Hope this note finds you well!
We realize it’s been a while since we’ve written… since we’ve come back from Rwanda, we have been going non-stop here as it is our last week in Kenya… we’re trying to squeeze as many visits and ministry opportunities in as we can before we depart from Nyahururu on Wednesday.
The mission trip to Rwanda was a great success on many levels. Our Kenyan/Canadian/American Team worked so well together… and the Rwandans were very happy to have visitors… we were warmly greeted everywhere we went and enjoyed many visits to many different churches in the Eastern and Western parts of the country. And what a beautiful country it is! We have many photographs of course for anyone who is interested in seeing… please be in touch with us once we return home, we’d be happy to spend time to show and tell! 🙂
It truly is the “Land of a Thousand Hills!” And they don’t waste an inch of it… hills are usually cultivated right up to the top and it was amazing to drive by and see people tending to the fields of crops way, way up… it must be exhausting work… but they are very blessed with good soil, lots and lots of rain and a bounty of crops to show for it. Their main crops from what we understand are bananas, casava, sweet potatoes, and rice, coffee and tea. The country is so green and SO clean (compared to Kenya and Uganda), even the Kenyans commented countless times about how clean Rwanda is and how nice it would be if Kenya could be as well. Most of them said they were going to try to break the habit of littering… they agreed that change had to start with themselves!
We spent most of our time visiting churches… participating in worship services (Lots and lots of singing and dancing… in Rwandese, Kiswahili, Kikuyu and even some English!), holding small group times with Pastors/elders, women’s groups, youth groups & their leaders and children. The Kenyan churches (along with a gift from Harbour) raised funds to leave with each church we visited mostly to help with very practical needs of the church, like fixing roofs & putting towards larger building projects to complete or repair the actual church buildings.
A large part of the funds raised are going towards the purchase of land for an AIC Church plant in the Congo. We spent the better part of one afternoon just getting to the Congo. The border was only 10 minutes from where we were staying… but it took over an hour to get “processed” to cross the border (no line-ups… just waiting for paperwork to be done) and once we got in it took another hour to get to the area where the church site is. Coming back was only 15 minutes… lots and lots of traffic going in. Anyway, once we arrived there, we had a good meeting with the Congolese Pastor who wants to start the church there. It is a rural area with many, many people and very few churches. … And children, my goodness… we couldn’t get over the number of children… everywhere… the Congolese Pastor was telling me that the average family has 12 children! Even the Kenyan’s were struck by the numbers of children that they saw.
Well… it’s just after 5 am… thought I’d get up ( I was awake anyway!) to write and to get this last update from Kenya finally out…
We’re pretty much packed and ready to go. Just a few last minute things to attend to this morning, our friends from the States have invited us for breakfast this morning so we can spend a little more time with them before we go. As well, we’ll try to spend as much time as PACE with the staff and young people as we can before we take off. We are going to miss them all so much.
On Monday afternoon, Blair and I planned a little “farewell” gathering at our “home” for the staff at PACE. All arrived after school, we had a couple of “campfires” going and we had sausages and roasting sticks at the ready so they could roast over the fire. They enjoyed the snack and the break and the Lord blessed us with a beautiful afternoon, so we all enjoyed our time together outsidoors. We and the PACE staff as well, said our “formal” goodbyes… but for the most part we just wanted to show our appreciation for the staff who work and serve tirelessly in their various roles at PACE.
Yesterday, there was a meeting of the Rwanda leadership team to wrap up the trip, then Blair and I headed to Maina to visit with Pastor Francis and his wife Beth at Victory school. We had a really good visit and we have a much better understanding of where they are at in ministry and how we can best show support to them as a church family. We were so happy to see that their school has grown from 50 to 85 3-5 year olds! The children are just precious and they were so excited and happy to have visitors!
The three of us (Roger had spent the morning at PACE as he had his last French class to teach.) were blessed with the opportunity to join the US team to visit the Nyahururu prison. We were divided up into two groups and some went to spend time with the men, the rest of us with the women. We all had an opportunity to share, Blair and Roger shared their testimonies with the men, I was privileged to share with the women from the Word. Being more of a “one on one” girl… God was stretching me to be sure, I had about 10 whole minutes to prepare! I trust God spoke through each of us… there was certainly evidence of His Word penetrating hearts on both sides of the prison compound.
Please do pray for these men and women… again, many who should not even be in this place… which is still as harsh an enviroment as ever… whether sentences are a few days or a few years, it’s hard to imagine being there. Though yesterday, there was a real sense of God’s presence, we’re getting a growing sense that the officials really do care for the inmates and have been very eager to have the church back as much as they can to minister to these people. God has certainly shown favor to this ministry over the last few months as Wachira has introduced it to some other Pastors in town and has involved some of the Heads of Department at PACE. I was so blessed to hear that a couple of the Pastors and the PACE staff have already set up a meeting for next week to plan how they will proceed with a serious effort to make regular visits to the prison to offer Bible studies for those who want, and to offer other opportunities of support… counseling, helping to supply for basic needs, and I even heard talk of PACE being part of an effort to offer training for some who need a new direction in life when they are released. It really was a blessing to have another opportunity to go and to see and hear first hand how so many were moved to step up efforts to minister and reach out with the love of Christ to these hurting, misguided and in some cases, simply misunderstood people. We all left very encouraged for the day and for the future of this ministry and felt that the hand of God had opened the door and led us in the whole day.
