The end of the year is often a time of great generosity. During the holiday season there is a infectious kindness that floats about. Many of us live a life where we have the capability to be radically generous to others. With many worthy and noble causes, how do we decide where we want to focus our efforts?
Since coming to Rwanda I have seen so many things that are truly blessings to many people, that often come one day and are gone the next. These are things that I have admittedly taken for granted, and never considered that they could be lost a moments notice. Things like food, a house, and even education.
To graduate from elementary school is actually a high achievement for someone in Cyangugu, Rwanda. Many people are forced to leave school to help provide for their families basic needs before they reach high school. This is the sad reality that many face from generation to generation
As I sit here writing this I am pondering how I can make you feel guilty for all of your daily indulgences, and how the price of *insert your favorite coffee brand* can radically change someone else life. The reality of it is, all of that is true. I am a witness to that first hand. I see blessings that we often take for granted and could never imagine being lost; taken away from so many so often, and others – just go without…
I am not going to sit here an write this to try and guilt you into giving me your money, but instead bring awareness to what else is really out there, outside of our comfortable lives.
If you do feel convited to radically chance someones life you can do so by sending a kid to school for just a small fee. $300 per year, thats just $25 a month or $6.25 per week. You do the math.
For $300 you are not only providing a student an opportunity at an education. You are also providing a student a safe place to live and a consistent food source for three meals a day. (that even in itself is a radical blessing for many)
To learn more about students who cannot attend school without a sponsorship, click LEARN MORE!
We have been spending our days at Saint Peter Secondary School. This is a high school with about 125 students. Schools in Rwanda run a little differently than normal high schools in America. The school year here starts late January and runs till the middle of November, with a two week break in April and July. Classes are taught by module, so students stay in the same class, with the same teacher, day in and day out, until they have finished the entire module. Most students also live at the school during the school year, along with a few of the staff.
We have gotten to spend the last two and a half months getting to know some of the students, through giving hair cuts, playing games, eating cassava loaf, designing projects, and learning Kinyarwanda. At the end of the term the seniors take a national examination that quizzes the knowledge they have learned through out the entirety of their high schooling. This marks the end of school and they immediately go home. There is no graduation ceremony, no party celebrating their achievements. As you know this is very unlike our American culture… So we decided to do something about it.
Before the students packed their belongings and headed home we threw and end of the year celebration for the seniors. We played Dame (checkers), cards, soccer, and even had the first ever Rwandan Corn Hole Tournament. After playing games, we ate a traditional Rwandan meal; rice, veggies, beef, chips (french fries), and Fanta. Once everyone finished eating, a dance party ensued. It was a joy for us to be able to share a special day with the students and for them to know how proud we are and how of them and how blessed we are to be here with them.
We are currently raising money to provide each student with a bible during the school year. Our prayer is that next year we will be able to hand each senior a bible at the graduation party. If you are interested in donating or hearing more, reach out to us via iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Along with that, we have gotten to do a lot of observing and learning, about the Rwandan school system, the culture within school relationships, and management of a school. Thanks to this learning period, we have gotten to meet with the faculty and make a game plan for next year to make the school more successful.
We are creating an extracurricular activity schedule for all students to make school more fun and to help make well rounded students.
We are also hoping to implement projects to help with the school’s financial sustainability. These projects include improving our wood shop, farming our land, making our cows healthy, and a students sponsorship program.
Since Saint Peter’s is construction and masonry school, we have an excllent wood shop and full time technician. Our goal is to update and repair some of our equipment and get our technician some more training so he can bring in more projects, thus providing income for the school.
The school is also sitting on a 12 acre plot of land. The land runs all the way down into a valley, which we plan to farm. Kathryn has been doing a cost benefit analysis on this portion of virgin land and which crops would produce the highest yeild. Our plan is to farm this land in order to sell the crops in the market to generate cash flow to reinvest in other porjects around the school Eventually, our goal is to be self sustainable, for the farm to feed the students, in turn the school not having to buy any vegetables from the market and providing more nutritious foods.
