We watch the news we can often feel useless. But, what can we do to influence the situation for good? Surely we must be compelled to pray for those in positions of power around the world. But does it stop there? Do you ever wonder how things might be different if those people had encountered the love of Jesus?
Amazingly, one in ten current world leaders studied at a UK university, including the presidents of Iran and Syria. I wonder whether they had any contact with the UK church, and what was their experience of Christians? Of course, it’s not just future heads of state that come here to study. Others in future positions of national influence are currently students: lawyers, teachers, politicians, civil servants, doctors, business chiefs. And as well as attending university, thousands also come here to study English, maybe even just for a few weeks or months.
These are the people that the United team are seeking to welcome. Through the café every Wednesday evening we want to provide a place that can be ‘home’ for international students whilst they are here in Brighton & Hove. A place to relax, to make and meet friends, to chat, ask questions, and share life. We welcome students from all over the world to share in our extended family, providing them with an opportunity to hear of Jesus and to encounter the love of God. As we talk, some express an interest to know more. Some may come to a Sunday service or to Alpha, or may simply meet one-to-one over coffee with a team member. Whatever their interest, we want to serve all the students by giving simple hospitality and seeking to reflect the love of God to them.
Living in a foreign country shapes a person, especially as a student. Their experiences here could help influence not only their own lives, but, through them, the lives of thousands of others, and even national policies. Whether they come to know Jesus for themselves, or simply leave with a more positive view of Jesus and His followers, Wednesday night in the back room of Holland Road Baptist Church could be shaping the world of tomorrow….
We trust you are praying as you listen to the news – keep doing that!
But if you’d like to do more, please get in touch with us. Perhaps you could:
Bake some cakes or cookies once a month – or just occasionally.
Host a student for Sunday lunch – regularly or as a one-off.
Be part of a new prayer team committed to pray for the students (you could do this from home).
Join the café team.
We’d love to hear from you! Please get in touch via the United web page, or chat to Tim Ison or Jenny Brown.
I spent my summer volunteering in Bolivia with ICS Tearfund, and now have a journal jam-packed with ten weeks’ worth of ramblings, anecdotes, thoughts and reflections. If you were to read this notebook, you would know all about a project in Cochabamba called Oeser, you’d be introduced to a team of incredible Bolivian and UK volunteers, and you’d hear about my experiences of living with a South American family, teaching English and learning how to sell a cereal bar in Spanish! I could probably write a whole book about my time in Bolivia, but to keep it brief I’m going to skip most of the details and just take this opportunity to share something that is particularly important to me. However, if you’d like to hear more about the ins and outs, you can either read a blog my good friend Ruth wrote, (https://tenweekswithtearfundoeser.wordpress.com) or ask me face-to-face!
The project Oeser provides grants for 15 children to leave the San Sebastian prison in the south of Cochabamba and come to a nursery in the Villa Candelaria each day. In Bolivia, if a mother is imprisoned for a crime, her child will stay with her in prison until the age of 6. I had no idea how to feel about this system. I still don’t claim to be able to judge what is best for these children; however, I do know without a doubt that it is important that they have the opportunity to go to the Nursery. As volunteers we rotated each week to pick up the children, entertain them on the long bus journey, and take them back again at the end of the day. They would bundle into the Trufi covered in snot, munching away on sweets, and normally shouting, crying or fighting. They were a lively bunch and if anything they were the ones entertaining me! I often felt unsure of what to do, due to both a lack of fluent Spanish, and a sense of hopelessness at the children’s exceptional situation. Each morning on the drive to collect the children I would pray for them, and God encouraged me that all He required of me in this situation, and beyond, was to love the people put in front of me.
I remember one of these mornings in particular because I was really questioning the importance of our role in this part of the project. Psyching myself up to be child-friendly at such an early hour was proving difficult already… then I was handed a screaming child. Thankfully, she calmed down over the course of the Trufi journey and she started to talk and play with me. Until we arrived at the nursery and she burst into tears all over again, pulling hard at my hand to go with her. I couldn’t stay, but the image of her face absolutely filled with fear stayed with me all day. I repeatedly felt stirred to pray for her. On the journey home she sat on my lap again, and this time there was a noticeable difference in her as she told me happy stories about her day.
