Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bridge to Rwanda Newsletter, Vol.5

March 18, 2008 KIGALI, RWANDA – This is an extended issue - reporting from December 2007 through March 2008. I apologize for the tardiness. You will see that God continues to keep me so busy. I can barely stop to write and sort through multitudes of photos. So, in this issue I will attempt to catch you up on the many activities that God has brought along my path. Again, God bless you all for your patience, for not forgetting me and for all your support. [Note: Click on photos to enlarge]

February 23, 2008 KIGALI, RWANDA – Praise the Lord Jesus Christ for His love and mercy! For me, the theme of the year 2007 was “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.” God’s message of the year to me has been “I am with you.” I got through both a tough year and a blessed year. 2007 will always be the year God sent me off on a new and climactic season of my life to start my mission journey in Rwanda (East Central Africa). I’ve only been here for 7 months, but it’s been quite a journey. I can’t imagine what else God has in store for me, but I know it is good. I thank Him for every battle and every victory for I have grown so much more in love with my Jesus and so much more stronger.

First, I could never have imagined the welcome that I have received from Rwandan friends and the adopted family that God had prepared for me. From the moment I stepped off the airplane and saw the warm face of my friend Eddy, the Lord has shown me many more good people who help me transition into life in Rwanda. They have helped to ease the culture shocks, going out of their way to make sure I am not alone, and are a comfort to me when I miss my family and friends. It’s been a tremendous blessing. And I am deeply aware of the special privilege and honor that has been bestowed upon me.

Secondly, there have been tremendous hardships to endure. There are many cultures that I have had to acclimate to and not all were easy or welcoming, but God stood by me all the way and has taught me to press on past the pain and towards the blessing. The longer I am here the more intricate the cultural adaptations are. There are ways that all people of all cultures are alike and ways that each culture is unique. There are ways that we are accepting and ways that cultures are exclusive. Then, there are the usual deceits of human flaw. But best of all, “God works all things for the good of those who love Him”. So, I am blessed.

Let me now share the activities of my journey since my last blog. Again, please forgive me for the long duration in between blogs. God keeps me so busy with so many tasks and responsibilities, beyond my own capability to accomplish. Perhaps this is His way of keeping me humble and dependant on Him.

December 2007 KAMPALA, UGANDA ¬– UGANDA MISSION: As the first term of school ended for the Winter Break, I was privileged to have been invited to visit the ministries of Pastor Everest Bizimungu in Kampala, Uganda. This was my first trip out of Kigali since I arrived in Rwanda and definitely my first venture in another country of Africa. [PHOTO 1: Pastors Bizimungu and Shyaka’s family and home welcoming]

I took a 10 hour bumpy and rainy bus ride escorted by the pastor and my dear friend Francis. First, the enemy tried to thwart our plans by delaying Francis’ passport for 2 weeks and sending news of an ebola quarantine in Uganda. We prayed and prayed and nothing could stop us. After days of waiting in line, Francis finally got his passport and we crossed the border.

My trip to Kampala, was such a blessed growth experience. I learned so much about God’s will and power. Pastor Bizimungu and Pastor Shyaka hosted Francis and I in their homes in the Kisugu slum district of Kampala. It was amazing! His wife, children and household were amazingly gracious. This is the most humble pastor I know as he surprised me by giving Francis and I his pulpit at Kisugu Christian Fellowship to teach every night and one Sunday for an entire week. We taught about the Heart of Praise and Worship. This is no small thing as it is not common for an African pastor to give the pulpit to lay people. I prayed for God to bring me the words and lessons and He did. We also taught the worship team English worship songs. And God had me share my life rescue testimony with the church. Now I am blessed with a Ugandan family and church. I love them so much!!! [PHOTO 2: Streets and children of Kisugu district, Kampala UGANDA]

The pastor also took us around Kampala to visit families of his Hope Prison Ministry, which serves families of women whose husbands are doing time in prison and are left alone to support their children financially and spiritually. Some are suffering with HIV and struggling to feed their children or provide school fees. Their weathered faces told of their hardships, yet they yearned for hope from Jesus. I hope to help collaboratively with this ministry to find a sustainable future for these people. [PHOTO 3: Wives and families of Prisoners of Hope Prison Ministry]

December 2007 KIGALI, RWANDA – CHRISTMAS NYABUGOGO MISSION: When we returned from Uganda, it was time to prepare for my first Christmas in Rwanda with my church family. Spending the holidays with Victory Mission Church was a blessing, but not without challenges and lessons.

