Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 30.....

Ministry Partners,

Satan quickly TRIES to take us from the mountain top into the valley and rob us of the joy that God has put in our hearts.
After 4+ weeks in Rwanda, watching God's do amazing things, I am choosing, like the Apostle Peter, to keep my focus on the Savior and not on my circumstances but just a few of the events from the last 4 days have been VERY interesting........
-- My laptop crashed and cannot be repaired (I'm using my notebook)
-- I went for a walk and re-injured the nerve in my right hip making my hip, thigh and calf extremely painful and just yesterday:
1- I found that my freezer, in the back shed, had went off sometime while I was in Rwanda....what a smelly mess.
2- A yard waterline developed a huge hole, that I was able to repair.
3- My phone fell into the dishpan of water I was using to clean the freezer and now it does not work.
Are you laughing yet?, I was, it has just been too ridiculous!!!!!
Above it all, I have been so aware of God's faithfulness to me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20.........

June 20 --- It’s another beautiful, wonderful day in the country of Rwanda. 

I was awakened by a “call to worship and singing” at 4a.m. by a religious group somewhere in this city so I decided it was a good time for me to be praying. I finally got up at 5 and finished yesterday’s journal so I could get it posted on the blog before we left for the day.

Our traditional breakfast was at 7:00 and since Pastor Al and Shelly are our resident coffee makers/drinkers they along with Kathy were in the dining hall when I arrived…….as usual!! The omelets take some time to make and Pastor Al had watched the members of the team very carefully the last few mornings and today he ordered them for everyone which turned out to be a VERY good idea. The rest of the team arrived just as the omelets were being brought to our table.

The team along with supplies and Bible sets all loaded, headed off to Mpanga Prison about 8:15. I did a crusade there last year and saw the Holy Spirit bring 6,500 to salvation but this year we will be doing 2 days of Spiritual Leader Trainings and Women’s Conferences.

We stopped and ordered more Certificates of Completion at a local printer before leaving Butari.
The drive to the prison took about 30 minutes on the main paved road and 30 minutes on a dirt road, again it is a road rutted by heavy rains. We were told that before I arrived there had been such heavy rainfall that some people lost their homes and seven people lost their lives.
Unlike last year we were not detained at the main gate but after checking our signed paperwork and confiscating every cell phone the guards allowed us to pass and enter the complex. We drove up to two large metal sliding door/gates, in massive 40ft. (at least) brick walls and one gate was opened for us to enter. This is an International Prison and has some prisoners from other countries who were also involved in the 1994 Genocide. Every prisoner here has had a trial and has received at least a 15 years sentence.

Alfred’s cousin who was the warden here last year has been relocated and we meet the temporary Interim Warden …name?… a young man who speaks softly but with authority to us but as he turns to speak to a prisoner his tone is strong and demanding. I am glad he “appears to like” me and the gift I have brought for him. He tells us that he was not informed that we were coming but he will get things ready for us as quickly as possible.

The Bible sets were taken to a storage area while we waited to be given permission to go up the hill to the women’s area. Once we were given permission Alfred and Pastor Jerome accompanied us with our equipment bag. When we arrived we were unable to enter as the women had returned from gardening with garden produce and the area needed to be made presentable before we entered, once again through large metal doors. Alfred left to tell the warden of our need for a sound system but returned shortly with it and him.
We finally entered the women’s area and the configuration is similar, but smaller, to the extra large area where we had the crusade last year, this is large and spacious but it is uncovered except for the entrance area where we set up.

I introduced myself, the team and Alfred and Jerome in the usual way. The women laughed and enjoyed their introductions and then I had Jerome share a 5 min. testimony.
The Interim Warden addressed the women and he told them he was now also my son. At my age I am being blessed with fine men who treat me with such respect and treat what is important to me as though it has eternal value. Then all the guys left to join the Spiritual Leaders Training.
There are 370 women here but all are not present, maybe 300. I started the morning by sharing my testimony and giving an invitation at which the Holy Spirit brought 81 to salvation. The choir sang a song and Kathy did her 1st teaching on “Being accepted by God”, then because we had gotten a late start it was time to break for lunch and meet with the men’s team.

At 12:30 when we walked outside the women’s holding area there were men prisoners waiting with absolutely huge 100 gal. or so, containers of cooked corn and maize. I guess they will hold it in their area until dinner time at 5 o’clock!!!!! They only eat once a day.

The guys were already in the van when we arrived down the hill and Alfred was making sandwiches for everyone.

It took some time for the women to gather again after we returned to their area. It was hot and the sun that had provided a bit of cloud cover was gone so some of the women tried to find shade under the covered walkways, some of their umbrellas or just pieces of fabric or an article of clothing on their heads.

Shelly did a marvelous job sharing her testimony and then Kathy did her 2nd teaching. I have been blessed again this year with wonderful women to help as we share the love of Christ together with these prisoners. I ended the day singing a song in their language and having them join me, I think they enjoyed it as much as I did and then with my “Why” question message. Almost every woman responded. It was ever so evident that the Holy Spirit was doing a great work in the hearts of these women. 

We made it down the hill just as the men were finishing so I was able to greet some of the women leaders who had taken the training, many remembered me from last year and called me by name.  The men reported that there were 32 women in the training and about 90 men for a total of 122. The Holy Spirit was also doing an awesome work in the hearts of these Spiritual Leaders as 80 received God’s free gift of salvation .

As we approached the gate to leave the guards asked Alfred if the Arlene in the van was the same Arlene that had written the Discipleship Booklet and he responded “Yes”, they smiled and waved as we drove off. We were able to leave the prison grounds about 3:45 for the 1 hour drive back to Butari. We stopped by the printers to pick up the extra needed certificates, purchase more bottled water and bread for tomorrow before heading back to the guest house.

