Monday, August 15, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Recap Video

Thanks to Lindsey for preparing this excellent video for the shareholders dinner last weekend!

Friday, July 8, 2011

July Prayer / Journal Calendar

Rwanda Prayer Calendar – July, 2011


7 Prayer Prompt: For focus for Mama Deborah' as she works toward a business degree at University.
Journal Prompt: Describe your impressions of Jen & Serge. What did you most appreciate about them?
8 Prayer Prompt: For Mama Deborah's leadership of Ubuzima.
Journal Prompt: In the days and weeks ahead, how do you want to continue praying for Jen & Serge?
9 Prayer Prompt: For wisdom for Mama Deborah as she makes business decisions regarding Ubuzima.
Journal Prompt: What was one thing you learned about AIDS in Africa from our experience in Rwanda?
10 Prayer Prompt: For courage and compassion for the ladies of Ubuzima.
Journal Prompt: How can you share what you learned about AIDS in Africa with your community – school, work, home, etc?
11 Prayer Prompt: For wisdom regarding how to build upon our experience in Rwanda here at home.
Journal Prompt: What's one thing you learned about peace and reconciliation from our experience in Rwanda?
12 Prayer Prompt: For Nancy's (who we visited on Wed in Kigali) health as she continues her battle with AIDS.
Journal Prompt: In light of our experience in Rwanda, who do you need to be reconciled with here at home? What steps can you take to bring about that reconciliation?
13 Prayer Prompt: For Denise's family as they continue to mourn and grieve their loss.
Journal Prompt: What's one thing you learned about water while in Rwanda?
14 Prayer Prompt: For all those throughout the world who do not have access to clean, safe drinking water.
Journal Prompt: What steps can you take here at home to conserve water? Why is this important?
15 Prayer Prompt: For wisdom for I-Teams Development Project in Kayonza.
Journal Prompt: What's one thing you learned about education while in Rwanda? How will this impact your life here at home?
16 Prayer Prompt: That God would provide the resources needed to bring electricity to Kayonza and fuel the well water pump.
Journal Prompt: What's one thing you now understand about refugees that you didn't before our time in Rwanda?
17 Prayer Prompt: For the ministries of L'Eglise Vivante.
Journal Prompt: What do you appreciate now that you didn't before we went to Rwanda?
18 Prayer Prompt: For us to have the courage to become advocates for those issues that most deeply connected to us while we were in Rwanda.
Journal Prompt: What are you thankful for?
19 Prayer Prompt: For Prince, Isabella, and Beni.
Journal Prompt: What was the hardest aspect of our trip to Rwanda for you? What did you learn from that difficulty?
20 Prayer Prompt: That God would provide funding for Jen & Serge to finish building their house.
Journal Prompt: What's one thing you'd change about our trip to Rwanda? How would changing that have made this trip a better experience?
21 Prayer Prompt: That God would give the interns who work with Jen & Serge compassion and focus.
Journal prompt: Nearly a month after returning from Rwanda, what's been most difficult for you about returning to life here in America?
22 Prayer Prompt: For the Street Kid Ministry in Kigali. Journal Prompt: What are you afraid you're starting to forget from our time in Rwanda?
23 Prayer Prompt: That tomorrow's Shareholder's Dinner will inspire our congregation to become advocates for refugees, the poor, and the oppressed.
Journal Prompt: Who have you told about our trip to Rwanda? What was it like for you tell them?
24 Prayer Prompt: Praise God for all those who joined us for tonight's Shareholder's Dinner!
Journal Prompt: With whom has it been difficult to share your trip to Rwanda? What's made it difficult to share your trip with this person?
25 Prayer Prompt: For David and his work with the Street Kids in Kigali.
Journal Prompt: A month after returning from Rwanda, how's your life here different than it was before? How do you hope it will continue to be different?
26 Prayer Prompt: That God would provide school funding for the Kigali Street Kids.
Journal Prompt: What's issue in Rwanda most deeply connected to you? What can you do about that issue now that you've returned home?
27 Prayer Prompt: For peace in the Congo.
Journal Prompt: How can you advocate for education, water, and / or refugees?
28 Prayer Prompt: That God would raise up a new leader for the Youth Group at Kizaba as Emile prepares to resettle in the US.
Journal Prompt: A month after returning home from Rwanda, what hasn't changed about you? How does that make you feel?
29 Prayer Prompt: That God would bring hope to those at Kiziba.
Journal Prompt: What did being in Rwanda teach you about God? Your faith?
30 Prayer Prompt: Praise God for the education that we receive here in the US!
Journal Prompt: How has your view of yourself changed as a result of our trip to Rwanda?
31 Prayer Prompt: For wisdom for the UN's High Commission for Refugees as they continue to manage refugee camps throughout the world.
Journal Prompt: When have you felt lonely or isolated since you've been back home?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Photos - Life in the Kiziba Refugee Camp

This boy taught me the word "itsuguto"

An "itsuguto", a wooden scooter used to transport
stuff down the hills of Kiziba

The camp nestles into the hillside

The soccer field

Those are no small hills!

