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

2015 pie chart of expendituresSlide1

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!

 

Turning My Trials into Triumphs

12898340_10206072351187510_2922707591964683414_oRwanda Missions Trip – 2016

Rwanda, Africa; called “the land of a thousand hills,” it is a little country on the East side of Africa. Rwanda is a country full of extreme poverty, a country that lost thousands of people in the Rwandan Genocide in the 1990’s. It is also a country of people that are full of God’s love and aren’t afraid to show it.

The idea of going on a mission trip actually started 20 yrs. ago. Church friends of ours had gone on a trip to St. Croix and had been telling Chuck and me about it. That Sunday, Pastor gave a sermon on missions; and, at the end, asked people to go forward if they wanted to go on a missions trip sometime in their life. Chuck and I went forward, as did many others. Shortly after that, Chuck got sick and, a few years later, passed away. The mission trip idea was put on the back burner.

Now, jump ahead 20 yrs. I was sitting at my kitchen table doing my Bible study one summer night last year. As I sat there, my mind strayed to looking back on my life. It seemed to me that I had never done anything significant in my life regarding sharing the message of the Gospel. I found myself saying that night, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” Little did I know what I was saying to God at that point.

I had heard about a mission in Rwanda, Africa at my church. I had always thought about Africa. One of my favorite Family Classics movies as a child was “Stanley and Livingston.” Dr. Livingston had been a missionary doctor in Africa. As I listened to Pastor Jay at church talk about “Love Alive International” in Africa, I thought… “I should check out their website.” When I got home that Sunday, I went on the internet and found the website(www.lovealiveinternational.com). It showed where you could sponsor a child’s education in Rwanda for $35 a year. Gee, I could spend that amount just going out to dinner. OK, I’ll sponsor one child. Then, on the website, I saw that there were sewing classes for the Rwandan women so that they can learn to make clothing, purses, etc. to sell at the market. This would provide money for their family. When they graduated from the sewing class, they would receive their very own sewing machine. These sewing machines would be purchased from people that would sponsor them, once again, on the website. OK, that sounded like a good thing, so I sponsored one sewing student. A couple of weeks later, I got thinking about the Rwandan children and sponsored three more.

I received an email later from Laura, the woman that had started Love Alive International three years ago. She thanked me for my donations and said “If you’d ever like to come visit us, we would be glad to have you.” (As a side note, Laura later said that it must have been a “God thing”, because she doesn’t usually say that to a new sponsor). Visit Africa? Me? That was quite an idea. I thought about it again and again after that. Driving to work one morning, I found myself talking to God about it. The conversation went something like this:

Me: But God, where would I get the money to go?
God: Just trust Me on that one.
Me: But God, what about the inoculations? You know my health isn’t the best and I always have reactions to stuff.
God: Just trust Me on that one too.
Me: But God…..
God: Are you willing to “step out” for what I am asking you to do?

Well, He had me on that one. A couple of days later, I was driving home from work. I turned on the radio and tried channel after channel for something to listen to. All of a sudden, I turned to a radio station and a voice said “You know that missionary trip you’ve always wanted to go on? Go do it.” It sure sounded like God speaking to me. (It turned out to be a Joel Osteen station). Well, I had my answer. I was going to Africa.

I started raising the money for the trip. I figured I’d need about $2500 to go. I sent out ONE donation letter to friends and church members. I thought, “Well, Lord, if you REALLY want me to go, the money will have to come in.” Within a short time, $2600 had been raised. Hmmmm……

Next came the inoculations. I held my breath when the doctor injected me with shots for Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever. He also gave me Malaria pills to take. No adverse reactions to any of it.

It was coming down to the wire now as the date of March 10th, my chosen date for my trip, got closer. Satan started messing with me now. I would find myself doubting my going and what could God possibly use me for? I had no skills to teach anything. I couldn’t think of anything that I could do there. I took a test to see what my spiritual gifts were and it came back “Compassion and Mercy.” What could I do with that? Oh, but God had a much chosen plan for me.

