A Theatre Experience in Rwanda

When KICS proposed starting a January term, my principle asked teachers to consider what kind of course they would like to teach that does not fit into the regular course schedule during the year. I immediately started to describe an intensive theatre making course. The idea was to bring guest teaching artist to Rwanda from Arena Theater (my theatre program at Wheaton College), to build an ensemble of students through a retreat experience, and finally to return to KICS to create an original story for our Kigali community. The idea, the dream, came true.

I first sent an email to the Arena Theater patriarchs and matriarch. After I sent it, I least expected Mark Lewis, Work Out Ensemble director to reply asking if I would like his particular flavor of spice as part of the project. I replied with enthusiasm, communicating my strong desire to host him in Rwanda.  Mark brought his daughter with him, Olivia, who blessed the experience with her thoughtful presence and love for the students, even documenting the retreat with some of the photos you see here.

Side note, yet important note, it is extremely humbling to have your teacher and mentor come to love you by supporting you as a teacher, leader and mentor.  Mark was there with a kind word, key question, and engaged/participant stance, as I lead. I know I sounded just like him as I taught my students, “lean in” and “don’t forget to rest your hands” etc. Mark says we all model our teachers.

After Mark’s stated interest, I cast out a larger net and collected three beautiful women, who had the desire to make and the desire to love my students and me by investing two weeks in Rwanda. Each one of them possessed the talent and creativity to direct their own project, however, each humbly accepted the tasks I put before them. Not only did these women bring their gifts, of music, dance, scenic design, they also brought their commitment to the idea of process over product, and modeled the delicate ensemble-dance of “giving and receiving” to my students.

As mentioned in the first brainstorm of what this course could be, on the first day of January Term we took our 28 students on a three-day retreat out of Kigali, to a rural camp/retreat center. Our students ranged from 6th to 12th graders. For many of our students, this was their first time away from home with their classmates. The joy spread through the bus ride and late into the nights as they chatted away in their dorm rooms.

The purpose of the retreat was three fold, to begin building ensemble (relationships), to begin building a shared physical and verbal vocabulary about theatre making, and to learn the story that we would adapt into a play – Max Lucado’s You Are Special. We started our mornings together on our mats, (given with love by current Work Out Arena Theater students), warming up our bodies and praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, I am here.” Following breakfast and lunch, we explored different theatre making exercises. In addition to lots of time together as a large group, the students were divided into small groups with one teaching artist who served as their personal guide/mentor. The small groups providing students safe-spaces to explore their own stories as well as begin to embody and tell their own stories. In the evenings after dinner, we gathered in a circle to hear a “Feet to the Fire” a true story from the life of our guest teachers. Stories shared ranged from their relationship with God, to ideas of being an actor and artists, to experiences of being a teenager etc.

Following the retreat and a weekend of recovery for both students and teachers, we reconvened back at school for our second week to start making our play.  Guided by their teaching artists, students wrote scenes and original songs, learned choreography, and developed their characters. The days were long as we were with our students from the time the bell rang at 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM each day. Our guest teachers, Matt, and I, would journey home or to a coffee shop to rest and plan the next day of making.

Soon our first full week came to an end, and with that Matt and I had the impossible task of taking our friends, (did I mention that the guest teachers were some of my dearest friends) to the airport.

Another important side note- when you experience doing the thing that you love most with some of the people you love most, it makes it hard to consider doing anything else. It felt like such a fragile gift to be reunited with three of the 10 women who were in my graduating class… too many things had we witnessed in each other and now this! In addition to witnessing them being in my hometown of Kigali, Rwanda, I get to witness them as teachers and colleagues.

I must also say, as much as we worked so well together, I truly believe you could have taken the four of us out and replaced us with four other alumni from our program and the entire experience would have happened much the same. Our shared friendship and vocabulary for making theatre that Arena Theater had given us made it all possible.

Okay back to the chronological telling of it-We dropped them off at the airport and had to continue without our friends through our last and final week. I was grateful to have with me, Matt who facilitated the technically details and production managing, and Melia KICS’s music teacher who kept reminding the students to use their God given voices and directed the musical elements of our play. Where our first and second weeks were largely generative, our third and final week involved making choices and repetition as we honed in on the shape of our play.

