

Tired and Unispired – My American Heart       …..LOL

Prelude 12/21 – AFI    NICE!

Opposite Way – Leeland

Sweetest Mystery – Eddie Kirkland

Futures – Jimmy Eat World

I need you – Jars of Clay   hahahaha

Disgusting Mistakes with Goodbyes – Emery     HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

S’Wonderful- Frank Sinatra

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Rwanda: World Relief Recap #3

February 28, 2009 at 7:56 pm (Uncategorized)

Day 5…Wednesday. Today was intended to be a day at World Relief Headquarters. We were to spend half of the day shadowing our buddies, and then the other half was spent helping them to reorganize and consolidate their office space. So I spent most of the morning with my Buddy Celestin Gatera (post on him coming next!) learning about his job, sitting in on some of his conference calls, and asking a lot of questions to help me understand what it all entails. We both have such different jobs and we both had a blast getting to know what each other did and how were each serving the kingdom in our own, unique ways. I then had some time to help out with the big move before lunch. In about 2 hours we moved just about everyone’s offices to their new locations. It was such a blessing to WR because had we not been there, they would’ve had to hire people to move them and they didn’t have the money to do so, so thank God for the energy of our team ☺

After lunch I was treated to a surprise from my buddy. Gatera, as he likes to be called, arranged for him and I to visit a local music school so I could see what the music education scene looked like in Rwanda. We drove into town to a house that had been transformed into a school. Here, about 50 kids show up after school for singing, piano, guitar, theory, and percussion lessons, as well as for some focused instruction on some native Rwanda instruments such as the “Inanga”. After a tour from the director of the school (which had a few practice rooms and even a traditional dance room fit with a mirror), I sat down with all the faculty and played along with some of their original compositions. It was fun and interesting as they don’t like to do music in traditional “4”. A friend of mine videoed this and I hope to post it sometime soon. Then I got to sit in for part of a piano/theory lesson and the director showed me the methods they use. The school uses the Alfred piano method and they were missing all the upper levels. All the books were made from photo copies and were bound with plastic. I mean to find out what levels they still need so that I can have them sent out so the kids can learn past level 3.

After that, Gatera and I needed to head back to World Relief so we bid adieu and were on our way. I was so glad to have visited that school. Just being able to see the need for education and how much better we have it educationally in the U.S. was very humbling. It makes me regret the days last year where the other teachers and myself would sit around grumbling about how we couldn’t do what we wanted in our classrooms because of our budgets…talk about a new perspective. When we got back, Gatera had some meetings to attend and we had some business of our own to tend to. It was Natalie Bingham’s birthday so a few of us went with Myan Greene (the other liaison between WR and McLean) to a near-by coffee shop called Bourbon. We had heard a lot about this place and were curious what it would be like to see a Rwandan Coffee shop. Needless to say when we walked in, we felt like we we’re back in the states because it was a just fancy, more upscale version of starbucks ☺ We enjoyed a quick break, some iced mochas and even ran into some American volunteers from Living water that were also from the D.C. area that had been to Frontline, and even knew our friend Matt Walkley! SUCH a small world. After that we headed back to our guest house because we had a lot of work and debriefing to do before our big prayer retreat the next day. Thus ends Day 5…

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Rwanda: World Relief Recap #2

February 23, 2009 at 3:51 pm (Rwanda)

Myself and Natalie Burns, another member of our team, started monday morning very early because we decided that we wanted to run while we were in Africa.  We’re both training for the Marine Coprs Historic Half marathon in May so we knew we had to keep training while we were away.  I have to say, that my early morning runs became one of my most favorite parts of the trip.  Kigali sits well above 5000 ft so you feel it in the lungs, but running through the city as it wakes up with a beautiful sunrise in the background was such a breath-taking experience (no pun intended).  I also felt like i was in “Cool Runnings” part 2 :).

Monday’s task was to spend the day at World Relief where they taught us about the organization, our partnership, the logistics of church mobilization, culture demographics, the micro-finance programs, and many other things.  They branded it as “World Relief University” and taught it like a college class which was actually kind of fun.  It might have been even more fun for them to pretend that they were professors and deans, which didn’t bother me at all cause i could see in their faces how different and fun it was for them to conduct.  Throughout the day of “classes” i could feel my perspectives on missions and understanding culture turning completely around.  We asked some tough questions in regards to Transformational development and the challenges within, what cross-cultural Christianity looks like, how to balance descriptions versus interpretations of cultures, how to work with volunteers in community ministry, and many more!  I’m really thankful for that day and the things that I learned.  It was also the first day i got to hang out with my World Relief “buddy” which i will write a whole post on him soon.

Tuesday was a day for us to spend out in the field with some of the field projects WR was overseeing.  My group traveled about 45 min outside of town to a small rural village called Masaka where WR was building large bio-level water filters for families that needed clean water.  We spent the morning separating fine-grain sand and small rocks, and cleaning them.  Once we had separated all the materials and bagged them up, we would load up into the land cruisers and install a filter in someone’s home.  I got to help install one filter in a home and it was so filling to see the family light up with joy at the thought of clean water finally being part of daily life.  Below is a picture of Jillian, our MBC liason to World Relief, helping to install the filter in the home.


