Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Going in Grace (& Peace)

With a tear in my eye, today I’ll fly…I’ve said my goodbyes and had a few cries, but now I’m ready to go. As all my projects have wrapped up, closing has the feeling of contentment. These past two years have been wonderfully full. How thankful I am indeed for this place and these people. Rwanda was simply a country I’d heard stories about before I came. Now it is the land that I’ve lived in and loved.





With two of my host families

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” Philippians 1: 3-4


This blog has highlighted bits of my “African adventure” and I hope that through it, 1 Thessalonians 5:24 shone through. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass.” The Lord has been ever so faithful every step of the way. And now, another adventure awaits…


“From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” Romans 11:36

Monday, January 31, 2011

Telling Time

Time is a tricky thing to track. Of course we know it ticks away in measurements of seconds, minutes, and hours, which turn into days, and months, and years. But somehow, those months can flash by quick as a blink, and memories, held tight, can last forever.
Saturday (January 29th) marked two years of living in Rwanda and with just 2 months left, the days seem to be flying.


But as they fly, my projects are finishing up too.
This is exciting! (Often bringing to mind Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ ”)
The preschool, I wrote and received a grant for, finished construction and re-opened this month! Its dirt floor and packed mud walls have been replaced by clean solid classrooms and a reading room with books.
Before:
After:
It was so exciting to watch the transformation, and now to see it put to good use.

Another something I’m excited about connects with my work in the hospital pediatric ward this last year. It’s been such a blessing to be in that environment and be providing (and training nurses in) psychosocial support. What does that mean? Play, of course! However, toys aren’t as readily available here. So, as I’ve mentioned before, I began sewing dolls and beanbags (used for games and to explain medical procedures.)
This was great, but…I’m leaving soon.
So, guess what? I learned that the local prison houses both women and their young children. How’s that relevant? Well, I introduced the dolls and beanbags to the social worker there and we distributed some to the children and developed a plan. We now have “The Sew Good Project.” That means a group of female prisoners are sewing dolls and bean bags, so that children living in the prison and hospitalized children have access to play materials.

My hope is that this will be a sustainable, and it should be, as we are using free fabric scraps from the local tailor shop and beans grown in the prison’s garden. What a neat thing it is to see these women now using some of their time to sew for the good of others and in doing so, learning some new skills and thinking about how they can give back to the community. They seem to love it, the children sure do, and I do too!

Other fun events from these last few months include:
Facilitating for a girls leadership camp (Camp GLOW),
organizing a Christmas Nativity skit with my host sisters,
climbing Mt. Bisoke,
hosting neighborhood kids for craft activities,
and beginning to plan for my trip home (will be stopping in Europe on the way back.) But for now, I’m still here.
And how glad I am for that! You know, we talk about “African time” meaning most things start later and take longer than they’re supposed to. Well maybe that is true, but there’s another side of it too. It means slowing down to visit with neighbors instead of rushing by, stopping to smell the flowers, and giving thanks to the God of the Ages, who holds each day and life in His hands. Yes, time is a tricky thing, but that’s all the more reason to treasure it. Every day is a gift, each moment an opportunity.

“Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; and His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How does your garden grow?

The seeds we plant today are the harvest we’ll reap tomorrow. But when is tomorrow? In some ways it’s today, in some ways it’s in a few weeks, or months, and in other ways it’s for the rest of our lives. What do I mean? Well, you see the seeds are not just plants, they’re also seeds of encouragement and seeds of hope, seeds that don’t just grow in the future…they give a future.

These last few weeks some fellow volunteers and I have been doing garden trainings. We’ve held these at the homes of different families, many who have children who have had or currently have malnutrition. By sharing with them simple ways to improve their gardens (i.e. digging deeper, enriching the soil, pulling weeds, and planting (and then eating) nutritious vegetables), we’re building on what they already know and helping them to help themselves.


Last season in my own garden I planted lettuce, something I can never find in my local market here. It grew great and I enjoyed many a salad. Eventually a few remaining plants went to seed. I didn’t pull them, but instead enjoyed watching the life cycle, and was surprised by the almost broccoli looking form it took. In due course, it was time to replant and when I went to pull out the remaining lettuce stalks (they were no longer heads) I was met by a great surprise. I didn’t need to replant. The lettuce had sprinkled its seeds in the soil itself and plants were already growing…in abundance!

I’d planted, but then they’d grown and multiplied. That’s just what I hope for the gardens we plant and the skills we share. That they will grow and multiply and produce an abundant harvest. I hope this for the plants of course, but also for the smiles and the encouraging words.
The story of Jonah and the big fish is well known, but as I reread it, the end of the book was what really stood out to me.
Jonah 4:5-11: Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, "Death is better to me than life." Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"
“And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.” It’s easy to get excited about plants growing, change comes quickly and it’s easy to see that a difference has been made. In lives and hearts it can be a little harder to see, but don’t give up. Remember the compassion of the Lord, His faithfulness and love. How glad I am that this world is in the hands of the Gracious God instead of the Jonah and what a delight it is to get to be a gardener.

James 3:17 & 18, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, the peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Climbing

The beginning of Isaiah 40: 9 says “Get yourself up on a high mountain…”



Well, that’ exactly what I did! But why does the verse say to go? To declare good news. And I do have good news: Together my friend Sonia and I, made to the top of Africa and the world’s tallest free standing mountain, Urhuru Peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. In fact, we were standing on the summit a month ago today.



