Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Eight Pregnant Cows Later!

This past week-end we got to go to our favourite place in Rwanda... Gisenyi.
Gisenyi is a small town on the north shore of Lake Kivu in the west of Rwanda, bordering Congo.
LOTS of Serge's family lives there so we get to go there a couple times a year for various wedding ceremonies or other family functions.
There are FIVE ceremonies to a Rwanda wedding.

1. Gufatirembo - bookin' the bride
Serge just did this last weekend with a small delegation of 8 people, for his young brother who is going to get married in March 2011. The brother is now allowed to come through the front gate / door and sit in the house AND the family is not to accept any other offers for marriage for the girl.

2. Gusaba - Dowry Giving
This is the ceremony that we were at on Sunday afternoon. It is a very traditional ceremony where the grooms family comes to ask the girls family for her hand in marriage AND work out the dowry price. Can be pretty entertaining! Guess in the old days, they would dig up all the dirt on the grooms family to have lots of ammunition why they don't have to give them the girl! Can still happen sometimes today... then it's hot!

Here comes the bride...

The Bride.. worth EIGHT PREGNANT cows!!
Highest Bride price I have heard.

The interns looking all lovely in the traditional Mishananas... and Isabella too

Our family at the end of a very long afternoon.
Isabella doing faces, Beni playing peekaboo and Prince being cool.
Kids had TOO many people wanting to hold and greet them as they were the stars of the family.
Would we PLEASE have one more kid.. NO!!!!

What's next you ask..
3. Civil Wedding
All must have a civil wedding to be legally married here
4. Church Wedding, Reception - for about 600 people! Very westernized. Followed by an invitation only dinner with about 150ish people.
5. Gutwikurura - The ceremony when the bride's family brings all her stuff the home she is going to live in with her new husband. Quite the procession sometimes I tell you! All her belongings, all the stuff she has bought for her new home AND food for about three months. Can happen the night of the church wedding (I do NOT like this as I am never in bed before 2am when this happens!), the next afternoon, or after the honeymoon.

Then....honeymoon and hopefully happily ever after.
This was the first of FOUR 'important' weddings for us this summer, meaning we must at least go to the dowry giving and the church wedding. CRAZY!!
Guess it's better than two years ago when we had a wedding ceremony booked EVERY Saturday from May to the end of August except two.
At least they serve fanta! Blessing when it's cold...

Monday, 28 June 2010

Faces of A Prince

Imitating how Rwandan ladies put on lipstick (HILARIOUS!!)
No I'm not so sure, Isabella...

Cracking up

My boy

The Many Faces of Isabella

This past week-end our family got to travel to Gisenyi, Rwanda's Beach town to have a little family r+r (plus 4 interns!) and go to a dowry giving for Serge's cousin.
I snapped these pictures of Isabella during breakfast. So many of you don't get to see her growing up, so hoping this will give you a little glimpse of our 3.5 year old girl!

telling a story

Yes, I am taking your picture!


I don't think I agree with what Prince just said!

pulling a Medea

Pretty good, eh!?!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

They can Take My Home, But they Can't take my Future!

That is the slogan on the banner outside the UNHCR office here in Kigali, commemorating World Refugee Day... which is TODAY!

A day to bring awareness to the world of the plight of over 43 million people who have been forcefully displaced for their home .. as the UNHCR puts it (United Nations High Commission for Refugees)

What is a refugee?

A refugee is a person - man, woman, or child - who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.

We have been to church this morning, been out for brunch at a local coffee shop when on the way home I saw this banner flying, and decided that I needed to write and do my part to bring awareness - but more so to share about our ministry in the Kiziba Refugee Camp here in Rwanda.

My first trip into the Kiziba refugee camp was in April 2003 and we have been going there ever since. In my first visit I listened to the pastors plead with me, to help them learn the Word of God so that someday when they were able to return to their homeland and villages, they would be more learned and able to better bring people to Christ.

Kiziba is home to 20,000 refugees - mostly Congolese. They have been in this camp for over 10 years now, just waiting, hoping, praying that the unrest in Eastern Congo would 'disappear' so they could return home. They live everyday in hope...

In the meantime, I think some incredible things have happened in the camp which we and International Teams have been privileged to be part of.

We have intentionally trained pastors and key church leaders for the past four years and will continue to. The 15 denominations have come together to form a ministerial to work together in ministry in the camp. A HUGE answer to our prayers ... they have understood that they can do more together than individually! (Me walking with some pastors and key leaders in the camp.)

Because the pastors and key leaders came together, the youth have also come together. About three years ago they came to us, speaking of their passion to evangelize and be Jesus hands and feet in the camp... would we fund their projects. NOPE!... but we trained them to develop small business plans challenging them to think how they could tap into the camp economy. They have done that and it's been SO fun to see them realize they didn't need a hand-out, they needed someone to come alongside them and help them.
(Some key youth leaders in the camp.)

They are charging cell phones! (We / International Teams got them a generator and some power bars) Before they would walk 2 hours ONE WAY to charge their phone!

