Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 30th

Ministry Partners,

  Today marks our 9th day here in Rwanda.  Our day started off with a meeting, some currency exchanging followed by a visit to the Rwandan Genocide Memorial in Kigali.  Death normally doesn't bother me a lot.  I've been around it so much that I've become used to it.  Working as a paramedic tends to give you that perspective.  It's not numb, you just become used to not being used to it.  Seeing death is like wearing an old pair of pants you dislike.  They are comfortable even if you don't like them.  Now, having said that this was my first visit to a genocide memorial.  I've read a couple of books; seen a few movies but this was, as expected, different.  You see the clothes on display taken from the bodies of their previous owners.  You see the weapons used to commit these acts of atrocities.  Then there are the stories.  I kept it together for the most part until I would read a story.  I lost track of how many times I would read a story from a survivor who said they would run to their neighbor for help only to be turned in by them and their family killed.  They survived by playing dead or escaping.  The look of disbelief on their face is hard for me to describe. These neighbors were the same friends who stopped by for their birthday or helped them with their daily chores.  Now they were sending them to their death and in many cases taking their lives themselves.  One survivor ends her story on a looped TV screen by pausing for a moment then closes by saying she has a hard time becoming close and trusting friends because of this. 

Photos of the victims line the walls of one room

  The last section was a memorial for the children.  This section had no tattered clothes, or graphic pictures.  There were no videos, skulls, or even stories.  It was simple, and the most difficult.  A picture of each child and below it a list for each one.  A short list of their favorite things, like chasing their dad, favorite food and how they were killed.  For the first time since I've been here I wished I could slip back home if just for a minute, to hug my two girls.

  Than none would be lost,
Chad Robison

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29th

Ministry Partners,

  Muraho! Which, I've learned is the best way to say hello here in Rwanda.  I don't think I have ever been so busy.  Busy is good, and we have a lot of things to report.  The day started with a meeting that allowed us to visit Nsinda prison.  A few hours of travel on well paved roads brought us to the prison gate.  We turned in all our phones and waited for approval to pass the huge iron black double gates.  After making our way to the  brick administration office inside the prison we found that the Warden was not around so we were introduced to the person in charge of social services for the prisoners.  Sophie was happy to meet us with a big smile.  Arlene tends to take every opportunity to become friends with prison officials, a skill I have seen pay off in our favor on more than one occasion in the short time I've been here.  Only minutes later we were led through the inner gates, penetrating the wall surrounding the prison population.

   Mounds of dirt, a few concrete buildings, countless tan canvas tents line the prison walls as you walk in, and people.  Everywhere you can imagine there are people.  They don't seem cramped but they do seem to be everywhere. We marched quickly with our gear down a hill to a waiting crowd too big to count.  I know because I tried a few times.

 Alfred warms the crowd up with a couple of songs.  I tried to play along on a Casio keyboard that happened to be plugged in to the speakers on the stage.  Aaron, our driver, was quick to take over when a song I didn't know started.

  Arlene and Alfred then begin their message.  It begins with Arlene's testimony and each face I look at seems transfixed on every word from their mouth.  This is followed by messages about forgiveness and reconciliation.  An alter call and a show of hands from everyone who wishes to forgive wraps up our time, again almost too many to count.  One of the prisoners who also works from within the prison as a spiritual leader gets up to speak.  His pink prison scrubs seems out of place next to my suit jacket and tie.  Then I realize I am the one out of place.  Sophie, the prison official closes our time with the crowd by thanking God for us and affirming which parts of Arlene's words seemed to resonate with her the most.  It seemed foreign at the time but it's only now that I realized that I don't think I would ever hear something like that said by a corrections officer to a group of male inmates back at home.

  Rough hands are shaking my hand as I leave the stage.  All the prisoner/pastors want to thank us for coming.  You can see sincerity in their eyes as they say, "Thank you!" in English.  Then, it's over and we are driving out the massive iron gate.  We are leaving and they are all staying, but I know we have left something behind.

