Sunday, February 28, 2010

It is not always easy.

Well, all I can say is that this has been a hard week and I can’t believe that it has been ten days since my last post. Where do I start? Why don’t I bring you up to date on some of the construction projects and then move to some of the other things that have been happening.

The chicken houses are progressing nicely and we will have one house completed by the end of next week. The other three should follow quickly and all four houses should be finished by mid April. We should know by mid March when we will get our first chicks and then we will know when we can expect egg production to start. It has been an eye opening experience to watch these houses being constructed. The use of native materials, stone and timber, along with the fact that no power tools have been used, shows what can be done with the right craftsman putting it together.

I also spent time last week tracking down electrical problems at Sonrise Secondary School. It seems that when the latest building was constructed, there was a voltage problem with the outside light and all the florescence bulbs and starters were burned out. We have replaced most of the bulbs and starters, but there are a few that we cannot access.  Extension ladders are hard to find and we have not found an alternate way of reaching some of the fixtures.

I did travel to Kigali this past week to look at another little construction project. It seems that a section of a retaining wall collapsed at the house of one of the Rwandan employees of Bridge2Rwanda. I went down to try to determine the cause of the collapse and to try and identify how to best fix the problem. Since this happened after a heavy rain, I am certain that the water build up behind the wall caused the wall to fall. I am traveling back to Kigali on Tuesday or Wednesday to meet with a contractor to get a quote for repairing the wall.

I have also completed my preliminary engineering work on the water well at Sonrise School. I will be meeting with school officials next week to go over the design and get their input. I still have a long way to go on this project. I have to get material pricing and estimates from contractors on building the pump house and tank foundations. An engineering team from Baylor is coming top work on a water purification system for the well, and I am working on getting them the information they need.

At this point, all I can say is that I have done it again. I have bitten off more than I can chew. I don’t know why I have a hard time telling people no when it comes to church. Please don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying my work at the church, but I think I have more than I can handle. Wait – I know I have more than I can handle!. Like I said in my last post, the English service has the same problems that all churches have - youth, music, Sunday School, communications, you name it, they have it, and if I were working there full time I might be able to make a dent, but with my engineering and construction responsibilities getting in the way, I find that I barely have time to prepare a sermon. I am not sure what I am going to do when my Memphis Theological online class starts!  The church work is challenging, and while I think the preaching experiences are good, I don’t now and never have seen myself as a preacher. It's nice being called Pastor Bob, but I don't think that is really my role.   I am going to have to spend some time working this out and trying to determine what my role should be in the church. I just know that I have more than I can handle now.

 We also suffered through an unfortunate incident on Wednesday night. Our house was broken into and several items were stolen. Four laptop computers were taken, along with a backpack, camera, a computer monitor, a wireless router, a kindle, an Ipod Touch and several other miscellaneous things around the house.  We are not sure how this happened, but the back door was wide open on Thursday morning.  We are unsure of whether the robber had a key or whether by some mishap the door was left unlocked during the night.  We spent all of Thursday morning with the police and they seem to be doing a good investigation.  Andrew Rucyahana, Bishop John’s son, was been a huge help and blessing for us.  He helped with the translation and with the police. The police have our guards in custody, yes we had guard on duty at the time, and they feel like the night guard and his brother are involved with the robbery. (The brother sometimes substitutes for the regular night guard.)  The district police commander lives across the street and he has become involved. It appears that this is a very high profile incident. Hopefully, we will hear something soon and the police can recover some of the stolen items. I was very lucky that none of the items stolen were mine.

Thanks again for your continued prayers and support. Maybe I will have some more upbeat news next week. I have been thinking about writing “Driving in Rwanda part 2.”

Isaiah 58:12 - Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Chicken House No. 1 ready for roofing!

Bio-security house nearly ready for the roof!

Chicken House 2 is ready for ceiling joist and roof.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Settling In

I am quickly settling into my new role as one of the ministers at St John the Baptist. I visited one of the villages south of Musanze where the diocese is building a new church. To say that the road to get to the village is rough would be a little bit of an understatement.  I will have to say that the church has one of the best views I have ever seen. The church is located on top of a mountain with a broad valley opening up to the west. Every church should have such a view of God’s creation. (see the pictures below) I also visited with the children that attend the village nursery school. This school was started by the diocese to give the children in this village a good start toward an education. When they are old enough for primary school they will attend a boarding school in Musanze. It will have to be a boarding school because the only way they have to get there is to walk, and the distance is too great to make the walk on a daily basis.

