April

57597672_2118565081586096_3450818927402156032_n.jpg

Each year, on April 7th, the Country of Rwanda takes time to stop and reflect on the atrocities that sought to destroy this country over a hundred-day period in 1994. This year marks 25 years of growing peace, restoration and advancement for this country that continues to heal post genocide. Memorials, walks, vigils and various methods of reflection will continue throughout the next 100 days. We thank God for the peace and security that is present today.

As we ended the month of March, our Scarlet Cord held a graduation of 28 women successfully completing the program. The majority of these women came from lives of prostitution, were taught of the redemption in Christ Jesus, and learned new skills to enable them to leave their former manner of obtaining money. We saw more than half of these women come to know Christ, some baptized, and most leave prostitution, work through addictions, and form relationships with Jesus. We continue to pray for them as they launch into their sewing that they will continue to follow the path of Christ.

54436110_2070445066398098_6902550741513142272_n

Please continue to pray for the churches desiring to reopen here. While we rejoice in two churches we were able to help restore and see re-opened in March, we continue to face various obstacles regarding the building and restoration of other churches. Our weekly Bible Clubs with our sponsored children continue very well with at least 300 attending weekly.

55446925_2078431558932782_4290423130406518784_n

We praise God for all He continues to do, and allow us to be a part of. We further thank Him that you have chosen to join us in this work. God bless you!

Mission Team 2015

20151010_131053

Earlier this month a joint mission team led by Poplar Grove, and joined by members of Steven’s Street Baptist Church and Vine Branch all of Cookeville, TN blessed me with their time, their love and compassion, their hard work, and times of Bibles study with hundreds of Rwandans in many locations.

This team was a blessing last year, and they were just as much of an encouragement and support to the people and ministry this year.

The first day, the team ministered to one of our sewing centers, visiting with current students and graduates. As these students shared their testimonies there was a repeated theme: “I had no ability and no opportunity for improving my life, but God opened up this opportunity through this sewing center of Love Alive, and now I have a chance to make a better life.”  The students blessed the team with hand-made gifts and fruits from their gardens, while the team shared Bible teachings and practical gifts. Former graduates invited us to their cooperative to demonstrate for us how they are working together and producing good work to sell in the markets.

The team spent the next 3 days in a village church, ministering both to the church and the community. The goal was to develop a friendship between the local Rwandan church and community and the guest churches. The team held daily services of Bible teaching, Bible study groups of men and women, and children’s classes as well. They visited many families in the community to read Bible passages and pray together, and saw 2 people accept Christ as personal Savior. One of the most unique things the team participated in during this 3 day-partnership of churches was “mudding” the church’s newly constructed building. This mudding process consists first of gathering large quantities of dirt, manure and rocks, mixing them thoroughly together, and coating the outside of the building in order to seal it and protect the building from erosion.  Due to gifts given through donations to Love Alive, we also presented this church with funding to add doors and windows to their facility. They were so grateful for this gift that they had the doors and windows ordered to arrive the very next day.

Before leaving this village, the mission team was able to meet a nearby church in the same community, and provide 60 Bibles to adult believers there. In this church of over 100 adults and children, only one member in addition to the pastor owned a Bible. It is a great privilege to be able to give God’s Word and encourage His people to read and get to know Him better. As I sat in this little church only half constructed of unfinished mud brick, but happy believers actively worshipping, I could not help but contemplate the dissimilarity of the average American church in priority and desire to serve and worship against all odds.