A refugee's few possessions stacked on a shelf  

The camp's central market

A women grinds leaves in the market

A man getting a shave in GCM's salon

The camps graveyard, a reminder of how near death remains

a primary school

Reflections - Darby Janss

Darby, on the steps of the guest house in Kibuye

Sitting on the plane ride home thinking about this trip, I can't even explain how I feel.  I feel like I've done what I need to in Rwanda, but there's still more.  Just because we left the country doesn't mean we still can't help.  Rwandans have hopes and dreams.  Plenty of students in Kibuye want to go to University, but can't afford it.  Natalie, a single mom of five kids in the camp, wants to start a business in jewelry making, but struggles to get it started.  She has a true gift, and I think it's unfair that she is being held back.  Just because some people don't have what they need doesn't mean we can't help.  My mom and I decided to help out Natalie by sending her some money to get the business started.  There is also something in Glen Ellyn called New Neighbor.  This is when you are assigned to a refugee coming into America and help them understand life here.  I really want to get involved with this, especially after seeing the refugees in Kibuye and at our church.

I want to remember everything about this trip, especially our visit to Ubuzima.  The women there were so full of life, even though they were ill.  At the end, we all got up and Yvette led the singing and dancing.  Everyone just started clapping and moving with the beat.  All of a sudden, someone grabbed a drum and the holy spirit was totally in the room.  No matter how sick the person was, they were so thankful for being alive and with others who care about them.  This has made me really think about how I'll value my life.  Everyday I wake up, worrying about what I will get on my test in Biology or if I'll get in a fight with my sister.  But now that I look at it, little things like that shouldn't ruin my day.  I should wake up, thank the Lord, and live the day as if I were to die tomorrow.  I am so glad I got to go on this trip because I would've never realized that's how I should be living.  Living life to the fullest and being thankful for what you have, like water.  Not just water, but hot and cold water.  Living without running water for a few days and going on the water walk helped me see this.  When I brushed my teeth with bottled water, I realized how much water I really need, and that the faucet doesn't need to be turned on full blast while I'm not even using it.  My showers don't need to be 30 minutes long with hot water.  I shouldn't dump all my water I don't drink down the drain.  Water is precious, and we are blessed to have it available at all times.  Water is like life: both are taken for granted and shouldn't be.

So people of Rwanda, thank you.  I've learned more than what I expected.  I've changed.  I've gotten to know God.  Nothing would ever be able to have that same effect on me.  Once again, thanks.  I loved being here, and there is no doubt in my mind that I want to come back.

Reflections - Stephanie Warner

Steph inside the youth hall in the Kiziba camp

I feel both accomplished and unfinished which I think is a good place to be after a trip like this.  We went to Rwanda and did above and beyond what I was expecting in the number of people we touched and connected with.  I regret nothing about the trip but it is still unfinished because like any mission trip there are three stages.  The first is preparation, we spent months learning about the culture and discussing what emotions the trip would bring.  Next is the trip itself, but third and most important is what we do when we return.

There are a few images in my mind that I will never forget.  One is the first morning in Rwanda, it was a Sunday morning and we woke up to a gorgeous scene of the city outside our window.  When standing on the balcony we could hear, faintly at first, music and we soon realized it was the early morning church service starting.  I felt like it was a great "big-picture" of Rwandan culture.  The other image I will always distinctly remember is a little boy that came up to my waist in height that I met on the water walk.  He took my hand and when I looked down at him he gave me a huge smile.  He was missing his two front teeth and he was dirty, like every child was, but he didn't need words to show how happy simply holding my hand made him.

The issue that touched my heart the most was the education issue, especially in the refugee camp.  The children had education provided for them through primary school but an education beyond that, to secondary school for three years and then to a university, was too costly for the family to pay for.  It was like learning the basics in life and it was just  enough to keep them in the refugee camp without any hope of being able to succeed elsewhere in the world.  When talking to kids our age, and even the adults, we found out that most of them wanted nothing more than to continue their education.

These people would do anything to continue and most high schoolers in the United States, when asked, would say that s/he can't wait to be done with school.  I've decided to do two things about this.  First I will value my own education more and not take it for granted because it really is a privilege.  I also want to sponsor a refugee to finish out the next three years of secondary school.  We learned in the refugee camp that it would cost about $20 a month for three years to do this but the effects would last a lifetime.  Giving someone those three years of education would be like giving them an opportunity, not a common thing for refugees, to go somewhere in life and to break out of the refugee-rut that their parents are in.

As we travel home I both remember the trip, the experiences and emotions, and I think about how my life has changed and will continue to change because of the people I met in Rwanda.

Reflections - Domenic Frappolli

Domenic, outside the Moucecore guest house

We spent 2 weeks together. Most of our time was spent in Rwanda. As I look back on the experiences we shared and the lessons I learned, I feel a sort of peace as this trip comes to an end. I feel like we've worked hard, learned many life lessons, and grown individually and as a group.

Now saying that I feel at peace doesn't mean I'm anywhere near done. I felt greatly for the people who don't have running water, and have to journey more than a mile on uphill dirt paths with the sun beating down on them, to get water that we would never find suitable to drink. I hope to change the little things at home, like how long I shower, how much water I need to brush my teeth, and how much water I simply don't drink. But I still am not satisfied with that, and I want to do more. After multiple one-on-one talks with Serge, I came to realize the magnitude of the things he wants to accomplish. He truly wants to help the people, but to do so comes at a great cost. Not only to himself, but also in money. Now the money that is needed is more than I can come up with, but I want to help Serge and his cause. I'm not sure yet how I could raise such high amounts of money that would really contribute, or what I could do to make a significant impact, but when I pray to God I will find a way. And that is what I plan to do when I get home.

Now this trip has left an impression on me, and it has changed me in ways that will truly last a life time. Lessons of forgiveness, valuing the blessings God has given me, living in the moment, and understanding that I can make a big impact are just some of the things I've taken away from this trip. And from these things I hope that now I will not only be more understanding of the world and others not as fortunate as me, but I hope to be a better person, and a better follower of God. Please keep our team in your prayers, and thank you to everyone for walking with us as we took this adventure.

