Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RWANDAN CHURCHES AND FAMILIES ARE THE ANSWER FOR RWANDA’S VULNERABLE CHILDREN




I have a love / hate relationship with Rwandan churches and families. My life is intimately entwined with the life cycles of families who cluster at church. I believe in the ideals of church as a gathering of humanity called out of the failings of the world. I believe in the ideals of family that bind individual men and women in lifelong covenants full of beauty, passion, and continuity. I love churches and families with all of both their heroic and failed moments.

Rwanda’s history shaped our entire region during the East African Revival of the 1930’s and 40’s. No church that considers itself evangelical in sub-Saharan Africa can truthfully tell her story and not eventually return to Gahini, Rwanda. Yet, the failings of Rwanda’s churches will forever stand in history as complicit players in Rwanda’s Genocide. In less dramatic seasons churches and Christian N.G.O’s have created manipulative schemes to con western donors out of funds that portray Africa as a basket case. The practical result is Kilokole marketing kills honest business investment. Thus I feel towards Kilokole much like how my Ugandan brothers who lived under Amin and Obote II feel about Kiswahili. Kilokole is the language of pseudo-Christian soldiers and thieves.

Yet, history tells us that at the most crucial moments of humanity when truth must be spoken and lived the institutions of church and family provided the only lasting solution. I believe we now live in that day. Rwanda’s churches and families are the answer for Rwanda’s vulnerable children. It is time we say, “This is our responsibility. These children are ours. You will not take our children away.”

We can do a google search and quickly find statistics and stories about vulnerable children in Rwanda. A friend once told me, “Statistics lie and liars use statistics.” I hope the images of some are exaggerated. If the statistics are remotely true Rwanda has a ticking economic time bomb. We are unlikely to reach the 2020 Vision with so many vulnerable children without care. We all see situations we cannot ignore. Children lead households. Several thousand children are in orphanages instead of families. MIGEPROF has begun a noble policy of de-institutionalization. Yet, each week in New Times we read of new born children abandoned by their mothers. Even the Bible tells us that in desperate times mothers abandon their children (Exodus 2; Ezekiel 16).

The easiest way to deal with vulnerable children is to create an institution, project, or program. I know. I’ve done it before. The NGO world and their marketers thrive in this genre. Yet, children will not thrive as a project of an NGO. Children thrive in families. Families thrive in churches. I propose the season has now come for churches in Rwanda to use their social network (that is more effective than either twitter or facebook) to develop a network of families who will immediately foster children in vulnerable situations. From this fostering either the child will be reunited with healthy members of his extended family, or if no healthy extended family members can be identified the child will be adopted by a family who will raise this child with full legal rights of an heir.

I will preach, pray, and live this model. Allow me to tell a story. On March 12, 2011 a woman in rural Rwanda gave birth to a baby boy 10 weeks premature that weighed only 1.3 kilos. The next day she went to a health clinic with the child and was transported to Rwamagana Hospital. The following morning she disappeared. The little boy stayed in the Rwamagana hospital for 8 more weeks. While there friends of friends made phone calls. On 13 May, he came to live in my home and weighed only 1.5 kilos. Our community gave him the name, Gabriel Mugisha in confidence that this young man would live the blessing of a strong communicator. He rapidly gained weighed, struggled at times, and now weighs 3.1 kilos. I do not know Gabriel’s future. I do know he is a child of my family, church, and community. As long as I am alive he will not go to an institution. He also will not go to a pattern of abuse. He will grow in the nurture of a family, church, and community.

I am praying for his forever family. I see three possibilities. First, I may get a surprise phone call that sounds like this, “Pastor Dave, thank you for taking care of Gabriel. I apologize. My niece is a disaster. I had no idea she was pregnant. Our family has just found out what has happened. We would like to come meet your family and then bring Gabriel home.” I would check out the uncle’s story and references, but be thrilled if this was true. I’d ask that they always consider me one of Gabriel’s uncles, come to our yearly Christmas party, let me help top up Gabriel’s school fees, and contribute a cow when he marries. Gabriel’s future will be found in a family and church.

The second possibility is that the police after an exhaustive search will find that Gabriel has no identifiable extended family. I am 44 years old with a missionary salary and five children. Another family may arise with more strength, wisdom, and resources. They may adopt Gabriel. Gabriel’s future will be found in a family and church.