I found out later that this was her first day at nursery. The first day she’d ever left the prison.
Sometimes God places people before us and simply asks us to love them. God loves this child immeasurably and unconditionally so I felt privileged that, despite my very apparent weakness and inability to change her situation, God could use me to show her His love that day. I feel honoured to have held her and taken her to the gates for her very first day of school, but it still breaks my heart that her mother couldn’t have taken my place, and that she had missed so much school already.
As a team we have plenty of other stories like this where we realised the extent to which these children are deprived a normal childhood as well as some of their basic rights.
Nearing the end of our time at Oeser, the UK girls went for a meeting with the director of the project. We were informed that a key donor had withdrawn funding so the charity would have to cut certain aspects of their work. Sadly, the grants for the children from the prison are the main cause for concern at the moment. We were actually shocked by the amount of money that is necessary to run this scheme for just one year. I’d never considered the cost of education before; I’d never really had to. Even though our target for one year is upwards of £13,000 I do believe that God can work miracles and there is no reason not to try to raise at least some of this money.
Before, I had been upset that the children were forced to go back to the prison every day, but then the reality hit that they might not be able to leave at all. On paper, the financial breakdown of the grant shows that Oeser offers these children: education, travel, healthcare, and food. But I have seen that Oeser gives the children so much more than this: they are loved by caring teachers that are dedicated to teaching them good values, and they have the opportunity to make friends and play in a playground. A chance to just be a child.
I want these children to have the opportunity to know freedom and not be confined to a prison for a crime they didn’t commit.
Thank you for reading this and thank you to everyone who donated to my fundraising for Tearfund or prayed for me while I was away. If anything in this article has impacted you in any way and you’d like to support the project, then there are several ways that you can respond:
-Pray! Prayer can connect us across the world and I believe there is power when we call upon the name of Jesus and cry out against injustice. Please pray for the ongoing work of Oeser, and specifically for wisdom and strength for the Director in this difficult season.
-Come along to our fundraising event and invite friends! There will be a quiz, music, cakes, and a short presentation about the project. This will be held in the hall at Holland Road Baptist Church on 20th November, 7pm-9pm. Each ticket costs £3 and teams can have a maximum of 6 members.
Living in a Muslim country, “insha’Allah” is now for me a totally normal response to many different situations. Literally translated it means ‘God willing’, as in, ‘Yes, I fully intend to, but I acknowledge that God is ultimately in charge and has sway in all our affairs’!
I ask when my papers will be ready to collect and the clerk tells me, “On Thursday, insha’Allah”. I take this to mean, on Thursday if you are lucky, if everyone works a full week and if the man with the stamp is in the office. In the souq I hear a voice calling after me in English, “Madam! Madam! Spices good price, you come back?”. I keep walking and respond “insha’Allah”, meaning ‘not now, maybe later and most likely never’.
I am reminded of all this “insha’Allah”-ing as I read about Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. From the first humans in the first garden we know that when anyone disobeys God and goes their own way, an innocent one has to die to redeem the guilty one.
There in the second garden Jesus knew He had a job to do, a destiny to fulfil and a mission to accomplish. It would cost him everything, and the strain in his body was so great that he sweated blood, but here was no plan B. He asked if there could be another way but accepted what God had willed for him from the beginning.
When God reveals to me something that he has for me to do, will I respond “insha’Allah”, meaning ‘maybe’, ‘not likely’, ‘probably not’, ‘yes, but with a few conditions’? Or will I respond as Jesus did, “…not as I will, but as YOU will”? ! !
Obedience and faith are so beautiful and precious to God. Just say YES!!
