Monday, October 31, 2011

Our food

Urukundo has gardens that produce greens, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, peas, greens beans, tomatoes, squash and more. They have 8 avocado trees. Sarah and Rebeka gather the fallen avocados.

There are also banana trees, 18 for cooking bananas and 11 for eating them fresh. The green bananas are cooked and are sweet because of special ingredients. A huge stalk of bananas can weigh up to 40 pounds. If you need to get any from the market they use old scales to weigh them.

Mama is standing by by the newly planted pineapple tops. They will produce one pineapple per top in 1 1/2 to 2 years.

We all pitch in especially if you want a special lunch. I fixed potato salad and greens for Mama Arlene, Jan and I and it was a nice change. Nothing like going to the garden and picking your meal year round! What a bounty they have. If you could only see how every spot is planted with food. And in Rwanda having gardens are a necessity for survival. Praises for all we are so blessed with.

Eating Rwanda Style

Many of you have been asking about the food I am eating here in Rwanda. Let me tell you it is so healthy. The kids all pitch in to peel the many potatoes. Cassava is also cooked like a boiled potato or as a sticky dough which is bland. I usually pass on it.

We have maize bread which is not really bread but like dough with a corn flavor. I like it. Then there are white sweet potatoes and what they call Irish potatoes that are mashed. And believe it or not we have spaghetti noodles. Two of those listed above are served at lunch and dinner.

It is then topped with a bean stew with lots of veggies from their gardens, squash, onions, cabbage, tomatoes and greens. A special treat are avocados, cooked bananas, pineapple and cabbage salad.

No complaints at all. Tomorrow is another treat, chicken soup with rice. The chicken will be quite fresh as they are raised at Urukundo.

The kitchen is very primitive. Can you imagine cooking for 44 kids, visitors as well as the staff over a fire? Monic (Monique) is the head cook and she is amazing. Bedde makes sure the beans are just beans. Then they cook for several hours. The finished product is so delicious.

After it's ready the little ones begin their dinner with a prayer many times eating outside. The rest of us eat together after amazing singing of grace. We do have much to be thankful for.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Community Worship

After our service at Urukundo we had been asked to join Pastor Joseph's worship at the local United Methodist Church. They began at 9:00am. We arrived at 11:15 and were warmly welcomed. The service continued with prayer, singing, preaching, Arlene and I speaking and finished at 1:15. There were almost 100 in a small rented space with wooden benches. Standing to sing and for prayer must be a welcome relief during a 4 hour service.

They said they are blessed just to have a place of worship and to be able to help those less fortunate, especially widows and women with HIV aids. Today there was a collection for the church, those in need and a special request to help pay a woman's rent.

With so little they do so much. Pastor Joseph is in the foreground and assisting the service is Pastor Antoine who I had met previously. I'm sure the singing and praising could be heard pouring out the open doors into the community. That gives new meaning to the United Methodist's saying, "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors".

Worship IPeter 4:8-11

Today I was one of the speakers for our worship and spoke about each of our gifts that we are blessed with. Liliane, one of the girls, was my translator. Then I read a prayer written by Desmond Tutu and his daughter. He asks that we turn to the stillness and listen to God speak.

I made you for myself,
I wanted you.
I made you like myself,
I made you good and I made you free.

Listen! For I have carved in you the heart to hear.
Listen and know that I am near.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.

Before you speak the word of worry or worship I hear you.
Before you sing your delight or moan your anguish I speak.
I am here.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.

With each breath I choose life for you.
I paint the pattern of joy in your heart and leave it there for you to find.
I build the frame of your flourishing in the center of your being and call you to search it out.
I kindled the spark of goodness in you.
With each breath I fan the flame.
I am here.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.

With each breath you choose my child, you are free.
Will you breathe with me the breath of life?
Will you claim the joy I have prepared for you?
Will you seek me out and find me here?
Will you whisper the prayer?
Will you breathe in my breath?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Umuganda...Social Action

On the last Saturday of every month, Rwanda has a mandatory work fest from 6:00am to 11:00am where everything in the country stops.

During Umuganda every able bodied person is expected to participate in this unpaid community service. Businesses are closed and no public transportation operated during this time.

Projects might include digging ditches, sweeping the streets, building houses, clearing land or any other activity that is helping to improve their country.

Here at Urukundo our day started for everyone at 6:30am to participate in Umuganda. Yes I was up too. The choices were to use a machete to cut the grass (too dangerous and a real talent), sweep with small brushes (not good for my back), pick up trash (that's for little ones), muck the stalls (not before my coffee), prune banana trees (again too dangerous) or garden. Now that's just right! So I headed off to the gardens with 3 girls and 6 boys for an hour or so.

At 9:30am, camera in hand, I walked into the middle of the deserted street which on other days would have been bustling with activity. Not even the market would be open until 11am.

Did you know you can't bring plastic bags into Rwanda? They are banned. Umuganda is part of making Rwanda one of the cleanest countries in Africa. Anyone who know about Rwanda will tell you it's a beautiful country and it is!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cyakabiri Preschool

Cyakabiri Preschool finsihed it's second term today. What an accomplishment for the three teachers. Most of the kids attended with a parent, grandparent, sibling or guardian.

Teachers explained what the classroom activities were throughout this term and had children do demonstrations. Artwork and journals were shared. Even the newly purchased box turtle came out to greet everyone.