The third possibility is that time may pass. For Gabriel to transition to another family will just be too painful for both Gabriel and my family. My best research says this will happen sometime between eight months and two years in Gabriel’s age. We may adopt Gabriel. Gabriel’s future will be found in a family and church.

Yet, there are many Gabriel Mugisha’s in Rwanda. My family cannot be the only answer. However, there are also many families and churches in Rwanda. These families and churches can be the answer. Rwanda’s churches and families are the answers to Rwanda’s vulnerable children. Now is the time for Rwanda’s churches and families to reclaim their former honor as leaders of our region in faith, hope, and love.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

HARAMBEE ECONOMICS


The Harambee is over. We are still receiving pledges and donations. As we write our Rwanda community has given over $4,900 and friends in the United States have given over $2,300. Of the $22,000 we anticipate we need to get Sophia through her first year at Wheaton we now have in hand $7,200. To honor God, our heritage, and our community we must tell the story of this Harambee. Enjoy.

Our most read blog post is a sermon Dave preached on 27 March 2011 from Leviticus 25 on the Jubilee entitled “Audacious Forgiveness Must Be Institutional” (To read it check out our blog at http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2011/03/audacious-forgiveness-must-be.html.)

In this sermon Dave argues that at least once per lifetime our community has been so traumatized that the only way that our community can become what God intends is for the community to use the strength of her network and institutions to practice audacious forgiveness. Jubilee calls us to the paradox of justice and mercy. Rwanda’s history of carrying the debt of a genocide regime calls for forgiveness from the world’s creditors while it also calls for contemporary Rwanda to be a leader in generosity. This is a great theory, but the details of living get tricky.

How do we practice Jubilee Economics? Practice Harambee Economics. What is a Harambee? Allow us to tell our story.

During previous furloughs our family has looked at many different universities as possible places for Sophia to attend college. Of the many possibilities Wheaton College rose to the top. (To read about Sophia’s thought process check out http://thoughtsofthewanderingchild.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-wheaton-decision.html?spref=fb.)

Dave’s morning runs this last year focused on prayer for Sophia to be admitted to Wheaton. He begged God for this opportunity. Sophia’s admission was delayed, but when it came we were ecstatic, told all our friends, and celebrated.

Then the process began of seeking scholarships and applying for financial aid. By mid June we had gone as far as we could go and were still lacking $22,000 per year. In 2008 as our missionary support was good and Jana was employed by Gladney Center for Adoption our family could have afforded Wheaton. Then the global financial crisis cost Jana her job, Dave and Jana both became sick, and our support took some dips. We spent our life savings on a year of medical leave with the belief that God had called us to Rwanda and we must do all within our ability to pay our bills and serve in Rwanda until God called us to another place or season. We returned to Rwanda in 2010 and it has been a journey full of spiritual harvest.

In prayer Dave told God the message of patriarchs and prophets, “God I have helped over 300 Rwandan students attend university in the USA. Can you help my daughter go to Wheaton? Remember, your servant.”

The next morning, Dave felt compelled to host a Harambee.

For those new to our region, allow us to tell about our heritage. God’s word teaches that when we go through seasons of uncertainty and struggle God remembers us (Exodus 2:4). Our response should be that we remembers all that God has done for us and give Him honor (Deuteronomy 7:18). In June 2005 we came to Kigali with the God led dream of starting a non-denominational English language church with a good children’s program. We had a few friends in the USA who made this possible by their support, and a few Rwandan friends who made this possible by opening doors. God has done amazing things through a simple network of praying friends. We should never doubt what God will do when friends gather, pray, and celebrate.

God’s word also teaches our enduring presence in a location is the result of honoring our heritage. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12),” has resonated repeatedly in our minds. Our heritage of faith comes from the American Restoration Movement. We must always seek unity and revival to honor this heritage.


Our family’s ministry heritage comes from Gaston and Jan Tarbet (Jana’s parents) who served in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. Their longest tenure was in Kenya (1968-1976; 1979-1980; 1988-1989). Kenya’s tradition of Harambee called us.






As Kenya gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1963, her first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta began the Harambee tradition. The country must pull together and organize. The past must be forgiven. A fresh start was possible, but only when the individual resources were pooled in a community of good will. Kenyatta said, "There is no society of angels, black, brown or white. We are human beings and as such we are bound to make mistakes. If I have done a mistake to you, it is for you to forgive me. If you have done a mistake to me, it is for me to forgive you. (For more reading on Kenyatta’s Harambee from 1963 check out http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,875094,00.html.)

