September 2016 Trip: Day 2

September 2016 Trip: Day 2

Written by Henry Escobar

After the genocide in 94, the government implemented mandated community projects for all Rwandans on the last Saturday of every month from 8am-11am, also known as abuganda.
During this time members of the community gather around a common goal and work to improve the neighborhoods. This Saturday, they were digging ditches on the side of the roads to help keep the water from washing the dirt roads away during the coming rainy season.
Theo, one of the workers at the Africa New Life guest house took us with him. Jeff and I were fortunate to be able to participate and get a little warm up for our garden building. We met Celestine who works for ANL and he was graceful enough to translate and explain to us what was going on. After the ditch digging or whatever project the community leader decides is necessary, the neighbors gather in a designated area for a town hall meeting of sorts.
On the walk to the site, we met Julius, a member of the community and a fluent English speaker. They discussed upcoming necessary projects, domestic issues that can be solved without the courts, and they assign community leaders for projects or groups. I was left in awe of their composure and willingness to solve any tensions or issues.
When discussing issues of kids falling into substance abuse, instead of wanting to punish the children, they encouraged the community to love and embrace them because it was likely that these kids did not have the affection of a parent. They talked about the importance of being present in the home as a working father and mother and being intentional with their children. Every \thing they spoke left me in awe. I felt like I was in parenting seminar or a community group with our church.
We moved on to assigning community leaders, and Julius was put in charge of community sports or activities. Jeff spoke up and offered them some of the soccer balls we had brought and they were excited. They thanked us and asked us to say a few words, which caught us off guard. We thanked them for their hospitality and welcoming us into their community. We let them know how we admired the way they live life together, and how they had given more to us than we had to them. Anyone can donate material, but to teach to live life together, embrace, work, and heal together is a valuable lesson us Americans can learn from.
Jeff and I walked away replenished and inspired by these people who have overcome death and betrayal through sweat, compassion and working together on Abuganda.

 

September 2016 Trip: Day 1

September 2016 Trip: Day 1

 

Our first full day in Rwanda : Chad, EJ, Wyatt, Henry, and myself.  Friday September 23 2016.

Our day started with morning breakfast at the Africa New Life Guest house in Kigali. Chad, Ej, Wyatt and Henry rose early to greet the day and I, haven taken enough Melatonin to put a cow to sleep, found it a difficult to get up. We started the day with a western breakfast of eggs, pancakes, fruits and lots of coffee. 

We left the compound at 8:30am with Claude, our driver, and J.J. our interpreter to visit the Africa New Life Dream Center University for orientation. While riding in a bus in Rwanda my only thought is, “How does all this traffic and chaos happen around me and nobody gets hurt? Little motorcycle taxis with two people zipping in and around buses and cars, one lane roads with two lanes of traffic, men and women carrying huge loads on their heads unable to turn their heads walking fearlessly on the busy roadsides.” 

 

We met with Eugene who explained to us that children are the main focus of their investment. The Dream Center Campus is home to: The Africa New Life administration headquarters which receives all the support money, and letters for sponsored children and makes sure the kids get the correspondence and support. These children are throughout Rwanda and the financial support provides them with the means to go to school and get a good education. These kids are supported at $40 a month.

In west Rwanda, near the Congo border, there was an orphanage of 500 children and Africa New Life went to go help these kids. The President of Rwanda made a public plea that “there should be no orphans in Rwanda and since we are all Rwandans we need to open our homes and adopt these kids.” All the kids were adopted! So Africa New Life started a school in the empty orphanage and lots of kids showed up. God provided for these kids. Africa New Life had one church in Indiana that supported almost 400 kids!

Also, On the Dream Center Campus, they have a Vulnerable Children’s Ministry for boys, and now girls, who come from homes in Kigali where parents do not properly care for their children. Some parents work and they lock their children in the house all day and the kids can’t attend school, or the parent has substance abuse issues. The Vulnerable Children’s Ministry basically takes on the parental role. The center provides the child with a safe place to go and learn the basics of childhood like how to dress properly for school and how to keep clean. They are fed a nutritious lunch and it provides the children with an excellent tutoring program at every grade for every course so the child can succeed. And, most importantly, the children are given Biblical training in the Word of God

Next we headed to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. Honestly, I was not looking forward to this but it is an important, though awful, part of Rwanda’s history. Two points at the memorial I cried, the one I will tell you about is this, the Genocide had ended and a couple years later some young kids were in a rural school in Rwanda, people broke in and said you children need to separate into Tutsi and Hutus, and the kids said we are Rwandans and will not separate. The invaders threw a grenade in the group of kids and killed 6 of them and injured most of the rest. The kids were so brave, so right. Matt 18:3 Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of God. Sometimes the kids are the best example.

The thought that kept going through my mind is these people are so nice, so friendly, so gracious. How could this ever happen here? And it has happened twice. The second time much worse than the first, but it just seems unbelievable.

 

We are all well here and God has blessed our steps. Cannot wait to get to the Gardens and see the people there! Rwanda is a beautiful country.