First, God blessed me with a move to a miraculously affordable house of my own across from my church in Kanombe district. Now I am not only close to my appointed church, but can now have the privacy to fellowship and conduct ministry business. This would also now allow me to partake in more activities without fighting transportation challenges.

My first task was to plan our first outreach mission activity as the officially elected Worship Team Missions Outreach Coordinator. My co-leaders and I went to the market to purchase food and clothes for 140 boys. Then, on Saturday, December 20, 2007 we visited the Nyabugogo Orphanage to bless the children with Christmas greetings from Jesus. We praised and worshiped with about 200 boys and girls, shared some treats with them, gave them the gift of clothes from Jesus, and showed they the movie The Nativity Story projected on the wall with a Kinyarwanda translator. They loved the movie. You could hear ooh’s and awh’s and the grand applause as Jesus was born. [PHOTO 4: Rwanda Victory Mission Worship Team Bring Christmas to Nyabugogo orphans]

December 25, 2007 KIGALI, RWANDA – CHRISTMAS EVE AT RWANDA VICTORY MISSION CHURCH: Next, we prepared for a very special Christmas Eve Praise & Worship and Overnight Prayer program sponsored by the Worship Team. This was the first time the worship team would lead a special event. We planned both English and Kinyarwanda Christmas songs including a rendition of O, Holy Night which ended with a beautiful spontaneous churchwide candlelight vigil. We showed The Nativity Story to a huge turnout of church members and people off the street. Again, a grand applause from the crowd marked the climactic birth of Jesus. It was an amazing birthday celebration for Jesus. This was followed by a morning Christmas service. It was a long night, but blessed. Thank God I lived nearby. [PHOTO 5: Worship Team leads worship for New Years; Crowd watches “The Nativity Story”]

The holidays in Kigali were peaceful and quiet, like a ghost town. All muzungus and tourists were out of town visiting resorts and family in Kenya, South Africa and the US. The city was peacefully barren and shut down.

January 1, 2008 KIGALI, RWANDA – ROLLING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH RWANDA VICTORY MISSION CHURCH: After a few days of rest, we were onto the New Years Eve overnight prayer service at church. An exhausted worship team again served in the service.

January 7, 2008 KIGALI, RWANDA – NEW SCHOOL TERM: The holidays were finished and it was time to get back to work as the new school term began. KICS increased in student population to nearly 100 in the student body. My students shifted and increased. It was time to get busy again. [PHOTO 6: KICS Enric Sifa visits KICS students]

March 2, 2008 KIGALI, RWANDA – ENRIC SIFA CONCERT: As I started to write my next blog in February, God brought me a new challenge. I was connected with a local musician with US backing who was releasing his first US produced CD Just A Moment and needed help with promotions and management. Since I have some experience in the music and entertainment industry in the US, I signed on to promote his album in Kigali and produce his first live concert. This was a full-time endeavor (while I was also working at the school), but a blessed learning experience. I partnered with my friend Francis who knew Enric as a friend and is involved with the local music scene. Promoting in Africa was an interesting learning experience that differs much from the US – different market and limited resources. We placed his CDs all over town, got radio promotions and spots, did a mall appearance, visited several churches, and booked a venue for his concert. We also gathered musicians for his band and booked rehearsal times. I organized the budget, scheduled the program, designed creative lighting and projection, hung posters, sold tickets and CDs, booked some live promotional appearances, organized VIPs, and chauffeured musicians and equipment around.

Enric is not just an artist, but also a music ministry in that he shares his testimony rescue to give people hope. Enric became an orphan in his teens just after the genicide. He lived on the streets surviving off his music and eating trash. Africa New Life Ministries found Enric and sponsored him for school and living while he toured with the group the Hindurwas. Now, Enric and his US sponsor/agent produced his first solo album and were trying to build his own ministry. (Visit http://www.enricsifa.com)

My students at KICS all got involved and were blessed. The middle school volunteered as ticket and CD sales people, stage door security, and VIP hosts. Many more students and their families attended the Enric Sifa Just A Moment Concert hosted at Christian Life Assembly (CLA) on March 1, 2008. Even the mayor of Kigali joined the concert. It was a truly international event and testimony of God’s miracles. After the concert Enric set out for a 6 month US tour with the Hindurwas and Africa New Life Ministries. [PHOTO 7: Enric Sifa at rehearsals and in concert]

