This is my blog where I hope to update everyone on my adventures with YWAM. :)

"He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and
to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Land of A Thousand Hills

What happens when you impulsively buy a chicken and then get attached to it? In this case, you end up having to kill the chicken and eat it for dinner. Yes, poor Logan is dead. He was a very good chicken and he made me laugh many times. Sadly though, after having him for a couple weeks I was informed by my leaders that they didn't think our landlord would want a chicken living here and told me I needed to kill it. I know that it was my original plan when I bought the chicken but I'm an animal lover and since I didn't do the deed right away and waited, I grew fond of him. Killing him was really hard, after I did it I definitely cried. But if I'm going to be a meat eater, I think it's good to experience first-hand the process that occurs in order for me to actually be able to eat meat. I had to keep reminding myself that God gave us animals to eat. I don't think this will be something I will ever repeat in my life unless I have to, but I suppose it is good to know that I am able to if necessary.

I haven't blogged for a few weeks so I'll try and catch you up on what we've been doing. One of the weeks we worked in an orphanage in the morning and then in the afternoons we went to the community. At the orphanage we split into two groups and each took turns playing with the kids and washing clothes. Almost all of the children at the orphanage were mentally handicapped or disabled. There were a number of children who couldn't stand by themselves and were confined to laying down and waiting for someone to pick them up. These children especially constantly had flies on them, in their mouth, on their eyes. Some would have mini "fits", randomly kicking and jerking their legs and arms. One little child, he must have been around 1 1/2 years old, would behave completely fine and normal, but every now and then he too would have a mini "fit" and start crying and saying "Mama! Mama!". It broke my heart.

At the community one of our team members Courtney taught the women how to crochet hats. (I've learned as well) The women picked it up so quickly! One woman in the course of two weeks has made seven hats already! While they were being taught that, our guys joined with the few men in the community and started helping them build new toilets. (basically latrines) We also built them an improvised "faucets" which they could use to wash their hands. I and several of the other girls taught the women and children proper hygiene and hand-washing. We had all the children practice thouroghly cleaning their hands and getting rid of the dirt under their nails. When we came again later in the day and all the children ran up they were so clean! While we were gone the women had given their children baths and made sure that their hands were clean. Before this we had never seen the children clean, they were always so dirty. It was so awesome seeing the immediate results of our teaching! Since then while they are still sometimes dirty, they are generally so much cleaner!

The kids showing off their clean hands!

This school we've been teaching at for the past two weeks is called Excella School, it's a private Christian school from nursery to grade 6. The first day we were there we split up in groups of 2 or 3 and each had a class that we were going to work with. We expected to just observe the classes and help out the teachers but when we showed up to the classes the teachers just handed it over to us and left! We were at a loss about what to teach them but we improvised to the best of our ability. The students all called us "Teacher" so I was "Teacher Bethany". I worked mostly with the older classes, grades 5 and 6 which I loved. While I enjoy younger kids, their classes were almost too much for me to handle. It's hard to deal with 30 hyper five year olds who only speak English as a second language! The first week was very uncoordinated for us, but the second week went so much better. Although it's a Christian school we found through talking with many of the kids that their view of salvation was very works based. We've grown confident in teaching them and were able to share about the gospel, teaching them things like the fruits of the spirit, forgiveness of sins, and faith and works. We've had such a great response from the students and even were able to lead many of them to Christ. After one class Ben and I had 19 students get down on their knees and accept Jesus! I'll be honest, I teared up a little bit. I'm praying for them that this declaration will be the foundation of a life-long relationship with the Lord. We've come across some situations where it seems that we aren't really doing anything of value but each time God has totally shown up and blessed our work.

Teaching the girls some ballet
One day several grade 6 girls came up to me and asked me if I would teach them ballet later that day when I would be teaching their class. I told them I wasn't sure what we'd be doing but it was a possibility (I didn't actually think that it was going to happen). But when we showed up to where their class was having PE outside all the girls were waiting for me and hopped up off the ground excited to learn ballet! Mind you, I haven't done ballet in YEARS but since they were so excited I couldn't say no. I explained to them that they had to give me a minute to "remember", luckily I was able to recall a few ballet moves and was able to teach them. It ended up being a lot of fun. It's been such a joy working with these kids and getting to know them. It will be so hard saying goodbye to them.

