Bubanza Prison – 10/12/12

We left Bujumbura at 9:30, after eating breakfast with Willy.

We have had a lot of struggle with transportation. We weren’t planning to spend 4 days in Burundi so Willy hadn’t planned for us. He found cars each day but we feel we are paying too much for them. There is also a fuel shortage so he is sitting at the fueling station at 6:00am each day and then he arrives at our hotel when he’s done. This morning was 8:00, yesterday was 8:30.
We arrived at the prison about 11:00am. We don’t believe Willy had been there before. He had to ask directions when we got to the town.

The female second officer (officer’s assistant) said we were the first white men (Muzungu) to come to their prison. We were allowed to take photos before, during and after the service. There were about 100 inmates at the service. The “room” was about 25′ x 35′ and was actually a covered courtyard on the opposite side of the entry gate from the main prison courtyard. There were a couple cell on this side of the prison along with the outdoor kitchen. I believe the cells may may have been the women’s cells.

It was difficult to count how many came forward and it was very crowded at the front of the room. We also couldn’t really tell who had come forward to kneel down and who was still seated. It seemed to be about 50. Willy said there are 600-800 inmates at that prison. I have a photo of the population board on my camera.

One inmate named Love asked my name and what it meant. I told him I am named after the Prophet Nathan. He said if his child is born again he will name him Nathan. I don’t know if the interpretation is correct ( I don’t know if he meant he will name him after me if he is born again or if he meant when he is born) but I was humbled. I had Don take my photo with him.

We threw candy to the children on the way back. We also took a lot of video of the kids that swarmed our car while we got gas.
At one of the road blocks (security checks) the officer, when told who we were and what we were doing, asked us to come preach at the Police camp. We said we would go now but he asked us to come Sunday or Monday, neither of which worked for us, but he asked us to come there next time.

Meeting with Pastor Kiza and his ministry partner and translator Naba:

They arrived around 4:00pm and we took them to the Amahora Hotel for a meeting and then treated them to dinner. Kiza was sorry that we weren’t able to come to Uvira. He said that he had communicated with GVT and Jamie back in April that there were some problems in Goma but he asked them to pray for the situation and it has since been resolved. He assured us that when he has guests in his country it is of utmost importance to him that they are safe. If there was a problem he would have let us know. He assured us that we could have come and gone from Congo each day if we didn’t feel comfortable staying the night in Uvira. He had made arrangements with the authorities before we came and they were expecting us. He has a great relationship with the officials and they, therefore, when they heard that we were coming as we’re his guests, they welcomed us and signed the forms necessary for the embassy to grant our VISAs, which explains why the VISA application process was so easy and fast. Now that we weren’t coming they were perplexed and wondered why we hadn’t come, after all.

Don talked to Kiza about the possibility of finding a pastor in Zambia since GVT would like to move into Zambia if the door is opened. Kiza said that Claude Nususu is in Lumbabashi and he has a contact in Zambia. Kiza said that at our last visit here in 2011 he had said he would work to get someone from Zambia to a conference in the future.

I also met a man from Zambia who attended our conference in Malawi in June. I will ask Sydon how he came to find us and came to our conference and how he knows him.

We had a nice time together. I was able to see that Kiza has a real heart for the Lord and has a great ministry. I wish we had spent time in Congo as planned but, nonetheless, he caused the events to take place for a reason. Whether it was to teach us (which it certainly has in many ways) or for our safety or some other reason, I trust that everything came to pass exactly as he planned it.

We treated them to a great meal. They were both very appreciative. We finished at 7:00pm and had to leave to meet with Willy. We took a couple quick photos with Kiza and Naba and then went upstairs to meet with Willy.

Rumonge Prison – 10/11/12

The bed bugs bit last night. They had fun with my tasty feet. I have little red spots all over them. Praise God that in warmer clients the water doesn’t get very cold. The showers are quite refreshing here with only one knob (difficult temperature control).

Willy arrived at 8:30am with our driver, Guillaume. He was an inmate for 6 years from 1994-2000, during the country’s civil war. God saved him while he was in prison And his ministry involves ex-prisoners taking the gospel into the prisons.