From Kenyatta’s vision Harambee developed so when a community faced a struggle a celebration was called to gather resources to overcome. The Jubilee of the Old Testament lived in Kenya’s Harambee.

Our family journeyed west from Kenya to Uganda, and now to Rwanda. Many in our Rwanda community share our region’s history and Harambee tradition. $22,000 divided by 300 contributions is $73.33. Four years of this is $293.33. Could friends be gathered who could make enough contributions that in our season of uncertainty our daughter could study at the university we had prayed for?

On Saturday, 6 August the Harambee in Kigali was celebrated. We invited every friend in the world. One Kigali friend sent us a sms on Saturday morning to inform us that due to some unforeseen family financial difficulties he could not attend. We responded that our Harambee required no donation. Our earthly wealth is our family and friends. All we requested was their prayers and celebration as we sought to discover resources for Sophia to attend Wheaton.

Our guests ranged from university students to fellow missionaries to CCR members to Rwandan leaders in government, business, and academics. From the beginning the Harambee was a community endeavor. For days we passed out invitations and our friends gathered ideas and resources to make the Harambee a success. We knew we would need more chairs than our family possessed. Our old friend, Paul Jabo volunteered to organize renting chairs and then paid for the chair rental fees. We were cooking assuming that we would have 150 to 200 people in attendance. Our old friend, Shakira who has cooked for KICS and the Day Care at CCR (First Impressions) volunteered to cook.

We decorated our home, put up CCR tents, gathered refreshments, started a bonfire, and had the CCR band plus violinists scheduled to play.

Then the crowd began coming. It was more people and diversity than we could have expected. Some of our African friends had not grown up like us in Kenya. Others from the USA, Canada, or UK were unfamiliar with the Harambee tradition. Thus Dave explained that a season had come to celebrate and organize together. We are thrilled at Sophia’s academic success. We are thrilled at her opportunity at Wheaton. As this was a matter of prayer we must pursue it to the end assuming that God will open up each door at the appropriate time.

We explained that a basket was on the side in which people could place their contributions and pledges. As the night finished we began counting. Some came with not a coin, but graced us with their joy. Others gave only a few coins. However, many gave more. Most contributions were in the range of $40 to $200. The Rwandan community gave as much as the expatriates. In fact, the night’s largest contributor was a Rwandan family that gave $500. Our total now stands at $7,194.33 that family and friends have now given to Sophia’s education at Wheaton. Of this $2,200 has been contributed by family and friends in the United States while family and friends in Rwanda have contributed $4994.33. We are very blessed by our generous community in Kigali.

Dave and Sophia are scheduled to fly out of Kigali for the U.S. on Thursday, 11 August. The Lord has used our community to gather enough money to make Sophia’s initial payments this year at Wheaton. We still have about $14,905 to go to get Sophia through her first year at Wheaton.

We remember. In June 2005 we came to Kigali with the hope of starting a church. We later found out that registering one would be difficult. In May 2006 CCR was registered. In October 2005 we realized we could not survive as a family in Kigali without an international school. We gathered with friends and in September 2006 Kigali International Community School (KICS) began. As these opportunities began we realized the need for property and were shown an ideal facility that cost $1,356,000. By February 2007 we negotiated a deal to make payments and the building is now completely purchased. With each major decision we’ve bathed our dreams in prayer and then moved forward believing this was the Lord’s leading of our community. We feel exactly the same about Sophia’s choice to attend Wheaton. God is the hero of this story. He has been faithful.

Thank you for joining us on this journey.

If you would like to make a graduation gift to help Sophia attend Wheaton please write a check to Sophia Jenkins and mail your check to:

Bluestone Federal Credit Union,
1252 Yankee Doodle Road,
Eagan, MN 55121.
Bluestone Phone Number: 651-452-3131

Imana ikurinde (May the Lord Stay with All of You),

Dave and Jana






Monday, August 1, 2011

RETREAT REFLECTIONS



Dear Family and Friends,

Our family has just returned from one of our yearly highlights, the Kumbya Retreat. Rwanda has a wonderful history. One of the more captivating of Rwanda’s stories is of the East African Revival beginning in a little out of the way mission point called, Gahini in the 1930’s. The Revival changed the history of faith in Sub-Saharan Africa; if not the entire world.

