Friday, October 29, 2010

Gikongoro, Rwanda

Aaron and Isaie mapping out our trip to visit
Guardians of Hope Projects in rural Rwanda

Guardians of Hope
Matekaya AEBR Church, Gikongoro, Rwanda

Amasezerano Y'Imana
"The Promises of God" sung in Kinyarwanda

"The Promises of God
When you receive them
Just pray and wait
It WILL BE completed!

Wait it will happen

To listen to the women singing in Kinyarwandan
please follow the link to our audio podcast site at

Erica receiving a basket of grain seed
from Therese Kampundu, a Guardian of Hope

Walking the steep roads of Matekaya, in Gikongoro,
to visit the homes of several Guardians of Hope

The Original Rwandan Scooter!

One of our delights during this visit was to see small children riding home made scooters down the steep mountain roads that criss cross this region. Kids will be kids!

Therese and her husband, Frodonard, have four children as well as five AIDS orphans whom they are caring for in their small home. Therese has been living positively with HIV since 2006 when she joined the Guardians of Hope. "I was scared and without hope," she shared with us. "My heart was so sad. I was really poor and now I had the problem of sickness without drugs. With the help of the Church, I started treatment with others in the church. They accepted me! I started the hope for living!!"

The Guardians of Hope in Gikongoro has 5 cooperatives working together in 12 churches with over 400 Guardians. Together they are strengthening their communities through literacy projects, livestock, agro-forestry, home-based care, school scholarships and savings & loan programs.

Therese's family benefitted from a small loan to buy sheep and pigs. Through the loan program, she was able to repay the loans for her livestock and raised enough money to purchase materials to build a home with her husband. With the home loan now repaid, she has taken loans to purchase two cows. With healthy livestock and rain for their gardens, they are feeding their family and blessing orphans within their community.

Maize continues to be a food stable for much of Africa

Through the small loans used for livestock,
families like Therese's are building a better life!

Isaie, Manuel, and Aaron
stopping for a tea break at a road side cafe

Please be praying for our Rwandan partners as they encourage their churches and support the various programs and projects throughout the country. The roads they travel are not easy, nor are the challenges they face. Their sacrifice and dedication to caring for their neighbours is a testimony to the power of God's Spirit!

Erica and Kathleen Soucey, Kigali, Rwanda

We want to share a huge thanks to Bruno, Kathleen, Ben, and the entire AEBR development team for the support and wonderful hospitality that you have shown us this past week. As we move together into 2011, we are very excited about our shared plans and commitment to serving the Lord and His Church through outreach to people living with HIV and AIDS, caregivers, orphans, and vulnerable children.

We would encourage you to be praying for the Soucey family and the ministry of CBM in Rwanda. To learn more about the ministry in Rwanda or to contribute to the support of the Souceys, please check out the Canadian Baptist Ministries website at

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Land of a Thousand Hills

Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills. As we travel this week through the seemingly endless vistas of steep mountains covered in terraced farms and sparse forest, we have been blessed by the songs of the Guardians of Hope and their testimony to God's grace.

As Canadian Baptists, we have been serving in Rwanda over the past five years working in partnership with L'Association des Eglises Baptistes au Rwanda (AEBR). This Association of Baptist Churches began in 1966 and today consists of 30,000 members worshipping in 183 local churches and approximately 300 chapels throughout this small country in central Africa.

Our friends and Canadian Baptist Ministries colleagues Kathleen and Bruno Soucey with Farming God's Way instructors Carl Shmidt and Willhelm Els from South Africa.

We have had the joy of staying with our CBM team mates, Bruno and Kathleen Soucey, and their son Ben. From their home in Kigali, Rwanda's central capital, we have made day trips into both the Eastern and Southern provinces bordering Tanzania and Burundi.

The Soucey's joined CBM at the same time as our family, and it has been such a gift to finally be able to visit them in their home and see first hand the great work they have been doing through integral mission with the AEBR. One of our highlights, has been getting to know pastor Gato and the AEBR development team who work with the Souceys in strengthening the work of the church in reaching out to the physical and spiritual needs of the poor.

