Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rwanda Blog: Team Gratitude

It’s the last night of the trip. The Team scattered to pack up for the 30-hour trip ahead of us. We’re absolutely exhausted and inexpressibly glad for all we’ve seen God do this week.
Will just led us with his signature straight-forward, compelling honesty in a devotion about returning to the States with courage to tell about God’s works and to keep seeking him and serving him. 

Then, to cap things off, we created the list below, attempting to list as many things we as we could that we were grateful for. We could have gone a lot longer, but here’s the top of the list. 
Enjoy! See you on American soil! Yesu ashimwe! (Jesus be praised!)

  • this team
  • hospitality of the Rwandans 
  • intentional team discussions
  • team devotions 
  • answered prayers for Clementine to obtain a job
  • prayer request book at the cell group
  • Pastor Alfred, his family, and their testimony 
  • Jennifer & Claire who served us meals
  • honesty and openness of prayer requests
  • prayer ministry with Gikomero 
  • Pastor Prosper
  • leadership of Curt and Eric and Teresa 
  • seeing and meeting our compassion children
  • P-A-U-L
  • the children and families thirst for knowledge of God
  • simplicity of life
  • Eugenie
  • Kigali Genocide Memorial
  • living for the sake of others
  • mosquito nets
  • Claudine
  • open windows
  • health
  • Rev Gasana
  • tiny bananas
  • charades
  • Pastor Joseph
  • 12 days of good weather
  • breakfast soup
  • nutella
  • running 
  • sunsets and sunrises
  • renewal of the Wilson’s wedding vows
  • raptor attack
  • Bishop Kalimba’s testimonies
  • Healthy Mums
  • hot water
  • Celestine
  • our amazing finance keeper Taylor 
  • prompted to pray and anoint people
  • Prince of Peace
  • catching up with old friends // being treated like an old friend
  • being prayed for
  • dancing with church choirs 
  • fiber gummies
  • baby powder
  • bananagrams
  • instant coffee
  • cabbage spaghetti sauce

  • seeing God at work

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rwanda Blog: Bishop Jared

I could be a great Christian if I lived in Rwanda.
These were my words the other night at dinner.  

Today our group was privileged to spend the day with Bishop Jared Kalimba.    He is captivating.    Truly, captivating.  First of all, the manner in which he speaks English with a beautiful Kinyarwanda accent is mesmorizing.  He was present during the genocide and is one of the few elders that remain in the community.   A whole generation is an entrepreneur.  But what was most impressive is how every word spoken goes back to serving Jesus.  

Rwanda Blog: Compassion

This morning we met our Compassion children that we sponsor.  As the children were all playing together, I noticed a verse on the back of their t-shirts.  The verse was in Kinyarwanda but I was able to decipher that it was from Luke 2:52.  At the first available opportunity, I looked up the verse:   

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.  Luke 2:42

This verse perfectly captures my prayer for my sponsored child, Justine, as well as the others with whom we spent the morning with.  I invite those of you with children you’ve sponsored through Compassion International to pray the same for your sponsored child.    

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rwanda Blog: A Supernatural God

Tuesday, July 22, 2015
Gikomero, Rwanda

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me . . . (Isaiah 61:1a)

This is it.  Today is the day we go to Gikomero to do what we came to Rwanda to do.  Pray.  Sure, we’ve been praying at various places and for various people since we arrived in Rwanda, but today is the day we go to Gikomero to lay hands on those who have come to receive healing prayer.  This time will be similar to communion prayer time at COTA and RAC, only it will be extended by about 3.5 hours.  As I eat breakfast with the team before we leave, I can feel the Holy Spirit at work in me.  He is telling me that he has already gone ahead of me to select the people I will pray with and for and that He will put His word in my heart and on my lips.  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say (Exodus 4:11).  With that, I am ready.  Not anxious. Not apprehensive.  Just ready. 

We arrive at Gikomero and go directly into the sanctuary where we join some folks for a short time of worship and to hear a brief teaching on Jesus’ healing of a paralytic as told in Luke’s Gospel.  (Luke 5:17-26)  Then it’s time to divide our team into two prayer groups.  As we do so I pray – “Lord may these groups be divided according to your will and for your purposes.”

