6,315 Churches Closed. What Can We Do?

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In mid-February of this year, the Rwandan government brought about a list of new laws for all churches siting safety and hygiene as concerns. By March 20th, in this tiny country, the government had shut down 6,315 churches.

As you can imagine this has greatly impacted the body of Christ here in Rwanda. While there are still churches open, the majority of churches we have worked with and in are closed until they can meet the new safety standards.

Of our Acts churches, 4 of the 5 have been closed.

Of the 10 churches where we most recently held Sunday school trainings, and saw 7 new Sunday schools emerge totaling 250 children reached, all 10 have closed.

Churches where we have held trainings, vacation Bible schools, Bible clubs, youth conferences, all have been shut down.

One dear pastor friend was the lead pastor shepherding 30 rural churches. All 30 were closed.

However, we can help. First, we can pray for the body of Christ here in Rwanda. I am personally praying that the believers would be strengthened in their faith, that they would become more determined to share the Gospel in legal manner, that they would trust God and give sacrificially to further the church and meet the new guidelines, and that among like-faith churches, there would be unity of pastors and leaders, that there would be more potential for churches to work together to build and meet the new regulations and open their doors.

We can help these churches build. The government has promised that as soon as the churches that were closed are able to meet the new building regulations enforced, they can reopen. The difficulty is that most village congregations have little or no capacity to do so, but we can help. I have had the privilege to come to know well several pastors and their churches. I know that they are solid in their doctrine and passionate about sharing the gospel. I know that these pastors are dedicated, selfless, and self-sacrificing to carry out their gospel mission.

It is deeply impressed upon my heart, that we be part of helping churches build.

A brick church, meeting the new regulations can be built from between $10,000 and $15,000. This would include foundation, cement flooring, metal roofing and reinforcement, and metal doors and windows. The price varies due to location and size. Two of the specific churches we are working with already have land on which to build.

Will you please pray with me for the church in Rwanda, and specifically whether God would have you and your church assist these churches prayerfully or financially.

In Christ,

Laura Y,

To support the building of a local church, you can donate here:

Support a Church or here Donate for Churches

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ACTS Assisting Churches Through Stewardship

 

They will glorify God for your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with others through the proof provided by this service. I Corinthians 9:12-13

You’ve heard of sponsoring a child, but have you ever considered sponsoring a church?

Love Alive in Rwanda is rolling out a new ministry opportunity. Through befriending a local church here in Rwanda, you will have the opportunity to partner in the ministry of the gospel in a rural African village, while still able to rem ain in your home and work in your home country.

Assisting Churches Through Stewardship

Throughout the book of Acts, we see that the New Testament church was one of harmony, unity, generosity, and prayer. We see an evident spirit of giving to the kingdom of God, and esteeming His church and His people above themselves.

Many of Paul’s letters further address the need of supporting pastors, evangelist and missionaries (I Cor 9:4-11). Paul expressed here, If we have sown a spiritual seed, is it not ok to reap a material harvest? We know that the church of Philippi supported Paul’s missionary endeavors in Macedonia (Phil 4:15).In Galatians, Paul instructs to provide for those who share the Gospel.

Here in Rwanda, we are privileged to befriend and partner with many local churches. Often, the churches we are working alongside, are new church plants, very poor village churches, and churches whose members have very little or nothing to give in the way of finances. In many village churches, I have had the opportunity to witness the offering time in which, those in the church bring the “first fruits of their labors,” a few avocados, some corn or beans, a bunch of bananas. That is what they are able to bring. Now the pastor must try to resell these items in order to obtain some small coins for the church.

The standard here is to allow pastors to accept 20% of the offering to meet the needs of themselves and their families, and the rest to be designated for the church. This may come to no more than a dollar per week.

As we continue to work alongside these churches, the needs of the churches in purchasing land, building, purchasing benches to sit on, or providing a small stipend for the pastor are very evident.

