Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bridge To Rwanda Blog Newsletter, Vol. 3

NOTE: Click on photos to view enlarged version. All photos are Copyright 2007 Linda Huang. All rights reserved. Photos and articles may only be used or duplicated with the expressed permission of Linda Huang. Please respect the privacy and rights of the children. All violations will be prosecuted.

October 10, 2007 KIGALI, RWANDA – Muraho (Hello)! It’s been a huge stretch since my last newsletter. God has kept me tremendously busy and running around chasing time and tasks. This newsletter will be a little bit of news and a little bit of culture. God is working out different muscles in me, ones of ultimate patience and flexibility, stretching my creativity and resourcefulness to accomplish tasks in extraordinary ways. And, of course, comes the utmost humility. He is also re-working my independence. In this African climate, I have to depend on people or take risks on them in order to get information or translation. And even though the words can get translated, sometimes the meaning or cultural way has not been translated. Most everything is acquired by word-of-mouth and relationships. But the relationships are still a work in progress.

[PHOTOS: New e3 Partners church plant in Karangazi]
Although there are still many challenges, God has blessed me and I am acclimating well to the African culture. In fact, the Rwandese have initiated me as a fellow Rwandese. Everything here takes 10 more steps and 10 times more energy to accomplish than it would in the US, yet things start later and close earlier so you have a shorter timespan in which to accomplish things. Time management and multi-tasking is literally a foreign concept. And, with limited resources, your choices of equipment or tools are stumbling blocks. However, there is an open market for learning and they are hungry for knowledge and thirsting for hope.

The electricity in Rwanda is very unstable and there are huge power surges, so it’s necessary to carry huge stabilizer boxes to protect expensive equipment. And even then it’s the risk you take with refurbished or low market equipment at high prices. So far, the school has fried two projectors and a several printers, all of which have to be sent in from the States. So, each teacher carries around her own self-purchased 15 lb. stabilizer to and from home to use for projectors, laptops, and home appliances. I spent the entire day running around town looking for a new stabilizer because my cheaply manufactured stabilizer is no longer stable. Stores are not regularly stocked so I had to go from store to store on foot looking for a certain brand that I was told was a more dependable brand. There are no addresses, maps or yellow pages here so it was a treasure hunt looking for stores. Nevertheless, God finally blessed it as I found one at a decent price, which is not at all cheap.

School year 2007-2008 has resumed at Kigali International Community School (KICS) and our new school year started with many new changes and challenges. We finally have a headmaster from the US, Brian Dolinger and his wife Christy, who are a great blessing to the development of the school. In fact, Brian is one tiny step closer to registering the school officially. Praise the Lord! We have a full week and extended hours this year so there has been much to adjust to, but we have a leader to shape the school. We doubled our student population and increased it to 50% Rwandese and added some French, Swahili, Computers, Speech, Chemistry, Biology, and Weightlifting classes for the secondary school. This year I am teaching Grade 4 and 5 simultaneously as well as two secondary level Computer classes so I am swamped with planning and grading. The US Embassy donated 22 computers to us, yet it’s been a process getting the power in the building prepared to handle multiple machines. Then, we don’t have internet cards, software, or curriculum. Luckily I have over 16 years of digital graphic design knowledge and experience so I can pull curriculum from my experience. So, I began computer classes without hands-on equipment or software. We are limited in textbooks and curriculum so teachers have to improvise. We did not have a copier at first, but our new headmaster finally blessed us with one. Hallelujah! Then, keeping a steady supply of ink and paper is quite a task here. All in all we are blessed to have what we have and God is continually adding to His provision.

The educational climate of Rwanda humbles me at frustrating times - to know that most Rwandan schools never open a book. From pre-school to university levels, students learn from notes and lectures of unpublished teachers from all sorts of foreign backgrounds. They are expected to "cram" or memorize these notes verbatim and be tested on theories without practicum or demonstration. Some schools may have small libraries, but students must use them at their own leisure if they have time to fit in a book after memorizing notes. It’s an educational climate that is underdeveloped and fails to prepare a student for practical work in real-life. There is no training in problem solving or project management. This is one area that I hope to be able to influence and help advance. It breaks my heart to see my friends study so hard, even missing Sunday church, and not gain any practicum or job assistance. In all of Kigali, there is no library. However, the government is trying to raise money to build their first public library. KICS is blessed because our headmaster’s wife is getting a Masters in Library Science from UNT and is developing a library from ministry-donated books that are arriving soon. So, even before the city’s public library, KICS will have a full-fledged library in due time.

