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We arrived safely last night and were met by our host, Brandon Walsh, and a local named Daniel who works at the church and is the Director of Operations for Hope on a Thousand Hills. We brought 6 huge bins of pre-k supplies and there wasn’t enough room between the two vehicles, so Peggy jumped in a cab with some of the luggage. Off we drove weaving through streets alive with people walking, zooming by on mopeds, and driving cars in seemingly every direction. We met up at Brandon’s house and his wife Emily served us delicious pineapple and mango. We slept soundly under the cover of mosquito netting in their beautiful home.

The next morning we met Brandon and Emily’s two children, Elsa (4) and Ivan (2). We ventured out after a full night of rest to the local diocese where Brandon, Executive Director of Hope on a Thousand Hills, is the pastor of the English service. The focus of the ministry here is in the pre-k school, nutrition for the children, and agriculture to support that program. We had a prayer meeting with the team at Holy Trinity Cathedral for Gasabo Diocese. Psalm 91 was shared by a member of the Rwanda team and as it turns out, this chapter was given to one of our team members before the trip to relieve anxiety about traveling to the other side of the planet. Other members of our mission team also mentioned being drawn to Psalm 91 in preparing for the trip and during our first prayer meeting, we heard it again from the Rwandan team. We learned about their ministry and got to see their new building construction and have a tour of their facilities. We headed out to our next meeting after learning the basics of saying hello, thank you, and delicious. Turns out we needed all of those words.

We traveled up the side of a lush green landscape through heavy rain on a dirt road. People walked by–some with goods balanced on their heads–or sped up the hillside on motorbikes. We met some of the lay leaders of the Bumbogo Parish and the five catechists of the individual churches. The local churches meet as a parish once a month for communion. We learned that the government recently shut down two of the six churches due to construction concerns, although they have been as they are for many years. Sudden shifts in government policy like this can leave churches scrambling to find a solution to open again. The parish has 630 members and serves 495 children. Through a translator, we were able to share with the people we met and hear their stories of ministry. We talked about how a partnership between our churches might look and function. Brandon mentioned adding each other to the Prayers of the People and sharing letters and photos. The Rwandan history and profound experiences with reconciliation after the genocide can serve as a model for some of the tensions we have in the United States about race relations.

We met a man leading a ministry focusing on disabled children. Children with disabilities are often marginalized in this society, pushed aside and many times abandoned by a parent, particularly fathers. The ministry is working to educate families toward love and acceptance of their children and to bring families together in forgiveness. They invite the fathers back to reconcile with the children and spouses.

Deane Norwood is a member of the Trinity Prayer Team. Father David mentioned a long-term partnership with a mission and asked the team to pray and ask for God’s guidance. One day as Deane was getting ready for the day, she heard the word Rwanda and mentioned it to Father David. Father David went to a missions meeting where he met Brandon Walsh. Bill, Deane’s husband, was at the meeting and was impressed with all the work the ministry was doing. When the opportunity to travel to Rwanda was presented, Deane felt a real peace about going on the trip. She wanted to meet the people here to know how to pray for them.