Love Alive has selected 5 church plants that we would like to begin with in the ministry of ACTS Assisting Churches Through Stewardship. Each of these churches is known to be actively growing and seeing souls saved and spiritual growth in the members. The pastors are known to be godly leaders, actively serving the Lord, and having a vision to expand the work He has given them for the Kingdom.

We have requested each of these pastors to provide written information concerning themselves, their church history, and their vision for their church, and to provide photos.

My desire is that individuals or churches would choose to connect with these Rwandan church plants in stewarding them and praying for them. This will not only encourage the local pastors to know that they have a friend in another country praying for them and interceding for them, but also provide an avenue of growth and expansion that they may see more souls brought to Christ.

How much would it cost?

There is no one set amount. We are simply looking for fellow churches or individuals who wish to befriend one of the 5 churches, correspond with them, hear about their vision, and their heart, and to stand with them. While $100 a month could help tremendously, $50 and even $25 can help these churches with minor costs such as electricity, or paying for a watchman for the property.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10

The ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God.

f To become a partner of our ACTS ministry and support a village church, you may do so here:

https://lovealiveinternational.com/donate/

 

July 2016 Update

July 2016 Update

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                July 6, 2016

Greetings from Rwanda. In this season, our weather is comparable to yours, sunny, dry, and hot! We do not expect any rain for at least another month, and have seen no rain in 2 months. Needless to say, it is a bit dry, but, laundry sure dries fast! There is also the advantage of never having to cancel or postpone programs due to heavy rains. In a land where few have cars, and most roads are dirt, rain tends to shut down many events.

I am always amazed how much time has elapsed since I last wrote, and then I am reminded of all we have been doing, and the many ways God is working & blessing. When I returned last September, I moved into a small house of 380 square feet. Within the last few months, my household of one turned into a household of 6! Three young boys, who stay with me during all holidays, having nowhere else to go, were here for the 3 months of Christmas holiday. In March, we learned that 2 of our vocational training students were walking 6 hours, round-trip for school each day. They moved in with me. In April a young boy needing physical therapy stayed in my home for a few weeks to have access to the hospital. The very day he left, I was walking home late in the night and found a 7-year-old boy, sleeping in the street. He saw me, and called me by name, having recognized me from coming to our Saturday Bible club. In short, JP is orphaned, and had been sleeping in the streets since his mother died. JP now lives with me, attends school, and considers himself a permanent family member. Only 2 days after JP came, a mother of some of our sponsored children who has consistently tried to give me her children once again asked me to take her kids to live with me. This time, I found out they were again living in the streets. We met with local authorities, and those 2 children ages 5 and 8 also came to live with me as a temporary solution. After a one-month stay, Jennifer and Randall graciously opened the annex of their home for these children to come and live together with their mother. It is our prayer that the mother will be able to obtain work and soon be able to support herself and her children. Please pray for this family, as there are many steps that must be made before that can happen. As two other situations have come up in the last week of others needing a place to stay, I am moving into a new house!

Hospital Care: We are delighted to continue our partnership with the local hospital, where we are able to provide treatment of many patients each month. We continue to visit regularly to pray with patients and bring gifts. Love Alive was able to provide care for yet a third baby this month, as the baby was in this hospital, the mother in another hospital about 2 hours away, and no one else was able to care for the child. Mother and child have now been reunited. In addition, we have helped in several personal ways as two children of our Sewing Center students needed emergency care, one after swallowing and pen cap that lodged itself in his intestines, and another after falling 35 feet into a hole, fracturing his skull and breaking his femur. Both are in recovery at this time.

Goats and Chickens: In May, we gave several goats to a group of women wanting to raise goats for income, but also to give goats to others. I am told these goats are already expecting offspring. Just last week, Randall helped us implement a program of providing 200 chickens for 20 families in an impoverished village. A spokesman for the group of recipients asked me to share the group’s gratitude, and to tell you that the same way that they have been helped, they hope to use the gift they are given to help others in their community. The purpose of the giving of chickens is to provide nutritional and income-generating opportunities, while teaching small-savings and sharing the love of Christ.

