Friday, 30 July 2010

I Cry

I was running around town this morning trying to get as much done as possible in the time that I had. As usual,  my list of things to do was much longer than the time I had.

I had just hopped back into the car, turned to pay the parking attendant, when my world stopped.

There beside my car was a boy about 6 or 7 years old. He wasn't asking me for money as many others were doing or trying to sell me something, he was just standing there.

I tried to just move on with life, but I couldn't. I turned my face to look at him again. On the left side of his mouth was a something huge. I don't even know how to describe it as I really couldn't figure it out even when I took a close look at it. Maybe he had a HUGE abscess or maybe he got cut somehow out of the corner of his mouth. Whatever happened, it had bled alot, was caked back together with dried blood and had something that looked is vaseline smeared all over it.

I asked him where is mother was. She was at home, about 30 minutes from where we were.

I just sat in the car. I didn't know what to do.
My first reaction was to get him to a clinic myself and see what I could do. My mind kicked in and I wondered what his mom would think if I took her young child to the clinic, What would the doctors say to me?  And my Kinyarwanda is not good enough to got me through or out of situtions like this.

I gave him some money.

As I drove away, the tears spilled over and I cried.

From the backseat, my dear Isabella asked, 'Mommy, why are you crying?'

I explained to her about the little boy, that he was sick and he needed a doctor but his mommy didn't have enough money to take him. I told her that I had given him money to help.

She then said, 'But Mommy, I pray for people who are poor everyday that God will help them.'

She does.

Awhile later in town, we were confronted again by about six women begging for money as we were leaving a parking area. I gave to four but not to two as I didn't have money to give them.

From the backseat came a distressed, stern, almost angry voice, 'Mommy, but what if one of those you didn't give money to was the little boy's mommy?'

I assured Isabella that not one of them was the boys mommy and reminded her that I had given the boy money to give to his mommy... and then I cried again.

And tears are spillling all over the computer as I write this.

Why God?

In the last weeks, some different people have been asking me how I do it? How I live life in Rwanda among the poor everyday?
Those questions have been rolling around in my head as I don't have an answer... hence I haven't answered their emails.

Most days, I do know that God is strength, that God is the one who ultimately holds each of us on this earth in his hand, that I need to be living generously and being Jesus hands and feet.

But today... I don't think I'm doing it. Feeling so helpless for this boy... oh God, help!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Tenessee Bound

That is where our dear friend Eric is headed. Should be somewhere over the Atlantic on an Ethiopian Air Flight headed to Knoxville, Tennessee via Washington.

Our family is going to miss Eric incredibly.
He is a great friend to Serge and I, we have served on the English Service Team since it's beginning three years ago and he has loved on our kids. He plays hide and seek with Isabella and she can't go to sleep each Tuesday night without saying goodnight to Eric.. He talked football with Prince. Together we have laughed, talked until it was way too late on many evenings, prayed together and cried as we have journeyed life. 

Two years ago, Pastor Jeff of Blount Community Church, Maryville TN, along with a key leader from the church, Duane Graves, visited Rwanda. They had come to see how their church might be involved in Rwanda and educating Rwandan future leaders was part of that vision. (I LOVE a forward thinking church!)
Eric was their translator and made a great impression on them. Eric is a bright and incredibly gifted young man. He shared with them his desire to have a masters from the west. After some prayer, Jeff and Duane believed that Eric was their guy.

Two years later, through lots of difficulties and God supplying miracles along the way... Eric boarded a plane yesterday.

My tears flowed as I said goodbye to him. I know that it's only three years but I will miss him. He is one of a few Rwandan people I know who really journey with God in a very real way. Our family will miss him. Isabella didn't want to let him go... heartbreaking for me.

BUT.. God has granted Eric his dream... a masters in Agriculture Economics. He will be the first in Rwanda. SO exciting. And every time I think of Blount Community Church... I really don't think they know how HUGE this is. They are supporting him and caring for him for the next 2-3 years but the dividends are bound to be endless. I know that Eric's life will be changed forever, I just hope they're ready for all that Eric will bring to the life of their church.

