Back to Work

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Here’s the prayer list:

  • NCM Retreat this weekend: unity after a time of stress, vision for the future, rest and fun together
  • Pirolo Family: setting boundaries and expectations better to prevent burnout
  • Pastoral Training School: we have a cohort of year 2 pastors coming on Monday.  We are recruiting for a new cohort to begin in January
  • CLIR: accreditation process requires effective recruiting, consensus building, and wisdom.  We are praying for favor before the government, and a wise group of accreditation auditors who will judge what and how we must adjust.
  • Team: WorldVenture teammates need prayer.  Eric’s new wife, Fabi needs a visa extension in the US. (She is Brazilian.) Laura is having health issues that limit her work capacity. She is so frustrated.

Pictures Promised

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Sumo is an almost graduate of CLIR.  We’re giving him some scholarship money to continue at a partner school.

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This is our General Assembly meeting (second of three in six weeks), where we approved our new statutes.  Yeah, bureaucracy isn’t my favorite.  What I learned, was that these men and women LOVE New Creation Ministries.

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NCM staff playing Jenga.  Pray Together, Plan Together, Play Together

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At this commissioning service for new pastors in the Nkurunziza denomination, I learned that 12 of the 17 pastors present (including denominational leaders and church founders) had been taught and mentored by NCM’s PTS Director Joseph Muyumbano (seated middle in the second Jenga picture).  He is a man of great influence in exactly the right way.

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Grace, Rayna and Luke washing vegetables with Phoebe.  One of many ways we work to prevent amoebas from growing in our tummies.

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Well, I guess we didn’t have two girl rabbits after all.

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.

Season of Goodbyes

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

IMG_1607For 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.

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Playing soccer at the Pastoral Training School: pastors, teachers, missionaries and their kids.

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

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Janzens

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.

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Scheers

Four Months

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.

IMG_1659We 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.

Special Week/end

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.

IMG_4403This 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.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 8.52.44 PMStay tuned, as Krystal soon shares about several opportunities she has had to practice nursing here.

Thank you for your continued prayer and financial support!

Kumbya [Yes! A new post about Nick and Krystal in Rwanda!]

I realized that our last post was over two months ago. I’m going to do my best to get this blog and its readers caught up on what happened that last month in Rwanda, and what has happened since we have returned.

Let’s see… When last we left, Krystal and I were about to join the team on the annual Rwanda missionary retreat: Kumbya (no, not Kum-bye-ya, Kumbya).  It is both the name of the peninsula and the name of the ten day retreat to this piece of paradise in the southwest of Rwanda.  It stretched from Friday evening, July 22-Sunday morning, August 1.  We were there a day earlier and a day later than the conference because our host had some responsibilities there.

Kumbya’s history is pretty amazing. In the 1940s, the missionary community in Rwanda and nearby Burundi decided to create a place for an annual retreat. They located a peninsula along Lake Kivu, applied to the government for use rights, and began improving the site without removing many of the indigenous trees. Botanically, it is a gem. It is the last of the natural forest along lake Kivu; all other land has been made into farm land.

Spiritually, it is priceless. The retreat went for 10 days, Friday-Sunday. We saw a beauty of cooperation among the missionaries that preached the unity of the faith more than any sermon could. Baptist, Anglican, International Justice Mission, Business as Mission, Assemblies of God, Evangelical Quakers, each focusing on a different piece of God’s mission of redemption, but all engaging in fellowship and spiritual renewal.

After the third day of rain, we decided to upgrade our rainfly to a tarp.

We had two morning lessons, a free afternoon to play in the water, birdwatch (over 200 species on our peninsula), or hang out, and then an evening lesson. On both Sundays of the retreat, we traveled with Gary and Greg to visit two fourth year students of the Pastoral Training School.