There was time to shower before a traditional dinner at 6 followed by Alfred sharing a brief devotional. Then it was time to fill out and sign all the certificates and get things ready for tomorrow before heading off to our rooms.

 Everyone will have to get packed up tonight so we can take everything to Mpanga Prison with us as we will be going back to Kigali when we finish at the prison tomorrow.

I do not know if I will have further internet service when I return to the guest house there so this might be my last post for a few days. 

We plan to return to Portland PDX on June 25.

Thanks for your continued prayers,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 19...............

June 19 --- It seems impossible that in five days we will be leaving Rwanda. The time here has gone far too quickly.
I awoke this morning about 5:30 after a very good night’s rest. There was no charcoal smoke around my window so I was able to enjoy fresh air and a cool room all night and the mosquito net, that hung from the ceiling, around me kept any unwanted visitors from disturbing my sleep.

Everyone met for breakfast at 7:45 and reported that they too had had another good night’s rest. By 8:45 the team and our supplies were loaded and headed to Butari Prison.

We stopped to purchase a loaf of bread for lunches but there was none in the market yet, Philbert graciously agreed to return to town and pick some up for us after we got settled at the prison. Thankfully we are only ten minutes or so from there.

As we arrived just outside the gate there were women prisoners doing cleanup. They recognized me and begin waving and calling me name, I am ever so happy to see so many smiling faces.
It appears they have gotten a lot the construction done and are doing more inside the prison gate and around the buildings since we were here last year. The grounds are really looking beautiful.

We are told that neither the Warden nor the Deputy Warden is in so we are ushered into the office of the Social Affairs officer. I had hoped that we would see the same woman, Mary, we had met last year but this officer is new. She has her hair braided and is dressed in slacks with a nice striped, long sleeve blouse. It's hard to understand that the third in command at these prisons is the Social Affairs officer. She very carefully went over the signed paperwork that Alfred handed her and then disappeared into some other offices to begin the procedure of having things made ready for us.

We were finally introduced to the warden, one I have never met before. He is small in stature, good looking and although he appears very young, to be the warden for the 8,000 prisoners here, Alfred says he is not. He allowed the team to have their photo taken with him before he left to do other duties. 

The men will be meeting in a large area outside and it was covered with a tin roof so they will have lots of ventilation but we would soon find out how well God had also provided for us.
As Alfred, Pastor Jerome and women's team headed for the women's area the Social Affairs officers asked us to wait a moment I saw about eight women prisoners doing some yard work and asked the guard for permission to speak to them, to which he said yes. They laughed and smiled as we greeted each other but then it was time to enter the women's enclosed area.

On the way to the area where we will be speaking from we pass numerous ladies weaving baskets and then we saw God's provision…… The entire meeting area has mental uprights covered with a tin roof. We will not have to stand out in the hot sun today like we did last year. Thank you Jesus, for providing so well for us.
As the women see me the squeals, laughter, waving and calling my name says that they remember me and I can tell they also remember Kathy as they are greeting her. And although Shelley is new to them they greet her in a most joyful manner.

We enjoyed their singing as we waited for the sound guys, inmates, to arrive with the system and set it up. Once they arrived Alfred left us in the very capable hands of Pastor Jerome as he hooked up our mike and help the sound guys with theirs. All of this gave us a bit of a late start but just the relationship is so important here…….I love it!!!!
Finally all set to go Jerome left us to go join the men’s team. I introduced the team and shared my testimony ending with Eph. 2:8-9. Kathy helped me with the “gift bag” skit and I then gave the invitation. As I observed the first woman to respond and you could “read” on her face how repentant and honest her decision was, more about her later.

Then I spoke to them about forgiving others and themselves….almost every woman responded to the invitation to pray a pray of forgiveness over themselves for what they had done in the past.
It was time for short break with another song from one of the choirs then Kathy did one of her teaching on being “Accepted by God”. She does such a terrific job of sharing the truth of God’s Word in her teachings.
It was 12:30 and time for us to take a lunch break although we just tell the women we are going for a break.

 As I started to leave the woman prisoner I mentioned before came up to us and with tears streaming down her face shared her story in brief. She said how touched she had been by my story and the she had six children and the 6th one she had put in the dump and it had died. She said that was the reason she was in prison. With my arm around her I spoke briefly to her about the choice she had just made to receive God’s free gift of salvation and her choice to pray the prayer to forgive herself and that she needed to stand firm on God’s promise to her and her good choices now. I asked her if she had a Bible and she said “no”.

As we met with the men we discovered that instead of having 70 Spiritual leaders for the Step-up training they had 140 with 8 or so women.

After out traditional lunch we returned to the women’s area. As soon as they saw us enter they started scurrying to find a place to put their tiny stool, very ready for the afternoon session. Before we actually got to the platform we stopped to watch one group of woman that was doing basket weaving.
I asked Sylvia, our translator, to find the woman I wanted to give a Bible too and ask her to see me before I left.

The choir sang another song, such a great way to start the afternoon Pastor Shelly gave her powerful testimony and the women were drawn to her gentle, sweet spirit, sharing how God had worked in her life, healing her and making her whole. She was a huge blessing to all the women, including me. Many responded to the special invitation she gave.
Then Kathy did a second teaching followed by an invitation to accept others in our lives.
 Having built today on the relationship I started two years ago and last year has made a difference with these women and the way they have responded to what God has given each of us to teach them, of course teaching ourselves first.