One of the fruits of the Revival was a yearly retreat for missionaries on the Kumbya Peninsula of Lake Kivu which began in 1944. As the flames of Revival spread the Protestant missionaries chose not see one another as rivals. Thus they began the Kumbya Retreat so that once per year all could gather for prayer, fellowship, and renewal. This Retreat has been an under told story of Rwanda that has fanned flames of revival and unity throughout the Great Lakes Region.

Last week we were again thankful to be a participant. When we reach the Resurrection we will thank the generations who went before us for their foresight to establish such a retreat.

During the last week Dave sensed it was time to be still and listen. His Bible kept coming to Psalms. He opened to a passage Jana had shown him 21 years ago as they dated. “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4. New International Version 1984.)” Truly, this verse has been one that has guided our journey. As we found delight in God He gave us our deepest desires.

This month will be one of great stretching and faith building as God transitions our family and ministry. We ask for your prayers about the following matters:

1. Sophia and Dave plan to travel to the United States to enroll Sophia in Wheaton College on August 11 for a Wheaton start date of August 18. We continue to have one divine appointment after another that directs us to Wheaton. However, our funding is still less than required. May God’s honor be shown through this journey.

2. Gabriel Mugisha continues to keep us young. As a premature baby there are challenges. Yet, we sense Gabriel is God’s messenger for our family and CCR. He now weighs 3.085 kilos (6 pounds 12 ounces.) We thank God for his continued growth and ask for God to protect Gabriel’s health.

3. This Sunday Dave and Jana will continue a discussion at CCR concerning a potential ministry to incorporate the most vulnerable children into families
(If you would like to read the proposal check out our blog at http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2011/07/spoken-for-proposal.html.)



May God guide CCR to become all that He intends and display His nature of Adoption.

Thank you for your prayers, support, and encouragement that sustain our family and ministry.

Imana ikurinde (May God Stay with All of You),

Dave and Jana


P.S. During the Kumbya Retreat there is a swim of 2.5 kilometers (1.55 miles) to a nearby island. Our children; Sophia, Caleb, and Ruth all completed this long swim. God has made them strong in mind, body, and spirit.

THE SMELL OF SNAIL MAIL



We still like paper. We almost never get a paper letter these days. However, we do get lots of communication. Our inbox in a multiple of e-mail accounts is usually full. Facebook seems to capture our attention. Our phones seem to continually ring or receive messages. Now, even “technologically challenged” Dave is on twitter. (Dave was described this way by our brother- in-law, Greg Carr, and many years later he is still stays about three years behind the cutting edge.)




Eighteen years ago, we moved to Uganda to start life anew. We were young and full of youthful ideals and dreams. We remember one of our daily highlights. We eagerly would go to the post office to collect news of home. During our initial days in Uganda if we wanted to receive a phone call from home we went to the Sheraton to stand in line at 4 phone booths where we could receive a phone call from abroad. If we wanted to make a phone call we went the National Post Office and stood in line for 1 phone from which we could make an international phone call using an AT&T calling card.




Then our world rapidly shifted. On year 6 in Uganda (1999) within a few weeks time we all had mobile phones, a landline phone in our home, and internet, and e-mail. It took us another six years of time with a year of lecturing at wireless campus, Oklahoma Christian University to get past the technology shock.




It is fun to stay so in touch with the world, but we miss quiet days at home without the disturbances of ringing phones and recent tweets. A favorite memory of those days is playing sandlot baseball in a vacant next door lot with our small children.




Like the massive technology shock that came to our lives in 1999, 2011 promises to usher us into another completely new world. Our oldest child, Sophia will shortly be leaving us to attend Wheaton College.




In our Uganda pre-mobile technology days Sophia would stand at our porch and cry, “Don’t leave me daddy” as Dave went to work. On his better days, Dave would respond, “You will be the one who leaves me someday.” That day has come.




We are immensely proud of Sophia. Her accomplishments have been many. From her earliest days she was like her mother. She did whatever was needed to keep the family functioning and serve those God had brought into our lives. Our frequent houseguests were often treated to “Jenkins Dinner Theatre” as she cleverly tricked her na├»ve younger brothers into becoming performing actors. The Kampala Church of Christ saw her step up to the tasks of teaching children’s classes and leading worship when she was still in elementary school. Her first words were a combination of Luganda, Kiswahili, and English; and she quickly learned who preferred to be spoken to in which language.




