Thank you, all, for your prayers on our behalf.
They say with raising children, “The days are long but the years are short.” We are feeling that as we raise our beautiful girls in the midst of orienting ourselves to culture in Rwanda and spending a sizeable portion of each day on language learning.
East Africa Spiritual Life Conference
For a week in early April, our team joined other World Venture missionaries from Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya for this conference in Mombasa, Kenya. We had a great time of prayer and spiritual rejuvenation with a preaching team from Denver Community Church, and the 3-12 year olds had a special team come out from Peoria to run a Vacation Bible School.
One highlight for us adults was the “first termer’s” debrief. We connected with about 8 other families who were in their first term as missionaries in Africa. We rejoiced that others understood our struggles from personal experience, and we heard stories of rejection, disappointment, fear and loss as well as joy, friendship, and “baby step” successes that illustrate the path that is before us in this first term.
Building Relationships in a Climate of Distrust
In a conversation with an embassy employee, he said, “I’ve lived in 7 different countries and always make it a point to hang out with nationals. And I’ve made life long friendships in every country…except Rwanda.” An Asian professional who has lived in 9 countries said, “More than any other country, I am amazed at how little trust there is in Rwanda between people.” A missionary veteran, “Even the Rwandans know that this systemic distrust of others, even in marriage, is a stronghold; it is a harmful aspect of their culture.” We have heard this confirmed by several Rwandans.
It can be daunting to think of this climate of so much distrust and think about building relationships and doing ministry. As we serve in this context, pray that we meet the right people, leaders able to be change agents who point Rwandans to Christ and the power of his resurrection.
Season of Good-byes
This month we say goodbye to two teammate families. The Janzens are “visiting” the US for a year of “home assignment.” We are thankful it will only be a year without them, a much bigger sting for us is that on July 5th we will say goodbye to another family from our team, the Scheers. This family, who put Rwanda on our radar 6 years ago and hosted us in this country 5 years ago, has served in Rwanda since 1979. They were instrumental in starting New Creation Ministries. And now they are moving back to the US and retiring from full-time missionary service. Many in Rwanda will mourn the loss of the Scheers, their understanding of the culture and language, their experience as teachers and missionaries, their friendship and proximity. We will miss them as neighbors, mentors, and friends. In the classroom, Gary has left big shoes to fill.
We have been here for four months! Other long termers have noted that the 4-6 months is usually the most difficult. These last 6 weeks have indeed been hard:
Returning from Mombasa, Grace developed full body hives, which recurred 3 days later, worse, while on antihistamines.
After 6 doctor visits and a blood draw allergy test, we still conjecture Grace has and allergy to some form of mango and/or pineapple products.
We determined that we will need to do a skin allergy test in either Kenya or South Africa to determine the true cause.
Also, we caught “the Africa Cold,” as a family and as a team. Several team mates’ kids were sick, Grace got sick, passed it to me and Rayna, and then Krystal. Grace got the worst of it, in bed for four days with a fever and body aches. Rayna, thankfully, was only mildly feverish for two days. Even three weeks later, we all have the signature lingering cough.
Noella and Shadow
Since our last update we have added a second dogs to our household. We are quite pleased with our dogs. Noella has turned out to be a good mouser, killing two rats and a mole/shrew in the last three months. And two mice in the kitchen this week.
We got a second dog, initially named Lovey, but we renamed her Shadow. Shadow isn’t a barker, but she does bark at things that climb over the wall! Shadow is a great name for her, because she is always underfoot. Another curiosity, in Kinyarwanda, Shadow is igicucu (iggy-chewchew); but igicucu (iggy-choochoo) means idiot.
This week we were blessed to host our friend from Colorado and fellow East Africa missionary, Melissa. She has been serving at a Christian school in Gulu, Uganda, for several years, the last two as its director. Since she is one of the few missionaries to be “sent” by Scum of the Earth Church, our church in Denver, we decided to call this reunion our East Africa Scum Missionary Conference.
This weekend, while Melissa climbs an active volcano, our family gets to travel to the south west corner of Rwanda to visit the home of our language helper, Philemon. We are excited to take this step in friendship with him, see places special to him, meet and stay with his family, and to preach at his brother’s church. I will preach in English, and Philemon will preach in Kinyarwanda. Pray that the message of the Gospel will reach and transform lives. Pray also that our children will stay healthy and enjoy visiting, “Philemon’s world.”
Stay tuned, as Krystal soon shares about several opportunities she has had to practice nursing here.
Thank you for your continued prayer and financial support!