Two days before our showcase, I decided to add in one final element that we had explored during the retreat to our play: the idea of an actor advocating for someone else’s story. Each student was guided to write a three-sentence story, either a star or dot story from their own life. The first sentence – “I knew I was going to get a star/dot when…” The second sentence – “Then I got a star/dot…” Third sentence – “The moment after I got my star/dot I felt…” After each student wrote their true and honest star/dot stories, they found a partner. The partner’s task was to learn and embody their partner’s story as if it were their own. During the climax of our play before Punchinello chooses to see Eli (sorry if you do not know this children’s story this might be unclear-please read it if you can) – each of our 28 actors chose one audience member to tell their three-sentence story too. After they told them their story they gave their audience member their star/dot sticker, “To remember my story, this is for you.” This was my favorite part of our play, when the audience was invited into our process to learn one of our real stories, and hopefully to consider what role star/dot culture plays in their own life.

When our play ended Thursday night with a dot falling to the ground, I felt in that moment I would do the process all over again.

 

Here are some pictures thanks to Olivia Lewis (photos of retreat) and Louise Koonce (photos with the J-term brand).

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Where we retreated faced this valley.
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Miss Annie’s small group making theater.
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Melia Mcnatt’s bringing the joy factor to her small group
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Miss Amy’s group’s got an idea.
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Miss Margaret’s group sharing work.
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Small groups reflecting on activity.
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Statue lines
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Mark spotlight moment, “What is acting?”
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“It is something about…”
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Small groups dispersing for writing activity.
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To be with your teacher feels something like this.
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At camp we circled up and took up a lot of space.

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Back at school and still building ensemble.
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Our guest teachers brought and sewed and cut so many stars and dots.
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My scrunched up nose cant even begin to describe how this all felt.
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Each ensemble member was carried and carried every ensemble member.

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The book we adapted into an original play with our stories mixed in too.

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In the afternoons we rehearsed in the courtyard and it was so hot: (see kids hiding in the shade.)

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Opening Number choreography directed by Miss Amy.

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Point like a director.
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Melia braving the sun.
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Some real life star and dot moments going on as we prepare for our dress rehearsal.

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“I sit in the workshop with her. I sit in the workshop with her. We sit and we talk. It isn’t a lot. I sit in the workshop with her”
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Lucia’s dance
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Some of the Wemicks got stars!
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This young lady learned how to play the original music in our play in less than a week.
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Other Wemicks they could do little, they got dots.

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The empty space, when it was all done.
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My Meme-Grandma-Lois Jenkins

429526_10150609185343297_739898307_n  Growing up in East Africa as a missionary kid – a visit to the U.S. was synonymous with a visit to Meme and Grandpa’s house. I remember one summer when we were visiting Meme and Grandpa’s home in Deerwood, Mn, we all went into town for the Fourth of July parade. Ruthie, as a toddler, was getting tired and asked if we could go back to America, aka Meme’s house! We all laughed, at the childlike nature of Ruth’s understanding. However, reflecting back, I felt the same way about Meme and Grandpa’s home; it symbolized the best parts of America. It was what I looked forward to the most about our visits to the U.S.

I remember we would often fly straight to Minneapolis Airport form Africa and Meme and Grandpa were always there on the other side of the doors to pick us up. Meme always had tears of joy streaming down her face as she embraced us. They would take us to their home, either Prior Lake where my father grew up, or in the later years up north to Deerwood where they retired to their lake house. In both homes, I remember the feeling and even the smell, of stepping into their home, the comfort of my second home after Africa. Meme always kept it so clean, and beautiful. The fridge and pantry would be stocked with our favorite American foods. “There’s sour cream and onion dip for you in the fridge, Sophia,” I remember her saying.

When I was five years old, my family was on furlough in the US for long enough that it made sense for me to be enrolled in pre-k in Prior lake. My Meme would often tell the story of walking into my classroom, and seeing all the student art work on display. She would say something like, “I could always pick out Sophia’s pictures, because they stood out from all the rest. They were the most detailed and…”My heart would swell a little as she praised whatever creative project I was currently working on.