I finished the day with my “Why” teaching and object lesson. When we did the exercise every woman responded and gave her “Why” question/questions to Jesus so they could stop looking back at the past and be ready for God’s blessings today. One woman put so many of her “why’s” in the giant bag I had that it made all of us smile. Seeing them choosing to face the future with hope, promise and smile of relief on their faces………thank you Jesus for speaking into each heart!
I finished by briefly talking to them about their value and having them tell their neighbor, “You have great value to me and to God”. It brought much laughter and smiles and then I asked if they would do that every day in my absence. 

I cannot tell them goodbye so I tell them I until I see you again. The women’s leader finished our time with some VERY kind words as to what it meant to them for us to spend the day with them and by thanking us.
The woman who had lost her child found me as we were leaving and as We hugged each other I placed the Bible in her hand. Last year we gave all these women a Bible but I know there are some new prisoners here and I did not want any disturbance with trying to give out a few now. We are leaving 450 Bible sets here today.
The Spiritual Leaders Training was just concluding as we walked to join them. I introduced the women with me and said a few brief words.

It was the first time for Sylvia to translate for us and she did a wonderful job. She recounted later that the prisoner were nothing like she expected......"They are really just like us".

We went to the offices and found the Deputy Warden to be the same one I met last year. He warmly greeted us and took us to the gift shop where we saw, and bought, many beautiful wooden carving and trays.
We arrived back at the guest house in time for a very short rest before dinner at 6. I spent my time catching up this journal.

Dinner tonight was wonderful Mushroom soup & bread….. Fish (fixed with red and green peppers – the best I’ve ever had here), beef, rice, chips, peas and red sauce, and a tray with a variety of fruit.
Everyone is a bit tired so off to our rooms by 7:15. I was glad for the time to finish my journaling and for a hot shower.
I do not have adequate words for God’s provision, grace and blessings over us and our days here. It’s been AMAZING !!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for your continued prayers,

June 18 ......

June 18 --- I woke up early today but I had a good night’s rest, all the other team members reported the same.
The guest house where we are staying in is a bed and breakfast so breakfasts are by their design.  Today was omelets (the kind of your choosing) hot cereal, cornflakes, bread, fruit and juice. We have had a lot of fun discussing the omelet’s  here, some are all white (we have dubbed them Muzungu omelets) as if the yokes have been removed and others have the “yellow” look we are used to (dubbed Rwandan omelets).
Kathy had the morning devotion today then we sat outside the dining hall in a grassy area under a large umbrella for an encouragement time of team building. It was 2 hours designed by God for sure.
Everyone went back to their rooms to get prepared for the day but then went to another quiet area to sit under a tree and have our traditional lunch.
Alfred brought a VERY special gift for me from him, Blessing and the children. A framed picture with thoughts of what I have meant to them and the verse Eph. 1:16 printed on the bottom. It will be a treasured gift on my living room wall.
At 1o'clock it was time to leave for the TIG camp and on the way we picked up the Director of Prisons and TIG camps for this region. He is a tall, pleasant looking man that speaks with authority and can be very stern.
He informed us that the prisoners has repaired some of the ruts and “gullies” in the uphill miles of dirt road in anticipation of our visit today. We passed some of them, carrying their hoes and picks, returning to the camp as the Director shouted out the window to them to hurry their walking up the hill back to the camp, one old prisoner who had lagged behind one group began to jog.
We arrived at the camp and quickly set up in an area chosen by the Director. It meant we would be in the sun so I was glad I had brought my sunscreen and that we had our umbrellas. Kathy’s umbrella did not open correctly but over opened if there is such a word and amidst the giggles she was trying to hold back the Director quickly helped get it opened correctly.  
We were ready to start at 2 o’clock the time usually scheduled for the prisoners to eat but after the long day they have put in I felt bad and would like to have waited for them to have their dinner first but I followed the Directors wishes.
I greeted some of the women I had met yesterday and they smiled broadly.
I introduced myself and the team in the usual way and had Pastor Jerome share his testimony and then I preached the message on “Fear”. The Director “tracked” what I was saying and watched me closely. He had told us he was a Christian and attended a Pentecostal church.
The hardened faces of the 290 present are evidence of the hard labor work these prisoners have been doing.….some will need to complete up to 25 years service if they choose to live in the village and just report for work but that time will be cut in half if they actually live at the camp.
I felt someone standing behind me holding an umbrella to shield me from the hot sun… was Pastor Jerome. He has such a servant’s heart.
Again the work of the Holy Spirit was evident as I gave the 1st invitation and every prisoner responded as well as one villager who had also appeared on the fringe of the area where we were. Pastor Peter led them in the prayer of response and followed by a word of encouragement.
Then I spoke to them about forgiving the ones who justly or unjustly accused them as well as forgiving themselves for the poor choices they have made for themselves. I then led the 290 who responded in a “prayer of forgiveness”.
I cannot express in words how my heart praises God when I hear their strong voices praying, asking God for forgiveness and/or praying the prayer of forgiveness and its difficult holding back tears of appreciation to the Savior for being able to be a small part of what He is doing.
As we were distributing the Bible sets the Director gave permission, originally refused, for us to take photos and pictures of the celebration that was going on.
I will not go into the very kind works the Director spoke to the inmates concerning us and then addressed to us in closing our time there. The Director and I chatted so, with Alfred’s help translating, as he rode back down the hill with us. He said he was committed to help us in any way he could.
By the time we drove away from the camp it was 4:30 and the scene we observed was prisoners with their plate of food scattered over the landscape but many NOT eating, rather reading the precious Bible they now held in their hands. How do I ever convey that amazing picture……I can’t!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
On the way down the mountain we passed a number of villages and at one village there were villagers playing soccer in a field alongside the road. Just as we started by their ball went under the van and proceeded to get stuck. It took a few moments until Philbert could rock the van and get it dislodged all to the shouts and arm waving from the young men.
We dropped off the Director and proceeded back to Butari to pick up Sylvia who has arrived from Kigali to translate for the women’s team for the next few days.
It was time for dinner soup, it’s different every night and OH SO VERY  GOOD, goat meat on a stick, pork chops, potatoes, rice (for pudding for Alfred and I) gr. beans with carrots, squash & pinto beans, different red sauce, pineapple and papaya.
Each team met to go over our agendas for tomorrow and then Sylvia and I spent some time in my room just getting to know each other and getting her familiar with IRM.
Finally, a shower and to bed at 10.
We know many of you are praying, thank you.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 16 ......