We love you Eric.. and we're going to miss you but SO excited to watch the continued journey...

The Vivante English Service Team
Emery, Serge, Eric, myself, Dora

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The New house!

The team with the house they built for Veronic!
They did an amazing job! Thanks WMB and donors!
They not only hauled mud bricks and plopped mud but they loved on the neighbourhood. They have set a standard for all future teams we bring to Nyamirama!
Just some details that the local construction crew will finish - doors, windows, cement floor, front porch, outdoor kitchen and an outdoor toilet.
The local leaders wanted her to have a front porch so that when it rains, people walking by have a shelter to run to.

 Back of the house

Two local workers cementing in one of the bedrooms
Each of the bedrooms is bigger than her banana house!

Sitting with Veronic and one of her grandchildren

Serge and Veronic chatting

 Some of the local kids... dreaming of education for them, clean water, parents who can provide the basics of life for them and most of all that they grow to be the men and women that God has creaated them to be.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Beni and his little cousins

Beni and his little cousins Yanice and Ella having a cookie eating good time at Yanice's first birthday party.
I'm the proud auntie who gets to love on them!

I'm always reminded how much I am missing out in the lives of my dear neices in Canada... Miss Maggie and Little Jorja. How to have everything in life that matters to me close to me?
I just need to trust... but I miss them so much!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Knew it would be Crazy... but it was CRAZY!!!

Yesterday... the first day of campaigning for the presidential election on August 9th was ... well... I couldn't believe it really.

The atmosphere was like the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the Stanley Cup final (as if we know what that feels or looks like but we can imagine right!).
There are three candidates running in this election but by far the majority of the hype was around the FPR / RPF.

There were people marching from all points of Kigali to the Stadium where the big kick off rally was being held, in groups of 50 to the hundreds. They were decked out in all the blue, red and white they could find... some had their bodies painted ... and their clothes, they were singing, dancing and chanting their way. Seemed like all of Kigali was going to the rally. Seems like the vuvuzela manufacturers have been busy for the campaign as well!

We took the team to the market yesterday morning to buy food for Ubuzima - the HIV/AIDS association. On the way, I about had an accident. A car on the way to the stadium, lost a flag and jammed on the brakes so they could pick it back up. I had nowhere to go. Good thing my brakes are working and those of the minibus, carrying the team, who was behind me. 

As we drove by the stadium, it was PACKED. Seemed there were are as many outside as inside and more marches were on their way! Prince said that he saw on the TV that President Kagame showed up in the late afternoon and it was BIG. They were dancing and singing. Said they had cake for everyone -guess that's important to a 12 year old!

Then there were the flatbeds with speakers, blaring music of Rwanda... patriotic songs. Not just one truck or two... but MANY! I never knew we had so many concert speakers in Rwanda!!

Today seems a bit more calm... but the team wants RPF tshirts... where to find those??

Monday, 19 July 2010

Campaign Time!

Tomorrow is July 20th - the day that campaigns are opened for the Presidential election on August 9th.

Guess I don't really know what to expect, except that it might be a bit crazy with the three parties vying for everyone's votes.
Probably the most noticeable will be the vehicles with the SPEAKERS on top of them driving around the city and I'm sure they will be in our neighbourhood, encouraging people to vote for them. Hopefully not too early in the morning so they don't wake us or the kids! Trust me... it's been known to happen!

Serge also said to me today that it will be interesting to see which music artists will have the best campaign songs... interesting.

The local office of the FPR - the party for President Kagame is just down the road from our house, and I have noticed a great increase of activity in and around that office in the last week. Guess they are making sure they are ready.
Tomorrow will tell.... and everyday after that until August 9th.

Pray for Rwanda.
Pray that the right person will win the election to continue Rwanda's journey in healing and development.
Pray that the campaigns and election will be uneventful and take place without any violence.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Day 4

I drove out to Kayonza again today to see the progress the team was making. My goodness! I couldn`t believe it. They have worked hard.

Another incredible sight... Veronic about floating around her property. I have NEVER seen her smile so much.
Was a gift for me to see.