Along with the large plot of land, Saint Peter’s has five cows. Upon our arrival, the cows were sick and not cared for properly. We have implemented a new care system for the cows and our goal is that the female cows would produce offspring and milk, that the school will s ell for profit.
Lastly, we plan to implement a sponsorship program. Every student attending school must pay school fees. For one student to live at school, receive three meals, and an education, costs $300 per year. Many people do not have the ability to pay for this, leaving these kids unable to attend school at all. Our hope is to provide scholarships for kids in extreme poverty, providing them a place to live, food, an education, and a real shot at life.
We rejoice getting to share with you all. We will be sharing more soon. We love yall deeply, we could not be here without you.
If you are interested in donating or hearing more about these projects, please contact us!
WhatsApp + iMessage (yes this is free) Kathryn: +250-783-273-098 Jake: +250-784-211-468
We have been here for six weeks and the Lord has been moving. We could look back and say this past month has been difficult, but being in the midst of God’s will and seeing Him provide, has grown our faith in insurmountable ways. Everyday, some things seem impossible but God shows up, in ways we couldn’t ask, and makes them possible. Everyday, we get to wake up and see the ways that the Father is moving in our lives and hearts.
Our initial prayers upon arriving was for a smooth transition, a house suitable for hosting and making that place a home, a big reliable car within budget, community, and opportunities to be with people, all which have been answered in big ways.
On the morning of our departure, we had no idea where we would be staying for our first night in Rwanda. Completely last minute, the sweetest family picked us up from the airport, welcomed us into their home, helped us figure out all of the transitional things, and invited us into their family. They have since become our landing ground anytime we visit Kigali, they continue to welcome us with open arms no matter how frequently we stay in their house and eat their food. They have made our initial transition seamless and have helped us process the roller coaster of emotions that comes with living in Africa. This family has been an answer to our prayers in the most unexpected way.
One week after we arrived to Kigali, we made our way to Cyangugu, where we now live. Upon our arrival, we were shown a house, a big house, suitable to host many people, and were given the keys to that very house. We were ecstatic. We have been spending time hanging shelves, decorating to help make our house a home, preparing to host whomever God leads to us, and even building a chicken coop. Another way our house has been made a home, was through the gift of a puppy. We met a couple in Kigali who had lab puppies available. After telling them our past with pups and journey here, they basically gave her to us, to help with our transition, with the only cost being a small donation to help with the schools fees of two underprivileged high schoolers. Our little pup, Mutesi, has been such an unexpected little piece of God showing just how much he cares about the small details of our hearts.
After finding a house, our next step was to find a car. Cars in Rwanda are very expensive and pretty unreliable. Due to dirt roads in the villages we are near, we knew we needed a solid car. With our car budget, we knew finding a car of this caliber would be difficult. A few weeks into searching, a friend told us that he had found the car for us. We come to find that this car was large, reliable, and exactly what we had budgeted for. This car has been such a blessing already, from taking it into villages and being able to give many people ride, and most of all, being reliable.
Aside from being blessed with community in Kigali, upon our arrival to Cyangugu, we have been totally welcomed, supported, and selflessly helped by many. There were a few people we knew we could call at any time of the day and they would stop whatever they were doing to help us. They have been an intricate part of our transition and we are forever grateful.
We officially have our job titles and started our jobs on Monday. Jake is headmaster at a high school, focusing on the business side of the financially failing school. Kathryn will be helping in administration at another high school, but in the mean time, is teaching English. She is also volunteering with a non-profit that educates woman in poverty, on Nkombo Island. Our goal is to become a familiar face in the schools, to make relationships and pursue our calling of discipleship. We are praying big prayers for these students to come to full know and fully love Jesus!