June 16 --- It was a difficult night last night as I was sneezing and my throat was so very sore. I took some cold medicine and went to bed early that our room was so very hot. 

Everyone was up early for our 6:30 breakfast and as the plan was to leave by 7:30 but it seemed inevitable that once again we got a later start by time the van was loaded.
We will be going back through this deep windy mountain pass through the forest heading towards Butari but making a stop at Gikongoro Prison. The road is under construction and what there is of road, if you can call it that, is in really poor shape or should I say terrible shape with ruts and potholes to be dodged. 

Kathy and Shelley rode in the front as they easily get car sick. Alfred, Blessing and I rode in the second seat while Pastor Peter and Pastor Jerome will rode in the third seat. Most of the fourth seat was taken up with luggage as was the back of the van and Pastor Al was gracious and sat in that row with the luggage. It was a bit cramped but we made it. The bald tires on the front of the van make us wonder about going over roads in this condition but Philbert is such a safe driver and takes such very good care of us. It was an adventure for sure.
Shelley and Kathy were busy watching for wild monkeys but I actually spotted the first one. The ones we have seen so far are black with white faces.
The powerful and strong voices of the nationals with us fill the van with songs of praise and worship. After a few songs Pastor Peter pulled out a hymnal and it appeared like they were going to sing from it..... cover to cover. I was enjoying every minute of it as they were singing and laughing.

I'm glad we will not be traveling over this curvy winding, rutty road again.

Not far from the prison we had Philbert stop the van and the guys all took a short walk along the road as we girls changed from our riding slacks into our skirts. It is so very interesting here, whenever a motor stops people appear from everywhere. Over and around bushes and shrubs……privacy...... I don't think so. We were next to a high embankment on my side of the van so I kept a watch out.
As we entered the prison we were told by the guard that the warden had just left and we were asked to park in the designated area and wait until the woman guard in charge of Social Affairs arrived. 

In the meantime Kathy and Shelley made everyone our traditional peanut butter and jelly or honey sandwiches but before we had time to finish them the Social Affairs officer arrived and told us that the warden was now in his office. I'm not quite sure which direction he had arrived from because he did not pass the parking area where we were.

We were ushered into the warden's office only to find a very tall thin man dressed in casual clothes. Alfred had me tell him about my heart for the prisoners, about IRM and about the ministry that IRM has been doing throughout the country of Rwanda.

It's interesting how these wardens can be as different as day is from night. This Warden did not identify himself as a Christian and proceeded to tell me that the prisoners have other needs besides the 450 Bibles and Discipleship Booklets we have brought. I explained to him that although International Reconciliation Ministries sounds like a large organization it really is one woman with a heart to serve God and others along with American and Rwandan volunteers who also have a heart to serve God and others.

I asked him if I could have a photo taken with him and he agreed but as soon as the photo was taken he appeared to just disappear from sight leaving us with the Social Affairs officer.

It was finally time to enter the prison, oh my goodness, there are so many men crowded in here and the area is so small, there is not room for them all to sit and many are standing around the edges. There is a small area just left of where I will be speaking that has been saved for the women prisoners that they will be bringing in.

As we are waiting for them Pastor Peter asked the Spiritual Leaders to identify themselves…….only three do so. The Social Affairs officer says there are 3600 prisoners here and that there are about 3000 within this enclosure with us.

It appears they do not get many visitors, we were actually told NONE, as they are looking at us with questioning eyes and faces. The women arrive and are seated as one of the prisoners leads worship. I excused myself and went to where the women were seated and greeted as many of them as I could reach before returning to my seat. Then, Alfred led them in a worship song before asking me to make introductions of the team.

I ended introductions with Alfred as my adopted son, packing his cheek and mine, and saying "but don't we look like", which always brings a howl of laughter from the prisoners followed by introducing Pastor Jerome as my Spiritual son and having him share his testimony. Is been a powerful thing to have Jerome with us and his identification with them is evident on their faces as he speaks.

Then I shared my message on "Fear" followed by my testimony and our Ephesians 2:8, 9 “Gift Bag" skit. It was so very clear that the Holy Spirit had prepared their hearts as almost everyone present prayed to receive God's free gift of salvation. 

Then I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to share about what God taught me about forgiving  myself and when I told them that they had made 1 good choice today and now they could make another good choice. God had forgiven them and now he wanted them to forgive themselves but before I asked them to respond many started raising their hands. The power of the Holy Spirit was so evident and I do not have the words to express here.

When I did give the invitation to respond, again, almost every inmate responded.
As we were leaving a prisoner identified himself by speaking English and saying he recognized Jerome from the 1930 prison. He said he knew Jerome before Jerome was a Christian and after hearing him today tell about what God has done in his life he made the decision to become a Christian and was making the decision/commitment to not take revenge on the person who accused him. Like I said, Jerome's testimony is so powerful with these inmates.

As we were preparing to walk towards where the van was parked the women prisoners were being taken back to their holding area. Kathy, Shelley and I greeted as many as we could as they filed by.

Philbert had been busy while we were inside holding the crusade as he had taken our luggage to the guest house in Butari, picked up 450 Bibles and Discipleship booklets, brought them and unloaded them at the prison.