So the morning of March 10th arrived. I arrived at O’Hare airport and took my luggage up to the nearest guy handling it. He weighed both of the pieces and said “That will be $200. You’re overweight on both of them”. Oh, great. Yep, I was not only bringing little gifts to my kids that I had sponsored (which, by the way, had now risen to 14 kids), but I was also bringing food items to Laura and the people I would be staying with, Randall and Jennifer Smith. Certain items, such as peanut butter and saltine crackers, are harder to get in Rwanda, so I was bringing them some. All of this made the luggage extremely heavy. As I prepared to pay it, I began talking about where I was going and what I was going to do. The man looked at me and said “You know what? I won’t charge you for the second suitcase.” What a nice man. I offered him ten dollars for helping me, thinking he could buy lunch with it or something. He initially took it, but, after finishing taking care of my luggage, he handed it back to me, saying “Take this and buy something for the Rwandan kids.” I was already starting to see God working with this trip.

After two eight-hour flights, I made it to Kigali, Rwanda. Kigali is the capital of Rwanda. Laura was there to meet me. We got in the car she had borrowed and set out for Randall and Jennifer’s house. Randall and Jennifer had moved to Rwanda last fall so that they could help Laura with the mission. As Laura put it, “you’ll find Randall and Jennifer’s house to be better for you. They have INDOOR plumbing.” Uh, yes, I guess so….. As we drove to their house, about 20 minutes out of the city, I found myself looking at mud houses and some pretty poor neighborhoods. We arrived at the house, which was surrounded by a concrete wall. It seemed that the larger houses had these fences around them that completely enclosed the house. I met Randall and Jennifer. I immediately felt like we had known each other a long time. After we talked for a couple of hours, we went to bed. When I saw the bed, I felt like I was in a movie set from a movie I had seen before. There was mosquito netting around the bed hanging from the ceiling. I crawled into the bed and slept soundly.

At 6 a.m. the next morning, I was awakened by a neighbor’s baby crying, an African woman singing in her language, and a rooster crowing. That was a jolt to reality. I got up and went to the bathroom. In the bathroom was a toilet, a small sink, and a drain in the floor with a faucet over it. No shower. There was also what looked like a large garbage can full of water. It turned out that there wasn’t running water all the time. When it WAS running, you filled this can up to use when there wasn’t running water. Well, we hit PLENTY of those days.

Laura had drawn up an itinerary for my time with her. On the first day, Saturday, we drove over to a place called ERM in Masaka to have a Children’s Bible Club. It is similar to our VBS. This was the second Saturday that they had met. There were close to 100 kids there. When I got out of the car, the kids began running up to me, hugging me for all they were worth. They are such lovable kids. These kids had nothing material wise, but they had LOVE. We played with them for a little while, then Laura sang songs with them in their language, told bible stories to them (and quizzed them on the stories), and passed out papers for them to color. They got two crayons a piece. That’s all there was. They didn’t care what color they were. They seldom got crayons. Then, we passed out something cold to drink and a little snack. Bananas are prevalent in Rwanda, so many snacks are bananas. After 3 hours with the kids, one last hug and they walked home.

That afternoon, we visited with some children in one of the worst poverty-stricken areas. These children seemed starved for love. These people, mostly women with children, had little, if any, money. Many of them turned to prostitution. We walked into an area and met the children. Laura brought them little gifts… balloons to be blown up and a little craft to make. Seeing the brace on my leg, one of the women set out an old wooden chair for me to sit on. I must have looked really hot (I was), so the children began to fan me with papers that Laura had handed out to them. Nothing like having ten little kids fanning you all at the same time! I had my own air conditioning! Then, two of the mothers were examining my hair. They don’t see long, blond hair too often. The two of them began to braid my hair while I was sitting there! I think they did it because they saw how hot I was! I had one long braid tucked up in the back and a small braid on each side. It was sure funny!!

