The True Gospel Makes a Difference

[Sorry, Prayer Team! I began writing this two and a half weeks ago and couldn’t get it finished before today.]

We are half way through our first term of CLIR, studying Man, Sin, and Salvation, so last week I asked students if they have any testimonies to share. Here is one paraphrased excerpt:

“I am a university teacher. In the past, I would hear my Muslim students and peers discussing the problems with Christianity, and I was afraid to get involved. Because of what I am learning in this class, I was emboldened to respond to their questions and ask them some challenging questions of my own. They were shocked and asked where I had learned this.”

Others spoke of new and deeper conversations with their families and friends. It is such a joy to see these students already growing in Christian leadership after only a month with us.

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Here’s the Cliff Notes, from the first day of class:

  1. God is holy and righteous.
  2. Humanity is sinful.
  3. God, in his holiness and righteousness, must punish sin.
  4. God, in his mercy and love, sent Jesus for sinners.
  5. Those who repent and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior are saved.
  6. Those who are saved by Jesus, live in Jesus.

Keep them in prayer as they study. It is a spiritual work that God is doing in their hearts and minds.  [In class last week, I challenged the students to repent of sin, and trust in the grace of God alone.  I called them to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  No one spoke up that day, but in our conversations this week, I can tell that they have been reoriented (back?) to faith in Christ alone, and not any works or associations, to save them.]

Family

Continue to keep our family in prayer, too.

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Thank you all for your prayers over the last few months. It was a significantly difficult week before that last email.  The crazy thing was, after the email, after you all started praying, all the kids got sick, but in all that sickness, Krystal and I felt the presence of God keeping us at peace. Ministry these days continues to be an exercise of faith in God’s provision for health, strength, ministry, and fruit.

Do not stop praying! While it is tempting to give in to compassion fatigue, know that your prayers are lifting us up in the storm.

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Krystal

This past year has been one of refocusing for Krystal. As you know, she taught in CLIR last term, and this term she began mentoring a CLIR student. She continues to facilitate a bible study with women from church. She also serves as our team leader, helping us new leaders grow into our roles and offering support and accountability. Finally, Krystal has returned to working in Nyabisindu clinic caring for pregnant moms and doing health checks with babies. She is wearing a lot of hats and uses a day-planner well to keep her days and weeks organized.

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Team Retreat

A generous donor sponsored a retreat for our WorldVenture Rwanda team. We spent three days and two nights at a hotel working with a guest speaker to understand each other and our team culture. Krystal and I have believed that God has called us to be “better together” as a married couple. The same holds true for our team. God has put us together lift each other up and be strong where the other is weak. On the retreat, we experienced the joy of getting to “play” together, but also to know each other more deeply so that we can have greater grace with each other.

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CLIR Status

We were looking for 30, but God brought 24 for this term. Already, I have heard of students contacting their friends to apply. Who knows who God will bring for term 2?

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As we pray for students, we also pray for staff. We have several teachers who are scheduled to teach, but may face trouble. We have one teacher who must finish his Masters degree just before he teaches. Another is finishing his Doctorate abroad. Another three (two staff, one teacher) are abroad on medical emergencies. Another, a skilled disciple-maker in the Pastoral Training School in Kinyarwanda, will be solo teaching in English at the Bachelors level for the first time. Also joining our NCM teaching staff, a new family transferring from Mali to Kigali in September. For all this uncertainty, praise God with us for the growth and development and healing that it represents. God is good.

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Finally, as we consider the process of accreditation and program development, pray that we would do so with wisdom, based on a spiritually discerned strategy that fits with the purpose of New Creation Ministries and the real needs of the Rwandan church.

 

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.

Getting Up Close and Personal

While our primary task right now is language learning, God has been gracious in bringing great opportunities to both of us to minister and work in our areas of expertise while practicing language.

House Call

A Rwandan pastor connected with one of our team mates recently had a baby boy, but he and his wife were concerned about the little guy’s health, more specifically that he was not getting enough to eat with breastfeeding. Our team mate, Eric, asked if I, Krystal, would be willing to come to their home and assess him. I found that baby Eric was very healthy and encouraged the family not to supplement breastfeeding. In Rwanda, it is common for families to supplement breastfeeding with cow milk mixed with water. While this family intended to use formula (something that is very expensive here), I encouraged them that baby Eric was healthy and energetic, and that they should continue breastfeeding.

After the visit, they had Grace, Rayna, Eric and me stay for Rwandan hospitality, which included a very yummy Rwandan meal. We’ve seen pictures since then, and he continues to be in great health.