We went to the market and bought 30 bibles (10 per prison), 24 dozen bars of soap and 50 kg of rice. We stopped for air in our tires and then headed for Rumonge Prison just after 10:00am.

As we drove along Lake Tanganyika we passed by the Doctors Without Borders compound and, of course, through many villages. The main industries in this area appeared to be brick making and Palm Oil. I got some video footage of a Palm Oil “factory” on the way back.

The Toyota we’re driving had a 13″ wiper blade where it required a 19″ or 20″ blade and the bottom 1/4 was hanging off (it would take someone like me to make note of that). We were bottoming out the whole way there. I asked Guillame to stop so I could check the tires to be sure we weren’t shredding them – they seemed fine.

Many of the houses are made with un-fired bricks so they must then also coat them with mud so the bricks don’t erode.

Rumonge Prison – we arrived at noon and the OC was pleased to have us but he informed us that he was expecting us at 9:00am. He said that he welcomed us, nonetheless, and told us that we could still do whatever we would like while we were here. He allowed us to take photos and video, too.

There were about 200 inmates at the service. Most were already believers and were there because it was church. This is a prison of over 1,000. Willy told me that he goes into the main part of the prison but we generally cannot.

Three groups of men sang and danced after we were introduced and then I served as emcee, Don gave his testimony, I shared the short sermon and Don told about Bartimaeous for the long sermon. 16 men and 2 women came forward when Don did the altar call and about the same number came forward for the healing prayer and Don annointed them with oil while I prayed. We closed out the service by Don presenting a flat soccer ball and he explained that it is like our heart without Jesus. I then inflated it while he presented the gifts of soap, rice, 10 Bibles and a soccer ball. He then explained that the soccer ball is now full, as are our lives with Christ.

On the way back we stopped for some chocolate but all we were able to find were wafer bars so we each had one.

We threw candy out the windows to children as we drove down the highway. We intentionally don’t stop for the sake of the children’s safety and ours. We just throw the candy out the window as we drive by. If we were to stop we would be mobbed and if we tried to drive away the children could get hurt.

Drive to Burundi – 10/9/12

We passed by the Nyabarongo River on our way out of Kigali. Jean tells us that during the genocide they would kill the Tutsi and throw them in the river so the river would take them to Ethiopa (out of Rwanda).

We drove through Bishenyi, Gihinga, Kamonyi, Karengera, Gitarama, Kigoma, and Butare on the way. Outside Gitarama Prison there was a work party dressed in orange. Don told me that these are inmates that have not confessed to their crimes. They are dressed in pink if they have confessed.

This is a very mountainous region. The country of Rwanda is called the Land of a Thousand Hills. I had no idea God had his mind specifically on Rwanda when he spoke through the prophet in Psalm 50:10 🙂

As I got out of the car at the border I slung my bag over my shoulder but I had failed to zip it up and my SLR camera fell to the ground. It cracked the case at the battery housing and now the auto-focus doesn’t work. It seems to still work in manual mode.

We were told to leave our bags in the car while we went to passport verification so I left my pillow and medication in the car. The national team grabbed our bags and we walked across the border and we met Willy. We reached the Burundi passport station and THEN I remembered my medication. Fortunately they let Patrick run back to the car to grab it for me.

We started climbing the mountains through Burundi. Bicyclists and pedestrians hang on the back of the semis to get rides up the hills.

Our taxi driver’s name was Smiley. I asked Willy to use the Gospel Mate (GM28) to share the gospel with Smiley in French. Smiley is Muslim so he was claiming that Jesus was a prophet, a messenger from God. I helped Willy to explain that a messenger from God would not be a prophet if he lies and Jesus said that he is God and that no one could come to the Father but through Him. We weren’t able to get much further because of the language barrier, but the gospel was preached, it is now in the Father’s hands (Isa 55:10-11).

Our taxi is right-hand drive but we drive on the right side of the road. Many vehicles are this way. I’m sure it’s because there are many previous British Colonies in Africa so as the cars spread out through the continent people buy what is available to them.