 I have been hearing about Katilda for years from Arlene.  She is an older lady who lives in poverty at the top of a hill near the prison we just left.  Arlene has been checking on her for years to see how she is getting along.  Each year seems she is worse for wear and the last visit Arlene found that she was unable to move.  Nsinda prison was near her home so, as always, Arlene picks up some supplies of rice, oil, flower and other necessities to drop off on the way by.  We crest the hill and near the single room building.  Arlene voices the concern that we have all had on our minds.  Maybe this year she won't see Katilda.  Maybe she has already gone to be with the Lord.

Tears of joy from two old friends
  We find Katilda laying on a straw mat just inside the doorway.  Family appears from the woodwork to help us lean her up.  Katilda recognizes Arlene immediately and the look on her face can only be described as the feeling of cool aloe on a red sunburn.  She somehow smiles wider than her face.  She then announces to all of us with the smug chagrin that only someone who is 81 can get away with, "My body is dead but they haven't buried me yet."  Tears and words flow for a while and then it is time to say goodbye for the long trip back to Kigali.

That none should be lost 
Chad Robison

June 28

Ministry Partners,

It seem that there are is not enough time to do all we have been invited to do. We had already added speaking events to our busy itinerary and today we added an additional TIG Camp and yesterday we added another crusade.
Before I came I asked Alfred about doing a crusade at the refugee camp that is here and he felt because of some logistics it would not be possible but yesterday we discovered that one of the Foursquare pastors that has been partnered with IRM is now located there. He invited us to hold a crusade there and said he would write a letter asking for approval and make all the arrangements on his end. I am sure you know how excited I was to have another opportunity to share the Gospel. Some of our partner pastors are already requesting that we do crusades in there churches next year as there now appears absolutely no way we can squeeze any more additional crusades in. 

IRM held our "Welcome Dinner" yesterday evening and it was wonderful to see all our partners  again. We really have become family and as hugs and warm greetings abound it seems like a family reunion instead of  formal dinner. After the pastors arrived we all went into the room where our bibles are stored, laid hands on the boxes and spent some time praying over the bibles God has provided for us to distribute. Hearing them pray as they did over God's written Word was something you just had to be here to appreciate.

Updating everyone on our plans this year

I took a few minutes to share what was on my heart and encouraged them to "stand strong" in the calling God has given them. Alfred gave an update on our efforts to obtain Gov. approval to enter the prisons and other IRM business before having a most tasty meal of meat rolls with gravy, rice, Tilapia, french fries, matooke (green banana), pinto beans, fresh green beans with carrots, baby bananas, pineapple and cookies. A feast it was for sure. After dinner many of the pastors made such positive comments concerning how they felt about working with IRM and me specifically. I was certainly humbled and blessed by their kind words.

I must say that God put just the right team member on this trip. Chad is proving to be invaluable as he has such a servants heart and is always eager to do what is asked of him. His knowledge and help with computer and sound system issues has proved to be an area that the rest of the team needed. He and Alfred have become fast friends and jogging buddies as they go for a run early most every morning.

Today, we went to Pastor Innocent's small Pentecostal church and while he had already gone up the hill some distance to the church we picked up his wife, child and sister. When we arrived it was their worship time and were greeted with singing and beautiful African dancing.
The District pastor was there as well as another Evangelist, who had become blind 20 years ago,  who was given 15 minutes to speak and did a fine job before the pulpit was turned over to me.

I spoke about continuing to make obedient choices and staying under God's "covering" during times of struggles and storms. 29 responded to the invitation and the smile on Chad's face could not have been broader as we passed out a bible to each one. The District pastor said he was available to began partnering with IRM and will attend the crusade we are holding there on the 13th.

Speaking at Pastor Innocent's church

On a sad note, Alfred and I spent some hours counseling with one of our partner couples who are having some challenges. Please pray for softened hearts for J. and C.