Prayer team #1 – Pastor Eric, John, Teresa, Elizabeth and Patterson – is to go to the Pastor’s house to pray along with some Gikomero church members and a translator. 

Prayer team #2 – Pastor Curt, Barbara, Will, and myself, along with Pastor Alfred and three other Gikomero church members – are stationed just outside of the sanctuary – in the sun – and about 50 yards away from an outdoor stable housing about 8 very chatty cows.  Before I can even ponder (i.e., freak out about) all of the distractions surrounding me (school children are now starting to swarm), the Lord puts a hymn on my heart.  “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies . . . Lord of all, to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.”   

I (silently) call on the Holy Spirit just before we begin and immediately He sends a steady, cool breeze and the women inside of the sanctuary begin singing and I know He has surrounded us.  Time to get our prayer on. 

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion.  Isaiah 61:1b-3a

Our first patient (not sure what the appropriate noun is in this situation) is a woman requesting prayer for healing from a tumor in her belly.  Got it. Prayers are said. Amen. Who’s next?  But then the Spirit moved in Pastor Curt and he asked if the woman was a Christian.  And thus the proverbial floodgate was opened and we were introduced to our first of numerous persons requesting prayer for healing and protection from the effects of witchcraft, curses, or demons. 

This woman had attended a wedding in which a “healer” was also in attendance.  She was healthy before the wedding, but soon thereafter developed a massive tumor in her belly ("Massive" as in she looked about 5 months pregnant).  The culprit? Witchcraft.  And she had been questioning her faith in God ever since.   

Being the logical person I am, I was quick to slough off the idea of witchcraft.  My response was to chalk these ailments up to something that I could understand.  Something I had experience with.  Something – well – logical.  The only thing I could wrap my brain around was a medical diagnosis (I’ve read enough on WebMD.com.  I know the drill.  You’ve got a common cold, cancer, or you’re pregnant. Easy enough.)  Before I could finish assessing this woman’s symptoms, the Lord interrupted my thoughts with Scripture from Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not again flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

Almost instantly, I could feel the darkness pressing in on all sides.  There was a spiritual battle happening around our prayer circle and the presence of evil was palpable.  But stronger still was the light of Jesus Christ.  “The light that shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5).  It was clear to those of us praying what the task before us was.  So with full confidence in the power of Jesus’ name, we entered into prayers for spiritual cleansing and protection knowing full well that it is only because of Jesus’ shed blood that we were able to rebuke Satan and his effect on these people’s physical and spiritual health.  Jesus Christ died once and for all.  The enemy has been defeated and Christ is seated on the right hand of the Father.  The strife is over, the battle won.  

And so it was for the remainder of the morning.  At times the Holy Spirit prayed through me as I interceded for patients.  Other times it was necessary to intercede for the other members of our prayer team as they fought against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  It was at these times that I had a clear vision of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ hands as he prayed on the hill top when Joshua and the Israelites fought against the Amalekites.  “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  When Moses’ hands grew tired . . . Aaron and Hur held his hands up” Exodus 17:11-12

Periodically, the Lord would give us a small respite from the battle.  One which was particularly memorable came in the form of a woman who was a week past her due date requesting prayer for the safe delivery of her child.  I had the good fortune of laying hands on her very pregnant belly and feeling her baby move (leap for joy?) at the mention of Jesus’ name.  It was a beautiful experience and most certainly a gift from God. 

There was also a young woman whose family was Muslim but she wanted to receive Christ.  What a joy and honor it was to walk alongside this young woman as she confessed her sins and received Jesus.  We later heard from Pastor Alfred that she was going to go home and share the Good News with her family.  Yesu ishimwe! 

Despite the weight of many of the prayer requests we received, I left our time of healing prayer confident in God’s faithfulness to his promises. 

He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  Isaiah 61:3

Although I may not ever see how the Lord responds to our intercessions, I know that He will.  How do I know this?  Because I’ve experienced His supernatural empowering of my prayers through His Holy Spirit.  He was there while we prayed.  He heard our cries to him for mercy and healing and he did not turn a deaf ear to us.   And he will answer our requests in ways unexpected, because He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.  Thank you, Jesus for your great love for us!