I attended my first church committee meeting and found that I was right at home. The concerns they have at St. John the Baptist are the same concerns I have heard at every church I have attended. How do we get the youth interested in attending worship and joining the choir? What about the music? Are we using the right music? Could we use more of the old hymns? The Mothers Union (women’s ministry) has a strong group, but we need to strengthen the Fathers (men’s ministry). How do we do outreach? We need more social events so everyone can get to know each other.  Honestly, until this committee meeting, I was really concerned about how I would fit in and what I could in reality do for the English service.  After this meeting it has become clear why I was called to this task. I now have a goal, one that I feel that I am qualified to undertake, and that goal is Sunday School. Currently the English service does not have a Sunday School and that is going to be one of my top priorities. We can address so many of the current concerns by establishing a good Sunday School program.  Do I sound Baptist or what?  I think Sunday School is a Baptist mantra. I told them that were taking a chance putting a Baptist in charge.  I am not sure if the English service is going to be Anglican-Baptist or Baptist-Anglican, but I will say I am learning a lot about the Book of Common Prayer and the lectionary.

Let’s see – I came to help build a University, and now I am the pastor for the English service at St John the Baptist Cathedral, construction project manager for the building of 4 chicken houses, design engineer and project manager for a water system at Sonrise School, and I am the maintenance engineer for Sonrise and possibly the Cathedral. Oh, and I am also teaching “Lead like Jesus” to the managers and supervisors at Ishema Hotel - the hotel that is owned by the diocese. I just don’t know what I am going to do in my spare time...

If you would like to preach at the English service at St John the Baptist Cathedral, please let me know and I will but you on the schedule. I am also looking for youth Sunday school teachers if anyone would like to apply.

Isaiah 58:12 - Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

 Front of the Church

Inside the building

The view

More of the view

 The kids!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A New Path

Have you ever had God hit you something totally unexpected? I can only think of it happening once or twice to me in the past and they weren’t things that I really saw as being from God until much later. But I will have to say that God has hit me with something unexpected, and boy was it colossal. On Tuesday the other Bridge2Rwanda personnel here in Musanze and I had a meeting with Bishop John Rucyahana about our work and the projects we had ahead of us. That is when he dropped what felt like to me was a small bomb. He said he wanted me to take over the English service at the cathedral (St John the Baptist Cathedral) and grow the service. He also said he wanted me to help with the planting of English services in the surrounding villages. When I heard this, I had two reactions. One was that it had to be from God because I had preached my first “official” sermon at the cathedral, and two, it scared me to death. I didn’t sleep well Tuesday night and it took a while for me to process what God might have in mind. I am not going to pretend to know how this will work out, but I think I might as well enjoy the ride. After not being able to sleep, it finally came to me that I needed to develop a scriptural basis for my ministry while I am here in Rwanda. Now I can’t claim to ever have had a vision or had God speak to me in a dream, but something directed me to Mark 12: 28-34. If you are not familiar with this passage it is where Jesus asks, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” I have taken verse 31 of this passage for the basis of my ministry here in Rwanda; “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”….

Today (Friday) I met again with Bishop John and the pastors and deacons I would be working with at the Cathedral. I guess now it is official. I am one of the ministers at St John the Baptist Cathedral. I have an office and will have to attend staff meetings. I even have to meet with the English worship service committee. That’s right, even Anglican churches have committees. Now all this raises a question; do I need to move my membership from Trinity to St John? (Just kidding) I told the Bishop that he was a brave man putting a Baptist in charge of a service in an Anglican church, but you know there is a lot more that we agree on theologically than we disagree on. We can work together and build a ministry that will serve all Rwandans. When I told him that I felt that the basis of my ministry should be “love your neighbor as yourself” he told a story about Abraham Lincoln. He said that Lincoln once said that if he could find a church that practiced loving their neighbors as themselves, that would be the church he would join. I believe God has put me here for this task and has laid out a path for me to follow.

But you can’t tell me that God does not have a sense of humor. A Tennessee Baptist, graduating from a Cumberland Presbyterian seminary in May, is going to be in charge of an English service in an African Anglican church! How mixed up can you get? As my good friend Mike Young of Tennessee CBF said to me, “sounds like the Kingdom of God to me!” How true Mike … how true!

Isaiah 58:12 - Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Living in Rwanda Part 1

 It is a rainy Sunday morning. I just got back from church, and thought I would catch up on some of the things that happened this week and give you some more insight into living in Rwanda.

I met with the contractor, Haki Construction, on Friday to discuss the progress on the Chicken Houses, and they are progressing very well. We should be ready to place our first group of chicks in March. But this is the boring stuff for most folks. I know that you would prefer to hear about the daily ins and outs of living in Musanze, so I think I will write about one of my favorite subjects - food.

