My Muzungu Map

Posted by Garry Friesen April 12th, 2014

Family & Friends,

For hundreds of years directions in Kigali sounded like,  “Turn right at the big tree, straight for a while and turn left at the Muzungu house.”  I finally found a city map.  A street map of Kigali is as rare as hot water faucets.   I found one at an overpriced French bookstore for 15,480 francs.  Where is my calculator?  Whoa,  it was only $18.00.  My friend mumbled, “Way over priced!”  I remembered Cecil B. DeMille’s quote. “This actress is way overpriced, but she is worth every penny of it.”   My map has names for about three roads.  The rest are just lines connecting other lines.  But, “Presto” or as we say in Kigali “Sooner or later,”  Kigali has brand new road signs on every corner.  They are large, easy to read and useless.  No one ever refers to them. All of the street names are numbers from 1 to 999. There seems to be no rhyme or reason.  I stayed at the corner of 27 and 372, but the next street down might be 208.  We think that the signs were all made, shuffled, tossed in a tumbler, piled in a truck and put up at random.  On the positive side, even un-passable alleys proudly sport a new “486” street sign.   So now in modern Kigali directions have changed to “Turn right at the big traffic jam, go straight about 2-3 gas stations and left at the restaurant where the Muzungus buy overpriced food.”   An African friend mocked my map.  He said, “Why do you need a Muzungu map?  Just go there.”  Why didn’t I think of that before spending $18.



Name change? Mr. G

Posted by Garry Friesen April 4th, 2014

Family & Friends,

In Africa, if you have “Dr” in front of your name, it means you can teach anything off the top of your head.  I did an African conference with Tom & Bonnie Kopp.  They said, “When we arrive to speak, they might announce that they were praying and all the topics are changed.”  I thought, when I pray I can’t change my presentation that fast.  “What do you do?” I asked.  They said, “Mention the new topic in your introduction, and then present exactly what you prepared.”  As sure as there was hope in Mudville, we arrived and all topics were changed.  I felt awkward, but I mentioned the topic in my intro, then ignored it until I finished speaking.  Everyone was happy!  My current students figure that on any Bible subject I am ready to teach and answer questions off the top of my head.  Actually, I have not taught most of the courses at ACT.  So, the Dr. is hiding out reading the Old Testament Historical books like there is no tomorrow.  Because, tomorrow will come (April 21) and I’m supposed to know everything!  If things don’t go well, I’m planning on changing my name to Mr. G.


Muzungu prices

Posted by Garry Friesen March 30th, 2014

Family & Friends,

How do you look for a house in Kigali.  There is no list – where is Craig when you need him?  Brokers go door to door to look for houses for rent and try to sell the information.  My advocate was Francis.  This is crucial since there are two prices for everything: Regular and Muzungu.  And I am a Muzungu.  Soon four Africans were in my car and three of them were brokers.  We would all look at a house.  Then Francis would negotiate in Kinyarwanda.  I listened hard and could only pick up three words.  “Umusaza” which is old guy, as in, this old guy won’t have wild parties.  “Amafaranga” which is money or the price, and “Muzungu” which loosely translated means white guy with money falling out of his pockets.  They would bargain louder and louder punctuated with gentle “Hmmmm”s.  Which I think meant, “I’m listening, but you are wrong and the price must go up/down.  When I tested hot water and water pressure in a house, the response was “Everything will be working, but it is turned off now.”  As a Muzungu, I believed every word they said.  And even if it was not true, I have money falling out of my pockets to fix it.  I’ve looked at ten houses ranging from “I’d rather live in a tent” to “Nicer than Aslan’s How.”  The search goes on.


I am not crying!

Posted by Garry Friesen March 21st, 2014

Family & Friends,

I will never, never ever drive in Rwanda . . .  until tomorrow.  Tomorrow came on Sunday.  It was beautiful and traffic very light.  I remembered all the correct turns and arrived at church early.  Then I saw the gas needle pointing to “empty”.  Was that mostly empty or completely empty?  (Princess Bride was helpful here)  I knew of one gas station that seemed light years away.  I arrived not knowing that I did not have enough money to fill it up.  Thankfully, you have to tell how many francs of gas you want.  I guessed an amount, but the gas tank door was locked.  I could not find the release.    I fumbled for the car manual, but was sure that it did not exist.   It was right in the glove compartment like it should be!  Then I discovered the manual was written in German and some language with Ümlauts.  Before I could sweat through my Sunday clothes, the attendant lifted my floor foot pad to reveal the hidden lever.  I arrived home safe and sound and a little over confident.