These pastors live and work 8 hours from the nearest true city, but because they are able to attend the Pastoral Training School, they are able to return to their villages and teach their people the true Gospel: we are not saved by works (tithing, church attendance), but by the grace of God through faith.  Pray with us for these pastors.

There are too many conversations and stories to fully recount here, but two stand out. The evening sessions were run by Mimi Wilson, an internationally requested author and speaker. Her lessons on gratitude and holiness were convicting. She spoke from her own experience and showed us that if we desire to be spiritual old people, we need to be deliberate about pursuing God while we are still young. Krystal is using her book, Holy Habits, this semester to grow in gratitude.

Another important event was the relationship we began with some Evangelical Quaker missionaries that were in the same stage of life as us (newly married w/o kids). After the retreat, we met up with them again back in Kigali. It was good to know that friendships are possible outside the immediate team. It was good to make friends. Brad and Chelsea, thanks for reaching out to us and being so cool.

Next post, Hopital Happenings

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Krystal’s Story

Since returning from Gahini, I (Krystal) have spent the last week and a half in the Theater (Operating Room) at Central University Hospital of Kigali (CHK).  The son-in-law of a NCM staff member is an anesthesiologist at CHK and offered to let me do part of my internship there.   Dr. Bona, the anesthesiologist, was able to spend six months in Canada on an anesthesiologist exchange program which made him the perfect contact for me (i.e. he speaks English, understands Western medicine and has a high standard of care).   His time in Canada made him realize how much Rwandan health care needs to be improved and has given him a desire to teach other doctors and nurses about patient safety, patient care and pain control (all things that are unusual in medical care here in Rwanda).

Dr. Bona was given a copy of my resume prior to my arrival and saw that I was both a nurse and working towards a Leadership degree.   He talked to the Director of Nursing about letting me teach OR nurses about “Leadership in the OR”and patient care.  She decided that whoever attended my seminars would be given a Continuing Education Certificate which validated my seminars and made them very desirable for staff to attend (any type of education is a big deal for Rwandans).

Krystal with the OR nurse director, Gene (Left), and Dr. Bona (Right)

Thus, for the next several days I spent every morning teaching a 45 minute seminar on patient care, discharge criteria from the post anesthetic recovery room, vital signs and common perioperative complications.  There were between 15 and 25 nurses that attended everyday while Dr. Bona translated my English to French and added in whatever he thought was necessary.

Krystal teaching on “Discharge Criteria for the PACU.” Wait, a patient should be able to breathe before we send them home?

While language made it difficult to build relationships and the OR is not my specialty in nursing, I was thrilled that I was able to offer some expertise and do some helpful teaching for the nurses.  Some of these nurses have never been taught about nursing interventions for things like hypotension (low blood pressure) or hemorrhaging (bleeding) or respiratory arrest so some of my teaching was new for them.  Additionally, this opportunity also reminded me how much I enjoy teaching.

The faithful class of nurses. After the last day of classes, many of them finally came up and spoke English! Where were you five days ago?

At the of the seminar, Dr. Bona told me that he is trying to help CHK gain some type of accreditation by implementing a World Health Organization (WHO) protocol of a surgical safety checklist.  What amazes me is that this protocol is an international standard that includes such things as verifying that you have the right patient and surgical site prior to surgery and giving prophylactic antibiotics within 60 minutes of surgery -these are all things we do in the USA and Canada to EVERY patient without even thinking about it but here they are hardly ever done.  Can you imagine, having a metal plate drilled onto your femur in Africa without any prophylactic antibiotics? I asked Dr. Bona if I could do anything to help him implement the safety checklist and he was excited to have me create a draft of the checklist and help with aspects of his presentation! I am excited that even in this short internship in a country where I don’t speak two of the main languages I have been blessed by being given an opportunity to help make a change that will save lives.