The next morning was Sunday. We left at 7:30 a.m. for a two hour drive up into the mountains to a small town called Ruzizi. There we met the pastor and his wife at their house. It is a big thing for these people to have visitors. The hugs abounded! They set out bananas and breads to eat. They also provided Chai tea. We had some prayer time, then walked behind their house to the church. The church wasn’t very old and wasn’t completely finished. It still had mud walls and a dirt floor. But the worship time was wonderful! Songs were sung in their language with a choir. I didn’t understand all the words, but our interpreter, Kabuto, who had come with us, explained the words to me. They were all about Jesus, being covered in His blood, the King of Kings, etc. You could just FEEL the Holy Spirit in the room. Randall preached that morning and Kabuto interpreted to the people there. The room was full. When it came time for the offering, some people put in a small coin, others brought up a small bag of produce that they had raised. At the end of the service, the produce was auctioned off to the people that DID have money, and the money went to the church.
The pastor announced to the people that I would be speaking in the afternoon at 3 p.m. and all the women were invited. Church ended after 3 hours.

We went to lunch after church with the pastor and his wife. It was a beautiful place to eat, about halfway down the mountain and on a lake. The surrounding scenery was beautiful. We ate outside.
After lunch, we headed back to the church and my meeting with the women. 65 women showed up to hear me speak! Now, I’ve been a speaker in the past and also a teacher for a few years. But I didn’t have a clue what I was going to say to these women. I would have Kabuto to interpret for me, which I had never donebefore either. So I decided to give my testimony. I talked about sexual abuse, physical abuse, and verbal abuse that I was a survivor of. Then I talked about being a widow. It turned out that more than half the room was widows. As I talked about the depression, loneliness, and anger that comes with being a widow, I saw a woman in the front row nodding her head with everything I was saying. I finally took a moment and said “I keep watching this woman and I see that she has agreed with everything I am saying about being a widow.” I walked up to her and she said “Yes, I am a widow. I know all about depression and anger. I didn’t know that American women had this happen too.” I hugged her and went back to talking. I noticed that there was an older woman in the front row that looked very unhappy. I started talking to her and found out that her husband had been killed in the Genocide. His body had actually been chewed on by street dogs. I didn’t know what to say. Lord, what do I do? I could tell that she was very bitter. I finally asked five women to come up, lay hands on her, and we would pray over her. We prayed and she sat back down. I could tell that this woman was stuck in her grief, even though the Genocide had happened twenty years ago. From what we could tell, this woman only came occasionally to church and sort of “wallowed” in her bitterness and grief. She was unable to move on. And it seemed that the other women were tired of hearing her story. It was interesting to see the women that HAD moved on and this woman that HADN’T. I encouraged them to stick together, to care about each other, to pray together, and to help each other. Only a widow knows the feelings that another widow is feeling. I shared Psalm 37:4 with them: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I told them, also, that Jesus is a husband to the widows. He is ALL you have, but He is ALL you need. When I finished speaking, all the women rushed up to me and hugged me. It seemed that the talk had gone well.