Reflections - Pastor Heidi Johns

Heidi at the Moucecore guest house

As we make our way home I find myself feeling several emotions at once.  God surprised me in many ways in Rwanda, as I learned both about the people who live there and the challenges they face and as I learned about myself.  I was surprised to find people filled with joy while facing such challenges.  I was surprised to find bountiful forgiveness in a land that has been through the evils of genocide.  I was surprised to find hope amongst the ruins of poverty and struggle.  I was surprised to find resounding faith in God when God's blessings at times must seem distant.  I will continue to process all of my feelings and reactions in the days and weeks to come.  My strongest resolve at this point is my commitment to making this trip mean something, both for my life and in our ministry at Faith.

I am thinking a lot about what will come next.  I have been thinking mostly about the ministry we already have in place at Faith with the Refugee community.  Being at the refugee camp gave us all a glimpse of the life they experienced before coming to America.  I am in awe of all they have accomplished with their lives, given the struggle they have come out of  one of my top priorities will be to continue to invite members of Faith to join in relationship with the refugees in our community.   We have so many great ministries already at Faith with the refugees.  I believe those can be strengthened, new ones developed and more friendships can be formed.  As our refugees acclimate to life in America it will be made so much easier as Faith members walk alongside of them.

I am also deeply committed to telling the story of our group's experience.  I believe there will be many invitations to talk to various groups and my hope is that we will take full advantage of having people hear our story and then we can see where God will lead the congregations ministry.

I am also dreaming of doing a congregational "read" of the book "Beetles and Angels" and then having the author, or his sister who lives in Wheaton come and speak on a Wednesday night at Faith.  This event will be "required" for the confirmation families, but the rest of the congregation will also be invited to join in.  My hope is that this book/discussion will get more families at Faith fired up about the opportunities God is placing before us with refugees.

What I am struggling the most with at this point, and so the issue that most touched me, was our visit to the refugee camp.  I am really really trying to make sense of the situation there, but mostly right now, my heart is filled with despair.  It was so very difficult to find hope there.  The problems seem insurmountable.   People are living in conditions that only dance along the border of being humane.  So many children facing a bleak future, with not enough food, not enough space, lack of education and no opportunity.  I am coming away with a strong belief that no matter where you live you deserve to have a dream and to have an opportunity to see that dream realized.  In the camp people sit and wait, wait to go back home, wait to be resettled to a new country, wait for the chance to further their education, wait for the next UN truck to arrive with the monthly food rations, wait for someone to care.  We were asked in various ways to simply care, and in that caring to take some sort of action to try to improve their situation.  I continue to struggle with what that means.

The way I look at new immigrants in our church and in our community will be different.  I think I will wonder much more about their stories and may even have the courage to ask more questions.  I think God will continue to tug at my heart asking me to help and to mobilize others to help the least of these among us.  I think I will have such a greater appreciation and humility about the wealth and opportunity I live with, mostly because of where I was born.  I pray that the power of this trip to change me will continue to multiply and expand rather than diminish with time.  I am very thankful that I was able to be a part of this amazing group, and will continue to ask God to surprise us in how he will work through it.

Reflections - Emily Gorz

Emily, swarmed by kids in Kiziba

When asked by both of the Jens how I felt about the end of the trip, the word that came to mind was  "bittersweet". Obviously bitter because of how much Rwanda means to me now and how much I will miss being there everyday. We joked about how the guesthouse was our home, but in these past two weeks I think that was really true.  Though after being challenged, emotionally, spiritually and physically, it's time to come home to Glen Ellyn. As soon as I began to feel the end of the trip closing in, I was finding it hard to accept when we were leaving. I now understand that in these two weeks we have done so much and it's time to bring everything we learned back home to us. It would be amazing to stay in Rwanda forever, but if we don't bring anything back home, nothing will ever change.

I think I've finally understood the saying, "every end is just a new beginning". Though our time physically in Rwanda ended just hours ago, we still share strong ties with the people, the culture and the country that can't really be broken. When I get home, I definitely want to make a few changes in my life, both for my self and for the service of others. One of the major things I learned in Africa is to be "in the moment". At home, things get so overwhelming and stressful, it's difficult to see what God is doing right in front of us. This is a major cultural difference between American and Rwandan life. Instead of being so time oriented, the people of Rwanda are event oriented. This only helps see the beauty of God and life so much clearer and without any distractions. I've also realized how truly blessed I am to have the life I have. What ever problems I have with family, friends or school can't hold a candle to what many Rwandan experience everyday just for survival. In terms of service to others, I think that we, as a youth group, need to take on the role of advocates for Rwandans. I think an especially realistic idea would to be to sponser a child to go to school through International Teams. This could be done either through our families or the church. Interestingly enough, building a water pump for a community in Rwanda costs around $20,000. This is right around the amount of money we ended up raising to go on the trip. While very different, if we could do it once we could definitely strive for that same goal again, or even partner with other churches or organizations to reach that goal. The issue of water is definitely close to our hearts after the crazy water walk we did last week.

I think we as a youth were blessed with this experience at such a young age. Going into my senior year, I'm making a lot of big decisions for college and my career paths. This trip has really guided me and has given me a lot to consider in this respect in terms of what I really want to do. Rwanda has been completely eye opening for me. I was able to see a whole new part of the world and was able to learn about life and faith from those we met there. When people would tell me that this experience would change my life, I didn't really know what to expect. Now, without a doubt I see that my whole view of the world and life in America has been changed. I feel like I'm going to be looking at my life with a whole new set of eyes from here on out.

