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.

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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

 

One Year in!

ONE YEAR!  It is hard to believe, but we have been serving the Lord in Rwanda for one year, as of January 21. We are filled with such joy and gratitude that God has chosen us for this purpose, that he connected us with each of you to send us and partner with us in His work in Rwanda, that he saw us through tough times, and that we have seen signs of thriving.

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January 2016

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January 2017, 5th birthday party for Peace

Iranzi Clinic Training

Krystal is participating in staff training at the Iranzi (God knows me) Clinic for three weeks this month. This clinic aims to serve as the birthing center for the poor women in nearby Nyabasindu, where Krystal has served at pre- and post-natal clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These women now have a safe place to give birth!

img_5925One story from the training: Iranzi Clinic has a policy that patients will be discharged home 8-12 hours after delivery and will have a home visit the following day. (This is part of the philosophy of midwifery.) If they haven’t paid, they will not be held captive at the clinic until they pay, a common practice at hospitals and clinics here in Rwanda where a patient can be held for weeks or months adding to a debt that they already cannot pay. As our new team discussed that we will not be holding captive moms who cannot pay, most of the Rwandans began to protest! “But if they don’t pay, they shouldn’t leave! If they don’t pay before they go, they will never pay and they will go home and tell their friends to come to this clinic because they can receive free care.” The new staff feared that they would lose their jobs because the business would fail if people were discharged without paying.

dsc_0371Something that is very different about Iranzi is the that it practices care within the context of relationship. All of the women who come to the clinic for delivery will be part of a midwifery/nurse team. They will have been seen several times prenatally at Nyabasindu’s outreach clinic before they deliver. Each midwife and nurse that is apart of their team will know them, their social situation, their birth history and will have been praying with them along the way. This is a completely revolutionary way of practicing maternal/baby care in Rwanda!

Continue to pray for Krystal as she interacts with many strong personalities all day. This has been exhausting emotionally and physically. Meanwhile, she isn’t getting as much time with our girls, or any time to study Kinyarwanda, or time to exercise, or much time for devotions. Important things and activities that feed her soul are on hold for these intense training weeks.

Pray also that we can establish a reasonable new normal after the training.

Language Helper

Philemon got another job! After working with us for 11 months, our language helper let us know that he was hired into a ministry position discipling Sunday school teachers. It is an answer to prayer for him and for us as we prayed for his future in ministry.

img_3769Now, we need another helper, part time. We have several leads, but we need wisdom choosing a new helper. Even as we begin more ministry, we need to keep studying the language or else it will slip away from us.

Matching Funds

Through our GoFundMe account along with email and Facebook campaigns to raise awareness, we received $11,400 in matching funds! Praise God for bringing in so many to partner with us, and praise God for the anonymous matching donor who shared of his abundance. This funding allows poor, rural pastors to receive training at our Pastoral Training School.  If you would like to sponsor any of them, here’s the link.

ncm-pts-2016Keep praying for these pastors.  Many struggle as we undo years of false doctrine and help them to study the Bible for truth.

Family

img_5928Girls keep growing up!

img_5841Rayna is walking on her own and has been cutting molars! She loves to drink amata (milk) out of a straw cup like her big sister. Crazy girl loves to smile, wave and blow kisses; she LOVES being tickled. Saturday, she even said, “Hi. Da.”

img_5761Grace loves school, visiting our neighbors, and coloring with Mom. One year ago, she was terrified of trampolines and swings. Now, our brave girl jumps from a chair to her swing. She’s going FAST on her balance bike. If we could find a safe, flat road, we’d start teaching her to ride a pedal bike (unfortunately for her and us this is the land of a thousand hills and driving here is chaotic to say the least).

Thank you for your continued prayers for us and for Rwanda.

Helping the People

Thanks for your prayers for my family while I was away from Rwanda. Being in Naples was exciting, educational (both for the conference and tour of Pompeii), and restful. But it was also hard to be away from my girls for seven days. Not as hard as it was on Krystal for me to be away for seven days, though.   We all made it through.20161019_170400

 

Conference

Though I studied to be a teacher, it was excellent to refresh my education in the context of theological education. I enjoyed the camaraderie and networking opportunities allowed by meeting other theological educators who work in formal (seminaries) and informal settings (non-degree or church programs). Because New Creation Ministries has programs in both realms, what I learned will be especially helpful.

