“Walk, but don’t Talk”

Posted by Garry Friesen August 22nd, 2014

Family & Friends,

Rwanda is not a land for old men who like to talk as they walk.  The culprits are stair steps everywhere.  In the U.S. you become so bored by the uniform size of every stair step that you don’t even notice them.  You walk, you talk and you forget as you go up a flight of stairs.  Rwanda has variety and diversity.  Every stair is a different size.  It is an architectural marvel. Some are so big that a man with a hip replacement looks awkward as he navigates these precipices.  Meze Fresh, my favorite restaurant, has stairs up to the second floor where you get the view and the nice breeze.  I tell people, “Don’t talk as you go up, don’t do anything, but concentrate on the stairs.”  One stair is higher than the rest, and many an old Muzungu has tripped on it.  This ruins their meal and sends a flurry of Africans apologizing profusely.  And finally, there is the occasional one inch stair right in the middle of a room.  Why?  Well, my theory is cockroaches.  These little critters tumble onto their backs when they go down these small stairs.  Once on their back side, they are not able to flip back to their feet.  And bingo, they are easy to exterminate.   I’ve memorized the unwritten Rwandan Rule: “When you walk, don’t talk” and all old guys will be safer.

Rwandan Rookie, G

P.S. I’m raising funds for purchasing African authored books.  If you have interest contact me at the email below.  Thank you for those who have donated.  We have already ordered over 200 books.

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org

Umusazi on the Loose

Posted by Garry Friesen August 16th, 2014

Family & Friends,

I finally put on my big-boy pants and ventured downtown alone to the high-priced Muzungu store in the KCT – Kigali City Tower.  Since we don’t use street names KCT is the most recognizable landmark.  A week earlier I had spent 45 minutes trying to learn all of the downtown roads on a Sunday when traffic was sparse.  Despite the advantages I went down a one-way street like an umusazi on the loose rather than a umusaza (crazy person vs. wise person).  Other drivers let me know with African gestures.  I hope never to learn what they meant.  I shopped for about 45 minutes finding many things that are very hard to find in Kigali.  My cashier was ready with the highest-tech machinery found in Rwanda.  He scanned my stuff and swiped my card. They could not get my Visa card to work.  I bought books on sale.  Buy 3, get one free.  They had to print out six separate sales receipts. One for every four books!  One hour later they finished, but I ran out of cash since I was expecting to use my card.  They helped me take the cart to the parking garage.  This is the garage where you get a free bomb inspection for your car every visit.  Then I remembered I had some cash in my briefcase.  Back in I went to get a gift certificate for a newly wedded couple.  No one knew what “gift certificate” meant.  I tried to act it out, but my charade efforts only made them think “umusazi”.   Next time, I thought, I’m going to the small shop near my house.  They don’t have anything I want, but I know I can get in and out very quickly.

Rwandan Rookie, G

P.S. I’m raising funds for purchasing African authored books.  If you have interest contact me at the email below.  Thank you for those who have donated.

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.or

The River Between

Posted by Garry Friesen August 9th, 2014

Family & Friends,

I love reading.  At one time I owned about 5,000 books and could not let go of any of them.  The Kigali Kollection for the Multnomah-ACT Library loosened my grip on my books.  Now I own about 10 books, but love reading is as great as ever.  My library interns are directing me in my reading of African literature.  James said, “Read The River Between.” It is by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and is perfect for a new missionary.  It tells the story of the clash of missionary and white culture with tribal culture.  The author breaks your heart as you watch the chaos and the people caught in the crossfire. Waiyaki is the hero and he loves the best in both cultures. He sees and deplores weaknesses in both cultures.  The author comments that if you destroy something bad in a culture, you better replace it with something good.  If you eliminate female circumcision as genital mutilation, then you better create a meaningful right of passage for girls to become women.  Waiyaki tries to bring reconciliation between the conflicting cultures for the strength of his people.  He wants to flee to Nairobi, but he stays to reconcile the people he loves.  Waiyaki is the great peace maker, but there is no peace when both cultures turn against him.

Rwandan Rookie, G

P.S. I’m raising funds for purchasing African authored books.  If you have interest contact me.  Thank you for those who have donated.