Meme took such pride in her grandchildren. Meme and Grandpa raised a beautiful family, three boys and one girl. I remember Dad telling stories about their home growing up, how much fun they had, how their friends loved to come over to the Jenkins house. Meme created a home, a place for children to be kids, to play, to laugh, to have adventures, and other children were always welcome. As a child, I would ask my dad to tell me stories about when he was a kid, about his family. I loved stories about him and his siblings, maybe because they were not very different from my own stories with my siblings. My Meme and Grandpa modeled family to my Dad, and my family growing up was so good – beautiful and whole-because of who my dad was, and who his parents were, and how my Meme created a home. My Meme had every right to beam with pride in her grandchildren– she had made us- by making and raising our parents.

I am proud of my Meme too. Whenever I would describe my Meme to others, I would say she is the ideal, archetype of the perfect grandmother. And she was. My Meme was a helper, a perfectionist, a do-er. When you combine these traits with her compassion and great love for her family it manifested itself in what appeared to me as a constant action or posture of serving others. The more I work to remember her and reflect on those memories, I see the majority of my memories involve her doing things for others, actively using her body to serve her husband, her children, her grandchildren, and her extended family.

Sifting through my memories with a childlike perspective, it seems like she was always moving, never slowing down, and never stopping. This is why it was very hard for me, and I imagine for others too, who witnessed the slowing down, stops and pauses, that took her these last couple years. When I was with her this summer, she moved from room to room trying host and take care of us, without the ability to focus on any one task. Her instincts to serve and nurture did not leave her.

I want to close by sharing memories of her whole person-hood and acts of servitude. This is a list of things I remember her doing. This is an incomplete list, for no list can summarize a whole life, especially hers. But maybe this list can help me remember her as a servant of God. Maybe this list could remind others of ways she served them. Maybe this list could lead you to make your own list. Or maybe like me you’ll be inspired to take up one of her tasks or acts and keep it going.

  • I remember with each visit to the states she would take me shopping. I especially remember when I was 14, Caleb and I, traveled early to the states to spend the summer with Meme and Grandpa. We spent several days together, shopping at the mall and Kohl’s, and sometimes grabbing lunch at Taco Bueno.
  • I remember her making quilt after quilt – as least three or four for me. The last one she made for me was when I was twelve years old. I loved horses and Africa. So there were four fabrics I choose – navy blue, emerald green, zebra print, and horses! How ridiculous these fabric combos must have looked to her. I never remember her questioning or making me feel foolish.
  • I remember two matching floral purple dresses Meme made for Ruthie and I when Ruthie was a toddler and I was 8 or 9 years old.
  • I remember her cooking the most delicious dinners, for her family. Oh and the savory hot dishes!
  • I remember her sharing about how much and how hard she worked, as a small child growing up, “Kitty corner to the town dump” she used to say. She worked so hard to get an education and to provide and care for her family.
  • I remember her washing counters, doing laundry, rinsing dishes until they were basically clean before putting them in the dish washer. She was meticulous in everything from crunching numbers to keeping a home.
  • I remember her carefully making lists and grocery shopping for all her grands’ favorites.
  • I remember her teaching me how to cast off when I was knitting. I remember her giving me her yarn and needles to make my first complete scarf.
  • I remember her teaching me a lot of things – how to make flannel blankets by tying knots around the edges, how to clean a toilet bowl and other chores when I spent a summer with her, and many other things that I could do she taught me the more efficient way of doing it.
  • I remember her making Christmas magical. She made stockings for everyone in the family – even brother Fred one year, (a family inside joke). She played the perfect Santa, giving the right and perfect gifts. She made everyone’s favorite pies.10431697_10152058921716364_5111908947598905394_n

Returning to Rwanda

img_0348Return

Re

Turn

Return

an act of coming or going back to a place or activity.

Re

a prefix, used with the meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or with the meaning “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion.

Turn

an act of changing or reversing position or posture, as by a rotary movement; a place or point at which such a change occurs.

On August 2nd, 2016 we returned to Kigali, Rwanda for our second year; a second year of living cross-culturally, a second year of marriage, a second year of teaching, and a second year of preparing for the future. On August 2nd, as we thought of returning we were full of hope and peace. We clung to the “re” of returning, the again and sweet relief of coming back to a known place or activity. Our first year, as anticipated and warned by others, was full of unknowns, shaky moments, changes of ourselves and our places. On August 2nd, we clung to the “re”, perhaps because of a lack of warning or a lack of insight, without considering the challenges that may come and did come with returning.