A beautiful Rwandan sunrise
Two Sundays ago we went to a small (but very packed) church service in town that lasted 6 hours! The pastor is very prophetic and filled with the holy spirit. He had come to our house before and ministered to us, prophesying over each of our team members and it was astonishing how spot on he was. During the church service he had people who were visiting for the first time stand up and then he would call out things about their lives. He told one woman that God revealed to him that she was seeing two men, neither of whom were her husband (he even specified one of the mens names) and told her that she needed to turn back to God or things would not go well for her. He did this for around 6 different people and each time you could tell what he was saying was true. Around three hours of the service was spent with worship and dancing... a lot of dancing! Their choirs would get up and sing and dance a traditional African dance. I don't know how to explain what this dancing looked like but it was so energetic and amazing to watch! Part of the way through the pastor called up us Muzungu's (White People) to dance on stage. We weren't prepared at all but we went up anyways and attempted to dance their African dance with them. We got videos of that which I will hopefully be able to share when I get back. Also while we were there the pastor got a word from God that Ben was supposed to preach. Luckily God had prepared Ben in advance because he had a sermon ready! He did so well and you could see that he has the gift of preaching!

Last Sunday was a long, long day. The night before our leader told us that we would be going to a village church and that we needed to be prepared to do worship and have someone give their testimony and preach. Guess who was called to preach? Me! When I thought of what I would preach on the thing that came to mind was the mission call. I didn't really know what I would say besides a few Bible verses and some notes I had but I trusted that God would give me the words to speak. So Sunday morning we left the house at 6:30 a.m. and for an hour took two different bus rides to get out of the city. The last bus dropped us off on the side of the road where we hired biciclyists (not motorcycles!) to take us several miles down a dirt road that winded throughout the hills. They dropped us off at the bottom of a hill (more like a mountain to me!) where we were to begin our ascent. Yep, we had a lot of hiking yet to do! One of my team members estimated that we hiked up 15,000 feet, either way it took us almost two hours of hiking to make it to the church. I'm not a physically fit person in general, but on top of that I was also sick with a bad cough/cold. It was definitely a struggle for me hiking up that dirt path in the hot sun. Much of that time was spent in prayer, half praying that I would just make it up the mountain and the other half that I would be able to effectively preach and that God would give me the words to say once I got there! Somehow, God gave me the strength to make it up the hill. When we got to the church I was still wondering if He would also give me the words. I was so nervous getting up to preach but I knew that God had brought me up to that church for a reason. And as always God came through. My sermon went really well and God did give me the words to say when I myself really had nothing to give.Afterwards the pastor said that my message was just what they needed to hear and that God had been telling them some of the same things. I can't tell you how happy I was to hear him say that. God is so good! On the way back down I was able to focus more on the scenery and oh, is God not the most amazing artist in the universe? Rwanda is so absolutely beautiful, pictures don't do it justice at all!

Thank you everyone for your continued prayers and support. We have a little less than five weeks left here in Rwanda. On February 14th our team will be heading to Burundi to do some hospital ministry. Please take a look at the website to check out what we will be doing there.
After we get back from Burundi we will be heading out of Kigali and going to a village for a week, and then after a couple days we'll be on our way back to the states! Please be praying that God will use us mightily in the time we have left here and that we will be bringing God's light wherever we go and be equipped to set the captives free (spiritually, emotionally, and physically!).

Love you all!


Monday, January 2, 2012

Hearts of Gold

Our "Christmas Tree"
 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Our team spent the holidays pretty simply but we did our best to make it feel like home. For Christmas all of us were delegated things to cook/bake for the day. I made cinnamon rolls from scratch. They turned out surprisingly well considering that the ingredients weren't exact and neither were the measurements since I had to guess at how much a cup and teaspoon looked like. I also was in charge of making garlic mashed potatoes which also turned out really great. It took us almost all day to cook everything but it was worth it! To decorate our house and make it feel more "Christmasy" I cut out stars and made a "Merry Christmas" banner. For our tree I draped my green blanket over a wooden statue and pasted on construction paper ornaments. It was a makeshift Christmas but I think it made it more special. As a team we also did a small white elephant exchange and later played a few games of Mafia. In all it was a very wonderful Christmas! For New Years we went to an all night Prayer Meeting that started at 8 pm and ended at 5 am. When we got there it was packed! The church was filled with people so they brought out chairs and put them outside, which is where we ended up. It was really chilly outside so we only stayed until around 1 am.