Unfortunately, Monday followed Sunday.  I needed to drive a mission staff member to the bank to solve a few problems.  The bank was in downtown Kigali known as chaos central.  Here there is less space and more cars so people are naturally more anxious and risky.   We found a good parking place.  Then I remembered, I can’t parallel park.  My blind eye distorts distances.  I tried anyway at the subtle encouragement of my passenger – “Hurry, hurry, get in!”  My eight point maneuver resulted in success, but created a line of unhappy Kigali campers.  Two hours later my bank problems were solved according to the bank.  Then I remembered, I can’t unparallel park.  My windows were all fogged up after a surprise shower.  The street parking guy took my money and demanded “Go quickly, quickly.”  I wiped the windows, lurched, stalled, and I was going to cry, but my passenger said, “Go, go, go!”  The eight point reverse maneuver now had people forcing their way past as I tried to get out.  Then I faintly heard a gentle African accent say, “Do you want me to drive?”   I said firmly, “No, it’s my car.  And no, I am not crying!  That is sweat.”   I am pleased to say that nothing got killed, but a little over confidence. 

Rwandan Rookie, G

Rwandan Road Gene

Posted by Garry Friesen March 19th, 2014

Family & Friends,

My prayer life is improving thanks to the daily terror known as Rwandan driving.  Rwandans are the most patient people I have ever known.  They can go to the bank and wait in line for 90 minutes and wonder why the Westerners are looking at their watches.  The electricity goes out, na chibazo, no problem.  The water does not turn on, so what.  They are mellow and easy going . . .  until they get a steering wheel in their grips.  There is a Rwandan road rage gene that is dormant until they step in the driver’s seat.  One of my friends has not opened her eyes for four years when in a Kigali taxi.  My stress level goes from 3 (no hot water?) to 8 once I step into a Tazmanian devil machine, aka, Kigali taxi.

The worst thing a driver can do is to be patient and careful.  This abnormal behavior just revs up the rage gene in all of the people behind you.  Then they are even more willing to drive blindly around you on the sidewalk or into the opposite lane.  They must pass you NOW so they can get to the bank and wait patiently for 90 minutes.  I will never, never ever drive a car in Kigali . . . until tomorrow.  My Toyota Rav4 is here.  I will drive to church tomorrow and pray the churches are open and the taxis are on strike.


If I’m still alive, email me at


Rwandan Rookie

Posted by Garry Friesen March 8th, 2014


Family & Friends

My first week here was filled with new things for the Rwandan rookie.  I saw a monkey in my front yard in the middle of busy Kigali.  Food prices are usually reasonable, but I went to a very modern looking store and found out my box of Raisin Brand was  available, but for $18.  I almost bought it because I could not quickly calculate how much 12,330 Rwandan Franks were worth.  But I feel rich.  The largest bill here is 5,000 so if you want to buy Wheaties and something else, you need a rich man’s pile of cash.  Another first came while teaching the O.T. walk thru.  I use arm wrestling as a physical symbol for Jacob’s wrestling with the angel.  I asked, “Do you arm wrestle in Rwanda?”  I was answered by a burly student placing his elbow on the desk and inviting me to take him on.  I resisted his strength for about one minute (students are falsely rumoring that it was about 2 seconds).  My arm went down so fast that I slammed my elbow hard on the desk.   It was my first arm injury while teaching Bible!

Finally, I smell like a locker room by noon no matter how little I’m doing.  This did not keep me from wearing the same shirt five times this week.  Before leaving Portland my order of 12 “Africa College of Theology” shirts came in with the beautiful college moniker on the front.  Since I ordered 10 different colors of the shirt I can wear a different one every day.  While teaching on the Abrahamic covenant, I asked “Are there any questions?”  I got the same three questions I always get.  1. “How old are you?”  2. “How many children do you have?” and finally, 3. “Can I have one of your beautiful shirts?”

The African Dr G

Respond by direct email to me at ,                                                                                                               but but remember that internet here can be spotty.