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New Creation Ministries

In our undergraduate program (CLIR), we are on the last term of the second year, with classes “Teaching Jesus” and “Missions.” In January, God willing, we will start another cohort into Year 1 courses. Pray with us for the right 25-35 new students.

The first year students in our Pastor Training School (PTS) have just begun “False Teachings” and “Intro to the Bible.” Pray for all our students to be transformed by what they learn in the classroom, that they would come to know Christ better, and be better equipped to lead their flock. 20161026_145625

Matching Donations!

We have just received word of a matching donations grant. We have a pastor sponsorship program for the pastors and church leaders in PTS. From now through December, any new sponsorships (full or partial) will be matched, up to $16,000. Click here to learn more about this program. Currently, our budget is heavily dependent on missionary teachers. As we find highly skilled Rwandan teacher/ theologian/ discipler/ pastors we like to bring them onto our teaching team. These sponsorships enable us to realize the dream of Rwandans trained to teach and disciple Rwandans. Click here to see the brochure. Here to give through WorldVenture.  Here to participate through our GoFundMe page.

Drought!

After an unusually long dry season, we are having an unusually hot and dry “rainy” season. I have heard reports of dead grass and dying cattle in the eastern province. Farmers near the city watch their crops wither in the heat. Additionally, the price of staples (plantains, potatoes, beans) has been increasing in the city. In the village, families go to the market and find no food to buy. Pray with us for rain to sustain Rwandans.

Grace and Rayna

Pray for Grace. We have her on various medications to help her kick a lingering cough that might also be allergies that might also be asthma. Pray with us that she recovers completely.

Pray for Rayna. She has four full teeth, but is cutting three more. She is so sad and is having trouble sleeping.

Finances

Pray for our finances. While we left for Rwanda with commitments to cover 102% of our monthly support, some of our supporters have lost jobs and can no longer participate in this way. Pray about becoming a financial partner with us. Click here to join.

We are grateful for each of you for your prayers and sacrificial giving.

Blessings,

Nick, Krystal, Grace and Rayna

Krystal’s Clinical

This has been a month of opportunity for me…

Language

If you ask anyone learning a new language, a huge part of your success relies on your ability to practice. In Rwanda, almost everyone speaks Kinyarwanda but in Kigali, the city we live in, many people are also able to speak English and expect that anyone with white skin will only speak English or French. Often, when I try to struggle through practicing with them they slightly offendedly ask me to speak English. Ouch.

Additionally, because I have a baby and 4 year old, much of my interaction with Rwandans have been limited:

  • Conversations with workers
  • Going to the market, where there is chaos and I become protective
  • Driving (don’t even get me started on driving here)
  • Church, a 4-hour service with no Sunday school or children’s program so I am often the defacto Sunday school teacher because after about an hour in a half (when the worship songs end) all the kids in the service follow me outside to play games, color and read.

Unfortunately, many of these encounters have been frustrating up to now, and didn’t provide much room to practice, making it difficult for me to connect with Rwandans and grow in my compassion and love for them, or in my ability to speak Kinyarwanda.

When we first arrived in Rwanda, I followed the expectation not to jump right into ministry in an effort to spend dedicated time learning language. These last eight months have been great and I feel extremely blessed that I have had an opportunity to learn more language than most expats here. However, I was really struggling with finding ways to practice language.   I decided to try volunteering at a clinic in a very poor part of Kigali both to maintain my nursing skills and license and also to practice language speaking. What an unbelievable blessing for me this has been!

Nyabasindu Clinic: Prenatal

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Nyabasindu Town within Kigali

The clinic meets twice a week in a large tent with benches, which serves as a church plant on Sundays is twice a week.

On Tuesdays, anywhere between 30-60 pregnant mommas arrive for prenatal checks and teaching. I have the privilege of working with an amazing missionary midwife and several Rwandan midwives and volunteers.   The women come for a prenatal check, something that they otherwise would not receive or would receive on a very limited basis.

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Pregnant mommas waiting to be seen.  The “intenge” fabric hanging creates two exam rooms.