The following day, the team visited our second sewing center of 30 current students and several graduates who came to thank the team and tell of how they are now succeeding with the tools they have gained. It is often difficult to know who is gaining the greater blessing, the team in hearing the testimonies of persons assisted, or the beneficiaries we meet. That same day the team traveled to the hospital with which Love Alive works closely in providing funding to patients in need. After a brief meeting with the staff who welcomed us to openly share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the team went to each room, visiting each patient to pray with them, and bring small gifts to aid in their recovery, remind them they are loved, and that God, our Great Healer, is watching over them. The final stop of the day was visiting 100 sponsored students in this area to share a Bible lesson and play games together. The children were in awe and full of enthusiasm to see and play with the colorful parachutes, something they had never seen before.  Several of our team members were able to meet some of their sponsored students. I cannot imagine that any other experience could make more real to these children and their families the love and compassion they are receiving than meeting the sponsor who loves them enough to enter their world and give them assistance. I imagine that nothing makes the necessity of the gift given more real to the sponsor than seeing the dire needs of these children and their families, and meeting the beautiful lives they are touching and impacting daily than a face-to-face meeting.

The day before leaving, the team visited recipients of one of our most recent chicken projects, delivering more food and nutrition supplements for the chickens, and sharing Bible teachings with the group. After this, the team visited two different churches in this same village. The first church had received Bibles from Love Alive in July, and the visit was to encourage the local believers and strengthen our friendship. It was a blessing to see so many Bibles in use amongst this group. At the next church, the team was able to give Bibles to about 75 believers. Most of these recipients had never in their lives owned a Bible. With each church that is given Bibles, it is our desire to go back and share in Bible teachings and reading to encourage the daily use of God’s word.

Before leaving on their final day in Rwanda, the team was able to visit some of my favorite children, a group of children living in the worst conditions I have ever seen in this country. Love Alive began sponsoring these children after they repeatedly would find me in the streets as they begged for food. They quickly claimed themselves as my best friends, invited me to their home and became some of our first sponsored students. As there was nowhere else to meet or play, the team played soccer and taught a Bible lesson in the midst of heaps of trash and ditches filled with sewer. These children were so excited to have visitors come and see them and play with them. While their living standards are lacking, I could see the effort they had put into making themselves and their homes ready for special guests.

As soon as I see any of the men, women, children and churches visited by this team, their first question to me is and will continue to be, “How are our friends? When will they return to see us? Please tell them we love them and miss them. We are waiting for them to return.”

Mission teams have a way of impacting lives, building friendships and encouraging local communities and believers in a way that no other thing can accomplish.

I thank each member of this team for their love, compassion, their time, efforts, vacation days given and exhaustion from long flights and travel that is not always smooth in this continent. I also thank each church that was involved and supported its members in this journey.

God bless you.

Allow me to take this opportunity to assure you that you have a standing invitation to come to Rwanda and join us in the ministries and see God working. Whether you would like to come as a church mission team, as a family, group of friends, or an individual, you are welcome. Please feel free to contact me via our contact page and let me know what you might be interested in. We can work together to craft a trip according to your desires for ministry and international experience.

Needs here that can be addressed through short-term trips include:

Bible teaching to pastors, church leaders, teachers and lay-persons.

Children’s ministries through sports, play, Bible Clubs, Vacation Bible Schools, Sunday School Trainings to church leaders, and teaching children in schools.

Encouraging and supporting local trade, and increasing creativity and ingenuity. If you have a passion, a talent, an art form that you can teach, it may be very valuable to come and teach that.

Ministering to individuals in hospitals, prisons, and homes, sharing encouragement, prayers and friendship.

Sponsorship FAQ

Sponsorship FAQ

For many who now have a sponsored child, you may have questions specific to your child and his/her information. I have tried to list some questions I presume may be frequently asked and provide answers for you.

Why does my child not have a birthday listed?
While dates, including birthdates, are extremely important here in America, most Africans give little attention to time including details such as dates. Birthdays are also not celebrated or recognized in any way for most. Most children do not know their birthdays, neither do their parents. Frequently even confirming the correct year of birth is difficult. For example a child may state he is 7 years old and born in 2009. Obviously one of these two statements is false. Furthermore, if there is documentation such as a birth certificate or other identification, the date was likely made up.

