Five Prayers and Three Praises

Prayer: Krystal’s Ankle

She broke it on December 28, and while she can walk without crutches, she needs an ankle brace and it still troubles her. Please pray for healing so that she can exercise again.

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The Many Casts of Krystal.  Currently she is using an ankle brace.

Praise: Our Baby Boy Is Healthy

We had you pray about Luke’s neck. He is 100% better. He has grown out of newborn clothes, and is sleeping more at night, much to our delight. His sisters LOVE him.

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Prayer: Teammates Leaving the Field

Over the Summer, we will drop (temporarily) from a team of 10 with over 60 years of experience in Rwanda to a team of 4 with only 8 years of experience. The Brubakers are transitioning to ministry in the US. The Bennetts are staying the Summer in the US to help their college age girls acclimate to life in the US. And the Janzens needed to return to the US for medical reasons. Pray for smooth transitions, and joyful acclimation, and restorative healing.

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Remaining for the summer: The Pirolos, Laura (in green) and Eric

Pray also for the four of us who remain. We are assuming extra responsibility and roles of authority which remind us daily of our inadequacy. Pray that we will indeed use these reminders turn to God for strength and wisdom.

Praise: Our Parents Came to Visit

We had a wonderful time with Krystal’s mom in December/January and with Nick’s mom in March/April. Our daughters loved seeing them, and getting so many presents from the US through them. Nick’s mom loved getting to hold baby Luke.

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Prayer: Nick is Running CLIR

When Dan Janzen left, Nick was appointed as “Interim Director of the Christian Leadership Institute of Rwanda.” That’s right, Nick is running (temporarily), the gears of the University. In many ways, it is a well oiled machine, with great leaders and great teachers already in place. However, there is scheduling, student meetings, board meetings, policy revision, and decisions to be made. Pray for wisdom, strength, and grace to lead well.

Praise: God Provides What We Need, When We Need

Dan’s emergency meant that the schedule needed adjusting and someone needed to teach in CLIR this term. With amazing wisdom and flexibility from the team, we were able to create a revised schedule. Nick was able to step-in and teach Teaching and Educational Ministries to this new cohort. So far the class is going great.

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Our church visited a new mom from our congregation.

Prayer: Church Closures in Rwanda Continue

Beginning in March, the Rwandan government began enforcing laws against unregistered, unsafe, noisy and (my word) unprofessional churches. Churches have been closed for using buildings not up to code, not enough bathrooms, no soundproofing, not enough paved parking, and other requirements. There have not been any official updates since my last email; 714 churches (and 1 mosque) closed out of about 1450 churches in Kigali. However, ministry colleagues report that over 6000 churches have been closed country wide. Many of the pastors we teach, and all of our bi-vocational Rwandan teachers, have had their churches closed. Sunday worship service has been closed for about half of Rwanda, including our own church!

We miss the sweet worship together with these dear people. We have been blessed by the faithful and passionate preaching of the gospel we heard there, and the heart of discipleship among the elders. But we, too, are without a place to meet because the school hall in which we were meeting has been declared unacceptable. Pray that wise and godly pastors would reimagine how to be shepherds to their sheep, and that bad pastors would indeed be rooted out.

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At Mama and Papa Olivier’s house for a visit with some friends.  This wonderful couple are retired and quite ministry minded.

Along with the closures, there is talk of creating a requirement that churches must have a pastor with a theological degree. At this point it is unclear how much education will be necessary, but this might create a great influx of pastors eager for a degree, but not eager for education or discipleship. The government is becoming “hands on” with religious institutions, and there might be other regulations that impact NCM more directly. There is opportunity and risk in the future. Pray for wisdom and grace.

Prayer: English Teacher Needed

We have a significant need for 2019. We need someone to teach English (ESL) to our rural pastors in the PTS, and teach a college level reading, research and writing course. This person must have a masters degree or higher (in any subject). This person also should be adaptable to new situations, able to work well on a team, and spiritually mature. We are interested in discipling Rwandans, and we do that as a priority in the context of higher education. Does this sound like you or someone you love or someone you want to see deported? Come work with us for 2 years or more!

