This is my personal journal (edited) that I wrote while I was on the trip.† The day count heading is for the day that we were actually in country.† I did not write any entries on the two days at either end of the trip, as we were traveling.† The journal was originally written as a letter to my wife, Lori, but I have taken most of that out, as it was meant to be a private letter between a husband and wife.† Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) comments or questions as you read!† Enjoy!
DAY TWO (EVENING)
Well here I am at the end of day 2. Sorry I didnít journal yesterday, but I was so tired I even skipped dinner! Not that the food has been ďto die forĒ or anything but come on Ė itís me here! :-)† Anyway today we went around and toured the African Enterprise sites. We saw t-shirts being made, clothes being sewed and made, and we went to a job training site where they were learning carpentry and welding Ė making pots out of old engine parts! And then we met women who had been trained in catering who were selling food products. There were also brick makers and stove makers. †It was awesome to see all that everyone was doing and learning.†
I canít believe the sheer number of people here! Everywhere you look there are just groves of people! †We also saw a market (no shopping yet) and a place where they made shoes.† Then we went to a lake retreat center that was just beautiful. There were crowned-cranes that were magnificent. Then there was a traditional kingís hut on the grounds and it was really neat to see what they lived in the past.
Adam (my roommate and photographer) and I were in a separate car with Joseph, a Hutu from the North, were the fighting was most fierce. It was amazing to hear his story and his testimony of what God has done in his life. He has been with AEE for over 10 years. He lost a son in a refugee camp during the genocide. He and his family were there for 2 years. He said there was much crime and that the only divisions they had were thin tarps. He said many days he went without food so that his wife and son could eat. He looked at it like fasting. He said he did not want to not eat for no reason, so he purposefully fasted.
I really liked reading the cards and verses that you all sent along. I have already read a number of them and am feeling so blessed and supported. Day one was not a good day for me mentally. Part of it was due to tiredness, but I really was wondering what I had gotten myself into. I felt totally inadequate and out of place. I felt very lonely, too. I came here not really knowing anyone on the team and I was really feeling it.
Back to today Ė the most exciting part of the day was visiting the prison. There were 12,000 + people in the prison Ė women, men, and even some kids. There were a few babies that belonged to the women prisoners. They get to leave around age 2 after they are weaned from the breast milk. Itís sad that they have to grow up in that environment. When we came in to the prison, it was amazing to see all the faces staring at me. We walked up a long, narrow aisle with prisoners on either side of us Ė nothing between us and them. But I was not afraid. It was so calm and they were so happy to see us. When we got to the stage there were chairs for us. Behind us and to the side there were more people than I could count. The service lasted for almost 3 hours. It was so awesome!† I am very tired, so more later.
DAY THREE (MORNING)
So guess what? I may actually be a morning person over here! †I am up super early.† I havenít gotten ready for the day yet Ė Iím just sitting in the compound listening to the city slowly wake up. You canít imagine the sounds of the birds! †It is beautiful. And the morning fog burning off the hills is a sight to behold.† Itís about here so you are probably going to bed now.† Today is the street kid outreach Ė Iím so excited.† I Have a nice surprise this morning, too. They left a jug of hot water! What a treat! Well people will soon be up so I better get ready for my day. We have breakfast at and our first meeting from .
DAY FOUR (MORNING)
Well, here I am again. I am not feeling all that much better.† Yesterday was very intense. There were over 300 kids at our event, and apparently 500+ more that wanted to come but were turned away. The program started with a choir performance for us, but it was a drum choir! It was so cool! These little kids were so cute and so talented it was unbelievable. They were so cool I wanted to join in with them to try it! They when they performed a second time they asked for 4 volunteers and I went up and got to play with them! It was so awesome! After the program was over we all got our lunch and spread out into the auditorium so that the kids could get their food and sit among us.† It was hard to communicate much, so we just sat together and took lots of pictures. I have never met anyone who wanted their pictures takes so badly. I think I went through 2 full rolls of film! Iím sad that I have to miss the prostitutes today. You know I must not be feeling well because I was supposed to speak. I did get to speak yesterday morning when we met with the AEE staff, but it was unplanned. Joseph just called on me to share. It went well, though, and many people told me I did a good job. After the meal with the kids we handed out the shirts. We did not have enough so we handed out toys and crayons, too. Iím not sure when we will be able to hand out the cards the kids made Ė maybe tomorrow? I think I may go shopping this afternoon with some people in the group, but Iím not sure. Some of the group is back now, but not all of them. I wonder whatís going on? I guess that some have a meeting later and needed to get back for it. Itís starting to get really warm now. Iím so glad we bough those light-weight pants from Old Navy! Iíve worn them every day.