Serge discussing with Francois, the builder, on where to put her outdoor kitchen
Some of the team taking a needed break. Their laps don`t stay empty for long!
Alain checking out the progress. Looking good!
Praying for the house at the end of the day
The team and some of the local workers
Next a roof, then some windows and doors, a cement floor and the outdoor kitchen.
Lots done but lots left to do.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Day #2

We couldn 't make blocks fast enough because of the lack of water, so we had to buy some ready made blocks from various people around. Think we had about 15 local people helping us with that - using their heads, bikes or wheelbarrows - and earning 100 RWF for every three blocks they brought.
This guy has just earned 200 RWF or 34 cents.

LOVED it that there were three ladies from the neighbourhood who hauled blocks for FREE all day! Think that says so much about women helping out fellow women in need.

Pit + mud + water + dry grass + a man mixing with a shovel and his feet = Mud Bricks

Empty water jugs waiting to be filled. Again, people were walking up to 1km one way to bring us water.

Two bedrooms, a sitting room and a front porch
We'll build an outdoor kitchen for her as well.

Assembly Line for the mud and bricks

All about good mud 'plopping'

Beni and I watching the action

View through the banana trees

This lady needs a house too!!!!
May God use us to provide her with a home.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A House for Veronic!

There are many things in life here that I dream about - about every day - how if this could change or be different that it would be good. Not in the sense of trying to 'fix' everything but definitely a desire to bring self-worth and dignity to people. I dream for the street kids, I dream for the women who have HIV/AIDS, I dream for the refugees and I dream for the people of Nyamirama.

The people of Nyamirama - all 5000 households - live in less than $1 a day. They are subsistent farmers. The literacy rate is low, they need clean water to drink, they need to address some community health issues, and the list goes on.

I remember the first time I walked this land - August 2007. It overwhelmed me as to what was possible but in a great way. God how?! We have been working on that ever since. The journey has been a long one and more than once we have felt like giving up but each time God has seemed to make a way... so we persevere.

The other thing I vividly remember is saying to Serge that if we were going to build houses, Veronic would be the first to get a house. That was August 2007.

Almost three years later... she is getting a house!!!

As I write this a team from Waterloo Mennonite Brethren is hard at it in Nyamirama hauling mud bricks. Serge told me this morning that that the foundation was almost finished and that the team is doing great!
This is the clean team ... they're not this clean today!
Here are some other pictures I took yesterday. I'll be sure to post more as I get out to Nyamirama to see the progress. 

Serge, Isabella and I with Veronic

Some of the seven children that stay with her
Front door
Back of the house
Serge having a chat with her. She had no idea until two days ago that we were going to build her a house. It's pretty overwhelming for her. All she can say is 'God bless you!' with tears filling her cataract eyes.
Love the faint smile...
Cooking, living and sleeping area
Walking through the neighbourhood

I have always loved sunflowers. They are so cheerful to me - think they brighten up about any day and they are across the road to Veronic's house. How appropriate.
Veronic is not the only one in Nyamirama living in these conditions. But she is the first to receive a new home.
Pray that God will multiply all the money that people give towards this project. We need a lot of money and the vision is big yet we know and believe that God is even bigger.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

There's a New Team in Town

This is what a team looks like when they have travelled about 36 hours... and have no luggage.

They took it all in stride - thank the Lord - and so... we took them for coffee - strong Rwandan coffee. Nothing like landing in the morning and needing to stay up the rest of the day. I'm a bit of a tyrant that way with teams. No sleeping until it's night time - no matter how long you've been traveling. Some of them about sleep walk the first day but that's okay. They're better for it as they get into the new timezone.

This team from Waterloo Mennonite Brethren, Waterloo ON, is here for two weeks. We have LOTS to fill the itinerary but we'll see what God has planned in the midst of it all - that's always fun!

Fun to have Mike and Leah back for the third and second time respectively. We are continually amazed how people fall in love with Rwanda and can't get enough of it. Welcome back!

Well... orientation is finished, we've checked for luggage again (no sense in calling - just need to show up after every flight from Kenya from now until we see the luggage...) and still none so they're off to walk the neighbourhood and stay awake! Serge and I are off to yet another wedding...