She has excelled academically, in the arts, and she is our favorite writer of non-inspired literature. (In fact, Dave will read her blog much quicker than he’ll read Andrew Mwenda or David Hansen.) Sophia may be the best writer in our family. She carries the writing and teaching legacy of her grandmothers, Minnie Sophia Eichorn Jenkins and Janet Tarbet. If you have not read her blog you should at http://thoughtsofthewanderingchild.blogspot.com/




She has been accepted into her first choice of a college. She plans to attend the prestigious Wheaton College this fall.




As she writes Africa has profoundly changed us for the better. Sophia’s first steps were taken dancing to a Ugandan drum in 1993. Since then African rhythm has guided our life. Sophia’s education was a true African community endeavor. Our lives as nomads placed her in several different schools. Each one is a cherished memory. Sophia began kindergarten in Dave’s hometown of Prior Lake, Minnesota living with his parents, Lloyd and Lois Jenkins as Dave healed from a herniated disc in his neck. Upon our return to Uganda she was homeschooled by her grandmother, Janet Tarbet. As our family matured we formed a home school coop with other families and were graced by teachers Jenna Reynolds and Esther Tushabe. Twice during extended furloughs Sophia attended Oklahoma Christian Academy. In Rwanda for a season we did not know how we could be sustainable. Yet our community rallied and Kigali International Community School (KICS) was born. God has been our provider and guide throughout this endeavor.




Now we are at a place of new discovery mingled with the familiar discipline of God stretching our faith. As predicted many years ago, Sophia will shortly be leaving us. Wheaton and the USA government have been generous, but we still lack about $22,000 to pay for the next academic year.




Our seasons of life in African ministry have left us never without food or friends. The oldest of words to missionaries ring true, Jesus said, "Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They'll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first." (Mark 10:29-31, The Message.)

Thus as our first born departs we will honor our African traditions. During Jana’s childhood in the early days of Kenya’s Independence when a community faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge, Kenyan President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta stirred the community with his message of “Harambee.” It was time for the community to pull together. The past was forgiven. Unity was lived. Sacrifices were made. The day was celebrated.




Since you are receiving this in the post you will likely not attend Sophia’s Graduation Harambee on Saturday, 6 August in Kigali. We are sorry you won’t be able to laugh, tell stories, and celebrate with us. I imagine our old Uganda drum will make an appearance and remind us that all God has made is good. By human sight it will not be financially possible for Sophia to attend Wheaton. However, in the God inspired vision of Mzee Kenyatta’s Harambee we are confident the day of celebration will end in Sophia’s send off blessing.




Old letters on paper tell our stories from Kenya in the 1960’s and 70’s and Uganda in the 1990’s. Thus today we are sending you a piece of paper. This is how friends communicate intimacy while at a distance.




If you want to join our Harambee please feel free write a check to “Sophia Jenkins,” and mail it to:

Bluestone Federal Credit Union
1252 Yankee Doodle Road
Eagan, MN 55121
Phone Number: 651-452-3131

Thanks for sharing this wonderful journey with us.

Dave and Jana

DO YOU HAVE SPOKEN FOR QUESTIONS?



Dear CCR Family and Friends,

I’ve missed being away from CCR for the last two weeks, but I’ve been able to see life anew by returning to the old. Rwanda has a wonderful history. One of the more captivating of Rwanda’s stories is of the East African Revival beginning in a little out of the way mission point called, Gahini. The Revival changed the history of faith in Sub-Saharan Africa; if not the entire world.

One of the fruits of the Revival was a yearly retreat for missionaries on the Kumbya Peninsula of Lake Kivu which began in 1944. This Retreat has been an under told story of Rwanda that has fanned flames of revival and unity throughout the Great Lakes Region.

Last week I was again thankful to be a participant. When I reach the Resurrection I will thank the generations who went before me for their foresight to establish such a retreat.

During the last week I sensed it was time to be still and listen. My Bible kept coming to Psalms. A few passages captivated me. Eugene Peterson’s Message translation wrote, “Orphans won't be orphans forever (Psalm 10:14)”, and “Orphans get parents (Psalm 10:18.)”

David, the Shepherd King and Worship Leader wrote that God’s nature is like an adoptive parent. By the influence of God’s Holy Spirit he wrote, “God, who lives in his sacred Temple, cares for orphans and protects widows. (Psalm 68:5, Good News Translation).”

This week we’ll continue our discussion about the Spoken For Proposal at CCR. If you have not heard or read it, please check out my blog at http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2011/07/spoken-for-proposal.htm.





If you have a question, idea, or comment please send them to us. We would love to incorporate them into our thought process.

Imana ikurinde,

Dave