They opened a haircutting salon... or saloon as they call it :-) (We got them equipment)

They realized that when they went to share the Good News of the Gospel in the camp, the people could not hear them because they were SO hungry... so they planted a garden. From the money they earned from the cell phone charging and the hair salon, they bought THEIR OWN seeds and even hired people to work the land!! SWEET!

We just learned last week that they have harvested 400 kg of cabbage, 300kg onions, 250 kg potatoes - ALOT!! and gave the food to the poorest in the camp.

With the money they make, they also pay the rent, buy fuel for the generator AND they have fixed up a couple very dilapidated homes occupied by widows.

PAST cool I tell you!!!

Last year we learned that the education in the camp has changed drastically. LONG story... but the short of it, if a child doesn't pass the National Exam for Grade 6, the UN is finished to pay for their schooling. A kid could have passed grade 6 in school and just not passed the national exam... they are REALLY hard. Done school at 12 years old! (Pray for Prince, he is preparing to write his in October.)

Serge and I were moved by this. Without education, how can one break the cycle of poverty and destitution that they are in? So, we decided we needed to do something about it.

This is our second year to sponsor 19 students in the Kiziba Refugee camp. Not many when you consider the hundreds that are not sponsored BUT these are 19 of the brightest students in the camp who are not on the streets and hence are not being subject to prostitution, drugs. They have a chance, they have hope...

I feel like what I have written really doesn't capture it all... but trust me, God is at work in the camp and we are blessed to be part of it.

If you want to check out more on what the UN says about refugees in Rwanda, check out this link. http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e45c576

I trust that you are moved to be thankful to God for your home, your family, your future... pray for the refugees in our world today, pray for us as we minister to refugees in Rwanda.

Should you want to give financially towards the ministry in Kiziba Camp, go to http://www.iteams.ca/impact_rwanda.php

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Black Cherries... AND a new intern!

Picked up another intern last night at the airport. Kendal Robinson, all the way from LA! She came but her luggage did not.
BUT... she did declare that she did have black cherries.
I haven't had black cherries... or plums, or peaches, or raspberries, or blueberries... in SIX years... and I love them all.
Needless to say... as we sat around the table getting to know each other a little bit... I had black cherries.
They were as good as I remembered!! YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMY!!!
I like Kendal too... thinking she's going to do great here. We'll see what God has for her and how we'll be part of that journey! The coming weeks will tell!

Monday, 14 June 2010

What We Looked Like Yesterday!

A Cool Encounter!

We went out for lunch yesterday after church to a new little place called La Fiesta.
COOL thing!!
Found our old houseboy there in the kitchen.
Vienny is a young man who knows how to COOK!
We were one of his first employers and he was still trying to figure his life out. We 'hung in life' with him for a long time, trying to be tough love, give him a chance, etc. - knowing and believing that he could be a better person than who he was. He said that he loved God but the head just didn't get connected with his heart.
One day, after he had lied to us, yet again, it was time to let him go. That was about two years ago now. Regulary, he has called Serge since then, first to apologize repeatedly, then ask for a job ( sorry, we have great workers and don't need another) and then to ask if we knew anyone who needed someone. I know that he has held small jobs here and there, but nothing stable and life has been hard for him.
Seeing him in the kitchen at La Fiesta, did our heart good.
In chatting with him face to face, he has changed. God has changed him.
Vienny is going to go places!
As soon as Serge had taken a bite of his fish... he knew that Vienny had cooked it.
We always said that Vienny could cook us the same meal for 5 nights of the week and it would taste different and delicious everytime.
We are pleased and happy for him that maybe, just maybe he has found his place AND he's using his gift! Thanks God!

New look...

If you have been following this blog, you'll know that the look has changed.
Just got a little notice that there were new templates available... and liked this one.
Hope you like it too.
Thinking it's like a new haircut... which I desperately need!!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Something Totally FUN!!!

World Cup Fever has hit Kigali and I`m thinking all of Africa!
Serge was able to buy a decoder yesterday for a decent price and get it hooked up on the same day (miracle!) at the church for the street kids! (Thanks interns!)
They had come for their regular Friday lunch yesterday and about went through the roof when Serge told them to be back at 2pm to watch some football on the big screen.
Prince and I went and joined them for the two games yesterday - South Africa vs. Mexico and France vs. Uraguay. Amazing how much Prince knows about football. Totally reminds me of my brothers in the 80`s. They could quote just about anything from the Kitchener Rangers as well and the rest of the OHL. Guess it`s DNA for boys who are 12ish. Great that South Africa scored the first goal of the tournament!
The fever pitch is crazy!
With 6 African teams playing, it`s like 6 home teams PLUS they LOVE Brazil and need to see France play as well. Thinking we`ll be showing at least two games a day for the rest of the tournament.
Looked at the schedule... tournament ends July 11th.. ONE MONTH!!!
Are we crazy?
Maybe... but it`s so great to give the kids something they love. They would need to pay to go see it somewhere else and they just can`t afford to do that, or they`d do something they shouldn`t just to get a little money.
And we get to speak into their lives during halftime.
Been thinking that maybe I should be doing snacks for them... mmmmmmm... now maybe that will put me over the edge of crazy... but any ideas?

