Agape Church Construction Under Way!

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I thank you for your prayers on behalf of the churches here, specifically those with whom we continue to work.

We are rejoicing that God allowed us to see the third church needing renovation reopened. We also praise God that after 14 months of perseverance, patience, and prayer, the building permit for a fourth church, Agape with Pastor Patrick was granted. The construction of that church is well-under way.   This is nothing less than miraculous.

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Thank you for choosing to partner with us in this ministry. God bless you!

April

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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.

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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.

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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!

Churches are Beginning to Open!

Because of the continued giving of friends like you, this past month we were able to see one church re-opened, and 2 set to open within the next month.

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We began a vocational short-course of 3 months to assist women who had previously studied with Love Alive, but we found were not working. The purpose of this short course is to help them improve skills where they lack confidence, and be able to begin working as intended. Our ongoing Scarlet Cord students will graduate at the end of this month. Just last week, many of the women began sharing testimonies of what God is doing in their lives.

Our Bible clubs for students are going very well. We praise God.

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Thank you again for partnering with us in ministry!

It’s a New Year.

Twenty-nineteen is already bountiful with God’s enabling us to see fruit in various ministries here.

As a new school year began in January, we once again registered more than 400 students in our sponsorship program. This year, we have Bible clubs for our sponsored students in each school where we sponsor.

Through our ACTS ministry of assisting churches here, we have begun funding the renovations for 3 churches we hope to see open in the next month.

On February 1st, 16 ladies graduated from our Scarlet Cord Hairdressing center, following a 7 month program. We have seen God working in their hearts these months, and are happy to see their achievements and spiritual growth. Our sewing students will complete their studies at the end of March.

I share all of this with you, to show you what God is allowing us to be a part of with you partnership! May God bless you abundantly.

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Fall Update 2017

Dear Friends,                                                                                                              10/25/2017

Happy Fall. I’m glad to take this opportunity to update you on our ministry activities in recent months.

August began with a 3-day Children’s Bible school at Agape Church of one of our ACTS pastors, Pastor Patrick. He is burdened for the children of his community, and we are blessed to minister with him in reaching these children.

 

The following week, I assisted in teaching for a staff training of a local evangelistic ministry with whom we have many opportunities to work together evangelizing youth.

The third week, we held our first Scarlet Cord ladies’ conference, with two days of Bible teaching for just the women in our center. These ladies are growing in Christ. They enjoyed the seminar so much, they requested to have one every month. They continue to advance their skills and have even begun sewing items to sell in the afternoons following classes.

The month ended with a 2-day Sunday school teachers’ training with over 100 teachers from 40 churches coming together to learn how to engage the children in their churches and neighborhoods with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

September started by celebrating the Doctorate degree graduation of Pastor Emmanuel, another ACTS pastor whom we are privileged to partner with in assisting his churches and holding evangelistic outreaches, as well as in working together with their Christian organization to provide opportunities for underprivileged youth in their region.

This month, I began group counseling sessions in the Scarlet Cord on the trauma of sexual assault and finding healing and restoration in Christ. So many of these women have survived immense trauma and are finding hope.

We had quite an amazing Sunday school teacher’s training this month in a cold mountain region of the country. Ten churches had congregated together to learn what Sunday school is and how to teach the children. While these were allegedly doctrinally sound churches, as we began teaching, it was evident their Bible knowledge was very limited. As we continued, we realized we were coming against an even greater barrier. That evening, my colleague and I both felt certain that many of the attendees had never accepted Christ as their Savior. When we began the second day with a clear gospel presentation and an opportunity to accept God’s free gift of salvation, 18 of the 30 participants knelt and prayed to become children of God. With 4 more saved in the evening, 22 persons prayed to receive Salvation as a result of this training. I plan to return to this area within the next months to follow up with these teachers and continue training them.

The month ended with the birth of twins cared for through our Baby Love project. The twins were separated from their mother who was critically ill, but after 3 weeks of care, mother and babies were reunited and able to go home together.

In October, we celebrated the graduation of 17 ladies from 3-months of vocational education. These students learned hair weaving and braiding as well as pedicures and manicures.  This center is about 6 hours outside of our capital city, and is a partnership with a local Rwandan ministry, Rwanda Christian Action Ministries. Our partnership has been a wonderful way to reach out to youth in this area who are often unable to obtain work due to lack of skills, education, and means to advance without support. As this group graduated, another 20 students, 17 young men and 3 women, began 3 months of study in hair cutting, styling, shaving, coloring and cosmetics.