Post-natal Clinic

I also was able work at a local ministry to new moms in a poor part of the city. I got to call the moms from the group and do an initial assessment of their babies including weight and measurements. What a challenge just to read their names from the clipboard! Some moms heard me greet them in Kinyarwanda and assumed I was fluent, others looked at me as if I was speaking gibberish. Jocelyn, the ministry leader, was grateful for the help, and I was both excited for the practice and challenged to learn more words in Kinyarwanda specific to the clinic.

Village Visit

IMG_2134 sEarly last month, our language helper, Philemon, invited us to visit his village with him and two of his friends from Kigali for a weekend. What a great experience for us all! We were overwhelmed by the hospitality offered, especially since we were regularly reminded of their need.

Philemon is the last of twelve children. He has nephews and nieces older than himself! His father was the pastor at his church near Cyangugu (SW Rwanda). Now, his brother pastors there.   Apparently, during the genocide, no one at his church participated in the killing. We are blessed to know that some churches stood up for the truth!

Philemon had a full weekend for us including visiting his mom, a tea plantation, singing two Kinyarwanda songs in front of church, and having Nick preach!

On our drive home from the village we talked about what surprised us about the visit. Our language helper said that he was surprised how much we talk to Grace because in Rwanda parents don’t talk to their children. Another one of the Rwandans that we drove with said that she was amazed how many times Nick told Grace he loved her; she was so amazed by it that she actually counted the times she heard it: 7 times in 2.5 days. She lost her father in the genocide and was blessed to see a dad show his love for his daughter. We were told that our hosts were amazed that we ate Rwandan food without complaining, truth be told we have grown to appreciate Rwandan food and Grace impressed us with her love for indagara (small minnow like fish that are cooked in a sauce and eaten head, tail and all).

Philemon was also impressed by the energetic way Nick preached. I think he expected Nick to be sedate and scholarly, and was surprised by his passion and dynamic style.

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Nick preaching on the parable of the soil, while Philemon translates, and Grace plays legos.  One day soon, he will be able to preach in Kinyarwanda!

Language study can be so discouraging, so times like these are so fulfilling: to do something we’re actually good at, to be a blessing, to do what we came here to do.

Blessings from America

We were blessed to receive two suitcases and a shipped box from Calvary Community Church. A friend from Calvary, Carol Harms, a high school teacher in Washington, came out to train teachers in a partnership between Africa New Life and Rwandan public schools. She got to see her sponsored child. And she volunteered to bring one bag of gifts. When she discovered that she was allowed three bags, she opened up a second bag for people to bless us. We felt overwhelmingly blessed by Calvary, and our first packages from home.

We are feeling encouraged and excited to be here in Rwanda, learning language and culture, and seeing opportunities to shine the light of Jesus. Know that we are representing each of you, our partners in ministry. Please continue to keep us in prayer as we learn, and for our health.

Final Note

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Grace and Rayna reading letters from her friends at her first preschool, New Day Learning Academy, in Port Townsend, WA.

Grace turned four on June 28. We had a wonderful party for, inviting her Rwandan, Burundian, and American friends. Rayna will be 8 months old on Saturday. “The days are long, but the years are short!”

***Correction: In our last update, we incorrectly indicated what will become of the Scheers. They are not retiring, but are transitioning from Rwanda to ministry out of the home office of WorldVenture in Colorado.  We are blessed to know that among their new responsibilities, they plan to come back in April of next year to teach in our program for a term.

Feeling Blessed this Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Pirate GraceEvery night I tuck Grace into bed, we pray, “God help us get to Rwanda soon!” As we work hard doing our part in this place, we feel abundantly blessed because we see God answering that prayer. He is providing for us. He is preparing us. He brings the right people into our lives to help us in perfect ways.

Gratitude for Our Partners

We are so grateful that you are partners with us in this ministry to Rwanda. We hit a milestone on Sunday! We have reached 70% toward our monthly expenses! Thanks to those who are giving; thanks for those who are praying! God is opening doors.

Favor and Opportunities for Krystal

Most of my (Krystal) colleagues and supervisors at my hospital have heard that I will be moving to Rwanda for 10 years (or more) to contribute my skills as a nurse there. Even still, they paid for me to attend an important conference in Seattle. The speaker was a Certified Nurse Midwife who spoke on The Latest Interventions for Childbirth Challenges. I came home from the conference enthusiastic about all of the information I gained that will help me in my practice as a labor and delivery nurse in Rwanda.

Another God-Ordained Set Up for Krystal

Every month my hospital sets up a one-hour case review where doctors, nurses and neonatal practitioners get together and discuss a challenging case we have had. Last month, the topic was about HIV/AIDS in pregnancy. Talk about a practical topic for OB practice in Africa.

This month, I heard the topic was going to be on neonatal resuscitation, another relevant topic, so I attended. I was thrilled to discover the speaker was a doctor who works for an educational program called Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics to teach neonatal resuscitation techniques in resource-limited areas of the world, including Rwanda!

