Rwanda Missions Team

What Rwanda taught me about Suffering

As I’m writing this post I’m still trying to wrestle with all the things that I observed while being in Rwanda. People have asked me “How was the trip?” to which I respond; “Thats a loaded question…” I remember feeling somewhat unsure of what God had for me for this trip before I left. I knew God wanted me to go, hence all the financial support that came in, but I wasn’t sure about what God wanted me to learn about Himself, myself and African culture. After some time there I began to see one thing that God had for me to learn. I spent three days working with the medical team there in a small village in Bugesera. We saw over 400 kids with all kinds of medical issues ranging from dehydration, malnutrition, skin issues and dental issues. I remember a certain girl who had malaria. She spent all day throwing up anything she put into her stomach. When you see these things the first emotional response is to say; “Why is there suffering?” And I did what any normal Christian would do, I questioned God…And here is what God taught me about suffering: IMG_1648

As with any third world country, you experience poverty never seen in the states. I saw poverty in Rwanda like never before. But I began to notice something special about these people and it was that they had a Hope in the midst of distress like I had never experienced before. There was a hunger and thirst for the gospel. There was a joy for the coming kingdom.

I was talking with Annette who was one of the locals there. She said that “America doesn’t suffer from physical poverty. You have everything at your fingertips. But what America suffers from is the poverty of Spirit.” I can’t count how many times that I have left the gospel out of the picture because honestly, as an American, I don’t think I need the gospel. I have all I need. If I get sick I just run across the street and buy some medicine. I can drink out of the faucet if I want to and not get sick. Most people in Rwanda don’t have that. So what has Rwanda taught me about suffering?

Suffering reveals what we trust the most. In 2 Corinthians1:8-9 the Bible says that suffering propels us to rely on God rather than the life-sustaining props of this world.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, - 2 Corinthians 4:17

The Conversation between Annette and me finished with her talking about that day when Jesus comes back and gathers his church. No more sickness, pain and death. If we hang on to the gospel we have all we need.

So the question for you is…Is Jesus enough?

Kenny Barrett - Creative Arts Pastor

Just Along For The Ride

MondayToday was the first day of the clinics. I was filled with anticipation not knowing what I was going to encounter. I’m not much of a medical person so my initial thoughts were: “Is there going to be blood everywhere?”…) That was not true. Though Katie did ask if I wanted to observe a minor removal of a skin growth. I politely declined.

IMG_1632The village in Bugesera named Kibenga was really beautiful. Built on rolling green hills with big banana trees sprouted everywhere. Little clay huts where sprouted up here and there alongside some small buildings. Africa New Life has placed a school there for babies through Primary 6A for the sponsored children. New Life Baptist church planted by Africa New Life meets the needs spiritually and physically of the locals in the village community. The church is currently building a brand new building to replace their tent that they have been meeting in.

IMG_1568We saw about 150-200 kids that day. Some of us were passing out water. Some were filling out forms. I found myself bringing kids into the medical staff to be seen. It was cool because we were working along side the local medical staff there. We saw all kinds of medical issues ranging from dental issues such as cavities, dehydration and skin issues like scabies. We were busy from 9am to about 4:45pm.18265_10153069042394604_2488437503515748344_n

I’m beginning to learn in my short time here that God is bringing restoration and healing both spiritually and physically to the people of Rwanda through the power of the local church. ANL is really working to empower the local church to be the constant method of evangelism united with acts of compassion. Our team is just along for the ride.

Kenny Barrett - Team Member

We Arrived!