All of these things, have been assurance and encouragement showing full face of God’s faithfulness and kindness. And we could not be here without your help. Each an every one of you have been instrumental through your prayers, encouragement, and financial support. Coming to know each of you has been one of the sweetest unexpected blessings. We could not be here without you. Your partnership is just as important in this journey as us being here.
Each day, we ask the Lord to lead us, wherever He calls, and to whomever. We have first hand seen the fruits of His kindness in the relationships we have already formed. We have become regulars in town; on the soccer field, in the market, in the carpentry shop, at a local restaurant, at church, at band practice, and even in the only store to buy eggs. Listening to God, showing up, being present, being available to people, being asked to pursue and love people in this community, has been one of the biggest honors of our lives.
A few weeks ago, we took a leap of faith and invited members of the community over for a bible study. To our surprise, over fifteen people showed up to learn about Jesus. We were totally unprepared with inadequate seating and food. People were sitting on the floors and sharing bananas. It was a perfect picture of what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. Our prayer is that God is with us, (and you), always, wherever we go – we have seen exactly that.
Our current praises: -House – Car -Mutesi -You all, our support team back home -Our house help, Gloria, and guards, Ernest and Antone, they have been such a blessing and it has been the sweetest getting to know them and break bread with them. -Wifi, to stay in touch with family and friends back home -Time here with some great people from home, praise Jesus y’all, that is fuel for the soul. -God’s attention to detail, His kindness is overwhelming -Knowing where to buy items in town and having a reliable honest person to sell to us (this is HUGE) -Being here, this has been a dream for so long, getting to see the Father bring it to fruition has been the biggest joy.
Our current prayer requests: -Visas (this process has been super slow and inconvenient) -Sweet start to forming relationships at the high schools, for the students hearts. -For Jake’s school, it is failing financially and there is not enough money to feed the students for the rest of the term. -For the people that will fill the walls of our house, that the Lord would prepare our hearts for them and their hearts for His. -Patience with the inconvenience of Africa -Community. A few of our very favorite people in Cyangugu will be moving away in the next several months -Our car would continue to be reliable!! -Our reliance and intimacy with Jesus would increase -Language studies. Kinyarwanda is HARD. -Gloria: “My father is a moto driver and he has lost his permit, he no longer has a way to support my family. For my family to be able to buy a house. For my sister to pass her national exam. For me to find a husband, to have a better future.” -Our marriage would grow stronger as we experience different kinds of difficult things. -Kathryn hurt her ankle pretty bad last, prayers for no major injury and quick and full healing -Continued guidance by The Spirit -Rest, everything in Rwanda takes five times more energy -Continued comforting of our hearts and smooth transition
We have so many crazy stories, but would end up sending a never ending email if we shared them all. If you would like more frequent updates, check out Kathryn’s instagram page @kathrynotterman, where she shares little videos of our life in Rwanda! If you would like to chat with us, shoot us an email or Facebook message and we would love to chat more with you about Rwanda. We love you all deeply and your hearts for Kingdom work. We encourage you, that the same God that is here, is abundantly present in your town. He is there, He is moving, and we are praying for mountains to move, hearts to change, and people to truly know and truly love Jesus. We long for the day we get to see you all again and share more of His goodness here and there. We know more of Jesus because of each and every one of you.
Over the past few months, in a men’s small group, I have had the chance to see the hearts of a few awesome guys. We have shared our life stories and are reading through a book to better understand who God is calling us to be. I have been trying to get to know each of these guys better on an individual basis and last night I had the chance to break bread and introduce wives with one of them. This all started over a simple text message. I told him I wanted to get to know him and his family better with no agenda. We agreed on a time and place to hang out a few days ahead, but no real details were put together. It was clear from the very beginning that we both were pretty busy in our everyday lives, but we agreed that fellowship was important, and we would intentionally make time in our schedules for each other. Two hours before we were going to meet up, we started figuring out what this evening would look like in just a few brief text messages. We decided that Kathryn and I would come over for dinner and have Crock-Pot made White Chicken Chili (super yum).
