Saturday, December 06, 2008

Arrival of Rwanda 08 Team

It was a journey that began in July 2006. I received an email titled, 'This Burning in my heart.' It was the story of a boy who as a high student had watched part of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and had never gotten over it. He prayed to God that day that if ever God wanted to him to serve in Rwanda, he would go. The email on my computer glowed with red-hot passion. By phone I suggested we might get together in the next couple of weeks, but that wouldn't do. It had to be ASAP. That Thursday night six people sat with Nancy and me on our living room floor and we watched the Spirit at work as words and tears and prayers and fears flowed.

This week, the boy, now a man and his wife and son and daughter arrived in Rwanda ready to serve. And another man and his wife and son and daughter arrived to work with them.

Chris and Jill and Fred and Tess and... David and Lori and Ian and Lola... walked off a plane... to begin their life in Rwanda.

And then in a few months we expect to see Heath and Rebecca and (as yet unborn) Pete walk off a plane to join them. This is a good day and that will be a better day.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

First Attempt on Karisimbi

This past weekend I experienced my first attempt to scale Karisimbi, Rwanda's highest mountain. Was it too much pie for Thanksgiving? Was it old age? Was it being in too poor physical condition? Was it the wrong season of the year? Probably a combination of all those and more. But Karisimbi wasn't playing around with the ill-prepared? In a word, it 'defeated' me.

Six friends and I took this journey together. The expedition was planned as a spiritual retreat and ended up as a fight for survival. We knew it would be a physical challenge, but there was much more that we didn't know. We didn't know the effect Karisimbi would have on our bodies trying to climb to nearly 15,000 ft. in less than 24 hours, through deep slippery mud, in wind, rain and 40-degree weather and on very limited rations.

How did it compare with Africa's highest mountains? There was no comparison in my experience. I've topped both Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro and neither came close to the bitter struggle of climbing Karisimbi. Will I try it again? Hmmm. I will have to think that one over for quite a while!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Towards a Christian School of Excellence in Rwanda

Nancy and I were pleased to host a delegation from Greater Atlanta Christian School and Oklahoma Christian University over the past few days. The group's primary purpose was to meet key Rwandan government leaders especially in the field of education and to present a proposal for a school of excellence to help train the next generation of Africa's leaders in Central and East Africa, thus the acronym 'CASE' for Central Africa School of Excellence. At each meeting the GACS/OC group sought the wisdom and advice of Rwandan leaders to help shape the dream to fit the African and Rwandan cultural context and the educational needs of the region.

CASE is designed to be a boarding school with a projected enrollment of up to 2000 students. It will be a 'sister school' to Greater Atlanta Christian School and will feature a teacher and student exchange program to foster both excellent education as well as the forming of lifetime friendships between Africans and Americans. The project would also feature a university-level teacher training college to produce skilled teachers both for CASE and for Rwanda's educational system. A third component of the proposal is an agricultural training program to offer the best in innovative and environmentally-friendly farming methods for Rwanda.

Meeting with the Minister of State for Agriculture

The size of the project is going to require a significant amount of land. So a second purpose of the delegation's visit was to seek the Rwandan government's help in identifying potential sites for the school. Some sites were considered both in the capital, Kigali, as well as in surrounding areas.
The people from GACS/OC were deeply impressed with the dedication and commitment of Rwanda's leaders to sacrificially serve their people and to use all resources at their disposal to overcome their recent tragic history. They were also grateful for the warm welcome they received in Rwanda.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hosting Harding's HIZ Group

After two months of study in Zambia, Harding University's HIZ (Harding in Zambia) group arrived in Rwanda by bus for a brief visit and survey trip on Tuesday this week. The group consisted of 22 students and 9 faculty sponsors, mentors and staff. They were hosted by five missionary families and two guesthouses in Kigali.

Their visit included an orientation to Rwanda and tours of schools, churches, hospitals, genocide memorials, the national museum and the national university both in Butare. On the return from Butare they visited the traditional king's palace at Nyanza.

For all 31 in the group except one, this was their first visit to Rwanda. Our hope is that from such groups as these, God will call some to serve in Africa to make a difference in ways that will represent the kingdom of God well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Great Send-Off for a Rwanda Mission Team

It is with great anticipation that Nancy and I await the arrival of what has been dubbed the Rwanda08 mission team. I was privileged to be present at Richland Hills Church of Christ on a Wednesday night two weeks ago for the presentation of all the RHCC missionaries on furlough or about to enter the field for the first time in long-term missions. They were prayed over by Duane Jenks, the minister of missions.

