A year later

I dropped off of blogging, but it was intentional, I just forgot to mention it here. When I returned to the US last year in April for my month-long visit before beginning with World Relief Rwanda in May, it seemed as if my season for blogging was going to end. Life changed dramatically upon my return and my thoughts about updating seemed to float away without a thought.

I’d like to get back to at least giving little updates about life here but I won’t make any promises because I don’t think I’ll fulfill them.

So, instead, I’m just going to make a post now and let it stand on its own. Maybe it’ll be my last one, maybe I’ll be back in a week. I don’t know. But, I’m going to give a little picture update series. It won’t be comprehensive of my last year, but maybe it will give a little glimpse into my life in Rwanda since joining World Relief Rwanda. It’s a blessing, honor, and privilege to serve here.

Home Garden

Home Garden

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Sweet smiles of children at a mini-camp for orphans and vulnerable children, August 2012

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Times of laughter with my colleagues at World Relief Rwanda staff retreat, July 2012

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First annual World Relief Rwanda Olympics! Staff retreat, July 2012

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Mama gave me her best mushanana (traditional clothes) to wear for the staff retreat, women’s night, July 2012

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World Relief Rwanda staff when our CEO came to visit, August 2012

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Family: brother Benja and Mama

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Beautiful Rwanda sky and hills

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World Relief Staff social outing! Akagera Safari Game Park day, Nov. 2012

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More beautiful Rwanda sky over georgeous lake Kivu, Nov. 2012

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Friend Bob with friends he made, Oct. 2012

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Makes my early mornings brighter

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My intern and friend, Esperance. We had funnn, Oct. 2012

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Bob makes little buddies wherever he goes, Nov. 2012

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Couldn’t resist swimming in my clothes in Lake Kivu with Congo behind me, Nov. 2012

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Saying good bye to those beautiful children after a week of having fun with them for a camp for vulnerable children, Nov. 2012

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Up in the hills with new-found friends, with the red roads and beautiful lake behind us, Nov. 2012

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Enjoying natural hot springs with friends…that water literally was too hot to put your feet into. Nov. 2012

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Lady walking the roads of Cyangugu, Nov. 2012

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The early evening view of the mountains of Congo across Lake Kivu, Nov. 2012

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Preparing a plot of land with my co-worker and good friend Louise with a church that had purchased to build a house on for an orphan family, Nov. 2012

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Louise, manager of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children program, encouraging this orphan girl, Solange, that she one day will take over Louise’s job. Nov. 2012

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A sunny view of Congo, Nov. 2012

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I always find a little buddy to smile with when I go into people’s homes, Dec. 2012

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Being blessed by a Water Project member, giving me a gift for my involvement. I’ve been blessed by her life too. Dec. 2012

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This little guy knows how to use that filter for drinking clean water to quench his thirst! Dec. 2012

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Birthday love with co-workers and friends, Louise and Emily and Louise’s children (Tina, Titi, and Teta)

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Another view of beautiful lake Kivu Dec. 2012

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Enjoying the view, Dec. 2012

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Glorious mountains Jan. 2013

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Care Group: children gathering to learn about God and other life lessons, Jan. 2013

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Fields of Masaka, Jan. 2013

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Never ceases to be breathtaking.

 

It’s a wonderful life that I’m living.  Full of challenges, times of being down down down and up up up and times of growth and being stretched and times of sorrow and times of laughter. It’s a life that I praise God for and only continue to see more and more where He has brought me from and where He is taking me. It’s a bit of a jumble most of the time, but I know He’s weaving a beautiful tapestry even if I can only sometimes see little jumbled threads.

Changes

Last time I said that life in Rwanda was “undergoing some big (hopefully good) changes.” Here’s a little update.

The beginning of February marked the end of my job with PROCOM Rwanda. My internship was supposed to be for a year (taking me until June). However, after talking with my boss and realizing that it was time for me to move on, I resigned from my internship. There have been so many neat things happening with PROCOM. Their agriculture projects are are taking off as well as their water projects. Due to cirucustances outside of PROCOM’s control, because the life we live doesn’t always go how we planned, the area of work that I came to do with PROCOM won’t be in place for a long time. So, I came to the realization that PROCOM is taking off is all these great areas but my place with them no longer exists so it was time for me to move on.

For the month of February I was working part time for a friend who does child advocacy work while also volunteering at several different organizations. This was a time for me to explore my options for work in Kigali and to see if I could find anything to be able to stay on here longer.