In 1961, a man called George Verwer climbed a tree in Austria to cry out to God in prayer. George was passionate about reaching people with the gospel, but he was going through a hard time. As George has recounted in sermons many times, it was during these prayers, that God gave him the name “Operation Mobilisation” for the new organisation he had founded a few years previously. Now, “OM” is a diverse multi-denominational international missions organisation with thousands of missionaries serving in over 100 countries.
So, what is ‘mobilising’, and why should you be a mobiliser? Well, I believe that mobilising is a combination of encouraging people and preparing people to do something – motivating their hearts and equipping, training or instructing them so that they can be effective. In Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels we read how Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, and in Luke 10 we also read how Jesus later sent out 72 ‘others’. Jesus was a mobiliser. He set a great example for us. He had certainly inspired and moved his followers’ hearts; he had taught them and prepared them, and at the point of sending them out, he gave them specific instructions and advice for their mission, including the encouraging words “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3).
We are now in our fifth year at Operation Mobilisation in Brazil. OM Brazil is in the business of mobilising people for Jesus. It was actually through George, that we were originally mobilised to join OM. We were sent to Brazil, but now that we are here, we are not often sent out, rather we are playing our part in preparing and facilitating others to go. We are mobilisers. Nélia is equipping missionaries with the English language. I, by maintaining an operational IT system, and helping in the leadership of the team in Brazil, am also equipping and guiding others. Of course, we also play a part in encouraging and motivating students, missionaries, and people we meet outside of OM.
So what is it like being a mobiliser? What keeps us motivated to mobilise? As in any job, there is a certain amount of repetition; but one of the great things about being in a training base, is that the faces are constantly changing. We are regularly meeting new people, seeing them change and grow, as they prepare to go out. Thanks to communications technology, we can keep in touch with how God is using them in whatever country they have been sent to. For Nélia, each new English term has different individual characters, and a different group dynamic. She needs to be creative and innovative in the material and methods she uses. Technology never stands still, but unfortunately it can get old, so for me there are always ways to do things faster or smarter or easier – and preferably cheaper! Of course, there are challenges and difficulties, and we learnt very early on that prayer is essential to our lives.
One of my favourite scriptures is so real:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3: 5,6)
So, what about you? Jesus sent the 12; then he sent another 72. Might He be sending you? Or if you don’t feel sent, do you feel called to mobilise others? George was (and still is) passionate about mobilising. But this wasn’t George’s idea; it was God’s. God sent Jesus. Jesus mobilised the disciples. Through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit mobilises us. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?
Holland Road is a mobilising church; a sending church, and a going church. To do these things is not just obeying, they are also acts of worship. It shows that we love Jesus. If you have received the gospel, then someone must have told you. What part are you playing in telling others?
On October 25th 2014 a team from Holland Road set out on a mission trip to Romania; with bags packed full of craft materials, toys, toiletries and food as gifts for our work, and warm clothes for the predicted cold weather. The team consisted of Jonny Holman, Sam Dracott, Debbie Varney, Jeri-Lee Kenny, Philip Deuk, Matt Lovell, Margie Fforde, Helen Wheeler and Pam Bebb.
We arrived in Bucharest during a snow storm and we spontaneously applauded the pilot upon the landing. Our team still had a further flight to catch, though, and it was no surprise that it was delayed. They found another plane, quite small with large visual propellers on the side, and we took off once again in the howling snow storm. Everyone was nervous!
One hour later we landed in Iasi. Not a drop of snow to be seen, but it was very cold. Pastor David and his son were patiently waiting. It was past midnight by now and we had been travelling since 9.00am. Pastor David’s son took us to the church hall, where we would be working and staying for the week. To our delight it was fully carpeted and toasty warm. There was a large bowl of fruit and plenty of bread, coffee and tea. The beds were all made up for us and everything was clean and comfortable. We soon settled down for a well needed sleep, because we had an early start the next day.
In the morning we took part in the Filadelfia Church service, in the city centre. Philip Deuk preached, while the team performed a song and did cardboard testimonies. Some also helped in the children’s service. Later in the evening we went to a rural church about 40 minutes out of town and repeated the process. But here the little children had no special service and they sat obediently for 2 hours on a rug at the front with little to amuse them except staring at us!