What a delightful adventure and experience. I loved every minute of the climb (and am so thankful I didn’t have any altitude sickness!)

However, that is not the Good News. The good news, the glorious Truth, is even more exciting. (And I must say, I was pretty excited, skipping on the summit after watching the most spectacular sunrise up above the clouds!)




So what could be better?


Just a little further in the same chapter of Isaiah, verses 28-31 shares this:


“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who hope in the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”


God is the Good News! He’s the Creator of the ends of the earth (glaciers in Africa) and His handiwork was such a delight see all along our trek. From unusual trees, friendly monkeys, and a zebra rock, His creativity was declared everywhere I looked.




But He didn’t just create, He sustains! How wonderful to know no matter what type of mountain, when challenges come along, God will be there, faithful and strong!



Happy Trails

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Pennyful of Thoughts

Thanks to the EWU Children’s Studies Club and their Pennies for Pencils drive I was able to make some very special deliveries last week. They were just simple things that seem so basic back home. But here, they were very big things! I just couldn’t stop smiling, seeing the teacher and student’s delight. And it was so delightful to give, not just pencils, but markers, colored pencils, scissors, notebooks, balls, and books too.
I made a similar delivery at the prison (where young children stay with their mothers until the age of three, and sometimes longer if they have nowhere else to go.) And my last stop was the hospital, with erasable drawing boards.
This was all from money raised from college student’s pocket change!

I was thinking about pennies, how they can sometimes seem insignificant, just one small coin. But they are the very makeup of the dollar, which is the very makeup of the American economy (whether in a recession or not). One penny might not seem like much, but if every American gave just one penny, the total amount of money would be over 3 million dollars! Wow! I think it’s the same way with our daily actions. They can seem so small, like what we are doing couldn’t ever really make a difference. But if together we do little things, to reach out, to show others that we care, it really can change the world.

So, heads or tails? I say heads. Where on every penny (and nickel, quarter, and dime too) it is written “In God we trust.” There is no other place I would rather place my trust! Indeed, how very good it is to be able to trust in God and to know that He is all the time trustworthy! Well, that’s my two cents worth. I’ll end with this challenge from Psalm 37:3 that echoes this project and my heart’s desire for the rest of my service here, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blessings!

What’s been happening since I last wrote? First of all SWAA, where I was previously working, closed their branch here in Kibungo. After assisting to clean out the office, I transitioned to working as a community based volunteer, spending the majority of my time at the hospital. I am so thankful for the Lord’s provision of a job I love!


The lit up smile, on this girl’s face (and her mother’s) came not because of the camera, but from playing with the small cloth doll she has in her hands. I've been enjoying sewing these and bean bags during my spare time.


Recent hospital projects:


*Applying for a grant, receiving funding and having a sink installed in the pediatric ward
*Helping facilitate a support group for HIV positive children
*Beginning to establish a psycho-social support program for children during their hospital stay.



Before the sink, the bucket in the background was used for hand washing



Sink Installed!


Back in March I spent a week in Rwanda’s capital Kigali and volunteered with Operation Smile.What a great experience and dream come true. I spent most of my time with the children, providing entertainment and education before and after surgeries. However, I also assisted with medical records and was given the incredible opportunity of sitting in and watching one of the surgeries. Seeing the transformation take place was amazing! But truly, it was amazing just to be there. To do small things, to play with and to teach and prepare children, so that a big difference could be being made. In a week, children’s smiles were healed and their lives forever changed. That is definitely something to smile about!




Other activites:




Teaching at Compassion International, Working with a Cooprtative of People living with HIV, Running in the Kigali 1/2 Marathon in May






And most recently a wonderful visit with my parents! It was delightful to see them, to catch up, show off Rwanda, and go on a safari together. I also put them to work, they brought along with them suitcases full of toothbrushes and tons of stickers too! We were able to teach kids proper tooth care and then provide them with tooth brushes so they could do it! Thanks to all of you who sent toothbrushes, stickers and toys with my parents. That was such a blessing, both to me and especially to the kids here in Rwanda!


So I close with a smile, for all the the Lord's blessings both past, present and future.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning"" James 1:17


Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's Been a Year!

Today I have been in Rwanda for a full year. And the Lord has been so amazingly faithful every step of the way. How true I have found Lamentations 3: 22-23 to be“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.” There was a while upon first arriving at site that most of my job was just doing paperwork in an office. How thankful I am that that has changed!





So what’s happening now? I able to be out of the office and working with children, in a variety of contexts ...




This picture is of me using a stuffed animal to teach teeth brushing during a Community Health Day




I've also been getting to continue my work as a Child Life Specialist in the local hospital! It is a delight to be able to bring play activites into an otherwise rather miserable environment for children...to have tears stop and smiles appear, what a great reason to be here!





SWAA (The Society for Women and AIDS in Africa) is the organization in Rwanda that I am partnered with. This picture is from a camp that we put on for Orphans and Vulnerable Children.




In November I took a trip to Uganda and went bungee jumping and whitewater rafting on the Nile River. It was incredible! But you know, even more incredible than that experince, is the incredible love of our Lord Jesus Christ!
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, not things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separated us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:38-39
I am so thankful that He brought me to this beautiful continent and that He is continuing to work in and through me as I continue to be available to Him.
"Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will Bring it to pass" ~ 1 Thessalonians 5: 24
So with that, I'm looking forward to this year ahead and all that the Lord is going to do!