Our last day in Rwanda

Dear Friends

We have come to our last day in Rwanda and I have found the time to write once more before we leave this evening for home. I do so with a grateful heart and much hope and excitement about our future together. God has revealed so much to us and has shown us many (though focused) ways we can partner with these good, godly, hard working, and motivated people. I am profoundly grateful.

Yesterday we travelled two hours to a place call Nyanza and visited Godfrey and his co-op. It was amazing. He started the co-op with two women with HIV as a means of trying to help them survive (this was 2005). Today there are 56 adults (40 women, many with HIV) and over 250 children in the co-op. They have a 10 hectare plot of reclaimed swamp land (nearly 30 acres!) which has become an oasis of production (bananas, cabbages, beans of many varieties, fruit trees etc; in addition, 10 fish ponds with 2500 tilapia each; rabbits that fertilize the fish ponds; goats for every family; cows for the entire community; and the beginnings of a chicken industry that could become a major economic engine for the co-op). In addition, they have built a ministry center that supplements the education of the children on Saturdays and ensures that they learn the Bible as well. It is run by a man who joined the co-op while a Muslim and who came to a living faith in Jesus. Remarkable stories abound in the place.

Our driver, Vincent – who knows every road in the Diocese of Kigali — got very excited and told me that the only place in Mbyo that this idea could be reproduced was down by the lake. His excitement came because he knows that the Archdeaconry already owns some land down there! We are working now with the Development office of the Diocese to begin a Master Plan that could use Mbyo as a pilot project in the Archdeancry that could become a model for the other 5 regions in the diocese. Again, very exciting opportuniites.

We then went to the Bishops’ guest house and had a celebratory farewell dinnner with many invited guests. Again, we have been warmly welcomed by all here in Rwanda.

This morning Claire, Maggie and Scotti are meeting with Peace, the head of the Mother’s Union in the diocese at one of their centers just outside of Kigali. The hope is to find one project that could use some micro-financing that could become a model for future projects. The idea is to bring to the US market some lovely head bandanas (they will have to tell you exactly what those are!) that the girls are convinced will be a winner in America. More on this later.

Debra, Jordan and I have been meeting at the same time with Robert, the head of Education for the diocese. Over the course of 2 hours we have crafted a practical vision of moving into a good future together. They will develop a master plan (complete with brochures and video) which we will then use to develop our own plan of resourcing and developing. Future visits will be more focused and helpful to all.

We will visit some schools later this morning, then after lunch take a tour of the city and visit the local market (the girls have ordered some skirts that they need to pick up and the others of us will be seeing the market for the first time). Then, this evening we leave for the airport and home (Lord willing without the delays that Rob and Kim experienced earlier this week).

I don’t know how professional our presentation will be on Sunday but I do know our excitement will be real. I look forward to seeing you all then and there.

Peace be with us all.


Busy days in Rwanda

Dear Friends

It has been a busy two days here in Rwanda. On Monday we packed up and left our guest house in Nymata (just north of Mbyo) and traveled back to Kigali and the Diocesan Guest house. While waiting for the bishop and some of his staff to arrive we ran into two groups from PEARUSA, one from Bishop Thad Barnum’s church — led by Micah his priest associate and a member of our Network’s executive. In the same group was the associate priest from the PEARUSA church in Hawaii. It was fun to greet both teams and to share our stories (it was also fun to tell the guy from Hawaii that we had his lead pastor at our church for the past two weeks- Heath Hale and his family). It really is a small, but wonderful, world.

Our meeting with Bishop Louis and some of his staff was very productive. We heard all about the diocesan structure, vision and plans, and were able to share our reflections on our time in Mbyo. It seems that there are two primary areas where we feel led to participate in the developmental work in Mbyo: Education (they have 750 students in the school presently with only 50 graduating and 300 new students ready to enroll in a month’s time. Currently they have space for all present students by having over 70 kids in each class! You read that right; 70+ students in one class with one teacher! Debra made contact with the head of School and exchanged email addresses. The partnership has officially begun.