I am thankful that we are only about 30 min. from our guest house it will be good to have a shower, wash my hair and rest tonight.

Alfred got all of us settled in our rooms and then he had a short meeting with Pastor Peter, Pastor Jerome and myself. It was time for everyone to retire to their own rooms and rest until our 6:00 dinner time.

Alfred and I ordered a buffet dinner for everyone feeling it would be simpler as everyone could choose what they wanted to eat, Beef, Fish, Chips, Matoki, Peas & Carrots, rice and red sauce.
Everyone was tired so we all headed to our rooms after dinner. It will be sad to see Blessing leave to go back to Uganda tomorrow.

Your prayers are so evident here, Thanks,

June 15......

Sorry these postings are late but we have not had internet service.
June 15 --- Today has been there interesting day. As we made our way to the dining out for breakfast we passed by Philbert and his newly washed van. He has been a wonderful addition to the team and is such a safe driver. He also is so gracious to help us any time we need our “stuff” loaded or unloaded from the van even though that’s not part of his job as a driver. I could not help but smile when he asked if he could have an IRM badge with his name on it, of course I was glad to give him one.
After a breakfast of Tea, Coffee, bread/toast, hard boiled eggs and a variety of fruits it was time to load the van with our supplies and some of the Bible sets.
 After checking with the Deputy Warden at Changugu prison yesterday, today was our first day of ministry. We had been told yesterday that we would have the Crusades today. Because there was no common meeting area where I could speak to the entire group the prisoners it was suggested that I do one crusade for women and youth and 2 crusades for the two different men's section of the prison.
Philbert made a number of trips back to the Guest house to load Bibles and deliver then to the prison to be stored until we need them.
I was relieved due to the time constraints that I would be doing just two crusades today, men & women and men & youth. The Deputy Warden entered with us to the first Crusade but only stayed until after the worship time and his introduction of me and the team.
The first crusade was in a long somewhat narrow area surrounded be walls of window openings on one side. Prisoners peering through “window” openings in the wall made us very aware that bunks meant many prisoners would listen from their living space.
There is just nothing like listening to these prisoners sing. Their loud powerful voices give no evidence of the life they live behind these walls. I was so pleased to be able to listen to them while we waited for the women prisoners to arrive. When they were seated I asked the Deputy Warden if I could go greet them as the sound “guys” were still trying to get the microphones adjusted. I was sure not to do that before getting permission.
The women were hesitant at first but then began to smile and extend their hands to greet me. It was interesting to watch the men prisoners commenting to each other as they intently watched me greet each woman.
Finally the sound system was ready and worship began with one young prisoner leading them then Alfred took over and led a couple of songs.
The Deputy Warden introduced me and made comments about the ministry I have been doing in Rwanda and the prisons. I then introduced the team ending with introducing Alfred, my adopted son, and Pastor Jerome, my spiritual son.
Pastor Jerome is such a special man with a powerful testimony. He identified another prisoner who was actually a prisoner at the 1930 Central Prison at the same time he was there. The other prisoners laughed when Jerome announced how he and the other inmate knew each other.
Then he shared how he accepted God’s free gift of salvation at one of the crusades I did at the 1930 Prison, he then took the Spiritual Leaders training the next year, was released, studied to become a pastor himself and is now pasturing a Foursquare church.
The Deputy Warden left us as he said he had other duties to attend to.
I wish I had the words to express what the faces look like, how intently they listen to each word the Holy Spirit gives me to share. Pastor Shelly later said, “It is amazing to me how you can walk in among them and because of your age, they view you with such respect. Their eyes are always on you, never looking at the rest of us, looking at Alfred as he interprets then back to you."
Once again, being 68 is a good thing!!!
Because I was only preaching at 2 crusades today instead of 3 it is a confirmation that after I give the invitation I should also talk to them about forgiving themselves and lead them in a prayer to do so.
All the responses show that God has gone before us and the Holy Spirit has prepared their hearts. 

Thank you for your continued prayers,

June Shelly Brown

June 13 --- Today we entered the Changugu Prison.  We are down by the Congo border.  You can see the first town on the border across the lake from where we are staying.  It is beautiful here but the ride across their forest was rough.  Kathy and I both got sick.  We did get to see a couple monkeys along the way.
The place we are staying is beautiful.  God took care of us and has given us a place of peace and rest to return to the next few nights.
The guards at the prison gate were expecting us.  As soon as we drove up the guards opened the gates for us without checking our passports, taking our cell phones or even asking who we were. 
One of the first things we saw was the outdoor kitchen with  multiple pots that were around 200 gallons each starting to boil and having beans added to them.
There are a lot of prisoners here at this camp, so many that the prison is sectioned off into two different men’s areas and a woman’s area.  We completed a crusade in 2 of the areas. 
It is truly amazing to me that they let you walk in with the prisoners and shut and lock the door behind you.  You are in a common area with them and they are waiting for you all sitting in their portable chairs.  There were so many men in the second crusade that I felt like I was in a sardine can.
Arlene has a unique ability to be able to get up and speak to the men in these facilities and she has their complete attention. 
A majority of the men stood for salvation and even more for a prayer of forgiveness to be able to forgive themselves from the things they had done.  It was a good day.  
The Warden and Assistant Warden of Public Affairs are both Christians and are so encouraging of the men  living a life for Christ.
Pastor Al and Alfred and Pastor Peter have over 112 Spiritual Leaders (12 women pastors) to train the next two days as well, more than they have had at any other prison.
  There are only 150 women here which is surprising considering the number of men here.
I ate something that didn’t agree with me last night so I have stayed behind today.  I am thankful for the people I am with and their care of me on this trip.  We haven’t had internet service very much and when we have it has been very week so we haven’t had the ability to post.  We can tell your praying for us.  THANK YOU!  Shelly

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 8........