During the rest of the week, we were busy during the daylight with pastoral visits to families in the city and in the rural district. Some rural areas had no plumbed in water mains and used communal wells situated along the roadside. They had no inside toilets, but used holes in the ground in wooden sheds. The homes were mainly just two rooms, doubling up as bedrooms, kitchen, and lounge. They were warmed from the wood burning range used for cooking, which were set into separating walls built with similar bricks that we find in UK night storage heaters. This clever idea meant the walls kept the heat well and so acted as radiators.
The people were very welcoming. Occasionally there were tears from the rural people who were overwhelmed by their troubles and were experiencing real hardships brought on by health problems from a stroke, and a hospital accident which caused severe disabilities. I personally wept alongside them. There was genuine understanding and connection between us all despite the language barriers: God’s provision was working in us. It was a privilege to pray with these people and share the gospel with them.
For four continuous nights we ran a children’s club for up to 31 children aged between 4 and 14. We had Romanian ladies who worked hard translating for us. The children had a wonderful time, told their friends and family, and eagerly returned each night. We were all so blessed by their happy faces. Whatever we gave, we got back tenfold.
On the last day we held ladies’ events – one in the rural area in the morning and one in the city in the evening. Many ladies came forward for prayer. The evening was very emotional, full of joy and worship, but also there were testimonies, tears, confessions, and much healing. It was a time well spent in the presence of our Lord.
Please join with us in remembering the people of Romania through prayer. To find out more about what Holland Road does across the world see hrbc.org.uk/world
Hey I’m Anna, and those of you who know me, will know I’m pretty passionate about Wales.
I’ve been going on missions to Wales for the past 14 years or so, and these trips have truly transformed my life.
Each year the summer mission trip gets better and better, and it was an absolute joy to be a part of the team this year.
Okay, so a normal day on mission…
We start the day with devotions, really needing to feed on His word, as we’re doing mission by His strength, not our own. Then we split off into our lovely teams (schools team, care team, wonderful minibus drivers, connect team, CAT, sound and production team, special ops team, rugby team, clowns team – there’s more but I can’t remember them all). It’s always a blessing to serve in any way that we can, and just the beautiful sense of unity we have throughout the teams. Then, in the evenings, we have brilliant events going on. We have a ladies night, men’s beast feast; we help at youth groups, special rugby nights; and of course, there’s the incredible choir.
This year I was blessed to be on the connect team, and I sang in the choir. I love being on the connect team. It pushes me out of my comfort zone, and takes me to places where God wants me and uses me. We invite people to events, offer prayer, do some door to door work, prayer walk, listen to people’s life stories, and we’re always ready to share a testimony. Connect team used to terrify me, now I can’t get enough of it!
Singing in the choir brings me so much joy. Every night we see lives transformed by Christ. The songs are so passionate and filled with truth, and the soloists just shine as they praise Him. We’ve seen whole families being saved, hearts being comforted, people being healed, and people returning to the Father. There’s real power and anointing over these events.
I know a lot of you have felt like you’ve missed out, because you haven’t been able to make the summer mission. We are trying to do more mini-missions to Wales throughout the year, so please do pray about these trips; and if He’s calling you to go, say yes! You won’t regret it, and you’ll probably get hooked on Wales, I know I am!
God bless, and thank you for reading my Wales story.
I am a long-time monolingual home-bird who loves God and my family. Since 2010 I have lived mostly away from England, become sort of bilingual and generally much less useful, but am learning a lot and still love God.
Why no photo?
I live in a part of the world where there is no historical church and where the small numbers of locals are often persecuted for following Jesus. As a family we were called by God and sent out by our church to be salt and light in a very different culture than Brighton and Hove. We are making work for ourselves here, schooling our children, praying, loving our neighbours, sharing good news where we have opportunities, and caring for other workers.