Can I get an Alleluia, Amen, Imana Ishimwe (Praise be to God)?  

---Taylor Waren

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rwanda Blog: The Power of God

Blessed are those who consider the poor!    --Psalm 41: 1

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow  put into small copper coins.  And he said, “Truly, I tell you this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

I had a special privilege of witnessing the power of God’s Word in Psalm 41: 1 and Luke 21: 1-4 on Saturday and Sunday at COTA Church of Gikomero.  Our brothers and sisters, living in severe poverty, are giving out of their poverty to rebuild their new church which fell down.  

Saturday we saw the new strong foundation.  Pastor Alfred shared he is giving the funds received for his greatly needed motorbike to the construction of Gikomero’s new church.  Sunday a collection was received for the rebuilding of the new church.  A member brought forward a bag of vegetables, this was all they had to offer.  These were sold and funds used for the church.  One of our Interpreters was so moved by the love for Christ church, he promised to donate five 50 lb. bags of cement.  The congregation was thrilled with this precious gift!  

God desires us to love others as He loves us with a love we do not deserve!  Pastor Alfred and our brothers and sisters of Gikomero are loving others well!  They are sacrificing all they have for the sake of the gospel through the reconstruction of their new church and sharing the gospel within their community.  I am challenged to be more attentive and eager in seeking God’s will as He speaks to my heart in regard to making sacrifices to further His kingdom.

God gave me a beautiful gift on Tuesday as we toured the Shyogwe Diocese projects.  As we entered the Mother’s Union Vocational Sewing Class, I heard a young girl call my name as she jumped out of her seat and ran into my arms.  I looked into her face, and saw Belise, our Compassion child!  We sat together holding hands during the team’s visit.  My heart was overflowing with love for Belise and praise to God for this wonderful, wonderful surprise!  What a blessing it was to tell her I would visit with her on Thursday at the Compassion Project!  Claudine, director of the Mother’s Union, told me Belise is a very good student and will graduate in October.  I am very proud of Belise and grateful to the Mother’s Union for educating the young girls with the skill of sewing.  The Diocese’s desire is to have the opportunity to give each girl a sewing machine at the time of their Graduation, so they are able to work at home and help provide an income.  Currently the funds for these sewing machines aren’t available.  I pray the funds will become available.  As our brothers and sisters say, “God will provide.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

H.S. Mission to Ohio: Great First Day

Hello Parents and Church Family: 

We had a great first day yesterday! We are working in 3 separate groups and are doing a variety of activities -- building a wheelchair ramp, building a shed, and re roofing a house! Yesterday morning, we were able to do a "scavenger hunt" around the city where we are working. Many of us loved that -- it was such a neat opportunity to learn more about the community where we are serving! 

We are the only church group here this week, and I think we all agree that we love that! We have space to spread out and we are able to spend lots of time with the 10-person staff that is spending the summer here. Also the food is fantastic; they cook for us every morning and evening! We have had grilled corn on the cob and grilled chicken -- and homemade pancakes for breakfast! 

We are about to head out to our worksites for the day but I wanted to send you all an e-mail update. Please pray for good nights of sleep, as we all want to feel our best at our worksites. I am so proud of these students -- they make me love this job so deeply. Chris feels the same and just told me to tell all of you hello.

Have a great week! I will send another update soon! Thanks for letting us spend this week with your students. God is so good!  
--Kara Smith