The second area is the obvious one of agricultural development. Rob will lead the charge on this, and we had many good conversations with all of the key players in this area — at the Diocesan level, the Archdeaconry level, as well as the parish. Even small steps carefully taken will make a world of difference in this very poor, but very capable and hard working community. In addition, Bishop Louis talked about the Diocesan Cow Project and told me that they have saved all of the funds that CtR and the Church of the Outer Banks raised last year, and, having learned some valuable lessons from the epidemic at Mbyo, is now prepared to begin the project with the poorest of the pastors in the Diocese. We were able to help them tweak their policies and make some suggestions, such as communication, which will help immensely in sharing the news about the project with others.

Some of the younger members (and Kim) went to the market while the others met with Bishop Louis and came back with stories to tell and ladened with gifts. It gave the rest of us a foretaste of what to expect on Thursday. We then said goodbye to Kim and Rob and sent them off to the airport. The rest of us spent a relaxing night at the guest house with much laughter and great, and very deep conversations.

Tuesday, Debra, Jordan, Scotti and I went back to Mbyo for two services in two of the five satellite churches — one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. I was asked to preach at both and everyone was able to give a greeting. It is stunning to see how appreciative the people are to welcome us into their ‘home’ and to join them in worship. The joy of the choirs, the crush of the kids, and the formal speeches from the leaders was very touching and humbling. I wish you all could experience this.

Claire and Maggie stayed behind in Kigali and met with Winnie Muvunyi and the head of Mother’s Union. At the end of the conversation they had concocted a plan to start the microfinancing of a pilot start-up business. Very exciting stuff! They then spent the afternoon touring the city (and the market again!) with Vincent, one of the two interpreters who are accompanying us.

Tomorrow we leave bright and early (7 am) for a trip to a cooperative in Bugatere (and some touring of the King’s Palace site nearby). We will end the day with a special dinner at the Muvunyi’s. Then Thursday has all of the things we have not yet been able to get to: a meeting with the Education director for the Diocese; a tour of the secondary school and the Vocational Training School run by the Diocese; perhaps a visit to World Vision headquarters in Kigali, and THEN the market for those of us who have yet to see it.

I have included all of the details (as much as we know at present) in this email since I do not know if I will find the time to write another update before we leave late Thursday evening.

We are enjoying ourselves immensely, but miss you all as well. Keep us in your prayers as we will for you.

Peace be with you all. See you on Sunday.

Brian Campbell

Report from Mbyo

“Dear Friends,

We prayed for your service today and trust that God showed up in Norfolk as he surely did in Mbyo. Let no one complain of the length of our services ever again (let alone the sermons!). Our’s went for over 3.5 hours this morning/afternoon and later we heard that this was a ‘special’ service – their normal ones last nearly 5 hours. They were being kind to their American guests.

If you like singing you would have loved being here. There were at least 7 choirs (we lost count) who sang at least 2 songs each complete with dancing moves and much energy. Debra has some great footage of the service which we hope to share with you all next Sunday.

After service we were treated to lunch at Pastor Gatera’s home and were wined and dined like royalty. We had many speeches (the Rwandans take their hospitality with great and gracious seriousness) and came away knowing without a doubt that we are loved and greatly valued. This visit has done what we hoped it would do: it has bonded our communities in Christ. The future for our partnership looks wonderful from my perspective.

Then in the afternoon we toured the Genocide Memorial next to our Guest House accompanied by our translator who was 17 in 1994 and barely survived the horror. We were then privileged to hear his testimony about his life, his survival, and how God has remade his life by finally teaching him to forgive the people who slaughtered over 300 members of his family. He is one of the most upbeat and joyful men I have met. God is good. And we are humbled.

All of us have been changed by our time in Mbyo. Tomorrow we move back to Kigali and spend the day with Bishop Louis and the staff at the Diocesan office. We hope to visit the main Memorial to the Genocide and perhaps visit World Vision headquarters in Kigali to hear about their projects in Rwanda. Then we will say good-bye to Kim and Rob.