I wrote in my blog post the other day that part of our hearts would be in Rwanda. When writing it, it sounded incredibly cheesy but looking back at our trip on our way home, there is no other way I could have phrased it because it's so true.

See you later, Rwanda!

Reflections - Heidi Janss

Heidi with Judith at Ubizima

I find it difficult to reconcile the highs of our trip (the smiling faces, the joy of the church services, the hard-working, welcoming, and faithful people) with the lows of our trip (kids living on the street because their families can't afford to feed them, the brutality of the genocide, the hopelessness of the refugee camp).  I think it will take me some time to integrate my thoughts and feelings into one "whole" experience.

There are so many needs for the people of Rwanda.  Where do you start?  And what about our refugees at home?  How can we help them?  I hope that I can make a difference:  as one person, as part of a family, as part of the FLY youth group, and as part of the Faith community.  I'd like to start with a woman named Natalie who lives in the Kiziba refugee camp.  Natalie is a strong, smart woman and the single mom of four.  Like all of the refugees, Natalie is stuck and forgotten in the refugee camp.  Even though it seems others have given up on her, Natalie has not given up on herself.  She is trying to better her life and the lives of others in the camp in whatever way she can.  She is the vice president of the camp and serves on the camp's ministry team.  She is also contributing to the economy of the refugee camp by making jewelry.  Her dream is to train other girls and expand her business.  Natalie just needs someone to believe in her and sponsor her.  I hope the Janss family can be that someone for Natalie.

Reflections - Lindsey Coleman

Lindsey hanging our of the window of the "squish" bus.

As these 2 weeks drew  to a close I could not help but feel a sadness within me. I've learned so much here and I don't think my time in the 3rd world has ended quite yet. As we debriefed with Jen K and Jen B we shared some final laughs and had some good conversation as we reflected on these past 14 days.      Poignant feelings filled the room as dreams were shared and tears were shed. We discussed about how we would continue to live out our mission once we returned home. My dream for when I return home is to never let the lessons I have learned fade. I want Rwanda to be a vivid memory in my mind for as long as possible. I never want to forget the smell of the market or the red clay or the huge banana tree leaves. I don't want to forget the faces of the Ubzima women, or the rambunctious spirits of the street kids or the treacherous water walk. I don't want to forget the guest house and how it became our Rwandan home.

As we now enter into the third stage of our journey I want our team to continue to work together to achieve the many goals we have discussed. Rwanda allowed me to discover new things about myself, and I feel as though I have been shown the light of God and what he plans for me in the future.

Reflections - Jill Janss

Jill with Moses (middle) and Natalie and Emile
My experience in Rwanda can not be explained in words. This trip was so powerful and impacted me more than anything else in my life. There was not one missionary that was better than the other. They were all equally important and changed me some way. All I can say about this trip is "kindness is not a weakness". On previous mission trips, I would not branch out and be kind to everyone I met. However, on this trip, I saw kindness everywhere. It was so contagious that I started to make friends at the missionaries and the refugee camp. I favorite friends were at Kiziba, especially the old man, Moses. Even though we could not communicate with out a translater, we instantly became friends. I, now, truly believe that kindness is a powerful characteristic. If the pastor at the church service did not say "kindness is not a weakness", then this trip would not have been as life changing as it is now.

Reflections - Bryce Dibadj

Bryce with Emile and Natalie in the Kiziba camp
The trip to Rwanda has been an amazing experience. I feel sad that we are leaving the amazing country but also happy to go back home. When I get back home I would like to in some way support a student from the refugee camp. I also want to get back into swimming and do as much as I can with the time I have left for that. I never want to forget the way the kids looked in the refugee camp, how hard it was to carry a 20L can of water up a massive hill or the amazing animals we saw on the safari. The issue that touched me the most is the lack of education provided in the refugee camp. My life will be different because I have a different perspective on water, education and people.

Reflections - Doug Bradbury

Doug hands out empty water bottles in the Kiziba Refugee camp

by Doug Bradbury

Dust covers everything
Dust accumulates inches deep on the road to Kiziba
Dust covers church roof
Dust clumps in the corner of a kids eye
Dust turns a UNHCR tarp from white to brown
Dust chokes Kiziba lungs
Dust must be washed from a car
Dust piles on top of victim's clothes
Dust becomes of victim's bones
Dust settles in my heart
Dust I am
Dust, I will remember
Dust, I will return.

Reflections - Ryan Twaddle

Ryan at Ubizima

When asked to give one word to describe how I was feeling, I said accomplished. Our adventure in Rwanda is over, but the journey never ends. I went to Ubizima where I learned the power of support and faith and how it can be used to fight AIDS, I saw giraffes, hippos, and zebras, I experienced the life of a refugee, I made friends that I will talk to for the rest of my life, and I had Happy Birthday sung to me in three languages. I accomplished phase two of Rwanda and now it is time to go home and spread the word.

With my new knowledge of Rwanda and of the International Team's Ministry, I know how to spread the word. I want to work with the Leadership team in FLY to create fundraisers to raise money for one of the many ministries we participated in. For example, $100 a month can power a pump to get water to families who currently walk miles twice a day to get maybe 20 L of water or for $20 a month we can send a refugee child to boarding school to receive a high school education that they desire more than almost anything else. There are endless opportunities to help the ministries, all we have to do is start fundraising. But, one group that I will be supporting for sure is Ubuzima. As they sang and danced, I could feel, see, and hear God in everything they did. I want to help them raise money by selling their products in our community to raise awareness of the group. They taught me that with support anything is possible, but I learned much more than that during my adventure in Rwanda.

