Like the Rainbow Before the Storm

 

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Fred cuts our grass during rainy season.  His “weed wacker” is not as scary as it looks.  It is not an unguarded skills blade.  Rather what looks like a blade is just a sprocket with two razor blades on hinges on the outside. 

Rainy season means the grass and crops grow, that roads (usually congested with motorcycle taxis) are a bit easier to navigate, and we exchange dust for mold as the seasonal allergen.

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Every covered parking lot, bus stop, gas station and awning fills up with these poor motorcycle taxi drivers when the rain starts.

But it was amazing to be reminded recently of God’s grace with a rainbow before it started raining.

Now on a day with rain, put your back to the sun and look for the rainbow ahead of you.  Is there a logical reason that you MUST see the rainbow AFTER the storm and not before? It’s about weather patterns and prevailing winds.  And sometimes it is about expectations and observation.

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In Rwanda, because of experience and expectation, there is an idiom, “like the rainbow before the storm.”

In the story of Noah, there had not been a rainbow before.  When the rain fell for 40 days, still no mention of a rainbow.  Then toward the end of the story, the first rainbow is finally mentioned:

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  (Genesis 9:12-16)

A sign in the clouds as a reminder that God will not destroy all life.

As a boy, I imagined the horror of the first rainstorm after the flood.  I wonder if rain brought PTSD.  What did they think?  “Will God remember his promise?” Perhaps, though, the rainbow came before the storm, to give confidence before the triggers.  Instead of a reminder after a trial that God keeps his promises, perhaps it came as a reminder before the trial, to trust God with what is ahead and to watch what God will do.

Even as we read the prophets, God says, watch and see what I will do.

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In my life, too, we faced what seemed impossible obstacles: raising money to come to Rwanda, every year having a budget shortfall at NCM, lacking teachers and administrators for CLIR, needing expert help.  And through prayer, God has given us opportunity to hear the promise of his faithfulness before we see the fruit of his faithfulness.  The promise, the rainbow, comes before the storm.  And you will see it, if you look for it.

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In your journey, have you more often seen God’s rainbow before or after the storm?

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.

Busy

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.

Language

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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.

Church

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.

Team

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.

IMG_1472When 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.

Culture

IMG_0743Our 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.

Grace

IMG_0010In 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.

Rayna

20160315_141257_resizedIn 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.

Noella Anesti

10549981_10204205340189941_6531066651760752849_oWe 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.

 

 

Learning to Pray

About one year ago, I began Experiencing God, a Bible study that trains Christians to become aware of what God is doing and to participate with him. While it was a 12-week study, it was cheesecake: too rich to eat in one sitting.

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a writer, teacher and pastor in South Africa.

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a writer, teacher and pastor in South Africa.

Moving forward, God has convicted me of my need to become a man of prayer. From various sources, I have been pointed to Andrew Murray, and I decided to begin with With Christ in the School of Prayer. Murray simply takes and studies everything Christ says about prayer, but through this study, I have been challenged every time I’ve read. One such time,

If no answer comes, we are not to sit down in the sloth that calls itself resignation and suppose that it is not God’s will to give an answer. No; there must be something in the prayer that is not as God would have it, childlike and believing; we must seek for grace to pray so that the answer may come. It is far easier to the flesh to submit without the answer than to yield itself to be searched and purified by the Spirit, until it has learnt to pray the prayer of faith.

Between Experiencing God and With Christ in the School of Prayer, I am learning how God invites us to participate with him through powerful and effective prayer.

With Christ in the School of Prayer is a $.99 download from Amazon, and I encourage you to read it with me.  Or get his complete works for just $2 more!

Trip to Iowa

We are going as a family on a Partnership Development trip to Iowa! Why? Because we love Iowans! More specifically, we have several friends in Iowa whom we love and enjoy, and these friends are helping us build our partnership network by letting us speak at their Bible studies and churches. We will be there for about two weeks (October 22 – November 4), but we want to pack that time with one-on-one meetings, too. Do you know someone in Iowa who might be interested in this ministry in Rwanda? Give them the opportunity to learn more! Let us know.   I’ll post the times and locations of our group meetings before we leave so you can join us physically or in prayer.

The Iowa State Fair is known for its deep fried anything and everything.

The Iowa State Fair is known for its deep fried anything and everything.

We are also planning to visit Seattle/Tacoma soon. Pray that doors open up for ministry there.

Pray for us

They call where we are “The Land In-Between.” We want to be in Rwanda, but we are here. We have begun saying goodbye to folks here, but we haven’t left yet. We want to move forward with life, but cannot because forward is Rwanda.

Speaking of Rwanda

Rwandans sorting coffee

Pray for the third year pastors these weeks as they learn about the Old Testament and raising children. We have a sharp and creative teacher named Mukakalisa Gaudiose who works with our pastor students to develop a ministry for children in their churches; she will teach the class on raising children. We see it clearly in America: our culture does not mirror the Bible when it comes to raising children. Every culture faces this same issue in light of God’s Word. Our goal as disciples is to become like Christ. Our goal as missionaries is to participate with God, to become tools in his hands as he forms these pastors into Christ-likeness. Thanks for all you are doing to help us get there.