If you are looking for fresh vegetables and fruit the main market in Musanze is the place to go. There are rows and rows of fresh beans, bananas, pineapples, mangos, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers… you get the picture. All of these items are available at a very reasonable, and in some cases, very cheap cost. As an example a fresh pineapple costs about $0.40 to $0.50. I bet you can’t find a deal like that at Kroger. However, the market does play with American sensibilities. It is usually crowded, and since the people selling are local farmers they do not speak English. While I would not classify the smell as offensive, it is very different than what most of Americans are accustom to in a farmers' market. I would advise staying away from the meat area. Think open air without refrigeration and you may get the picture. While we do go to the market and prepare some meals at the house, we have not been able to establish a good routine. I usually have coffee and yogurt for breakfast and a peanut butter and banana sandwich (thank you Elvis) for lunch, then go to one of the hotels for supper if we don’t cook. The hotels have very good menus and are very reasonably priced. Spaghetti will cost about $4 to $5 and a ham sandwich with French fries and a salad is $4.35 at one of the hotels. The fish is good along with the goat (hey I like the grilled goat) and beef, but I would advise staying away from the chicken. I have had chicken more than once and it has been as tough as leather every time. I wish there was some way to get Gus’s fried chicken shipped here from Memphis.

I did go to church this morning, and since it was raining attendance was down. I guess it was down - at least it was less than the two previous Sundays. I think I have said before that the service is a unique blend running from liturgical to slightly charismatic. I really enjoy all parts of the service and can connect with much of the liturgy because of my studies in church history. The music would be classified as contemporary if we were in America with many of the arrangements having a definite Mo-Town or jazz feel. We had communion today and it was somewhat different than what I have experienced in the Baptist Church. We heard the familiar scriptures about Jesus taking the bread and the cup, but then went down front to receive the bread and the wine. (Yes, Baptists it was real wine) It was not done with a common cup like you might picture in a liturgical church, but with individual small plastic cups. Overall it was a great experience and a memory that I will take with me when I leave Rwanda.

My week ahead seems to be filling up. I have meetings with Haki Construction, design on the water system at Sonrise, and possible meetings with the maintenance staff at Sonrise to see what building problems they have and where I can help them. I have also become the unofficial coordinator for the Baylor engineering team that is working on water purification for the Sonrise Schools.

Thanks again for you prayers, e-mails, Facebook posts, and blog comments. They all mean a lot to me.

Isaiah 58:12 - Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Driving in Rwanda

To tell the truth I was not sure whether to title this post “Driving in Rwanda” or “How to build Chicken Houses in Rwanda” – driving won. On Tuesday I had a meeting with the contractor building the chicken houses at the construction site (see pictures below), and did not have anyone to act as my driver. I knew this moment would come sooner or later so I had to bite the bullet and drive out to the site. But first I had to drive to downtown Musanze and pick up Beau. Beau is the Rwandan director for the chicken operation and he road the bus from Kigali to Musanze to attend the meeting. After I picked up Beau we drove out to the construction site where we had a very productive meeting with the contractor. Everything is on schedule and I am looking forward to when the houses will be producing eggs.

As for the driving - the good thing is the speed. Most of the roads are rough so you don’t dare drive at to high a speed – the bad thing is the motorcycles and bicycles! There are hundreds of little motorcycles that are used as taxies in Kigali and in Musanze and generally if they have an opening, no matter how small, they take it. It does not matter if they pass you on the right or the left or if you are turning. The bicycles are somewhat the same, but they have less opportunity to get out of the way, so they tend to be a little more cautious. The roads are also crowded with people walking, and they don’t just walk on the side of the road - many times they will take up 1/3 of the road itself. Well needless to say I had to pay close attention to everything around me. At least the speed was less than 30mph in most cases. I made it through in one piece and without hurting anyone. I have been told that I am to get a truck to be used for the construction projects I will be working on, so I guess I will be driving a lot more. I am not sure how I feel about that.

As you can see from the pictures, construction here is much the same as in many third world countries. We are using as much native material as possible for the chicken houses as they are being constructed in a local manner. The few pictures I have posted give you some idea of what I am talking about.

Well it is time for me to take off my construction hat and put on my IT hat and work on getting an internet connection here at the house. Again, thanks for all the prayers and the feedback on Facebook.

Ready for rafters later this week?

Lifting ceiling joist into place. Muhabura is in the background.

Part of the road into the sight. This is as far as I wanted to go

 Isaiah 58:12 - Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.