Nick’s Story

So Krystal posted in a cool, creative pdf about her week in Gahini.  I hope you had a chance to check it out.  I haven’t posted about my week away from her.  I got to spend some time in the dorms at the Pastoral Training School at New Creation Ministries.  My roommate, Jonny, is an intern from Moody teaching ESL to the pastors in the PTS in the afternoon and helping at another night class for community members.  I stayed in the dorms, ate with the pastors, and interviewed a few with the help of my translator, Silas.  To my loss, that was my time to “live with Rwandans,” and I forgot that it was one of my goals to “live among them,” to fully enter in.

Eating dinner with the Pastoral Training School pastors and Jonny. Can you guess which one is Jonny?

Silas, my translator, and Theogene, a graduate of NCM’s PTS

Since then I have had three major assignments.  First, I have been interviewing various people connected with NCM to learn about the church of Rwanda, leadership structure of the church here, and understanding of Christianity and Christian life. I’ve finished 14 interviews, but have about 10 more to go.  Preliminary results show that the pastors who participate in NCM’s training greatly appreciate the formative nature of the classes.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this later.

Second, I have been leading a Bible study on the book of Galatians for three Rwanda staff members.  It is definitely a learning experience all around.  I’ve actually studied Galatians quite in depth, translating it from Greek to English and examining most of the major elements involved.  But my “students” are mostly graduates from Bible College with degrees in theology.  Instead of being unidirectional, from me to them, it is truly a meeting of the minds.  The added benefit to them is that they get to practice English by listening to me and each other, and forming and delivering arguments in English.  English is becoming more and more important in Rwanda, especially since President Kagame required all education be done in English.  For that reason, NCM’s new university program, CLIR, will be in English, and these teachers are excited hone their skills in English.

Galatians Bible Study: Jean Bosco, Gaudiose, Joseph, and Nick

Third, I have had the opportunity to travel with Gary to visit two pastors in their churches in the area called Changugu, aka the middle of nowhere.  Far to the southwest, almost on the border of Burundi, on the other side of the African Continental divide.  After six hours of driving, we arrived to the first church on Saturday afternoon, so they held a special Saturday service for us.  They fed us, and then began to clear their living room of other furniture.  I was curious, but I soon found out that they were making room for the two beds they borrowed from their neighbors for us to use.  I had been prepared for anything, including sharing a single bed with Gary, but that the pastor went out of his way to borrow two beds….

They got us a second bed! Usually mosquito nets drape over the bed, but here they put them on the walls to prevent pieces of the new mud walls from falling on us while we slept.

The next morning we ate breakfast: sardines, potatoes, cow stomach, beans and rice.   (I don’t have many pictures of food because Rwandans are VERY private about meals.  They close the doors and windows, and eat in relative quiet.)

Later Gary said, “Nick was able to use one of the worst longdrops [out-houses] I’ve ever seen, and was able to stomach stomach for breakfast.  He’ll be a great fit here.”  We went on an walk to the place where the first European entered Rwanda: A German in 1901!  Then we rushed off to another church, 3 kilometers away.  Thirty minutes later, we arrived.  Andrew S. is right, “close” is a relative term.  I’ll make a special post next time about Rwandan church services.

Krystal and I are traveling with the Sheers, Finleys and Bennetts out to Changugu again from this weekend through next.  Apparently, there is an annual retreat on Lake Kivu for all Christian missionaries in Rwanda.  This year over 130 people will be there.  While there, Krystal will get to go on two pastoral visit with Gary and me.  We will also get to know many of these other missionaries and ask them about their call and ministry to Rwanda.  For Krystal, especially, it will be a great chance to network with other medical missionaries.  Thanks for your prayers on her behalf.  This week has been especially profitable for her as she considers her skills and the type of ministry that Rwanda needs.

Please pray for us as we get to know the team better, visit pastors, and network.

The team here seems to like us, and we love them, too.  The current ministry, training pastors, is highly valued by the pastors themselves.  The future ministry, a Bible college, is also something I would greatly enjoy doing.  Rwanda is starting to look like a good fit.