Friday, April 20, 2012

Final Day

VBS Rwanda is complete!  What a day it was.  Almost 2,600 children showed up today, the most so far, and every last child was fed an egg -- talk to Chuck Halford about his amazing egg story from's too long to discuss in the blog but it will give you chills.  We began the day once again with songs of praise and worship.  The Rwandans led the singing today, and the children loved it.  Next, we were visited by one of Jesus' followers (again, Rachel Meis), who told the story of Christ's death and resurrection.  Today's craft was the salvation bracelet, but many of the classes had to improvise with coloring books and written prayer requests.  Our object lesson was the Evangicube.  The tool really helped the children understand the Gospel more thoroughly, and that feedback was so encouraging.  In addition to the eggs, toothbrushes and Bible School certificates were handed out to every children.  The kids love to receive items -- anything -- and you could see the joy in their eyes as they were handed their gifts. 

The children were dismissed after class, skipping recreation today because they were to return at 3:30 for the finale of VBS.  The children returned on time and were once again led in song by the Rwandans.  They also danced and performed and were then treated to a beautiful dance routine performed by Deborah and Rachel Meis.  The children loved the routine, and Deborah and Rachel taught the children some of their moves after they had performed.  About this time, the children were shown a slide show of all the pictures Beth Phillips took throughout the week.  It was a joy to hear the 2,000 children giggling and gasping when they saw themselves in the pictures.  After this, the IPCers left but not before saying goodbye to our dear Rwandan friends with whom we have grown so close this week.  There was not a dry eye.  After we left, the Jesus Film was shown.  Tom Phillips stayed and reported to us that the children loved the video, cheering when Jesus performed miracles and weeping upon his Crucifixion.  Sadly, the power went out just as Jesus died and did not come back on.  Some of the chidlren were heard sobbing, "Jesus is dead!"  Not exactly the outcome we wanted, but the children have heard the Risen Christ preached all week, and it is now in God's hands. 

As has been reported all week, God is at work here in Rwanda in deep ways.  There is such joy and hope here despite the poverty that exists and the horrors that were perpetrated a mere 18 years ago.  We are witnessing a beautiful redemption story playing out as we speak in this breathtaking country.  Those of us who have been able to serve here this week have been forever changed, and Rwanda will forever be in our prayers.  We ask that this country will always be in your prayers as well, because God loves Rwanda! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

King Jesus

Hallelujah!  God provided more than enough eggs today, and every child went home with a full belly.  God is good, and thank you for your prayers!  VBS Day 2 focused on the Kingship of Jesus, and the children were paid a little visit by Mary mother of Jesus to talk about her son.  Mary, aka Rachel Meis, did a wonderful job illustrating the story of Jesus to the children.  Her translator Charles performed brilliantly as well. 

Today, we turned the tables a bit and served the Rwandan volunteers a homemade Memphis-style barbecue feast -- it was a huge hit!  Chuck Halford, grillmaster extraordinnaire, built a makeshift grill/smoker out of cinder blocks, rebar, and other objects from the trash dump...who knew he was so resourceful??  His work was genius, and through the help of the Lord (and some very diligent Rwandans!), Chuck smoked the meat to perfection.  It was like being back at home.  The Grillmaster, Brian Hawkins, Liberty Bain, and Gene Douglass woke up around 5AM this morning to get a headstart on the meat.  It wasn't long -- maybe 7-7:30 -- before beautiful sounds of children singing began to ring forth from the Cathedral next door to the cook station.  The Rwandans had organized around one thousand children who had arrived very early to VBS and led them in song all morning long.  We were brought to tears when we finally arrived to the Cathedral around 8:30 and witnessed the thousand voices praising Jesus.  It was unspeakably moving and amazing.  The children sang songs for about another 30minutes to an hour, and then were visited by Mary, followed by the Happy Tooth (Melinda Olinger), who taught the children about dental hygiene.

