Today was more like it. With 750 in preschool, about 3,000 in regular VBS and about 700 in the teenage group. We have been overjoyed with the turnout today!! The Rwandan Song leaders, Vestine and Rev. Samuel begin about 7:45am with whatever crowd they have in the cathedral and the songs ring out. Loud all around the area. Maybe miles...and kids streaming in to join the praise songs they all know so well. It's an incredible sight but even more astonishing sound to hear them singing their hearts out, clapping and screaming HALLELUJAH!!!!'
The Rwandan preschool teachers decided to do the Joseph story under the tents set up on the lawn, but moving 750 kids in one direction a hundred yards is challenging at best. The children are certainly sweet and want to participate so they are obedient throughout the logistics process. After they were all seated there was more singing and clapping and we (The Americans) all recognized that is the method employed to grab and keep their attention during the Bible story. The teachers here give a bit of the story to the little ones and then quiz the children on what they just heard. They are repetitive without being boring, but preschoolers are the same no matter what country, and after lots of sitting to sing and sitting to listen they were ready to DO something. After listening to the story of Joseph, the craft (which our entire team worked on last night) was making paper bag Joseph coats. Major prayer request tomorrow is NO rain - since there are so many outside events and travelers.
Ed and Gary have been working training Anglican pastors using the book of James verse by verse as well as training them in Pauline theology. There are 27 pastors from all over this Diocese who have anywhere from a 2nd to 7th grade education, but know their Bibles cover to cover. They struggle to put everything together in a theological framework. Our goal is simple: to equip them in that Biblical theological framework so they can be more effective in their preaching and pastorate. They are extremely motivated to learn and have encouraged us a great deal over the week.
The teenage group led by Faye, Melanie, Chuck and Lani and Kathy and Ann Snowden has had a three fold approach: purity class, basketball clinic and dance classes. The Rwandan teachers have been very effective taking leadership of the teaching and the Biblical morality class. The down of the teenage class today was the craft. What had been planned had to be scrapped because it was too immature for 16-18 year olds. The up part was that Chuck took that opportunity to connect the idea of Christianity to their ordinary lives, got thoughtful questions and responses. Prayer requests for this group tomorrow is discernment on how to invite this group of 680 teenagers into a more personal relationship with Jesus. And please don't forget we need no rain but cloud cover...There are some sunburns.
In 6-12 year old VBS today we had about 3000!! The Joseph skit performed by the Cathedral drama team entertained and made the story come life! They are such a talented group of young adults- as Ann Seiler said, 'they've got this!' After the drama and lots of singing, praising and Hallelujahs, the children were dismissed to their classrooms - a huge improvement since last year when they wouldn't really line up. One thing we have all noticed is how well these children know scripture! Many know entire Psalms. The craft with this age group has been a mural they are all working on individually to put together tomorrow - as one panoramic view of Joseph's life. Tomorrow this group needs prayer for stamina, for the Rwandan teachers to be on time, and hearts to be changed.
Please also remember to pray for our safe travel. This has been such a great trip but we still have a long journey ahead to make it home. Our bus leaves Musanze at 2pm, we have some time in Kigali, check into airport for a flight out at 1am and arrive in Houston on Saturday night. We need safety, health and to make our connections. Or gratitude if God has other plans!
Locals say 'Welcome to Rwanda!' when there is an electric or internet outage - we are feeling pretty local without internet for a day! Yesterday was packed so tightly there was no time to update.
We loaded our transportation at 7:30 and headed to a preschool called Rugeshi on the top of one of Rwanda's thousand hills.
We were treated to their choir and a warm welcome by the Pastor there. At Rugeshi we played with beach balls, jump ropes and a tarp. Sounds fun, right?? The children were overjoyed! After lots of singing, clapping, and dancing we listened to Allison Coates deliver the Bible story about Joseph. The children here listen with complete rapt attention ~ totally focused on the story, answering all questions in unison. The Meis sisters danced for the 400 children then taught a few ballet moves to Amazing Grace to a very receptive crowd!
After singing the Doxology, we packed back into our vans and headed to Gitaryi- thinking we would follow the same model there that we had at Rugeshi. We had quite a greeting with two children's choirs (60 kids) lining the walkway into the church where each one of the approximately 1,200 children were singing and praising God at the top of their lungs!
We were treated as honored guests and sat on the altar where many different choirs sang about how they love Jesus and thanked Him for everything they have: from ears and sight to His word and food and friends! Their gratitude is so sincere and contagious!