March 7, 2008 AKAGERA, RWANDA – AKEGERA WILDLIFE PARK: After three months of non-stop work I needed a rest and to see more of Rwanda and refocus on God’s plans. I also wanted to get some African animal photos to show my niece and nephew in the US. So, Francis (the African Diego the Exploreer) and I (Jungle Linda) took off to see the animals of Africa at Akagera. It was amazing. Jungle Linda set out in her double cab pickup truck (an acquisition that was a miraculous answer to prayers) to explore the wilderness.

We drove about three hours outside of Kigali to reach a reserve park where wild animals are contained and protected. With our park guide, we roamed the wilderness with antelopes, baboons, buffalos, elephants, deer, giraffes, and hippopotamuses. We actually got out of our car and roamed around near the animals (except for the buffalos). It was an amazing reminder of God’s wonderful creations. I also got to visit the villages in between where I was greeted by many children screaming “agachupa!” (water bottles they use to play games). And I got to see the lavish farmlands of Rwanda. [PHOTO 8: Animals at Akagera Wildlife Park]

So, now I am back in school and finishing off the second term of my first year in Rwanda. I plan to venture out more to reach out in the heart of the land. So, keep an eye out for the next few issues as my special Rwandan friend Francis Kambale (the African Diego the Explorer) takes me to the heart of the Rwandan land and people. I still have many more projects that I am working on and will share with you as they come to fruition. Your prayers are always appreciated and felt. God bless you for caring and for reading this.

I invite you to email and write to me any comments, questions, or concerns. Or, just to say hello. I miss my home country, friends and family very much. Please continue to pray for my support and ministry, safety and strength. Pray for me to continue to uncover and learn the true ways and needs of Africa. As you can see, your prayers have been heard as God has provided me with a car and house on what little funds I have. He gave me manna and I will use it to serve Him and the people. God bless you in whatever situation you face. Please know that I appreciate you. I too am a testimony of God’s rescue from darkness and now I serve with joy in hardship as well as abundant blessings.

Love in Christ Jesus,

PRAISES FOR PRAYERS ANSWERED: Yesu ashimwe! (Praise the Lord!)
• God granted me a house near my church and an affordable vehicle
• God brought me special friends for help
• God got me through 1st and 2nd term of school

PRAYERS NEEDED: Still praying for the following…
• I’m praying for my keyboard and all electronics that keep getting attacked and zapped by the unstable electricity here, even hooked up to stabilizers and adapters. I have spent a lot of money in repairs.
• I’m still praying for more support funds for my initial 2 years of service. Please note that new funds will be administered by Grace Deposits at Network for Good.
• I’m also praying for the strategic plans, funds, and provisions to start the child advocacy NGO Christ Is Our Hope International and the leadership school.
• I’m praying for a donation of 2 round trip tickets to US for me and my Rwandan friend Francis (for this summer) so that we can share testimonies, the vision proposal, and begin raising support and foundations for the child advocacy NGO and leadership school. Also so I can visit my family that I miss soooo much!
• I’m praying for Rwanda Victory Mission Church and my Worship Team. To grow them in their walk of faith.
• I’m praying curriculum/books for KICS
• I am praying for donations of NIV and NASB Bibles to share with my precious English reading Rwandese friends and worship team who are hungry for God’s Word. The Kinyarwanda Bible does not translate well. I have given away all my spare ones and still have many thirsty friends.
• I’m praying to learn Kinyarwanda faster so I can communicate on my own. It’s a tough language.
• I’m praying for my university friends who are no longer getting full government scholarships, but must now (starting this term) pay partial tuition. For many in this country this is a huge change and hardship in their lives. Their free education is their only hope of elevating their lives and country. Most students are either orphans or one-parent families. A lot of their parents are elderly and no longer earning income.
• I’m just praying for spiritual and emotional strength as I persevere through life in Africa. I am blessed, but it’s not easy. Cultural intricacies and financial strains are starting to challenge me, not to mention that I am missing my family very much. My faith is strong, but I am still human. God takes care of me, but prayers are always appreciated.

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I LOVE YOU ALL DEARLY. May the Lord shine his face upon you.