Tuesday the rest of us return to Mbyo and meet with two of the satellite churches (there are 6 churches in all in the parish). I have just been told that I will be expected to have a teaching prepared for each! Pray that God will give me the ideas and words that may be most helpful to these dear people.

As we are returning to Kigali (and did not find good internet access the first day of our trip), this may be the last report I am able to send (though I hope we can rectify that situation on our return tomorrow).

Continue to pray for us and know that you are well loved and appreciated. You have family that you never met in Rwanda!”

Brian Campbell

Greetings from Mbyo

Greetings from Mbyo – ‘Muraho’ in Rwandese. We have had a hard time finding an internet connection so I apologize for not writing earlier. We have had a whirlwind time so far in Rwanda. We arrived safe and sound on Wednesday night and were welcomed warmly by Winnie Muvunyi and our driver for the week, Vincent. We spent the night in Kigali’s Diocese Guest House, had breakfast with Bishop Louis and members of his staff and then made our way to Compassion International’s office in Kigali and spent a wonderful time with the children Kim, Rob, Debra and I sponsor. Everybody was moved by the time (and we have some great pictures of kids learning to throw a frisbee for the first time. It brought back childhood memories). We then went out for lunch – probably the only time in the lives of these children that they would have that chance and then made our way to Mbyo and the Catholic Guest House and had a good time reconnecting with Father Immanuel and his staff.

Friday began with our meeting the children in Compassion project in Mbyo which was a great time. We have tried to take sufficient pictures to capture the time and are eager to share them when we get home. We then spent 2 hours playing with over 400 children in the fields outside the school. Imagine a mass of humanity throwing frizbees, playing soccer, volleyball, and upteen other Rwandese group games. Overwhelming yet a lot of fun.

We then met with the Parish Council and heard about the developments over the past three years. They are devastated by the loss of the cows and expressed deep sadness and guilt. We assured them of our love and told them that we do not hold them responsible for something out of their control. We then addressed some concerns they had about our agricultural project – that we were not coming in to tell them how to do what they do, but rather to learn from them what it is they do, and how we might be able to help them in this. We ended the session with a visit to a large casava field they own and farm as a community and learned about the possibilities of development in this area.

Saturday we were back with Compassion making bricks for their new building. Imagine stomping in mud mixed with straw and then rolling it into balls and taking it in a factory line to people filling wood frames shaped like bricks. It was fun beyond compare and the interaction with the kids and staff at Compassion was priceless. Again, we have pictures and stories to show and tell when we return. Amazing stuff.

Then this afternoon we visited two of the 28 cell groups in Mbyo parish and heard from them the issues they confront and some of the hopes and dreams they have for their future. I am humbled by the depth of Christian community they already enjoy and the development they have already acheived despite the most overwhelming difficulties. These are truly amazing people who so need each other to survive let alone thrive, but are thriving nonetheless by the grace of God. Again, we will have much more to share on this next Sunday.

Tomorrow we gather to worship. I will be asked to preach and everyone to give a greeting. Pray for us as we continue to pray for you. All of us are being changed by the time and, amazingly, are making an impact on the people here just by our presence. They truly love us and appreciate our partnership in the gospel. More later Lord willing and internet able.


Week of July 21 of Pentecost

Dear Friends

We leave tomorrow (July 22) for Rwanda and covet your prayers for the next 10 days. The team consists of Rob Slaughter, Kim Johnson, Scotti Johnson, Debra Bustetter, Maggie Fraser, Jordan O’Byrne, Claire Campbell and myself. Our hope is to communicate via email as we are able so keep on the look-out for any further updates. I attach the tentative schedule with this email (though it has already been changed significantly, it will at least show you the kinds of things we will be doing).

