Josiah and Norah are at a fun age for messy play. Crafts aren’t quite crafty, yet. Their “crafts” are more of an exploration of color and texture and the products are a little-kid kind of beautiful. As we prepare for another Christmas in Rwanda, we’ve had some special moments together – so far we’ve done some baking and decorating cookies, finger painting a “Christmas tree,” and lots of coloring and cutting. We’ve also shared some lovely mornings with friends. In a few of the pictures below Josiah, Norah and I are decorating cookies with Katie and her kids who are new, dear friends. We have another big batch of cookies to make this afternoon for some special guests coming to visit for a Christmas meal. I can only hope they turn out as lovely as the first batch!
Jay, a friend and the pastor of our sending church in Illinois, just left after a week long visit to Rwanda. We are so grateful for the time we had with him.
Jay has been coming to Rwanda for about 12 years now. He started coming in the early days of AMiA when the Rwandan Anglicans reached out to American churches in a time of need. He has continued to come, building and deepening relationship here, both personally, as well as through our sending church. Jay has been pressing in and he has been welcomed in, being made a canon (a person of leadership as well as counsel for the bishop) of the Shyira Diocese.
This trip, Canon Jay was invited to participate in a ordination retreat, a time of teaching and encouragement for those about to enter into full-time, ordained ministry. Jay presented on the topics of worship and clergy self-care, subjects near to his heart and interests, to the almost 50 men and women following God’s call to ministry. You can see his own reflection on the time here.
Jay also made a point to spend time with our family. To some this may sound intimidating: the sending church pastor come to check in on the far-flung missionaries. We have missionary friends here who would not enjoy the experience. On the other hand, we’ve known missionaries in Rwanda who never received a visit from their sending church. It really means so much to us to have Jay come visit. He encourages us, offers perspective on challenges, he gives pastoral counsel, and helps us feel connected to those he represents at “home”.
Jay has personally witnessed a lot of the development in Rwanda over the past years of visiting. We were able to check out two Kigali establishments, newly opened since his last visit. Jay and I had coffee at the big new Kigali Marriott in the city center. This will definitely be one of the premier places to stay in Rwanda. Then on his last day, Kari and I took him to the new Kigali Convention Center and Raddison Blu hotel complex. It was fun to explore some of the new sites in our city with Jay.
We felt really blessed to have this time with Jay. There was a lot of good conversation and catching up. Two things stand out for mention. First, I think Jay’s time teaching helped him see some of the challenges of cross-cultural Bible teaching and training. He may not feel it, but it means a lot to me that he can identify with my own work here by his experience.
Second, Jay spent time with our kids. Josiah and Norah know him as “Papa Jay” and obviously feel a sense of closeness to him. Having been a Third Culture Kid, Jay seems able to relate to them in a way that most of our friends and family at home won’t be able to. I think he takes that seriously, which means so much to us as parents. Jay wrote a little on the kids here.
Jay has recently celebrated his 10th Anniversary as the pastor at Church of the Redeemer and we have known him as our pastor for the last 8 years. We are thankful for his ministry to us and the time we had with him.
I’d like to share one more thanksgiving, though this blog topic could continue with endless thanksgivings and praises. In mid-October, I returned to work full-time at KICS (Kigali International Community School). Josiah and Norah transitioned to being in a morning Montessori preschool very well, and in time we all transitioned to the new schedule.
That is a thanksgiving in itself, but I want to share more. I guess you could say that I had joyously agreed to step back in at KICS as a pinch-hitter – filling in where there were gaps. This semester I worked to “investigate” the current primary curriculum. Basically, I spent my time asking teachers and administrators questions – lots of questions, observing classes, digging around in old documents, inventorying resources, researching what’s out there in the realm of standards, curriculum and resourcing and working with the Primary principal to state concerns and suggest “next steps”. It was challenging, invigorating and I hope helpful for the school in the long run. Pinch-hitting again next semester, I’ll be jumping into another role – to teach 4th grade while the teacher is on maternity leave. I’m looking forward to the time in the classroom again and working more directly with kids.
All that said, in the way of thanksgivings, I thank our loving God and father that I have this opportunity to be back at KICS. I thank God for this school, for the privilege to serve alongside others with a similar desire to know Christ and to make Him known within this community and ultimately the world. As I “investigated” the curriculum, I was encouraged to witness many instances of teachers sharing the grace, truth and love of Christ with kids. I even had the opportunity to hear the Junior class share what they learned this semester in Bible class, and was personally encouraged by their testimonies and the Truth that they articulated with deep conviction. I praise God that He is at work in each student’s life as they hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and “are rooted and built up in him” during their time at KICS.
Last week, I was also offered the opportunity to continue serving at KICS next year in the role of the Director of Teaching and Learning. Humbled by the opportunity and acknowledging that I have a lot to learn in order to fulfill this role well, I’m thankful that the Lord has given me an unshakable love and commitment to the people that make up this school community and that he has called me back to more fully participate in the work that He is doing at KICS. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, and I trust that He will be with me and will be my ever-present help.
Another praise we’d like to share is about a friend, Joy. Joy has been an important part of our lives over the last few years. When she returned home to Rwanda from school in India, Joy re-joined one of our church choirs – Prince of Peace. She has also been a part of the young ladies Bible study that meets in our home, and she was my Kinyarwanda language teacher for a season. Our lives are deeply connected, and she is a dear friend and sister to us, including to Josiah and Norah. On November 27th Joy had the opportunity to release her first gospel album. At the album launch Joy shared a few of the songs that she has written in over the last few years. On the whole, she testified to the grace and love of God in Christ. She truly shined that night as she proclaimed the Gospel through song. Thank God with us for our friend and His child, Joy, and the incredible gifts that He has given her as a musician. Pray that she would continue to use her gifts to share Christ’s love with this generation of youth in Rwanda. Also pray that as things return back to normal now that the big event is past, that she wouldn’t forget what God has done, that she would continually give thanks to Him and that she would never cease to unashamedly sing His praises!
Here are a few songs from her album. Enjoy!
It’s been months since we posted a blog. But, I just want to take the time to share a number of thanks and praises over the next few days, and to invite you to give thanks to the Lord with us.
First, a little over a week ago we welcomed a new nephew into the family, Emmaus Andrew Hanlon. We give thanks to God and rejoice with Dan’s brother, Tim, and his wife, Joanna, for this wonderful gift!! Tim and Joanna shared this message to give a little insight into how they chose Emmaus’ name:
Emmaus~ “When he [Jesus] was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him”
Andrew~ “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus.”
to be continued…