One Friday I was straightening up the frashes (long bench type sofas with lots of cushions – see picture above) in the morning and as I picked up a cushion I saw tens of small white maggots crawling up the wall. The more I looked, the more I found. Hundreds and hundreds of them. They were in the mattresses, in the pillows, on the wood bases, on the wall, behind the bookshelves – they were everywhere and they were making my skin crawl.
There and then my day changed. I took advice from a local friend and her advice was clear – you have to throw ALL of the sheep wool stuffing out because you can never get rid of the bugs by washing or with chemicals. You have to start again.
All day long I had the opportunity to reflect on sin and its consequences. All day long as I took off all the covers, washed every one of them, hung them out in the sun to dry and, one by one, picked off the bugs that had resisted the washing process, emptied the sheep wool from them and took them to the bin outside on the street, treated the bases with insecticide and boiling water, and washed down the walls and floor in the room.
And all day long and into the evening I was thinking of my sin.
My sin is like those maggots. There doesn’t need to be much, and it doesn’t need to be big, but it is so, so ugly. It spreads under the surface and out of sight until everything is infected. What is more, a few weeks before, I had taken a little wool from some over-stuffed pillows in that room and put them in other pillows elsewhere in the house to make some new pillows from what I already had. Now, when I looked, those were infested too. The problem was growing bigger.
Until that morning, when the maggots revealed their presence, my frashes had looked beautiful, clean, and in perfect order. We sat on them and slept on them and no one would have said anything was wrong. The outside looked ok but the inside was rotten.
My life can be like that. On the outside everything looks in order, clean, well dressed, respectable, polite, no major sins obvious, but inside it can be a different story. Even one little sin grows and spreads until it cannot stay under the surface any more but comes out for all to see. First in little ways and then more and more, until everything it touches is infected. No matter how much I clean and treat the problem myself it will never go away. As my friend told me so firmly, I needed to throw it all away and start over again. My effort alone can never ever make it right.
We did throw all the wool away. We did buy new mattresses. We did make a fresh start.
That Friday was Good Friday of last year.
I have never had such a meaningful Good Friday experience.
The other day I was sitting at one of our devotionals at OM Brazil. It was 8:30 in the morning and I had already done quite a few things by then.
On this particular morning we had a pastor visiting and he spoke about dreams. “What are your dreams?” he asked. Do we have dreams? I was surrounded by lots of young adults, full of energy, wanting to learn more about the mission world and all ready to give their lives to it. I stopped and started to think about my own dreams:
Get married – tick
Own a house – tick
Have children – tick
Travel abroad – tick
Serve in the church – tick
Be a good person and a good Christian – tick
And so on… Those were my dreams, a long time ago. But what happened to them; what happened to my dreams? They’ve pretty much all come true, haven’t they?
This pastor was of course talking about the dreams that God has for my life. I thought about how my list of dreams would be different from God’s dreams. I am so happy that God is a merciful God, because he waited for me to be ready to chase his dreams – His perfect dreams for my life. But now they are not just His perfect dreams for my life, but for Mike’s, Louissa’s and Joshua’s lives too. Well, that suddenly overwhelmed me. He had those dreams for all of us together. I am living right now His perfect dream for us.
I looked around myself again and realised how challenging those dreams can be. All those young people looking at me, wanting to learn from me all the things God has taught us about being missionaries. What a responsibility! Even scarier, when they walk through my classroom door to learn English, I panic. English isn’t my first language. How can those be God’s dreams for me?
Then the pastor started to talk about Joseph in Egypt. He had dreams. God gave him dreams, and he was a faithful servant and yet had to go through a lot of hardship. Sometimes we don’t understand God’s dreams for our lives and we have two choices: to follow His perfect dreams and have faith in Him, even when the dreams look crazy and scary and we just want to run away. The other choice is to run away like Jonah, and decide that our own dreams are better.
But what a wonderful God we have. He is patient and he waits for us to allow Him to make His dreams come true. They are perfect and He is patient.