Friday, 11 June 2010

One Never Knows...

So yesterday, Kaitlyn and Ruth, two of our current interns dropped by the house to share about their afternoon.
They were to be tutoring six of our kids in school but only one showed up, Appollinaire.
Appollinaire is about 15 years old and was outcast for his family when he was very young. They were poor and could not afford to keep him. About a year ago, he met his father on the street, counting some money from his pocket. He went up to say hello to him, and his father just ignored him.
We first met him about 2 years ago in one of our ministries. When we parted ways with that ministry, we decided that we would take those who had no one and find a house to put them in. Appollinaire was one of them.
Today, Appollinaire lives in one of the houses which we have for former street kids. He is in school, doing well and learning English more every day. He wants to be a lawyer someday but first he wants to make sure that all people know about Jesus. He LOVES Jesus!!
Since the other five kids didn't show up (wait till I see them on Sunday!), the interns decided they would take him on a little outing to town. After dressing up in his Sunday best, off they went. This was his second time to go to town, even though he lives in Kigali. Who knew!
They take him for ice-cream at the Bourbon Coffee Shop - best ice-cream in town, hands down. As they are sitting there chatting - working on his English conversation skills and watching him savour his ice-cream for over an hour, Appollinaire all of a sudden jumps up and calls 'Mama Jennifer, over here! Mama Jennifer! She's come!'
Appollinaire thought he had see me. But it wasn't me. He was so disappointed. As he sat down, Ruth said to him that 'Jennifer... '
Appollinaire immediately corrected her saying, 'Not Jennifer, Mama Jennifer.'
Ruth continued, 'is really nice, isn't she?'
He sat and thought for a bit and then said, 'No, she's amazing. She is my mama.'
They had just taught him the word amazing that afternoon.
As they relayed this all to me in my living room.... I was overwhelmed.
What had I / we really given Appollinaire?
But when I really stopped to think about it... a home, food every day, education, love, he belongs somewhere... aren't these the things which every human being desires?
Every day, every week of our life here, we interact with the street kids. Some we have been able to get off the street and into homes and others are still on the street.
Yesterday was a HUGE reminder to me again, that it's the things in life, most of us take for granted that can matter SO much to someone else.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Old Kamari Had a Farm...E-I-E-I-O

Serge and I have a piece of land on one of the thousand hills in Rwanda.

To get there, you head east of Kigali, turn left just after the village of Rwanamagana and keep going up to you come to the village of Fumbwe. You continue to Pastor Desontos house, park the car and then walk....
About a year and a half ago, Serge was talking to Pastor Desontos. He is a pastor in the Vivante denomination which we are part of and part of the group of pastors which we trained for three years. He was simply sharing life with Serge and they were dreaming together how life could be better for the Pastor, his wife and two small children.

They live a very modest village life in a small two room mud brick house subsisting on sweet potatoes, matoke and beans.

A village pastors life is not easy in Rwanda. They are left to survive on the meager offerings of their congregation who are also subsistent.
As Serge and I talked and prayed about this, we had an idea... which we believe is from God.
We would buy a piece of land close to the pastors house and farm it.
We did just that. Don't ask me exactly how big it is, as I have no idea. What I do know is that it is overlooks a small lake and more wonderful hills of Rwanda. It would be a great spot for a cottage... only if we're into no water, no toilet, cooking on charcoal, no electricity... you get the picture. Great spot for a farm! :-)
The first thing we did was get the land cultivated and we planted some food crops. The food would then be shared between the pastor and his congregation. The returns were not great as the land had not been cultivated and fertilized for a LONG time. They then planted some sorghgum which they harvested and they continue to cultivate some of the land.

But... what we have wanted to do all along is buy some goats. Serge and I thought that if we buy goats then when the mama goats have babies, we would split them with the church. Thanks to an adult Sunday School class from Slave Lake Alliance Church, AB, we bought six nice mama goats. AND we just had our first babies!! WOOHOO!! Serge just went to see them this past Saturday.

So we got the goats... why not a cow! We bought a cow AND she just had a baby calf last week. Another BIG WOOHOO!! Now the pastors family will have milk to drink! SO good!

Now before some of you jump all over me because the cow is definitely not a true type Holstein... just know she was bred to a Holstien, so we're on our way! But half breeds do much better here anyway as purebreds are alot more fussy about what they eat.
This is all pretty exciting for us and Serge is feeling the 'farmer' coming out in him!

We've also built a small barn and small house on our land. The associate pastor lives in the house and takes care of things for us.

Oh... they want me to come and teach them how to milk a cow! Been a long time, but my dad always said that milking cows was like riding a bicycle - you never forgot.

Our little farm is continued at home with two crown cranes - Jack and Nicki, and about 15 rabbits - you know how they multiply! The kids want a dog... no dog!

NO wise cracks about 'old'...