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org

Grizzly Adams finds a Barber

Posted by Garry Friesen August 2nd, 2014

Family & Friends,

Why should I fear a simple trip to the barber?  Because, this is Africa and anything can happen.  I had nightmares about what an African barber might do to a Muzungu head of hair.  I put it off until I was looking like Grizzly Adams.  Before, venturing to the barber, I took some clothes to the cleaners.   I looked at prices.  I noticed that a “loin cloth” was only 2,000 rwf.  Seemed reasonable.   I looked down the long hall to the barber shop.  I slowly trekked to possible haircut doom.  I thought, “I want tapered hair in the back” might not communicate, so I showed him the picture on my passport.  And said, “I want that”.

He said “Ntakibazo” (No problem).  My anxieties were not relieved.   He went slowly, carefully and every snip calmed my concerns.  At five minute intervals, he took out his scented brush and cleaned off my hair from the cloth covering.  He finally finished.  My hair was just right (except for the gray and a bald spot).  I gladly paid about $8 (5,000 rwf).  A quick check revealed that this was more than double the normal price.  It was the Muzungu price, but this Muzungu was happy anyway.  I turned down a hair wash and neck massage, but later learned that these were included in the price.  I am happy to say that I now have chosen a cleaners in case I get a loin cloth, and my new barber is Mustafa.  Whew!

Rwandan Rookie, G

P.S. I’m raising funds for purchasing African authored books.  If you have interest contact me.

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org

Book Meister of Rwanda

Posted by Garry Friesen July 26th, 2014

Family & Friends,

I got kicked out of John Brown U’s library and Multnomah’s library for talking too loud.  Ironically, it is now me who is “Shhhhhhh”ing others in the “Multnomah ACT” library.  I’ve prepared for my next classes and our librarian cannot come until December.  So I volunteered.  I suggested a title for the position like “Book Meister of Rwanda” or “Grand Puba of Publications”, but had to settle for “Interim Librarian”.   They explained that this title gives everyone hope that a real librarian is on the way.  Earlier I had created a 3,500 book reference section at the dean’s direction.  That sounded like a good idea until I became “interim”.  Now 3,500 books need a yellow “Reference” sticker on the book spines.  The sticker looks good, but turns your thumbs an ugly mustard color.  Oh, yes, and those 3, 500 books all need to have “Ref.” added to the computer record, one at a time.  And, I didn’t know that I was stiff-necked as an Israelite in the wilderness, until I tried to search for books on the top shelf.  I would tell you more, but at this very moment a student in the library is “Shhhhh”ing me!

Rwandan Rookie, G

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org

P.S. I’m raising funds for purchasing African books.  If you have interest contact me.

“Double Portion”

Posted by Garry Friesen July 20th, 2014

Family & Friends,

Since the loss of Dr Gerald at Africa College of Theology, two Scriptural images are flooding my mind.  The one is Job who had suddenly lost everything.  “Job feel to the ground and worshipped. ‘The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the LORD’” (Job 1:21).  Only the faith of an African could so quickly speak these words.  They, like Job, know how to grieve.  Africans also know how to believe that if you lose everything, God alone is enough.  Alan, our U.S. director, joined us this past week to help us sort out our new strategy.  He was struck with the image of Elijah and Elisha.  It did not seem possible to continue the fight against Baalism without the mighty Elijah.  Then God took him suddenly.  Elisha was not Elijah, but he knew how to pray big.  He asked for a double portion of the spirit that was upon Elijah (2 Kings 2:9).  Then the text records Elisha performing twice the number of miracles as Elijah.  What can we do with the absence of Dr. Gerald?  We need your prayers for we are trying to respond to our great loss by worshiping like Job and praying like Elisha.

Rwandan Rookie, G

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org

“Spoken For”

Posted by Garry Friesen July 12th, 2014

Family & Friends,

Several Sundays ago, after church a group of us went out to the new Kigali Pizza Inn!  And it tasted like pizza.  I ordered the Hawaiian, closed my eyes and thought I just had left Papa Murphy Pizza in Portland.  The pastor’s family included two of his own Muzungu children, two adopted Rwandans, and two Rwandan foster children.  The final two, Moses & Gloria, are 3 and 4 years old and they enjoyed the pizza as much as me.  They looked healthy, happy and normal until . . . until I heard their story.