It rains every afternoon – very intense thunder storms that last 10-15 minutes. The first day it was about 3:00pm, about 2:00 the next few days and then 4:00pm in Bujumbura on Wednesday.

Conference Day – 10/8/12

I awoke at 4:30 am and was not able to get back to sleep so I read scripture and a couple CH Spurgeon sermons. It was a very refreshing and wonderful time of worship and theology study.
Don and I were ready for the conference at 9:00 as we had agreed but Jean and Patrick didn’t arrive until 9:45. Patrick had had to care for his daughter because his wife was somewhere. We still had to go exchange money before the conference. We had to pay for the conference so we asked Jean how much it would be – he told us $500. He had understood that was how much we had budgeted for it so that’s how much he asked for. We explained that our budget allows for $4 each attendee for food and we are willing to Lau transportation expenses for attendees as needed. He told us that they had decided to give the attendees money to get their own meals, which we didn’t agree with. We told him the money is intended to cover expenses as needed, not just to hand it out. We told him we would this time, though we didn’t like to, that we would pay up to $300 if 50 people show up ($6 each).

We arrived at the conference at 10:45am. Don served as the emcee and introduced PFC. He then taught “Why Do Prison Ministry” and then Nate taught the Code of Conduct. After Don taught about the 4 Divisions of PFC Nate was teaching about “How to Start a Prison Ministry” when we were notified at 12:45 that we had to wrap up in 20 minutes. There were now 35 people in the room and there was another conference scheduled for 1:00pm so many of the people that were there were actually there for that conference. Don did a quick summary of the remaining conference topics, we did our usual quiz to make sure everyone was listening and we handed out a few prizes. As usual the pens were the gift of choice. We gave away 5 pens and nobody chose the handcuffs until they were gone, then we gave away to sets if handcuff keychains. At 1:30 we left and went to lunch.

We first stopped at a retaurant that Don remembered from a past trip but it was the same fare that is served everywhere and it was old and cold so we went to at Bourbon Coffee again. At 4:00 we were back to he hotel and we used the couple hours available to us to get packed for our trip to Burundi – we scaled down to one bag each.
While we waited to be picked up to go to Clarissa’s birthday party we discussed the day – the problems we faced – ideas for improvement – and then, since we both were rather discouraged and frustrated, we prayed together for soft hearts and praised God for all that has happened. I found that my heart was becoming discouraged and somewhat impatient and Don felt very much the same way. I wanted to be sure we weren’t fueling each other with our discouragement and I didn’t want to give the enemy a foothold.

At 7:00pm Patrick’s wife walked up to get us and we all walked 3 blocks to the 25th birthday party for Clarissa. There were about 40 people there, many church members and many friends of Clarissa’s from school.

A birthday party is apparently quite the event in Rwanda. After everybody ate dinner Jean brought the cake out and they put a sparkler on it while everyone sang and she was supposed to try to blow out the sparkler (this was more of a mini fountain than what we consider to be a sparkler). Dad (Jean) then took a piece of cake and fed it to her. As she went to bite it he pushed it up against her face, similar to what most brides tell their husbands not to do. Jean did this a few more times while she laughed since she had no other choice (this appears to be tradition). Clarissa then made a speech of thanksgiving to God and to everyone else.
Each person brought gifts up to her one at a time, hugged her and then had their photo taken with her. Dad stood up and thanked everyone, led us all in worship, made a speech and gave praise to God.

At the end a friend of Clarissa made a brief comment and then dumped a bucket of water over her head. A couple other people joined in with their water bottles.

Tuesday we are driving to the Burundi border to connect with Pastor Willy who pastors a church that Pastor Jean planted in Bujumbura. Willy will spend the next few days with us. We are scheduled to visit 3 prisons in Burundi on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and then attend his church on Sunday and return to Rwanda Monday to visit 3 more prisons next week.