Latest Update: January 2016

Latest Update: January 2016

Hey friends & family!

Our friend, Eddie from Vita Gardens, recently sent us an update as he heard from Theo! They now have 148 brick gardens in Kageyo in just six months!

Every time we see new pictures we are just blown away, and are praising God for his continued work.

Thanks for continuing to pray for this community.

Also, you can see some beautiful pictures and stories from Kageyo on the Vita Gardens page. Just click here!

What is a Keyhole Garden???

What is a Keyhole Garden???

Have you met Theo? (Pronounced TAY-Oh)

Below is a video of him explaining the process of building a keyhole garden.

You can see just how passionate and excited he is about building these gardens and creating lasting change in his community. We are so thankful for Theo and his team. They are continuing to build gardens and teach the families how to grow and take care of them. He is knowledgeable, passionate, and a leader in the community. This project couldn’t have happened without him.

Praise God.

Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead

It has already been a month since we touched ground here in the states and left our newfound family in Rwanda.

Summer has been blazing hot and we miss the cool breeze of Kageyo, but we are more than happy to be with our friends and family to share our stories and experiences within our realm of influence. Though we will not easily forget the memories of our trip this summer, the team is already looking ahead to next summer’s trip!

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We recently met to discuss some of our goals and expectations, set a strategic planning meeting date, and organized our areas of responsibility. We look forward to continue God’s work in Kageyo and appreciate your continued prayers and support. We know that without all of you, none of this would be possible.

Also, we are inviting you on next summer’s trip! Get with any of our team members to receive info about what is expected if you are interested in joining our team. Stay tuned for the upcoming “Interest Meeting” date!

Once again, thank you for your support. God bless.

 

Written by Henry Escobar, KGP Team Member

Mission Accomplished?

Mission Accomplished?

We worked, we sweated and we struggled. Building keyhole gardens of this size is hard work.  Honestly, harder than we imagined. We dug and filled 1.5 tons (about 75 bags from your local hardware store) of dirt for each garden and hauled wheelbarrows for miles filled with manure from the local livestock. We sewed and hammered and sweated with our new Rwandan friends.  We left having accomplished 10 gardens, funding and hiring the workforce for at least 70 more, and created a new process and prototype for future gardens.

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We had fun.  As expected with a group of  men, we were relentless in making fun and pranking each other. In the mornings we worshipped God with Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, etc, but our nightly van rides home from garden building included artists such as Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, and Usher. Our singing and dancing renditions of  The Cupid Shuffle and Call Me Maybe were really something…thank goodness there were no videos taken.

We experienced God.  The character and the image of God was evident in so many ways I hesitate to give examples but I will give a few anyways.

  • The pain and forgiveness of the genocide.  As the UN commander on the ground during the genocide said, “I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists and therefore I know there is a God.”  We witnessed God through the forgiveness and redemption of the Rwandan people.  It’s impossible to describe how much healing has occurred in just 20 years.  I believe it is a strong testimony to God.
  • His providence – Frequently we were amazed at how God was working ahead of our plans. Providing leaders in a community at just the right time. Funding miracles. Chance meetings that blossomed into an awesome result. God is so good!
  • Community – Many Rwandans live out the gospel community fervently everyday. They love, look out for each other, and interact in a way that we found ourselves yearning for in our own communities.
  • Gratitude– Most of the folks of Kageyo gave thanks to the Lord exactly as God intends. I saw exponential improvement in one of the toughest places on earth and God was praised beautifully. His glory, his praise, and his thanks abounded in incredibly tough circumstances. It was both humbling and awesome.
  • New believers – One of the men in Kageyo that did not know the Lord, made the decision that he wanted to follow the God that brought his family a garden. He committed his life to Christ and will be baptized in the very near future. It was a Wow moment for sure!

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We loved others in a new and completely foreign way. We hugged too many to count. We held hands with kids and men. We prayed, fought back tears (a few were even shed), and felt the heartache of  so many. We laughed and celebrated in the new hope created by both newfound food security and child sponsorship.  In truth, we are just beginning to understand how to follow this commandant from Jesus, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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Was our mission accomplished? Yes and No. We certainly feel like God’s will was accomplished through us, but we know our journey has just begun.  There is peace and joy in what we’ve done, but excitement and readiness for God’s future plans and our role in them.  As God wills, we plan to persevere, continue on, and add to our current team for future work in Rwanda.

Please pray for the future of the Kageyo Gardens Project. Please pray for our team. Please pray for the people of Kageyo and Rwanda.

Lastly, I want to  personally thank the other 8 members of our Austin team, our Rwandan colleagues Pastor Sam, Theo, Jean Bosco, Jean Baptiste, JeJe, Eugene, and Jean Claude, and our Canadian friends Eddie and Lerryn DeJong. I have never been a part of a finer team. Each of you made a tremendous impact and it was an honor to serve alongside all.  It was a blessing to have each of you on board with this project.

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Written by Craig Haley, KGP Team Leader