Ministry Partners,

Today has been busy making final preparations for the teams arriving tonight.

This is just to let everyone know they arrived safe and sound and God's additional blessing was that all their luggage also arrived.

Thanks for your continued prayers,

June 7.....Rilima Prison

Ministry Partners,

June 7 --- Rilima Prison will be our ministry area today.
Alfred arrived for another omelet breakfast but not a special like yesterday. 

It’s too bad that the Frinks, Foursquare missionaries here, were not able to go with us yesterday or today. But I have begun a friendship with them and I am looking forward to keeping in touch with them for next year. Pastor Augustine will not be able to go with us today either as he had an appointment this morning.

Pastor Jerome arrived and we loaded up the van with the Bibles and water we need. We were able to leave at 10 and we picked up Pastor Peter, Pastor Innocent (one of our Foursquare follow-up pastors from last year) and Pastor Alexis along the way. 

The hour drive to the prison is the same road that that will go to the new airport. You can see that improvements are going on everywhere and we passed a new huge new Hotel that is being built and the road side is lighted.

As we turned off the main road onto a rutted dirt road and as we were being jostled around Alfred stated “Now you are receiving an African massage.” It’s been a long time since I laughed so hard for so long. What a wonderful group of godly men the Savior has given me to serve along side.

The improvements to the prison are amazing; I can’t help but remember the first time I came here. The difference is wonderful.
We were ushered into the warden’s office and as the warden, a tall strikingly beautiful woman, approached me I extended my hand but she gave me a huge hug as she said, “Don’t you remember me?” The warden was in fact the warden at the 1930 Prison when I visited there a few years ago. We had immediately found favor!!!
She told us that she had the photo of us hanging in her office until last week and she had asked herself, “I wonder if I will ever see that lady again?” She is a Christian and so very supportive of the work we are doing.

She, of course, knew Pastor Jerome and she knew Pastor Alexis. She served us coffee and fruit juice and we had a wonderful visit until about 1:30. Again she would not allow photos but she did allow me to have another one taken of us.

They have a sewing program there and after she told us of a “need” for the woman I told her I would be glad to develop a pattern and email it to her so the women could start making them.

We could hear the prisoners singing before we ever entered the prison and inside the prison walls was different than I had ever seen it. There was a tent for me to speak from and a large empty area in front with prisoners seated and standing in a “U” shape.

The choir was singing and I am again reminded again that there is just nothing like listening to their powerful voices singing. I always hope that the electricity will go out so that the keyboard and guitars will NOT overpower their beautiful voices like they sometimes do.
It was wonderful to see the familiar faces of the Spiritual Leaders and to greet them.

When the Choir was finished singing Alfred led the prisoners in praise and worship while Pastor Jerome danced with them in the center open area. Alfred is struggling with some sinus issues and in the sunshine and heat at one point he handed the mike to Jerome to lead then in a song before he finished with the final one.

Introductions of the team followed before I addressed the Spiritual Leaders.

I preached and gave an invitation making it very clear with my question, “How many times did Jesus dye on the cross?……1time, followed by “And how many time does a person receive God’s free gift of salvation…..1 time.” 

Alfred softly sang a song of invitation while Pastor Peter encouraged the prisoners to make a good choice for themselves like I had talked about in my message. Pastor Innocent and Pastor Alexis stood with Pastor Peter while Pastor Jerome and I went between the prisoners who had come forward and the other prisoners encouraging them from time to time with a wave of our hand to come forward. 

Pastor Peter led those who had come forward in prayer and then for a few moments he spoke a word of encouragement to them.
The prisoners who had responded to the invitation then began to sing, dance and give God praise. There are not words to accurately express what the Holy Spirit was doing in all of this. A person just had to be there!!!!!

The Lord gave me a very special gift as the sound system lost power and I could observe and hear them worship……it was a wonderful gift.

I then told them about the expansion of IRM and that I may not return but I was leaving then in the good and capable hands of the Spiritual Leaders. I told them that if I did not see them there in the prison or outside I would see those who knew Jesus as their Savior in heaven. I told them that I had already asked God that when I died could I stand with the other Rwandan people in heaven to praise and worship him. Their response told me they agreed to my request. I was crying and some of the prisoners were also crying. They sang another song of worship led by the head Security guard, who is born again while I shook the hands of each of the Spiritual Leaders.

While we were packing up a young prisoner came and said my talk had touched him and he wanted to give me a gift. He reached under his shirt and pulled out a small wooden framed picture that he had drawn……it will be a treasured picture on my wall at home.
The Rwandans are big on relationships and these prisoners have captured my heart. I never would have ever imagined the love God has given me for them and all Rwandans.

We were ushered back into the warden office and she inquired how this had gone. She was so happy to hear of the salvation decisions and asked me if I could return tomorrow for another crusade. Oh my goodness, what favor we had found with her. Her invitation came although we had no government approval to do so!!!!!

I was disappointed to have to tell her that I had other commitments but she understood when I showed her a copy of our itinerary.
As we left the prisons I fixed everyone the “traditional” PB&J or Honey sandwich and after eating the guys started singing worship songs. The strong and powerful voices of those 5 men filled the van all the way to Kigali, such a wonderful sound. 

Alfred and I ate dinner together before he left for home about 9, we will have a very busy day with final preparations for the team tomorrow.

This wonderful day was another one designed by God’s own hand. Thank you God for allowing us to watch you work. I give you praise.

Thank you for your continued prayers,

Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 6........