Church and Genocide Memorial 10/7/12

Don and I walked three blocks to Pastor Jean’s church this morning to worship with their congregation at 9:00. We had a wonderful 2 hours of worship. The ladies were singing as we arrived. There was then a small choir of about 10 children, another choir of ladies, and then about 12-14 men and women came up to sing. A couple ladies gave testimonies of God’s grace. One had been very ill and Pastor Jean had laid hands on her and she was healed. Another lady stood to tell us how she had recently been born again from Catholicism. Pastor Jean also shared with the congregation that he had just this week received the document that officially recognizes the as a church.
As is always the case when we worship overseas it was a time of truly heartfelt and passionate worship and praise unto the Lord. The Spirit of God was in this place. Pastor Jean then introduced Don and me and Don gave a message entitled “But one day” in which he used several examples of men and women from scripture (Abraham, Esther, David, Paul and Peter) and how they were living their everyday lies when God called them and the immediately and obediently went. Pastor Jean closed the service with an exhortation and prayer Nd we returned to our hotel at 1:00pm to wait for Pastor and Noah to come get us.

We went to the Genocide Memorial directly from the hotel. The memorial is not only a museum and educational exhibit about the history of Rwanda and the well-known genocide of 1994 but also about the events that led up to the 100-day atrocity and what could have and should have been done to prevent it. It is also designed to educate about other genocides that have taken place (primarily in the 19th century) in order to prevent it from occurring again. It was an amazing and heart wrenching experience. I am amazed at how our God is so long suffering with such a depraved people. He is so gracious and merciful to us all.

We then went to an early dinner at a coffee shop in the city and discussed our plans for the rest of the week and we strategized about the future of PFC in Rwanda. The government, in large part because of the genocide of 1994, has changed the laws for ministries and NGOs. The government is fearful that history will repeat itself and they feel that the “church” is a great cause of the genocide. There is a great distrust against the Catholic church as there are stories of thousands of people who sought shelter in the churches during the genocide only to have their own priests lock the doors and call the perpetrators to massacre all of them. The government is now very careful to be sure that all churches have a clearly stated purpose and they follow up to be sure the church or NGO is fulfilling the stated objectives. This has also caused a stall in the prison ministry here in Rwanda. No churches or organizations are able to enter the prisons without specific clearance and the process to receive this status is arduous. Because of this we have not been able to enter any prisons since we arrived.
Pastor Jean has submitted documentation to request authorization for us to enter while we are here. He will be taking the day tomorrow (Monday) to go to the necessary government offices to get the documents. We are prayerful that we will find favor with the officials.
We also spoke, then, about the most effective means of ministry of PFC here in Rwanda.
We discussed the strategy of taking our training to different areas of the country when we come and training the local church leaders to be able to train the local congregations and other local volunteers to be able to serve in the prisons. Another concern of the government is, after sharing the gospel in the prisons and discipling the inmates, what is the plan for helping them after they are released. They would like to see the churches providing job training and support after their release. This, Jean feels, could only be done effectively at the local level. Therefore he has a desire to reach out to the local churches (local to each prisons in the country) and train to be able to serve in this capacity.
He also informed us that the many smaller prisons are being closed down and the inmates are being moved to larger prisons.
There were over 100,000 Rwandans convicted and incarcerated for genocide so there is a large prison population. There are currently no outside organizations providing services or support to these inmates.

After returning to the hotel Don and I discussed the logistics and travel plans for the rest of our trip. After looking at the US State Dept Website and finding warnings about DR Congo we have decided that we will not be going there.

Mpimba Prison 10/13/12

Today we had our audit with Pastor Willy for a couple hours to talk about the direction, needs, goals and vision for PFC in Burundi. We then went to the market and, once again, bought 24 dozen bars of soap and 50kg of rice for the inmates.
We arrived at Mpimba Prison at 2:00pm. This is the third prison we’ve visited this week (Rumonge, Bubanza and Mpimba). We had to leave our cell phones and cameras at the security gatehouse but when we entered the prison and were seated where we were holding our service the other pastors, and even many of the inmates, were snapping photos of us with their cell phones. It amazes Don and I every day the level of poverty here but everyone still has cell phones. Yesterday as we were sitting in the car (sweat box) waiting for Pastor Willy to buy rice for Bubanza Prison there was a little boy who looked 6 or 7 (but he was probably much older, just small) with clothes so filthy, torn and tattered they were barely hanging onto him, yet he had a cell phone.

