Rwanda #9: Imana Ishimwe (Praise God)

by Frank Dimmock

Saturday:

After the FPC Nashville group left for the airport, Saturday afternoon, the Outreach team drove together with the EPR vice president to Gisenyi in the northern part of the Western Province. We arrived very late, but rested in a wonderful convent guesthouse that the church had arranged. It was on the shore of Lake Kivu just across from the city of Goma, D.R.C..

Sunday:        

We were excited to see the new Buganamana sanctuary and worship with them. The sanctuary is beautiful and they were SO joyous! They have about 700 members in regular attendance and many had worked hard to carry building materials and help in the construction. Rev. Ndagiro, Presbytery moderator, preached the sermon from John 11:25 Jesus as the resurrection and the life.

Read More
Rwanda #8: All Creatures of our God and King

by Erika Shapiro, for the team

Friday, Day Seven.

Our alarms went off before the sun came up this morning, and we eagerly greeted our driver for an absolutely incredible experience in God’s creation. We picked up Ebralie’s sister Mary and Pastor Julius as we headed for Akegera National Park. Our bus, which became our home for the day, was well-equipped for our journey with big window seats for everyone, plenty of seat belts, and even room to stand up for a better view in the park. Driving to the park gave us a great picture of daily life in Rwanda, as we traveled through the busy city of Kigali and then into the countryside. We witnessed the hustle and bustle of the city as we drove through town, and then as the topography changed to accommodate Rwanda’s rich agricultural backbone, we saw workers of all ages in the fields, tending to their growing crops. The rural area is so beautiful, and the people work so hard to yield fertile crops in this land of 1000 hills.

Read More
Rwanda #7: Wounds are Deep but Reconciliation is Deeper

by Sara DeVries, for the team

A new Outreach Foundation member, Frank, joined our team last night. We met him at breakfast and peppered him with questions, mostly related to his family of 10. He spoke of his wife’s ‘big heart’ and a home of 8 kiddos. His story is beautiful and inspiring and the way he answers God’s call was a real treat to listen to.

We hopped in two cars just a few minutes after our scheduled departure time and headed for Remera, a countryside village. The drive there took us out of Kigali in a way we had yet to travel and we passed through some very busy intersections where a passive driver might find themselves stuck all day. We passed the bus hub and food markets and a million motorcycles and a zillion walkers. There was so much movement.

Read More
Rwanda #6: Welcomed with Open Arms and a Full Plate

by Kendall Posey, for the team

We were treated to a nice morning of sleeping in after a wonderful welcoming dinner at the Kicukiro church the previous night.  Our breakfast consisted of fruit, eggs, and our newfound favorite, African Donuts! What a delight! Decked in scrubs and a childlike excitement, our day began!

We traveled to a mother and son's home next to the ITETERO School. There, we learned to dust with homemade brooms, till the dirt, and plant beans alongside members of the Kanombe and Kicukiro congregations. The planting was a meaningful experience for the group. We haphazardly threw the beans into the soil, hoping that it would sprout into something good.   When we finished, the group gathered inside the family's home and the mother shared her story. The woman's son was diagnosed with schizophrenia 9 years ago and the mother struggles to provide. She told us that she never thought that so many people would show up and care for her. Our work in her yard seemed to be a small feat, and gratitude simply for our presence there was a touching reminder for what being a brother or sister in Christ truly means. We must reach out and make connections in our community and beyond, showing everyone the love and grace that Christ extends to them.

Read More
Rwanda #5: Murakoze chane (thanks so much!)

by Tinsley Sheppard, for the team

My face hurts from smiling so much today! We enjoyed an unintentionally late start this morning as the jet lag and packed days of fun caught up to us (and the mosquito net covered beds are just so comfortable!). Breakfast was so delicious with passion fruit, breads, eggs, veggies, and even peanut butter to go on our mini bananas!

Feeling refreshed, we enjoyed the ride through beautiful Kigali to the Itetero school for special needs children. The singing and dancing of these sweet children and their parents was so heart warming and free. They even dusted off our feet as a way to symbolize rest for our weariness. The life and light in the hearts of these twenty children, their parents, and their two teachers was so precious as we got to color and make bracelets with them. We heard stories of progress and hope in their lives through the Itetero school and their staff of teachers and a temporary physiotherapist. 

Read More
Mexico Trip Journal

Thank God for the opportunity to serve you on this "short-term vision trip” with our friends of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood and The Outreach Foundation.

Jesus showed us the greatest example of humility when he left his throne of glory and came to live in our midst. On this trip to Xpujil Campeche, we left our comforts, our daily activities, and our comfort, with the only goal of serving our God and neighbor.