Ten days later, on Harvest weekend, the missionaries were again prayed over as the congregation gave and pledged toward an overall goal of $1,278,000 for missions in 2009. They reached about 80% of their goal that weekend.

Most of the team expect to arrive in Rwanda in early December, 2008, followed three weeks later by two more missionary families who have been serving in West Africa for about 10 years.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Major Milestone for Africa Transformation Network

One of the main projects we have been working on this year is to register a local non-governmental organization. To obtain a national Certificate of Registration for such an organization is not easy to achieve. But God in his grace, granted this to us yesterday.

This does not mean we have arrived. But it does mean we can begin our service with motivation and with confidence that we are recognized by the government as legal. We are motivated by our desire to serve people but also by the accountability that the Rwandan government expects. What we have been granted is a provisional registration. We will be watched and we will be held accountable for what we committed to do in the objectives and plan of action we submitted.

I have often said lately that of all the nations of Africa I am aware of, only the Rwandan government requires us to do what Jesus commanded us to do and what we have so often failed to do: serve those in need. In Rwanda it is not enough to speak words of truth; we must accompany them with works of compassion ... works that demonstrate the words we say. It is our belief that we will have earned the right to speak when we have offeredserviceto the people of Rwanda.

Please rejoice with us over this major milestone!! And also pray that God will provide the wisdom and human and financial resources needed to stand and deliver what we have committed to do.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

District leaders declare ATN officially open!

It was a quiet, low key, celebration yesterday as community leaders and friends, joined the founding members of Africa Transformation Network to officially open our ministry center in Kicukiro district of Kigali, Rwanda. About 45 people listened to a presentation of the purposes and goals of African Transformation Network and then remained for refreshments and a tour of the facility.

The center will house the offices of ATN and Xtra Mile Ministries. A variety of ministries and projects will be based at the center including blessing our community in Jesus' name though projects for marginalized women, youth and sports programs, outreach to orphans in Kigali and in the provinces and English language courses for school teachers in the district. Early in 2009, it is anticipated that computer training will be also be offered.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

ATN now a reality

We are very happy to announce that yesterday we received a letter stating that Africa Transformation Network has been recognized and granted provisional registration to operate in Kicukiro District of Rwanda.
We praise God for His guidance in this process so far. Now we are pursuing permission to operate at a national level. Please continue praying for us.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gratitude for God's Protection

God is been very gracious to me today. Brothers in Togo helped me get a Togo visa extension and a transit visa for Ghana all in one day. They say that is quite rare, but again God intervened to make my trip arrangements work out so that I could get into to Ghana and catch my return flight home tomorrow night.

Then on the way from the Togo border this afternoon on my way toward the Ghana capital of Accra in a little local bus with about 12-15 other passengers, we were passing through a small town at about 60 kilometres an hour when the brakes on the bus failed. The driver, in order avoid hitting a stationary car swerved off the street to the right narrowly missing the car, ran between two large logs just about a car-width apart. The driver maintained controlled of the bus while the front and back right wheels dropped into a drainage ditch. He managed to keep the bus from rolling over and then veered up and out of the ditch. The bus rolled to a halt 150 yards on down the street. No cars, buildings or people were hit and there were no injuries in the bus. It was surreal. Everything happened so fast, no one even screamed. It was as if this was normal driving that happened every day. After repairs were done, we were back on the road in one and half hours.

I cannot remember when I have been this close to being in a car wreck. I was sitting in the right front passenger seat and of course there were no seat-belts in the bus. Thanks be to our merciful God for his protection over what could have been a terrible accident.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Healers who train healers

God's timing is always amazing! We just finished lunch and Nancy sent me to the store to buy bread and milk for the fellowship we will have in our home later this afternoon. On the way home, I was saying to myself and to the Lord, I need to find and encourage a medical team that has a vision for this part of Africa. Where do I begin?

So ... I get home and three minutes later I sit down and open a message from Sky whom I have met once. Frankly, this is not where I would have begun. Why? 1. Because I didn't know Sky was a premed student. 2. Because I didn't know Sky had Rwanda on his heart. 3. What I do know is that God knows these things. And at the right time, when it is on my heart, God brings this message from Sky to me. That is very encouraging; praise God for his timing. Who knows what God will do with this.