Bible Clubs: Our two weekly Bible clubs are near the conclusion of their 20-week curriculum. We have weekly seen 120 children at our Gako location, and 170 each week at our Kinamba location. We have already selected another location to begin our next Bible club in the same town as our sewing and salon centers, and plan to begin that this month. Please pray that we will see children trust Jesus as their Savior through this program.

Salon & Sewing: Our Salon students absolutely love the days their guest teacher Jennifer comes to teach. These students are nearing the completion of their certification, and will soon be finishing their program and seeking jobs. Our sewing students continue to amaze me with their zeal and joy in learning. They have begun staying after school to take on small jobs already, though graduation is still 5 months away. Most of these students had written out prayer requests for me back in May. It has been wonderful to see several answers to these prayers and be able to rejoice with these ladies and remind them that God is watching over them and He cares.

Sponsorship: In June we purchased annual health insurance ($5 per person) for all sponsored students in our program. Without insurance many of our students stay sick for long periods of time, and miss much school. With insurance they can easily see doctors and get the medications they need to restore health. We were blessed to be able to help them in this way.

Upcoming Events: We are hosting a 3-day youth conference later this month, and we are also planning a pastors’ conference in August as we greatly desire to enhance the local church with biblical training. My dad, Bob Yockey, Randall Smith, and a Rwandan evangelist Mbanzamugabo Aminadab are preparing now for this conference. We greatly appreciate your prayers for this event.

In May, I was introduced to a group of young unwed mothers, who have literally been cast-out of society. “Their scarlet letters” have caused them complete rejection by family, the church, school, and any potential of friendship and advancement in life. I am greatly burdened to reach out to these young girls, and shine the light of Christ to them. I am praying now about the ways we can potentially help these young ladies in the near future. Please pray with me.

God bless you and keep you!  Laura Yockey

And then Came JP

It was almost midnight as I made my way home. A young boy who had been staying with me for several weeks for medical reasons, had just left. The girls who stay with me had gone home for the weekend, and Baby Grace, whom we had been caring for for several months was on her way home too. I was looking forward to a weekend to myself. As the moto was dropping me off on the corner, for me to walk the rest of the way home, I saw a small young boy standing on the corner. Wow. What is that child doing out here, alone this late in the night? I thought. I planned to greet him and see if he was ok, but as I was still paying the moto, the little boy called out to me, “Laura!” I greeted him, but had no idea who he was.

I paid the moto and walked over to the little barefoot guy. It was cold out tonight. I was wearing a sweater and had taken a sweatshirt for extra. He was barefoot in a t-shirt.

I asked where his mom was and he replied that he didn’t have one. Dad had left and gone back to their home village and had refused to take him.

When did mom die? “Some time ago.” Where do you live? “Nowhere.”

Who do you have to stay with? “Noone.”

Where are you sleeping tonight? “I don’t know yet.”

Well, I could at least help him with the last question. He took my hand, and we walked home for the night, with plans to visit a center for orphans nearby and see if they can help , contact authorities, and the National Ministry of Children as well.

I came to learn JP is 7 years old, he may have family in a village several hours away, but he only knows the first names of his mother and father, and does not know more than a general area (county size) where his family may reside. He knew me because he had attended our Bible club several times. I figured this out when he started quoting all of our memory verses and singing all of the Bible club songs when he went to sleep at night.

Saturday, I took him (at his request) to a local center for orphans. He hoped he could stay there. They were full. They did not wish to take in anyone new. No, they could not house him, not even just for the weekend. They suggested I take him to the police. I have some experience with trying to get the police to help in these situations, and usually it results in the child spending a few days in a jail cell, until they release him back to the same situation.

I then called the National Department of Children, who told me it was the weekend, maybe I could try the village leaders. The village leader’s phone was off. We waited until Monday.

On Monday, we went to a council of local leaders who, having no other place for the child, asked me, “Can he stay with you for a few days until we locate his family?” Needless to say, I have never heard from them again, and never expected to. During the upcoming school break JP and I intend to do some searching for family ourselves.

