Thursday, 7 September 2017

Why Serge gets headaches...

Getting a car fixed here in Rwanda is probably one of the most nightmarish things to do. 
We have been so blessed with our current vehicle. We have had it since 2007 and we have barely done any work on it until the last year or so. It is a 1997 Land Crusier Prado... 20 years old and running on mostly original parts so... they're getting old and need to be replaced. 

The joke in Rwanda is that you go in the garage to get one thing fixed and come out with five new things that need fixing. 

Yes there is a Toyota Garage here ... but for most of us (about 75% of Rwanda drives a Toyota!) it is way out of our league. 

So Serge's headache today... getting a master cylinder fixed. 

We got the brakes fixed earlier in the week ... and they work! ... but there is still a noise. 
So, the Canadian guy who we have been going to, was not available but recommended a S.African guy who is pretty new here. Serge liked him well enough and believes what he's being told BUT now it's to get parts... 

Serge always likes to go and buy the parts so he knows he's getting an original part. 
And like everything... he has a guy.

So the garage says they can send for the part outside but it will cost 180,000 rwf ($212 USD)
We need to take a three hour drive tomorrow, so no time for that. 

Serge calls his guy - 250,000 ($295 USD) for the original or 40,000 rwf ($47 USD) for the fake!!

Serge calls another guy he knows... 220,000  ($260 USD) but maybe negotiate if you come and chat 

Cue the headache. 

Does he really need to go back to town and sort this? 
Is 'his guy', who claims he is a Christian buying from the second guy and pocketing money? 

Sometimes I tell Serge he over thinks... but I get it. 
He doesn't like spending money on the car .. and yet it's necessary 
Why can't people just be trust worthy? 
Cause is the 'original' actually an 'original'? 

Only God knows ... 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Choosing Real - Part two

The night we drove home from seeing our sister cousin alive for the last time, Serge and I had a very intense conversation full of frustration at the Rwandan church, helplessness in knowing that there was nothing we could say that would bring hope, in disbelief that those who love Jesus, who are leaders in churches and ministries here could not choose real - choose eternity. 

Trust me, we were around it all - multiple times!! Ha! 

As we arrived home, we knew that we could only pray and then be there to pick up the pieces after. I knew in my deepest part of me that it was only a matter of time. (Sometimes the gift of discernment isn't a great gift to have...)

I had tried to share what was on my heart about God being just as real, powerful, all knowing, present in this very difficult and challenging time, as he is on any mountaintop or miracle. They didn't buy it. They were 100% sure that God was going to heal.  

Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely believe that God heals but it's not for us to know when - this life or when we see him face to face.
And that is where Serge and I went off... health and wealth gospel, blessing is for here and now, have we ever heard a sermon on death, you wouldn't dare talk about death... sigh. 

Choosing real... we all will die one day. God tells us that before we are born our days are numbered.. that not one of us can add a day to our lives. 

I shared with Serge that saying we have in the N. America - 'The only two sure things in life are death and taxes.' He thought that was a good one. 

Why do we think that here and now is the best? 
Yes, it absolutely sucks to lose someone we love so dearly. Trust me I still cry sometimes when I think of my dad and he's been with Jesus almost 10 years. I miss him!

Loss and grief are real. 
But it doesn't make it wrong or evil. 

It's what we choose in the midst of it.... and how we choose to live our life as we journey onward.

This is all contrasted by my sister in law Sherri and brother Lyndon. In the incredible depth of everything (I don't even know what words would be accurate to use to embrace it all) they choose eternity and are doing their best to live in that every day - as hard as it is to live in the earthly unknown, they dig deep and choose to live in the real of eternity.  

Serge and I know that as the weeks and months pass, we have a challenge ahead of us, to bring up that conversation with his family and whoever else God brings across our path.
Let's commit to live real.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Choosing Real

A friend visiting Rwanda left me this book earlier this year. 

I picked it up mid July and finished it this morning. 
It had me from the intro... 

'...I was keenly aware that every circumstance, person, and feeling is an invitation to see God's genuine heart in the middle of it. 
Choosing Real is opting to see how present Jesus is in real-life circumstances. Choosing Real is not about putting on one's big girl panties. It's not about being strong, pep talking, or reciting the words, 'Let's do this.' Choosing Real trust God has a beautiful plan in the mess, in the scary, in the unknown, in the tears and in not feeling enough... 

Authentic... is a synonym for Jesus.' 