Through all of August and September, and bleeding into October and parts of November, we wrestled with returning. Shortly after our arrival, Matt started his first year teaching, a role not anticipated on August 2nd. Sophia, anticipating the bliss of being a returning teacher, had not anticipated the extra load of serving on the committee to plan the 10th Anniversary or the addition of a theatre class to her regular social studies classes.  We had clung to the re of returning, and were, as a result, stuck in the turning of returning. Upon returning, we were confronted with the changes of expectations from place, work, and self. Our days and weeks turned into a constant pivoting motion, adjusting course with each new realization.

The changes we encountered could be described as challenges, disruptions, and burdens. Those same changes could be described as opportunities, surprises, and blessings, by which we mean the same things. We felt the burden of a teaching work load that never quite leaves the corners of your mind. We felt the surprising moments of connection between student and teacher. We felt the disruption of establishing any sort of rhythm because of early morning’s prepping and weekend’s grading. We felt the blessings of a new car and home bringing with it security and rest. And through these challenges, we have seen how each were and are an opportunity for reshaping and re-centering.

Now in December, we are hoping to see the process of returning more holistically with its “again and again” moments and with its “changing and pivoting” moments. As we are in a season of Advent; waiting for the nativity of Christ and the returning of Christ’s Kingdom to be established on earth.  We pray that the Holy Spirit is using this season of returning, this season that has reshaped and re-centered us, to make room for Christ to born in us again.

Currently the future holds many unknowns, as we prepare and seek our return to the United States in June 2017. As we also grieve a pending departure from this corner of the world, we begin to hope for the familiar and dream about the changes that returning to the United States will hold.

Parts and Pieces of Teaching

Today I checked out of my class room, and officially completed my first year of teaching. The thoughts and feelings are jumbled: feelings of joy and exhaustion, words like “too fast” and “finally”, memories of tear soaked pillow nights, sticky notes filled with to-do lists and sticky notes filled with loving words. My first year, like the list I just made, has been one of extremes, and before I forget what it felt like to be a first year teacher, or what it feels like to have finished my first year teaching, I want to write parts of it down.


I can only hold parts right now, with my dusty hands, mushy brain and heavy eyes. Parts and pieces may be the best way to describe a first year teacher. Our commencement speaker for KICS’s graduation reminded the graduates that
they were going to fail. And that these failures become the broken pieces that make up who we are. They are stuck together with the glue of our beliefs and world view, by the creator who turns these pieces and parts into the mosaic of our life. Like any mosaic when you look up close all you can see are the pieces and they had to be broken. Maybe they are misshapen or appear rather purposeless. However, when you step back you can see the design, the eye of the artist who transformed these parts and pieces into His larger image.


So today I share pieces and parts from my first year, none of them whole and none of them perfect. If you can step back and see some larger image or themes, wonderfully. But more likely, for you and for me, they are still just pieces and parts, not fully redesigned, not all polished, a hint of design but not finished. They can almost stand on their own but next to each other feel better.

