Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Day in Butare, Rwanda

When people ask me "What do you do in Africa?", I say, "We do all kinds of different things.  We stay at the Come and See Africa (CASA) House. We teach.  We visit."  I think I need to give you a little more detail than this terse answer,  so you can pray for us specifically.  Here is a list of things that I did today, on July 28, 2010

I got up around 4 am (sounds like I am a very diligent person), but not really.  My body is still confused from California time and Rwanda time. I check my email and prepare a sermon to share at the morning devotion. At 5 am, Jack the night watchman prepares the room for the morning devotion.  Adults usually sit on chairs, and children sit on the floor. Around 5:30 people start singing, I join them.  It was my turn to give a sermon this morning.

For this morning devotion, there were about 50 people.  We surprised them with warm milk, bread, and a hard boiled egg.   I wish you could see these delighted faces.  CASA gives them milk and bread twice a month, but this morning we added an egg.  The cost for all this?  About $15.  How  wonderful it is to see how our small resources can accomplish so much here.  

From 10 am to noon, we are having a VBS with kids.  The same kids who attended the monring service come back for VBS, and Tabi from Texas teaches.  

From noon to 1:30, Chris teaches at the NUR stadium. Several hundred are intently listening as Chris talks about dating and courtship.  

Around 2 p.m, we have a lunch (cooked bananas and rice), then rest a little before the evening class.

At 5 p.m every night, there is a class at the CASA yard.  There are about 300 students who are taking courses in biblical studies.  The space we are renting is a 4 bedroom house, with no inside space for a classroom, so they are meeting outside. These students are on fire for God, and they want to learn about God.  Their passion and dedication is amazing, and they touch my heart.

From 8 to 10 p.m, Chris teaches again at the stadium.  After the evening session, we have a late dinner (chips, rice, beef).  I probably sleep 3 to 4 hours a day, my body is tired, but my soul is renewed. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Visiting the bush churches

We visited three pastors who are starting churches in the bush.  Rwanda is a hilly country.  It is even called "The Land of A Thousand Hills".  I was glad that Paul is a great driver.  Tabi and I held onto each other as the car rolled up and down on those steep hills and valleys.  At one point, we had  to get out, so Paul could drive over big rocks.  After a few hours of a roller coaster ride, we reached our first destination.  

This is a typical bush church.  Actually, this is a better off one, since it has a roof.  Some of the churches do not even have a roof.  I was told that the Rwanda government now requires churches to have a roof, which makes many pastors scrambling to find funds to buy iron sheets.  We stayed at this church which Pastor Gilbert has planted about 6 months ago, it was wonderful to see Gilbert again on this trip.  I met him in 2002,  and lost touch with him.  Our purpose in visiting bush churches was to encourage them.  

We visited two more churches, driving through hills and valleys.  I held Tabi's hand tight and closed my eyes so as not to look down the steep hill.  Well, I should be grateful that I didn't have to walk to get there, whereas everyone we saw along the way was walking carrying heavy stuff on their head and on their back.  This church was started about two months ago,  so it didn't even have a roof.  They meet in the open air.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Graduating Class of 2010.

July 24, 2010
Thirty-six students (34 men and 2 women) received their diplomas.  Students took 33 different courses during their three years of studying Theology and Christian Religious Education at the CASA Bible School.  These students are remarkable because they doubled their course load in order to get this diploma. They have committed themselves for three years to study the word of God seriously on top of their university study.
These remarkable students inspire me and challenge me in many different areas of my life. 

An average age of university students in Rwanda is around 25 years old, and their secondary education takes longer to complete then American education.  Especially for this generation of students (in the photo), their education was interrupted by the war and poverty.  Some of CASA students I talked to grew up in refuge camps where there is no school. 

University students take their education seriously, only about 3% of the population enters university.  Students who are in this CASA graduation picture have gone through the 1994 war when they were around 10 years old.  I am guessing that this generation will be the one who will work hardest to build their country, if the Korean history is applied to Rwanda.  I often see the CASA students approach to life is quiet different then many young people of their age from developed countries.  They express frequently and loudly their gratitude to God for their life, they often express that they are grateful and they are guilty at the same time for a fact that they have survived when many of their friends didn’t.  When you have seen the darkest evil in the humanity’s heart at a tender age, I am sure, there are lots of issues that have to be sorted out.  Then where do you go?  Who do you go to?

These students turned to God for answers, and dig deeper for the truth.  That is where CASA comes in.  Our goal is to create an environment where serious students can come together to discuss, to study, and to grow in the knowledge of God and themselves. As I talked to the graduating class of 2010, I am convinced that they found answers: they know whose they are, they have a clear purpose for their life, therefore hope for the future.

As they are being trained to be a leader, they are also being trained to be a servant.  When they soar as a leader for their country, they will have two wings to balance them.  They will become a servant leader.  I am honored and humbled to take a part in their life journey.  My husband and I  along with Pastor Paul and Pastor David are handing a diploma to each student at the graduation ceremony at NUR, on July 24th, 2010.