HBB Training 2012 Rwanda

Every year the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one million babies die from an inability to breathe immediately after delivery. The doctor teaching the course showed a picture of a good sized beautifully developed African baby who immediately after delivery was limp, gray and not crying. He said that because the baby was limp and not crying the midwife and nurses believed that the baby was stillborn so it was wrapped in blankets and taken away for burial without any form of resuscitation. All of us in the room gasped at the thought. One out of 10 babies are born needing some help to start breathing.  From my previous experiences, I knew his stories about newborns not being resuscitated after delivery were not unusual in the developing world.

Neonate Simulator

This doctor explained that his job is to take neonate simulators (little black baby dolls to practice CPR on), bags and masks and learner workbooks and instructional flip charts into developing countries and train doctors, midwives, nurses, community birth attendants and health volunteers how to help babies breathe after delivery.

At the end of the class he said that he was open to having people volunteer to travel with him to different developing countries and help him do training (several nurses did volunteer to travel with him but only if they could go to Rwanda to see meJ). After the class I told him I would love to work with him in Rwanda. I explained that I would be moving there long term and would eventually know the language. Excitedly he asked me if I would be willing to come to a short course he was teaching with a group of healthcare providers at the University of Washington and become a Master Trainer. He said that he would equip me with several neonate simulators and training kits so that I could teach healthcare workers everywhere I went in Rwanda!

Helping Babies Breathe Action PlanLately, I have been struck that in healthcare, in resource-limited areas like Rwanda, a little can make a huge difference and save numerous lives. Here in the US, we have people at every delivery with the knowledge of when and how to stimulate a baby or otherwise help a baby breathe. We take for granted that it is a normal practice for us. In many places in the world babies are born without someone with this knowledge.   I am so excited that I will be equipped to help teach others Helping Babies Breathe.

Exactly Where God Wants Us

Stock image of a newborn baby

Stock image of a newborn baby

God has given us several experiences that confirm the work he is doing in and through us while still in the US.  I (Krystal) love working in labor and delivery nursing, and I am learning lots.  In the last two months, I have assisted in about 20 vaginal births, 10 c-sections, and 5 urgent c-sections.  I even got to “catch a baby!”

While HIPAA laws prevent me from posting pictures and giving details, I can say that I asked the nurse orienting me, “Is it always this intense, or does God just want me to get a good orientation?” She said, “You are getting a very good orientation.”

Meanwhile, I (Nick) also had a validating experience.  In my last blog, I mentioned my current personal study using Experiencing God.  Using Romans 3:11 (“There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.) and John 6:44 (Jesus: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.”), Blackaby concludes that if people express interest in God, God is drawing them.  God has shown you that he is at work, which is his invitation for you to join him in what he is doing.

We had a chance to share the story of our call to Rwanda with a friend and his family.  A few days later, that friend and his girlfriend asked me to read through the New Testament with them, to help them understand it better. Right now, my primary responsibility is my “full-time job” of partnership development, but God knew that I have a need to teach, to disciple, to point people toward Christ, and to build them up.  This opportunity is a gift from God to me!

I’ve often said, “God equipped you yesterday for your ministry today, and what you experience today trains you for tomorrow.”  Ministry doesn’t wait until we reach Rwanda, but is happening NOW!  And I’m sharpening skills that will help me in Rwanda.

A Few Links

I shared these on Facebook earlier this week, but I wanted to include them here, too.

This is a colleague, Dan Janzen, teaching his first class in Kinyarwanda.  He spent a year focused on learning the language, and then he got a chance to teach our fourth year students for three days, two hours each day!  He spent the better part of four months preparing his 60 page manuscript.  It is tough work, but good work.  This is what I have to look forward to.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151947058413571

This next link is a church service in Rwanda.  Unlike some countries that simply take western hymn, praises and songs and translate them, Rwanda seems to have quite a body of indigenously written Christian worship songs.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151796749113402

Grace

Grace was a Butterfly for Halloween.  Her favorite treat was popcorn from the Rose movie theater in down town Port Townsend

Grace was a butterfly for Halloween. Her favorite treat was popcorn from the Rose movie theater in down town Port Townsend

We are amazed at how much she is learning and how much she knows.  She understands so much and her vocabulary is growing daily.  She learned how to kick (“tk”) a ball today!  Her favorite book right now is The Story of David.  She says, “baa” when she sees the sheep, says, “bye” when David leaves his father, and even pretends to swing her slingshot at Goliath.  Best of all, she laughs (“ah, ah, ah”) when Goliath laughs at David.  She has also learned to say, “No,” and shakes her head no, even when she means yes.  Keep praying for us as parents.

Partnership Development in Washington

We love sharing our story with people, and enjoy reconnecting with our Washington friends.  Pray that we continue to make the most of our time here.

Blessings,

Nick and Krystal