The Officer in Charge (OC) wasn’t there today since it was Saturday so we walked right into the courtyard. There was a choir there today so there were several plain clothes security personnel there. There was a 3-foot-diameter razor wire coil laid across the ground in a circle about 30 feet around the main entry gate. It was open for us to elk through to the covered area where there were about 260 inmates in this area and several hundred other prisoners that didn’t attend our service.
We were welcomed and walked to the front of the room and we enjoyed several songs sung by the choir. They had an electric guitar, bass guitar and keyboard with them. After they finished leading worship Pastor Willy introduced Don and me. I served as emcee this afternoon. Don shared his testimony, I shared about the Rich Ruler in Luke 18 and Don shared about the prodigal son in Luke 15. I counted 58 men and women came forward to confess Jesus as Lord. We distributed the soap, rice and 10 Bibles. Don then showed them the deflated soccer ball and explained how it can’t be used when it’s empty of air. While I pumped up the ball he talked about how our lives are empty and useless apart from Christ. He then gave them the inflated ball.

An inmate church leader thanked us, in English, for coming and asked us for some material goods such as speakers, a microphone and drums. Don said these are the same things they asked him for last time he was here a couple years ago. This is not uncommon. The inmates and others are always hopeful that the Americans can return with more.

After the service we were escorted outside where we gathered our passports (I hates turning it over when we won’t in) and our cameras and phones. We took a couple photos outside the prison and went back to our hotel.

The power just went out again (it goes out every night around 8:00 around the same time that some big machine fires up at the bakery next door). It seems to be a big bread supplier to this area as I smell bread baking right outside my window every night and when I wake up in the morning I watch them carrying trays of bread out to the delivery trucks. I’m glad I have really good ear plugs to wear every nigh because this machine runs all night, every night, right outside my window. I guess you can’t complain with a $10/night room. Anyway, as I was starting to say, the power just went out but I’m on my iPad so I was able to keep journaling in the dark. However, now that I my screen is the only light in the room all the bugs just found me. I have dozens of little pests fluttering all around me. Now I am hoping that with the power back on the internet will come back up so I can post some updates.

We are attending Pastor Willy’s church tomorrow and then we will be heading back to Rwanda Monday. We are planning to visit three prisons with Pastor Jean on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We fly home Thursday night.

As we understand it we will be the first volunteer organization members, including nationals, to present a program in the prisons of Rwanda since January.

Thank you, Jesus!

I awoke this morning at 3:00 and was not able to sleep again until 4:30, and then only for 1/2 hour. The Lord brought me to the scriptures and to a couple CH Spurgeon sermons to start my day. Although I couldn’t sleep I was refreshed and encouraged by the reading of His word. He also led me to prey for Pastor Jean’s meetings with the government officials today.

Today Don and I stayed at the hotel and studied, prayed and planned the rest of our trip while Pastor Jean went to the government offices to seek permission for us to go into the prisons. No foreigners have been able to go into the prisons since the laws were changed and, in fact, there are not currently any nationals going in to serve the inmates, either. We stayed at the hotel and prayed for a miracle.

At 2:30 we got a phone call that the Commissioner wanted to meet with us. We drove to the Office of the Commissioner of the RSC and. Met with him, the Commissioner of Human Rights and another official. After about 30 minutes in his office we got permission to take the church documents to the Office of Foreign Affairs to get final confirmation with permission for us to visit the prisons.

Tomorrow we are holding our conference and Wednesday we travel to Burundi, but since we aren’t going to Congo, after all, due to safety concerns, we will come back o Rwanda early and will visit a few prisons here in the last few days before heading home.

Thank you to all of you for your prayers. We truly saw God work miraculously today in causing us to find favor with the officials.

We went to dinner with Jean and Patrick and Patrick shared with us how he came to be born again and the amazing ways the Lord met all of his physical needs and provided for his transportation to his baptism right after his conversion and as he later went to Kenya. His testimony was a witness to his mother, who was doubting at the time, and God brought many people into his life to meet all his needs. He is a true inspiration to me.

We got back to the hotel about 8:00pm and called it a night. We are teaching the conference tomorrow.