One of the first moms we saw that day was 37 weeks pregnant, had a 2 year old at home, and was living with her mom; the father of the baby had left her after she got pregnant. She didn’t have a job, and when asked what she was eating, she couldn’t remember if she had last eaten the morning before or the day before that. To top it off, she was without the government-sponsored health insurance. While insurance isn’t very expensive, about $5 a year, the poorest can’t afford it. Without it a pregnant woman would either be turned away or end up owing the clinic or hospital $25-$250, based on stories I’ve heard; that’s obviously more than she would ever be able to pay back. This particular momma seemed so hopeless. The clinic was able to provide the funds needed for her to get health insurance before her delivery.

Our following mommas included patients with HIV and painful scaring effects of medication on her body, first time mommas who were eager to hold their little ones in their arms and a momma that had a huge abdominal tumor that displaced her uterus.

Postpartum

On Thursday, I have the blessing of participating in a postpartum clinic where I get to weigh babies, do an initial assessment on them. These momma’s receive teaching on anything from the importance of breastfeeding (It is common for moms to give their babies cow milk mixed with water), safety from outdoor cooking fires, and family planning among other things. During this clinic I am exposed to so much culture. Several of the mommas still take their babies to Abafundu (traditional healers) for things like fevers and rashes, but also concern that someone has cursed their baby. One little girl had a large glob of tar knotted on the center of her forehead because her mom had taken her to the Umufundu (traditional healer) because she was concerned about the soft spot on her baby’s head, a normal and necessary part of baby physiology. The mother had spent 7,000 Rwandan Francs on the traditional healer, more than the cost of a year of health insurance.

We had another very sick child come that had eight areas of scaring on her abdomen and back where an Umufundu had cut three lines and rubbed “medicine” into the cuts. The baby was 4 weeks old when it happened. Traditional healers are also known to dig out teeth from babies who have swollen gums. With cases such as these we are able to do major teaching with parents about what is normal, when to get medical help and why taking a child to the Umufundu can be dangerous. Almost all of these women consider themselves Christians but you can see how ingrained the culture of superstitions and traditional religion is.

Click here for more stories.

Reaping Blessings

img_3961I feel extremely honored and blessed to be able to participate in this ministry here. It has been such a blessing to sit with desperate moms and meet a very physical need for them as well as their emotional and spiritual needs. While many of these cases are hard and painful, I feel blessed to be able to work alongside this team doing the ministry and be present with and use my gifts for these women. These encounters have helped me to have much more compassion for and connection with Rwandans.

Additionally, it is dramatically improving my language, since most of those women cannot speak English. Because I have started to go regularly I have begun to build relationships with them and remember their names and situations. I can tell them I have been praying for them and they feel comfortable correcting my Kinyarwanda.

I had to laugh during the last prenatal clinic because I kept adding an extra couple letters to blood pressure (umuvutuko w’amaraso). Soon every woman in the tent knew I struggled with that phrase and would get a huge grin on their face right before I was going to say it to see if they would have an opportunity to correct me. It became a fun joke that brought joy to the long hot day. While I have a long way to go with language, I have also received many complements from the translators at the clinic. This little encouragement has brought me new confidence and drive to learn and improve. Apparently, they are impressed with my knowledge and pronunciation, even if our language tutor does still continually correct me.

Nick’s Travels

Please pray for me this week.  Nick is traveling out of the country for a Theological Educators Conference Saturday night through Saturday night (Oct 15-22).  Pray that Nick makes great connections with his peers and that he comes home with good ways to improve the ministry here.  Pray for our girls to stay healthy; many of their friends and our visitors have been sick.

Family Victory

We are overjoyed to note that we have successfully moved Rayna to her own room, and she has slept trough the night for two nights now.  Pray that that continues, especially while Nick is on his trip.

Business

We are preparing to send an end of year letter.  Take a moment to make sure we have your new mailing address.  Click the “update” link on the email I sent you.

Also, consider this ministry for any year end giving you are planning.  Better yet, commit to supporting this ministry regularly by signing up for monthly giving, or annual giving.  Click here.

Finding Home and Rhythms

As always we appreciate your partnership in this ministry to Rwanda. We are well aware that we could not have gotten here without your support, and we won’t stay here without your continued involvement.

Language

In many ways we feel like we have turned a corner in language. We have been in Rwanda for 7 months and have studied Kinyarwanda for 6 months. Many missionaries don’t try because they have a different ministry philosophy, or they are short term. Others stop at 3 months or 6 months of study, and this we can understand. The needs for ministry in Rwanda are great and this could be comfortable plateau.

