Friday, August 8, 2008


On Thursday we were able to travel to Kayonza (about 1.5 hours east of Kigali). African New Life Ministries has a Primary School and six orphan homes in Kayonza. We went in hopes to greet many of the teachers who my father spent time with in April while he was doing teacher workshops in Kayonza. As soon as we arrived we were greeted warmly. As news spread that Mark's daughter and son-in-law had come to visit, the teachers made their way to welcome us. It was so much fun to see the faces of many of the names we had heard of since my father's time in Kayonza. It felt as though I was back in 4th grade at Frontier Elementary School as I walked around the school grounds and heard both teachers and children talking about beloved "Mr. V!" My heart smiled throughout the entire day!

Ryan and I spent the majority of the day getting to do what we love most....playing with the children! Ryan played a lot of basketball with some of the older boys. I spent the day in one of the girl's homes...we danced, sang songs, chatted and laughed together throughout the day. My heart was so ministered in being together with these very special girls....

We are so thankful we had the opportunity to spend the day in Kayonza!

We have been working with two indiviuals to provide trauma counseling, who are both survivors of the Genocide. We would greatly appreciate your prayers for wisdom and guidance as we spend time with them this evening and tomorrow. Sending you lots of love!
Peace, Ryan & Marla
#1 Emelda (teacher at New Life Academy) & Marla; #2 Two young men, Sprian & Peter, who Ry played lots of basketball with; #3 Ry & Mar with one of the girls' homes; #4 & #5 Mar having fun with very special girls!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Laughter & Learning

Last Friday we finished the official two weeks of training. It has been an incredible two weeks with Bridgette, Aline, and Lillian. We are all amazed by the amount and depth of information we have covered together! We are so thankful for the ways in which we have shared life together over the last several weeks, and learned from each other in many ways. We continued to do role playing today. Two of our favorite “clients” that have developed over the past several weeks are Bugabobarabona “A man who has seen many things,” and Nyiramiruko “A woman who has many problems.” Bridgette has a great sense of humor and named both of these clients!

Our time with IJM has been so unique as we have experienced the richness of witnessing the lives of women who the Lord will continue to use to bring hope and healing to many! We have been so humbled by the time we have shared together, as well as extremely energized, inspired, and affirmed in the ministry God has called us to! Today we celebrated our shared learning together by going out to lunch. During lunch we presented Bridgette, Aline and Lillian with Certificates of Completion for 60 hours of Advanced Social Work Values and Trauma Counseling Training. Our lunch together very much reflected the last two weeks we have shared together...lots of laughter! We have had so much fun together!

On Friday night, Bridgette invited us to have dinner with her family at their home. We will always treasure this very special evening with her family. We spent time eating ground nuts (peanuts) and drinking Fanta, as we got to know Bridgette's husband, Valentine. We then moved to the dining area, where we were presented with an incredible feast of delicous food! We ate and ate until we were full of Matoke (a favorite of Rwanda=). Bridgette and her husband shared more about their family’s story of loss and survival during the Genocide. Bridgette is truly a “Wounded Healer,” it is through her miraculous journey of healing, that she will continue to help many others to heal.

Bridgett presented us with two gifts while we were in her home. She presented to Ryan a wooden milk jug, to symbolize the gift of a cow, “the highest honor.” Bridgette explained that it is the men in Rwandese culture that traditionally would milk the cow. Bridgette then presented me with a traditional Rwandese basket, and explained that it is where women can “put the secrets of their household.” She demonstrated how Rwandese women would carry the basket on their head until they reached their friend's home, and would then present their friend with a gift that was hidden inside. Bridgette then explained that this is a special basket as it if from “One social worker to another social worker.” She told me that this basket is to help me to honor the story-tellers by “putting the secrets” of their stories of both trauma and survival that they share with me. What a beautiful and powerful metaphor! As I thought about Bridgette's words, I realized the beauty of this metaphor, as "the secrets" become a "gift," an offering of peace and healing, to both the story-teller and listener as healing takes place. This basket will continue to be such a special reminder and a gift that I cherish as I continue to share in other’s journeys of healing…
Below is a picture of Bridgette's children and some of her neices and nephews. Kalisa, IJM Accountant, also came to visit while we were at Bridgette's home.

We are looking forward to what awaits us during our final week in Kigali...our cups overflow! It is possible that we may be doing some counseling with African New Life Ministries for some survivors of the Genocide who experienced severe trauma and continue to be significantly impacted. Please pray for us that Christ would give us wisdom, peace and guidance. Thank you for all of your prayers and love! Peace, Ryan & Marla

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Voiceless

3, 5, 8,11, 12... These numbers are not indicators of birthdays that these boys have celebrated at home with friends and families. Rather it's the number of years that they have been abused, neglected, defiled and forgotten while surviving on the streets of Kigali.

