Thursday, January 01, 2009

Christmas and New Years in Rwanda

Yaida painting a Christmas tree.
Withrow family Nani, Travis, Jasmin, Yaida, Astrid and Zoey
Christmas with those who live simple is greatly enjoyable as the little things that make the day different are not considered "nice" but "wow, awesome" instead.
In Rwanda Christmas day starts as the clock turns fro 11.59 on the 24th of December to midnight. The cry of a baby on national radio kicks of the day to celebrate Christ's birth. By lack of radio, Stella, Danielle, Travis and I stayed up and at midnight we sat under the boys window where Stella did a perfect imitation of the cries of a new born baby. All this to great delight of the children.
Danielle (Nani and Zoey's teacher) and Stella tired from all the Christmas activities.
Jean Pierre thrilled with his bandana.
Divine's first Christmas where she was allowed to celebrate and rejoice in Gods gift to her.
The day, one of games, presents, music and a movie, ended with a delicious meal; BBQ-ed meat (see below) soda's and more food than we could eat!

New years was wonderful. After a movie we all went outside where Travis, Ruben and some of the boys made a bonfire.

Erin and Jean Paul trying to stay warm
In order to stay awake after the hot tea Stella and the children did some traditional Rwandan dances, to great delight to all of us.

Worship and dance kept us going all the way till midnight. When we yelled and screamed our thank you for the new year Jesus.

Danielle to the left. Christine cuddled up with Beatrice and Jean Pierre.
Thank you to those who have donated funds and items so that the children and us could all have a wonderful Christmas and New Years!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Day to Day life

What does our day look like at the Gilead House?
We have loads of fun, especially now that the children are on school break. The Rwandan school year starts in January through mid-November. A wonderful opportunity now to get the children far ahead in their English and creativity skills.
Breakfast is served at 7 am. (a little later than normal due to the school break) Travis and I make the breakfast, a bulgar (wheat) porridge with sugar and milk. We start cooking it around 6 am. It is delicious and extremely healthy.
After clean up Stella starts teaching English class at 8.30 followed by an African Chai, tea break. At 10 we start Bibleclass, where we read a passage of scripture and discuss it together. The children are starting to learn to use their imagination and picture themselfs as one of the disciples of Jesus now that we study the book of John. It has been great to hear their responses!
After bibleclass we do creative expression class with the children. This can be anything from acting out what we read in bibleclass to drawing, singing or dancing. Just anything that will help the children to express what is inside of them and to use their creative skill. (photo 1: Erika during expressive arts. photo 2: laughter - one of our prime ingredients -
After lunch we have a hour of rest followed by umuganda, a time where we work together in the field for cultivation or work on projects together like the one in the photo above where Travis and some of the children are finishing a pathway.
Vedaste poses by the pole of one of the soccer goals, one of the projects the boys worked on.

While we are working together or in class we enjoy the smells coming from the kitchen where our wonderful cook makes delicious meals. He is not only a blessing to us for his skill, but is also wonderful with the children. The children rotate in duo's to help the cook with meal preperations in the afternoon, as a result laughter comes out of this kitchen allmost all afternoons.
Meal time and dishes go hand in hand. Teaching individual responsability in community living, means to take care of what you have or are responsible for. This includes dishes. With a good system in place dishes for 18 people only takes 8 minutes!
With full tummies and brushed teeth we join for Circle Time. Many of us look forward to this time of the day. We have a circle leader (a different person every night) who asks every child "How was your day, what was good and what was bad." It is a time for speaking and listening, a time of forgiveness and reconcilliation where necessary. It is a time for stories.
The time is closed of by a time of prayer and intercession. Sometimes this means we have music in the bachground and the children just close their eyes and listen to God (soaking). Other times they spontaniously start interceding and asking God to come and heal them, to touch thier nation. Just the other night, one of our boys spontaniously received the gift of speaking in tongues. It is a time where we see the Lord pouring himself out on the children. A time where we see Jesus healing the whole man (John 7: 24) Those are the true times of restoration and inner healing.
Due to the intense experiences the children have with the Lord we see wonderful breakthroughs in their lifes. This is SoZo(healing of body, soul and spirit)... resulting in Gilead (heaps of testimony).

Yes, we do take volunteers...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

If I had only known....