Thank you again for your prayers

 

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Introducing Luke!

 

IMG_1604.JPGHere’s our boy! Krystal was able to have a water birth at Iranzi Clinic, where she volunteers. He came into the world a few weeks before his due date, but healthy. He eats, he sleeps, he pees and poops.

Since his birth, he has developed a cyst on his neck that seems painful. Trusted doctors here recommended hospitalization to drain the cyst and IV antibiotics. Yet, the risk of poor care at the hospital outweighs the upside benefit of a hospital. We’re hoping the have an plan by tonight. Meanwhile, pray with us for a quick healing, wise and capable medical professionals, and peace.

IMG_1383.JPGAlso pray for our girls as they discover their new roles as big sisters. They love their brother, but not having to share their mom.

Churches Being Closed

Many churches have been operating “illegally” and there has been a recent crack down. Of about 1450 churches in Kigali, over 700 have been closed for various reasons including not having a paved parking lot, insufficient toilet facilities, weak building structure (including tent churches) and not having at least a hectare of land. A few PTS students, and several of our staff have had their churches closed.

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Our staff have processed this with our students extremely well. They can close the building, but they cannot close the congregation! You can’t gather in that one place, but you can still have small groups and Bible studies. The pastor is still the shepherd of his flock, even if he doesn’t preach on Sunday!

More closures and more laws are in the works. They are working on a law that may require theological education for any who want to call themselves a pastor and lead a church. It’s a mixed blessing, but NCM’s model of educating and discipling pastors and church leaders might soon fulfill a government mandate! Pray for us as we mentor these pastors and church leaders, as we work out new ways of serving the congregation.

Briefs

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Nick preached a sermon on Isaiah 5 at our church.  “God is a diligent farmer who prepares, provides for, protects, AND PRUNES his vine, his people, to Produce good fruit.” Originally scheduled for March 18, he switched to March 4 to be done before the baby came. Luke came Feb 28. Good thing he was mostly prepared!

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On Feb 17, we had a ceremony to honor our graduating class from our Christian Leadership Institute of Rwanda (CLIR)!

Also, keep praying for healing for Krystal’s ankle.  The Physical Therapist is hopeful in that there is strength in the muscle (power), but the connective tissue needs to rebuild (balance).  Pray for Krystal as she limits her activities to promote healing.

As always, thanks for your prayers.

He Who Began a Good Work

Although I don’t recommend breaking your leg…in Rwanda…on safari…the first time you have a family member visit…while you are 7 months pregnant, God has showed me his goodness in many ways. We have had the great support of community gather around us and lift us up. We have had our Rwandan friends come to the hospital with us to advocate for us and sit with us, we have had a nurse from our mission advocate for us with insurance, we have had friend bring countless meals, drop in for visits and offer to drive me places so that I don’t go crazy. We have had teammates drop everything to help us with our kiddos when we have had hospital visits, x-rays and meetings. We have had workers help keep a little 2 year old and 5 year old busy playing so that they don’t go crazy. We have a church that lifts me up every week in prayer. We have had specialists consult on my case from all over the world. And we have had a God who has supplied an abundance of grace and resilience in our family and especially for me during this time. This month has been one of the hardest I’ve experienced but I can see the way God has used his good work in me to make me thankful and joyful in the midst of the hard things, exhausting and scary things.

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Some Numbers

  • 9          Days until Krystal’s cast comes off (she is counting it down to the hours!)
  • 34       Pastors attending our Pastoral Training School (PTS)
  • 3          Pastors at PTS who currently understand the Gospel (vs. works righteousness)

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    Initial report from our PTS teachers is that this is a sharp and spiritually responsive group of pastors.  Pray that they are transformed by the gospel.