Their church started the “Spoken For” ministry to take in abandoned babies.  Rwanda is like the U.S.  Some overwhelmed moms somehow take their babies and drop them at a doorstep.  Gloria was found abandoned under a tree and taken in.  Moses was almost eaten by dogs.  Dogs are not pets in Kigali.  I knew this from 2010 when a pack of dogs would roam the city and wake me up about 3am each night with their howling.  Moses was about two days old and laying in a field.  A night watchman went out to investigate why a pack of dogs was barking.  In the middle of the wild dogs, he found a thin, weak, abandoned baby boy. The government contacted the church and asked, “Could you take one more?”  The church and the pastor took him in. Rwanda does not allow foreign adoption to avoid sex trafficking so these two are foster children.  But, Gloria and Moses are wonderfully, “Spoken For”.

Rwandan Rookie, G

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org

Dr Gerald, Servant-Leader

Posted by Garry Friesen July 5th, 2014

Family & Friends,

“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the LORD.”  Over and over these words have been heard by my wounded heart.  Our principal & academic dean at Africa College of Theology died suddenly a week ago of a massive heart attack.  Gerald Sseruwage was 45 years and bigger than life to everyone in Africa where he was simply “Dr Gerald”.  He went from believer kicked out of his home for his faith to street boy.  He was brilliant more than his PhD revealed.  He was the heart of our growing ACT college.  He became a father to many without fathers among our students and staff.  He knew how to do everything and could get it done in Africa.  He was the best academic supervisor that I have ever had.  I am needed at ACT, but he seemed indispensible.  I needed an African to remind me, “It is Christ’s church and college and He will build it.”

His memorial service in Kigali was six hours long and it was not enough time to talk about his faith and works of faith.  He was my mentor for all things African.  Five minutes with him gave me more cultural understanding than a month of living in Rwanda.  His great knowledge did not lead to pride, but was combined with a compassionate heart to serve others beautifully and effectively.  His greatest trait was humility.  He was the apex of “servant leadership” for me. In Paul’s words, “He poured himself out like a drink offering.”  He also loved humility in others.  The African staff was surprised when my first teaching assignment was as an assistant to one of my former Multnomah students.  Gerald later revealed, “I wanted to see if you were humble enough to serve under your former student.”  When I grow up I want to be just like Dr Gerald.

Rwandan Rookie, G

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Dr Gerald, Servant-Leader

Posted by Garry Friesen July 5th, 2014

 

Sent June 28, 2014 “Four Month Wall”

Family & Friends,

Before I left for Rwanda, I was warned about the four month “wall” that all African newbies face.  They meant the honeymoon of a new place will wear off and the difficulty of living in Rwanda faces you like a wall.  I marked the four month day on my calendar – Today.  Several readers pointed me to Psalm 18:29, “And by my God I can leap over a wall”.  I started praying that I would be ready to “scale” or “jump” over that wall.  My first two weeks were the most difficult, but each week you learn the “ropes” of a new place.  And ropes are good for getting over walls.  I’m not overconfident.  Maybe it will be a six or twelve month wall, but I am happy, content and productive right where I am.  I still give a short Kinyarwandan introduction when I speak.  It says that I’m here “until Jesus returns”.  I love my students, my co-workers and just about everything in Kigali, but driving.  My goal is to teach as long as Multnomah’s founder Dr. Mitchell – until he was 97 years.  Actually, I added a prayer for three extra years and so my goal is an even 100 years old.  I did not notice the four month wall, and so now it is 4 months down and, Lord willing, 33 years to go!

Rwanda Rookie, G

Gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org

Four Month “Wall”

Posted by Garry Friesen June 28th, 2014

Family & Friends,

Before I left for Rwanda, I was warned about the four month “wall” that all African newbies face.  They meant the honeymoon of a new place will wear off and the difficulty of living in Rwanda faces you like a wall.  I marked the four month day on my calendar – Today.  Several readers pointed me to Psalm 18:29, “And by my God I can leap over a wall”.  I started praying that I would be ready to “scale” or “jump” over that wall.  My first two weeks were the most difficult, but each week you learn the “ropes” of a new place.  And ropes are good for getting over walls.  I’m not overconfident.  Maybe it will be a six or twelve month wall, but I am happy, content and productive right where I am.  I still give a short Kinyarwandan introduction when I speak.  It says that I’m here “until Jesus returns”.  I love my students, my co-workers and just about everything in Kigali, but driving.  My goal is to teach as long as Multnomah’s founder Dr. Mitchell – until he was 97 years.  Actually, I added a prayer for three extra years and so my goal is an even 100 years old.  I did not notice the four month wall, and so now it is 4 months down and, Lord willing, 33 years to go!

Rwandan Rookie, G

gfriesen.ACT@africanewlife.org