In the evening we were able to experience a Rwandan surprise birthday party. Alfred's sister, Gertrude, turned 24 and her husband and Pastor Peter's wife planned it. When Alfred arrived with her we shouted "Surprise" and sang happy birthday followed with throwing water on her!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She then was presented a new dress and given her other gifts. We had a wonderful traditional dinner followed by having birthday cake and African tea. Gertrude is as beautiful as Alfred is handsome, it must run in the family as Alfred says his birth mother was very beautiful.

We arrived back where we are staying quite late but it was worth every minute.

That none would be lost,

Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26

Ministry Partners,

  Another beautiful day in Rwanda!  This is Chad, posting for Arlene, as she tools around the makeshift home base here.  I don't think I have seen her stop working from the second our feet touched the ground, but those who know Arlene would not be surprised by that comment.  Since I have a few sentences here I thought I would mention Rwanda is a great place to come to if you like people.  When you greet someone and you can't decide if you should shake their hand, hug them or give them a traditional Rwandan greeting (Kiss on the cheek for the ladies and a few pressings of your forehead for the men) here in Rwanda the answer is do all three!!   We were able to run quite a few errands and shrink our giant to-do list down today.

Many shops make quick work
Giants boxes of our drinking water line the walls now and odds and ends have been bought and organized.  Markets are always busy and this one was no exception. 

This little one seemed to enjoy making faces at people passing by.  Mom wasn't too far away.
  Tomorrow is the town clean up day.  All the roads are shut down here on the last Saturday of the month.  You can not drive at all as people are out picking up trash throughout the streets and open areas until noon.  Spike strip are laid out by the police just in case you forget that driving before noon is forbidden.

  Please continue to pray for us in everything we do.  Things are going very well but we always seem to be barely one step ahead of doors shutting behind us and jumping through doors as they are being opened for us.  It's because of that we know that you are all praying for us, thank you.

That none should be lost
Chad Robison, posting for Arlene

Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 25th

Ministry Partners,

  To say we've had an interesting two days would be an understatement!

True to form the enemy has been throwing rocks and pebbles with a fervor, but as usual we have watched God's provision in all areas as he's given us wisdom on how to handle the situation.  Praise Jesus as he's provided helping hands around the world, (thank you A. & K.).

  We are reminded event by event that God opens doors no man can close and closes doors no man can open.  We are currently re-presenting our documents in preparation for the prison ministry.  It seems as though we are too busy to be settling in but the more the Lord allows us to accomplish then the more at home Rwanda makes us feel.

  Today we visited the Bible Society of Rwanda to schedule a delivery of the Bibles for this afternoon.  We discussed a small monument on the property there for three employees that were killed during the genocide.  It was erected as recently as a year ago.

Arlene and Francois from Rwanda Bible Society

  I was excited for sure when I was told that the new exchange rate allowed for us to purchase over 30 additional Bibles.  At the pace we are already going I am concerned about being able to carve enough time for posting.  Sleep has not come easy for me as it's been about 1 AM for me to get to bed the last two nights.

  Hopefully Chad will be able to fill in some gaps for me so look for updates posted by him on this blog.  When all else fails Chad to type, which he does so quickly with flying fingers for me while I am accomplishing manual tasks and just talking about events of the day (Why, thank you Arlene! -Chad).  He is like one of those text-to-speech programs but will add a few words here and there for me as well.  (Thank you, Chad -Arlene)

That none would be lost,

June 24th

Ministry Partners,

  We made it! This post will be brief as we have lots of work to get started.  We are giving God praise for our safe travel, for Alfred traveling from Australia and Chad and I traveling from Portland, to beautiful Rwanda in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

The giraffe didn't really greet us, but he said welcome!
Continue to pray as we meet with government officials through the next few days.