Ministry Partners, 
June 6 --- It’s hard to believe that our first day of prison ministry is here.
Alfred arrived at 8 so we were able to have breakfast together. The special omelet that he had was huge. He tried to convince me that it had bread in it until I reached over with my fork and took a bite. It was in fact potato like I suspected.

Pastor Augustine, a pastor I met a number of years ago, arrived. It was so good to see him again. Vicky asked me to introduce him to Pastor Peter. We spent some time praying about the day and then loaded the van with Bibles and water.

When Philbert arrived with the van, he had gotten the seats recovered and they looked ever so nice. He still has to get a couple of them installed tomorrow. 

We left at 10 and picked up Pastor Peter and Bishop Alexis on the way to Nsinda Prison. It was such a beautiful drive and although so much of the landscape was familiar there were many improvements with freshly painted buildings and areas planted with shrubs and other decorative plants.
We arrived at the prison about 11 and the security guards held us at the gate for some time. 
What a great opportunity to get out of the van and greet some of the ladies that were standing nearby. It appears that today is visiting day for the prisoners. I am so glad that I put a package of scarves and tracts in my backpack. Handing them the scarves brought such smiles to their faces, especially one very old woman.

The large truck that pulled up behind our van kept tooting its horn but we had no other option but to wait for the very slowly walking senior guard that was walking up the road in our direction. He checked over our paperwork very carefully and then the gates were opened for us to enter.
Some prisoners were very busy in the “brick” area but the improvements to the grounds from the first time I was here are really something.  Brick flower beds and greenery make the appearance far more appealing.

When I got out of the van a group of women prisoners recognized me immediately and we began waving to each other. I had Pastor Augustine ask the guard if I could greet the women and he said yes. The women surrounded me and were chattering and laughing as they vigorously hugged me. I realized later that it was something I should not have done as I got chastised later by the warden.

We were finally ushered into the warden’s office and at fist he seemed quite authoritative and stern. After he came from behind his desk over to the seating area Alfred began to joke with him and “hi 5” him to which he softened up and began smiling and laughing. Although he appreciated the gifts I brought him, a Bible and Discipleship Booklet, IRM t-shirt and 2 lovely men’s ties, he made it clear that I had done the wrong thing in greeting the women prisoners first before I greeted him. Hummmm…….a lesson well learned. I will not make that mistake again at any prison.

This slender small built but very stern warden told us that although he had been a warden for 13 years, he had only been a warden at Nsinda for 3 days. Alfred had me tell him about IRM and my heart for the prisoners and how God called me to take the Gospel into the prisons. Then he started questioning me about my personal testimony to which I told him he would need to come to the crusade to hear all of it but he continued to press me with “small” direct questions until finally I told him I would be glad to share it with him. Little did I know that he would come to most of the crusade to hear me again.      

We had entered the warden’s office at about 11:30 and it was now 2:00pm. before he acknowledged that we could proceed inside the prison for the crusade. And although he allowed us to take a photo with him and the Deputy Warden, who had also sat through our meeting, he made it very clear that even though the Commissioner General had told us the kind of photos we could take, the documents he signed did not state so specifically therefore, he could not allow them to be taken.

We also gave the Deputy Warden a Bible/Booklet set before leaving.

Entering the actual prison seemed so familiar and yet they had made improvements. The large meeting area had a cement floor and metal structure beams to hold a covering which was not yet finished.

I greeted the prison pastors while Pastor Augustine took my cordless headset to get it hooked to sound. Quickly he returned saying the he had plugged it in without the adapter and had fried the plug/cord. I was thankful that the prison had one we could use. I like the cordless so I do not have to hold a mike, I can just hold my Bible as I walk and preach.

It was wonderful to hear the singing as we waited for them to bring the women in. They started entering right in front of the platform so I quickly went down to the walkway and greeted each woman. I had to keep the line moving forward as each one tried to stop and African greet me. Knowing what I knew……this was so important for me.

After that singing Alfred led them in worship and praise. He does such a wonderful job of getting all the prisoners involved, not leaving it to a performance by the choirs. Then it was time for introductions for the IRM “team” that was there. 

Alfred introduced me and I in turn introduced Bishop Alexis, Pastor Augustine, Pastor Peter Deyali and Pastor Jerome, followed by my introduction of Alfred. Prisoners always laugh out loud when I introduce him as my adopted son and then ask them “But don’t we look alike?”, patting his very dark cheek and my very white cheek. This time I also had Pastor Jerome standing with Alfred and I told the prisoners that he was my Spiritual son and he would share with them how that came about.

Pastor Jerome gave a wonderful testimony about being a prisoner 3 times, for forgery of government documents, at the 1930 Central Prison, attending a crusade I did there and then the following year he took the Spiritual Leaders Training that IRM offered. That’s when he met Pastor Peter Ndikumana from the Foursquare Church here that was on our team and one of the follow-up pastors. When he was released he started his studies to become a licensed Foursquare pastor. His church is the one I preached at last Sunday.

Sometime we/others wonder exactly what kind of impact we are having in the prisons. Pastor Jerome’s testimony is just one story and a wonderful one that causes us to offer thankgiving and praise to our Lord for the opportunities He is allowing IRM to be a part of.   

Then it was time for me to preach and give an invitation as Alfred sang a “soft” song of invitation followed by Pastor Peter leading them in a prayer to receive God’s free gift of salvation. It’s such a powerful site to watch the Holy Spirit work in the hearts of these prisoners. Pastor Peter then spoke words of encouragement to the Christian prisoners for a few minutes.

I told the prisoners that because of the expanding work IRM is doing all over Rwanda I might not see them again but I was not abandoning them as there were now trained pastors that would continue their work with them and that Pastor Jerome would be their follow-up Pastor.
I told them to remember that I loved them and I would continue to pray for them, it was then I could not contain the tears that rolled down my cheeks.