Picture book

July 22nd, Friday.
My favorite activity in Rwanda is attending the morning service every morning.  Around 5:30 in the morning, I hear light foot steps leading toward the CASA yard, and entering into the reception area. About 50 people including little children start their day with prayers and reading the word of God.  This morning, Chris used this awesome picture book for the first time.  Kids were excited to see the pictures.

Last summer, Chris hired a Rwandan artist to illustrate 36 bible stories, then ask a Rwandan pastor to translate English into Kinyarwanda. At last, our good friend,  Sandy put together fourteen hand-made books.  These kids have never seen picture books before, now they can even touch it.  I wish Sandy can see these delighted little kids.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How long does it take you to go to Rwanda?

People often ask me this question when they find out about my trip.  Here is my account of this year's trip.  

A friend from our church dropped us off at the airport at 8:45 p.m on July 19th.  We had four big bags to check in and two carry on.  Guess what? We had to pay 30 dollars for each bag. OUCH!  We passed the security checkpoint without too much trouble, and got on the red eye flight to DC.

We arrived at DC at six in the morning on July 20th, and claimed bags, hauled them to an Ethiopia Airline counter, check them in again. As soon as we were done with check-in, our older son who lives in DC showed up to say goodbye to us.  We saw a USO lounge right next to the Ethiopian counter, so we walked in.  A pleasant volunteer welcomed us in and we spent two hours in a comfortable lounge.  Just before we left the USO lounge, Chris went out to look for Tabitha who is going to Rwanda with us.  But he didn’t find Tabitha in the check-in area. I was beginning to worry about her.  At that moment, Tabitha called us, and is already at the gate.   We left DC at 10:30 am.

We had a lay over in Rome, after 10 hours of flight; we stayed inside the plane for almost two hours.  Then there was another 6 hours to flight to Addis Ababa. I tried to sleep, but I was coming down with cold of something.  I had a really bad headache.  We arrived at Addis Ababa in the early morning, waited another 4 hours to get on an airplane.  I think this was the hardest trip of all eleven trips that I made to Rwanda. We finally arrived in Kigali around 2 p.m on July 21st.  Our dear friends, Paul, David, and Frank, came to meet us at the airport.  Then we drove three hours to Butare.  So I was on the road over forty hours.  I left home at 10:30 p.m on July 19th and arrived in Butare at 2 p.m on July 21st.  My head still hurts, so I am not going to do the math at this time.  

Friday, July 16, 2010

Concert at four different locations in August

When I went to Korea last May, Professor Suh who is the leader of Allelluah choir team asked me if I could arrange their visit to SF area. My job was to find churches for them to perform, to provide food/lodging, to provide a tour of Bay Area, and transportations for them to get around.  The budget was zero. These people are paying their way to get here, and we need to do our part, host them.  I usually hate to ask anything to anyone.  But I could not do this by myself.  I had to ask people to join me to host this wonderful choir.

After many months of phone calls and explanation to many different people, a tour for them is set. Churches are excited for them to come and perform, and many volunteers are joyfully participating to make this concert tour happen. I learned several things while I am doing this project: 1) don't hesitate to ask people for help, 2) collaborate with others in order to get the best result, and 3) be flexible.

They will arrive at SFO on August 12th, and leave 18th.
They will perform at four different places:
1. August 13th @ 6 p.m, San Lorenzo
2. August 14th @ 5 p.m, Scotts Valley
3. August 15th @ 2 p.m, San Ramon
4. August 15th @ 5 p.m, Oakland

They Learned ABC of salvation

Originally uploaded by come and see africa
We had about 60 people attending our VBS every night. I was busy teaching my adult class, packing for Africa, and taking my nephews who are visiting from Oregon to Exploratorium, Muir Wood, and Golden Gate bridge. Even though, it was an insanely busy week, because it was fun, I am refreshed more than ever. I am ready to go to Africa, and teach teachers and mamas.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunbeam and Sunwoo are visiting us

They came to CA on Friday, their father went back up to Oregon right away.   Since then they have been with us, and they are such wonderful young men,  we have been so blessed to get to know our nephews.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

VBS time again

Our church runs a Vacation Bible School every summer.  It is a full blown program for a week for all ages, from 3 year old and up.   I am in charge of adult class.  I have fun doing different kinds of activities together, we socialize, eat, do craft projects, study Words, sing, and do games, and much more.  My students are from age 20 to 95 years old.  

I used to attend a VBS as a child, then became a VBS teacher while I was in college, then there was no more VBS in my life until I came to the First Southern. Nowadays, most churches don't have VBS program.  Kids have too many other activities to do during the summer,  I am told that that is one of reasons for the end of VBS for many churches. 

At our church, we decide to go upstream and resume the program 4 years ago.  There are almost 30 plus adult volunteers for the program every year, and we draw around 30 to 40 kids to the program.   I know that it is a lot of work for the low attendance, but it is good for us to continue to do it.  If one child can learn about the love of God through the program, that is truly worth of our effort.  So here we are.  

We are doing it again this year, from July 11th through July 16th.  We will meet at 6 p.m to 8:30 p.m every evening at First Southern.    Everyone will learn something new and we will have fun.  

Kindergarten class builds a church