Goodbye Rwanda!

Twenty-three days ago we came together as a team on our way to Rwanda, and now we are just about to part ways in the Dulles airport in Virginia. After a long journey of prayer, trust in God, learning to seek God in every situation, and we are finally coming to the end of of week three. It was a bittersweet goodbye we said to Rwanda and all of the incredible people that touched us! We’re all leaving having learned different lessons, but I think it’s safe to say that Rwanda will always be in our hearts and minds.

Here are some highlights from our third and final week:

- Last Saturday, we were blessed by a visit to a center for disabled children ages 5-25 with Modeste and Gilbert. Although we did not know what to expect, as soon as we walked through the gates at this facility, we were greeted by the most joyful and affectionate children. Our hearts were broken for these children and the nuns that so obediently and compassionately care for them.
– Participating in a bracelet training for women in Nyamata was a great way to learn about the work All Across Africa is doing and hear the stories of the women. Wirira, which means ‘don’t cry’ was started by Odette, who not only lost 7 children but was widowed during the genocide. She began Wirira in order to provide a safe and loving place for widows to meet, reconcile and support each other after the genocide. The time we spent with each of these widows was a powerful testimony to God’s grace and love towards Rwanda.
– This week we also visited two genocide memorials, one in Kigali and another in Nyamata. Both were difficult to see, but it was especially hard to walk through the church in Nyamata where 11,000 people were raped and murdered, with Mama Odette from Wirira who lost two children in that church. The reconciliation that has happened in Odette’s life alone was evidence that with God, even the unthinkable is possible.
– On Friday, we visited a sewing program for about 15 twenty to twenty five year olds in Gashora. It was only a couple minutes after we arrived that we started dancing, singing and praising God with these joy-filled young adults.

– For a grand finale to the trip, we traveled to Akagera National Park for a night to debrief with Modeste about our time in Rwanda and see Rwandese wildlife. It was refreshing and renewing to leave the city and talk about how God has been working in these past three weeks.

Thank you all for the love and support through prayer, donations and encouragement of every sort! Please join us as we continue to support those we met and All Across Africa through prayer.

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weakness of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up.” Romans 15:1-2image

Home Soon!

Hello, friends!

After three weeks in Rwanda, the team will return to the States Monday afternoon.  As you prepare to receive them, here are some things I hope you’ll think about to help the team make the most of this trip.

Here’s flight information for those of you meeting students at the airport:

  • Jen and Michaela return to Seattle on September 1 at 2:59 PM on United #357.
  • Kelsey returns to Atlanta on September 1 at 2:14 PM on United #3802.
  • Katherine returns to Phoenix on September 1 at 2:06 PM on United #1661.

As the group returns, they’ll continue to think through this experience and its implications for their lives.  It’s likely that this mental processing will involve at least some of these elements:

  • Relief upon returning to familiar surroundings,
  • Frustration with aspects of home culture that appear less desirable than the cultural values experienced during the SPRINT experience,
  • Sadness and joy over relationships and memories developed during the trip,
  • And hopefully, Resolve to incorporate the learning from this trip into daily life as life moves on.

It’s our hope that SPRINT participants will return to “life as usual” with expanded worldviews and a clearer sense of God’s work in their lives.  The learning process continues after the trip experience; students will participate in a debriefing gathering in October, and we’ll encourage them to keep meeting together to share the story of their host’s work and encourage future generations of SPRINT participants to serve.

I encourage you to give your student time to catch up on sleep, then set aside an extended period of time to share pictures and stories.  Don’t expect completely-formed opinions immediately; the reflection process takes time.  We remind returning SPRINTers that not everyone will have time to hear the whole story, but that they should find a few people with whom to share the longer, more in-depth account. 

You might appreciate this perspective on returning to America in a blog post from Emily Brown, a former SPRINTer who spent the past year in Zambia with the Mennonite Central Committee.  As Emily looks forward to her own return home she brings up a number of feelings that will also be relevant to SPRINTers in this season.  http://emilybrowntozambia.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/the-countdown-begins/

I’ve mailed team members a copy of the Global Citizen Journal, published by the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship to help them think through their experience as they move forward.  If you have time I’d encourage you to talk though some of these materials with your student.  Take a look at some of those articles here: http://www.kristafoundation.org/index.cfm/page/the-global-citizen-journal-5/

Thanks for your support of students on this team!   Please let me know if you have questions.

Owen Sallee

SPRINT Advisor

owen@spu.edu

Theo(neste): a week of celebration and searching for God’s presence

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Coming to the end of our second week in Rwanda, we were reminded of God’s beauty by a glorious sunrise. This week has been a combination of early mornings, meaningful conversations, moments of doubt and reassurance of God’s purpose for us on this trip, which is to bring Him glory in any way possible.