If I had only known that I would ever have to do what I did today...
If I had only known that I would make the choice to feel again the pain I used to feel.
If I had only known that having God's heart would cause so much pain...
If I had only known that I would be the doorstep to trauma and heaven touching earth...A little more than a week ago we welcomed Divine into our family. Beside my four own children she made number 9 of our orphans.
Her story; heart wrenching and cruel. Her mother lost her husband and children in genocide, she herself was hit on the head with a knife, then thrown in the mass grave her family was already in. Yet she survived. A little girl was found alive form the mass grave as well whom she took under her wing. Together they made the best of life while being extremely vulnerable and so prey to many. Francine was 5 years old when she survived.
Six years later Divine was born out of rape. Divine's mother loved her dearly, but Divine did not experience her mother's love for long. Divine was just a year old when her mother died. Francine, than 12 years old cared for Divine as a sister out of loyalty to the woman who had cared for her.
Francine was blessed with study opportunities, she placed Divine in a family with cows, ensuring milk would be available to Divine. Thinking these people would care well for Divine, Francine started secondary school.
The family despised Divine, calling her a wildcat, giving her the leftover foods to eat (if there were any) with her bed to be among the cows. Daily Divine would care for up to 100 cows, clean the house, cook food and clean the stables. In the fields with the cows she was easy prey for young men.

No organization or home would take Divine in, now 8 years old. Today she is with us.
She told Francine today; no I do not ever want to go back to the old place, I love it here, I love everything about this place, name it and I love it. The smile on her face, reaching from ear to ear, would not last long...

If I had only known....
Today we had to tell Divine the truth about her life. She thought the family she had stayed in were her mom and dad. That she was just less loved then the other children in the home and had done something wrong throughout the years which led to her not being allowed to go to church nor school, nor take part in any family activities.

If I had only known....
Francine had come and shared the truth. Divine's beautiful light brown eyes searched for clarity in the confusion, her eyes filled with tears, yet she pushed them back. Like a wave washing away the sand on the shore, her life was washed away in a matter of minutes.
Everything she had ever known had been a lie. Puzzle pieces of 'why' and 'how come' fell into place, confusion would come, joy for being rescued would show in a weak smile, and then... when Francine closed the gate behind her, the tears came. Deep, deep pain was in those long sobs. Uncontrolled screaming and crying, extreme silence as she stared of in a distance, exhaustion in the end, closed off with a light sleep.

If I had only known that my heart would be ripped to pieces as I guided the process, that the look on her face would remind me of my own confusions, cries and trauma's as a child her age.
If I had only known that bringing people from darkness/lies into light/truth would mean I would have to be the one to say things like; honey, your mother and father are dead...
If I had only known that carrying the heart of the Father for orphans and the poor would be so painful, would I have ever wanted it?

Though I know that from this point of truth we can lead her in the process of building her identity in Christ, which is a wonderful process, we will mourn with her first and gently place her on the Father's lap, where she can be loved and embraced the way only a Father can.

Pray for Divine, she lost both her parents and her family today. Today, Divine became an orphan.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Embracing Perspective

“What then can I say; If God is for us, who can be against us.” Romans 8:33b

The battle is raging around us her in the north. With two computers down, a house barely livable, a car that broke down again on the morning of a very important meeting concerning the purchase of our Heaven Touching Earth land, locals spreading lies about who we are and what we do, discovery that our corporation sole status in the U.S. has been revoked without notification, dishonest people trying to take items and funds, our website and so our email accounts frozen due to the sudden resignation of our webmaster, and a great deficiency of funds for our family… In Rwanda people would say: the spirits are against you. And we agree to this saying. Yes, the spirits are indeed against us.

I went to the foot of the volcano where the so called head demon of Rwanda dwells. I prayed and declared the blood of Christ over Rwanda while standing there. The atmosphere did not feel very pleasant around me, almost cold, though the sun was right on me. That same night we were woken up by an earthquake, started by that same volcano. Co-incidence?
From my backyard I see that same volcano and daily declare Jesus’ victory against that demon of fear, deceit, horror and terror. Nyabingi she is called. She has been given legal right to dwell on this volcano by the church and leaders of this nation centuries back. Look at Rwanda’s history and find the interesting role of the north of the nation in genocide ideology and other evil actions. Co-incidence?