I pass on some good news as well today: Charles Jenkins came through his day-long surgery and is now in recovery mode. Please be in prayer for Charles in this new phase of his saga, and for Carolyn as she prays and waits for his recovery. Linda Richter will be the point person for the church as far as communication with the Jenkins (Charles will not be able to receive visitors until further notice). Please contact Linda (shamaw46@gmail.com) for further information on Charles.Have a great week. I will look forward to seeing you all on August 3.

Brian Campbell

The Fundamental Choice!

Rotation Seek

The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.
Psalm 37:18-19

I can easily tell when my life is out of balance. I either find myself waking up in the middle of the night wrestling with seemingly intractable issues; or struggling to ‘be still’ before God during the times I have intentionally set aside for that purpose; or both!

I am sad to confess that I am in one of those times. Perhaps it’s because of the impending trip to Rwanda next week; or the new developments that are before us this fall (and, of course, need my ‘nurturing’ to reach their full potential!); or because Janis and I have decided to wait until the end of August to take our summer break, and my energy is running low; or perhaps because of all these things and more, I find myself distracted and stirred up.

Then I read Psalm 37 this morning as part of the Daily Office and found myself asking some helpful questions (if you have not yet read Psalm 37 today, take some time to do so now).

David, the elderly and wise King, counsels his people in a time of great crisis and exhorts them to stop ‘fretting’ because of their circumstances and to start ‘trusting’ because of their God (that is the great choice he leaves us with, especially in the first half of the psalm which is set for this morning’s reading).

As I read the psalm again this morning and reflected on David’s words, I found myself asking: In the midst of difficult circumstances, ‘Where is my focus?’, and ‘Who has my attention?’

When I wake up in the middle of the night, or when I find myself distracted as I intentionally quiet myself in God’s presence, it is clear that my focus is on the circumstances that confront me, my attention is on the those people or things or issues that threaten ME – the emphasis always comes back to ME! It is MY circumstances, and My being threatened by those circumstances, and MY anger and rage that arises because of MY experience of being so threatened, that commands my focus and my attention.

What is David’s counsel?  ‘Trust in the LORD…. Delight yourself in the LORD…. Commit your way to the LORD…. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…’  In other words, he counsels us to take our focusoff of our circumstances and turn it onto the Lord of our circumstances; Take our attention off of ourselves and turn it to the One who made us, and who made us forHimself!

That is the fundamental choice we have to make in our circumstances- in all of our circumstances, both good and bad! The fact that we have such a choice is a good thing, a gracious thing. If God did not will it and enable it, we would not have that choice! But he does!

Now we must choose to act on it; even in the midst of the difficulties!

It was good to be reminded of that this morning.

Brian Campbell

Week of July 16 of Pentecost

Dear Friends

We are less than a week away from our trip to Rwanda.  There are 8 of us going (Rob Slaughter, Kim Johnson, Scotti Johnson, Debra Bustetter, Maggie Fraser, Jordan O’Byrne, Claire Campbell, and myself). We leave together on Tuesday July 22 from Dulles in DC at 5:55 pm and return in two groups: Rob and Kim return on Tuesday July 29 and the rest of us on August 1 at 3:30 pm.
There are a number of ways you can help with the trip:

First, commit to pray for the team daily (it would be great if you could start today!). Ask that God’s favor would be poured out upon us and that his will done in and through us.

Second, if you have not yet sent in your picture (of you or your family) and/or your ‘note to Mbyo’ you can still do so (but time is running out). Jordan and Maggie are putting the Scrapbook together now. Send your material to jordanobyrne7788@gmail.com.

Third, we are trying to work out our travel to DC on Tuesday (July 22) and return on Friday (August 1). If you would like to drive up to DC with a group on Tuesday, or drive home from DC on Friday, please let me know. Or, if you have a vehicle you could lend us (larger car to swap for one of our smaller ones; or one you do not need for the 10 days and we could leave at Dulles), then please let me know as well.

Have a great week. Looking forward to worshiping with you all on Sunday.
Brian Campbell