With all of Africa's health issues, what Africa needs now is not more foreigners who will come and 'practice medicine.' With all due respect to a great man, today is not the day for 'the Dr. Albert Schweitzers' in Africa. Today is the day for healers who will train healers, servant-healers who will invest their knowledge and skills in African people and communities and do this in the name and in the spirit of Jesus.

So Sky ... and Louisa and Brian and Luke and Janice and Theron and Jordan ... let's see who God will raise up for such as time as this.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

When Men Pray, God Works

When we were told by our district officials in Kigali, that we would not be able to register our mission until we actually began our ministry projects, we were jolted into action, mainly prayer action. According to our logic, we were not allow to begin these ministries until we had at least a provisional registration in our hands. Immediately we began looking for a property and soon had two possibilities to consider. Some of our mission group looked at these options and decided that they were not adequate for what we envisioned.

Last Monday I was to leave for a training workshop in Zambia. Before I left Charles, Caleb and I prayer-walked through our neighborhood asking God to show us the property we could use that would bring Him glory! We also brainstormed a little on what we could do to bless the youth of our community. After sometime, we left Charles to continue the search, while Caleb had an assignment and I needed to go home and pack for my trip.

Hours later I was in the Kigali airport waiting to board my flight when I got a call from Caleb. He said that he and Charles were looking at a property they thought would work for us. I suggested they call Nancy and get a third opinion. By the time I arrived in Zambia the next day, Nancy was urgently trying to get in touch with me to get my approval because two other parties were interested in the property. I said, 'I trust the judgment of you who have seen the property; if you think this is God's answer to our prayers, go ahead and make the necessary decisions.' They immediately put down a deposit.

I was so impressed by God's timing. He confirmed our faith; He answered our prayers the same day; He got me out of the way so others could step in and take responsibility for important decisions. The result: ... we all feel greatly blessed and encouraged!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

God's Care in the Little Things

In the last few days we have been reflecting on God's care over His children in the little (and not so little) things. Nancy and I did some traveling stateside in the months of April and May. And we have been counting our blessings of God's protection over our mistakes and misjudgments along the way.

In California we checked into our hotel and then dropped by a local fast food restaurant for a hamburger. Without me knowing it, my wallet containing several hundred dollars and some credit cards fell out of my pocket on to the floor. I didn't miss it until the next morning which was class...visiting with friends...and then...a race back to the restaurant!! Praise God, the wallet was found; and thank In and Out Burger for its honest employees! Nothing was missing from my wallet!

In Texas, I filled our loaner car with gas...and forgot to replace the gas cap! Duh! We then drove 12-15 miles in city traffic to a friend's house. Guess what...the gas cap was still sitting on the trunk lid of the car!! Now that wasn't my careful driving! Just ask Nancy. No big deal, right? Right. Just His protection in the little things.

In Louisiana we were driving on the freeway on a hot day. We were concerned about our tires that weren't in good condition. On a car just ahead of us we saw a front tire blow out. At freeway speeds this could have caused a major accident, but the driver managed to pull off safely. 30 minutes later we exited the freeway to go to a friend's house and what happens? On a neighborhood street OUR front tire blows out! We are traveling at 20 mph...300 yards from a gas station!!
Praise God for His protection in the little things... that in our life, could have been big things.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Another Step of Faith

Those of us in Rwanda are seeing God's hand at work in ways we never anticipated and we are blessed to be part of God's purposes for this nation. There is obviously growing support for our application for our mission organization. We have been developing good relationships with officials and their input has been extremely helpful, from the mudugudu (zone), cell, sector and district level offices. We are also having to make changes and do rewrites of some of our documentation to fit the requirements of the different departments. We are making good progress however.

One thing we have become convinced of in the last three weeks of pursuing our Africa Transformation Network registration is this: We will not get the registration approved by our local district until we start work, until we have a physical location of an office and work space and until we demonstrate that we are actually doing what we listed in our plan of action. From the beginning we were under the impression that we needed the registration in order to have permission to begin. But in fact, we must begin in order to secure the registration. So... let the work begin ...