Tomorrow... church, maybe some luggage, maybe the Kigali Memorial if they are not too tired, Beni's Birthday Party and of course the World Cup final!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Liberation Day 16

Today marks 16 years since the end of the genocide in Rwanda which killed 1+ million people.
My first trip to Rwanda was in April 2003, I am married to a Rwandese, I have lived in Rwanda now for 4.5 years and it never ceases to amaze me when I think about it, how far this country has come since those horrific 100 days in 1994.
The only outward signs that I see of the genocide are the 'shot' holes in the Parliament Buildings where the RPF soldiers were trapped as they waited for their fellow soldiers to rescue them and the many memorial sites in Kigali and around the country.
There is development happening everywhere in the city and around the country - new buildings are constantly being constructed, roads are being rebuilt, the city plan of Kigali is being implemented, fiber optic lines are being laid, we have power about 99.9% of the time, you can register a business now in one day, some international ATM machines have come to town, believe it is one of the safest cities in Africa - maybe the world, etc. etc. etc.
AND Rwanda has received many rewards including best development and least corrupt country in Africa. President Kagame is also among the most noted African leaders.
It is SO hard to believe when I stop to think where the country is today and where it has come from. But I MUST do that regularly so not to lose the incredibleness of who the people of Rwanda are. They are survivors, they are determined, they are persistent - they move forward unlike anybody I have ever heard of or about.
There is not a Rwandan alive today that has not been touched by the genocide in one way or another. Maybe their parents or grandparents fled in 1959 as colonization settled into Rwanda and the killings started, or maybe they fled in the years to come or maybe they are a survivor of the genocide or maybe they are the relatives of those who killed.
Everyone has a story to tell.
Sometimes they are able to share them openly and sometimes not but I can usually see in their eyes most of the time how deep the pain and hurt go. ¸
I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.
I believe in the power of forgiveness and I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what forgiveness is... and then I came to Rwanda.
For the last 7 years, I have been on a journey to try to wrap my mind around it.
I see and hear of it here in Rwanda like I have never heard of it before - a mother taking in the son of the man who killed her family and adopting him, a girl standing next to another girl in our church choir whose father killed her entire family, women of rape most living with HIV/AIDS singing joyously to their faithful God at the weekly Ubuzima Association meetings... the stories are many.
If they can forgive, how much more has God forgiven us?
I think I am at a place of knowing that the forgiveness of God is SO vast and SO great that I can`t understand it. I just need to accept it in faith with a peace that passes understanding.
Pray for Rwanda. Just because the country has come so far, there is still much healing to be done.
August 9th is a federal election here. May God continue to allow Rwanda to be the purpose-driven country that President Kagame wants it to be.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Nail Bitin' time - Go Ghana!

Ghana is playing Uruguay on the TV and it's a tie game. Nail bitin' time. Ghana is not only playing to win but also to be the first African team to make it this far in the World Cup.
This afternoon we had the civil wedding of Serge's cousin and then a dinner. Dinner had ended but there was a big screen TV on the wall so with the 'old' people gone, most of the rest of us hung around to watch some football.
Ghana had multiple chances before they actually scored. With each miss I gasped and yelled - even at the ref once - and when they did score I shouted and made the round of high fives... with the guys. Some of Serge's girl cousins who were watching with me, asked me if I really understood football and enjoyed watching.
That got me reflecting a bit.
Living in Rwanda for the last number of years hasn't allowed me to watch hockey which is a game I love - regular season or playoffs - no matter. Other sports, playoffs are fine for me. I HAVE missed the intensity of a good, close play off game - whether that was watching my brothers play, the Kitchener Rangers or NHL on the TV.
So tonight, it feels good to have the intensity, nail biting, 'can't watch this' feelings in me... and yes I will shout and jump and high five those around me even if it's not very ladylike in Rwanda. It is just who I am!
We raced home during intermission - along with about everyone else in the city - and now I'm in my living room watching with Serge and Prince. Hope we don't wake Beni and Isabella when Ghana scores again!