After these activities, we divided into groups just like yesterday, and we were so proud of the way the Rwandans led the classes today.  Every child made a crown in order to display the Kingship of Jesus.  We also did an activity to show how far we've strayed from God but that also demonstrated that God sent Jesus in order to forgive us our sins. 

As mentioned earlier, God provided more than enough eggs which helped fuel the children for a crazy recreation time.  For about 30 minutes after class time, utter chaos ensued.  However, everyone had fun, and the children are absolutely loving their play time.

The barbecue, as discussed earlier, was meant as a thank-you to the Rwandan volunteers.  We have fallen in love with these people, and their hearts for God, for Rwanda, and for the children have touched us deeply.  Many of these volunteers have suffered greatly, some of whom are double-orphans as a result of the Genocide.  But we have never met more joyful, hopeful, and warm people.  We have so much to learn from them.  Please continue to pray for our third and final day of VBS.  The parents will be coming tomorrow night, and we will be showing the Jesus Film to them.  Pray that the Spirit moves in great ways tomorrow night, and pray also that we arrive to the Cathedral with a renewed sense of purpose for the children tomorrow.

God's peace.  Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rwanda Update 3-18-2012

These strapping young men kept watch over our bags during our time in the cathedral. They are the discipline enforcers!

A shot of part of the cathedral full of children! You can barely see Charles, one of the better translators, holding the red microphone in front of the hanging canvas. Rachel the Banana is in front of the canvas, out of sight in this picture.

A sea of children, and this wasn't even all of them!


Urgent prayer request: We planned financially for 3,000 eggs total for the entire week. We had to purchase 2,000 eggs already for the first day. We are anticipating a need for 8,500 eggs total. We could have up to 3,000 children tomorrow and 3,500+ on Friday. The request goes without saying -- WE NEED MORE EGGS! Pray that God will provide the eggs in the way he's provided for so many other needs on this trip so far.

Today was a momentous day. We were awe-struck by the number of children who showed up this morning. As I stated in a previous post, we were expecting around 1,100 children today. We wound up with 2,300. It was awesome, and by God's grace alone we were able to accommodate all of the children. The day began with recreation outside, where we divided up in stations of different games, including the parachute game, relay races, chalk, soccer, and a hybrid game of volleyball. It was so much fun, and the children had an absolute blast.

From there, we corralled all of the children inside the cathedral. They filled every seat and then some. The children were led in song by Pastor Samuel, a large man with a booming voice. The Americans then taught the children how to sing a host of other songs, which geared everyone up for what came next.

A very special banana (Rachel Meis) told the story of Adam and Eve. The children were captivated and learned that they are a part of God's very special creation and that they are made in his image. After the banana's presentation, we divided all 2,300 children into 21 groups of IPCers and Rwandan translators for an object lesson, craft time, and egg-eating. This part of the morning was nothing short of a miracle. There were children everywhere, and we somehow managed to include every child in our activities despite our lack of supplies. In the image lesson, we had the children look into a mirror and explain to them that they were made in God's image. We then had them play a mirror-imaging game, teaching the children to imitate God even though it is very hard to do. Next, we had the children draw their own faces on paper plates using crayons. This was a lot of fun because we talked about how each child was created perfectly by God who gave them eyes to see, ears to hear, noses to smell, and mouths with which to smile.

Miraculously, almost every child received an egg before they went home. It is so urgent that you pray that God will provide the means to feed every child who comes through VBS. We also pray that the Lord stretches our supplies to meet the need, as we expect a growing number of children. We are ill-equipped, but God is the great Provider, Sustainer, Author, and Physician, and He will continue to show up in a very big way. So please, we implore you, let this be your prayer. Also, pray that each child learned today that he/she is a beautiful creation of God's and that He loves them so deeply.

On a special note, our Rwandan volunteers have been hugely helpful. Their ability to translate for us (i.e. Charles and his impressive ability to translate Rachel's message today) has been unspeakably powerful -- we simply could not do this without them. We are trying to teach the volunteers to lead the individual classes so that they will be equipped to teach once we have left. Most have done an incredible job at this, and still others have displayed some timidity, so please pray that God moves them to be great teachers of His Gospel.

