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December 25, 2009, KIGALI, RWANDA – Merry Christmas! I pray that God is bringing you such joy and love this time of year. It’s my third Christmas in Rwanda, away from my family and friends, but this year God and Santa gave me a most wonderful gift, a husband-to-be, to spend it with. 2010 looks to be a year of unity as God joins me to my partner for life and for this mission. I am so grateful for God’s answers to all my prayers. And I know he’s working on more.
Rwanda doesn’t really celebrate Christmas. They prefer New Years. Oh, how I miss Christmas and remembering what its all about – the birth of our Savior Christ Jesus and the fulfillment of the promise…unity and family, celebration, children and mercy.
It’s again time to recap on my time in Rwanda. I have been here since June 2007 with only one brief month home in American since then. I came here with a mission from God and have not wavered since. The environment has changed and I have changed, but the mission is still on and growing – to affect the educational climate for underprivileged children in Rwanda in order to pave way for future strong peaceful leadership. God has protected me from what could have been great disasters. He allowed me just enough strife to keep me humble and to teach me lessons about myself and about the climate in which I am working.
I came here green-eyed and innocent, with big ideas and the utmost of faith. My faith has remained and grown stronger, but my flesh is so tired. Nevertheless, my utmost for His highest is still the goal of my heart. I have worked in various ways with NGOs, individuals, churches, pastors, business people and other missionaries. I have taught children and adults Bible and other skills. I have prayed with orphans and the sick. I have explored the depths of the Rwandan people. I have heard many stories of many people who came here with millions of dollars that get stolen from trusting the wrong person. I praise God that he has withheld the funds from me while I was green, and I trust that He will release all the provisions when I am ready to handle it. I don’t know if I could bare the guilt of losing millions of dollars of donor funds like many I have heard about.
I have worked voluntarily with minimal support, having to pick up odd paying jobs to make ends meet. I have lived days on end with little in my pocket for food or transport. I have walked for miles with my equipment and guitar on my back. I have been duped and deceived, befriended and used, slandered and mocked. Yet all that under His wings and covering because I am still here and alive. Now God has given me work to start making me self-supportive so all ministry funds can go straight to ministry. However, its not a highly stable job market so please continue to pray about my job. And this year God has founded Urukundo for the Children and given us the papers to file 501c3 so we can start raising the funds to do the meat of the work. Here's a recap of my three years in Rwanda on mission for Christ.
Highlights of my past 2 years’ work:
2007 arrived in Rwanda
2007-present: consulted numerous individuals on life and business planning
2007 taught primary and secondary school at Kigali International Community School
2007 taught worship, Bible, and production at Victory Mission Church
2007 taught Bible, English and music to FESO kids at Ndera
2007 visited Nyabugogo orphanage with a church mission team for Christmas with The Christmas Story movie and gifts
2007 organized Victory Mission Church special Christmas and New Years worship
2008 organized and promoted ministry concert for Enric Sifa at Christian Life Assembly
2008 taught Bible, English, and worship music at taught at Kisugu Christian Fellowship on two trips to Uganda
2008 taught Bible at prisons in Uganda
2008 visited families of Hope Prison Ministry in Uganda
2008 taught at Kihihi villages and churches in Uganda
2008 prayed at orphanages and hospitals in Gisenyi
2008 prayed at hospitals in Congo
2008 visited animals and villages of Akagera
2008 taught guitar classes at KICS
2008 taught computers and adult English at World Relief; consulted WR on volunteer training
2008 registered and incorporated Urukundo (Love) for the Children, Inc.
2008 went on furlough for first time in November for Inspire Women Luncheon and Conference, and to visit family and friends
2009 taught English, music, and art at Ecole Belge
2009 trained teachers at EA School for orphans
2009 helped to plan medical clinic for Hope Kigali Festival (Andrew Palau evangelical festival)
2009 organized Enric Sifa’s backup team at Hope Kigali festival
2009 taught Bible and fellowshipped with orphans of Narrow Road Ministries
2009 joined Rwanda for Jesus church and worship team
2009 began recording self-composed Christian songs for a testimonial album
2009 began registration process for Urukundo for the Children, Inc.