It's impossible to not experience feelings of anger, frustration, and responsibility when you find out that not only do they have to struggle in order to find the most basic of needs, but because of their vulnerability they become the prey of sexual predators.

These faces and names are only representative of the tens of thousands of street children globally who share similar stories of oppression and victimization.
Their stories and pictures will undoubtedly create an internal conflict for you, as it has for us...

Please join us in being committed in praying for a voice for the children in Kigali, as well as the children around the world. Please also pray for organizations and ministries to raise up and become a part of the restoration and healing process physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically in these children's lives.

peace & love,

Ryan and Marla

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." - Elie Wiesel

"Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." ~Isaiah 1:17

"God has shown you, O children of God, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." ~Micah 6:8

Friday, July 25, 2008

First week in Kigali

(IJM Rwanda Office)

We have had a wonderful first week in Kigali! We began the Social Work and Trauma Counseling Training on Tuesday. We received such a warm welcome by all of the IJM Rwandan Staff! It has been such a blessing to begin our mornings together with the IJM Rwandan Staff praying for current cases and issues of injustice in Kigali and Jali (a sector IJM currently works in). We have learned so much from each of the staff as they have shared with us their individual work for IJM. The work IJM is doing in Rwanda is incredible!

On Tuesday morning we were introduced to IJM's newly hired social workers, Bridgette and Ailene. Bridgette has worked extensively with local NGOs on issues of Gender-Based Violence. Ailene has a history of working with Compassion International...both are extremely gifted and passionate about issues of social justice! We also have worked closely with Lillian, who has helped to work as an interpreter during the trainings. Lillian too is extremely talented, and definitely has a heart for the issues we are discussing. We are so humbled to be working with such gifted, talented, and experienced social workers. We have spent our mornings providing training on Social Work Values, Building Therapeutic Rapport, Assessment, Issues of Victimization, Domestic Violence, Gender-Based Violence, and Impact of Trauma. We have had great dialogue and have learned so much from Bridgett, Ailene and Lillian! In the afternoons, we have been doing role playing in both the counselor and client role, using our own personal backgrounds. Our afternoons together have been a very special part of our time here...

In the mornings, we take the local motor cycle taxis to IJM, and usually take the motor cars (mini bus) home. It has been a great way to commute! However, tonight we hopped on the back of two motor cycles during rush hour...needless to say, it was quite an adventure home!

Thank you so much for ALL of your thoughts, prayers and love! Please continue to pray for our time together with Bridgette, Ailene and Lillian. Sending you lots of love from Kigali!

Peace & Love, Ryan & Marla

Picture #1: IJM Office; #2: Bridgette and Ailene; #3 Marla and Lillian; #4 View from IJM

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sleeping Under the Stars

We've had fun sleeping in the hammocks! It got a little cold at about 4 AM, but was especially fun to wake up under the tree as the sun rose quietly over Kigali. The sound of the birds singing is the best way to wake up in the morning! Ry & Mar

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kayonza Wedding

We're here! We arrived in Rwanda at 12:30 pm and had a familiar face greeting us as we walked out of customs, Cindy Prouty. Cindy and Jerry run the African New Life Mission House in Kigali. Cindy took us back to the house so that we could get ready to go to a wedding of a teacher, Bob, and Sponsorship Director, Rebecca, who work with African New Life. It was such an incredible experience and an honor to be able attend a traditional wedding in Rwanda. The evening was filled with dancing, drinks (fanta, coke, and sprite =), and declicious food! As the children's voices filled the air, our souls were awakened deep within in praise. The wedding was held at the African New Life Primary School, where the couple works. It was very evident how much the children meant to them, and how much they cared for the children. Groups of children presented them with traditional gifts, and several of the children gave speechs and prayers...there were many tears of joy as they celebrated. We wanted to include some of the video that we were able to take of the traditional dances during the wedding. The one where the women are balancing the baskets on their head while they dance is called the Crane dance and is phenomenal to watch...We hope you enjoy!

We woke up this morning to the sound of song birds, welcoming the new day, so thankful to be in Rwanda. After attending African New Life church this morning, we walked to a local market and enjoyed all of the familiar sights, sounds and smells. It is difficult to express in words the blessing we feel in our hearts to be here. Rwanda is breathtakingly beautiful. The rhythm of life and Rwandese people have already ministered to our souls.

During the next few days we will be preparing for trainings we will begin this week for the Aftercare Staff with IJM. There is also a possibility that we may be working alongisde some of the African New Life staff to provide psychosocial and counseling training as well. We look forward to sharing with you more throughout the week!
Thank you so much for all of your thoughts and prayers. We are overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness in being here!

Peace & Love,

Ryan & Marla

Monday, July 7, 2008

Peace & Justice

We chose to title our blog Peace & Justice in Kinyarwandan (Amahoro & Ubutabera)...We hope that we will all come to know God's heart for peace and justice more fully as we share together! Isaiah 58