On Monday, we took a drive out to Rusheshe to visit the sewing center where women were learning to sew clothes. They would eventually be able to sew clothing to sell in the marketplace and bring in money to their families. As we drove to Rusheshe, I watched all the people along the way. Rwanda has many people and they are all going SOMEWHERE every day. There are very few automobiles there. So the people either walk, take a Moto (a man driving a motorbike and you on the back), or a bicycle (a man riding a bike with you on the back). The Moto’s and bikes are prevalent all over. Most people are traveling to fill a 5-gallon container with water at the local well. These wells are spaced far out, so it can take hours to walk there and then walk back. I saw small children even carrying these containers by themselves. This is a daily ritual for most of these people. Every day they do the same thing. Sometimes, the children that go to school walk 1-2 hours home, then gather up the container and walk to get water. What a long day for these children!
Another thing that stood out to me is the STARES that you get from the Rwandans. Caucasian people are VERY rare in Rwanda, so you really stand out! As you drive past the children, they call out “Muzungu! Muzungu!” which means, “White person!” They all stand and wave to you, and are truly delighted when you wave back to them! I held my arm next to one of the children one day, and he just giggled and smiled!
We arrived at the sewing center and I met the women. Younger women that so wanted to learn a skill so that they could be able to earn an income. Once again, I was asked to speak to these women. Laura said “Why don’t you give your testimony again?” So, once again, I began my story. There were a few widows in the group, but what amazed me was the way that God turned my story this time and took it down another path. As I once again talked about the abusive background, I could see the look in these women’s eyes that they HIGHLY understood what I was talking about. I talked about how I had a hard time forgiving myself for things that I did in my past even though I knew that God had forgiven me. When I asked if anyone in the room had a question or anything to share, the room got quiet. Then, one by one, women began sharing their similar stories as mine. The women had really responded well to me. It was good for them to talk their feelings out. They also said that they didn’t know that American women had the same problems as the Rwandan women. Laura shared with them that I had many medical problems, but had wanted to come to Africa all my life and now had a chance to do it. It brought a feeling of comradery between us as we talked about God’s love for us. At the end, I shared with them Philippians 3: 13b… “Forgetting what is BEHIND and straining toward what is AHEAD, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Many hugs were given before I left that day….
When I got home, Randall, Jennifer, and I discussed the talks I had done in the two days there. I felt that NOW I knew why God had sent me there. These women needed to hear what I had to TELL them. THAT was my purpose. As someone put it, “God turned your TRIALS into TRIUMPHS.”

On Monday afternoon, I got to meet the young woman, Claudine, that I had sponsored the sewing machine when she graduated sewing class. Claudine is a beautiful young woman, very quiet, with a small child. She is married, but her husband doesn’t bring in much money from his job. She was thrilled that she now had a sewing machine to make clothes not only for her family, but to sell. We visited at her home and met her husband. He seemed like a kind, gentle young man. He thanked me over and over for what I had done. Claudine presented me with a beautiful quilted bag that she had made for me to thank me. They offered us the customary bananas, then he prayed before we left their home.

Tuesday. We went to Fumbwe sewing center, which is now a cooperative. We visited with the ladies, then Laura and I delivered a few mattresses that were donated to a few of the women. One woman said it was the very first mattress that she had EVER slept on. Oh, the things we take for granted….
I also got to meet Godance. I had seen a picture of Godance a few months ago as she graduated from a sewing class. She has been a BIG motivation to me. Godance is a young crippled lady and walks with two canes. Godance wanted to learn to sew so bad that she walked two hours to get to the sewing class every day. What an inspiration! We met with Godance at her home and she was thrilled to get to meet me! We even compared our leg braces!!

I visited with some of my sponsored studentsin their homes that afternoon. Their homes reminded me of little caves. They were made from concrete and had 1-2 very small rooms. The door to the home was generally a curtain hanging. They always offered me a seat on what was probably the only chair in the house. And they ALWAYS offered something to eat, as was their custom. Mostly, if they were very poor, they would put out a bowl of bananas. If they had a LITTLE money, they were proud to offer you a “Fanta” soda. Yes, Fanta is still available out there. Fanta almost seemed like a status symbol. Each parent expressed their sincere gratitude for sponsoring their child in school, as schooling would not be affordable otherwise. I even received some gifts from some of the students, whether it was a handwritten letter to me or something they had made. Before we left each home, a prayer was said, as is the custom there.

On Wednesday, Randall, Jennifer, and I visited the Genocide Memorial in the morning. What a sad place that is. The Genocide happened about 20 yrs. ago between two tribes. One of the tribes was seeking power. They used their machetes to hack people to death, even small children. Thousands were killed. The pictures of the people that were killed were hanging in the building. Rwanda set up a memorial garden for the dead and buried what remains were found. I was thankful that they gave the people a decent burial and remembrance.