After reading that,  I promptly ordered one for a friend and told another friend she had to get herself to Amazon and get herself one... 

See, I knew that the three of us were on very different journeys and yet were so the same. 
We are all seeking God with our hearts to be real and authentic in the mess, the scary, the unknown of what was ... and is still happening in our lives. 

About a month before, our family had found out that our dear sister in law Sherri was diagnosed with cancer... the kind that only a miracle cures. 

Two weeks later, we find out that Serge's sister cousin also has cancer... again, the kind that only a miracle will cure.  August 8th, Kunda died leaving a husband and three young children.  

Serge was at a wedding meeting when they got the message. He came home to pick me up to go to the hospital. Prince left his friends good bye party to come home to be with Isabella and Beni. And the night unfolded from there ... bringing Kwizera, Kunda's husband, to our house for the night. (The kids were at an aunties' out of the city). The next night saw the three kids come to our house ... nothing like having a father tell his kids that their mommy was with Jesus ... or your kids embracing / comforting their cousins aged 8, 5 and 2. They stayed with us for a week. 

Did I mention we had a short-term team on the ground too...  

Lots of mess, lots of scary, lots of unknown, lots of tears .... 

But I KNOW that over the years I have leaned into being more real - living real. 

Reading this book during this season of my life has only given me the reassurance that I'm not crazy, that all the digging deep into why God has created me is for real ... in all the hardships, all the challenges, all the feelings of helplessness... is real. That life is not about getting 'out' of all the things that are hard to get to the mountain top.. that place where one breathes easier and feels that they can put their feet up for a bit and wonders when the next life altering event will happen. 

But it's about showing up every day to whatever is in the day and knowing and trusting that God is there ; working - for, in and through us. 

Even when you are crying out to God to show you how to help children sort out that mommy is with Jesus. 
Even when you're 6000 miles away from immediate family in the midst of a very difficult journey. 

What I own is that there is no there... there is only here. 
And here is where I choose real.... trusting God for all that comes. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

I'm moaning this morning...

So I wake up and turn on the shower... no water. 
Now you need to know that's the last thing I want to experience this morning. 
Are we out of water? 
Did our night guard turn the pump off? 

I grab my phone and call our guard... nope, we're out of electricity. 
Is it just our house or the entire area? 
It's just our house. 

Serge then rolls over and picks up his phone to see if he has mobile money so he can buy electricity (we live on a prepaid system here...) 
God does love me as Serge does have money and with in a few minutes he's given the 16 digit number to our guard via a text message (thank God for cell phones!). 

I wait... and I wait... why oh why is the electricity not coming on? 
I wait some more... Serge finally calls him and I quote, 'Boss, I keep messing up the numbers.' 

By this time I am laying back on the bed moaning that I didn't sign up for this life ... 
I could have taken two showers by now... and I'm still waiting. 

Serge is laughing at me ... doing his best to console me by trying to convince me how much I love him (it's not working!)... then it finally it comes... 

I do have a lovely shower but some days ... I just didn't sign up for all the stuff that comes in my life. 

But thinking we all have those days - it just looks different - depending on where you live! 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Liberation Day

As Serge and I were waking up this morning, I asked him what it was like on this morning 23 years ago.

'Well, it was a day like any other except there was a weight that was lifted. We knew that we still had much to do to secure the country and contain the trouble areas but we also knew that the enemy would never overpower us again.'

Today is Rwanda Liberation Day.
23 years ago was the official end to the 100 day genocide which saw 1,000,000 people killed.

Rwanda celebrates today.
We celebrate peace, unity and progressive development.
May God continue to be gracious.

Serge is just one of the faces of liberation ...

Friday, 9 June 2017

Time of Year

I really didn't understand what was going on in my life until a day or two ago. 
Life has been a little more busy then usual - house girl had a baby so no help at home, opening a new shop, cooking at a retreat for the Wellspring Academy graduates, visitors ... and all the rest of life. 

I also have this big monkey hanging on my back... getting out our newsletter or at least doing a prayer update. Just cannot get myself sorted and find enough creative energy to do it / them. 

They are still not done but it finally hit me what was up in my life. 

You see... it's that time of year. 
There is about a 6 - 8 week window in our lives each year that our life seems to be full of good-byes. Some days it feels like it's all we are doing. 
We say good- bye to people whom we have lived life with here for a year, two years... 10 years. 
Our kids say good-bye to their friends. 