Once we were finished with filters, we had a little down time until the land cruisers were to pick us up so we walked around and took some pictures AND encountered one of the craziest things i’ve ever been a part of.  Here’s a good story. On our walk, we crossed a large open field and noticed 4 little kids playing soccer with a beat up old ball.  There were three of us at the time and we thought the kids would think it was super cool if the strange white people stopped and played soccer with them.  So we did and had fun for about 3 minutes or so.  I forgot to mention that this field was right next to a large rural school building.  At that three minute mark, i looked over at the school, just in time to see the huge entry gates swing open and see about 300+ kids sprinting out to play with us.  Talk about a rush.  It instantly became a game keep away from the Muzungu’s (Rwandan term for white people) and it was a blast.  Allan even kicked the ball right into one kids face, which knocked him off his feet and the kid got right back up like nothing happened so he could keep playing!  I wish we would’ve gotten a picture of it all, but it happened so fast, what could we do.  Anyway, you’ll just have to take our word for it. Soon the Land Cruisers showed up and rescued us form the mass of kids (which was super hard to navigate as you can imagine).  We drove back to town for our evening debrief and prayer time and rested up from a day of manual labor.  Thus ends day 4.

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“nathan needs”

February 21, 2009 at 3:31 pm (Uncategorized)

So i heard about this idea the other day and thought i’d try it out and it’s pretty funny.  The idea is that you google “[your first name] needs” (include the quotes) and then post the top ten things that goggle says you need…  anyway, here’s a laugh for y’all, as well as the ten things that “i need” 🙂

  1. Nathan Needs some huggies
  2. Nathan Needs full assistance for all his personal needs
  3. Nathan Needs ritalin
  4. Nathan Needs Facebook
  5. Nathan Needs hernia surgery
  6. Nathan Needs some sleep
  7. Nathan Needs foster care
  8. Nathan Needs to shave
  9. Nathan Needs to be famous yesterday
  10. Nathan Needs a digital piano

Try it out with YOUR name and send me your results…fun times 🙂

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Rwanda: World Relief Recap #1

February 20, 2009 at 8:46 pm (Rwanda)

When people have been asking me about this trip the first thing that I tell them is that it was a very different kind of mission trip.  In fact, it felt more like a business trip in nature.  Thats not a bad thing because the point of the trip was to travel out to World Relief’s Rwanda Headquarters to conduct several staff trainings, receive training from their staff as well, and to serve and encourage the workers who have a very tough job to conduct in a country that is still amid reconciliation.  World Relief is committed to building up and empowering the local church in order to reach those who do not yet know Christ (the country claims it is 90-95% christian) and those who are still working through reconstruction, economic trouble, and health related issues (most of the population).  It’s an amazing organization with an incredible staff comprised of both Americans and native Rwandans.  Many of which are genocide survivors with incredible and heart-wrenching stories of escape and loss.  Here is their Rwanda Home page.  So that was our mission and expectation and we received well more then that.  Here is our/their story from the past 2 weeks:

We (14 team members) met at MBC at 6:00 AM EST Friday morning to head to Dulles Airport.  Surrounded by TONS of people who came out to send us off, we prayed for our travel and trip and were well on our way.  The flights were long as to be expected and we experienced 2 interesting things on the way.  1.) my hardest landing EVER (which was kind of fun) and my first aborted landing (there was a cow on the runway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; one of our connecting points).  I’ve never been thrown back into my seat like that before.  We arrived in Kigali, Rwanda on Saturday afternoon at about 12:30 PM.  We were picked up by 3 large Land Rovers from World relief which would serve as our transportation for the trip.  Those trucks are huge and super cool because the exhaust has a snorkel to the roof so that it can tread deep water…sweet!

We were taken to the guest house we were going to stay and eat in for the trip, which was a christian mission called Moucecore.  We paired up for rooms which had two small beds in them and 2 bathrooms for everyone to share; I shared a room with my friend Scott Clattenburg of Frontline Arlington.  The bathrooms consisted of a small sink, a small toilet, and a shower that sometimes worked and rarely had heated water…not complaining, just sharing :).  We were all very tired and jet lagged due to the 7 hour time difference but still had a briefing session that night, in which we were all guilty of bobbing heads and slipping in and out of consciesness.  Some how we made it through and got to bed early that night.

In the morning, we were split up into three groups to visit three local churchs to see what church in Rwanda was like.  Every group had a different experience.  My group attended a church that seemed very similar to the church we have in America.  There was a full worship team (with a young kid behind the drum-set who was pretty awesome!) a choir, pastors and an organized service order, alog with about 600 in attendace.  It was all done in Kiyarwandan (Rwanda’s native language) so we were each provided with a translator for the entire service….which was 4 hours long.  Before the service we got to sit down with the pastor and hear how the church was reaching out to all genreations and even other religions in the area.  The service was really great too.  The preaching was right on and it just seemed like the church “got it”.  They preached the word and peoples need for the gospel and we saw about 30 people get saved throughout the multiple alter calls during the service.  The music was cool and they even did a Kinyarwandan version of “Trading my Sorrows”…complete with the dance :).  They also had banner wavers which was new for me. There was also a section of about 150 kids and they were so well behaved for the entire service…this is evidence of the community, which will be discussed in a later post.

After church, we met for a late lunch (i’ll tell you about the food later) and visited World Reliefs headquarters, which was a 15 minute walk from our guest house.  The evening was spent finalizing some the next few days training sessions and getting a little more rest as we we’re all still very tired and still adjusting…the going out was SO much harder then the coming back.  That takes us to the end of Day 2 and this post. Check back for more soon as there is TONS more to be shared!


**I promise that there was so much more in these days that i’m writting about, this blog would just explode if i hit them all, and you probably wouldn’t want to read it either 🙂

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