I am happy that He has waited for me to be ready to follow His dreams. I have seen the amazing things that He has done in these young people’s lives. They arrive here ready to learn, so eager to be missionaries, and they learn that they will have some hardships along the way. But God knows all that. He prepares each one of them to go out and proclaim His message of hope. God’s dream for all of us is to reach others with the message of a God that can save. He does this in so many different ways. He has a special way for each one of us. If I hadn’t followed my dream to get married and travel perhaps I wouldn’t have married a Brit nor learned how to teach English as a second language. He is amazing. He used my dreams to get me ready to fulfil His dreams. It doesn’t matter what we are doing or where we are, the important thing is to follow His dreams and be faithful to them. So it’s not wrong to follow our dreams , but give them to God first, and He will make His dreams our dreams.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Do you know God’s dreams for you?
Do you have any forgotten dreams? Perhaps dreams that God gave you a long time ago? And you just became too busy with life and chasing your own dream first?
Perhaps you don’t need to go far away to follow His dreams. Perhaps his dreams for you are nearby. It doesn’t matter. What matters is to follow His dreams. They are many and He is good to give you one at a time as you get ready to fulfil them. Follow His dreams; let His dreams be your dreams.
I mentioned the young people here: they are each running towards God’s dreams for their life. Some of them were running away, like Jonah, but now they are coming back and searching for a way to fulfil His dreams. Others knew all along but put their own dreams first, and God’s second. It doesn’t matter. What is important is that they are here now, and that I am here with my family to teach them. And the most beautiful thing is to see God’s dream being fulfilled in my family’s lives as we see them being chased by these young students.
Thirteen members of Holland Road Baptist Church, ranging in age from 18 to 54, and representing much diversification in experience, recently returned from fun, fruitfulness and foodie experiences of the Addis Ababa kind! We had prepared for a time of ministry with Joy Academy, a local school; Stronghearts, a local organisation dedicated to community development; Bingham Academy, an International Christian School, and the International Evangelical Church. But daily life in Addis Ababa is as far removed from Brighton & Hove living as can be imagined!
The sounds of Addis pervade the air: mournful prayer chants from the Orthodox Church, as well as from mosques, echo through the city at regular intervals; cars hoot incessantly, shopkeepers call out, selling their wares; and sounds of building work ring out from every corner. Negotiating traffic safely is an art form, that our drivers ably demonstrated, despite the shrieks from within the mini-van and helpful hints loudly provided by Sam and Jonny. Sharing streets with vehicles that sometimes defied description, together with donkeys, sheep and goats, makes for an exhilarating journey and rapidly increases the frequency and depth of one’s prayer life. Saying grace over meals had a new intensity too as we explored the culinary traditions of this part of the world!
However, once ensconced in the relative tranquillity of the SIM Guest House, we were able to rest and reflect on each day’s events. Adam led a daily team time where we could draw from God’s Word, hear His voice and be an encouragement to one another, whilst Jen organised the day’s itinerary and everything else – she has a gift of drawing up super-effective lists!
Lisa, helped by Rosie, Lena and Sarah, led knitting workshops at Stronghearts for mums whose children were looked after at the nursery. In an amazing time of growing friendships, the mums learned how to knit with wool and then with plastic bags, producing small items such as bangles, purses and belts to sell.
Adam and Rosie led parenting talks at IEC and at Joy Academy, which were warmly received – good parenting teaching is needed by both locals and expatriates, and there seems to be an open door for more on-going ministry.
Mike and Sarah ran the children’s club at Joy Academy and the assembly at Bingham, much to the absolute delight of the children! Their ministry transcends culture and the children’s receptivity to the teaching was clearly visible. Sam, Lucy, Lena, Gary, Lisa, Jonny and Chris led small groups of children and were a very necessary support to Mike and Sarah. Gary’s Big Bird impression was something to behold and may be best left to the imagination!
Pam held an Inset Day of teacher training for Joy Academy, wonderfully assisted by Jen and Chris, and spent another day encouraging the management team and the teachers.
Jonny and the two Transform girls, Lena and Lucy, gained first-hand experience of cross-cultural ministry as they helped with all sorts of activities, although Jonny has yet to partake in the joy that is Ethiopian traditional dancing!
