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

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.

 

 

Here!

Thank you all for your prayers, and keep praying.

We arrived safely on Thursday January 21, with most of our bags. Five bags, including our desktop computer, did not make our crazy 35 minute plane transfer in Doha. Gate A9 to Gate E25 (the exact opposite end of the airport!)

Doha

Doha airport is so beautiful, and bigger than this map lets on.

Fortunately they arrived on the next flight, the next day, intact.

Upon our arrival, while I was waiting to fill out missing baggage papers, Krystal and Grace peaked around the corner and saw our entire team waiting for us. The kids had all skipped the end of school to meet us (especially Grace).  What a great team! (Pictures to follow.)

Sleep

Krystal and I were exhausted and settled ourselves into our new normal sleep pattern: 9PM-5AM. Grace, however, had slept on the plane and wanted to nap 10PM-1AM and then be awake. She’s had a tough sleep adjustment.  Rayna adjusted pretty quickly, but Sunday night was the first night she slept through the night; given, we did stay up until crazy late: 10:30 PM.  As of Monday, Grace has slept through the night, alone, in her own bed for three nights! Hallelujah!

The joke here is that 8PM is “missionary midnight,” but after a day of negotiating a new culture in unfamiliar weather, terrain, driving, language, etc., going to bed early just makes sense. Also, there is no TV to speak of, and streaming videos is both too expensive (paying for data by the megabyte) and too unreliable (our router says 4G LTE, but drops its signal frequently).  I’ve tried to upload this letter for about three days!

Home

We were able to ship many of our household items from the US to Rwanda, and they are set to arrive about March 20. Until then, we are living in a borrowed house with borrowed furniture. Praise God that we did bring our toothbrushes, pillows, computers and clothes on the plane.  We can make it work, but each of us wants to “nest” in our own way, and we can’t do that until we have our own place.  After living with Krystal’s mom for two years (a blessing in so many ways), we are READY for our own place. (Pictures to follow.)

On the other hand, every time we come back to the US on home assignment we’ll feel like we’re in borrowed space.  This is just another in a long list of little things that remind us that this world is not our home.

Over the last few days we’ve been learning to drive, find our way around the city, scoping out places to buy daily food (bananas, milk), our core fruits and veggies, the odd prepared items, and cheap Chinese (BPA/Lead included) products.

Also, we were able to go to a 4 hour service in Kinyarwanda!  Three sermons were hard, but the music was great.  They did praise choruses; by the thirteenth time through, we were able to sing along!

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This was the offertory.  Those baskets are traditional “gift boxes.”  How cool that they are used for gifts to God!

The Pastors

Our team leader, Tim Brubaker, gives this report from our Pastoral Training School:

“We have 20 new pastors studying in our Pastoral Training School. We are two-thirds done with their first term, studying “The True Gospel” (with me) and “The Christian Life” (with Joseph). These courses require a major realignment of perspective and previous understanding. Pray for these guys!! Consider some of the men that we have been teaching these weeks:

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  • One has been utilizing strange spiritual powers to heal sicknesses. These powers were given to him before he became a Christian and have continued with random visitations from a spirit. He is praying that the Lord will release him from these things if they are not from him. (We are too!)
  • One is a 27-year-old widower. His wife died two years ago, possibly from poison. He leads his local congregation while caring for his 
three-year-old son. His eyes well up with tears when he talks about his wife.
  • One is becoming more aware throughout these courses that his adult son has possibly 
joined a cult. This morning we were praying together; his eyes were full of tears.
  • One is realizing for the first time in his life that being the son of a pastor is insufficient to 
save him. When I asked him to share his testimony, he said he only has his father’s
  • One is a newer Christian, having been saved out of Islam. Although he has given his life to 
Christ, he is becoming increasingly burdened for his son who is still in Islam. He is planning 
to visit his son shortly after this term to share the Gospel with him.
  • One is an older man who came out of paganism many years ago. Although he clearly loves the Lord, he is very nervous about studying. He only finished two years of primary school 
and his wife is illiterate. He is not sure how he will make it through our program.

These are the men who will be catalysts for change in their local churches. As you pray for these men, pray also for the provision of additional financial sponsors to help underwrite their studies. (If you are interested, let us know, and we will send information.)”

Update: At a group prayer time, five pastors stood up to confess Christ as their savior for the first time.  After an interview with each, Tim discerned that two of them just had issues with sin in their life, but three of these pastors received salvation this week.  Amazing!  Click here for more information via Tim’s update.

Our First Work

On Tuesday, Grace started Preschool and on Wednesday, Krystal and I began with our first work: language learning. We start together with our language tutor, Philemon. We are excited to have words. We are extremely discontent with our limited vocabulary and know that these next few weeks will be hard but very good and rewarding. Pray that Krystal and I will get into a workable pattern of life to study, learn together, and practice while caring for Grace and Rayna.

Again, thank you so much for praying for us.  We’ve been blessed and amazed at God’s hand on us in this transition to Rwanda.  We are FINALLY HERE!  Now to work!