When we arrived, we were greeted at the door with genuine, real hugs. Two men fully embracing each other in everything that they are. The first of many real and genuine acts of love. After exchanging pleasantries, we stepped over the many children’s toys that were on the ground and all over the living room. The toys were scattered about like land mines in a field that we would have to navigate through to get to the kitchen where some crisp ice cold Natural Light beers were awaiting us, another genuine act of love. Later we would go on the share a meal together, us and the entire family.
When we went to sit down at the dinner table, we realized there weren’t enough chairs for everyone. Not a problem, we shared chairs and even sat on each other’s laps as we feasted. Over the next hour or so we got to talk about each other’s lives, growing together. We talked about growing up, dating our spouses, marriage, jobs we have had, places we have lived and much more. Before the meal was over, I looked over at Kathryn and I saw half of her hair was braided and tied up by one of the daughters, and the other half was just being tugged on by the other, LOL. She looked crazy but I could tell that at that moment she was overflowing with real joy as she played with those girls. As the night evolved, old high school yearbooks came out, and outfits were changed to play princess.
This was hands down one of the most refreshing human encounters I have had in a while. These sweet friends of ours invited us into their lives, right where they were. They didn’t try to clean up their house to make everything perfect, they didn’t cook a fancy meal that they only eat on special occasions or have fancy beer that they don’t normally drink, and they didn’t even have enough chairs at the table but we made it work. Above all else, they didn’t let anything in the way of pursuing us and our hearts. They exposed themselves in a very raw and vulnerable way and this is how I believe Jesus has called us to love others.
Depicted in the book of Luke is the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree to get a better view of Jesus as he passed through Jericho. Jesus commanded that Zacchaeus come down from the tree at once and that he must stay at his house that night. I highly doubt that Zacchaeus woke up that morning cleaning his house and getting his life together expecting that Jesus would stay as a guest at his house. Even the people of Jericho muttered “Jesus has gone to be the guest of a sinner”. But Zacchaeus let Jesus into his life exactly where he was, in the midst of his mess, confusion, and chaos. I imagine Jesus’ night at the “Zaccheausb&b” was a lot like our night with our new friends
Genuinely opening your life to others in the middle of whatever mess you are going through is scary. We are allowing others to see that we don’t have everything all together and figured out. But doing so allows to exude both Godly truth and Godly love. In the bible God has called us to two greats, The Great Commission and the Great Commandment. The Great Commission operates on a continuum of truth, while the Great Commandment a continuum of Love. Without Truth (Commission) we don’t have love (Commandment) and without love we don’t have truth. Love without truth is deceptive, hypocritical, and unpredictable and in the end turns out to not be love at all.
What if it’s not what we expect? (It won’t be) What if it’s harder than we could ever imagine? (It will be) What if we aren’t “successful”? What if we don’t reach as many people as we were hoping? What if only one person comes to truly know + love Jesus through us?
Would that change everything? Would I say no? Would I choose to remain comfortable? Would I ponder if that person is “worth it”?
Jesus wouldn’t have. He would have died that terrible death, that undeserved death on the cross, just for that one person.
He wouldn’t have changed anything about His life or His death if He knew that only one person would come to know his Father.
Would I still say “yes” to the hard? Would I still say “yes” to the uncomfortable? Would I still say “yes” to the endless preparation? Would I still say “yes” to moving away from my people? Would I still say “yes” to fundraising? Would I still say “yes” to spending countless hours learning a new language? Would I still say “yes” to rollercoaster of living in another country? Would I still say “yes” to the unknown? Would I still say “yes” to Jesus, just for that one person?
Yes. I would do it all, over + over again. Because that one person, is totally, 152%, abundantly, extravagantly worth it.
Friends, let’s do this together. Let’s not be afraid of where He leads us. Let’s say “yes” to the unknown. Let’s say “yes” to the hard. Let’s say “yes” to the uncomfortable. Let’s say “yes” to it all. Let’s say “yes” to Jesus.