6,315 Churches Closed. What Can We Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,

Laura Y,

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

Support a Church or here Donate for Churches

Gatare, Living Church

20170619_114307After Pastor Damour started the Kayenzi church, his second church plant (Kayenzi), he began telling me of his dreams to continue planting. Much to my surprise, the next time I visited, he let me know that there was already a group of Christians meeting each week in the home of a Christian, while they walked an hour to come to meet at the Ruzizi church on Sundays.  As they grew to 12 saved and baptized members, In May of 2017 they began renting a small house, and meeting on Sundays.

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I had the honor of attending a baptismal service at Lake Muhazi for an additional 12 Members. It was at this time that the teacher, under the leadership of Pastor Damour, informed me that they had found several available tracts of land suitable for building the church when God provided the funding.

When I visited in July, 2017, the registered membership was 30 persons, with an additional 17 persons who had made decisions to follow Christ, and were being disciple in preparation for their baptism the following month.

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Church service, Gatare

 

It has been a blessing and a joy to work with Pastor Damour. As he humbling works among the people in his home region, unknown mostly even amongst his fellow Rwandans; yet, God ‘s blessing and His hand on this ministry is powerfully evident. What a privilege we have to come alongside this brother in Christ to encourage and support him and lift up His hands as he continues reaching his people with the Gospel.

Needs of this church.

  1. Purchase of land: approximately $1,500 USD
  2. Benches, chairs, straw mats, and temporary shelter from sun and rain.
  3. A church building: approximately $8,000 USD
  4. Daily provisions for the members of this rural farming area. Their daily needs that often are unmet include food, clothing, shoes, soap, clean water, medical care, and “luxuries” such as sugar and salt.
  5. The Holy Spirit’s working and strengthening this young church and new believers.
  6. More Bibles for new believers in this quickly growing church.
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Visiting the home of a church member.

 

Pastor Damour, Byumba, Ruzizi Rwanda Church of the Living

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Pastor Damour and his wife and ministry partner, Gloria.

 

Pastor Damour’s testimony is one of amazing grace and a life surrendered to God’s work in the far regions of Rwanda.

“I was born into and raised in a family of non-Christians. As I grew I was a terrible sinner. I was a drunkard for 17 years,” Damour shares of his history. Later, Damour began reading the Bible. “I read that the righteous would go to heaven forever, but sinners would be in Hell. I was very afraid of Hell,” he says. “I continued reading, and read Mathew chapter 7 on prayer. I decided I would begin praying. I began praying, and I prayed that God would grant me salvation, that God would keep me from dying without salvation.” Damour continued studying the Bible, and realized that Heaven could be his. “I believed, I repented of my sins, leaving them all behind me, and asked God for forgiveness of my sins. I then believed I should become an evangelist.”

After receiving Christ as his Savior, Damour began attending church, he was baptized, and began sharing about his salvation with others. “This was a very difficult time,” Damour shares. Due to his past, many did not believe he could have truly been saved. Many assumed within weeks or months, he would return to alcoholism, but as time continued, and he stayed faithful to his relationship in Christ, they began to realize real change had taken place in his life.

“As I continued to grow in my faith and pray about what God would have me do, I felt God leading me to begin a church,” he says. Damour began his first church in the same village where he was born, raised, and married to his wife Gloria. Many laughed at his efforts believing it would never be possible for him to build a church congregation let alone a building. As the years passed, a small group meeting in Damour’s home grew to a number large enough to meet on a plot of land he owned. They then built a small building, but soon outgrew this building.

In 2014 Love Alive met Pastor Damour, his family, and their growing congregation. Upon seeing this humble servant of God so dedicated in his faithful walk to witness in his community and disciple others for Christ, we chose to partner with this church. In the years since, we have seen God build a large physical church building to house the current membership. As this facility was being built, the previous shelter collapsed. The church membership has continued to grow with new believers, and Pastor Damour and his wife have continued in their mission to carry forth the gospel. They began two more churches in 2016 and 2017.