“We do not fix our eyes on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:18
Perspectives change living this battle, I call it “the embrace of Kingdom perspective”. The unseen is what has the eternal consequences; my faith, my prayers, my declarations, my response from Kingdom perspective. The seen suffers in the unseen battle, the seen prospers in the unseen victory.
It sounds somewhat easy, foolish even. My spirit is ready to embrace the fullness of the Kingdom perspective, my flesh keeps me from squeezing it tightly. Trying to find a balance? I do not recognize there being a balance between flesh and spirit, the seen and unseen, God versus the world. The perspectives teach me to go all the way. For I do not belong to the world but am a citizen of heaven (Eph 2:19, Phil. 3:20) meaning my actions need to reflect my identity; Christ Jesus.

So I keep on warring as my battle is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6) and keep on trusting , believing by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). What I see looks defeated, abandoned, a joke. Yet by faith I see a victory coming, a battle to be won, Jesus revealed and a glory poured out, a nation returning to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. It is coming, by faith I see it!

Stand with me in battle.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Gilead House (Rwaza children)

What happened to the Rwaza children?

Many of the children were tired of the constant exploitation and lack of permanent intervention to stop the abuses and suffering they endured. Some of the children were chased away from the orphanage by the old nun as they stood up against the injustices done to them.

It had started with Jean Paul, (see earlier blog entries) who almost died, and other children too were put at the side of the road like bags of garbage.
At first 5 of the children asked Stella where to go as they had no place to sleep nor to be fed. At that point we had withdrawn from the orphanage as all we provided kept being stolen by those we had employed and in order to open a home for the children in a nearby town, knowing they were contemplating escaping the bad people, as they so mercifully call it.

The first 5 arrived in May. In June 5 more followed as they too were chased away. They went to the local government representative and reported the situation. The man offered to help them go home. Do you know where you belong, he had asked. Yes we do replied the children as they led the man to the safe house we had opened for them! This is where we belong, this is our home, they said.
Stella in the center. Stella is amazing and very skilled at what she does. She is God's gift to us and the children.
All 10 children are doing wonderful! They are blooming open and both the child and us are amazed at the inner beauty and character that is being revealed.

They all love to play drama plays and we use it as one of the ways for them to express what they went through. Sometimes we just have to ask them; this really happened? As what they act out is so extreme. Though they laugh when revisiting certain memories, it takes only one question or comment that expresses sadness that they had to go through this all, to expose the true pain of the events. Healing is coming and joy fills the house they live in.
Traditional dancing; the girls cannot get enough of it.

We provide them good nutricious meals. The children are looking healthy and strong.

The safe house is called; Gilead House. Gilead was an area in biblical times where a special miracle tree was found. It's balm was a healing balm. Gilead also means;
Heap/mass of testimony/witness.
We believe that the Gilead house will indeed be a place of healing and of testimony and witness, as God heals, delivers and saves the children!
Proverbs says: Raise a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. A child in those days were those under 12. We believe that this applies also to the spiritual / biblical principals. So we do what God's word says. The children are quick to worship and pray. They hear the voice of the Lord and obey Him. It has been such a delight to have these children. I am so proud of them.
We are still working with the local government to also receive the remaining children that are in Rwaza. Some that were there were brought back to their families. Others are still there. We are ready to receive them. Their beds are made!

We have 3 full time staff to care for the children, one house mom is in training.
Please continue to pray for the Lord's provision for the children and for the building of Heaven Touching Earth, the children's village where they will also live when the village is ready.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Home is where your heart is

It was great to see our friends and family.
It was nice to eat yummie foods and live in luxury. To drive in a place where people keep the rules and respect each other. To enjoy cleanliness and the consistency of water and electricity.
Though people seemed a bit pale, it was wonderful to see those who have our heart and to visit places we once poured our heart into and used to call home.

Here I am again, the last drops of water available to us were used to flush the toilet that started to stink from a day's use without flushing. I wanted to quickly print a document but didn't succeed as electricity was off.
I though I would pour a quick glass of milk for my daughter but forgot that I had to pasteurize it first. I wanted to make a phone call only to find the network to be down and oh, even with network it would not have worked as my phone minutes were finished and the guys in the little shop in our valley didn't have any minutes for sale.
Crazy enough, I call this place my home.

After all; Home is where your heart is.
And my heart is in Rwanda.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Special Rwandan Friends

The Bruton 5, our friends from Rwanda who returned to Canada back in 2006. They traveled all the way from Canada to spent just one day with us!

In Chicago we reconnected with John en Courtney who also left Rwanda in 2006. It has been amazing how deep our conversation could go and how the heart connections remained though years had passed.