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rwanda Blog: Living Water

Today we were given a full tour of the Gikomero campus – the original church, the foundations for the new church, the clinic, the new HIV and lab building, the school rooms, the cow stables, and Pastor Alfred’s home.  People were everywhere – getting vaccinations, newborn babies and moms, recovering malaria patients, and school children.
My special memorable moment today was when we were driven a mile or more down a really rutted curvy road to the well pump station that is part of the water project Apostles helped provide.  We inspected the pump station and met the pump operator and then went back uphill to the new water tank on the Gikomero campus.  We were all invited to climb a wooden ladder to the top of the tank and Pastor Alfred opened the hatch on top of the tank and we could watch the clean water filling the tank.  Until this project was completed all the water for the campus and clinic had to be carried in.  We all stood together on the tank and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for this water system and a prayer of blessing for how this water will allow Gikomero church to meet the needs of the clinic and the community.
The church plans that other locations in the area will also receive water from this tank as soon as more connecting pipes can be constructed. Pastor Alfred called this water “living water” that was bringing new life to the Gikomero church and clinic.  This “living water” will be part of the “spiritual living water” that the Gikomero church is spreading through Pastor Alfred and the ministry of Gikomero parish.

--John Wilson

Monday, July 20, 2015

Rwanda Blog: On the Ground Ready to Go

After 12 hours across the ocean on a very large plane, we touched down in the small Middle Eastern country of Qatar. Felt like 135 degrees on the tarmac, and it was immediately clear, we weren’t in Kansas.

 Our eyes met travelers from Arabic, Asian, African and probably a hundred other nations. Beautiful people, all made by God. But very different from a stroll through North Hills. 

And we weren’t there yet.

Several hours more, and our eyes finally met the bright-faced, mild-mannered people of our host nation. Getting our passports checked, the Team began butchering and blundering some basic Kinyarwanda vocab. That produced some smiles from the otherwise stoic passport screening officials. 

Then finally, familiar faces! Eugenie. Celestine. Claudine. And many more familiar faces appeared, eager to greet us and welcome us. We sat down in the room where we’ll share meals this week, and enjoyed fresh crepes, fresh fruit and hot tea while the mellow sun sank beyond the rolling hills outside the window. 

As I type, most of the Team is playing Bananagrams in the dark because power is out. Something that happens almost nightly. We’re tired but looking forward to what’s ahead.

And what’s ahead is more faces of people made by God, loved by God. We will lock eyes with old friends and new friends in Gikomero tomorrow. We will sing, maybe dance and definitely seek the Lord with them in worship Sunday. And the week will continue from there.

Our aim is to pray with people. Sounds thoroughly unproductive in some ways. And yet, the point of our journey, the point of being linked with these folks is relationship. And there aren’t many more things that link you closer than praying with someone. So, our hope is to pray. To pray a lot.

Pray with the Shyogwe diocesan staff. With Pastor Alfred, who is Gikomero’s new pastor, and his family. With the mothers of the Healthy Mums Project. With the Health Center staff and patients. And hopefully with some families of the church. 

And the Lord only knows what will happen as he hears and answers these prayers we pray with our brothers and sisters. But hopefully we will walk away closer to them, and them to us. 

We’re on our way. Pray for us!

-Eric Bolash

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Apostles-Redeemer Team Leaves for Rwanda

The Rwanda Team left Raleigh very early this morning (July 16) to travel to Gikomero, Rwanda. They will return July 28. The goal for the team is to share love and encouragement with our brothers and sisters of Shyogwe Diocese. 

Please remember them in prayer. The team verse is "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation and who say to Zion "Your God reigns!"  - Isaiah 52:7.  Pray that they would have safe travel, that they would be a blessing to Gikomero and the community, and be blessed in the deepening relationship with our brothers and sisters in Rwanda.

We will track their progress here in The Ebenezer, the Blog of the Apostles. If you haven't already signed up to receive e-mail updates, you may do so to the right.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

'Because Prayer Matters': Raleigh Fellows Attend IJM Global Prayer Gathering

“Because Prayer Matters”

A couple of months ago, the Raleigh Fellows had the incredible opportunity to travel up to National Harbor, Md., to attend the International Justice Mission’s (IJM) Global Prayer Gathering.  For those of you who have never heard of the International Justice Mission, IJM is a global organization that fights to protect the poor from violence and slavery in the developing world. They do this by “rescuing victims, restoring survivors, bringing criminals to justice, and by strengthening justice systems,” to quote from their mission statement  Their concern is primarily centered on those who are victims of slavery, sex trafficking, sexual violence, police brutality, property grabbing, and citizen rights abuse. 