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The church still under construction.

 

If you were to visit Pastor Damour’s church, during the time of offering, you would notice that very few coins are given, but the church parishioners bring in their offerings of a sack of beans, a few avocados, a small bundle of maize. They are bringing the first fruits of their harvest to God. One of the ways the church has worked to raise funding on their own is by the entire church coming together to farm a field and give the proceeds to the church.

What a privilege it is to come along side a humble pastor who, saved by God’s grace, continues faithfully to share the message of salvation throughout his region. Pastor Damour’s family subsists off of their own farming. One of the needs of his family is the provision of yearly school fees for his children, especially his oldest daughter Sarah who is already a great asset in their ministry in evangelism, music, and teaching the children in Sunday School. While the church facility is now near completion, additional funding would assist the church in obtaining proper seating, making a kitchen area and a children’s teaching area, and assisting the poorest in the church with physical necessities.

Please pray for Pastor Damour, his wife, Gloria, their children Sarah, Abraham, Rebecca, and Elizabeth, and their church congregation. As you pray consider whether the Holy Spirit may lead you to assist this church through stewardship, which would provide them rich encouragement in the ministry God has led them to continue the past 10 years.

 

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Pastor Damour’s daughter Sarah teaching the children Sunday school.

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The church congregation gathered together in their new building.

July 2016 Update

July 2016 Update

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                July 6, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless you and keep you!  Laura Yockey

Love: It’s Not All Cuddles and Fluff

Love: It's Not All Cuddles and Fluff

Love, it’s a wonderful thing. It is what relationships are rooted in, what we thrive on, what we need more of in families, churches and society.
Love is easy, even fun and gratifying when there is genuine gratitude, joyful reception, productivity and reciprocity, but what do we do when Love doesn’t seem to be working.
I love the lighter side of love, it’s the side we find most joy in, and the perspective of love you’ll see in most of my photos of Rwanda and Love Alive’s website. This fruitful side of love inspires us to continue in compassion and good will toward others.
In all honesty, this is the cuddles and fluff of love; Love in its most ideal. But what do we do when Love isn’t exactly fun, when it isn’t easy, when it is a struggle?
What if you go out of your way to help someone, sacrificially giving of your time, efforts, emotion, and resources only for them to turn against you, spread evil against you?
Love is Patient.

What do you do when you have gone without or your own children have gone without in order to bless someone else and yet they squander what you have given.
Love is Kind.

Are we really to keep loving when we have given our all, having nothing left to give financially, physically, emotionally or spiritually, and the very people we are trying to help not only deceive us, but steal from us? Do we stop? Do we scream this is enough? Do we cry out that this “love thing” is just not working?
Love Bears All Things.

What about when you give a gift knowing it can be well used for a profitable manner for the other person, and yet the recipient seems to take no initiative to use the gift well, and your efforts seem vain?
Love Hopes All Things.

What about when your love does not seem to be enough. You’ve given your utmost, but more is needed. More is wanted. The begging continues. Your attempts to show you have nothing left to give are met with scorn, rejection and hatred.
Love Endures All Things.

Can we quit loving? Can we throw up our hands and tell God those people just can’t be loved, that it’s just not worth it?
Love Never Ends.

All of us have been there. Parent, pastors, teachers, social workers, missionaries, and citizens looking out for the best interest of others. We love to the full, and have an experience that makes us wonder if it was all for naught. We are tempted to say, “That’s the last time I’ll…..” Yet we are called to a higher standard. The words of Jesus Christ to us are “Love as I love you.” That is a powerful love. A love that loves me when I don’t fully appreciate, when I fail to use the gifts and potential He has given, when I am far less than deserving, when I do not love fully in return. A love that went to the cross, knowing full well, many would reject His gift of Love and Salvation.
1 Corinthians 13
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

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.”