  • 2          Years the Pirolos have been in Rwanda
  • 7          Weeks until our baby boy is born

Transitions

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Eric Flaa receiving the burden of directorship from Tim Brubaker

We began our year with three major transitions. First, our colleague Dan Janzen took over leadership of the Christian Leadership Institute of Rwanda, the university program at New Creation Ministries. Next, Krystal took over leadership of our WorldVenture team in Rwanda. Finally, Eric Flaa, another colleague, was elected Director of NCM. All these positions are opening up because ONE person is stepping down: Tim Brubaker. He is scheduled for a transition to ministering in America. He and his family will be missed, and he is leaving big shoes to fill. Three of us, to make one of him. Pray for us as we use this time of transition of leadership to refine programs, develop staff, and double down on discipling students.

 

Giving … Your Time

This month, we want to highlight different way you can be involved in what God is doing in Rwanda. Many of you give financially. More of you pray. Perhaps, one or two of you want to come to Rwanda! We have positions open for short-term, mid-term, and long-term workers here.

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Laura Pearce, NCM Project Manager, and Daniel Ledama, PTW Teacher 

Do you want to come work with us? Here’s a list of what where looking for:

 

The bulk of what we do is tied to discipling Rwandans at New Creation Ministries. More and more, we see the need for professionals from all walks of life to be involved in the process. If you are interested in learning more, click a link above, or shoot us an email. We pray that “the Lord of the harvest would send workers” to Rwanda.

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Eric Flaa, NCM Director and Joseph Muyombano, PTS Director

Down Time

That’s a bit of a misnomer, since Nick is doing the legwork and driving of two parents, and it takes Krystal twice as long to get anything done. However, Krystal has had to take a break from her ministry at Iranzi and Nyabisindu to heal well. Thank God the cast comes off on February 8! Nick is between classes, and has class prep time for his classes on Old Testament Theology and Missions.

Prayer Request:

  • Continue to pray for the health of Krystal and Baby –both that Krystal’s ankle would continue to heal well and that pregnancy would continue to go well.
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    Friends at Iranzi Clinic praying for Krystal, her leg, and the baby.

  • Pray for delivery of our baby here in Rwanda –for God’s perfect timing and that it would be uncomplicated
  • Pray for Nick as if takes on more responsibilities in our family and prepares for the next courses he will be teaching

We feel blessed to be in your prayers and to be involved in this good work to whichGod has called us to.

 

 

Broken

Pray for Healing

So, my mom came to visit, and treated us to a safari at Akagera Game Park. We saw the amazing sight of about 50 elephants playing in the lake and eating papyrus, an 8 foot crocodile out of the water and a leopard. And I broke my ankle.

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I wish I could say I was running from a lion or rescuing my child from a charging rhino, but no. I was walking back to the car from an outhouse.

So here I am, 29 weeks pregnant with a (probably) broken leg, on the first day of a three day visit to the game park. I’m in pain, but I also know that it’s a once in a lifetime chance to take my mom on her first safari in Africa. So what do we do? We finish the safari, of course!

I end up getting an x-ray and a cast, but the doctor says, “I would absolutely do surgery on this injury, but you’re pregnant, so we’ll just cast it.” Ummm, of course I want my baby to be safe, but I also want to heal right!

I got home with a half-plaster cast, and couldn’t climb the three stairs into my house. The cast weighed close to 30 pounds! I struggled with it for a few days and it lightened up a bit as it dried, but I continued to seek second opinions on the fracture and the best way forward.

I sent the x-ray to a second doctor here who said, “You absolutely need surgery.” But when he found out I am pregnant, he recommended a new cast.  This one is much more manageable in size, and along with crutches, I have been able to borrow a wheelchair from the clinic I work at, so I am a bit more mobile. With that said, Rwanda is by no means a wheelchair/ crutches friendly place!

I was able to get a third opinion from an orthopedic surgeon in the States. His belief is that the best course of treatment, pregnant or not, for this fracture is NOT surgery but being in a cast for 6 weeks.

As you can imagine, the thought of needing surgery while pregnant and living in the developing world was scary, and troubling, and filled with uncertainty. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a team, friends and even a husband and two little girls who have surrounded me with support, prayers and a helping hand.