JP began school the very next week. He is very bright and witty, extremely responsible and caring. He is fairly certain that anywhere I go, he needs to go, and my home is his. In fact, one morning at breakfast I heard him discussing with the other children whom he will live with when I die! Apparently, we are together until then!

 

In the nursery –The Days I Don’t Talk About

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“Leave it! Just let her die!”

I jumped up off of the bench, Bella still cradled tightly in my arms. “No, no, you can’t say that!” I told the new mother who had spoken these words.

Her little girl was born the day before weighing 800 grams (1 lb. 13 oz.), and she was still fighting for life. I had never once seen the mother come near her child. Upon the hospital’s suggestion that her daughter be transferred to another hospital for better care and a greater potential for survival, the mother had responded in utter despair, willing her child to just die. This explained why the mother would not come near her child. She was already resigned that the child would die, and was preventing herself from further anguish by refusing to even hope for her child’s survival.

I held out Bella to the mother. “Look at her,” I said, “She’s beautiful, strong and healthy, but she was born as small as your own baby, in fact, within a few days after birth, she weighed only 700 grams (1 lb. 9 oz.), but she grew. Your baby can grow. God can take care of her, please believe in that.” Along with a nurse, I tried to convince the mother that she had to hope and do the best she could for her child. I walked over to her baby’s isolette, and opened the door. Your baby needs your touch, needs your love, the sound of your voice, the smell of your skin. You can help your baby.”

“Leave me alone and leave it to God to decide,” the mother replied, and walked out the door, leaving me with her child’s hand wrapped around my finger.

It’s hard to comprehend, but in a world of endless poverty and survival. This mother was refusing better care, because she knew she could not afford it, and rather than take a chance that the hospital would work to help her, she gave up. She simply assumed no care would be provided when she couldn’t pay for treatment; and she would rather God just take her child than have to deal with the stress.

I found her later in the hallway, sitting alone, and I tried again to console her and encourage her. When she told me money was the problem, I again tried to tell her to believe there could be a way. Though I would not and did not tell her, my thought was, that I or Love Alive would ensure the baby’s treatment was taken care of; however, once again, the mother told me bitterly, “If God can do all things, then let Him, and leave it be.”

I wish I could be shocked at this attitude. I wish I could say, I was calling the local Children’s Services Hotline to inform them that this baby was in danger of neglect, but I’ve seen too much in the neonatal unit of my local hospital in the past months.

You see, in the months of daily visits, holding sweet Bella, I’ve seen a lot, I’ve heard a lot. Sometimes I don’t know if God brought Bella into my world for me to love Bella, or to bless my life for this time with Bella, or to bring me to a new window, to gaze through, and see a whole new demographic desperate for love, nurture, counseling, medical advancements, knowledge, and care.

5.

Five.

F-i-v-e babies died that day.

There were 8 infants fighting for life when we started the day, and by nightfall, there were only 2 very worried mothers (alongside me) wondering how their own babies had made it through the day, and if they could survive the next.

Our hospital is not large. Our community is semi-rural, full of dirt-roads, open-air markets, villagers who ride taxi-bicycles, and farm other people’s fields to make a living. The maximum capacity of our hospital is 90 people, so you can understand that the number of babies represented here is large for a small hospital, and speaks nothing of what is happening in more populated hospitals in this country.

I walked into Bella’s room, and there was a dead baby lying on the counter. A nurse looked at me and said flatly. “I think its dead.” The oxygen tank was still feeding oxygen into the little body, but I placed my hand on the baby’s chest, held his tiny hand, and stroked his cheek. Cold. Still. Lifeless. Gone.

“Does the mother know?” I asked. No, she didn’t. They would tell her soon. “But she’s expecting it,” the nurse shrugged.

I looked around the room, “Where is Baby Costance?”

“She died this morning.”

I had felt that death. Day after day, I would walk by that little one’s crib and stroke her cheek, hold her little hand and sing to her as I sang to Bella. I never once saw the mother in the two weeks the baby was alive.