As I sat in played in the refugee camp, I constantly noticed kids with chipped, rotting, and missing teeth. Almost every person had yellow or black teeth. I have always debated what I wanted to do when I am older, but I feel that this trip gave me a new idea of my future. I want to return to Rwanda as an intern to work on the refugee's teeth. But, this is not the only reason I want to return. When we talked to people in the camp, a common topic was that they like to talk to Mzungus to practice their English. I want to help teach the students English and talk to the adults who simply want to practice their skills. I am going to start creating short term goals, that result in a long term goal of Ryan Twaddle practicing dentistry in the Kiziba Refugee Camp. But, going to Rwanda has changed my life in another major way.

If you did not hear, both of my bags did not make it to Kigali when I did. Then, on the last day, hours before going to the airport, my carry-on bag was snatched from the mini bus that had be driving us around all week. He or she made away with my emergency food, my photo journal, my malaria pills, my journal that had entries from everyday, and my camera with 407 pictures from the last two weeks. At first, both times hurt, but I steeped back and noticed the bigger picture. I do not need my camera, bug spray, or more than two sets of clothes. All I need is my friends and family. When my things went missing, the boys offered me clothes and the girls offered me bug spray and sunscreen. When I lost my carry-on bag, my friends offered their pictures and a journal for me to write in. Yes, I lost every single one of my belongings at least once during the last two weeks, but my friends and family will always be there to support me when I need them and I will always be there to return the favor. I now understand how truly valuable everyone is and I will never forget that.    

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Way Home

We are in the Kigali airport preparing for our long journey home.  Please continue to pray for our safety as we travel.  We spent our few hours today doing some last minute shopping, processing the trip with Jen K, and saying our goodbyes.

We will each be posting some additional reflections on the trip as we travel home.  We will post them as we get the chance, so stay tuned!

The sun sets over lake Kivu in Kibuye

Kiziba, as seen by Domenic

The Team with some youth member at the Camp

by Domenic Frappolli

Jen presents our gifts of soccer balls and underwear

Ryan interacts with school kids

Domenic, Lindsey, Jill, and Darby 

Natalie, Emile, Jill's protector, and Jill in the camp

So today was our last day of ministry in Rwanda, and so we spent our day at the refugee camp. We got up around 6:30 AM, took our showers and packed our bags and went to Jen's room for Jill's devotion. After the devotion, we headed to breakfast. We got our food much quickier then on past days thanks to Serge. After enjoying our meal, Emily eating 10 passion fruits, and Ryan finishing off 3 bowls of strawberry jelly, we set off to the camp. We brought soccer balls and underwear of all kinds to the refugee camp to give as a gift. We all crammed into the jeeps as usual! We had a quick 40 minute drive that flew by as we enjoyed the scenery, and before we knew it we had arrived. We got out of the car and went to into a room. Emile helped split us into two teams, and we began touring the camp. Both groups went to the schools, primary and secondary, and the hospital. The schools were filled with kids, with up to 70 kids per class. Kids rushed out of their classes to see us, but they were quickly scolded and sent back.  Our group stopped at Emile's house, met his family, and talked about life in the refugee camp and how they felt about it. They all agreed that in comparison to their life in Congo, the refugee camp is very bad, and they missed their homeland. We got to meet his grandmother who was a very nice lady, and when we asked her how long she'd been in the camp, she replied by saying that she'd been there so long she lost track. While we stopped at Emile's the other group went with the kids, ages 18-23, to go play volleyball.

We met up with them on the volleyball courts. Some of us played with the little kids, others played volleyball, and Doug decide to bring empty water bottles to give away and was immediately swarmed with kids, almost being run over. He ended up giving those he had away, and one of the big 5 liter jugs that was empty was thrown down the hill, with about 40 kids chasing after it. I was glad to see them so happy about getting water bottles, but also sad that we could only give them a few. While playing volleyball we found out that they were extremely good at volleyball, but with the teams mixed between us and them every game was fun and fair. We spent the rest of our time there just playing and hanging out, constantly meeting new kids as they got out of school. Ryan and I really wanted to know how they make their soccer balls that the kids have. So we found out that the kids used the condoms to make soccer balls. Unfortunately, we didn't know what was in the center of the ball. We were never able to figure what was in the center, but we found the idea very interesting. It showed us that these kids are very creative, and since they have grown up with so little, they know how to use what they have well.

As it was almost time to go, we gathered up as a group with Emile, Natalie, and other men who helped run the camp. We gave them the soccer balls and underwear, and  they sang us some songs. The songs were very good, and they told us how they wanted to sing them at the studio in Kigali so they could have them on CDs, but the cost per song is 70,000 RWFs, or around $100 US. That is not even including the expenses of getting everyone from the camp to Kigali, which is about 3 hours away. The next thing we knew we said our goodbyes, took some pictures, and were off. We got back to the hotel, gathered our bags, ate dinner, and set off on our 3 hour trip back to Kigali. Were divided in 3 jeeps, and along with the 12 of us is Serge, Kim, and Mark.

Tonight we will be debriefing, maybe getting some food, and then having a candle light ceremony which I still don't know much about. I am sad to see this trip end, but we have all learned valuable lessons that will surely shape the rest of our lives.