This week, Bruno and the team are hosting Carl and Willhelm from Farming God's Way in helping improve agricultural practices in Rwanda's Eastern Province. Canadian Food Grains Bank has recognized the spiritual and practical impact of this ministry as it has been an effective ministry throughout Africa. We look forward in seeing the difference this makes within the communities benefitting from the training.
Kigali, Rwanda

One of the visits we made earlier in the week was to a homeless family living in Kigali Rural. Much of Rwanda lives in poverty, surviving on less than a dollar a day, but even among the poor you find people struggling at the margins. Often it is here that we encounter single mothers and widows living with HIV and AIDS. Anne Marie Kankera, was abandoned by her husband after discovering that she was HIV positive. Frightened for her own life and for the future of her seven children, bad turned to worse when their small house collapsed, leaving the family without anywhere to live.

Anne Marie had become a member of the Guardians of Hope in her AEBR church, she was encouraged by the prayers and concern for her family. The small congregation is made up of people like Ann Marie struggling to improve their lives and looking to Christ for Hope. They meet in an dusty stone building on the outskirts of Kigali. It so happened that the congregation had been constructing a small barn for pigs and goats. When they learned of Anne Marie's need, knew there was a more important use for this small stable, and so they converted the small adobe barn (only 6 feet by 12 feet), into a two room house for the family.

Life is not easy for Anne Marie, or her children, but she gives thanks to God and to the Church for the compassion and grace they have shown her family.

Anne Marie and six of her seven children
(if you look close, you can see the babies feet peeking out behind the eldest sister's back).

Please pray for both Anne Marie and young daughter who have AIDS. Through the Guardians of Hope both mother and daughter are receiving medical treatment and support, and the family is benefitting from a kitchen garden and rabbits which they raise for meat. Their family has been growing beans all around their home. Through odd jobs, Anne Marie is working hard to feed and keep her children healthy. Through the Children's of Hope program the kids are receiving school fees and basic help.

If you would like to hear more of her story, we have an interview with Anne Marie that we will be posting on our podcast site early next week.

What's Around the Corner?
Travelling along narrow mountain tracks in the back of a truck with the always jovial Isaie Gakwerere, the Guardians of Hope program officer for AEBR Rwanda. Isaie brought us to visit Guardians living in Gikongoro in Rwanda's Southern Province.

Once we return to Kenya next week, we'll be posting more stories and podcasts of the work of the Children of Hope and Guardians of Hope in Rwanda. Thank you for keeping our family and these ministries in your prayers!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Iftin Champs!

Aaron & Erica with Nelius, Farhiya
and the students of Iftin's class two

Last Friday was sports day at the Eastleigh Community Centre and the Iftin students were thrilled to have won a Volleyball Trophy against the faculty of the primary school. Today the students in class two shared with us and our friend Naoma. We are thankful for the commitment of Nelius and Farhiya as they walk with the students day by day in the literacy project.

Mathare Community Garden

Gardening in the Urban Jungle
Solidarites International staff worker Akoi and community beneficiary Josephat with a vertical garden of kales. We are thankful for the help of both Akoi and Josephat who have assisted the Iftin women in establishing vertical sack gardens in Eastleigh. Over the past three years, the Mathare Community Garden project has helped over 8000 vulnerable households build and harvest their own vegetables and raise their own poultry. Families are trained on the construction, care and maintenance of the gardens and are provided the materials to make 3 to 6 vertical gardens of their own.

Sukuma Seedbeds and vertical sack gardens

As we continue to work together with the Iftin members on strengthening the women's empowerment program, we are learning from our friends in Mathare Valley on how to best provide food security for the urban poor.

Tomato vines in the Mathare Community Greenhouse

Naoma and one of Hawa's daughters
today at Noor Creations

Noor Creations

This week, we posted a video podcast for our colleague Lois Mitchell and her students at Saint Stephen University. In this 17 minute video, we talk about the importance of women's empowerment within Integral Mission.

To download our latest video podcast, please click on the link below for our public dropbox site:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Week's End

Patrick, Pauline and Erica walking on the grounds of the African Christian Church & School headquarters this past Friday.

As this past week drew to an end, we had the great pleasure of travelling back to Thika with our CBM Africa team leader, Colin Godwin, and our development colleague, Pauline, for Guardians of Hope management meetings with the ACC&S.

Colin, Pauline, Joseph Kariuki, Pastor John Mbau Mburu
and Mary Njihia of the Embu GOH with Erica

As part of the management meetings, we are benefiting from time with the mangers from each of the nine ACC&S regions, who are overseeing the ministry of the Guardians of Hope in their communities. They are helping us gain a much fuller picture of GOH as we walk together in planning the direction for this coming year.