You are part of my support team, and I need your help through prayer. Please pray specifically for:

  • Complete healing of my ankle
  • Pain level –because I am pregnant I am unable to take the pain medication that would normally be recommended for this type of break.
  • No complications –both with my pregnancy and with the fracture in general
  • Sanity –Currently I am non-weight bearing, and unable to drive. Also, Rwanda is not a place of convenient elevators and wheelchair accessible bathrooms or entry ways. Much of my time will be spent at home, and for an extravert like myself, this is a bit overwhelming.
  • Nick –Pray for Nick as he has to take on more responsibility with our girls and helping me while continuing his regular work.

Blessings,

Krystal

PS. As we went through a crisis moment, thinking we would need medical evacuation, and needing prayer for wisdom for the doctors and ourselves, we realized that we were ill equipped to get our prayer need out to all our prayer partners and prayer chains, using only our phones. This is a process to work on for next time, so that we can let you know sooner so that you can lift us up sooner.

Thank you for your prayers and your faithfulness.

Nick

Thankful

With Thanksgiving around the corner, we wanted to share with you our Top 5 List of things we’re thankful for these days. (Not necessarily in order of our gratitude.)

#5. Family!

The big news is we are pregnant!

 

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We are expecting a baby boy in late March.  From the 20 week ultrasound, mom and baby look healthy.

Grace and Rayna continue to bring joy to our lives.  Our family traveled to Cape Town in late September to attend a WorldVenture conference. While it interrupted school for Grace and Nick, it became a refreshing break from the hundred little things that had been wearing on each of us. After the conference, we stayed a few more days to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. Both of us grew up on the beach (San Diego and Port Townsend), so it filled us up, seeing our daughters play in the sand and waves.

Finally, our parents are visiting! We are excited to host Krystal’s mom in December, and Nick’s mom in March.

#4. Church!

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Grace and Rayna in Sunday School

In October, we were invited by several friends to attend a young Kinyarwanda church called Gospel Community Church. This church understands the Gospel, has sound theology, and is excited for outreach, evangelism, and missions. Krystal has begun attending a cell group on Tuesday nights (while Nick keeps an eye on the girls). This is a church where we feel fed, and we believe this church will play a strategic role in the future of discipleship in Rwanda. It is a joy to be part of a healthy church!

#3. Ministry!

We are so thankful for the meaningful work God has us in and the people we serve.

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CLIR Students

I (Nick) successfully finished a term teaching Systematic Theology, and then a term teaching Teaching and Educational Ministries at New Creation Ministries. Some of my students have far reaching influence in Rwanda, and are now better equipped to teach the truth of God’s word.

Krystal has a new title at Iranzi: Mentor to Midwives. She continues her work at the prenatal outreach clinic, and has taken a more intentional step toward observing and coaching the Rwandan staff.

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Krystal teaching a group of midwives about labor support

#2. Matching Grant!

Our hearts fill with gratitude knowing that, for the second year in a row, a donor has offered to match all new sponsorships of pastors in our Pastoral Training School (PTS) made by December 31! After the pastors pay their $80 annual school tuition, there remains about $1800 per student to fund their education and discipleship. While that is only $150 per month, with 35 pastors expected to begin in January, that is more than we can bear alone.   This matching grant makes it easier for new sponsors to give.

If you are interested in more information, a brochure is linked below. And the sponsorship link below that. Every dollar helps! Krystal and I are so excited about this, we have already committed to sponsor a portion of a pastor’s training.

Pastoral Sponsorship Information

Pastoral Sponsorship Donation

#1. YOU!

We’ve often quoted Philippians 1:3-5 to you: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”   And it is true. We are thankful for each of you who has given your time, prayers, and finances, to see the gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom of God, spread throughout Rwanda. You are PARTNERS with us, we are yoked together. We rise or fall together, but by God’s grace, we are rising, and we hearing God’s name glorified in the nations. Krystal and I are so thankful for you and we couldn’t be here or do what we do without you.img_5189

There you have it, our top 5 things we are thankful for this year. What are you thankful for? Let us know in the comments below.

Bringing Peace and Joy to the Fearful

Over the past year and a half of being in Rwanda, my heart, emotions and understanding of God’s sovereignty have been deeply challenged. Caring for pregnant moms at the Nyabisindu outreach clinic has brought me face to face with profound suffering.