My child appears to be in a school uniform in the photo. If he was already in school, does he still need my help?
Yes! Your child needs you! Some students were sponsored to attend school in 2013 by Love Alive International, but were not matched with a specific sponsor. Others may have been admitted to school on the understanding that their fees would be paid at a later date; however, when the fees are unpaid, the child is removed from school. Finally, some students have come to us specifically with a specific need or situation warranting their need for help. Never doubt that your sponsored student needs you and is greatly blessed by your support.

Some of the students are young, but I also notice that many are older teens. Why do older students still need sponsorship?
Very young children are the first to find sponsors. They are adorable, innocent and helpless, and their need for help is easily understood. Sometimes it is not as easy to see that inside older students are the same children needing our help. They are still coming from rural villages where their families survive off of their family gardens, money for school fees is difficult to accrue, and this child still has no means of self-support. Education is still vital to her future and the potential of overcoming the cycle of poverty. One reason that it is vital to support older students is that they are so very close to the end of their secondary education. They have come too close to attaining that level of education to quit now. If a student is able to perform very well in lower secondary school, she can be offered a placement in a quality school for upper secondary. If a student is again able to excel in upper secondary school, the government often will award scholarships to such students.

My student is 15 and only in fifth grade, why? Does this mean he is unlikely to succeed?
While a student so much older than his grade level is almost unheard of in the USA, it is rather common in Rwanda. The reasons for this are various. Factors include poverty (inability to pay for school fees, uniform and supplies), family needs (children often work for the family fetching water, sticks for fire, cooking and washing for the family, tending the animals, or, in some cases, are sent to work for other families to provide income for the family), illness, or major changes in family systems (death of a parent, lack of food meaning a child is sent to live with another relative, thus leaving his school). All of these factors, prevalent throughout third-world countries, impact many students; thus it is not at all uncommon for children of widely-varied ages to be together in one classroom.

How can I contact my sponsored child?
You are welcome to email a message, family photos, and even request an update on your student at lovealive4africa@gmail.com.
Emailing provides a free way to communicate. There is no residential mail-delivery system in Rwanda, and at this time we do not have a specific post office for student sponsorship mail. I will personally deliver any emails and also see that your sponsored child communicates with you as well.

What exactly does my $35 sponsorship cover?
With the gift of your sponsorship, your sponsored student will be provided a uniform, school fees, and all necessary school supplies (usually consisting of various paper notebooks, pens, pencils and math tools). Occasionally, when a particular school’s fees are lower than budgeted, we are able to provide classroom resources such as a soccer ball, flashcards, classroom decorations or other materials that will enhance the learning experience of our students.

What else can I do for my sponsored student?
Please pray for your child. You will be considered a part of their family by them. If you send a photo, it will be hung on their wall. They will tell others about their American family who loves them. You give them the pride and joy of being cared about. If you ever have any questions about your sponsored student, you are always welcome to contact me at lovealive4africa@gmail.com, via the website lovealiveinternational.com or via our Facebook page Love Alive International.

The Flip Side of Sacrifice

Often when people think of missions they seem to equate the idea of sacrifice right along with it. While this can be true, I’ have personally always focused on the opportunity, adventure and potential in the mission God has given me.  I really cannot recall the great number of times others have lamented to me their pity for the things I live without. These things usually include ESPN, electrical appliances, fast food, hot water, and so the list goes.

I thought I should share some of the benefits of living in a third-world country with all of its “sacrifices,” randomly listed here.

While the thought of not owning a car is unfathomable to many, not having a vehicle means I don’t worry about the price of gas, I haven’t had a ticket in the time I’ve been in Africa, my mom doesn’t have to worry if I text and drive, I don’t worry about the insurance renewal bill coming in the mail or my tags expiring, and I get free exercise every day. No gym membership required.

Healthy, organic and all-natural foods are at my disposal. Sure, I live in a world without hamburgers, French fries, pizza, Oreos or ice-cream, but if you’ve done grocery shopping lately for your family you’d be excited about 50 cent pineapples, 15 cent avocados, and  10 cent bananas. Meat doesn’t get any fresher than picking your own live chicken or making your own selection of whole-cow.