 That none would be lost,  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ministry Partners,

Flight day has finally arrived. Whatever I have forgotten to do or failed to schedule will remain so as I walk out the door. No worries for sure as I trust God to provide HIS schedule for everything for the next six weeks and for the team ......... just like he has always done.

I cannot tell you how excited the team, U.S. and African, are as we set off for this new journey of watching the Holy Spirit work in the lives of those we meet and in us.  Yes it will be things we have never seen before.

Please continue to pray for:

  • That ALL our bags would arrive when we do and safely
  • A hedge of protection from the enemy for all team members
  • Open hearts for the Gospel during travel and while in country
  • Favor with Gov. Officials and everyone we meet
  • Safety for all our travels, flights and in country
  • My health
Thank you for your partnership.
That none would be lost,

Sunday, June 21, 2015

June 21 ........

Ministry Partners,

Well, the six months journey of preparations and planning is over as I put the last paperwork in the binder, in the briefcase to go, last night at 10:30. I am so ready to get on the plane tomorrow for the next portion of this journey. All four pieces of luggage have been weighed to only 49 to 49.2 lbs since the airport scales always weigh about 1 lb. heaver than mine. I appreciate the prayer covering for all our luggage to arrive safely and on time in Rwanda.

I have attached the map itinerary for those who do not get a hard copy or email. Please feel free to print it out and pray for us as we minister for three weeks in Rwanda and three weeks in Uganda.

I am often asked why I get so excited when I talk about the time I spend in Africa and I can tell you my answer. It's because God allows us to watch him work in amazing ways in the hearts of those we meet. Villagers and prisoners that want to hear about God's love for them and about His provision of forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. Not only are their hearts and lives are changed forever my life has been changed too.

  I appreciate your partnership and continuing prayer covering for our six weeks of ministry in Africa.

Pray for:
  1. A hedge of protection from the enemy for all team members
  2. Open hearts for the Gospel during travel and while in country
  3. Favor with Gov. Officials and everyone we meet
  4. Safety for all our travels, flights and in country
  5. My health
That none would be lost,

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14 - 8 days and counting

Ministry Partners,.

     Goodness, it's hard to believe how quickly the days are flying by. One week from tomorrow, Monday, the IRM team of two, this year, will be headed for Africa.
     This weekend was a special time at my home church, New Life Foursquare Church in Canby, Oregon.  Teammate, Chad Robison and I were anointed with oil and prayed over during all three services. I am grateful to be able to attend a church that focuses on making disciples who make disciples here and around the world.

 Pastor Ron, Arlene, Chad & Pastor Dave     

Arlene with Chad, musician and all around "techie" person who has already proven to be a valuable teammate. Chad will accompany me to Rwanda for three weeks ministry and then return home while I travel on to Uganda with my African partners for three weeks ministry. Chad booked the best flight pattern ever, Portland to Amsterdam to Rwanda which means on my return flight from Uganda I will only have one layover and be able to go through customs in Portland and not Chicago or JFK. 
Only one layover, customs Portland ..... GREAT job Chad.

A busy week is ahead for us.

That none would be lost,

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June 9, 14 days to go .......

Ministry Partners,

     It's hard to believe that in only 14 days I will be standing on African soil.

     The many months of preparations will be complete (I am still working on final details) and I will have the opportunity to watch God work in amazing ways at every turn. Of course I have had the opportunity to that even here as He has, through you, provide the full fiscal year budget for this trip/year as well as funds for 2,000 Bibles that we will have the pleasure of distributing.

     I was blessed by these children from New Life Foursquare Church on Sunday. They have been collecting pennies and they presented me with $50 towards the purchase of Bibles that will be a blessing to each person who receives one. Thank you Brandy Andrews and CJ Knutson who also contributed additional funds through a yard sale his classes held.


"THANK YOU" .....
.... for your partnership with us through your prayers and financial support. Together, we are reaching the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and providing Bibles as well as Discipleship materials and classes.

That none would be lost,