The Lord has also blessed me with many more connections and experiences that affirm the calling to one day start a child advocacy organization and a school to raise orphans as leaders of peace. My church had a week-long conference that I attended nightly and was blessed by. We had pastors from Uganda, Denmark and Rwanda. I had the privilege to meet many pastors from around the Great Lakes Region of Africa, some have invited me to visit. I will visit Uganda on my November or December holidays. I am hoping to explore firsthand the true and specific conditions of children’s lives and needs all around Africa.

I continue with weekly Kinyarwanda lessons and they are going well. I love my teacher Felix. We share our love for the Lord and this country. Its a tough language to learn because there are so many rules to consider, but I am hanging in and will eventually be able to carry on a conversation. Felix is teaching me church words so I can understand my Sundays better. Learning the kinyarwanda songs will also help.

[PHOTO: Rwanda Victory Mission Conference with Pastor Josephine and guest pastors. Children’s Choir “Voice of Angels.” RVM watched “Facing the Giants” as Pastor Josephine translates.]

God has implanted in me a deep love for my Rwandan church and I am beginning to get involved in serving and helping the church to grow as the Body of Christ. I started with the Worship team. We introduced projected song lyrics last week with the projector that God had instructed me to purchase before I left he US. It was a foreign addition to the Spirit-driven group who were used to singing random lyrics and improvising, but it was a hit. People were encouraged to participate more now that they know the real words and feel invited to interact with the worship team. Its brought a new meaning to the mysterious words. We project both English and Kinyarwanda translations. I hope to have some fellowship nights when I might project movies to teach cultural and Bible study movies. I am mentoring the team to be more than song leaders, but ministers and teachers of worship. It was difficult to grasp at first, but we are bonding. And as we bond and work together, God moves and they see. Praise the Lord! There is a work He does in me as well as I have had to step out of my shell and be bold, patient, persevering, and brave.

[PHOTO: Robert's Heart for Kids Rwanda]
My friend Robert who is the Country Director for e3Partners took me out into the countryside to visit some church plants in Nagatare and Karangazi. It was a blessing to meet new Believers who are hungry for Christ. Robert shared the Gospel and AIDs prevention using the evangecube. I had the pleasure of greeting and sharing God’s Word and special messages with two churches. Robert also took me to the beginnings and future home of Heart for Kids Rwanda, his personal kids rescue ministry. Everywhere I went children were worshiping and rejoicing in the Lord. Hallelujah!

The orphans in Ndera are progressing in their faith and their studies. It’s a challenge balancing time and getting to them without a vehicle (which I am still praying about), but I do my best. The headmaster of the Ndera secondary school has allowed us to use one of his classrooms so we no longer have to sit on mats in Mamma Perin’s living room and I will have a chalkboard. I am praying for paper and pencils so I can teach them to write as well as read. Meanwhile, the chalkboard will have to suffice.

We had the wonderful occasion to take another trip outside of Ndera to see a wonderful children’s music show presented by Jana Alayra, a musician from California who creates Christian children’s music with sign language movements. This trip was an accident, but a wonderful one at that. God uses everything. The children were blessed with a new experience outside of their impoverished surroundings and I gained some curriculum that I even use at KICS with my 4th and 5th graders. I am praying for an extraordinarily affordable mini-van so that I can take the children to more events like this. So far, we have had to rent vans for each excursion.

Everywhere I go I share my passion for God and music, bonding with the Rwandese. Everywhere I go I grow to love these people more and more. However, it’s still a spiritual battle to educate and empower the people. There are so many kinds of influences changing the culture already. Like Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, the Truffula Forest is lush and beautiful, just as is Rwanda, and many are coming to reap the beauty and profit from it. But like the story, we must beware not to strip the land of its innate gifts. We must nurture, enhance, and replant. This place of a thousand hills is very special to God and I will spend the rest of my life preserving God’s land and people for His glory. Yesu ashimwe!

Please pray for me as I try to wrap up the proposal for the God’s vision for Rwanda to build peacekeeping leaders out of the rubbles of war. There are many obstacles that I am facing (which I won’t go into detail about), but I know absolutely that this is God’s will and plan, and his plan shall be accomplished by His power. I am merely a vessel for his works.

The support fundraising for my mission is going well, yet I am still raising funds for my two-year initial term here as well as the orphan children’s ministry God has called me to build in Rwanda. Please see my blog for details on donating. As KICS gets registered I will be registering with the school and managing my funds more directly through Grace Deposits and Network for Good. Please direct new donations to Grace Deposits (see instruction on blog). Stay tuned for more information.

All in all, God is so good to me. Your prayers are always felt and appreciated. They keep me safe on the street motos and in cultural trials. I love you all truly and pray for your life to be as filled with joy of the Lord. God bless you truly!!! Drop me a note every once in a while. I love to hear from friends and family at home.

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Love in Christ Jesus,

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