It was a challenging month and full of uncertainty but God is sovereign and He held me in His hand the whole time. I spent time applying for jobs, interviewing, meeting people and networking to see what opportunities were out there. After feeling like I floundered around for a month and a bit, I was offered a job with World Relief in their communications department as their Church Engagement Coordinator. I’m so excited and so blessed for this opportunity to stay and work in Rwanda for longer. I’m also amazed at how quickly something came along. I wasn’t ready to leave Rwanda and so am honored that I’m able to stay on with another job, to keep learning, growing and changing.

Life is great living with Nyanja’s Mama. She and I have some hilarious conversations. Its been wonderful to just have a mother figure in my life while I’m so far from home; someone to scold me, feed me, laugh with me, instruct me, pray for me, and teach me. What a privilege, honor, and blessing it has been to live with her. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue to live with her, but I’m ever so thankful for this opportunity to learn so much from her; about what hospitality means, care, concern, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. I’m still so blessed to be living with and learning from her.

I went to visit one of the ladies, Adele, who works at ABC Bakery. She and I have become friends since I’ve been volunteering there and asked when I’d come to visit her. So, one Monday afternoon, we met after her work at ABC and trekked together to her little house in the village. I guess I either decided that my Kinyarwanda was good enough for a home visit with her or I just decided to bite the bullet and stop being a coward. Either way, I went with her to her home and it was wonderful. It is a true honor to know her. She is such a prayer warrior, is so generous, and so caring. I could learn a lot from her.

I started singing in the choir at the Anglican Church I mentioned last time. I’ve sung twice so far and it’s been great. I like going to practices, we have a blast, and its nice going to sing in the early mornings on Sundays. I also still practice keyboard sometimes but I think it’ll be awhile before I actually play in church, if I ever do.

A few weeks ago, my small group went on a retreat to Butare. We stayed at a cell member’s house for the weekend. It was a wonderful, challenging, and refreshing time of worship, sharing, encouragement, and prayer. Also incorporated into this trip was a visit to the other cell members’ former professor at university who was retiring and returning to his home in Uganda. We had a great time of fellowship and I could see how blessed the professor was to have his former students visit him–praying, worshiping, and fellowshipping together. I tagged along for the ride because I’m a part of the cell now but I think he was happy to have me visit too. He said it was nice to see an American girl who was not like the ones depicted on TV.

Now that I have a new job and am working through the details of when I’m going to begin, a visit to the US is coming up in the near future, as soon as a week or two. I’m so excited. Although I originally thought I wouldn’t go home for a visit till July, I’m excited that I’ll be able to come home sooner before coming back to start my new job.

The Winds of Change

Life for me in Rwanda is undergoing some big (hopefully good) changes. I’m not ready to write about all that is happening yet, but in time, I’ll hopefully be ready to divulge more of what has been and will be going on. Suffice it to say that God is bringing me through some tough situations but I know that he is sustaining me. I’m praying that I only grow stronger in him through this time. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me—both with jobs here and with life in general in Rwanda. As my mom always rightly reminds me, I need to “put on a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” Isaiah 61:3. God is good and there is no reason for me to have a heavy spirit when I know that he is for me.

Craft Co-op

 

The dry season is in full force; the dust in incredible and the sun overhead is intense. However, the sun on my face is a source of delight, although it tends to sap my energy if I’m out in it too long. It rained yesterday, just a bit. But it was enough to bring some cool and relief from a period of hot and dry days.

Nyanja (my friend who’s mom I’m living with) came to visit from Sweden with her family. What a wonderful two weeks. I got to hang out with her and her husband and two cute boys. I realize how much of me is missing when I’m not around children—how much I love to hang out with kids and how much I’m missing my own nieces, nephews and siblings. So, having those two little boys to harass me and to chase around revived my spirit and was healing for my soul. I carried Isaak on my back and it was the first time I had carried a baby like that, exactly how Rwandese women do. Mama Nyanja thought it was the greatest thing ever, I thought it was pretty great too. Now that Nyanja and her family are gone and Nyanja’s brother, my buddy Benja, is back at school in Uganda, its just me and mama. We cook and clean together (well, she cooks and I watch and chat with her) and we wash our clothes (still terrible at doing it by hand, but I’m trying) and we have a great old time. I’m sure I make all sorts of mistakes in my Kinyarwanda, but I’m so blessed to be living with and learning from her.

