Max Olwa might be 9,000 miles from home, but he knows he’s in the right place at the right time.
Heidi Birch, a sophomore majoring in educational ministries, shares about her recent trip to Rwanda with a group of MU students.
The adventure of a lifetime
As I started my freshman year of college at Multnomah, I had no idea that by the end of the academic year I would be sharing God’s glory all around The Land of a Thousand Hills — that’s the nickname given to Rwanda, Africa, thanks to its beautiful, mountainous landscape.
This February, after Dr. Garry Friesen had retired from teaching at MU, he moved to Kigali, Rwanda, to teach at the African College of Theology (ACT), a newly formed Bible college. Dr. Friesen has a vision to build a bridge between the students of Multnomah University and the students of ACT, so he invited a team of six students from MU to visit Kigali in May this year.
When I first heard about this trip, I was extremely skeptical. I wasn’t sure if I could get the time off work or where God was guiding me in life. But I felt something tugging on my heart to at least interview for a spot on the team. Two short weeks later, I was signing papers and fundraising to go on the adventure of a lifetime.
And six months later, there I was, standing alongside five others students, breathing in the African air.
First our team visited the African College of Theology. We got to sit in on classes, meet fellow Bible majors, and pray and worship alongside ACT students.
Then for three days of our trip, we got to help out with the Dream Boys, a nonprofit program that helps feed and educate the street boys of Rwanda. Getting to spend time with these boys was one of the main highlights of our trip. We got to play games with them, teach them Bible lessons, act out skits, and teach them how to make bracelets.
Though we taught them a lot, I feel as though they taught us more. Not only did they teach us words in their language, Kinyarwanda, but they also taught us how to smile — even in tough situations. One of the boys, Providence, had lost a finger just two weeks prior, due to an infection from a cut. But he was always one of the first to greet us with a grin on his face and joy in his heart.
After spending time with the Dream Boys, we got to drive out to two schools located in Kageyo, a village close to the border of Rwanda and Tanzania. At the second school, we got to go on our first Hope Visit to see a little girl named Florence. A Hope Visit is where a child who is not yet sponsored gets visited by one of the teams.
From the moment I saw Florence, we became instant friends. Florence is one of four children who live with their widowed mother. When we arrived at her house, her mother looked at me holding her daughter’s hand. With tear filling her eyes, she embraced me tightly. I will never forget her face. It was a face of desperation, a face of hope, and a face filled with love.
When we first went to Florence’s home, she was unsponsored. But by the time we left, I knew that I had to sponsor her. Later the next day, I signed the papers, and she became my lifetime pen pal. I never realized what it meant to a child and their family to be sponsored till I sat in the house of one. A sponsorship can change a child’s life forever. It’s more than just a direct withdrawal and a letter now and then. It’s a uniform, an education, insurance, food, and a chance to thrive in a poor community.
I will never forget the love
This trip has changed my life forever. I will never forget the faces of those I met. I will never forget the love that radiated from their hearts. I will never forget the way that they trust their Savior — even in the most trying times of their lives. I am so grateful that Multnomah gave me the chance to experience a missional lifestyle outside of the U.S., and I’m excited for future opportunities to travel abroad to share the love of our Father with others.
Multnomah University will be hosting a screening of the latest documentary from Invisible Children, a non-profit organization that seeks to stop atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Central Africa.
“…I am convinced now more than ever before—there is no better way to be investing my life.” Dr. Pamela Reeve
I recently returned from international travel, and have seen God at work through the lives of our alumni. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom was born and raised in Africa (Zimbabwe and Zambia respectively). After returning to the United States for his final two years of high school, he attended Multnomah and the University of Washington. During those years, he met and married Bonnie who was born and reared in Spokane, Washington. She attended Seattle Pacific University and the University of Washington also. Following their marriage, they moved to Africa and served with the Africa Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) from 1970 to 1986. Read the rest of this entry »
For those of you who have been involved with or following the Kigali Kollection story here - we have an update for you.
Africa New Life is planning to send all the books in a container from Portland on March 31. We are now praying for a BIGGER and FASTER miracle. The goal of 15,000 books has still not been met!
Current book total: 13,592 (74 new books since last week!)
If any of you have books or know of anyone who does, then please get them to us by March 15th so they can make it on the container ship!
Greetings from Portland, Oregon!
After traveling 19 hours in flight, I arrived safely Monday afternoon. How wonderful to be back on American soil again and to take pleasure in the familiarity of being home: seeing familiar faces, enjoying warm receptions and sleeping in my own bed.