2009 began working part-time to earn my living ¬– as Creative Director/Art Director/Studio Manager for Creaxion/Ogilvy Africa advertising agency
2009 researched the educational front, especially in the area of disabilities
2009 engaged to Burundian missionary
2009 visited family in Burundi; sang at President’s house
2009 applying for 501c3 for Urukundo for the Children
I am looking forward to seeing God work big things into the mission next year with a new husband on the way and a new organization to develop. I have confidence in His plans.
THE BLESSING OF BURUNDI
In November Jean-Paul and I took a week long trip to meet Jean-Paul’s family in Bujumbura, Burundi and take care of some passport issues. It was my first time to go to Burundi. We were crunched for time and money, but God performed miracles to get all our business completed in a miraculous seven days.
As we rode into Burundi by way of an almost 8 hour bus ride, I saw roads that were organized and paved, storefronts that made sense. The country was clean and the people were pleasant and hospitable, not only with visitors but towards each other.
It was wonderful to see where JP grew up, meet his family and friends, and hear more stories about his life in a war-torn Burundi. Burundi faced the same genocidal ethnic conflicts as Rwanda, but did not get the Hollywood fame that Rwanda received. And JP’s family suffered through a lot of persecution and life threats during that time. JP has come a long way from his mountain village upbringing. We literally went door-to door to visit his family, who were so happy for our marriage “project” (as they say here).
In town, the streets of Bujumbura are nicely paved and lined with mango-selling ladies. The mangos, the national export, are deliciously sweet, just like the people. Burundians are serious relationship people. They enjoy visiting friends old and new, helping each other, praying for each other and congratulating each other for life successes. I find them quite genuine as they each came one by one to visit Jean-Paul and meet me, his fiancé. They were all so happy for him.
Walking through the main marketplace, JP is greeted warmly by many vendors who are his distant relative or childhood village neighbor. I was truly in awe of all the people who stepped up to help JP get a copy of his birth certificate and renew his passport to prepare for wedding travel.
We also visited the church of JPs dear friend and international worship leader Apollinaire. Apollinaire leads the church and the worship team alongside his wife.
Nkurunziza: Burundi’s Renaissance
It was quite an honor to witness and hear the testimony of Burundi’s new renaissance. Just a few years ago Burundi was still under rebel conflicts. The people were taken out of their homes and placed in refugee camps.
The current President Pierre Nkurunziza is outwardly Christian and a testimony of a godly leader. He is a leader of the people, working from the grassroots to know their needs. Next to the Burundian presidential office is a tent where people wait to meet with the President to personally share their concerns or just greet him. They say he is a man of the people, being the only President who literally gets his hands dirty and does manual work with the people of his country. He is more than a political machine, but truly in touch with the people. He is a model of humility and integrity. And he gives all the credit to God. Every Sunday evening he holds a private worship service in his home, inviting staff, foreign dignitaries and guest pastors. He supports his choir made up of soldiers who fought alongside him during conflicting times. They all love him so much. It was humbling and awesome to hear of such a leader.
Jean-Paul’s favor in Burundi
It was a treat to discover that my fiancé is quite special in Burundi and well-known amongst local people and the political front. The president is quite the worship music connoisseur so Jean-Paul is favored in Burundi. We went to Tanganyika Studio for JP to record lead guitar for a special compilation CD for the President. JP’s second family is the presidential soldiers’ choir. He is frequently summoned form Rwanda to play for the president.
Dinner at the Burundian President’s Residence
We were invited for Sunday dinner and service at the President’s private residence, a weekly event. The President was not present because he was at the Vatican in Rome receiving a Peace Prize. However, I was asked to sing a Kinyarwanda translation of Chris Tomlin’s We Fall Down to the First Lady and special guests as Jean-Paul accompanied me on guitar. We had a wonderful meal that included sweet potatoes personally planted by the President in his personal garden. JP showed me that the stray children wondering around the premises included several orphans that the President had adopted into his family. It was an honorable night to remember. I took a few photos but it was dark and I had to be very discreet in front of VIPs.