The children sang the national anthem and other songs, clapping happily. Parents were encouraged to ask questions and shared their pleasure in the fact their children were in a school unlike others in Rwanda. In fact one father thought their child was being taught in a more challenging and creative way than their older child was in primary school.

The most important question was, "When will Urukundo have a primary school for older kids." This is Arlene's dream, to continue to expand the educational opportunities for this community. She will begin by adding an additional room to the preschool. This will allow 40 more kids to enroll with a total of 80 going to school here.

Her dream is happening!

Colors of Rwanda

The colors are so powerful in Rwanda. I love all the clothing of the women in traditional dress which is usually worn by the older women in rural areas. Most were seen at the market in the nearby community.

I was fortunate to go food shopping with Monic (Monique), our cook, at the outdoor market and that's where I found these and other amazing photos. Some ask for money which it is recommended we don't do. I always ask to take their photos and most times they will let me. Afterwards they are thrilled to see their photo. I was surprised when I was at the potato and banana vendor and saw a woman with a Wegman's t-shirt. The US is everywhere on t-shirts. The peppers at the market were the tiniest things about 2 inches long and are supposed to pack a powerful flavor.

One day I went to see three of the King's Palaces. One was a reproduction of the king's hut, the second is where the photo was taken. This home was lived in until the 1950's. It is now for tourists to visit.

This country has so much for the eye to see. Sometimes it's hard to take it all in. But there are moments of beauty in the midst of such poverty. You just need to be open to what is placed before you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More Goat Photos

The first two photos are of the female goat the Sunday school class at St. Paul's bought. She is a tiny goat that loves to munch the fresh grass and hang out with the other goats.

The next two pictures are of the male goat the Sunday school class bought too. He's the largest of the goats. You can't get too close as he has horns and may butt you. He's waiting for his name.

The last photo is a real dynamo of a goat. She usually ends up front and center in all the group photos. The first time they were all let out to graze she was the only one to escape through the barbed wire fence. The farmer had to chase after her but got her back on the right side of the fence.

The little kids love to go to their shed or wander around among them when they are grazing. These goats are all so healthy and a wonderful addition to the Urukundo Home.

Suitcases of Donations

What fun it has been to share all the donated items I brought with me. The girls and boys loved all the soccer and basketballs. Right away they pumped them up with the one pump they had. Once the basketballs were pumped they were dribbling and spinning them on the tips of their fingers. And their maneuvers with the soccer balls were amazing.

The big kids and the little kids have been playing basketball and soccer whenever they can. If you could see the surface of the basketball court you would wonder how they can even bounce the ball and have it go where they want it to. but they make do.

Two families gave me funds to take some puppets to the preschool and they were such a hit. They are named John and Sala (Sarah). I said the puppets were thrilled to be out of my suitcase so they could meet all of them. What fun it was. If you could only have seen their faces.

I also fit in as many shoes as I could from the Barefoot Sunday collection at my church. Many friends also gave me shoes. I took 14 pairs of large sneakers that went to the guards and farmers. They are taking excellent care of them. I also brought flip flops, sandals and shoes for the little ones. Oh how I wished I had another 2 or 3 more suitcases full of shoes to give out. We'll get them there eventually.

It's always nice to be the person bringing everything, but they know many people have all been a part of my coming to Rwanda. Thank you all for traveling with me in spirit.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

God's Little Ones

Each of these children have stories we will never know of all they have experienced in their short lives. But the Urukundo Home is a family with many Mama's watching out for them and loving them.

The kids love to play outdoors and always take care of each other. And when it comes to crafts and cutting it sometimes takes all their concentration to get it right. These are new scissors that were donated and were so needed.

The newest addition to Urukundo, Kevine, was just 2 weeks old when she arrived a few days before I got there. She was found in a ditch nearby and taken to the authorities. They knew just the place for her, Urukundo. She is so loved by everyone and has many arms to snuggle her close.

Sosa was the youngest and is the sweetest roly poly kid. A real dynamo that holds his own in the midst of all the toddlers. Jan had someone donate several baby dolls and they are carried everywhere. The little ones know just what the dolls need, a sweet kiss.

Women of Faith, Hope and Love

Today is Wednesday and I would have been meeting with my women's bible study at church. I missed meeting with you last week and today but I am praying along with you all. We are praying together across the globe.

Thank you for your support for two goats, tissue paper and ribbon to wrap bibles for the children's and employee Christmas presents and for the moving and inspirational prayer send-off. See you in a few weeks. Love, Carol

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pastor Joseph's Home - Many have helped but more is needed!

Last year St. Paul's United Methodist Church learned that Pastor Joseph's home was in danger of being torn down because the house had no windows, doors and needed a cement covering over the mud bricks.

The church stepped up and funds were sent to provide those things needed, doors and windows. He only had enough to cover a portion of the front of his house with the cement but had the living room walls covered. He is most excited that he and his neighbor went in together to add electricity. Notice the light hanging in the center of his living room ceiling. That's it for light in the living room. Now his 7 children (2 are orphans he adopted) can study at night. Two other children are at university.

The pictures speak for themselves. It's almost like living in a cave with mud brick walls and a dirt floor. But they were so welcoming to us when showing their home. I had a smile on my face but I wanted to cry. This is a pastor's home.

I'll be speaking with him further about his most immediate needs. Please pray as he is praying for others and putting their needs first. He is surely a child of God that is blessed for all he is doing for the people of Rwanda that he touches every day.