That afternoon, we went up to the hospital in Masaka. Laura, Randall, and Jennifer routinely go up to this hospital, bring small gifts to the patients, and pray with them. Most of the patients truly wanted the prayers.
Next we visited with baby Grace in the hospital. Baby Grace is a newborn that had been abandoned. She had has skull damage and brain trauma, as if her mother had tried to kill her, and is somewhat delayed physically. Laura and Jennifer take turns going to visit her and exercise her legs and arms. They also bring clean clothes and blankets for her. As I was getting tired by now, Laura suggested that I sit in a chair with baby Grace and rest for a while. So, I sat and rocked Grace. I sang “Jesus Loves Me” to her and any other songs that came to mind. I noticed that I had a number of women coming by and staring at me. I guess it looked unusual for a white woman to be rocking an African baby! Jennifer said I looked like a “Grandma” there! Well, I’ve had lots of experience with that…. 
That evening, several students showed up for a Bible Study. These are the older students that were going to vocational school to learn a trade. The students were very friendly. We played Jenga with them, which they EXTREMELY loved! Then we talked about the Bible. One student, Manuel, said that he loved the book of Revelations! He was a very educated young man. He proceeded to talk about many Bible stories and that Jesus was coming back some day. I really loved listening to him and commented that maybe he should be a pastor someday…

On Thursday, we took a two and a half hour ride up into the mountains to the Akagera National Park. It seemed we were one of the only people there. It was beautiful up there, with its mountains and savannahs. We started out driving in our little Toyota car, but it started to rain. The dirt roads turned slick immediately and we slid around as if we were on black ice. We did manage to see many monkeys, zebras, warthogs, several species of birds including an eagle, a large crocodile, and a hippo (who decided to duck under the water just as I was taking his picture!).

Friday, I was terribly tired,so we decided to stay home that morning. We were having a party for all the children that I had sponsored that afternoon. We set out bananas and breads for them. The children showed up and we fed them. Laura had brought some games, so the children were taught to play Memory and make puzzles. I have to say that the Rwandan people really concentrate at everything they do, even games. There is no fighting or arguing when someone wins. They all get along. If only our American children were like that! We went outside with some bubbles that Laura had brought, which were a BIG hit!

On my last day, Saturday, we once again went to the Children’s Bible Club in Masaka. Laura had brought the bubbles with, which these children had never seen. Oh, what FUN!! The children were THRILLED as I continued to blow bubbles for them to catch! As Laura went on with their bible stories, I had two children, one new little child and one of my sponsored students (whose name was DARLENE) sitting next to me. They cuddled up closely to me as if we had known each other for years. Oh, how my “hug tank” was filled in Rwanda….

As I flew out that night from Kigali headed for Amsterdam and home, I realized how God had made all the pieces fit in this trip. Perfectly. It took 20 years to be able to go on this trip. 20 yrs. ago, I would not have been a widow and had a story to tell. 20 yrs. ago, I would have still been married and maybe not have been able to go with a husband that was ill. 20 yrs. ago, I may not have had a “healed” heart yet from all the abuse, which I am now comfortable talking about. 20 yrs. ago, I would not have been the independent woman I have now become, able to travel this distance by myself. Oh, yes, God really DOES do things in HIS perfect timing. God really DID turn my TRIALS INTO TRIUMPHS. And He alone fulfilled my heart’s desire…
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”.
Psalm 37:4

By Darlene McCormisO’Lena, Joliet, IL
Member of Faith Bible Church in Joliet.

$$ Where Did My Money Go? $$

$$ Where Did My Money Go? $$

Expense summary 2013

Expense summary 2013

LAI Expendituress Pie Chart 2013

Have you ever wondered how your financial gift was spent? It’s fairly simple. If you send money for a designated purpose from Bibles to sustainable projects to sponsorship, that money is 100% devoted to that purpose. There is no cut or percentage taken out for “operating costs,” or general use.  However, if you send money undesignated, this goes to whatever projects and needs we are currently working on. Things such as Sunday school trainings and salaries of teachers in our sewing centers are not designated  on our website, and thus are paid through our general fund. For a more specific look at how Love Alive’s money is used, see the attached charts from budget year 2013.