Making Cinnamon Rolls
Since there are 7 of us on our team and we cook our own meals every day we alternate having 2 people stay home and do all the cooking and cleaning for the day and the others go to ministry. Just cooking the meals takes a long time as our microwave doesn't work and we have to boil everything we use (even water and milk) on our propane stove. We have nothing that is "instant" or "easy made", it's all from scratch! We eat so well and healthy this way! It can be quite the task but it's also fun and a great learning experience. We also scrub our laundry by hand in buckets in our backyard and hang them to dry on clothes lines. I'm finding outreach to be such a great preparation for being a wife and mother! :)

Peeling Potatoes

Me and my chicken
A few days ago I was walking home from the store when I passed two men on the street who had bunches of chickens tied up and hanging by their feet (still alive!). Out of curiousity I stopped and asked them "angahe?" (which means "how much?"). I am just beginning to learn numbers so it was quite the feat trying to understand what their answer was. One of the men ended up pulling out his cellphone and typed out the price on it. They were asking 3500 Rwandan Francs for a chicken which comes out to about $6. After all that trouble of trying to communicate prices with them, I then had to try and explain that I didn't have that amount of money with me. Feeling bad and on the spur of the moment I decided I actually would buy a chicken! After a lot more hand gesturing I got them to walk the short distance with me to the gate to our house and wait for me. My teamates were in the middle of eating lunch when I burst in saying "I found us a chicken!". I got one of my teamates Ben and our interprator Aimable to come out with me, and we talked with the men and picked out the best (aka most plump) looking chicken and bought it! I am still really amused that this even happened, it was such an impulse buy, but hey, I'm in AFRICA! Before I left my friend Logan told me that he wanted me to kill something if I had the chance. This chicken is my chance, the only question is whether I'm going to kill it sooner rather than later. Right now it's staying in our storage shed and since it had been dragged around upside down when I bought it, it's pretty tame and easily lets me pet it. My initial desire to kill it has waned the longer we've had it and especially since I named it (after Logan). It has also gifted us with a fresh egg every morning, which made me very excited. At the rate things are looking right now this chicken will probably have a long life (at least until we leave).

These past two weeks (it feels like we've been here so much longer!) we've been doing door-to-door ministry in a neighborhood here in Kigali. It's been such an amazing experience. The people here are so very welcoming, open up their homes to us and taking the time to listen to us share. God has definitely prepared and brought the right people into our paths. I'm not sure of the exact number but I would estimate that since we've been doing door-to-door at least over 20 people have come to accept and have a personal relationship with Christ! I am blown away at how receptive everyone has been to our message. God is so good!

During our wandering through the neighborhood during door-to-door we came across a small community that has really touched our hearts. I don't know how to aptly describe it but I will try. It's a very poor community made up of mostly women and children (lots of children!). The ground is muddy, the house walls and floors are made of dirt and the roofs consist of rusty and tattered sheet metal. There are around 21 children of various ages and sizes, from 1 1/2 years to the oldest being 15. They wear dirty, ragged clothes, most of them having holes in them and are too big for their little bodies. It's hard to distinguish the girls from the boys as they wear mixed clothing. None of them have underwear (or diapers!) to wear. Many have scabs on their heads from bug bites. From what we've gathered (although they haven't outrightly said it) it seems the mothers often have had to resort to prostituting themselves in order to be able to buy food for their children. (Which exlpains all the young children, and no fathers) You can tell that they are very hungry and hardly get much to eat. The children have one toy which is a horrifying doll that has only one arm, the rest that they play with is whatever they can find. But these children have hearts of gold and smiles that will light up your heart. Whenever they see us all of them run and leap into our arms, surrounding us and hugging us with such joy. I constantly have several children in my lap or holding my hand. They just love to be touched and held.

Several times we've had the children sit while we tell them Bible stories, and then afterwards we ask them questions and give them a treat. One of the little girls named Julia sat on my lap my first visit for almost the entire time we were there. She kept holding my hands, clapping them, stroking them, pulling my arms around her tighter; I almost didn't notice when she slipped something on my finger. I looked down and saw that she had brought a simple metal keychain ring and lovingly placed it on my finger as a ring. It was such a cheap thing, but to her I knew that it was special, and I have worn it every day since then.

Reading the Christmas Story
After the first time I visited them I wanted to cry, but at the same time I wanted to DO something. Our team has decided that no matter what other ministries we move on to, we are going to continue to spend time and work with this community. God brought them to us for a reason!

This next week we have decided to help them construct new toilets (basically outhouses). The one father that lives in the community had already started the process but hadn't been able to finish it as they didn't have the money for it. After that if we can get permission from the local government we hope to be able to build them a rain cachement tank so that they can have clean water readily available to them. Another thing that we believe is really important is training the women in a skill so that they have better means to make money and support themselves. We have discussed the possibility of teaching them how to crochet, sew, and do manicures, pedicures, facials, etc. It will take a lot of planning and work to do these things but we truly believe that it is so important. We want to leave a lasting change in these peoples lives that is there even long after we're gone.