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 www.oneegg.org 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!