VISITING THE FAMILY IN BURUNDI
We visited the village where Jean-Paul had grown up and where his family still resides. JP has climbed far from the small quaint and simple village where he was raised. He showed me that he actually used to live up the mountain where he walked for miles to get to school and back. The village was much like the villages in Cyangugu where I first came into Rwanda to evangelize. Who would have ever thought I’d be marrying someone from such a village?
We literally went door-to-door visiting his uncles and aunts who are like his parents because his father had passed away (possibly form poisoning, a common thing in Africa). His immediate family consists of his brothers and sisters and their families and his mother. All the family was so happy about our engagement. They see it as a blessing.
Meeting the family showed me the strong roots that still reside in Jean-Paul. He is truly a man faithful to God and family. Jean-Paul has a beautiful family who are honest and sincere. They are strong Christians who survived death threats and refugee camps during wartime. They know God’s grace saved them. His older brother Odifax is an Evangelist Pastor of the Evangelical Restoration Church in Bujumbura and his younger brother Jackson is a worship leader. Odifax is married and has beautiful children. Jean-Paul also has a little brother Samuel and a younger sister Pascasie. His mother is a widower.
PLANNING A MIRACLE WEDDING
The date is set. Jean-Paul Bigirindavyi and I are set to wed at The Chapel of Houston’s First Baptist Church on March 27, 2010 at 4pm. We are praying for all the funds needed to fly to Houston and return to Rwanda to finish out the mission. I am truly planning the wedding from around the globe on a dime. But God is good and has taken care of a lot of expenses through in-kind gifts. However, we are still praying for airplane tickets, more wedding expenses, and traveling expenses. Please pray for us. Nevertheless, I am so excited and blessed to go home to marry in my home church and with my close family and friends. I know God will come through and finish what He started.
HOUSING FOR THE FUTURE
God continues to have favor on me even in my strife. JP and I started looking for a place where we may start our lives together after the wedding. We were limited in funds and an inflating real estate market in Kigali (comparable to living in Houston). Nevertheless, the Lord came through miraculously. Housing here is outrageous. Landlords ask for 6 months advances, don’t comply with contracts, and pry into your life. At first finding an affordable house was looking impossible, but God found us a wonderful place near JP’s church/job and not too far from town. The landlord is a sweet man who allowed us a 1 month advance with 1 month deposit. It was a miracle. Even that stretched us to live on nothing for the month of December, but we were happy to have the funds to secure the house. And the house is safe and near the main road, local stores, and the market. It’s a nice large compound that he newly renovated so it should be leak free. I am paying a little more than my current place, but not much more. Praise God!
WHAT I’VE LEARNED: STEADFAST LOVE
In all the struggles of the flesh and spirit, I’ve learned what it means to love God with my utmost and press on. All these things that I struggle with are of my mortal flesh. All in all God keeps me well and safe. He keeps His promises. And when I cry out because I’m at my wit’s end, God answers swiftly. And He even gives me overflow in the love of Jean-Paul. I’ve learned to hold onto a steadfast love for God. Trust Him above all. And don’t dwell on the hardships because they are like passing ships in the night. The flame of God is eternal and prosperous.
So, as I move on to a new season and a new chapter of my life, it all connects and God is making sense out of my life, day by day…or step by step (as JP likes to say). JP belongs to a strong church family at Evangelical Restoration Church as a “son” and I will be joining that family and partaking of the vision to spread the Gospel far and wide. The church has already welcomed me with open arms. Apostle Masasu and his wife Mama Lydia are humble overseers of the church. My wedding is truly going to be a miracle in a thousand ways.