Our team landed in Rwanda last night. It was a pretty exhausting trip but for no other reason than it’s just a long trip. All of our baggage made it, no significant travel delays, and I’m thankful.
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I was quite exhausted but now it’s 4:30 in the AM and I’m wide awake. I started thinking about my first time to Rwanda and my first day, all of the new sensations. On that trip, January of 2005, our first day in country was New Year’s Day. We spent the day with the street kids. They were having a New Year’s party. They were laughing, having a great time. They filled their plates like a mountain and went back for seconds. We played some soccer. They were quite athletic and started doing all sorts of acrobatic jumps and flips that reminded me of the Summerwind skippers. It struck me that they were GROWING UP on the street. These boys lived on the street together, knew each other and were like a family. And siblings play, they fight, and they protect each other. The afternoon closed by some time of worship songs and testimonies led by the Africa New Life staff. I remember these boys standing up, taking the microphone, and sharing all the ways they were thankful and felt blessed by God. I vividly remember one boy who looked to be about 8 yrs old, saying he lived on the street because his mother had died and his father was in prison for acts of genocide. But he was thankful to God because he was sick earlier in the year and God healed him. Another boy was thankful because he had been a drug runner to survive on the street and he was thankful for Africa New Life because he was able to get food a few times a week. Another boy told a story of being sick and couldn’t outrun the police so he ended up in jail. The government sometimes goes on sprees whenever there is room in the prisons and they literally just perform these raids and go arrest every child they can catch on the street. Why? Because the kids are a problem for the city, they steal, they look and smell bad, and to survive they have to run drugs. So it’s assumed they have committed some crime and they get arrested until the jail is too full again. This particular boy was sick but the police let him go because they didn’t want him to die in the prison. He closed his story by thanking God for making him better.
We left that party and I completely lost it emotionally. I was raw and couldn’t process that these young boys not only lived and played and were growing up in cardboard boxes. What made me lose it was their testimonies of how they were thankful. I’m sure I cried at other moments during that trip but other times when I expected to be crying as I was visiting the genocide memorials….I wasn’t. These street boys MARKED me and forever shifted my paradigm of the world, my perspective on life, and was the beginning of why I’m again back in Rwanda 10 years later.
I’m going to give a little history lesson of how the street child program has since evolved. For years, the program had bi-weekly program where about 300 boys would show up at Africa New Life, bathe, get some wound care, eat, sing and dance with worship songs and hear about God. ANL and KTSY became connected and KTSY started doing radiothons to help support this work. I drove out to Caldwell to help and went out to dinner with some of the staff. I sat next to one of the US staff members who told me his story of how convicted he was that we weren’t doing enough. He had tears in his eyes. At the end of the day, these boys needed an education, they needed a skill, they needed a future and ANL didn’t have the resources or the program infrastructure to really help them. They needed more. Some boys made it off the streets. You see, some of these boys found sponsors to go to school. But the effort to get them sponsored was largely unsuccessful because their primary needs of shelter and food weren’t being met. They had no stability, they had no home. So most of them couldn’t make it in school. The problem was too big, too multi-faceted.
But slowly, things changed. The program was re-structured. Many of the older boys (too old to go to kindergarten) were enrolled in vocational programs like wood-working. Some of them were able to find sponsors and go to school. One of them is Christian. He was probably one of the last older boys who found a sponsor. His sponsors emailed one of the missionaries in country and asked if there was a boy who really needed a sponsor. The missionary immediately thought of Christian because he is older and doesn’t look as cute as the young kids so it’s harder to find a sponsor. But, guess what, this missionary worked with the boys and knew he was smart, knew he was motivated. So he started school. Guess what, we learn he is really smart.
Fast forward five or six years and the street boy program has evolved into the Dream Boy program. Depending of funding, anywhere between 50-100 boys get enrolled in the 12 month program. ANL arranged for a school to take them for 1/2 the day. Then they walk to the Dream Center/Africa New Life campus, get a meal, and have tutoring for the rest of the day. The year in the program builds some stability into their lives. And we all hope and pray that in that 12 month program, they find a sponsor. So I’ll make a plug for these boys who would otherwise most likely grow up on the streets. If you’re on the fence of sponsorship but decide you want to, go to africanewlife.org and you can see some of this year’s class. They are designated DRM boys. Sponsorship literally changes their life and gives them hope, gives them a future.
Changing subjects, I know this trip will be different. My family tragically lost my sister this year and it’s been the hardest 4 months of my life. I think that I will see and experience Rwanda in a new way. There is a hole in my heart and my family and I understand the meaning of pain, suffering, and grief. My story is definitely different and my life has become hard in a different way than a lot of the people that will mark me in the next 10 days. But, Esther reminds me of what is important in life, what matters and what doesn’t. Being a part of what God is doing through Africa New Life is incredible and it’s something that matters. So here we go!
February Medical team 2015!