One of the major decisions we made last week was to bring Charles Kabeza on board to work with us full-time as an administrative assistant. He will begin his role with us on July 1. Charles graduated from university last year with a degree in economics. He has recently, on his own initiative with encouragement from some of us, begun a ministry to genocide orphans which demonstrates that he is a man of faith and compassion. (See ).

A second decision was to find and rent a property to serve as a center from which to work and to house our ATN offices. In addition to what already is being done with Extra Mile ministries, we have the resources to begin two or three of the projects in our plan of action. We need to get those projects up and running as soon as possible.

Personally, I feel both excited and challenged. Decisions that were made in our meeting last week have pushed us to a new level. I believe it is going to take a higher level of commitment and a greater degree of faith for all of us. It is a little like walking on water; we are not sure about the water, but we are sure about the God who called us and is faithful to sustain us.

The budget we formulated and presented to Kicukiro district is for $94,960 in our first year. We only have 30% of the budget raised at present (half of that committed by ATN founding members). But we trust that God will provide the funding that is lacking.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Call of God to Sudan

Sudan has suffered through two lengthy civil wars since 1956. In January, 2005 a comprehensive peace agreement was signed to end the Second Sudanese Civil War, develop democratic governance countrywide and set a timetable by which Southern Sudan would have a referendum on its independence. The referendum is scheduled for 2011. The Sudanese people I know have high expectations that national independence will become a reality at that time.

I believe NOW is the time Christians should prepare to serve in 'New Sudan.' There is now a huge need for a holistic approach to meeting the various needs of the people of Sudan. Physical and institutional infrastructure has been severely degraded and millions of people have been displaced as a result of recent wars. Church planting and supporting services are priority, but they must be accompanied by assistance in the fields of health, education, agriculture, trades training and small business training, etc.

Nancy and I hosted day of prayer and planning for missions in Sudan at the Richland Hills Church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX on May 17, 2008. The meeting was attended by 21 people representing teams in formation, Sudanese nationals, leaders of interested supporting churches, missionary candidates and others considering missions in Sudan. The purpose of the meeting was to hear reports on recent missions to Sudan, to share plans for service there and pray the Lord of Harvests to raise up and send forth workers to the fields ready and ripe for the gospel. For more information, contact me at

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Disciple-makers are disciples in the making

My task last week was to teach 22 Zambian Christian school teachers a course on Missions in Africa. George Benson Christian College has been training school teachers for 20 years or so. Of late the Zambian government has not been hiring all of the teachers that the college graduates. So a fund has been set up to provide these teachers a minimal stipend and place them with schools in northern Zambia where there is need for churches to be planted.

When I heard about this my thought was, 'Why not educate some of these teachers in the principles of missions, cross-cultural communication and church planting, then challenge those whom God calls to such work, to become vocational missionaries in nations where English and school teachers are in demand?' This was the goal of my course at Mapepe Bible College near Lusaka.

In telling about mission opportunities I focused on Congo, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda and Sudan. Six or eight of the students showed great interest in these possibilities. Some will attend a church planting movements workshop in July.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Another of God's Surprises

Two weeks ago my sister Claudia and her husband Jerry arrived from the U. S. to visit Nancy and me in Rwanda and then to accompany us to Zambia. Why had they come at this time? It was another of God's many surprises. Claudia said that Jerry, who is retiring this July from more than 30 years of teaching medicine at the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, abruptly said to her one day, "What would you think about us going to work in Zambia for a while?" She was taken aback as he had never indicated any interest in doing such a thing before. Apparently Jerry was thinking about some way to serve others in his retirement years.

Of course, when I heard that they wanted to visit us in Rwanda on their way to doing some fact-finding in Zambia, I immediately hatched a plan to recruit Claudia and Jerry for Rwanda. We set up interviews with individuals in the medical field and various health institutions including the medical school at the National University in Butare and others in Kigali. We toured facilities and asked a lot of questions.

Then we flew to Lusaka, Zambia where Jerry had contacts and appointments with health officials at the University Teaching Hospital there. For two days he worked alongside an ENT doctor (Jerry's specialty) examining patients in clinics in the hospital. Then he was given a strong invitation to join the staff there where he would be able to teach candidates in the field of Ear, Nose and Throat surgery. After comparing opportunities to serve in either Rwanda or in Zambia, Jerry felt that he would actually be able to use his skills and accomplish more by teaching at the University of Zambia. So he decided to accept the invitation.