Back on Sunday, Blair and I had an opportunity to visit an IDP camp in Okalau, about an hour from PACE. (Roger spent the better part of last week in Nairobi with one of the American missionaries to attend the Willow Leadership Summit and spend time in the city.) We accompanied the US team, the choir from AIC Nyahururu and some Pastors and leaders from another local church. That was a moving experience to be sure. We thought the prisoners were living in harsh conditions! In this IDP camp there are about 13 000 people living in makeshift tents in a relatively small area… and it gets cold at night. There are two places where they get drinking water that comes from springs down a nearby “mountain” and a nearby river for bathing and washing cloths. And this is just one camp… there are still many operating in the country… it’s been almost 2 year for these people. It is estimated that there are still about 250 000 people living in IDP camps… people who have lost EVERYTHING! Family members, homes, land, businesses, vehicles, job, their lives as they knew it.
Just the evening before, Blair and I had dinner at the home of a nearby neighbor, and his neighbor joined us later… he also lost almost everything in the post election clashes. He was fortunate to own this small apartment complex in Nyahururu , so at least has a roof over his head for he and his wife.
And yesterday we had lunch in the home of Pastor Mugo, who we have gotten to know well over these last couple of months. He to was driven out of his home last January, lost almost everything in his home except for what he could fit into two suitcases, he managed to escape with his family in their vehicle and has re-settled in Nyahururu. He showed us pictures of his church as it had once been, and a very large church at that… then he showed us photos of what it looked like when he went back to visit the area this past May, and the church was nothing but a pile of rubble. Burned to the ground. It was very sad to see, and such a senseless act. It was amazing to us to hear though how and his wife talk about the experience… how God has worked in and through it and how they see the blessings in what has happened to them over the last few years.
They have a small church in town here, and God is slowly growing it. We are trusting that God will bless and multiply this church through Pastor Mugo’s efforts and leadership… If God lays this family on your heart, please keep them and their ministry in your prayers.
Over these last few days, we sense that God has really been making an effort to put these people and this situation in front of us. It really has made us realize how little we can really depend on governments at any level to be a force of real change in situations like this. It also re-enforces the sense we have that the church really is the hope of the world and if people who follow Christ, who have been shown the depth of God’s grace and love as we have, don’t reach out to minister and serve hurting people who sometimes see no hope in this life… who will?
We sense God had a plan in reminding us of this just as we are about to depart to come back to Canada. We have been reminded once again, in preparing to come home, what is really important in life. God will be with us just as much there as here… though in our noisy, busy culture it really does take more effort on our part to hear Him… but hear Him we can, if we truly seek Him with all our heats. Family, friends… people… perhaps people we’ve not even met yet, but that God will put in our path to be ministered to or to minister to us. We have been reminded of how no matter how much we think we can do, it is only God who can move in hearts and impart real change in a person’s life… and He can, now matter where, or who, or a person’s past of present circumstances… God never gives up on anyone and can turn lives around in ways that none of us could even imagine. We are living proof… and each of us are grateful to God for the stories we can share of His working in our own lives… to take us down a path none of us had ever imagined, even up to today… another new day that God has blessed us with to know Him and be changed by Him and to be used by Him for His plan and purposes for this day.
God is good… all the time! Even in the most difficult and challenging moments of life. And on that note… I would ask for your prayers for our friend, Pastor Philip Wateure and his family… his wife, 13 year old daughter and 9 year old son. A couple of days after we left for Rwanda, Pastor Philip, part of the Rwanda team, got a phone call from his wife that their 6 month old son, was quite sick. Over the course of the week, the boy became more and more ill and had to be taken one of the larger hospitals in the area. Just as we pulled into Nakuru (where the Kenyan team would part ways) Pastor Philip received a call that his son had just passed away. He and Pastor Mugo, flew off the bus and to the hospital, which thankfully was only an 10 minute drive from where we pulled into town.
The team stopped on our way home to the hospital to greet the family members there and to pray with them for a short time. The burial was this past Saturday morning, which Blair and I attended with some of the local Pastors. It was so encouraging to see the support that this family received… from a rather large family, to their church family and also many from the community. They were very grateful and encouraged by all the support and prayers. And it was evident that God was filling them with His strength, comfort and grace for this day. We were moved by the grace of Pastor Philip, who said to us on more than one occasion, that he was very thankful to God for the 6 months he had with his son… such a testament to the depth of his faith and the trust he has in God in all circumstances and in all things.
Please do keep Pastor Philip and his family in your prayers. This surely will be a season in which they will need an extra measure of God’s comfort, love and strength as they grieve this loss and adjust to this unexpected turn in their lives.
Please do pray as we make our way back to Canada, starting this afternoon. For safe travels in van, taxi’s planes… for favor, patience and perseverance as we make our way (With, I’m fearing luggage that might be just a little too heavy!) through various airports and customs and security checks. For a chance to rest as we travel after a very hectic few weeks and knowing we will have a lot to take care of as we arrive home. And that we “end well” here… there are so many “little things” that we need to do, some we could do and desire to do… but there is not time for it all… please pray that God will help us discern how He wants us to finish well here.
Thank you again for all of your prayers… for us and for our ministry partners and friends here. It has been a blessing and a privilege to serve over these past few months… it will be an adjustment for sure coming back to Canada, but we are trusting God for all He has for us, even in that. It has been a blessing to share this time with you even in this way… thank you for your encouragement and support in so many ways!
We pray that the rest of your week is good and you will know God’s peace and presence. To our family… we’ll see you very soon! To our Harbour and Lightway friends, Lord willing, we’ll see you on Sunday! And we look forward to many visits and correspondance with friends over the coming weeks… that is the one thing that we look forward to most in coming back to Canada… is to be back with family and friends! We love and appreciate every one of you and look forward to spending time with you soon!
In Christ, with love and in His service,
Sheryl, Blair and Roger