This past week was such a gift. I said goodbye to our team a week ago Sunday and had the privilege of staying an additional week in Jinja, where I enjoyed precious moments with my sister Danielle and her family (The Pierce's our team hosts).
While the week was restful it was certainly not without adventure. A few highlights include: An opportunity to experience dentistry in Uganda, when one of my back molars broke off, sitting for seven hours straight and having two African mama's braid my hair (I am now sporting a new African doo) and discovering the multi purposes for superglue, when my niece fell from a top bunk and busted her chin and we super glued it back together. True story! (a great remedy for those of you who, like myself, may fear needles...It works!)
Many thanks again to each of you for journeying with me these past six weeks. While it is hard to summarize my experience in just a few words, overall I would say: God is faithful and is at work doing amazing things through the lives of our alumni. Through each unique and significant cultural experience I was able to witness what He is able to do through lives surrendered to Him.
May He continue to be at work in and through each of our lives as we yield our hearts and hands to Him as vessels for His use.
Appreciative of your prayers and partnership,
Dear Partners of Prayer and Faith,
I pray this greeting finds you well and enjoying His best. Our time here in Jinja is quickly coming to a close. With such amazing experiences accompanying these past few weeks it's hard to believe it's been such a short time. The days have been so full that they have felt like weeks...So much to reflect upon, process through, apply and implement. Our lives have certainly been touched and marked in powerful ways.
This past Tuesday we returned to Kirinya (the women's prison) where we were given another opportunity to share personal testimonies and teach on servant-hood, as well as to demonstrate Christ's servant heart through a special foot washing and bless each woman with her very own pair of sandals. Words cannot communicate appropriately the experience in full and how rewarding it was to serve these women in this way. Forgotten and dismissed among the Ugandan society, many of these women are imprisoned on account of false accusation. Some will serve a 1-2 year term before even being offered a trial. What a blessing it was to bring a little joy and hope to such a dejected and despondent community. A memory that remains precious to us was the gift we were given as we departed. With tears streaming down faces (theirs as well as ours) and with their beautiful Ugandan voices they sang: Tembeyana Yesu Tembeyana...(Go with Jesus) "...Go with Jesus and we'll see you one day again in heaven." What a gift it was to be able to affirm these women in their worth and value as we shared with them Christ's love knowing that one day we would see them again in glory.
On Wednesday we had the privilege of sharing with the women serving on staff at Calvary Jinja. In anticipation of our trip this year, this event was again another one that we were excited about and looking forward to with hopes of continuing relationships with our African sisters that we had began in 2007. It was a real treat for us to be able to pour back into the ministry God is doing through their lives as we enjoyed a Ugandan meal together, encouraged them on the importance of abiding, and the challenge of ongoing dependence (a key principle being: God is more interested in what He is doing in our hearts, than what He can do through us)-a wonderful reminder, even for our team.
Today we will have an opportunity to be back at Amani baby cottage and New Hope orphanage and then Sunday we will worship one last time with the community at Calvary Jinja before the team heads home.
As we shared together (as a team) yesterday afternoon, the things the Lord had been speaking to our hearts, I was encouraged to hear all that God had been at work doing. Our prayer has been that this trip would be more than just a 2 week missions experience but that God would use it to bring about real change...not only in the hearts of those we minister to, but in our hearts as well; and that He has done. We've gained new perspective and a greater desire to live intentionally-lives that care deeply for others-a reality that has been modeled for us through our interactions with the African people.
Apart from ministry, some of the other highlights that were shared around the breakfast table this morning include: Enduring the 82° F humidity sleeping conditions, becoming well acquainted with our bathroom friend (a cockroach we've named Ralph), cold showers that can seem as effective as hot, when seeing red African dirt fill the tub (a good investment of soap and water). Ironing line dried underclothes (to avoid the eggs of mango flies embedding under our skin), enjoying African chai and chapatis (an African tortilla), and the amazing home cooked meals from our team hostess, Danielle (many from which the produce has been harvested right out of their backyard). It has been an exciting and enriching adventure!
Thanks again to the many of you who have supported us and covered us in prayer as we've continued in this journey. We are looking forward to being home with you soon and sharing personally all that God has done.
With deepest appreciation for your ongoing love and partnership,
Michelle (for the team)
Praise God for the gift of His amazing grace and the beauty of answered prayer!