Nothing Can Separate Us

by Jen Bradbury
Women washing clothes in the Kiziba Camp
Sitting on the balcony overlooking Kigali this morning, my emotions are muddled. I am tired - emotionally & physically - and in that sense, ready to go home.  Yet, I am amazed at how quickly this place and these people have wormed their way into my heart, making it difficult to leave.  

Muddled emotions have become the norm for this trip - especially over the last two days when we journeyed to Kibuye to see the Kiziba Refugee Camp.   In many ways, this is the part of the trip that our team and I have been most looking forward to as it's so closely related to the on-going work that we do at Faith with our refugee community.  

Yet, if I am honest, journeying into the refugee camp was one of the most difficult aspects of this trip.   The camp sits in what is, quite possibly, one of the most beautiful spots in the world, nestled high on a Rwandan mountain, surrounded by lushness, overlooking beautiful Lake Kivu and the Congo.   It's not fenced, but geography traps its inhabitants, preventing most people from journeying outside of the camp though they are technically free to do so.   It takes an hour to travel up the long, windy, dusty road by car.  I cannot even imagine how long it would take to make this journey by foot.  

Once in the camp, our senses were assualted from every direction.   Dry season in Rwanda quickly turns dirt roads to nothing but dust that blows everywhere with even the slightest wind, clogging our noses and making it difficult to breate.   Pugnent smells permeated the air - a mix of overused bathrooms, 20,000 people who have not bathed crowded into a very small land mass, and rotting food.   If ever there was a smell of poverty, this was it.  

And oh the sight of this camp.  It simply made me want to cry.  Within the camp, there were layers upon layers of brown - brown dirt;  brown people;  and small brown  houses made of clay and sticks that sit one on top of the other, each covered with a UNHCR (United Nations Hgh Commision for Refugees) tarp.  

As soon as our jeeps entered the camp, we were surrounded by people - leaders from the Camp and the "youth group" within the camp as well as kids in a sea of blue school uniforms.   These kids break your heart with their bloated bellies, faces riddled with sores, and dried snot all down their faces.  They look uncared for;   Forgotten.   And in a way, that's the word that I  think best describe the refugees in this camp - forgotten.   They are forgotten by a world who rarely acknowledges their existence or the on-going war in the Congo that caused them to flee.   (To date, this conflict has resulted in 3 million deaths.)  

Garden nursery in the GCM youth group garden
While at the camp, we received a warm welcome from the leaders of the youth group.   This "youth group" is really made up of young leaders from the camp who range in age from teenagers to 20 and 30 somethings.   They are one of the few groups within the camp that gave us hope.  These individuals want to make a better life for themselves - both after they leave the camp and while they are still in it.  To this end, they run businesses, charging cell phones for people in order to earn money;   Selling jewelry;   And cutting hair.  Proceeds support the group and its activities, provide seeds for a garden used to provide supplemental food for the most vulnerable in the camp (the elderly), and provide extra income for people to buy additional food to offset the 12 kilos of rice, dried corn, beans, salt, and oil that they receive each month from the UN.  Often this food arrives rotten, leaving people hungry and desparate, grossly malnourished.  

During our two days in the camp, the leaders of the "youth group" gave us a tour of the camp, showing us their businesses, the schools, the hospital, the football fields, and welcoming us into their tiny, tiny homes. As they showed us around, they explained the problems they face in the camp:   Lack of food;  Boredom that comes from eating the same thing day in and day out for 15 years (the length of time many of these refugees have been in this camp);  Lack of education and opportunty - the UN will only pay for school until Grade 9;  Disease;  And perhaps worst of all, the hopelessness that comes from being stuck, yearning to go home to a place where they would likely be killed if they tried to return, yet unable to work in Rwanda, and unwilling to be resettled elsewhere for doing so would mean giving up their dream of returning home.

We caught just a glimpse of these problems in the children, who as soon as they finished school for the day, swarmed us, often to the point of making us uncomfortable.  Longing to talk with us in their robotic English (taught by non-native English speaking teachers);  Trying to touch us - our hair, our arm hair, our white skin;  And hounding us with phrases, "Give me water bottle.   Give me money.   Help me go to United States."  In many ways, it seems that these kids have been trained to know that white people provide - they come to the camp and give things to them, some of which are useful, some of which are not.  From our vantage point, this seems to have created an unhealthy, frustrating dependency on us.  And yet, how can you blame these people for seizing the opportunity and asking us for what they need when their needs are vast, almost incomprehensible.  As one of our students said yesterday night as we debriefed, "How do you even begin to help when people need so much?"

That's a question I know I am and will continue to wrestle with.   As I finish writing this morning, worship across the valley has just ended and the praise songs have ceased for the morning, reminding me of the joy in Christ that we have seen throughout our journey here in Rwanda, even in the midst of great poverty and despair.   Throughout our time in Rwanda,  I have been reflecting on Romans 8:38-39:   "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  

After our time in Rwanda, I would translate this verse, "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor poverty, nor AIDS, nor a lack of clean water, nor a lack of shelter and family, nor war or genocide, nor being a refugee, forgotten and without a home, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  