I pray that you have been blessed just for reading about my mission in Rwanda. All my life is a testimony of God’s glory and more glory to come. I may not be a big church or NGO with huge funds, people may be watching and wondering what I am doing, but God knows what He sent me here for and that I am still obedient to His calling. The same skeptical eyes followed Noah’s ark, Moses’ mission, Nehemiah’s wall of Jerusalem, David/Solomon’s temple and Paul’s mission…they were all thought of as crazy unfocused fantasizers…and they all had specific vision and mission from God…and they all pressed on, despite lack of funds and moral support…and in the end all the pieces came together just as God promised, and is now documented eternally in the Holy Bible. This is what I hang on to. I am not as great as any of these messengers of God, but my mission is just as important….Christ Is Our Hope School Community Rwanda is about what is in the heart of Jesus, his school…planting it in impoverished children…and watching His seeds grow into a new nation of godly leaders. Urukundo for the Children is about planting more seeds like Christ Is Our Hope School in various areas of the world. It’s also about taking ordinary people like the ones on our Board and having them plant extraordinary programs that make a difference for God in the world.
I LOVE YOU ALL
In this bittersweet time when I am missing home so much, I thank God for your health and welfare. Those who have blessed me with friendship, emails of encouragement, and support funds. I know God is blessing you abundantly for your kindness. Isn’t He a good and extravagant God! I pray that this is the true launching year for the mission of Urukundo (Love) for the Children, Inc. I pray you will continue on with me to read about the mission in these blogs and pray for us. It’s all about God’s glory. In my heart I see the condition of the world and I see God’s love and compassion that envisions a new generation of leaders who know Him and love each other. I love you all so much. Big kisses and hugs from me and Jean-Paul. I can’t wait to see you guys at my wedding in March. I will keep you posted as it comes near. May God be with you and bless you. I want to wish you the best Christmas yet and a Happy New Year 2010.
Love in Christ Jesus,
• affordable housing with nice landlord
• God’s protection
• My fiancé Jean-Paul and his improved health
• My family
• All the people who have come along to help me in all these years and particularly now with the wedding. God bless you all!
• speedy 501c3 approval for Urukundo for the Children, Inc.
• Wedding preparations & provisions for roundtrip tickets and all wedding/honeymoon expenses
• Jean-Paul’s continued health
• Our job and financial stability in Rwanda
• Continued peace and safety, especially in the new house
• The actual wedding March 27, 2010
• that all my family and friends are able to make it to the wedding
WEDDING GIFT REGISTRY:
For those who have asked how they may bless us with a gift for our marriage or wedding, I have signed up with a cash registry at www.myregistry.com that works through paypal. Since we are returning to Rwanda after the wedding, we cannot bring large gifts with us so we prefer cash gifts to support the wedding expenses and to purchase things in Rwanda to start off our marriage. God bless you!
Cash Gift Wedding Registry
You may use your credit card or bank transfer (through paypal) to contribute a cash gift at our registry at www.myregistry.com
SEARCH: Linda Huang or Jean-Paul Bigirindavyi
Wedding Basket (at reception)
You may also choose to drop a check (payable to Linda Huang) in the gift basket at the wedding. Thank you so much for your blessing.
PLEASE ADVOCATE FOR CHRIST & FOR THE CHILDREN
I need your help to raise funds to build what God has called me here to build for Him. Gather friends to sponsor lunches, bike rides, run/walks, picnics, bake sales, lemonade stands or concerts for the cause of God’s ministry in Rwanda, to build Christ Is Our Hope School Community Rwanda, a center of hope and God’s blessings, to raise new leaders. There are children who need your help. There’s a nation that needs hope. Help me to raise funds to develop a better education system for them and a future hope in Christ. 501c3 is pending very soon.
TO DONATE TO URUKUNDO (LOVE) FOR THE CHIDLREN, INC.
PLEASE SEND CHECKS PAYABLE TO:
Urukundo for the Children
4020 Blue Bonnet Blvd., Unit G
Houston, Texas 77025
Attn: Beth Richards
PLEASE SUBSCRIBE: If you have not already done so, please subscribe to “Bridge To Rwanda Blog Newsletter” by entering your email address in the subscription field to the right. FeedBurner will send you a CONFIRMATION EMAIL that you must REPLY TO CONFIRM in order to activate your subscription. Please, pass the subscription and blog site on to others to share the testimony and raise support for the mission. God bless you!