Services here are 2-3 hours in length! It takes a bit of getting used to! Even the one for the kids was that long, and it was not really any different from the adult services.† I was expecting some differences, but even in introducing the people who sponsored the event Ė it was almost identical. There is definitely a charismatic attitude among the people Ė from prophesy to speaking tongues was seen. When we were at the prison, we left and were shaking hands and hugging the people. I got behind from the group and the next thing I know was in a crowd by myself! Then a guard came up behind me and ushered me quickly out. It was neat, though, not scary! We were not allowed to take pictures inside or around the prison, though. It was very cool to see all those people praising God Ė even though I didnít understand much, if anything. We have been the honored ďmozingosĒ at each event and they always put us on the stage in chairs facing the crowd Ė a very strange feeling. Walking out of the prison I felt a bit like a rock star Ė weird. As I was walking out the door I turned and waved and they all cheered Ė it was neat. Only 413 of the criminals were there unrelated to the genocide.
I guess the prostitute outreach went well. They got to go and visit former prostitutes that had received assistance from AEE and were now self-supporting from the training that they got. I really wish I could have gone, but better to be 100% for tomorrow when we go to Butare for 3 day/2nights. Itís really a relaxed environment here, even though Joseph said that the hustle and bustle of the city is taking things at too fast a pace.
DAY FOUR (EVENING)
Well I am starting to feel a bit better now. I went shopping with Mary Beth and Joseph Ė it was downtown and kind of intimidating. I was glad Joseph was with us. He stopped Mary Beth from getting ripped off, so that was good. I did buy some really cool things, though. On the way home we got a flat tire Ė we felt a bit vulnerable then Ė but it all went ok. It is so weird that they drive on the ďcorrectĒ side of the road but the steering wheel is usually on the left. When I got in the front seat today I immediately went to adjust the rearview mirror. Weird, huh?
I am slotted to preach twice this weekend. One time at a church and one time a crusade of some sort. None of my sermons are really applicable for this setting, but itís good to have them as a starting place. I havenít listened to my music at all Ė not even on the plane. I thought I would be listening to it a lot. Iím forming some good friendships with the team members and Rwandans. This has been a life changing experience. Thank you for your support. Tomorrow we go to Butare Ė which is about a 2 hour drive. I hope I will be feeling 100%! Anyway, I should get to sleep.
DAY FIVE (EVENING)
Well hello again! I just finished going through and
polishing my sermon for tomorrow night. I think you would approve. I canít
decide about using a joke or not Ė we will see.†
I sent an email home tonight. The price for the Internet Cafť in Butare (the city we are in) is like 50 cents every 15
minutes. Ridiculously cheap!† I bought a
warrior carving today when we were at the museum. The museum might have been
cool, but there was no power!! How weird is that? Anyway, the real treat was
the dancers and choir they had perform for us. It was so cool Ė the guys were
wearing warrior outfits and it was really neat. I got a lot of good pictures
from it. Then I bought my warrior carving at their gift shop. We are staying in
a hotel here in Butare, and Iíve got to say that itís
really quite scary. The ants pretty much have run of the place, so I had to
move my bed away from the walls, and there is no running water right now, so
that is special. Also our bathroom light does not work. So it is an adventure
to say the least. Also my sport coat got left in
Itís only , but Iím really tired. Iím looking forward to preaching tomorrow Ė I know Ė shock! Anyway, Iím going to go sleep right now.
DAY SIX (MORNING)
Well, good morning! We have no electricity this morning so Iím writing you a quick hello via candlelight. There is no running water today so it is a bucket shower again.† At least they brought up hot water! I wish you could have been here experiencing this with me.
DAY SIX (EVENING)
Well, I preached today! It was awesome! There was about 250 kids at the school (a private boarding
school). About 25 kids rededicated their life to Christ Ė committing to not be
lukewarm and 2 kids became Christians!! I am so amazed at how God uses me Ė I
am simply available and willing to go and God accomplishes so much. I am in awe
of His plan and work. Adam, MaryBeth, Callin, and Katie were the other members of the team and Phineas was the translator. Adam and MaryBeth
were very impressive with their testimonies and the girls did a great job
telling them about how school is in
Our translator (Phineas) was phenomenal! He echoed not only my words, but my gestures and voice inflection. He mirrored me perfectly and it was awesome. I guess I preached 45-50 minutes, though no one know for sure since no one looked at their watches which I take as a good sign. The team all told me I did a good job and when we came back shared with the rest of the team that I did well. Phineas told the other interpreters that I was a good preacher, too, so I feel really good about how things went. Tomorrow I get to preach at another boarding school for their Sunday chapel service. I am so excited! I donít know who the interpreter will be though, so Iím a bit nervous. It looks like it will be a person not from our group, so we will hope for the best. Brent and Mary Beth go with me tomorrow, so it should be fun. My body is almost all the way healed now Ė only a little sick this morning, but I was fine the rest of the day. Well Iím writing by candlelight again Ė isnít this romantic? †Well, I am going sleepy time now.