2 days down, 31 years to go

Posted by Garry Friesen March 1st, 2014

Family & Friends,

Greetings from the land of a thousand hills where some people can afford a bicycle, but can’t get up the hills on one.  I was up at 3am to finish packing.  At the airport my four suitcases needed adjustments to make the 50 pound limit.  After one shoe and two tubes of toothpaste were recommissioned to new suitcases, I was 50 pounds exactly for each one.   I arrived after the shortest and smoothest of my four trips to Rwanda (26 hrs versus 32 hrs and 44 hrs on past trips).

My heroes have always been missionaries and now they are my colleagues!  A missionary has the hardest job in the world with the exception of a mom with small kids.  Missionaries like Norm & Muriel Cook and Tom & Bonnie Kopp are where I look for inspiration.  Thank you for your prayers, gifts and encouragement that God used to get me to Kigali.  Don’t forget to pray that I will be able to teach until I’m 97 like Dr. Mitchell, Multnomah’s founder.  Two days down and 31 years to go!


To respond directly, use

Gifts to Imago Dei with a note “G’s Rwanda ministry”

“The Wall” is coming

Posted by Garry Friesen February 25th, 2014

Family & Friends,

The day has finally come.  Six months waiting and preparing are down to 24 hrs until take off.  “Houston, Portland, Kigali, we don’t have a problem and are ready for lift off.”  My eyes are better than ever after two surgeries, and I begin teaching my Old Testament Survey class on March 3!

Alan Hotchkiss, our U.S. director, gave me a warning.  “In four months in Rwanda you will hit a wall.  The good news is that you know it is coming.  The bad news is that you know it is coming.”  June 28, 2014 is the due date for the wall.  I have it marked on my calendar.  I’ve already started to pray it will be a great day and I’ll climb the wall, stand on it and shout “Praise God.”  My next Friesen Fortnightly will be from Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills.


Don’t “return” this to write me, but rather write directly at

“Until Yesu comes”

Posted by Garry Friesen February 7th, 2014

Family & Friends,

Earlier I described trying to learn Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda.  After many stutters, I hired a Rwandan college student to help me.   He is a famous as a musician in Rwanda since he won a national song writing contest.  His name is Enric Sifa.  Finally, a Rwandan last name that I could say and spell.  Later, I learned it was his stage name.  His actual last name is Nshimiyumurcmyi.  I stick with Sifa.  He says that I’m doing well, but then he is paid to say that.

Our latest project is to create an introduction in Kinyarwanda for my first class period in Rwanda. It begins, “Ndabaramutsa mwizina rya Yesu.”  If you did not understand all of that, I’ll tell you the last word is ‘Jesus’.  My third sentence sobered me.  It says that I plan to live in Rwanda “kugeza ubwo Yesu azazira”.  Sifa translated and then said, “Really?”.  Yes, “until Jesus comes.”  The phrase is perfect because it can also mean “until I die and go to be with Jesus.”  Either way, I’m going to arrive in 20 days and speak those words in 24 days!


Cataract, Be gone

Posted by Garry Friesen January 23rd, 2014

Family & Friends,

Cataract surgeries are slightly less common than mosquitoes.  It is uncommon to discover a cataract and have it removed within 40 hours.  On Tuesday, Blayne, one of the men of How, took me to the Vancouver, WA surgery site.  As my nurse friend counseled, I reminded them that I have only one good eye and so don’t let an intern, student, new surgeon or Jack Kevorkian operate on me.  They showed me the cost and I suggested they sell some of the very nice furniture in the waiting room to bring the cost down.  They ignored this suggestion and showed me the amount after insurance.  The final question surprised me.  “Are you a missionary?”  I told them I was a teacher, preacher, missionary and still hoping to be an Olympic athlete.  In jest I asked, “Do missionaries get a discount?”  They said, “Yes” and then drew a line through the charge after insurance.  Later they asked, “Is it all right if the surgeon prays for your operation before he begins?” I answered, “Only if I can say ‘Amen’ when he is done.”  The operation took ten minutes.  A small incision, the cloudy lens (cataract) was broken up and sucked out, and a new clear lens put in.  24 hrs later I’m able to drive to my check-up appointment and can use my computer to write you.  Somebody must of prayed!