It was a blessing to be welcomed and directed by the local group that humbly guided and taught us to develop join them in the work. It was also a joy to see everyone work without hearing any complaints about it, the weather, comfort, fatigue, food, etc. Our only longing to serve our God went beyond any language or culture barrier.

Read More
Rwanda #4: Beyond Words

by Jennifer Ellis, for the team

This morning we were invited to share devotional time with the leaders of the Rwandan Presbyterian Church. They begin each day with scripture, prayer and song and we were blessed to be a part of this beautiful ritual. We toured the Headquarters and spoke to the leaders about their roles in Healthcare, Finance, and Human Resource Management of the Church’s seven presbyteries.

 The Vice President of the Church of Rwanda Julie Kandema is the first woman to serve in this post. She accompanied us on the short drive through the city to CPAJ (the Street Children’s Minisitry). Here Ebralie and Sara were invited to cut the ribbon on the new Assembly Hall, a gift from First Presbyterian Nashville! We then were escorted to the front and were guests of honor at a graduation ceremony for 79 of the students, complete with a traditional dance performance, a Kigali acrobatics troupe and inspiring words from church and community leaders.  Lunch was buffet style, delicious and shared by all. 

Read More
Rwanda #3: Today was a blessed day

by Jennifer Lowe Ellis, for the team

Our first morning in Rwanda! We woke up this morning to birdsong, a cool breeze and a bit of soft rain.  The Presbyterian Church guesthouse is lovely and comfortable and will be our home for the week. After a satisfying breakfast of oatmeal, mango, passion fruit, and eggs we enjoyed the ride to church through the hills of Kigali. 

At church we were greeted warmly with smiles, hugs and handshakes. The Kanombe Presbyterian Church in Kigali is Ebralie’s home church and it was a special morning to be with them and worship with them. 

Read More
Rwanda #2 - What Are You Busy Doing?

by Erika Shapiro, for the team

There is nothing like sleeping in a real bed after traveling to the other side of the world! We rested well under our mosquito nets at the guest house in Kigali. We got up for some individual quiet times, as the rain fell on the tin roof of porch outside of our rooms. Our theme verse for the trip is Luke 5:1-11, and today to help identify with Simon who was busy fishing in this passage, we answered the question: what are you busy doing?

After our quiet times, we had an awesome breakfast: boiled eggs, omelets, passion fruits, mango, bananas, pineapple, oatmeal, and toast. It was so yummy!!

Kind people from the Kanombe congregation picked us up and took us to church, where once again we were very warmly received. People welcomed us with hugs and handshakes and big, beautiful smiles.

Read More
Rwanda #1 - Made it to Rwanda!

by Sara DeVries, for the team

Good evening to all from the land of a 1,000 hills. We stepped out of the airplane into the fresh thick Rwandan air, the night sky was clear and the lights twinkled in the distance. We almost immediately removed our outer jackets as it is much warmer. We passed through customs quite smoothly, got our bags and walked outside to the biggest and most welcoming arrival crowd around. We were greeted by the president and vice-president of the presbytery, youth, some of Outreach Projects Coordinator Ebralie Mwizerwa’s family members, and everyone in between – there were probably 20 people there. It was such beautiful hospitality and such a kind gift to receive

Read More
Lebanon/Syria #16: 12 Days, 10 Churches, 1 Body

Marilyn Borst, for the team

Romans 12: 5 “…so in Christ, we who are many, form one body…”

When we pulled up to the Presbyterian Church in Fairouzeh, a few miles outside of Homs, I wondered if I had enough energy left to project joy and encouragement to the congregation which awaited us inside. They had, after all, come for this special 4:00 p.m. service just to be with us, having already gathered in worship that morning at their “usual time.” We had just finished an ample lunch (how many ways ARE there to do “kibbeh,” that ubiquitous local dish of bulgur, chopped onion and minced meat?!?!) with the church elders and leaders and then their pastor, Rev Yacoub “Jake” Sabbagh, his wife, Grace, and daughter, Celine. We were at the end of a rich and rewarding 12-day Syrian journey to stand with our family-by-faith

Read More
Lebanon/Syria #15: The Light Prevails

by Ted Kulik, for the team

“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:10

The Presbyterians of Homs cherish the view from their church courtyard. From the courtyard, they can see the many different churches and mosques that surround them: a symbol of what Homs once was and what it will be again.

When the war began in Homs, the church neighborhood was the city’s most dangerous area. For fear of safety many members left the city, but many also stayed. Those that stayed committed themselves to maintaining the church in Homs. Even after terrorists drove them from their church in 2012 and then occupied it and vandalized it for a year, they stayed in Homs and worshipped at the Presbyterian elderly care center, where we worshipped with them in 2014.

Read More