  • 13327632_10153668452663297_6585690210104894995_nI did not talk at my students very much. I can count on one hand the number of times I lectured. And I am okay with that.
  • Taking books away from students who were reading during class. Taking balls away from students who were playing with them during passing periods. 
  • Sitting with one student and guiding him through his essay outline after school.
  • One day, I was challenging 6th grade to consider what things in our classroom were not made in a factory – in order to describe why the industrial revolution was historically significant. In response, one student raises his hand and says, “Us, we were not made in a factory.” A few kids start to giggle, “Um… you’re right we were not…” and I begin to stall thinking I don’t really want to go down the path of where babies DO come from. Then suddenly, one of the most endearing 6th graders shouts with a wide, chubby cheek grin, “We were made in the Jesus Factory!” 
  • When I taught my 7th graders our celebration noise – clap stomp, and then it turned into clap stomp Whip Nae Nae.
  • Watching “The Danger of a 12573184_10153375977673297_627182450830350250_nSingle Story”
    TED talk with my 6th graders, before starting our Islam unit.
  • Election lesson plan! The results in one class reflected that the zealous, outspoken, and aggressive middle school boys outnumbered the soft spoken girls in their class. (Trump won)13232970_10153633680753297_7502835350056503549_n
  • The moments when I said. “Get into small groups and choose a presente-” and before I could finish my list of roles for each group member, students were arguing about who got to be the presenter, scribe, or facilitator last time. They understood the roles of each group member, and were eager to sign up and participate in group work.
  • When one students with a very high reading and IQ level got to thrive! The assignment was to create and innovative solution to one of Kigali’s urban problems. The presentations overall where phenomenal, and my urban nerdy heart was booming as kids presented ideas for more bicycle lines and paths, affordable housing, participatory budgeting, rebuilding the slums with better infrastructure etc. But this student in particular had done his research in more depth than I had anticipated, crunching the numbers, and convincing the class that what Kigali really needs is movable sidewalks (like in airports) as a new alternative to public transportation! The students were enthralled and I was too, as he linked his ideas to other projects in Latin America where they had built a couple mile long escalators along the
    mountain 
    side of shanty towns.
  • Counting down to quiet… One more minute – 30 seconds – 10 seconds – five, four, three, two, one… And silence. And then an unidentified oblivious whistling student filling the once silent room…
  • Getting red in my face and ears, when only four people in my high school class did their homework, and I responded by saying that I would only teach the four students who were prepared, the rest could sit in the back and do their homework without talking.
  • The yarn that hung across the back left corner of the classroom to display student work. And how I kept 6th grade Byzantine icon coloring pages and reports hanging up there for most of the semester.
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  • The stack of paper each week that held: current event worksheets, reading quizzes,
    NY Times articles, Crash Course World History video Transcripts, Graphic Organizers…
  • Making my Mimios for the week, that consisted of a slide for each class with their Essential Question for the day and their Do Now Question.
  • Teaching a unit together with the photo 2english teacher on Imperialism, and dressing up as eachother for a bonus effect!
  • Reminding the class that the bell did ring and congratulating the few students that were already furiously writing their responses to the Do Now Question.
  • When one student continued to challenge my methods of instruction and work load exceptions. After a one on one conversation, with a lot of listening, I realized I had done a poor job explaining why I had high expectations. I told him that I did expect a lot out of him and his class mates. I told him how I wanted him to be prepared for high school and college and to be a critical thinker. I told him I want him not just to know history but be able to interpret it and back it up with evidence. He started to nod his head, and though he continued to ask me hard questions all year, he turned into a good gauge for me. If he didn’t understand why we were doing something, then I was not doing a good job explaining the why to the whole class. But if he did get it and take ownership, I knew I had explained the reason behind it and he had taken ownership, and the rest of the class followed.image_4
  • Saying, almost everyday, “Turn and Talk, to your elbow partner about what you think …”  before sharing out as a class.
  • Grading Current Events. Writing “more detailed, specific connection”on more then half of the worksheets. Circling “Yahoo.News” and writing “not credible news source.” Writing 100% as students went beyond my expectations to describe and connect their Current Event to what we had been doing in class. 
  • Finally creating my very own infamous “Check plus, Check, Check minus” grading system after 20 years of teachers applying the mysterious practice to me…
  • Simply observing and keeping time during Current Event Days, as students (even my 6th graders) presented their articles and lead classmates in a short discussion of the current events.
  • The feeling that the “To Do List” would never end. I had to decide when I met my end, and could do no more. The first semester it was around 6 to 6:30 pm on bad days (and most of them were bad days). During the second semester, a good day could end as early as 4:30 (and most of them were good days).
  • The final to do list:

1. Email mission group summer prayer request

2. Create scope and sequences for 6th, 7th, 8th,
and European History classes

3. Organize my paper resources in folders and binders

4. Send emails about J-term

5. Complete Check out list

6. Get signatures on Check-Out forms

7. Print flight itinerary 

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Between Being and Doing

 

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Matt and I’s first Christmas is approaching, marking a season of firsts; first cross Atlantic plane ride together, first home making, first year of teaching, first cross-cultural experience, first time negotiating at the market, first time finding a cockroach in your chips, first fight over who’s going to do the dishes, first hosting someone in our home….