And yet, even though these things will not separate us from the love of Christ, they are issues that represent an unjust world.   They are problems that have tugged at the heart strings of our team as they've gained understanding regarding their complexity and important.   This understanding became evident last night as our team connected what they saw in the refugee camp with conversations we've had and behaviors we've seen in our own refugee community.  Our experience in the camp explains so much and brings with it a greater understanding and empathy for our refugee neighbors.   Though our time in the camp left us feeling drained, it also convicted us, something that I saw last night as our team shared how they hope this experience will have changed their lives five years from now.   Pastor Heidi cast a vision for an extraordinary refugee ministry at Faith.  Another adult shared how he wants to walk through Parkside Apartments and be part of that community, with refugees knowing his name and story and calling him a friend.  Students shared their commitment to spearhead efforts in our community to meet the needs of refugees when they initially arrive by providing them with the supplies necessary for life in America and explaining why clothes don't go in the refrigerator but meat does (something that makes so much more sense now that we understand most refugees have neither refrigerators nor meat!), by walking alongside of them as they struggle to adapt to life in America, and by continuing to serve during ESL Kids Club.  Another student shared how in five years she hopes to be sponsoring her second child through International Teams, to enable him or her to finish high school.  Still others shared how they hope this trip will continue to give them purpose - even as they enter college and choose their vocations, vocations that our teens hope will make a difference to people - at home, in Rwanda, and throughout the world as they continue to address the many problems they've been exposed to here on this trip:  AIDS, poverty, lack of clean water, lack of education, street kids, and the plight of refugee.  

Thank you for supporting this trip - financially and prayerfully - and enabling students to be in places and situations that though sometimes overwhelming, also leave us raw and open to what he is doing in us.   My prayer is that as we return home  our community of Faith will continue to rally behind this team, walking alongside of them as they live out their dreams for justice, birthed in Rwanda during this trip.


Kiziba Refugee Camp

by Emily Gorz

Today was definitely a change of scenery. After coming to call Moucecore in Kigali "home" we woke up in Kibuye, a city in the western province of Rwanda.  Though kind of missing Kigali, we were excited none the less because we all are in agreement of how much we love Kibuye. Our guesthouse is right on Lake Kivu, and as I type this I can see the lake right through our window.

Lake Kivu, seen on the way to Kiziba
Since the rooms we stayed in on Monday night were not available for tonight, we had to pack up our stuff in order to switch rooms. After moving our stuff to reception we loaded back up into our jeeps and made the 45 minute drive to the Kiziba Refugee Camp. While the camp really isn't that far away, the time spent driving is thanks to the crazy bumpy roads and the fact that we are basically in the mountains. The roads were zig-zagging all through the mountains and we were thrown around in the jeep like rag dolls. While the roads were kind of scary (there were no safety rails on the edges of the roads so we could easily fall to our death) it was fun, like a roller coaster! But we were completely safe at all times, as our leaders would never put us in danger. On the bright side, we got to see Rwanda from a whole new perspective and got to witness God's crazy-nutso creation.

Charging Cell phones

We pulled up the the camp and we had to wait to be let in until the president of the camp could confirm that he was expecting us. When we entered the camp we pulled up to where we were greeted by the members of the GCM organization. We were led into a meeting room and got introduced to Emil, the president and Natalie, the vice president of GCM. They explained their two main ministries in the camp. The first being a cell-phone charging station where a single charge costs 100 RWF, and the second being a barber shop/salon thing. Both of these ministries utilize a large generator. While they sound like weird things to work on in a refugee camp, all the revenue made from these projects goes towards internal improvements in the camp like gardens to produce crops. Lately, there has been a lot of drama in the camp surrounding the cell-phone charging business. Another person bought a bigger, newer generator and was stealing customers away from the GCM by drastically cutting prices. This other generator business was just for profit and by taking away customers from GCM was limiting the amount of improvements that they could make in the camp. In a stroke of luck, the other generator broke allowing all the customers to go back to GCM. God sure works in strange ways.

Jen with Emile, president of GCM (christian youth mission) in Kiziba
After a quick tour of the central part of the camp we broke off into groups to explore the rest of the camp. Each group had a chaperone from GCM that led the way. Jen, Bryce and I were led by Emil. He showed us the market and then brought us into his home in the camp where we were introduced too many of his siblings. We talked for a long time about basically anything. We learned a little bit about Emil's life and how we has been in the refugee camp 15 years after leaving the Congo with his family.  Also we got around to discussing his views on President Obama and Hillary Clinton. He says he really like both of them because they went against the odds by running and didn't let their disadvantages stop them from trying to achieve their goals. This seemed to be a common theme for Emil, as we continued our conversation. He shared with us that the vice president of the whole camp must be a woman. When we asked why this is, he explained that it promotes a sort of gender equality in the camp. Girls in the camp will see the potential to be the vice president and work hard in school. It sort of sets the tone for the girls in the camp in that way. This was really interesting to me considering how male-dominated this society is. Emil seems very dedicated to allowing everyone the same opportunities. In his own way, he's changing the social structure of the camp by advocating for the girls and for moderating debates between the school boys and girls about gender equality.

School children clamor to get in a photo with Doug
The camp is holding about 20,000 refugee, half of which are under the age of 15. So when school was let out, literally a sea of children in blue school uniforms surrounded us. They were eager to try their English out on us and were fascinated by the camera and bubbles we brought along to the camp. We were able to see the water source they have and were shown the churches and buildings. Today was a special day because 25 wedding were happening in one of the churches so much of the camp was involved in that. The 25 weddings pretty much happend simultaneously and we got to see the wedding parties as they left.

Jill talks with some members of the GCM youth group
After the tours we went back to the first meeting room where we met the president of the whole camp. He was shockingly young but still commanded the room and seemed to be respected by everyone. After welcoming us, he stressed the importance of our advocacy for the camp back home. He really highlighted the need for the camps education. The combined efforts of the UNHCR and a Jesuit organization gives the refugee kids education the way up to P 9 (which is the equivalent of 8th grade here). However, having nothing to do with themselves from age 14 on, many of the teens turn to drugs, prostitution and violence. The president impressed on us that having education for these teens would really prevent a lot of these social problems from happening in the camp. We learned that a way we can solve this problem is by sponsoring a child through International Teams and encouraging others to do so.