We immediately scratched recreation and the craft we had planned and decided to just let Deborah and Rachel dance and tell our Bible story and sing with them. Their warm welcome included all of them raising their hands and asking God to bless us with more blessings than we can imagine! How humbling.
The Arch Deacon who runs the preschool, church and school at Gitari said they have over 15,000 children in their parish. He welcomed us in the name of Jesus and told us our presence was the answer to their prayers. At least 4 times he said he/they have been praying for new/better ways to to teach their children about Jesus and he thought Allison's approach with a hand puppet was great! He also said he would be praying for guidance and asked us to do the same as he has such a large parish of children.
At the Cathedral today we enjoyed a slightly laid back day at VBS. We'd trained the teachers on Monday and expected 6,000, but it rained, so only 2,000 came. This gave us a chance to hand off the VBS teaching and logistics. Though it wasn't perfect they are doing the teaching and singing, and we just help with eggs and crafts. Of course there are potholes: like the weather and one of the crafts being too juvenile for older kids. All in all we are thrilled with the last two days.
Prayer Requests: We are expecting many more children tomorrow. Logistics are a constant concern.
We need good cloud cover, but NO rain! For stamina - with our schedule and patience and with the language barrier.
Also, for the correct number of eggs to be boiled and available for distribution to the children at the right time.
Everywhere, God is good!
We invite you to join us in a hearty Rwandan HALLULUJAH for all of His Grace is the last two days!
After morning devotional, we sorted and organized all the supplies so generously donated, then headed to the cathedral for Rwandan teacher training. We were treated to the Rwandan version of
"If You're Happy and You Know It Clap You Hands".
Sam had a HALLELUJAH moment when she got exactly the number of translators necessary for the 6-12 year old VBS.
Allison and her team of preschool VBS teachers. Chuck, Kathy and Ann experienced the presence of God in His word training teachers for the purity seminar.
According to our schedule there have been setbacks with timing, locations, classrooms and teachers. According to God's plan, we are experiencing miracles and provision on a minute by minute basis. Please continue to pray for eyes, ears and hearts open to what He would have us do.
While you sleep in the wee hours we will load on a bus to take mini VBS's to more rural locations. We will need prayer to accomplish singing, recreation, a Bible story and craft for 400-700 in an hour and a half on two different mountains. So many children (and mama's) will come to hear the story of Joseph.
We ask for prayer for that story to be more about God's love a than the novelty of the white people presenting it.
Ann Seiler with her Go Go Joseph drama team
Thank you for joining us in the Spirit who is among us all.
Our team went to church Sunday morning at Christian Life Assembly, then to lunch at the Rwandan version of Swanky's. apparently that's a business model that works everywhere!
After lunch, we had an unplanned and most welcome tour of the Rwanda Trading Company's coffee processing plant. Our new friend Jake (from Dallas) happily explained every step from tree to cup.
Most of us passed out on the two hour bus ride to Musanze- so grateful for a safe drive and a good Sunday afternoon.
Last night we enjoyed the gracious hospitality of Bishop Mbanda and Chantal. We were treated to an Africa feast And a traditional dance - which some of us participated in!
Please pray for us today as we meet our Rwandan teammates and train for VBS. We are keenly aware of the need to hand this program off to the Rwandans and do not want our plans to become more important than what will work long term for them. Also, we need prayer for construction to be safely completed on the basketball goals.
Well, I guess you can feel the excitement. The anticipation. Waking up in the night with a groggy determination to remember to pack your water bottle, pick up a month's supply of your medication or cancel the mail from the 13-20th. Those have been before are more overwhelmed than those who have not.
We remember the flotilla of children, the babble of the language we could not begin to understand, unlike "hola" or "au revoir", and the eyes.......the eyes of the children that melt your heart, confirm why you came, and encourage you to action. They tug at your heartstrings unlike anything I have ever known. They are hopeless, yet happy. They are needy, yet so giving. They are reserved, yet welcoming. They are an oxymoron, and I cannot wait to see them again. I don't know about you, but my prayers this time have been for the hearts of the children. I have begged the Holy Spirit to go before us, to prepare the way and to change hearts, lives, and a country. Also, please be in prayer for Satan to be bound as we head down the final stretch. He seems to want to discourage, thwart and inhibit every trip especially right before we go. Please pray for God's protection, especially for our fellow traveler, David Mattingly.
arm is not too short. Ours are. Thankfully we are not there to change
hearts. God is. We are not there to teach. God is. We are not there
to change a generation. God is. So, whatever insecurities you may be
feeling, whatever limitations you are focused on, whatever frustrations
you are concentrating on, remember, YOU are not in charge. God has
picked you to go. He will do the work. Praise and glory to the Lord