I went to ABC, the bakery I volunteer at on Saturdays, and taught the ladies who work there how to make scones. They are pretty good, if I do say so myself. And I love hanging out with those ladies so I was thankful to be able to go and do that with them.

I was on the bike again today. Its been awhile, but I was back riding and I was reminded of how much fun it is to ride, although I’m still trying to be careful because I don’t want to get too relaxed. I, of course, almost ran out of gas. It happens almost every time because I’m still terrible about gauging how much is in the tank by shaking it. But, its happened to me so many times that I can tell by the sound that its making and how it is running that I’m about to run out so while I’m driving I switch it into reserve and keep going.

A few of my friends who either sing or play for the Anglican church I sometimes attend are trying to get me to either play keyboard for church or sing in the choir. I’m considering playing in the choir since its a lot less daunting than trying to brush up on my piano skills. I think it’d be nice though…it’d maybe make me feel more connected and at home in church, which is still lacking right now.

I’m still changing, still learning, and hopefully still growing through all I’m seeing and doing here. The 8 month mark of my being here is slowing creeping up on me…where does time go?

A new year

-PROCOM is hopefully going to begin drilling some boreholes in a very dry area of Rwanda in the next few weeks. This has been long in coming but after many set backs and waiting and working, we are prayerful that in the near future, we will be able to begin drilling.

-PROCOM is currently hosting a retired agriculture-ed teacher who has come to learn all he can about farming in Rwanda in the hopes of creating a proposal for building Rwanda-appropriate agriculture education programs. The other day I took him to a meeting he had between Catholic Relief Services to learn what they are doing in agriculture here. It was neat to have this opportunity to sit in on that meeting and learn more about agriculture here in Rwanda; to gain more insight from experts.

-Last week, I had the privilege of going on a site visit with World Relief to two of their sites outside of Kigali to see the graduation ceremonies of two groups in their Savings for Life program. It was amazing to sit in on this last meeting with these groups as they shared what they had learned over the past 9 months of saving, their testimonies of being part of the group, and their dreams and hopes for the future. I had such a great day. It was wonderful to be able to listen to and learn from these participants.

-Fun fact: there is a bowling alley now in Kigali. I’ve been twice and it’s a blast.

-I went to Butare (which is where the national university of Rwanda is) about 2 hours outside the city. I traveled with a few friends on a bus and we met up with more people there. I had such a great time being able to have a weekend outside of Kigali—out of the city in a different environment, surrounded by a beautiful forest. I had fun and meaningful fellowship with friends, good conversation (all night! We didn’t sleep Sat. night), I went to a talent show, which was so fun, and went to a worship service, then came back to Kigali—not quite rested or refreshed physically, but mentally, for sure. It was a great weekend. I’m still recovering from that all-nighter but it was worth it.

-Prayer request: wisdom for the current uncertainty and struggles with my job as the future is up in the air. I’m holding onto the fact that I know my God is in control. I didn’t make new years resolutions, but maybe I should make one–to work on not worrying and giving them continually to God.

On my birthday in Dec., Sarah and I took a walk around Kigali and I took a some pictures on her 35mm camera. I scanned them onto my computer and decided to share a few.

Sarah and I on my birthday walk.

Blessings…

…Are all around me. Sometimes I just need to open my eyes to see them.

Recently, I’ve been trying to see the blessings that are poured onto me each day. Recently, I’ve been the recipient of  some wonderful kindness and care, which is especially nice during this holiday season when home seems too far.

A friend of mine took me a few weeks back to her piano school. We went on a weekend when it was closed for students, but she was going to practice. When she had found out I loved to play piano and miss it so much, she invited me along. She and I stayed to play for a few hours and it was amazing. Since then, I’ve been able to go back to play a few times and its been a wonderful blessing. The teachers there allow me to come and play after work ad are so welcoming and kind.

Last time I went, I got lost, really lost. I usually walk there, but this time I took my motorcycle and got extremely lost…for about an hour. I eventually called the one of the teachers there to explain to me how to get there, but I couldn’t even describe where I was. A guy standing nearby overheard our conversation and came to talk on the phone for me. to figure out where I was and was going. Once he figured it out, he hopped on my moto behind me and told me he’d direct me. But, then my bike wouldn’t start. So, another guy came and fixed it and then me and the first guy were off and he got me right there.

Another day, I was heading out on my bike again and this time, the rain caught me. It was downpouring so much that I had to stop at a bus stop and huddle with the other moto drivers and people under the stop. The rain passed after maybe half hour and then all of us moto drivers came out to get our bikes out of the way at the bus stop. The driver behind me was so helpful and kind as he used his towel to dry my bike off for me.