Sick of his Tricks

I’m sick.  In the depths of my being I ache, and I’m angry at how Satan is fooling the masses.

I’ve been asking God to increase my zeal to see souls brought to Him, that I would not be so focused on the temporal physical needs that I would lose the greater vision that each has an eternal soul that needs the Salvation of Jesus Christ and the fullness of a life lived for Him. Furthermore, I have begun praying for God to give me discernment to understand when someone is being used of Him and when they are simply empty of His spirit and used by Satan to distract from His truth.

Oh, my friend, in answer to my prayer, God has allowed me to become nauseatingly ill out of complete repulsion for some of Satan’s greatest tricks.

You see, when we see Evil in its most despicable expressions, we are easily repulsed at such heathenism. I think the devil would far rather come in beautiful disguise, in false mirroring of what is good and pure (II Cor 11:14).

Here, we don’t really have witchcraft practiced. It is certainly not practiced openly, and for the most part is looked on with disdain.  (This varies in surrounding countries as witchcraft is very prevalent still in many areas.) Most Rwandan citizens would proclaim to you that they are Christians. There are strong beliefs in God, and all-day prayer meetings are held weekly at most churches. Fasting is widely and frequently practiced. Church attendance is regular. Nearly all businesses are closed on Sundays.  At first glance it seems evangelical missions is hardly needed, rather we could learn much for them and their dedication to God. They have the Good News it seems. Everyone claims Christianity (Matt 23:27).

These claims of Christianity and religious displays can easily be misinterpreted not only by you and me, but by the very ones practicing them.

You see, I believe that being a “Christian” means more than being a good person and doing all of the above. I believe a “Christian” is bought by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, has accepted Him alone for salvation, desires to serve Him and grow in Him and deepen his relationship with Jesus Christ his Savior. I believe that being a Christian has to change me from the inside out. It isn’t about the outward displays of religion, but about my relationship as a child of God, that causes me to yearn to follow Him and walk in His ways. (I Cor 6:20).

Now allow me to explain what is making me downright disgusted. Satan isn’t displaying himself here in brazen heathenism. He has sneaked into the church, and has bewitched the multitudes (Gal 3:1). Repeatedly, I am seeing here in so very many churches, that pastors are completely misleading congregations. Whether they themselves are true believers in Christ or simply puppets used of Satan to promote a false gospel, I cannot say. I can tell you what I have observed and why it eats at me in the core of my being.

In so many pulpits across Rwanda, authentic Bible teaching has been replaced by opinion preaching, false prophesies, and hype that has nothing to do with sound Biblical teaching, the blood of Jesus, salvation, the Great Commission or furthering the cause of Christ (Matt 7:15).

Just to clarify what I’m talking about, let me give you a few examples:

The pastor of a prominent church here in the capital city proclaiming God has told him the continent of Africa will one day be one nation, live in prosperity, other nations will depend on Africa for wealth, “the United States of Africa’s first president will reign 4 years. He will be a believer.  One day all cell phones will be free.”

Yet he has not one Bible verse to back any of this up. But no one questions, because he is “God’s anointed.”

Some of what is preached here is prosperity gospel, such as “God is going to give you a new car. Your income is going to triple this year. Singles this is your year. God is going to bring someone into your life who will meet your every need within 6 months. The days of wondering where your next meal is coming from are over.” The teaching continues that if they have enough faith, all of these things will come to pass.

I sat in one service where a woman in the final stages of AIDS was made to stand and the preacher declared by the time we all came to church the next week, she would be healed and living in health for many years. It didn’t happen.  For reasons, I absolutely cannot understand, except that Satan has completed blinded their eyes from seeing truth, the people do not question. They don’t come to church the next week, and say, “But he said, God would heal her, and God didn’t.” I would have lost my faith long ago, if these things were preached to me and this is what I believed.  I would believe someone was a false prophet to prophesy to me healing, or that I would finally bare a child, or that I would drive a new car and none of it every happened.  Yet this happens week after week in so many churches. And the people continue to go.