Nancy and I would have loved to have Jerry and Claudia live near us in Rwanda, but Claudia was born and grew up in Zambia, so perhaps it is fitting that she and Jerry will get to serve the people there again at this stage of their lives. I hope their example of retirees who want to continue using their skills to serve people for a few more years, will inspire others to venture out to the places in the world where opportunities to serve are many and where needs are great!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Jacqueline, tell us who you are!

The neighborhood clean-up day here once a month provides an opportunity for people to spend a Saturday working on a particular project or simply filling in some holes in the roads. It also gives the Zone Leader a chance to meet with people to assess any problems or needs. Showing up late for our first meeting with shovel and rakes in hand, we found about 60 people gathered on the hillside already finished shoveling but reading out names and taking care of business of the neighborhood. Our arrival was noticed, being the only 'wazungu' (white people) around, and we were given a warm welcome and introduced.

Unknown to us, our neighbor, Eron, had already let it be known that we needed someone to work in the house, and the matter was brought before the Zone Leader at that time. The next day Eron appeared at my door with Jacqueline and informed us that this lady would release me from my broom and dish cloth and allow me to get on with more important tasks, while I would be providing someone employment, a single mom raising four girls, ages 8, 10, 11, and 14.

We learned a little of Jacqueline's story, but only weeks later heard more: that she and her family had escaped to Burundi during the genocide of 1994, and that her husband had fled to the Congo soon after that upheaval, and she has not seen him since. Already a trained teacher, she returned to Kigali after the genocide and managed to get a job with a European NGO and was trained in French tailoring and began teaching orphans and widows how to sew. Unfortunately the project closed because of lack of funds and the Europeans left, but gave Jacqueline a sewing machine and equipment to continue her own tailoring business. She managed to support her girls and pay their school fees while building a reputation for making beautiful traditional dresses for clients as they brought their own fabrics to her. Only recently however, a thief took her sewing machine and all her equipment, and that is why she stepped forward that day at the neighborhood meeting, seeking a job.

No one in our neighborhood could have known that I have had it in my heart for months and even years to help teach skills to women and now older orphans who have been left behind in their education, and that sewing was one of my first dreams to begin with! What was God saying to me by bringing this beautiful lady so skilled in this area to my home? I am sharing this with you as only the beginning of the story. We cannot predict how God will continue His work He has for us.

Monday, February 25, 2008

God's Amazing Work in Rwanda

Sometimes missionaries like to have fun. Last Saturday we borrowed a couple of kayaks and went down to Lake Muhazi. A very bumpy road and 2 hrs journey-- I think we got on the wrong road, we were told it's a 45 min. drive. Anyway we had a great time. Took a picnic, and I found a good tree to relax under and read a book while everyone else took turns kayaking. As we finished our picnic on an empty lot by the lake, the owner of the lot next to us invited us over to see how he was developing his property. I said a silent prayer that this would be a ‘God-connection.’ We met Emmanuel who could speak English and we mentioned in passing that we were considering looking for a lakeside property we might develop as a youth camp and training center. He said he was a Christian and immediately began casting a vision for exactly what we were thinking of. Emmanuel said he would like to help us look for a site. We are constantly amazed and humbled at the evidence that God has been at work in minds and hearts long before we got here.

In Rwanda, the last Saturday of the month is known as Umuganda (community work) Day. Men and women in a neighborhood gather to work on a community project or clean up the neighborhood. Though this work is not required of non-Rwandans, we find it an opportunity to meet people in our area. Last month they had a organizational meeting after the work and the zone leader whom we had already met asked us to introduce ourselves. After the meeting, we had numerous people introduce themselves to us. They have been so welcoming and helpful to us. At our last U day about 100 people turned out. Our zone leader, Emmanuel, is the export manager for a coffee company here. He organized us into work parties to repair some bad places on a neighborhood street. After greeting me he said, “I have heard that you have worship and prayer in your home. Is it okay if I join you for that.” You can guess my answer! At the end of the meeting Chris and I walked up the hill in a line of people and when we got to our street, a big man introduced himself and welcomed us to the neighborhood. He pointed to his house about 150 metres away and said he would like to have us over for tea soon. He asked us where we were from and when we said the U. S. A., he said, “Oh, my daughter is in the U. S. She is studying at Oklahoma Christian University.” Okay!