One side of the Kiziba Refugee Camp
The camp as a whole is nothing like any of us ever expected. During debriefing tonight we talked about how we expected their to be fence around it and for it to be surrounded by tents. That was not the case at all. We actually learned that the refugees can come and go as they please out of the camp, however the catch is that with out a Rwandan ID card they cannot really do much. Additionally, the camp is located at the top of a mountain, which means that though people are "free", they are stuck, trapped by natural geographical boundaries that keep the vast majority of the camp from ever entering town. Serge also brought up the point that there is no need for a fence or a gate because the people there do not want to become Rwandan. All they really want is to return to their home, which for almost every refugee is the Congo. The camp seems to be more like a community then a transitional place to live. This is sort of bittersweet, good because of the fact that its a relatively stable place to live, but bad in the sense that there is pretty much no way that any of them will get to go back to the Congo. In this very moment, violence is happening in the Congo where 3 million have been killed by the very forces that fled from Rwanda.

The Kiziba refugee camp as seen from the access road
We left the camp at about 4 p.m. It ended being about 6 hours spent there and we were crazy exhausted in the jeep ride to the Kibuye guesthouse. When we got back we were moved to a new set of rooms that are really really really really nice. Then I was met with a tough decision. To either swim in Lake Kivu or to blog. I hope everyone can forgive me that I went swimming instead of blogging :). Lindsey, Darby, Bryce, Doug and I headed down to the lake and swam, we saw some Germans sitting on the rocks. They were being party-poopers and would not come swimming with us, and with that we went to dinner.

Serge stops to chop some wood in the camp
After dinner, Serge got to tell us his story. He was born in the Congo, but had Rwandan heritage and spoke Kinyarwandan. Because of this, his family faced a lot of social problems and the ethnic Congolese would tell them that they didn't belong. When tensions started rising before the genocide, Serge knew that there was a chance that he would be killed by geociders. He felt like his best chance at survival was to go against his parents wishes and join the RPF. With out telling his family, Serge left home at age 17 to join the RPF. He trained in the RPF during the genocide, but after the genocide died down he realized that he wouldn't just be allowed to leave the military. Serge ended up serving 11 and a half years even though he never wanted to make the military his career. In the years after his service Serge went to University, had a son, moved his whole family to Rwanda and worked to support them. Serge also worked very closely to President Kagame as a presidential guard. He got to travel the world accompanying the president and with his higher wages, was able to send it back to his family. Jen later came to Kigali from international Teams- Canada and her and Serge got along really well. Then in about a year they got married! They have three awesome kids, Prince, Isabella and Benny who we all adore. By learning Serge's story I think we got a much clearer picture of his life now. Speaking for the group, this knowledge just made me respect and value Serge more as a guide, Christian and person in general. We will definitely miss him when we leave, among the tons of incredible people we were blessed enough to meet.

Speaking of us leaving, it's not far away anymore. And I really can't believe how the months preceding and the last two weeks flew by. Even though we will be physically leaving on Thursday, I know that we are not done with our service and relationships, because part of our hearts will be in Rwanda.

Wow. That was a really long post!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Travel to Kibuye

by Stephanie Warner
Stephanie with Jill in Kibuye
Monday morning we woke up, as usual, got ready, and went downstairs to breakfast.  Everyone was happily surprised when the usual morning breakfast of eggs had for the day been switched to french toast (everyone had been growing a little tired of eggs throughout the week).  After breakfast we did some last minute packing in preparation for spending the next few days in Kibuye and working in the nearby refugee camp, Kiziba.  Jen and Serge gave us a short orientation about the camp, the refugees, and what to expect.

The team at on overlook on the way to Kibuye

View from the bridge we walked across

A vista on our trip to Kibuye

The top of the waterfall
We had a quick lunch then packed the jeeps for a three hour drive to Kibuye.  Even though everyone was exhausted we were not allowed to sleep on the drive and instead were instructed to look out the window at the beautiful scenery.  I was so thankful that I didn't miss the opportunity to see more of God's wonderful creation.  Driving through the Rwandan hillls was simply breath-taking and it gave new meaning to the country's nickname, Land of a Thouand Hills.  On the way we made three stops.  The first was a bridge that we crossed by foot because of a tradition that Jen and Serge have.  The next stop was simply another place to strech and take pictures.  The third stop and my favorite was a waterfall.  We climbed down a path to get a closer view of the waterfall.  On the path we saw a group of three boys that played their homemade instrument and sang for us.  They put a smile on everyone's face.  We climbed back up the path to get a full view of the waterfall and the surrounding hills.  The scene, along with every scene we saw that day, was so gorgeous and simply picture perfect it looked like a painted backdrop.

This was a much needed day to relax and bond as a team as we prepare for the next step of our journey.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fun Facts 2

The team at a stopover on the way to Kibuye
We are a bit lagging in our posts.  Our days have been so full it's hard to keep up!  We are in Kibuye and just finished our first day in the refugee camp. Posts from Emily and Stephanie covering the last two days are in the works but in the meantime here are some Fun Facts to tide your over.

June 20, 2011
1) Kibuye means "Rock"
2) Fanta = Soda (any kind of soda)
3) Mac & Cheese in Rwanda is really spaghetti noodles and butter.