“That’s because, she was preparing for her baby to die. We told her not to get attached, because the baby might not make it; that’s why she never came in and held her,” the nurse responded to my contemplations.

Talk about a cultural shift, from my own culture where every potential medical advancement is available, and when no cure is known parents and doctors and nurses fight for the best trials and any possible treatment to extend life and find health, where parents cling to every second with their baby, inform friends and even strangers through blogs and internet pages, and get national prayer chains going with every hope for the miraculous. Yet here, where medical treatments are limited, and death is as expected as life, the very opposite occurs. Rather than hope and risk the wound, stay away from the child, and wait and see what the potential for survival is.

I couldn’t help but think about neonatal development and the power of the mother child bond, the need for nurture, for physical closeness, for human interaction, and yet, my ideologies were continents away from my actual surroundings.

I knew, rather thought I knew, who the third deceased infant was.

“The twin, he’s gone too? ” I asked.

I knew each baby well, often answering for doctors who came in before the nurses could look in their charts to answer dates the baby was born or who the mother was. It was not hard to look around the room and notice which crib yesterday held a baby and now lay empty.

“Wow! He’s still alive?” The doctor had laughed as he exclaimed the day before upon entering the nursery and seeing the tiny twin still breathing.

“Why would you say that?” I asked? Shouldn’t we keep every hope of life?

“Eh, the other twin died at birth yesterday, this one will surely die now too; it’s just a matter of time,” he responded.

I watched the monitors flashing warning signs, “Warning, temperature dangerously low!” “Attention: heart beat abnormal.” “Low oxygen.”

Aside from the oxygen mask, the other warnings were unheeded. Whether we have no capabilities to address the problems being shown on the screen, I do not know. I only know that as the warning lights and beeps kept flashing, the doctor and nurses continued about their work and charting. The heart line going flatter.

“The twin? Yes, him too, but we didn’t count that one. We knew he would die, so that didn’t count”

Make that 4 babies today then.

By the end of that night, one more of Bella’s nursery fellows died, leaving the nursery quiet with three babies clinging to life, and leaving me with no false-expectations that in this country a baby should be expected to survive.

I’ve inquired as to why in such a small community, we should have so many babies born with birth defects, malformations, severe prematurity, and poor heart and lung development. The local physicians attribute the problems to four specific causes. 1. Poor nutrition. 2. Lack of prenatal care and awareness. 3. Attempted self-induced abortions via poison, and 4. “traditional medicines,” a term that encompasses traditional roots, herbs and concoctions passed down through ancestry and including witchcraft. Often the treatments given to expecting mothers are actually harmful to the developing baby rather than helpful, yet people are more prone to believe what families and locals advise them rather than what is medically or scientifically proven.

I don’t really have answers. I don’t have solutions. I don’t have even a solution. This is why the days like these well up in my heart and seep out in my frustrations and become my accepted realities of all I am powerless to change.

But tomorrow, I’ll wake up, and when the daily activities the “musts” that need to be done are finished, I’ll walk to the hospital, open the little isolette, and cradle that beautiful little miracle in my arms, and breathe life, and songs and love and prayers for blessings, angels and God’s favor on her, all the while watching, and when I can, I’ll provide diapers, soap and lotion for another baby whose mother has no ability to obtain such simple necessities, I’ll show a mother how to use a disposable diaper, share some of Bella’s clothes with another preemie mom whose baby has been naked, and tell another mother how important It is to hold her baby and talk to him.

Maybe, just maybe a little sun shines through.

April, 2016 Update

Greetings from Rwanda. I trust this letter finds you blessed and enjoying the fullness of your relationship in Christ.

In my last letter, I stated we had begun one weekly children’s Bible club and I was greatly desiring to begin another. One week later, we were able to obtain a location to rent, and began our new Bible club. Each club hosts well-over 100 children each week to hear the gospel. Their eagerness to learn, their excitement to share their Bible verses, and even their greeting me with memorized songs or verses we have learned when they see me throughout the week are a delight.