We have been blessed with several awesome opportunities this week, and here are a few highlights:
-Attending Laura’s wedding. Saturday night we celebrated the joining of Laura and Theo’s lives in a traditional wedding ceremony- dancing, gift-giving and all. We sat with All Across Africa staff and watched eagerly as dancer after dancer performed for the newly weds. It was an experience we will all cherish and remember someday when our weddings are probably not nearly as beautifully musical.
-Teaching at Theoneste’s Catch-Up School for kids who missed parts of primary school and are hoping to attend secondary school. We assisted the five teachers in teaching about 170 students math, English, science and social studies. The love and curiosity displayed by these children and dedication seen in the teachers was beautiful and clearly God-given. We were also blessed to be able to share testimonies with some of the students and hear theirs in return.
– Eating lunch and exploring with Emanuella and Isa everyday this week. We have seen Kigali and truly enjoyed our time together. They are beyond great! Isa’s minimal English has lead to some hilarious conversations in mixed Kinyirwanda and English.
– Sharing supper with Theo (not Laura’s husband), an incredible genocide survivor who worked for All Across Africa. Our dinner with Theo entailed his asking of questions like, ‘What makes you cry?’ ‘What is something that you continually bring to The Lord?’ and ‘Who is your favorite person in the Bible?’ These questions led to much thought and many discussions, receiving priceless wisdom from Theo. We are blessed to have had this opportunity.
– Visiting Nibakure Children’s Village in Nyamata. We were able to visit a children’s home with twenty two kids, living and being raised by incredible Rwandese women.

Please continue to pray for peace and unity not only on our trip but in Rwanda. Pray that God’s power would be evident to those around us!

Week One in Rwanda

Muraho (hello) to all of our family, friends and supporters following our blog!

We have now been in Rwanda for five days and we are truly beginning to fall in love with this beautiful nation, the Land of a Thousand Hills. Our apologies for taking so long to update- internet access is sparse and we have been busy busy busy :)

On Monday, we were greeted by Ellie, a designer for All Across Africa, Emmanuella, our wonderful translator, and Isa, our kind and patient driver. After sorting out our lost luggage (which we got the same day, Praise the Lord), we headed to the house where us four are staying and met Odette, who has been taking good care of us through her cooking amongst many other things. Odette is such a light to us in the way she smiles and loves on us, despite the language barrier.

We would like to share a few highlights from the past few days:

-Visiting two weavers, Priscilla and Salaphina in their their homes outside of Kigali. We were blessed by their testimonies of weaving for All Across Africa, which gives them a steady income and the ability to build homes and support their families.
-Eating lunch with the All Across Africa (AAA) staff Modeste, Alice, Ellie, Titi and Emmanuella and learning more about Rwanda and their stories.
-Visiting a weaving cooperative about 2 hours away, which involved us asking 20 or so women what they are most proud of and how working for the organization has greatly improved their lives. Whether it’s been through medical insurance for their family or buying a couple of chickens – The Lord is at work through this organization. We were also able to sing and dance joyously together.
-Car rides with Emmanuella, Isa, and Alice have been so much fun and getting to know each of these people better has really helped from a bond.
-We have also had many wonderful conversations as a team and we know that God is working already in us and is teaching us many new things about Himself, Rwanda and how to best serve those we came to serve.

And tomorrow we are excited to go to the Rwandan wedding of a staff member of All Across Africa!

Please pray for us to have discernment in how we can spend our time to best glorify God. Pray that we would continue to grow closer as a team. Pray that those we encounter would truly see Jesus in us and that we would radiate His love and peace. Finally, on the more practical end, please pray that we would all be healthy, energized and safe as we travel around Rwanda.

Imana ishimwe! Praise The Lord!

Much love and many thanks,
Jen, Michaela, Katherine, and Kelsey

They’ve arrived!

The team’s host just emailed to say that they’ve arrived in Kigali, “Safe and sound with all of their bags!”

That’s good news.  We’ll look for a blog post from the team in the coming days.

Thanks for your support of these students!

Owen.

Here we go!

This evening the team begins their journey to Rwanda! Katherine met Michaela at SeaTac (photo below), Jen met those two at the departure gate and they’ll all meet Kelsey in Washington DC.

Over the next three weeks the team will learn and serve alongside All Across Africa’s work in Rwanda with weavers, widows and community reconciliation leaders.

They’ll keep us updated through this blog. If you have questions in the meantime, please contact me at owen@spu.edu.

Thanks for your support of these students!

Owen Sallee
SPRINT Advisor

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5 Days to go!

With only 5 days until departure, Team Rwanda is excited and getting ready to step into the work God is already doing in Rwanda with All Across Africa! We just got off the phone with Allie, the co-director of All Across Africa, and have been reminded of both the little things and the big things that we need to remember on this trip. We are not going to change the world or even start something new for Rwanda. We are going to simply participate in the fantastic work that All Across Africa is doing for Rwanda, by training and equipping women and children to create beautiful art that can be sold globally. Find out more here http://www.allacrossafrica.org.

In the past few weeks, our team has gone from 5 to 4 members due to a peanut allergy.  While we all wish Annie would be able to come with us to Rwanda as we had planned, we know that her well-being and health is ultimately more important.  We will miss her dearly, but know that she will be with us in spirit!

Please keep our team in your prayers now and in the coming month as we depart for Africa.  Please pray that God would bind us together as a team, give us peace as we leave familiarity, and most importantly allow us to fulfill our purpose on this trip, which is to encourage All Across Africa staff and offer help to them in any and every way, all to glorify our God!

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

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