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(Hiking in the hills of Musanze over Thanksgiving)

In our first weeks and months here we are often asked, “Wow, you guys did most of the life changes all at the same time, how is it going?” We respond with smiles and shrugs, thinking to ourselves, “Yes we did and what can we say, it’s all we know. We don’t really have an alternative to compare it to.” Some days it is hard. After a long day at school-of planning for hours, directing my kids, or going to meetings-I plop on the couch and cannot do much more than that. However, some days are joyous. Matt buys ingredients from a couple different grocery stores (it always takes more than one stop) and we spend our evening experimenting with a new recipe and sharing a beautiful meal together in our home. We have up days and down days, up moments and down moments.

IMG_0777In response to the question, “How’s it going?” We say, “Overall the transition has been smooth.” And it has been. I am struck with gratefulness for the opportunity to share my childhood home with Matt and create our own memories in Rwanda together. I have the joy of seeing Matt jump into Rwandan culture, enjoying the simple pleasures of glass soda bottles, making friends with the neighbor security guard, or exploring town on his own.

In this season of firsts, Matt and I have been discovering, asking, and waiting for God to continue to reveal to us who He is calling us to be, and what He is calling us to do.

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(My thinking like a historian accessories)

I have been knee-deep in teacher tasks; planning, researching, grading, and so on. At times, I focus more on what God has called me to do than who He is calling me to be. In this Advent season I have been convicted of how I, like Mary, need to bear Christ, to be Christ. Instead of getting caught up in “what” God has called me to do, I need to seek “who” Christ is calling me to be as I teach, plan, prep, and live in my community.

 

On the flip side, Matt and I are wrestling with the “what” God is calling him to do. Matt’s support has blessed me tremendously in this very challenging season as a first year teacher. Matt has also been exploring work possibilities for himself. He volunteers part time at one of the government hospitals in Kigali, he tutors kids from KICS, and serves at KICS as a substitute teacher every now and then. I have seen God continue to bless Matt with opportunities to be–a support system, a cultural learner, and a servant at the hospital.

DSCN6602As I pray for more opportunities to be, I pray for more opportunities for Matt to do. I trust God is using us in this season that often feels unbalanced for a reason. Perhaps He is refining our faith, purifying our motives, or challenging our habits. Those are reasons we try to identify in the present, trusting that the future will reveal more. We pray that God continues to reveal to us who He is calling us to be and what He is calling us to do together.

As we approach the end of the year, we look forward to the next year and half serving in Kigali, Rwanda. Through your generous partnership we have been able to fully fund our first year in Rwanda. To make us sustainable for our second year we would like to ask you to please consider giving a year end gift.

To learn how to give visit our sending organization Resourcing Christian Education International to give. If you would like to become a monthly partner we encourage you to fill out an Electronic Funds Transfer Form; this enables your donation to be deducted directly from your checking or savings account on a monthly basis.

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(Visiting a school in Musanze that a friend built)
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(Home making with plants)
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(KICS Theater Company)
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(Becoming an ensemble) 
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(Where I come From, an original work by KICS Theater Company)
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(Exploring stories of cultural identity and belonging )
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(Intimate audience of friends and family joined us for tea and conversations between our two performances. )

The Race to Rwanda

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(God has Power)

Two weeks ago Matthew and I encountered a significant road block in our journey to Rwanda. Some of you know what this obstacle was but for the sake of this blog, I would like to focus less on what the obstacle was and more on God’s response to carry us through it.

The last two weeks have been full of questioning. Questioning God’s purpose and plan for us, his will in our lives, and where he would have Matthew and I live. In the face of this obstacle that severely jeopardized the potential for us to live in Rwanda, we were forced to begin considering plans other than spending the next 2 years in Rwanda. Should Matthew keep working the job he has now? Should I go back to school? Could we (and should we) still spend some time traveling? My mind was endlessly and fruitlessly searching and strategizing through a variety of scenarios. In our worst moments, we wanted to be in control of the situation and to have full understanding of what was going to come next. In our best moments the Lord brought us to our knees, offering prayers of thanksgiving.