They all leave for good things. 
Contracts are up. 
Projects are completed. 
Kids are moving on in school. 
Parents are ageing. 
Graduate school. 

So we wish them nothing but the best in life. 
We know that people are always in our life for a season - no matter where we are in the world. 

But it's still hard. 
This year again, it seems like it's too much. Not only my own grief of friends leaving but my kids as well. Sometimes my heart breaks with how many times my kids have had to say good-bye in life. 

So... somehow to find the energy and courage to write about what is happening in our life here - well, it's just not easy. 

However, with this recognition, I'm hoping and praying that I've turned a corner and you'll be hearing from us soon!!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Grace ...

Well.... Grace did NOT have diabetes. 
She did NOT have kidney failure and she did NOT have low blood pressure. 

Grace DID have typhoid AND a urinary track infection AND amoebas.

One of these is enough to deal with let alone all three at once!
No wonder she looked like she was about to die.

It has taken her a few weeks to regain her strength and rid herself of everything but as you can see... she's smiling, happy and enjoying life again. 

More than once during this time Serge and I would look at each other and say...
'This is why we do what we do.' 
If we were not in Grace's life ... there is a high probability that she would have died. 

The sad thing... Grace and her husband spent almost double going to the private 'natural' clinic than we did taking her to a proper clinic. AND they went into debt doing it.  Double ARG for us!!

Oh the life lessons and the unknown journeys we take each day. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Today's Interruption

So along time ago, when I was still working in the office of International Teams Canada, I had a conversation with a teammate about life interruptions. We can set our day, plan it out... and then along come the 'interruptions'.

My daily 'interruptions' are people...most of the time. Sometimes it's just life in a developing country (always underestimating how much time something takes) ... but mostly people. People whom God has created - people who cross my path.

Today is no different.

Today was going to be the last blitz of getting all things sorted for the new shop. My day started with an all shop team meeting... a cake customer... then dear Grace showed up.
Grace is one of our women at J.Lynn's / Komeza. She is married and has one child and is usually full of shy smiles and works hard. 
The last 2.5 months have been a struggle for her - only working half the time. Today she finally came to the shop...

... barely able to stand up, shaking like a leaf, headache, stomach pain... it makes me so sad to see how bad she looks.

She told a familiar tale of using her health card to go to the local clinic. They check for the standard malaria but it's negative. They give her ibruprophen and amoxacillan. She does not get better so goes back - nothing they can do for her. So she and her husband decide to go to a private clinic. It's a 'natural' clinic. From the paperwork with all its formalities and stamps it looks legit... but then she hauls 4 bottles and some powder stuff out of her bag.... they told her she has diabetes, kidney failure, low blood pressure...

The 'medicine'...
I'm sitting at a clinic with her - Waiting for lab results.
Its my interruption for the day.

I have no idea how long I will get here but I'm determined to get to the bottom of this. She is wife, mom and our employee and deserves whatever we can sort for her. None of this... thats just the way it is...

Yes there is SO much stuff and SO many things to do.... but I've learned from that conversation so long ago... God knows it all and He will sort it all too! (Oh to have faith today... again!)

(Shout out to the Kigali Seven Day Adventist clinic and Dr. Tommy and all their staff! Again... going above and beyond!)

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Food Cuts for Refugees AGAIN!!

On Sunday at church I asked Benjamin how his trip to the refugee camp was during the week. 
It was good but did I hear the latest? 
No... what was it? 

Food rations will be cut up to 40% starting with May. 


Now each refugee person receives the following per month.
12.3 kg maize (kernels / not ground)
3.6 kg dry beans
0.9 L cooking oil
600 g soap
150 g salt

Now this will be cut by 40%. 

There are three refugee camps in Rwanda which receive money each month instead of food... 6200 rwf ($7.43 USD) per person. 
They will now receive 2800 rwf ($3.35 USD) per person. 

That is 
3kg of sugar OR  
9 kg of potatoes OR 
5kg of dried beans OR 
5.5 kg of carrots OR 
2 kg of flour 

for the ENTIRE month! 

When I went online to see what I could find.... 
I found the following joint press release by the UN (United Nations) and the WFP (World Food Program) from February 20, 2017... 

I can't imagine a person surviving on less than they already are. 
My mind whirls at the repercussions of that - more malnutrition, crime, prostitution, etc.

