As we begin a new blog we want to remember the highlights of the old, from January 2008.
We know it must look like we have fallen off the face of the earth. President Kagame says, “Other countries can walk. We must run.” Our pace has been so fast that it has been a real struggle to catch our breath long enough to communicate. We want to briefly share some good news and then speak of a huge answered prayer in our lives.
Our effort at a church plant among Rwanda’s current and future thought leaders is going well. This past Sunday we had 170 in attendance which was our highest Sunday attendance since our Grand Opening on March Fourth 2006. One of the most vital statistics was that we had 21 cars in our parking lot. In a nation where the Per Capita Income is in the neighborhood of $300 it is imperative to plant a sustainable church that it is composed of those with the capacity to manage complexities and lead others. Regular attendees include those from leading Rwandan government offices, embassies, businesses, and non-profit organizations.
Also, Kigali International Community School (KICS) opened this term with 87 students from 23 nationalities. We never would have guessed the diversity the Lord would bring to us when we entered Rwanda. The Lord has taken our struggle to make a sustainable educational environment for our children and from it brought a new mission field to us. We can only ponder what the Lord intends to do with this surprising endeavor.
To keep a presence in our Kigali community, Dave still teaches an Ethics course at a local university, Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. Last year, he had over 250 students. He also writes a weekly column for a local impendent paper (“Focus”), and many of the articles can be found on our blog.
The whole endeavor in Rwanda has humbled us and caused us to ask many questions. We have only been in Rwanda for a little over 2 ½ years. We are far ahead of what we ever could have anticipated. Under the best of situations we would not have anticipated to be where we are currently at even after being here 5 years. Surely the Lord has done something truly out of the ordinary. It is He who deserves all the glory and honor.
However, He does work through people and prayer. Some are worthy of special honor in order to tell the story of our faith journey to Rwanda. We want to dedicate this newsletter to our overseeing congregation, Quail Springs Church of Christ. Allow us to tell their story in Rwanda.
In 2004 our family was nearing the end of our contract to stay in Uganda. During a season of deep struggle Dave wrote a prayer crying out for an answer when the Lord had been almost silent for years.
It seems you have asked me to shepherd many others, but who will shepherd me? I know you are a shepherd by nature, but I need one with flesh by me. I am lonely and confused. Please bring a shepherd to me.”
In a certain way it seemed rather selfish, but the deepest cries of the heart are that way. We are now convinced the Lord heard the prayer and responded immediately. It just took us time to let go of what we held dear in order for Him to bring to us what He held dear. Also, it took Him some time to prepare our future shepherds.
The united journey began in earnest in September 2004. We arrived at Oklahoma Christian University (OC) in the Fall of 2004 as a typical burned out missionary. The OC community was a true Sabbatical Year for us, but we needed a church home. We made a decision that since our time at OC would last just 9 months church shopping would not be an option. During our first Wednesday evening Bible class we observed our 5 year old Ugandan daughter, Ruthie in a Quail Bible class where she could celebrate her African dance skills, and we knew this was the church for us. Thus we had a natural transition to Quail overseeing us when God called us to Rwanda.
During May 2005 Quail had our commissioning Sunday. Dr. Mark Henderson spoke pastoral words that both terrified and inspired us. “If you are in trouble, we will come and get you.” Did Mark mean Quail’s standard of missionary accountability was so high that a screw up would cost us a on site visit with a return plane ticket, or that Quail would personally evacuate us from an African crisis? He’s never told us, but it was Quail’s message of love.
In hindsight it all makes sense, but also we are amazed at our “foolishness.” Truly, Quail and we were fools of the cross. No church had been registered by the Rwandan government in over 3 years. How would we even stay legal? When we arrived we tried a local school for months, but our kids knew within a few hours that it would not work. How could our children live in a healthy social and educational environment? We only had a few Rwandan friends. How would we learn the ropes and adjust?
However, the Lord repeatedly did the surprising. In fact, the more desperate we became the more likely time would show we were on the right path.
Through out this time we our Quail supporters displayed an immense sense of faith in the Lord’s providence. They are always the first to commit. Let us tell a few high lights:
As we came to Rwanda, Bryan Hixson was assigned to be our Missions Liaison. During the summer of 2006 Bryan, Holly, and their two beautiful daughters Alexis and Grace were with us. They were part of the celebration when we were the first church in Rwanda in years to be granted a new registration to operate legally. Also, during that time we selected the first OC Rwanda Presidential Scholars. Holly particularly took an older sister role with the students. Upon the Hixson’s return the Quail Springs Church of Christ families adopted all of the Rwandan students and made Oklahoma their home.