Having no refrigerator, hot water heater, oven, microwave, air-conditioner or heater means a host of appliances that I don’t have to worry about repairing and replacing. It also means I don’t get frustrated with things that don’t work the way they’re supposed to, or technology that has to be reprogrammed. You’d be surprised what you don’t miss when it is not an option.

When the main concern of everyone around you is survival, no one has to worry about the latest fashion trends or “keeping up with the Joneses.”

In Africa, there are very few mirrors or scales. As a matter of fact, the only mirror in my home is a hand-held make-up mirror, and I haven’t been on a scale since I left the States. Any woman knows what a relief that is! There’s a certain freedom in not seeing your image reflected at you in every store, bathroom, bedroom etc. This means far less self-evaluation and deprication and more time to focus on the really important things. And, ladies, I haven’t seen a 3-way mirror since I landed in Africa. I think the benefit of that is self-explanatory.

So, the next time you start to pity the poor missionary without the zillion things you think you could not part with, remember the flip side. They get some pretty sweet benefits.

Looking at Baptism in a New Light.

Looking at Baptism in a New Light.

I thought I knew about Baptism, I’m from the denomination named “Baptist” for goodness’ sake. I should understand it; however, seeing the way believers here seriously consider the spiritual, symbolic statement of faith, has opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of baptism.
Recently, a Rwandese friend stated that as he wanted to be baptized, he would be participating in a 3-month course with his church. “Three months!!!” was my initial reaction. What could there possibly be to learn about baptism that could take three months? Furthermore, why was my friend, a long-time Christian, just now considering this step in his Christian life?
He first explained that, in his words, once he was baptized he would be a “real Christian.” To him, his baptism would proclaim to everyone in the church and surrounding community that he was now a committed and avid Christ follower, that there should be no indiscretion in His life, because He was making a committed open statement of following Christ. To him, salvation was accepting Christ’s atonement for His sins and trying to walk in His ways, but baptism took this commitment to a new level.
As for the 3-month course, many churches here see baptism just as importantly as does my friend, and they want those who participate to be fully educated in Christianity and what it means to follow Christ. The 3-month course was held 7 days per week for several hours each night. It was literally a Bible school. Upon completion of the Bible school (including exams), the student could then become baptized.
Now, whether or not I believe that one needs to attend a 3-month course and pass all exams in order to be baptized (a stipulation which isn’t exactly in the Bible), this example did cause me to look a little bit more at the history of the early church. What I found is that “In the early church, whenever converts sought baptism, their entire careers were re-imagined. Just as baptism was a symbol of people’s dying to their old lives and rising to new ones, so there was the very real sense that the old ways of living were gone and something new was here” (Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution). Furthermore, this act was often delayed until later in life as it was seen as a critical point in a life as” a turning point, a decisive break with the past, a new life” (Basil, On Social Justice).
Now, I was 10 when I asked Jesus to be the Forgiver of my sins and my Savior and chose to become His child and His follower, so maybe I didn’t get just how important baptism was. I’ll admit, I’ve often wondered over the years why the Bible commands baptism in which we must get wet in front of a group of people? Why not just tell them? Why not some other symbol? When I accepted Christ and chose to be baptized, I knew that it was “the next step after Salvation,” and that it was a statement to others that I was a Christian. As I had grown up in church and in a Christian environment, telling everyone I had accepted Jesus did not mean a whole lot of changes for my life at the time. So, forgive me, if I had unknowingly diminished the importance of one of the few Biblical outward ordinances of faith. But as I have been awakened early in the morning to walk miles with a group of believers to the nearest body of water to baptize Christians who were making this commitment with their lives, I have understood the importance of the practice of this ordinance in a new way. I have better understood the words my own dad spoke each time he baptized a believer in his church, “Buried in the likeness of His death, raised to walk in the newness of life.” It is a true symbol of the old ways of self dying and accepting a new, pure and clean life in Christ.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:3
References:
St Basil the Great (2011). On Social Justice. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition.
Claiborne, Shane (2008-09-09). The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.