On my way back from this getting caught in the rain adventure, I was turning to park, but my front wheel caught on the curb and my bike slipped out from under me on the wet, slick road. So, I went down with my bike. But, thankfully I had already been slowing down so the fall wasn’t too bad and I was able somehow to jump off. I did catch my shin and it got banged up a little, but nothing too terrible. I was so flustered and a little shaken though as I stood beside me bike lying on the road. Thankfully, a guy walking by threw the bag he was holding to a boy near him and came running and picked up and parked my bike for me. The boy asked to make sure I was ok. When I got back, Sarah, our cook, made me tea and bathing the blood and dirt off of my leg for me.

Erin’s sister in in for a visit. On Thursday, Erin planned a trip to Gitarama for a “Cultural Tourism” trip through Azizi Life. This organization works with artisans to give their products a wider market. These artisans host groups who want to see and experience a day of their lives. Erin wanted to take her sister, so I tagged along. We cultivated a field,  cut grass for the cow, fetched water, and made bracelets with the women. It was a good bonding time and I’m thankful I was able to experience it with Erin and her sister. The hosting ladies were wonderful.

Cultivating!

Cultivating!

Erin cutting grass for the cow

Erin cutting grass for the cow.

Sarah carrying grass for the cow that we gathered.

I had a nice Christmas day and week leading up to it. It was neat to experience something different and to celebrate and in a different place with new friends. Now, it has come and gone and its time for me to look forward to the new year!

Celebrating Auntie’s birthday with her!

6 months on this side of the world…

 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday to be with family, so it’s always hard to be away during this time. However, I did have a great day. On the actual day of Thanksgiving, I was invited for dinner at a friend’s (he is American) house. He and his wife had prepared a wonderful thanksgiving meal and there was a small gathering of friends. He and I were the only Americans so it was fun to share our holiday with our Rwandese friends and family. It was a nice night of fellowship, fun, and good food. No turkey, but really good chicken.

The Friday after thanksgiving, I went to another Thanksgiving feast at my former house where I stayed as a student last year. The students this year had class on Thursday, so they moved their Thanksgiving celebration to Friday. This was a wonderful gathering of many people and we laughed and ate and had a great time. I had been pretty sick earlier on in the week, so was still recovering and couldn’t join in the American football game that went on in the afternoon, but instead was left at the house as the sole person to keep the many and various dishes moving through the oven, to make sure that we would actually eat that night.

Thanksgiving feast at the Go ED. house

Kacibaya and me at Thanksgiving dinner

After dinner, I went to a church that I have been sometimes attending where there was an overnight prayer—an entire night from 9pm till 5 am of singing and dancing to worship songs, sermons, and praying. It was my first time attending such an event. This church is rather large but it was packed! It started to wane a bit towards the wee hours of the morning, but a large number of people stayed for either the whole night or a large majority of it. I loved being a part of the thousands that had chosen to spend the night praying and singing and worshiping our awesome God together. It was beautiful. I had planned on leaving maybe at 1 or 2 am, but 5 am rolled around and I was still there.

A group of friends planned a trip to Burundi last weekend and I was able to go. It was so much fun. We went to the beach, swam, played games, laughed, worship, and prayed together and just had a good time of fun and fellowship. It was wonderful.

Water/beach games in Burundi!

My birthday was last week! I had a great day, complete with a pre-celebration the night before with the students, as my actual birthday was their last day here. We jumped on the trampoline that they have in their yard, played games and they made me the most delicious chocolate peanut butter brownies I’ve ever had. On my birthday, I got presents from my family, my co-workers/housemates took me out for breakfast. Sarah and I took a long walk together and I took a roll of pictures on her 35 mm camera. That night, I went to hang out with some of my friends (some who I went to Burundi with) and they surprised me with a birthday cake. It was a great day.

I’m coming up on 6 months in Rwanda. Time is flying by but I’m loving living here. God is good and I’m learning and growing and changing so much. Every day I learn so much from those I’m surrounded by here, whether its spontaneous conversations with people on the street as I walk, on the bus, with my co-workers, friends, etc. My internship continues to evolve and change, but I’m still learning, which is good.

And now I am entering into the holiday season here in Rwanda. Although it’ll be hard to be away from family during this time, I’m excited to see what being in Rwanda holds for me.

