Online Report from
Grace Community Church Rwanda Team
August 1-12, 2002
Over Three Hundred Pastors!!!
Over 100 Women!!!
Rwandan Children Caring for Rwandan Infants
Thanks to Team Member Terry Howlett for the great photos.
Our hearts overflow with gratitude to the Lord, for He has done great things! Perhaps we could have asked for more, but it's difficult to think how, though we definitely learned more about how to do these trips nearly half-way around the world on a smaller budget in the future—primarily regarding our travel expenses. Even so, it was all worth it. There is so much good news to report.
We expected 100 pastors for the conference in Rwanda, and the numbers rose to 200 before we left the states. When we arrived, much to our surprise and delight, there were over 300 pastors in attendance! We were expecting 100 children for our two-day Bible school and had 261! Don't ask me how but God somehow provided for all of them. He multiplied our gifts for the children like the loaves and the fishes. It was so amazing. No child left without gifts (plural) in hand. Every child raised their hand to receive Christ. We pray the Lord will guard the seed that was sown in their hearts to raise up strong future leaders for the nation of Rwanda.
We also ministered to 105 spiritually hungry women. About half of them carried tiny babies on their backs in a knapsack of sorts made of large scarves, which they mysteriously tucked around their waist. If I tried this the baby would be on the floor in seconds! In spite of tending little ones and nursing newborns, they hung on our every word. Days were long but everyone pressed on. Opportunities for such a spiritual feast are negligible to non-existent in Rwanda. We hope to be a part of a growing group that will change that.
We housed and fed over 400 men and women both spiritually and physically and probably close to 100 children for three days. We saw a move of great repentance among the pastors for bitterness and unforgiveness toward one another, for which we are deeply gratified. We went to train leaders to bring reconciliation in a tragically war-torn country with a long history of civil strife and horrific genocide and succeeded beyond our wildest hopes and dreams—all to the praise and glory of God. We pray that the message of forgiveness and reconciliation will continue to ripple across Rwanda and the entire continent of Africa. Again I say, He has done great things! We are looking forward to returning in the future. In fact, Chuck Jamison, one of our pastors, is already planning to take a team back next year. My heart rejoices.
Both our men's and women's teams were magnificent. We ranged from 26 to 62 in age. We worked 12 hours a day, remarkably with little of the effects of jet-lag. With the exception of a flu-like bug among a few of us, we wonder how we could have asked for more. Every topic we offered was relevant and life-changing. We went with the commitment to be FAT: flexible, adaptable and teachable. And we were. We ebbed and flowed together without a moment's discord in spite of the fact that things rarely went as planned. We returned home with great respect and admiration for one another.
I left Rwanda with many incredible memories, but I want to share three in particular that still bring tears to my eyes: First, watching 300 pastors walking down long dusty roads into Ruengheri to receive from us was deeply moving and humbling. Many came because they heard of the conference by word of mouth. They slept on mats on dirt floors at night and got up each morning to put on white shirts, suits and ties, most of which were too small or too large for their very thin bodies. Many are unpaid and untrained, but they have a hunger and thirst for the things of God. They all had two things in common. They were poor and they were determined to serve the Lord.
The second memory that deeply moves me was the elated screams of the women as we handed out the Bibles in their language. All but nine pastors had Bibles, but most of the women did not. What a thrill to put the most important book in the entire world into their eager outstretched hands.
The last and most profound memory I will always carry with me is of all the very small children carrying infants in knapsacks on their backs. The youngest I saw carrying an infant was probably no older than two. Most women work in the fields by day to grow enough to feed their families. The older children carry the babies out to the fields (some- times quite a distance) to nurse and then return home. They have to do this because if the baby is near its mother, it will want to nurse often. I pray I will never be the same or live the same ever again. I now completely understand what Hilary Clinton meant when she said it takes a village to raise a child. In places like Rwanda, it truly does take a village.
And how can we thank you enough for your incredible generosity! Without you, none of this would have been possible. You will have one more crown to cast at the feet of Jesus when you arrive in heaven. Our entire team, Chuck and Linda Jamison, Thomas and Jessica Thompson, Terry and Nina Howlett, Bernadette Musekura (our Africa Leadership and Reconciliation Ministry/translator connection), Carrie Baker and myself, thanks you from the bottom of our hearts. And our dear brothers and sisters, the pastors, women and children who attended the conference in Ruengheri, Rwanda, thank you as well. I only wish you could have been there. It was fabulous! We will never forget it. We loved doing it! Perhaps you would like to go with us sometime.
All glory and praise to our mighty God! And once again, on behalf of the entire Rwanda team, thanks to all those who prayed, helped with finances, gifts, bibles and the ABC theology books!
The Rwanda Team
P.S. For all of you who might have thought we would be hot, the weather in Rwanda could not have been more perfect. It was around 50 degrees at night and 70 degrees in the day. It rained a little one day.
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