A typical mom we serve is very, very poor. She is probably unemployed, though she would jump at the opportunity to have a job. Her husband may have left her after she became pregnant. She has likely experienced violence from partners, family members or neighbors and it is possible that her pregnancy is one result. Though she may not want additional children, her partner’s control or her church’s theology leave her with little to no say in the matter. She might be HIV positive – from birth, from her husband’s infidelity or from using prostitution as a way to feed her other children. She knows little to nothing about childbirth and is reliant on the, often incorrect and sometimes harmful, advice of the abakecuru (old women) in her community. It is likely that she has already lost a child.

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One of our midwives visiting a mom in the hospital 

These are the moms I get to walk with. I see them on a monthly, biweekly or weekly basis throughout their pregnancy. They tell me their stories, shed tears with me at their sorrows and ask me their questions. I get to feel their babies’ positions, listen to their babies’ heartbeats and send them for a twenty week ultrasound to see their unborn child. I get to pray for them when they experience heartache or prepare for delivery. And I see their pain and suffering. I have measured the tummy of moms who have died in the hospital. Sometimes, the very baby I have felt arakina (playing) in their mommy’s tummy has died during pregnancy, labor or after delivery.

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Low-risk moms are able to come to Iranzi clinic to deliver. Iranzi, the Kinyarwanda word for “He knows me,” is a midwife-led birth center where Nyabisindu moms have access to holistic, evidence-based labor, delivery and postpartum care. I have worked in other hospitals and clinics in Rwanda and I can safely say that Iranzi is one of a kind!

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Iranzi midwives teaching nurses and midwives a neonate resuscitation course at a district hospital

When a woman comes in to deliver, her husband or family is allowed to stay by her side. The woman has access to a bed with sheets and blankets, a birthing ball, stool, flushing toilet and warm shower. Our staff of Rwandan midwives and nurses have all been trained in Helping Babies Breath, Helping Moms Survive, CPR, and Neonatal Resuscitation, courses that few hospital nurses in Rwanda have taken. They provide labor support by assessing fetal heart tones, giving the mom food and drink, helping her with natural pain control methods and placing pressure on her back. They sing to the women and pray with and for them. If a mom or baby is transferred from Iranzi to a hospital, a nurse or midwife will visit them throughout their stay. After delivery, moms have access to postnatal care for themselves and their babies and, if they are high risk post-partum, will often receive a home visit from one of our nurses or midwives.

One of the most important and beautiful parts of Nyabisindu and Iranzi is that the women are known, not just by God, but by us. We know each woman’s history, family and income situation. We have cried and prayed with her. We have taught her about breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, the dangers of inducing labor with traditional medicine, warning signs in pregnancy, normal signs of labor, fetal kick counts, infant and child safety, family planning and normal newborn care. As we serve them, these women come to know and trust us.

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Since Grace is on vacation, she got to go with Mom to work.

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This woman let Grace listen to her baby boy’s heart beat.

One of the women we have been seeing regularly is Epifani (not her real name). She is close to delivery of her third pregnancy. Unfortunately, Epifani has no living children. With her first pregnancy, she arrived at the hospital full term, expecting to deliver a healthy baby. Her child was moving and had good fetal heart tones on admission, but by the time she delivered the baby was stillborn. The second time she again arrived at the hospital full term and this time delivered a live baby. However, two days later while still in the hospital, her second child died. The only explanation she had for the deaths of her babies was fetal exhaustion. Now she is full term awaiting the delivery of her third child. So far, she seems to have had a healthy pregnancy, but every time I see her, I think of the fear she must have surrounding the delivery of this child. And every time I see her, I pray for her and her child.

It may not seem like much to someone who is used to state of the art equipment, resources, doctors and training. Yet I am blessed to know that God sees this mom and her heartbreak and that my prayers make a difference. When I pray against fear and intercede for the life and health of this child, our powerful God hears me.