Randall and Jennifer Smith, who joined me here in Rwanda last October, have been a tremendous asset to the ministry of Love Alive. They have returned to the USA for a few weeks, and I am fervently praying that their time there is of great encouragement, rejuvenation, and spiritual uplifting as they see family and friends and accomplish all they need to do while there. We (I and so many Rwandans here) eagerly look forward to their return. Prior to their departure, Randall held our largest Bible Study Training seminar yet with about 400 attending. These attendees from 5 village churches were extremely excited to hear this “theology professor,” they are eager for him to come back and teach more courses, hoping they will also earn certificates! That same week, we were able to give 100 Bibles to one of the participating churches.

One of the most unique things we have had the privilege of being a part of most recently is helping two young boys obtain prosthetic legs. Each of these boys was living in the streets, begging to make a living when I met them. At ages 13 and 17, living in a country where about 85% of the people subsist on manual labor, life without a leg offered few opportunities. Even education became more difficult due to the rugged terrain and many mountains and hills, making getting to and from school miles away almost impossible. Eric, age13, has now received his leg, is in school and studying well, receiving physical therapy, and will soon be reunited with his mother. Isaac, age 17, whose leg was amputated due to cancer 3 years ago, has already returned to his family, who is actively involved in this process, and is excited about returning to school next year. He has been fitted and is to receive his new leg next week. I consider it such a blessing to be a small part in impacting the lives of these young boys that they may see the love of Christ and be blessed with hope and opportunity.

Our Salon and Sewing centers continue to go on well, with our students excelling. Due to an outpouring of sponsorship, we have been able to accept an additional 40 students. In truth, we are seeing so many blessings and God’s hand in our work, that I am completely sure it is due to our friends and partners who are bathing us in prayer. Thank you so much for praying on our behalf. I pray that God rewards you richly in spiritual blessings for you kindness toward us.

This past month our students each wrote letters to their sponsors, expressing their gratitude. Each letter stated prayers of God’s blessings for their sponsor. Several letters also stated, “I pray God gives you everything you wish for and grants you success.” As I translated these letters, I thought, “Wow, that’s a big over-the-top;” however, later that week, I happened to read Psalms 20:4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. I think these kids are on to something.

In gratitude to each person who prays for or gives to this ministry, I pray that God may give you the desires of your heart and make your plans succeed.

 

2015 Report of Expenditures

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Each year, in transparency to our partners, contributors and friends, I publish an update of how the ministry of Love Alive has used it’s contributions in the previous year.

This past year, specifically evangelistic endeavors accounted for 17% of the budget. These endeavors include, Bible trainings, giving Bibles, Bible clubs and Bible Schools for children.

Our Sponsorship of 300 nursery, primary and secondary students last year necessitated 25% of our spending.

The largest portion of our budget was used for our vocational training of 60 women in a year of learning to sew, and being equipped with skill and tools to begin their own work. Additionally, the 43% of budget allocated for Vocational training included 8 students we sponsored to area vocational training centers to learn other skills.

Six percent of our funding was spent in vocational projects to assist poor families in raising animals and beginning small savings programs.

An additional 6% was spent on our Hospital project including caring for abandoned infants, but also providing care to those who would otherwise be forced to be left without medical assistance.

International bank fees and money transfer fees account for 2% of our expenditures.

As much as I would like every penny to be given directly to the needs of the people, both in the USA and internationally, there are small fees for annual legal updates and registration. One of the requirements in Rwanda is that we must have an office to operate legally. We were able to secure an office for the past year for only $26 per month! For these reasons 1% of the budget is used for fees which we must pay to continue our ministry.

The above shows that of our expenditures, 97% of all contributions are going directly to the needs of the people. Thus, 97 cents of every dollar given is given directly to the use for which you sent it.

I consider it a great responsibility to use every penny given as wisely as possible. I consider all gifts given as God’s money, that we at Love Alive are simply asked to be stewards over and trusted to use to carry out ministry and bless lives for the glory of God.

Many thanks to each and every person who gives to and prays for this ministry. God bless you!