A third Sunday School teachers’ training was held by the request of Pastors in the western region of the country bordering Burundi. There 36 protestant churches came together for 2 days to concentrate on sharing the Gospel of Christ in a way that children can understand and want to learn more. Through these trainings, we had the opportunity to train 250 teachers and pastors from 85 churches in the past 2 months. The number one reason cited by church leaders in Rwanda for not having children’s ministries is lack of knowledge and training. It is exciting to be able to teach and encourage reaching children with the Gospel.

As this month comes to a close, our sponsorship students will begin their final exams this next week, and will close out their school year mid-November.

We are organizing a Pastors Conference in the Congo this next month, and I ask that you would be in prayer for it.
I cannot end without special thanks to all of you who pray and give compassionately toward this ministry. God is blessing and continues to provide so many areas of service to the people here.

 

With Gratitude,

  Laura Y.

Laura Yockey

Love Alive International

ACTS Ministry Pastor Profile: Pastor Patrick, Agape Church, Rugende Rwanda

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Pastor Patrick’s Personal Testimony:

I received Jesus as my Savior at the age nine, and from then I continued to attend church services. However, at the age of fifteen, I was left the only living member of our family of five, the rest of my two older brothers and my parents having died. I started to be discouraged. Later on I came to my senses and recognized that whatever case it may be, God is good all the time. So i started going to church again, and in 2002 I was sent to Kenya to attend Bible school. There I met men of God who heard my testimony, prayed for me, and I really found deliverance. From the Bible School I served the Lord with all my heart until I committed myself to be ordained as a Pastor in 2017. I am leading the local church branch of AGAPE AEPC in Rugende not far from the capital city of Kigali. This local church came into existence after we saw that most of the people living in this area were vulnerable, some are orphans, widows, HIV/AIDS victims to mention but a few and according to my calling, I am very much concerned with such kind of people. I believe I have an experience so my strong desire is to see such people being delivered through the Word of God. I started work there while I was still an associate pastor, but now I am full pastor and God is using me.

Introduction to AEPC-Rugende

Agape AEPC- Rugende is a local church which began on 5th September 2014 in Nyakariro sector, Rwamagana district, Eastern Province, Rwanda. Its head quarter is in Kanombe, Kigali-Rwanda. This church is responsible for carrying the message of purpose, potential and leadership to the nations.

Vision

Our vision is to declare, effectively communicate, and apply the Biblical message of the good news of the kingdom of God in its present and future dispensation to our society with the views to impact the present and future generation with the ministry of reconciliation to our creator God.

It is a vision of AEPC-Rugende to establish a network of ministries, agencies, projects and opportunities to provide for the declaration, and effective communication of the good news of the kingdom of God and the restoration, development, training and release of Christian leaders and worshippers to impact every sphere of human existence.

Mission

The mission of AEPC-Rugende is to exalt Jesus Christ as Lord, obey his Word, and encourage, equip each believer for the work of ministry. We are called to build the church from house to house, city to city, nation to nation through small groups. This local church is built through prayers, reaching the lost and making disciples. Our mission includes reaching adults, youth and children for Christ.

Purpose

The purpose of AEPC-Rugende is to provide for the recruiting, restoration, development, training and release of mature, intelligent, refined, skillful, principled, spirit filled, free individuals within Rwanda to take their rightful place of excellence and responsibilities in their communities and generation through embracing a personal relationship with God the father through redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ and application of biblical principles of the kingdom of God.

Prayer needs

  • Church building
  • Sound equipment
  • Materials and Bibles
  • Pastors’ support
  • God’s provision for children and widows who are homeless in Rwanda
  • Care for orphans
  • Peace of God to prevail in every nation
  • Students financing

Join us in destiny

I strongly believe that AEPC-Rugende is raised by God to provide millions of effective people like you, with opportunity to impact their generation and unborn generation with the life changing good news of the kingdom of God. You are most welcome as you join us on this great adventure into destiny as we fulfill God’s appointed mandate for us.

Support

AEPC-Rugende is totally dependent on God to anoint, lead, protect and provide for all that it needs. All support that is received whether it is prayers, financial help or a practical commitment is extremely valued. You are welcome to support the work of God.

The joy of serving God

As co-workers with Christ, we are not serving alone. God has been very careful to see that we continue serving together with him. The field is ripe but the laborers are still few. Jesus said when we serve through his Word; He comes and confirms it with signs and wonders. When the fruits are ripe, very soon we shall stand before Him and the work we did for Him shall follow us. It is our responsibility as believers to find a position to serve Him.

Witnessing about his kingdom and his love is a basic responsibility for every believer. People will never hear about Him unless there is some body to tell them. The result of our total commitment in serving Him is joy now and eternally. He is ready to use you, just surrender yourself to Him and you will really enjoy serving with Him.

Pastor Patrick in Rugende, Rwanda

If you would like more information or photos of Pastor Patrick’s church in Rugende, Rwanda, Please contact us at lovealive4africa@gmail.com

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.