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First time mama who I saw during her pregnancy.  During a prenatal visit she told me that she had just watched her friend die in the hospital delivering her first child.  Obviously, she had a lot of fear surrounding her own delivery.  It was such a blessing to pray with her every time I saw her and get to see that she had a good delivery with Iranzi midwives and now has a beautiful healthy baby. 

This is just a glimpse of what I get to do. There are many stories I could tell here – some amazing and many sad. But what a blessing to be a part of something so beautiful for God’s glory.

T-minus < 5 weeks!

It is with great trepidation that I report that I am actively writing lesson plans! My first university level class as a teacher begins April 18. I’m teaching what is usually Theology 101: God, the Bible, and Revelation. Who is God and how does/has he communicated with us?

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While this class was taught before, it had 4 different teachers. I’ve playfully called it “The Cursed Class” because each time someone started teaching the class, they were unable to finish. (Except the last one, who taught the last four weeks.) Accordingly, there is a rough outline, but I’m creating a great deal from scratch. And I’m loving it!

I love doing the research, thinking deeply about these topics again, from the perspective of our students this time. I love the inspiration that leads to the perfect illustration or class project. It’s cool, but I’m afraid I’m going to run out of time. Your prayers for me are appreciated.

Pray also for the students at CLIR. They are in an intensive month of General Science (year 1) or Greek (year 3 students). We also have a teacher offering a Hebrew Elective this semester!

Preaching

Thanks for your prayers for my preaching.  It went surprisingly well. My method was a bit cheating, but the right move for my current language ability and the next steps I need to take. I wrote my lesson in English, and had a bilingual pastor translate it. Then I read through his translation, underlining things he did that I didn’t understand. Next, we worked through the translation together to figure out why he said things certain ways, and to correct the two or three places that he either didn’t understand my English and translated inaccurate theology. Finally, I read through my manuscript in Kinyarwanda and discovered that I had created a 75 minute beast! I am not physically able to speak in Kinyarwanda for that long. Even practicing, my throat got sore.

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So on March 5, I preached the first 45 minutes, and I will finish on March 19. (Pray for me again!) Of course, I read my manuscript, so I could focus on pronunciation, and because I’m still quite a beginner at this.

My American colleagues were impressed by what I was able to do, and excited for the beginning of this part of my ministry in Rwanda. My Rwandan friend said, “I understood what you said 100% … But I wonder if you understood yourself 100%.” I laughed, and agreed that I understood about 75%.

Sickness

February/March has been a tough one for our family. Among us we had four amoebas, and little Rayna had to take harsh antibiotics while she had painful mouth ulcers from a completely different virus. Krystal didn’t hear me preach because she was home with Grace, who had thrown up twice that morning from another sickness.

The evidence of God’s grace, is that after all this, and even through it all, we are still doing well, feeling encouraged, and excited for our ministry.

New Team Members

Our team has two new members. Corey Trick has joined our team in a State-side support role, helping to promote NCM. He lives in Minnesota and is using his “extra time” to help us! Laura Pearce has finished her support-raising and will be arriving in Rwanda next Thursday to help coordinate special projects and administrative tasks. Pray for our team to function well together, with injection of new ideas and contribution of more hands.

Family

I am amazed at how quickly they are growing up!

IMG_6470Rayna blows kisses and says “bye” to us. This late walker is a quick one and is out the door and down the driveway before we know she’s gone.

IMG_6544Grace is getting tall. She can reach the tap to wash her hands at all the sinks in the house without a step stool. She loves playing outside, swimming, playing with friends and doing art projects. It has been fun to host some of her Rwandan classmates at our house for play dates.

IMG_6394We are blessed that our daughters love each other so much and find many ways to play together despite the 3.5 year gap.

IMG_6436Krystal is staying busy with our girls, recovering from sickness, working at an outreach clinic in in the slums doing prenatal assessments and teaching and practicing Kinyarwanda.

Thanks for your continued support of this ministry.

Specific Prayer Requests

  • Nick’s preparation for his first course in CLIR (the university program at NCM)
  • Nick’s next preaching IN KINYARWANDA
  • Continued healing and protection from sickness
  • Kinyarwanda study
  • Krystal’s ministry with the mom’s in Nyabisindu