DAY SEVEN (EVENING)
Wow, what a long day! Itís Sunday and I preached at another boarding school Ė this time Baptist. Right as I was getting ready to start preaching the driver came to pick me up! So he took the other 2 team members (MaryBeth & Brent) and said he would return for me later. I was a little nervous about this arrangement but it all worked out. I preached for about 35 minutes and around 35 kids responded to the altar call. It was really powerful. When I told them I would pray for them, the translation got mixed up and they started repeating my prayer so I had to quickly change gears and have them pray a prayer of rededication. Then the choirs sang again and I told them that I wanted to dance with them so they sang another praise song that we all danced to. It was so cool to be totally surrounded by kids singing, dancing, and praising God! It was definitely one of my highlights of the trip.
It was also strangely calming to be there without
anyone else from the team. I donít know why, but I really felt connected to the
people more and I was more dependent upon God. After the service I rode with
the driver to pick-up the rest of the teams and we went to the luncheon with
the mayor, the head of AEE and the local pastors of Butare. (For whatever reason, right not there
are a ton of dogs howling Ė it is very strange!) After the lunch we went
to the outreach where we heard more choirs and got to hear more testimony. Then
we had the 2 hour drive back to the guest house in
DAY EIGHT (EVENING)
My bum hurts!! We went to Nymata
today for the Womenís Center Ceremonial Brick Laying. There were thousands of
people there Ė it was amazing! On the way into town (on a bumpy, bumpy, bumpy
dirt road Ė hence the sore bum) I was kind of surprised because it seemed like
a ghost town compared to every where we went. (Iím not sure if I told you, but
everywhere we go there are tons of people along the side of the road no matter
what time of day. Some are walking, some are just congregating, and some are on
bicycles. There are bike taxis here that look very uncomfortable.)† But the reason it was like a ghost town was
because the whole city was at the ceremony site! It was incredible. Even the
schools were there. I met the minister for gender and families Ė a cabinet
equivalent Ė and the Chinese ambassador to
There were some cool dancers, including a girl warrior dancer which is unheard of. Then after the 90 minute tortuous car ride home we had dinner at the Hotel Des Mille Collines - the real Hotel Rwanda! It was an upscale restaurant with a panoramic view of the city from the open air dining room. We saw the pool area and bar and I got a coaster and some sugars with hotelís name on it!† My meal Ė honey ham cut into thin slices Ė I canít recall the name Ė with pineapple was alright, but Iím really craving McDonalds! Even the ice cream I had for dessert left a bit to be desiredÖ †Tomorrow we get to go back to Nymata for a tour of the city by the mayor (which shouldnít take long) we are going to 1, maybe 2 genocide memorials.
Apparently there is a possible strike on United Airlines, which is who we fly with getting back, so I hope they donít strike. Today at is the strike vote so we are prayingÖ I almost forgot Ė this morning was shopping! I bought so much stuff that I had to borrow Rwandan Francs from people! I bought 2 chess sets for 50,000 when they were originally priced 55,000 for 1 and 25,000 for the other, a really cool thing from an Ethiopian booth, a couple hand carved nativity scenes, and more.†† They are having a conference/exhibition called Comesa which is bringing together several African nations for trade & commerce. Thatís how I got the Ethiopian art.
DAY NINE (EVENING)
Well here it is Ė probably the last entry in this letter. Today we got Nymata and they had a whole day planned for us. It was an OK day. †The place for our evening reception Ė The Flamingo Ė had a really nice view of the city.† Earlier in the day we went to a Nymata Genocide Memorial where a catholic church was the site of 5000 murders. It was a harrowing place to be. They decided to leave all the bones, clothes, and weapons where they laid, so it was very difficult to see and experience.
Then we went to a place were women who will use the new womenís center were assembled in one of their associations. We didnít stay long. Then we went to a street kid center Ė the only one in the country where there were over 100 street kids who were there for rehabilitation and job training. We toured the grounds and it was heart breaking to see their dorm rooms, and the entire place smelled of urine. We saw their kitchen, which consisted of large fire pots and a dining hall of benches.
After that we went to a center for lunch with the
mayor Ė who by the way was the one touring us around. After lunch we headed to
a hall where a larger group of women where waiting to hear more about and ask
about the womenís center. They gave the whole team gifts and I got a basket
Ėwithin- a basket thing which you will really love. Each one says
I hope United did not vote to strike! I donít want to
be stuck in
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