Other activities included playing football with children; visiting Christian businesses and various local ministries, such as Deborah House, a house for young teenage girls; having meals with missionaries and their families; having coffee with a local family; and speaking to school-leavers at Bingham Academy.
As always, God exceeded our expectations in terms of the ministry we were able to give, despite our own limitations. There is a wide and open door for effective ministry in this city of ancient cultures, and this is reinforced by a Scripture we meditated on during our time there: 1 Corinthians 16:9, which says,
“…a great and effective door (of opportunity) has opened to me …”
We returned, exhausted yet elated, knowing that relationships with those in Addis Ababa had been developed, enriched and deepened, and we look forward to seeing just how wide the door of opportunity is going to open in the future.
Before starting university Beka and others from Holland Road went to visit church members working with UNICEF in Rwanda. She writes: I have been asked to write an article about my time in Rwanda and I honestly don’t know where to begin. So I shall start where the journey did: Gatwick airport, Monday 26th August 2013. I arrived with Alex, Joel and Issy and collectively about 70kg worth of luggage. As we set off for our African adventure I really didn’t know what to expect. For the following two weeks we had the pleasure of staying with Rachel and Ricardo, who made us all feel so welcome at their home, church and house-group.
Do you have a highlight?
So far, every time I’ve been asked this question, it’s left me struggling for words. I don’t think one highlight could really do this trip justice, so I’ve narrowed it down to three!
Highlight 1: UCF
Visiting the Umubyeyi Community Foundation (UCF). UCF works to “join these children through their hard times and try to make a difference in their lives.” At present it helps give 111 children, aged 2-7 years old, access to basic pre-school education, health care and food. We spent a few days working with UCF; mostly hoeing, gardening and moving rocks, in order to clear a field, which can now be used to grow vegetables to help feed the children. I really enjoyed doing something so practical to help and serve the wonderful work UCF are doing.
Highlight 2: Cyimbili
A week at Cyimbili coffee plantation. Cyimbili is run by Christian charity ALARM. The project manager explained the lengthy coffee process to us and we even spent a morning alongside the workers picking coffee! We helped out teaching English in the secondary school and face painting/jewellery making at the primary school. However my highlight of this time was not part of our routine schedule, but rather an impromptu playtime in the rain with the children, who swarmed around Alex and I as we walked around this beautiful plantation. A few hours later, after a lot of games and laughter, we eventually made it back to the house! It was a really special time as it put a smile on the faces of the little ones and helped open up conversations with the older, secondary school children. Another highlight from Cyimbili was sharing my favourite verse (Zephaniah 3:17) at staff morning devotions – even if it was at 6:30am!
Highlight 3: The Genocide War Museum
My third highlight actually started as a lowlight. We were keen for this trip to expose us to mission work but also to help us experience various aspects of Rwandan life. Therefore, unavoidably, in our first few days we visited the Genocide War Museum and a church memorial site, untouched since 1994.* Horrific doesn’t cover it. One phrase I read in the museum stuck with me: ‘Rwanda stunk all over of death.’ My heart completely broke for what I saw and heard about in that museum, combined with the stories Rwandan friends shared with us. I cried to God a lot in those first few days. I felt really helpless and hopeless. But God taught me something I needed to learn: I can’t change the world…but He can! I’m so glad I took my journal with me because it gave me a forum for quiet reflection with God, so here is a short extract to finish:
“I’ve been thinking about the ‘stench of death’ left in Rwanda by the genocide and God reminded me of 2 Corinthians 2:15, ‘For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.’ I can’t un-do the past or take away the pain left in this land, but this is all God asks of me- to start to ‘smell’ more like Jesus.”
I feel like this trip gave me a renewed sense of purpose. We can’t change the world by our own strength. I believe that God breaks our hearts for what breaks His so that we will start being the sweet smell of Jesus to His broken people. Only through Him will lives be changed and nations healed. He’s the God of the immeasurably more and I’m confident that Rwanda’s struggles aren’t too great for Him.