Life in the land of tea and red dirt roads

A few weeks ago, a friend, Nyanja, who is Rwandese but lives in Sweden now with her husband and family, came to Rwanda. She works for an adoption agency and brings families over to pick up their children and help them work through the court process. I hadn’t seen her in probably four years and so I was thrilled to meet up with her here. I got to hang out with her and her son for the week and it was fabulous. It was great to see the work that she is doing and to get to meet the excited families and their new children. It was so precious. Just being with Nyanja and talking with her was just the refreshment I needed.

 

Hanging out with my new friend Isaak!

Work has been busy recently. I’ve been doing a lot of logistical things for and with my co-worker, Nathan. I scoot all around the city on my motorcycle, hopping from insurance offices to banks to Kinyarwanda lessons back to the office then back out again to the Ministry or something or other then to the Customs/Clearing agencies then to get the car fixed…running all around on the bike. I’m getting to be quite mobile and bold on the thing, which is fun. However, running out of gas seems to be my forte as it’s happened quite a few times now. In my defense, I’m still getting used to having no gas gauge and figuring out how much is in the tank by listening to it and how far I can go on one tank or on however many liters I put in it. Thankfully, I’m getting better at figuring out what is wrong when it stalls on me and can usually get it going again. But, if not, there are always some helpful motorcycle taxi drivers around willing to give me a hand or some other random guys who always seem to know what they are doing when the muzungu girl obviously needs some help and can get me going in no time.

 

Rwanda beauty

The week after Sarah’s wedding, Erin, Sarah, and I went to visit her and her new husband in their new home. It was so fun to see Sarah and see her not stressed about her wedding anymore and just enjoying being our wonderful host.

A few weeks ago, Erin came in the house and said that she thinks she may have unintentionally committed to going to church with Seti, our new guard, on Sunday. She was trying to chat with him in Kinyarwanda and thought he was just talking about his church, but then she realized that she thinks she agreed to go with him on Sunday. We kind of forgot all about it until Sunday came around and I was backing out of our driveway with Erin in the car, on our way to church, when Seti stopped us. He asked us where we were going and when I told him which church, he vehemently disagreed and told us we weren’t going there but were going with him. We turned to our other guard Jean de Dieu who understands our broken Kinyarwanda better and how to communicate with us and tells us that we can go to our church but just give Seti a ride halfway to his church. He tells Seti this is how it is. So, Seti jumps in and we are off. As we approach Seti’s drop off point, he starts pleading and begging me hard-core to go with him. I mean, he put his hands together and is just pleading and pleading. Erin couldn’t resist and said she had to go even if I didn’t…So…I had to go to. I mean, he was just too much to resist. I looked in my review mirror, and in Erin’s words “I mean, tell me how you can resist that face?!?!?” It was quite the adventure. His church was tiny with lots of dancing and preaching and more preaching. Only in Kinyarwanda, though, and my translator only gave me a sentence or two every 5 minutes maybe. But, I’m glad we went for the experience and to make Seti happy.

 

Field trip for work

The holiday season is coming up and it’s the first one I’ll spend away from my family. I’m starting to get excited about spending it here in Rwanda. Not really sure what I’ll do yet or who I’ll spend it with, but I’m excited to experience this time of year in a different country.

In three days I’ll have been here for 5 months. This both seems a short time and a long time. Part of me feels like I’ve been here forever (ok, not really forever) and that I’m completely settled into life here and its now “normal.” But, then when I think about it in the grand scheme of things or I get a reminder of how I still don’t know what’s going on most of the time, I realize how short it’s been but yet how fast it is flying by. Life just flies by, doesn’t it? But, I’m loving living here. I’m loving all that I’m learning, how I’m changing and growing, being stretched and challenged. I love the people that I’m meeting and the friends that I’m making and am learning daily what it means to have the joy of the Lord be my strength.

Although there are still discouraging days living here and feeling like I am still so lost (but I guess that would be life anywhere) most days I’m encouraged by how “far” (whatever that means) I’ve come in just a few months. I’m excited to see where God continues to take me in the coming months.

My co-worker, Erin, wrote this the other day, and I liked it so I thought I’d share it.

“Last week her good friend Mike, who shares this gift, told me that God was “dancing over my head” because of what I’m doing in Rwanda. Because I took a couple of pictures, and wrote a few facebook posts and blogs about this organization God is dancing? And you know what, he is probably right. God is that kind of God, to dance at every spark of good.”