“Jesus, I pray for a miracle.”

The Global Prayer Gathering gave us the opportunity to step into the lives of the field directors and their teams as they return from places like Mumbai, Rwanda, Phnom Penh, and Guatemala (just to name a few) to be prayed over, and to share in how the Lord is changing lives and judicial systems in these third world countries.  We were asked to take this time to rejoice for the miraculous work God is doing, and to lament over those who are still amidst terrible suffering.  Our days were spent deep in prayer as we would begin in the large group where we would worship with singer/songwriter, Sara Groves, and would listen to keynote speakers.  From there, we would break up into groups and visit various rooms that were focused in on one area of the world, like Rwanda, where we would listen to the prayer request, and go into a powerful time of intercession. 

“Jesus, make loud the voice of those who seek justice for those who have no voice.”

The overarching statement of the weekend was, “Because prayer matters.”  From a personal standpoint, I have always known that prayer is a pivotal part of my relationship with God.  The idea that we have the ability to speak directly to the Maker of heaven and earth has always astonished me.  However, this prayer gathering gave me a new and powerful perspective on prayer, and reminded me of God’s strong desire for us to come to Him with ALL of our needs.  Isaiah 58:9 says, “Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”  With this in mind we entered into those hours of coming before the throne of God and praying on our knees for those suffering thousands of miles away. 

“Jesus, bring deliverance to the widows in Kampala, Uganda, who are experiencing violence and devastation to their land.”

On Saturday morning, we took our seats in the large group room which held a little over a thousand people.  We began with worship, announcements, and then jumped into listening to a key speaker from Mumbai.  I was already feeling emotion from the prayer time, and then as I listened to the story of six young ladies who had been captured into the sex slave industry in India, my heart dropped even lower.  The speaker then described his team’s decision to go into the brothel to free these girls who were daily objectified and broken.   We were so captivated by his steadiness and the excitement in his voice as he went deeper into the account.  Several times his team and the police raided the brothel in search of the girls—each time failing to find them.  The police became more irritated with each failed attempt when finally, late one night, they raided once more, and began to knock on the panels and floors to listen to any hollow sounds.  One policeman finally knocked once on a wall in the kitchen.  He began to break the wall down and found a small hole.  They wiggled their way down the long passage and found a small room.  There were the six young girls who had been forced to wait the raid out.  I felt big tears roll down my cheek as I listened in disbelief to the success of freeing these slaves.  We began to clap as he wrapped the story up, and then finally the clapping stopped when he announced, “Now we are going to go live to Mumbai to talk to three of the girls who were rescued.”  I looked at the other Fellows faces and we were visibly shocked.  It was one of the most powerful moments of the weekend.  Each girl took a moment to talk and then shared various prayer requests.  I will never forget their beautiful faces as they attested to the power of God, and for the deliverance out of the pit.  My favorite part was when it was finally revealed to them who they were speaking to as the camera showed the crowd and we rose to applaud them.  They laughed and looked at each other.  It must have lasted for a few minutes. 

“You will be called the Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets to dwell in.”

All in all, the weekend was like drinking from a rushing fire hydrant.  We felt full with the Spirit as we buckled to leave for Raleigh.  All of us agreed, there is power in prayer, and we serve a God who is passionate about justice, and using His creation to bring that forward. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

My Last Year at VBS

For a long time, I've been in Vacation Bible School.  But, this year was different.  I am now 10 years old and a rising 5th grader.  Since this was my last year, I cherished every moment of it.  From the top quality morning lesson, crazy science with creative Mr. Lee, imaginative storytelling with the entertaining Pastor Curt, inspiring Bible challenge with my superb Mother, then the exciting part...the games!  In VBS, I was reminded of Gods vast love for me and how I should humbly share it with others, as well as how He gives me wisdom, courage and faith. 

Finally, thank you to all the kind-hearted Christ Followers who generously helped out this year.  I look forward to next year when I can contribute to the leaders as they are teaching children about Christ Jesus.  I just have to say that everything this year was AWWWWWWESOME !!!!!!

----By Gabe Noel, age 10