Lastly, some of what is preached in churches is just nonsense.  Things that have no scriptural basis, have no connection with any spiritual qualities, and are simply what the speaker felt like proclaiming. Yet the congregation screams “Amen” and “Hallelujah” and such.  The preacher will repeat the same jargon many times, the congregation will shout louder, some will stand and scream. And it is so empty.

At times I have tried to kindly question the matter, “What do you think about what he is saying?” “Do you believe everything he is saying?”  They look at me in disbelief and do not answer (I John 41-5)

And this is what utterly vexes me: While all of this nonsensical rubbish fills listener’s ears each week, and congregations leave just as hollow and disillusioned as when they entered, guess what they are not hearing? While this false religious hype fills the pulpits, no one is teaching them that the blood of Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation. No one is teaching repentance from sin, and how the Bible tells us to walk in holiness, God’s instructions on how to live, how to be Christ-like, how to strengthen one’s relationship with Christ, to fulfill the great commission, to put on the full Armor of God, the need of  Fruit of the Spirit in our lives, or awareness of false teachings.

This matter has impressed upon my heart the greater need to get Bibles into the hands of the masses. You see, if one has no Bible of his own, he has no means to discern whether what he is being taught is Biblical; however; if he can read a Bible, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he can know the Truth (John 8:32).

My friend, pray with me, that the Holy Spirit will lead the hearts of men to truth (Luke 24:45). Pray that we will be enabled to spread Bibles throughout Rwanda. Pray that the Lord will open doors for me to be able to share Jesus.

 

In What Kind of World?

In What Kind of World?

In a recent letter home, I relayed a situation I was in where I simply had to walk away, but I commented, “If I were reading this story in a novel, I’d be so irritated that the character would walk away! Surely she should do something, fight, risk, lead a march, defy the odds and act. Come what may, just do something.” Yet here I was the character in the situation, and I was simply walking away.
I met Jack just a few days before I headed back to the USA for two months. I had known his family for many months, often visiting them since the death of their mother, but had only recently learned that there was a 13-year-old brother living in the streets. He had no known father, and his mother had died this past year. I later learned that I had not yet known him as the rest of the family had cast him off refusing to acknowledge his relationship to the family. I set off to the streets to find Jack, and was soon informed by various boys in the street that Jack had recently been picked up by the police. A visit to a nearby police station led me to the correct jail where delinquent youth are kept. I went to the jail and was able to speak with a police sergeant, a social worker and a chaplain at the jail and also meet Jack. I was informed that boys found in the streets are kept at the jail for two weeks or until a family member claims them. In Jack’s case. No one was coming for him. I asked if it was possible to help Jack, whether I could put him in school, or what other options he might have other than simply returning to the streets until he was picked up yet again by the police to repeat the same cycle. I was told that they would be willing to hold Jack at the jail until I returned and could put him in a boarding school. (Holding only a temporary visa, I had no grounds to ask for him to be allowed to stay with me).
I left for the US not knowing what the outcome would be, but willing to give this child a chance. Though only 13, he’d been living in the streets a year now, and a hard life was leaving its scars. His countenance was that of a grown man. I could scarcely believe I was looking at a little boy of only 13, who would return to school in the 3rd grade if given opportunity.
I had only been back in Rwanda 3 days, when I was on my way to a village a few hours away to visit Jack’s family. As I boarded the bus, I saw him, “Jack?!” He nodded. He’d been back on the streets a few weeks already, but wanted to go along with me to visit his relatives. Along the way, he warned me that his Grandma had told him long ago that he was not welcome at her house, and I already knew that when he had tried to visit his adult sister, her husband had beat him and chased him away. Surely a grandma would be happy to see her grandson, I thought. But Jack was right. His grandmother didn’t even acknowledge his presence for several minutes, then looked at him and scorned, “So you’re still living in the streets?” What else was a boy to do with nowhere else to go? Then Grandma launched into a tirade about how much she despised him and wanted nothing to do with him. Two of Jack’s aunts were present, and neither of them showed any difference of opinion. What could a young boy have possibly done at this age to be cast out of the family?
It was a very long 2 hour drive back to the city with Jack. My heart was heavy for the young boy I’d taken to the only family he had only to be rejected by them again. On top of that, I had no choice but to return him to the very streets where I had found him. I had tried explaining to Jack that though I cared immensely, I had to have legal permission to invite him to my home, that as a foreigner, my bringing home a child would be highly suspect, and that I was still working through visa issues. But it was rainy season, and Jack was sleeping on sidewalks or metal benches at night with no covering. He found what food he could each day and hung out with other boys in the street headed for no future. Trying to do the best I could, I hugged him, gave him a little food and money and my phone number, and told him I’d be back again in a few days. That’s when he looked at me and said, “When are you coming to take me home with you?”
That was the moment when I wanted the character in the story to defy all odds and take that child home; yet I knew that were I to do such, I would not only not be able to help Jack at all in the future, I would also lose the ability to help so many other children I’ve come to know and love. So, I ended up walking away wondering in what kind of world does a person have to walk away to leave a little boy fending for himself in the streets. Apparently the one in which I live.