We look forward to updating you tomorrow, and check back later today for pictures. A special thanks goes to Liberty's friend who has graciously stepped up to post pictures from the U.S. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Until tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rwanda Update 3-17-2012

Tom Allen giving a tour of Tom's village and his new estate overlooking lake.

The 500+ people we sang, danced and prayed with.

Church preschool at Rugeshi.

Reference Point

I just realized that Musanze is not shown on the map that's posted on the blog; however, Musanze used to be known as Ruhengeri, which is located north of Kigali on the map. My mistake! Hopefully, this will give you a better idea of where we are exactly!


Rugeshi and Tom's Village

Greetings from Rwanda! Today was a wonderful day full of blessings and forged friendships. We met for breakfast and then struck out for a visit to Rugeshi, a school for hundreds of children just outside of Musanze where our hotel is located. We were greeted immediately by throngs of children (this seems to be a running theme here!) who welcomed us with wide-eyes and warm hearts. Once we settled into the church, the younger children serenaded us with wonderful songs of praise to the Lord and a sweet welcoming song. I should add that we were expecting around 100 children. That number, however, grew to an astronomical five-fold at least, so we ran with it and served the 500+ children who showed up.

After we were greeted with song, we were paid a visit by a Happy Tooth (Amanda Hall) who instructed the children on proper teeth brushing and dental hygiene. Then, Rachel and Deborah Meis performed a beautiful ballet routine which totally captivated the children -- and us IPCers! Finally, Kay Hall led everyone in a few songs and brought the energy in the church to a fever pitch! After the performance, we split the children into 2 groups. Allison Coates was in charge of crafts for the children, and Kristy Bell took the other half outside for recreation with beach balls, a parachute, and some fun jumping exercises. The kids loved it, but we might have had more than they did! The children were precious and so sweet, and we deeply loved Rugeshi.

From Rugeshi, we drove about a half-mile down the road to the One Egg chicken farm (please check out for more information on this ministry). Tom Phillips started this ministry with the providential help of Tyson Foods to supply eggs to hundreds of children every day in Rwanda. To step foot on the grounds of this place was an experience, and we were privileged to have met Jackie, the manager of the farm. We then hopped back on the bus and with sack lunches in hand, we drove another 20 minutes to Tom's Village, a remote location but not too far from Musanze.

Tom's Village was named after a former lawyer from California named Tom Allen who has a big heart for Rwanda. He splits time in between the capital city Kigali and Tom's Village. Tom is currently building a home for himself in Tom's Village that will overlook a gorgeous view of an expansive lake, and his neighbors are his very dear friends now whom he loves. After a tour of his temporary home, we walked about one mile down the road to the school. We were privileged to have been joined on our walk by many children who asked us several questions about where we're from and what we do for a living. In turn, we got a chance to ask them questions as well; fortunately, they spoke enough English to get by, otherwise we would have been in trouble!

Once we arrived to the school, we all sang and got to know each other. The children here ranged in age from about 3 years old to 17 or 18 years old, and we had fun teaching them about proper dental hygiene and playing games with them. Additionally, Anne Snowden orchestrated the salvation bracelet craft, which had the children stringing beads representing truths about Jesus onto string. It was great seeing hundreds of children walking around the grounds wearing their bracelets.

On our way out of Tom's Village, we stopped by the home of Christoff and Domatilla, friends of Tom Allen, who welcomed us on a tour of their home and a visit to Christoff's cow, of which he is most proud! Christoff and Domatilla have children who attend the school, and these loving parents have opened their home up to some additional home-schooling for children who need more help. They are incredibly gracious and servant-hearted people, and we were blessed to have been invited into their home for a visit.

From here, we had to say our goodbyes to the kids, and that wasn't easy. But as we drove off, the children sprinted after our van, screaming "Goodbye! Goodbye!" and waving to us -- it was incredibly touching.