We are able to express basic needs and ideas. Yet we know we have so far to go. For us Kinyarwanda is easier to speak than hear and basic sentences must be simplified and repeated multiple times. Sometimes we feel like the most common things we say are, “Bisubiremo” (repeat) and “buhoro, buhoro” (slowly, slowly). The biggest growth point in language now is that we need to build our vocabulary and understanding of grammar, and of course, practice.

We believe it is such a gift that WorldVenture and our team give us this opportunity to invest in ourselves as missionaries and the people of Rwanda by learning the language well. For us it is such a blessing to speak Kinyarwanda to an unsuspecting Rwandan and have them light-up with surprise and joy that “tuzi ikinyarwanda!?!?” (We know Kinyarwanda!?!?). They are even more amazed when Grace greets them or responds to them in Kinyarwanda.

Krystal and I continue to study together and bring different strengths to learning. Because we are here for the long haul, our primary role right now is to be a learner of language and culture. Even still, pray that we would make use of opportunities to point people to Christ.

Kumbya

We enjoyed a refreshing time at Kumbya, the annual missionary family camp/conference held on Lake Kivu. Grace made some good friends and Rayna stole some hearts. For our part, we survived tent camping with two young kids in Africa. We were blessed by the ministry of a short-term team from Canada who ran a Vacation Bible School for our kids and brought a phenomenal plenary speaker who taught on the 12 apostles.

Our Home

About a week before Kumbya, our pre-move-in home repairs were completed and we finally moved in to our “permanent” home. It has been a long time since we felt truly in a home of our own. Since arriving in Rwanda, we have moved/travelled at least six times, but with this last one, we were finally able to unpack pictures and frames and put them up, organize our kitchen and office and create places of study and play. Our favorite part of the house is the outdoor area where we spend most of our language lessons, something we could have never done in the cool Pacific Northwest.

Since we are making Rwanda our home, we are so grateful to have a house that can be a home our girls grow up in.

Our Family

This past month, Rayna (now almost 10 months) began to crawl. She is a slow crawler, unless you leave a dirty shoe within ten feet of her. Then she loves to crawl over and try to chew it before you notice. And this past week she has begun to cruise. Rayna chooses the darnest times to cut teeth! Her first two were at the conference in Kenya. Her second two started while camping in at Kumbya! She is quite uncomfortable with them, still, especially at night. [Pray for good sleep!] But in the day, she continues to be our joyful, sweet girl.

Grace (4 years) recently began Pre-Kites at Kigali International Community School, and she LOVES school. Today she announced that she could count to 100 (She got up to forty-eight, forty-nine, forty-twenty, forty-twenty-one.) She participates in a kids’ choir, and has taken to singing to herself while she colors.

Please continue to pray for Grace as she still very much misses Washington and her cousin Hayden. We have seen Grace’s character grow tremendously since arriving in Rwanda and see so many beautiful aspects of her life here but it is hard to see her deeply mourn over the loss of her home and family.

Krystal had an opportunity to meet with 6 other immigrant nurses to collaborate on ways to practice nursing in Rwanda. This month she also plans to begin regularly volunteering at the Nyabisindu Clinic. This clinic is set up in a very poor area of the city and ministers to mothers and babies by providing prenatal and postnatal care to families who have little to no resources for healthcare or education.

Nick has been excited to participate in staff meetings at New Creation Ministries, and to get to know his Rwandan counterparts. God willing, these are the ones we will serve with for many years to come. They have a staff retreat September 9-11. Pray that good friendships are forged in that meeting, and pray for Krystal as she has our kids alone for a weekend. Finally, Nick is ecstatic to see that he is on the schedule to teach his first class in April of next year, one year and three months after we arrived. Fortunately, this will be in the college and taught in English.

Internet

We have been experiencing excruciatingly slow internet most of the time for the last three months. Given 8 hours of mostly focused work, we were able to update our computers. If we are slow to respond to emails, or still haven’t added you to the email updates, it is because we have a hard time managing such things well from our phones and our computers are hard to connect to the internet. Pray that a better solution becomes available, inexpensively, soon. We may change the format of our updates to account for these realities in the field.

Once again, thank you for your continued prayer and financial support that allows us to build God’s kingdom in Rwanda.

Blessings,

Nick, Krystal, Grace and Rayna