We have been so impressed with how the ACC&S churches are doing so much with the minimal resources available to them and for the great impact they are having for the Kingdom of God among the sick and orphaned within their communities.

Please continue to pray for groups like the Embu Guardians of Hope as they seek to empower people living with HIV and AIDS within their community.

Discussing the ministry of Guardians of Hope over beans and rice at the African Christian Church & Schools' headquarters in Thika, Kenya

Amy, Ava and Sammy

After a busy week, it was great to enjoy a leisurely Saturday with friends.
Ava was ready for a swim!

Madeline and Emma enjoying the local swimming pool
on a hot Saturday afternoon

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tristan's Sixth Grade CFS

Rosslyn Academy Cultural Field Studies
Sixth Grade Trip to Central Province, Kenya

Last week, Tristan went on a three day trip with his sixth grade class into Kenya's Central Highlands where the students learned about the Kikuyu Tribe and visited villages, schools and parks. Some of Tristan's highlights were seeing chimpanzees, having an elephant walk into their camp and just hanging out with his friends.

Tristan with his teacher, Miss Dunning, and some of his classmates hiking at the base of Mount Kenya

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner

from the five Kennys
Kerry, Mel and Erica

We had the great pleasure this year of hosting the ladies from Erica's Wednesday night Bible Study over for our Canadian Thanksgiving Celebration. We had a great time gathering in our backyard and enjoying laughter and great food.

Awesome Things!
One of our traditions at Thanksgiving is for everyone at the table to share something they are thankful for. This year, we were inspired by Neil Pasricha's blog "1000 Awesome Things" at

After grace, we shared a list of some of our favourite "awesome things" -- just every day little things that are just so good that you have to be thankful for them. Then we invited everyone around the table to share the little joys that are so good that they are "awesome!" (We'd love to hear what might make your list of awesome things!)

Here are a few we shared around the table:

Taking off your shoes after being on your feet all day -- Awesome! Turning over onto the cool side of your pillow in the middle of the night. Sharing both Canadian and America Thanksgiving...

Eating under our umbrella tree!

... the air just before a thunderstorm. Getting into the fast check out at the grocery store. Finding forgotten money in an old jacket. Getting personal mail. Catching food in your mouth...

Happy Thanksgiving!

... when you cook something new and everyone likes it! Baby toes. Seeing your reflection in a store window and liking what you see. Looking up while underwater. Swimming in warm water and diving down into the deeper cooler water. Staying up so late that everything seems funny. Remembering that name that was on the tip of everyone else's tongue. Horrible fake accents made by close friends...

Carol and Wendy

... when a character in a movie visits a place you know. Seeing a dog that looks just like your dog. When someone else posts a great picture of you on Facebook. When that awful obligation gets cancelled! Sneaking cheap candy into the movie theatre. When guests do the dishes even after you told them not to. Fitting into those old jeans you forgot about at the back of your closet. When the person your meeting is later than you are. When a baby falls asleep on you. Dancing when you are home alone. Finally peeing after holding it forever. Laughing so hard you start to cry...

Erica, Kami, and Tiffany

... laughing so hard you make no sound at all! The smell of a freshly mowed lawn. A great sneeze! Screaming at characters in movies to do things. Remembering that it is a long weekend -- Awesome!

Our girls cutting into the pumpkin pie!

Listening to our four year old giggling -- Awesome!

As we visited together, we were talking to one of our friends who lost her grandmother last year just after Thanksgiving. Her mom shared how that Thanksgiving with everyone around the table was both deeply sad and joyful, as they knew it would be the last Thanksgiving with Grammy, but not the last great banquet they would share together -- the hope of heaven's banquet table was a deep and abiding reality for their family.

As we shared together, a painting by Nova Scotia artist Rick Berry came to mind. In Rick's painting "Come", he captures the great banquet feast where God's people of every tongue and tribe gather together. Thanksgiving is only a tiny glimpse of the great celebration we will one day experience! May the grace and peace of God meet you where ever you are today, and may you be reminded of all that is truly awesome!