Then I think of the refugee students who ITRwanda has sponsored - who have completed high school or are about to... and the few have complete university and have a job. 
They have broken the cycle and are able to support their families through these increasingly desperate times. 
I can't even imagine what the situations will be in camps dealing with Syrian and South Sudanese Refugees ... 

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, are very concerned that critical shortages in food assistance are affecting some 2 million refugees in 10 countries across Africa.
The shortages could worsen in coming months without new resources to meet food needs.
The number of refugees in Africa nearly doubled from 2.6 million in 2011 to nearly 5 million in 2016. While donor funding for refugee assistance increased during this period, it did not keep pace with rapidly rising needs. As a result, the humanitarian response is significantly underfunded. This has forced cuts in food assistance for some groups of refugees.
The two agency heads warn that food shortages will have dire consequences on the health and protection of such vulnerable people, unless more support is urgently made available.
“We can’t imagine how difficult life is for thousands of refugee families with no food, and often denied the possibility to work or provide for themselves in other ways. Refugees are extraordinarily resilient, but cuts in food assistance – sometimes as high as 50 percent – are having a devastating impact on the health and nutrition of thousands of families,” said UNHCR’s Grandi. “The right to food is a basic human right. We are working with WFP to ensure that no refugee goes to sleep hungry, but support has to come quickly.”
Click to read the remainder of the release... 

Friday, 7 April 2017

The Quietest Day of the Year

Today is April 7th 
I woke up this morning to complete quietness. 

No people are walking and talking their way to work before dawn. 
Kids are not out playing an early morning football game. 
The last community drunk isn't wandering home and singing a song. 
Even the multitude of birds were not chattering away. 
The neighbourhood house help was not banging pots and pans as they were being washed 
No cars are moving 
No construction noises - dump trucks, no cement mixers, no teams of workers calling out to each other 
Even our dog Lucy rests. 

It's 9:47 am and a lone bird tweets. 

Today Rwanda remembers. 
Today marks 23 years. 
Today we reflect on the past, mourn with those who mourn and embrace the hope we have in the future. 

Never Again 

And yet ... around the world it is happening. Even today. 
That adds to the sadness of Rwanda. 

The genocide that happened here, was it not enough? 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

I Gonna Be a History Maker...

So a while back I downloaded a bunch of music and some of it ended up being some memories.
As I was working today, the song History Marker came through the shuffle. 
I got thinking about my life here in Rwanda ...

I'm gonna be a history maker in this land
I'm gonna be a speaker of truth to all mankind

Well I don't know if I will be a history maker in Rwanda.. but somehow I sure hope so. 
I thought back over all the people who I have spent time with here - refugees, women, orphans... the most vulnerable. I pray that my time with them, in whatever capacity has encouraged them to move forward in their lives spiritually, socially and economically. 
I do know that I will speak truth to all - no matter what comes. 

Well it's true today that when people stand
With the fire of God, and the truth in hand
We'll see miracles, we'll see angels sing
We'll see broken hearts making history
Yes it's true and I believe it

Yes I do believe it. 
Sometimes people DO need someone to stand for them and with them. 
To encourage them to take a step forward in the right direction. 
And as we pray... the unbelievable can happen in peoples lives. 
We have seen and will continue to see people - orphans, widows. refugees - go beyond anything that people thought they would - until someone would stand for/with them believing in the power of God to transform a life. 

I guess I am part of making history as a line of people runs through my head... 

(PS If you're born in the 90's or later check out this classic by Martin Smith and Delirious?...)

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

March 22: World Water Day

Quote from the UN Water Day website

'Water is the essential building block of life. But it is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health; water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development.
Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

2017 Theme: Why Wastewater?'

Read the rest of the article on UN Water Day to gain a quick insight into the water situation in the world.

I am once again challenged about how I use water... and I live in a country where at any given time I need to haul jerry cans of it because we're out. Praying that I will be a better steward from this day forward.

This is Adele. She is one of our Komeza Women who works full-time at J.Lynn's.
Most every day she leaves the shop carrying a 3L bottle of filtered water on her head.
One could say she's stealing water... and that would be true.
But you know what? I don't care.
I know to stay as healthy as she can, she needs that water.
Adele is one of our women who is HIV. She is healthy and strong most of the time and her blood counts are good. When she is not strong, I know that she is not eating well enough or drinking enough.

Hence, I don't care of Adele 'steals' our clean water. She needs it.

She is also carrying home a bag of empty plastic water bottles after a busy day at the shop.
She will resell them for a small profit.