The warden who had been sitting there stood and addressed the inmates and said some VERY kind words about me and the IRM ministry as a whole.

The choir sang another song before it was time for us to leave. As I walked past the women I touched as many as I could. I never dreamed saying goodbye would be soooooo hard.
Once outside we said our goodbye’s to the warden and thanked him for welcoming us as the Bibles were unloaded.

Before leaving the Kayonza area we stopped by the home of Katilda, the friend I met years ago that has a shattered arm. I wanted to check on her and leave her a few supplies. 

When I entered the clearing at the house, there she was, my 78 yr. old friend, sitting outside on a mat. I quickly went to her and got down on the mat and put my arms around her. She tried to turn around to face me better but was unable to and fell over in her struggle. A neighbor came and helped her get turned around and seated upright as Katilda explained that she is now pretty much paralyzed.

I put my arms around her again and we held hands, while at times I just cupped her cheek in my other hand. I introduce her to the Pastors while she told them how I cried when I first met her. She told me that since she had not seen me in such a long time (last year) that she had been worried about me and my health. Oh my goodness, my precious friend was worried about me!!!!!!

It was getting dark and I knew it was time to go so the pastors gathered around us, laid hands on her and we prayed for her. I had been able to keep the tears at bay while I sat with her but as I left the clearing they fell unbridled down my cheeks.

The van was pretty much silent on the way back to Kigali. The sight and condition of my dear friend had impacted us all. 

After returning to Moucecore Alfred and I had dinner and discussed preparations for the team’s arrival on Friday evening.

I have not been sleeping well but I will go to bed at 9 tonight.

Appreciate your  continued prayers,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

June5 - Another day filled with God's blessings.....

Ministry Partners,

It's been another beautiful and busy day for us in Rwanda.
Alfred arrived early and we had breakfast together so that we could be at the Bible Society early this morning.

We discovered that the cost of the Bibles had gone up. I had hoped that the value of the dollar would be more here and that we would get an additional amount of Bibles like we did last year but that was not the case. Although we were given a 5% discount the money we wired was short of actually purchasing the 4,000 Bibles that I thought it would. But we have really found favor with Octave the Manager, who apologized for not informing me of the price change.

He told us that they always do a year end tally of everyone who purchases scriptures from them and he informed us that IRM was one of the top 5 Bible purchasers in the country of Rwanda last year!!! And because of that he felt led to add the Bibles that we were short to meet our desired 4,000. Then he said he would arrive on Tuesday morning, the morning we are traveling to Changugu, at 6:30 to facilitate his men loading our truck so we would not have to pay for storage somewhere until then. The guest house where we stay is letting us share one of their supply rooms for the Bibles we will use in the Kigali area as well as the 96 cases of water Alfred purchased today. The store room they gave us last year was already taken.

We did some banking and I can tell you it is far different than what I am used too. LONG waits, an hour or more is not unusual, and each transaction is done at a different window.....deposits, withdrawals, transfers, exchanges, ect., ect.....................

We headed back to Moucecore around noon but we were to busy for lunch so we grabed some jerky and a granola bar. Then Alfred was off to town while I spent the afternoon doing paper work and making calls to previous contacts and new contacts.

Alfred advised that we purchase all our water at one time to procure the best price as well as he said since it is the dry season and that the water would very soon start getting more expensive. Besides it is bottled here and there is no use paying a huge price for company transported water in Changugug and Butari. Once again God went before us as he was able to purchase the 96 cases for 3,000 frw each instead of 3,500 frw,.

Pastor Peter went first thing this morning to the Commissioner Generals office at their instruction and was shifted from one office to another by the staff there. Finally about 3 o'clock Emmanuel, the man we met with the Commissioner on the day of my arrival, found Pastor Peter waiting in the hall and within a few minutes Pastor Peter had the signed document for us to do the prison ministry in hand. Thank you Jesus, for sure.
Emmanuel even saw to it that the days, now past, that we were to go to Nsinda and Relima Prison (ooops Correctional name) were rescheduled for tomorrow and Thursday. They told us in our meeting last week how important it was to them that we continue to do evangelism in the prisons here. It appears they were serious. Pastor Peter will have to return to the office on Friday to obtain the signed paperwork for our ministry to the TIG camps as it was not available today. Please pray that it will not take all day....according to God's will. 

 God's blessings continued to pour out upon us today as Alfred went to the printers to get our Discipleship Booklets printed. Last year we paid $.60 each but today we paid $.50.

I was informed by Pastor Al that there were new Foursquare missionaries here in Kigali, Rory & Pam Frink, so I emailed them before I left PDX and they gave me their contact number here. I called them this afternoon and they graciously invited us to a very delicious dinner along with Pastor Fidel and his wife and friend. Pastor Fidel said he met Pastor Ron at the Foursquare Convention but we were unable to visit much with them as they had to leave right after dinner.
But we had a wonderful lengthy visit with our hosts and Alfred and I both liked them very much. They live right behind Kimiroko Correctional Facility and they are interested in the ministry we are doing as they were also involved in  some Prison Ministry in the states. We could tell this was the beginning of a good friendship. Because of our conversations I invited them to accompany our team of 7 going to Nsinda tomorrow. Everyone is to meet here at 10 to go to Kayonza, where the prison is.

For those who have heard me speak of her, I will see my special friend, Katilda, tomorrow, Lord willing.

On the way home Alfred purchased our bread and honey to go with our Peanut Butter for our traditional lunches tomorrow. 

It's after midnight so best call it a day, I'm feeling fine just but not sleeping well. Too excited about too many things I guess.

We are all praying and anxiously awaiting the arrival of the American team on Friday evening.

Appreciate your continued prayers,