Christ is Risen!
Thank you for your continued prayers for us. We have had a busy two months, and it won’t let up until mid-April.
This is our primary job right now. We have a language tutor, Philemon, come to our house every weekday for two hours to work with us. Then, we take what we have learned and apply it, in our neighborhood, on walks, at church and in the market. It can be super empowering to actually have a conversation with a Rwandan. The look on their faces is priceless when we speak Kinyarwanda to a stranger. They are amazed, and so eager to help us learn more. Although, most of the time, their help is unintelligible because our vocabulary is still meager.
We have set down roots in a Rwandan Church. The service is 98% in Kinyarwanda, and every so often, they sing a song in both Kinyarwanda and English. Sometimes a helpful Rwandan will sit next to us and translate the sermon, but most of the time it is us trying to catch words that we know. However, every now and then, during worship, we catch enough to enter in to worship with our Rwandan brothers and sisters and feel our souls restored, and we begin to feel at home. The church service is about 4 hours long and has not children’s church, if kids come to church they are expected to sit quietly through the service. About two to three hours into the church service Grace and Krystal migrate outside with the other children and color or play games.
Meanwhile, we are listening to podcasts of sermons to get fed.
We were staying in the house of our friends, Greg and Tori Finley. When they came back to Rwanda, it was to say good-bye and sell their things. This was a hard good-bye for us, as we had really connected with them in the US and when we visited Rwanda four years ago.
When they returned, we moved in with Gary and Barbara Bennett. We ended up staying with them for three weeks because after the Finleys left, we had walls recemented and repainted (a repair is needed about every four years here). What a bittersweet time of saying goodbye, and living in community with some of the sweetest people. We are blessed to join the Bennetts on this team ministering in Rwanda.
While we were there, they had a team from Fargo, ND, come and help build desks and chairs for our second CLIR classroom. The workshop was in the Bennetts’ yard, so we did language study with lots of background noise, but also got to know this sweet team so much better.
Through it all, our team has been very supportive and encouraging. We’ve surprised them with our resilience and independence.
This week I (Nick) am attending the Shepherd Leadership Conference, a pastor’s conference sponsored by New Creation Ministries. On Saturday, we fly to Kenya for World Venture’s East Africa Spiritual Life Conference, an every three year event. None of this is impossibly hard, and Kenya promises to be quite fun, but life is very draining. Pray for health and safe travels.
Our colleague, Gary Scheer, a 30+ year missionary in Rwanda, has been meeting with a few of us to give us insights into Rwandan culture. He has said, “In Rwanda, some things look different, and some things look the same, but actually EVERYTHING is different.” How families work, what friendship looks like, expectations of employers and employees, hopes for life, everything. Because everything is different, normal daily activities take so much more energy.
One interesting part of culture, people offer hospitality by coming to visit you rather than inviting you into their home. You never know when a visitor will show up.
In the market, it is not unusual for a complete stranger to grab Grace and give her a hug. Everyone wants to touch her beautiful blonde hair. God blessed us with a resilient kid. Even though she is shy of this attention at first, as we establish proper boundaries with these strangers, and as we interact with her and Rwandans, she opens up and is able to interact.
We were blessed to find an affordable preschool for Grace to learn while we focus on language study. She learns to read, write, count and play in a multi-cultural environment from Kenyan teachers. They have a snack time and serve lunch before we pick her up. Every day, her teachers write two or three sentences in a little book to let us know how Grace is doing.
After a month of school, Grace came to us and said, “Can I bring a snack to school?” “No. They give you a snack.” “But all the other kids bring snack from home.” “Not today, but I’ll talk to your teacher,” we conceded. Apparently, snack time is optional, and only if parents provide snacks for their own kids. The teachers told us that with many classes only a few kids have snacks, but in this class we are the ONLY family who does not send a snack. Her teacher informed us, “All the other kids have snacks, so I tell Grace to go to her backpack and drink from her water bottle so she will not feel sad. But sometimes even her bottle is empty of water. If you could even send a carrot, she would be happy.” Yes, we moved to Africa, and OUR kid is the one without food and water. The irony is not lost on us.
In the last month, she has taken leaps developmentally, meeting some of the usual milestones we look for. She loves to be talked to and she babbles back. She laughs when Grace sings to her and when she can kick the mosquito net. She is pushing down with her legs, responds to her name. And in the last few days she has started purposefully grabbing things and rolling from back-to-front. We thought that Grace was an easy baby, and feel extremely blessed God gave us another one. She has been so flexible, and doesn’t mind others holding her; since women love to pass her around at church. The only draw back is that it has been super hot and that full head of hair has been like a winter hat on her head.
We adopted a dog! A family leaving for the US gave us their dog. They got her on Christmas and named her Noella. We got her on Easter and named her Anesti.
Again, we are blessed to have you as part of our sustaining team. We are blessed by your sacrifices of prayer and finances to enable our work here.