Even though she was shocked by the conditions in which some of the poorer families in Rwanda were living, Brenda Doyle says she had a hard time saying goodbye when her mission there ended last month.
“I didn’t want to come home. Part of me wanted to stay there,” said the Tignish woman who was part of the 12-member LOV Rwanda II mission to Gisenyi, Rwanda Nov. 18 to 26.
The group went to present goats, cows, bibles and supplies and to help build a chapel on the Ndengera Foundation Centre, a complex that seeks to improve the lives of orphans.
LOV is an acronym for Loving the Orphans and Vulnerable. The “II” signifies this is the second mission team, primarily from West Prince, to go there. One-half of this year’s group was part of the 22-member delegation that went to Gisenyi in 2009, with hopes of building two vocational classrooms. That group ended up completing four classrooms and starting a fifth.
LOV Rwanda II volunteers found all the classrooms in use. Dave Pizio, team leader, said the centre is part of the Ndengera Foundation’s 10-year plan to help make the orphans they are supporting self-sufficient. Providing them with trades is one of the means of helping them provide for their siblings, he noted. Besides education, he said, the other components to self-sufficiency are housing, medical and food.
The foundation is having so much success, he said, that it might fulfill its mandate ahead of schedule.
A hard-surface area of lava rock that children played on when the earlier team was there has since been transformed into a field of sweet potatoes.
Another mission team installed tanks for an inland fish farm, and shop bays were added to the end of the classrooms.
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Prior to heading over this time the mission team sent $27,000 so that students from the school and others with the Foundation could fabricate the rafters and window and door frames, and make the concrete blocks.
Pizio said the framing for the chapel was even up when they arrived on site. Their contribution to the actual building project was unfortunately reduced to two half-days. That’s because of political unrest flaring up in the adjacent country of the Congo.
Only a wall separates Gisenyi from the Congo city of Goma and it was in Goma that the gunfire started just after noon on Nov. 19, the group’s first day on the chapel worksite.
The project was halted for the day and on Tuesday the mission team was sent back to Kigali for their safety. Some team members returned on Wednesday to present goats, food, blankets and bibles to families whose homes were destroyed by floods just prior to their arrival.
While in Kigali, the team pooled their own resources for flour, sugar and soap and backpacked down the hill to deliver it to widows and single mothers living in difficult conditions. They also took in the first part of an all-night worship service that was filled with praise and music.
The group drove back to Gisenyi on Saturday, attended the Sunday worship services, hosted the project workers to a meal and then worked on the chapel project on Monday morning. Instead of four Vacation Bible School events during their stay, they crammed in one during their final day.
Despite disruptions, the group felt it accomplished much leading up to and during their visit.
“It was a good experience; it was a life-changing experience for me,” said Tony Clements of his first trip to Rwanda. “The people are so appreciative, especially the kids,” he remarked. “When you’re walking into the worksite, there are about 12 kids holding on to each hand.”
It was his wife Jeanne’s second trip and she said she was more comfortable this time because she knew what to expect.
Not lost on the team was the fact that the Rwandans had endured and survived genocide.
“Many of the people we met and interacted with have really found the power of forgiveness,” noted Christina Phillips, who spent time working at the Foundation’s clinic. “I think that’s where their joy comes from: they’ve forgiven.”
She told of meeting a person who had seen his mother being killed.
“He later taught the killer and forgave him,” she related.
Pizio expressed thanks on behalf of the team for all the businesses, organizations and individuals who supported their efforts to raise funds for the mission project. He stressed all of that money was put towards supplies for the project, as team members covered all of their own costs.
LOV Rwanda II will be giving a video and slideshow presentation on their Rwandan mission on Sunday, Dec. 30, 7 p.m. at the Elmsdale Church of the Nazarene.