It’s been a week since I left Jack at the street corner where he stays. I’ve been back to see him 3 times. When I left him yesterday, he dug in his pocket to show me the scrap of paper with my number scrawled on it. I’ve made some phone calls, but still not found a good solution for him. I haven’t lost hope that a door will open and Jack can have a chance at a future. When you say your prayers, be sure to say a prayer for Jack. I’ll be sure to let you know when our prayers are answered.

Glimpses

Glimpses

Often when I write an update, I’m condensing an entire month into a few paragraphs. This means you get the essence of the month’s activity, but you don’t get to know the human faces impacted. I wanted to take a moment to share with you a glimpse into just a few lives I’ve interacted with this week.
First there is Caleb, a young man we sponsor to vocational school. He works 90 hours per week for a total monthly salary of $38 –a MONTH! He works to try to provide for himself and his mother. When I left, his mother was incarcerated, and Caleb worked hard to pay her fines. Now that she’s out, she needs reliable work that will not land her back in jail.
Felicula: Another of our sponsored students and one of 8 children, she lives in a small mud structure with just enough to live on. She and all of her siblings sleep together on the floor. Her father is unable to work, leaving her mother to try to find small jobs to earn enough for food for each day. Felicula dreams of being a lawyer, but for now, she helps raise her younger siblings, cooks for the family and keeps house. She and her siblings expressed sheer joy when I stopped by to visit with milk and a loaf of bread.
Ruth is the 13-year-old sister of a sponsored student. She asked me this week if she could please come live with me to be my house girl, meaning could she come cook and clean for me simply for the exchange of a roof over her head and meals every day.
Jackson is a young boy I’ve come to know and love and long to do more for. Jackson is orphaned and lives in the streets of the city. At 13, his mother has died, his father denies him, his grandmother and adult sister refuse to allow him to stay with them. While I visit him frequently and try to make sure he has something to eat, I legally cannot do much else at this time. Last week Jackson asked me, “When are you going to take me home with you?”
I had the privilege of attending Belize’s mother’s baptism last Spring. When I stopped in to visit her yesterday, I asked how her husband was. That’s when Mama Belize let me know that her husband had walked out, leaving her a single mother of 4 girls ages 10, 5, 3, & 2, living in a small mud shanty, with no source of reliable income, only begging God for enough provision for each day.
Evode’s family has moved since I left. When some village kids helped me find their home hidden in the hills and banana trees, Evode’s mom let me know they had to move because the rent at the last place was unaffordable. While they had been paying $8 for the last house, this one will cost $5 per month. Evode and his siblings all share a straw mat on the mud floor, where they sleep at night. These circumstances don’t diminish Evode’s smile. As for sponsorship, Evode’s mom says, “Thank you. You have made my children so very happy. God bless you.”