"Come" By Canadian artist Rick Berry
Check out Rick's incredible work at his website

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are happy to have a chance to enjoy the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend with good friends and our beautiful children at our home here in Nairobi. For all of our friends and family back in Canada, we wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving! May the Lord make us all grateful for the little blessings and joys of life.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Aaron, Erica, Tristan, Emma and Ava

A Thanksgiving Prayer

By Glenda Adams

Dear Heavenly Father,
Please make us an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
As we pray together today, let us remember that things don't happen over night.

Let us not forget the struggles we all are going thru
in this movement for economic injustice.
Even if frustration may set in;
Let us not grow weary while doing good,
for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rosslyn Football Finals!

Football Championship Game

On Thursday afternoon, the Rosslyn Elementary School's intramural football club finished its season with a final championship match between Coach Christa Gitonga's Blues and Coach Paul Carline's Reds. It was a nail biter with the both teams coming into the finals with a strong season record.

Emma with her game-face on!

Emma has been having a lot of fun in the Monday after school football club, along with swim team, the fall drama and Girl Guides, she is usually at school everyday until 5:30 pm. With the close of the football club, we're looking forward to at least having Monday as a "short day".

We are so thankful for the Rosslyn Community and for the friendships, support, and structure it provides our children. Each day as we drop our kids off and head out to join our ministry partners it is such a gift knowing that our children spend their day in a safe and loving environment.

Red Surges Ahead!
As parents, teachers and the elementary student body cheered on both sides, in the end Red pushed ahead with a final goal winning the championship (with I believe an undefeated record). Emma and her blue team mates lined up and congratulated their friends on the Red squad with high fives and hand shakes. Way to go Red!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guardians of Hope Leadership Gathering

GOH 2010 Leadership Gathering
Nairobi, Kenya

This week, Erica and I had the joy of facilitating our first GOH leadership gathering at Heart Lodge, near our home on the outskirts of Nairobi. This has been an incredibly helpful time as we build trust and understanding, and gain a much broader picture of how Guardians of Hope is functioning within each of the partnerships and regions where we are serving communities affected by HIV and AIDS.

The meetings began on Monday morning with an opening challenge on empowerment by Colin Godwin, Canadian Baptist Ministries Africa team leader: At the centre of all Christian service, we are to give power away and to rely on God's spirit to remain our true source of power. In essence, this is what we should be doing as we seek to serve others as the Church. The danger lies in the fact that many of our well meaning efforts can have the very opposite affect -- unintentionally the church can create dependency and, at our worst, exploit the very people we are trying to help.

Times like this of stepping back and examining the work we are a part of, can help us gain perspective on the ministry in which we labour.

Scott Lewis and Colin Godwin
We have been blessed to have several of our Canadian Baptist Ministries colleagues speak into the Guardians of Hope and bring their own perspective and strengths. It was an answer to prayer that we were able to coincide these GOH leadership meetings with Scott Lewis' first trip to Kenya as a Sharing Way program officer for Africa. Scott's good humour, humility, expertise, and first hand experience in community development in Southeast Asia, has made his time with us both encouraging and insightful.

Ruth Munyao sharing during the Monday sessions
We were also glad to have Ruth Munyao, The Sharing Way's Africa coordinator, join us for part of the meetings as we looked at our expectations around leadership roles and our various systems of management within each of the partner organizations.

Our Africa leadership team members

Elizabeth, Isaie, James, Henry, Patrick, Laura and Triza
(Sadly, we were not able to include Eduardo from Angola in this round of meetings)

GOH leaders meeting with Iftin community facilitators and members of the Ililili Self Help Group, Eastleigh

On Tuesday morning, we took a short break from our meetings to travel into the Eastleigh Community Centre to visit with participants in the Iftin Women's Self Help project. We had the pleasure of spending time with Somali and Oromo women who have formed a group of 18 members and have been working together to improve their lives over the past year. They call themselves "ililili" which in their mother tongue means "flower" . It was a great opportunity for the GOH leaders to see another perspective on the challenges of empowering people within marginalized communities.

Elizabeth sharing her thanks to the women of Iftin

On Tuesday afternoon, we were also blessed to have Tim and Diane Bannister join us for discussions on how we can better integrate short term volunteers into the Guardians of Hope program. Given the wide geography (and often remote locations) and nature of the varies GOH projects, the leaders have faced many challenges in connecting volunteers to groups beyond brief exposure visits. It was very exciting to work together with the Bannisters as we begin to explore new possibilities with having visitors strategically coming alongside of groups and communities. We are not there yet, but already we are beginning to look at new possibilities.