The OC Rwanda Presidential Scholars program has been directed by our Missions Committee Chairman, John Osborne who also is the Director of International Studies at OC. At every positive turn that has been taken for our ministry in Rwanda John Osborne has been one of the driving factors.
As Christ’s Church in Rwanda was granted a legal registration it came with the instruction to quickly develop property. Thus the Quail Missions Committee decided that they would send two elders, Tom Gooch and Sue Gooch and Larry Schwab to help us assess the best option. Prior to their arrival we became aware of a school and hall for sale that was part of a model community designed by the Rwandan government to set an example for all their hopes in the year 2020.
When the Gooches and Larry arrived in September 2006 we cautiously showed them the property, and they were sold on it. At one point as we looked around the property, Dave jumped over a fence assuming the gate was locked when it was not. Sue Gooch humorous rebuke of, “Stop jumping over open gates” has summarized this journey. It is a lot easier than we anticipated if we would just trust the Lord to open gates.
The Gooches and Larry were with us for the first opening day of KICS. We only had about 25 kids, but the dream was alive. Tom repeatedly spoke that though we were not sent to start a school it was very apparent that was the Lord’s intention. We just needed to be prepared for all that was the Lord’s intention.
As the dream to purchase our current facility began to get off the ground, the Quail leadership rule of first to commit continued when their leadership decided they would raise 20% of the capital from Quail internally and began forming the ROC foundation as the means to acquire and manage the property.
When tough negotiations needed to be done, Dr. Mike O’Neal; and Quail member and Oklahoma businessman, Steve Clark were sent to Rwanda in February 2007.
One of the blessings of being associated with Quail has been their sensitive eyes that see our limitations. As it was becoming apparent that to manage the property would be more than we could handle they knew we needed a property manager. As we surveyed the need and available people there became an obvious answer to this problem. Those who gave first in faith would need to give their very best. Though painful to do, we asked for our Missions Liaison, Bryan and Holly Hixson to join us in Rwanda. At the time Quail was financially stretched and for both Quail and the Hixsons their entrance into Rwanda was an action of complete faith and trust. The Hixsons arrived in August 2007, and immediately lightened the load on our weary shoulders.
During our Grand Church Opening on March Fourth, 2007; Quail sent their Senior Minister Mark and Sharon Henderson to help us launch into new territory. During their week with us, Mark and Sharon visited an orphanage and saw over 40 infants. Mark told the Lord, “This is unacceptable.” Mark is like us and rarely hears messages that he attributes directly to the Lord, but felt in his spirit that God said, “I agree. What are you going to do about it?”
Thus, the adoption journey began. Mark and Sharon returned to Rwanda and spent 7 weeks with us as they adopted Zach and Nate. They were followed by another Quail family, Dave and Melissa Osborne who adopted Ethan. Our most recent adoption journey was Brett and Keli Shreck who like the Hendersons also adopted Benjamin and Nicholas. Again, the rule with Quail and Rwanda is always first to commit in faith.
Now besides all the stories let us tell a few statistics:
1). Quail Springs has invested over $400,000 in Rwanda in the last 3 years. This includes the support given to our family and the Hixsons, short-term mission teams, adoptions, and property acquisition.
2) Besides the investment in finances, we know of no other church in our fellowship who has invested so heavily in people as Quail has in Rwanda. Quail has had personnel on the ground in Rwanda 46 of the past 62 weeks that we have been in Rwanda (74% of our time). We are unaware of any missionary who has ever had such a continual presence of help and encouragement as we have experienced from Quail.
3) If you were to attend Quail Springs on an “average” Sunday you may see 18 of Rwanda’s brightest scholars. Also, you may see 5 former orphans that now call Quail families “mom and dad.” This has truly been a relationship of reciprocity with Rwanda. Quail’s presence in Rwanda has been a reflection of Rwanda’s presence at Quail.
Now a few of you may be thinking, “Well this makes sense as Quail is a large, influential, and wealthy congregation.” Please allow us to tell you a painful truth of our faith. The Lord works best through our weaknesses. The last two years have not been easy ones at Quail. In fact, Quail has made new commitments to Rwanda during times when money was tight and involved members few. So though this newsletter is an attempt by a humble missionary to shout from the mountains the answer to a desperate prayer it is an attempt to honor God more than Quail.
Weakness teaches us many things. One is that God is our sustainer. The other is that God works most clearly through partnerships with like minded individuals. To be honest, each day from our office we see many who the Lord has drawn to this endeavor in surprising ways. We could not be where we are at without their willing spirits and hands. Again, we feel much like the Lord and we pray for Him to send more workers into the rich field of Rwanda.
We hope the best for all of you. May all of you find shepherds in your life like the ones we have found at Quail.
Dave and Jana