These past few days have been filled with incredible opportunities for seeing God's grace at work. Yesterday we had the privilege of spending our morning with a group of AIDS orphans. Through our teaching time, singing songs, playing games and providing material gifts we were able to share God's great and eternal love. What a testimony it was for us to be able to experience such thankful hearts through these orphans. As we distributed clothes, underwear, shoes, toothbrushes and toothpaste (many thanks again to those of you who helped contribute to the support of this outreach), we were able to share with these children that our reason for coming was because of a desire to be an extension of God's love and grace. Words cannot express the beautiful sight it was to see them coming out of the orphanage dressed in their new slacks, dresses and shoes as they displayed radiant smiles of deepest appreciation. When asked how many of them had given thanks to God for the things He had provided (a place to live, food to eat each day, mama's in the orphanage who love and take care of them, etc) it was such a testimony to us to see all of their little hands go up-- the practical things of life we so often take for granted were recognized as daily gifts from their Heavenly Father.
Yesterday afternoon we were able to visit Amani. Amani is a baby cottage that has been providing care for orphaned and abandoned children since its founding in 2003. Many of the children there are without parents due to AIDS, birth complications or other factors. Some are abandoned in the hospital after birth. Others are found abandoned at taxi stops, in latrines, or on the street. Amani's goal is that each of these orphans would find a place within a loving Christian family. After spending time holding and loving on these little ones it was hard to believe that anyone could give up these beautiful children and it was hard for us to have to give them back.
Following our Sunday worship service this morning we were able to visit the women in Kirinya prison. This had been a highlight from our 2007 visit so it was with great anticipation that we were looking forward to this day, but what God had in mind for us was far beyond what we could have ever imagined. We had come hoping to plant a few seeds of God's love but today we were able to enjoy in the reaping of a great harvest. As we shared testimonies highlighting our need for personal relationship with Christ and the ability to find eternal joy in the midst of suffering, three women responded to the gospel invitation and accepted Christ as their personal Savior. "Mukama yabaziwe" Praise His name! What an incredible delight it was to be able to participate in harvesting such fruit from the investment that had been sown through the Pierce's ministry.
As we found a common bridge through dancing, ululating and worshipping; barriers were brought down and a unity of Christ's love was established. As the women worshipped and shared with us their traditional dances and songs we were blessed. In return we shared with them our traditional American dance ..."the hokey pokey." I can't say that it was as impressive but a commonality of sisterhood was certainly established.
Tomorrow we will enjoy a day of rest and Tuesday we will be returning to the prison to share on servanthood and have an opportunity to bless these women as we demonstrate Christ's servant-hood through a foot washing service.
Please continue to pray for us and for the ministry God has ahead. Pray also for these three who have made a decision to follow Christ as they follow Him to fuller maturity.
Rejoicing in His faithfulness and the beauty of answered prayer,
Michelle (for the team)
Greetings to you from Jinja, Uganda
I trust this greeting finds you well and enjoying the richest of our Savior's blessings. The past two days of ministry here in Jinja have been absolutely amazing. Our time together at Iguluwibi and Loco village was incredible! Some of the highlights include: sharing in an authentic village cooked meal, having the privilege of praying for an African mama and a child suffering from malaria and intestinal illness, hearing the sounds of joyful hearts expressed through children's laughter, connecting with our mentors and finding similarities among our differences, and getting to hold babies and have them fall asleep in our arms.
As different team members shared about the greatness of God's love, the importance of maturing in our faith and the beauty of God's faithfulness and the power of His forgiveness and grace at Iguluwibi, the presence of the Lord was powerful. In debriefing at the end of the day many shared how they felt as if they had already experienced a full week of culture and ministry in that one day experience.
During our time together at Loco village this afternoon we were able to share again with the children the greatness of God's love there and the importance of finding security and happiness in God alone by setting our hearts on eternal things with the women. God showed up and it was a beautiful thing. Several of the children in this village attend the primary school at the Pierce's home so it was a real treat for us to be able to share this time of fellowship and worship with them in their home village.
Some of the challenges we've faced have been: heat rashes, blisters, spider bites, sleep deprivation, adjusting to different levels of sanitary conditions in the villages and cold showers (though I must admit they have felt pretty refreshing at the end of a hot day in the African sun).
We are excited and looking forward to spending time at Amani baby cottage tomorrow as well as meeting the children at New Hope orphanage and blessing them with the clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, tooth paste and underclothes that we were able to provide for them through the help from many of you. Thanks again for your love, prayer and support in walking with us through this journey.
Your prayers are making a difference throughout the moments of our days and so evident in the ministry God is doing here. Thank you! We couldn't be here without you.
Praying His richest blessings upon you today,
Michelle for the team