Today was a powerfully moving day, and we had such an amazing time meeting these children and teaching them about the love of Jesus. Tomorrow, we will conduct VBS in Musanze where we'll be for the next three days. We are now expecting around 1,100 children, so please pray for those children and for us, that we may exhibit God's love to the children and, hopefully, by His grace, plant seeds that will flourish in the future. Also, please pray for a healthy team, particularly Melinda Olinger who is fighting a cold. Ask the Lord to heal her and to give her rest in preparation for tomorrow's massive VBS undertaking.

We look forward to updating y'all on tomorrow's progress. Please pray for us!

Monday, April 16, 2012

VBS Training

Today we trained for VBS with our Rwandan volunteers. On our walk to the church this morning, we were greeted by hoards of running children eager to give us hugs and to tell us their names. They were precious children, and we can't wait to teach them about Jesus. At training, each IPCer was matched with an English-speaking Rwandan and a non-English speaking Rwandan. We went through the VBS agenda for Wednesday-Friday VBS in Musanze, and though it was tiring, we are feeling prepared and ready for the children later this week! The main purpose of pairing with the Rwandan volunteers is to train them up to conduct their own VBS programs after we've left. The partnership has been most rewarding and effective.

Chantal, Bishop Mbanda's wife, prepared a delicious lunch of beef, rice, fried potatoes, bananas, and Fanta for the whole team today, even after hosting us just last night at her home for a wonderful evening of fellowship, eating, dancing, and singing! Last night was an incredibly awesome experience! We were treated to a tour of the Mbanda's beautiful home about a mile from our hotel, and from here the night became one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.

We were welcomed into the courtyard by a singing group who serenaded us with Rwandan hymns. Then, every IPCer was assigned a singer to translate for us the rest of the evening. We were then treated to another singing group of red shirt-clad men who sang and danced like you wouldn't believe! I really don't know how they were able to keep singing with all of the dancing they were doing -- it was so cool. But that wasn't all. They invited us to dance with them, and so one-by-one the IPCers joined the men in the courtyard for some foot-stomping fun. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. There were some professionally-trained warrior dancers, both male and female, who performed an exhausting traditional Rwandan dance. These weren't just any professionally-trained dancers, though. The men were clad in traditional Rwandan garb, donning skirts, head dresses, and weilding spears and chanting and singing all while putting on an impressive display of athleticism and endurance. After this, we were served a hearty meal, followed by a few words from Bishop Mbanda. They made us feel so welcomed, and their hospitality was moving.

Tomorrow, we will visit Tom's Village and Rugheshi for half-day VBS. Please pray specifically that we point to Christ and humble ourselves before the Lord and these people. I also ask you to pray for a healthy, rested, and servant-hearted team, including the many Rwandan volunteers who have welcomed us so lovingly. Pray also that we successfully impart VBS training to these volunteers so that they can carry on this wonderful service to the children. Finally, please pray for the children, that they may not look to us as saviors but that they will see Christ's love through us this week and that they come to know his unconditional love for them.

Having technical to come. Until tomorrow!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We Made It!

We finally made it to Rwanda last night and checked into our hotel around midnight and arose early around 7am this morning for worship at the Ruhengeri Cathedral. What a first day it has been! The service was awesome, and we even did some hand-waving and belted out some Hallelujahs -- what a great way to start our first day in Rwanda!

The people are incredibly warm and welcoming. They've embraced us like family, and their hospitality has been so powerful and moving.

We struck out on our first adventure after church this morning for a great lunch at a beautiful 4-star hotel called Lake Kivu Serena settled right on the beach of the gorgeous Lake Kivu. Surrounded by fog-covered mountains, the lake looks like it's straight off of a post card. We took a quick ride to the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo while we waited for our lunch to be prepared, and that was a neat experience.

We have since traveled back to the hotel in Musanze where we are preparing for VBS to strike up mid-week. And later tonight, we will dine at the home of Bishop Mbanda.

So far, our experience has been amazing and humbling, and we all look forward to life in Rwanda for the next several days! Look out for further updates as we work with and serve the people of Rwanda!

God Bless!