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Patience Pays

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Many of you know that Matthew and I are spending this summer apart, each living with our families. In addition to preparing for marriage and a wedding, Matthew is working a job with long hours and I am taking an intensive summer course. This distance and busyness placed more strain on us as we wrestled through this trial. I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Matthew last weekend. We were so grateful for time to be physically present with each other as we wrestled and prayed. We hoped that a weekend together would give us clear answers. Unfortunately, I boarded the plane with no more sense of direction then when I landed in New Jersey to visit Matthew. But, God had given us a newly discovered peace. We took comfort in the book of James. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you fall into various trials; knowing that the trying of your faith produces perseverance” (1:2-4). Through this trial, God pried open our hearts, instilling in us a deeper realization of his sovereignty and the need for dependency on him. We would be content with wherever he saw fit to put us for this time.

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God is Provider

On Friday the 5th of June, we received the news that God had removed the road block and made a way for us to go to Rwanda. This good news was not only accompanied with joy but also with great emotion. To hear and accept this unexpected good news required a shift in our hearts. We are still raw, but our reliance is fully on the Lord. And that is a good place to be. I have seen God’s hand many a time. He works when men’s ways do not work. He works when we have no idea how we can do it on our own.

Now begins the the race to Rwanda. We have a wedding to plan, documents to chase, preparing and packing to do. In addition, we have only raised a third of our monthly support.

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Never Give Up

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entagles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

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Try Jesus

After two weeks of waiting it is easy to feel that we are behind and have much “catching up” to do. However, a race provides a great metaphor for the Christian faith. Matthew and I have felt God stretching and pulling us during these past two weeks. Perhaps stretching our faith muscles for the race that lays before us.

At this stage it may also be too early to know fully why we went through this trial. As we look back on this season in our life I know we will say that it is God who carried us through. No matter how hard and fast we ran, it is he who finished the race for us.

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God Bless You (for running with us)

Would you consider running this race to Rwanda with Matthew and I? You can join us by giving a one time gift or becoming a monthly partner! To learn how visit our sending organization Resourcing Christian Education International to give. If you would like to become a monthly supporter we encourage you to fill out an Electronic Funds Transfer Form; this enables your donation to be deducted directly from your checking or savings account on a monthly basis.

Our Story of God Leading us to Kigali, Rwanda

(Sophia with Young women at Christ Church in Rwanda paint Mural)
(Sophia with Young women at Christ Church in Rwanda paint Mural)

Matthew and Sophia met in an English writing class while studying at Wheaton College. After their first date in the spring of their sophomore year, Sophia returned to Rwanda for the summer to intern for Rwanda Outreach Community Partners while Matthew was back in New Jersey. During that summer, Matthew and Sophia wrote back and forth to each other. He discovered her love for Rwanda, she discovered a growing friendship with Matthew.

(when we first started dating)
(Matthew and Sophia at the beginning of their friendship)

Fast forward to our senior year at Wheaton – Matthew participated in an experiential learning program in Chicago that enabled him to attend East African fellowships at the Jenkins home. Sophia received a second opportunity to return to Rwanda with her cousin Lauren over Christmas break. This time Sophia explored concrete opportunities for service in Rwanda after graduation. She visited her alma mater, Kigali International Community School. Upon her return to the US, we began to pray and seek wisdom about moving to Rwanda together.

(Matthew at East African Fellowship in the Jenkins Home in Chicago)
(Matthew at East African Fellowship in Chicago)

On the evening of March 8th, 2015, Matthew asked Sophia to marry him. She said yes. The day after, we decided that Sophia should accept the job teaching middle school social studies at KICS. This is a huge leap of faith for the both of us. And we are so grateful for the doors God has opened for us to start our marriage living in Kigali and in His service.

(Sophia and Matthew now engaged)
(Sophia and Matthew now engaged)

Now begins the journey of preparing to move to Kigali, Rwanda together. We will be getting married this summer and flying to Rwanda on July 10th. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve at KICS.

KICS is a Christian International School that seeks to develop servant leadership in their students through academic excellence. KICS has 200 students from over 20 nationalities. Sophia is eager for the opportunity to return to her home and teach students with an experience much like her own. In addition to teaching middle school social studies, Sophia will be directing KICS’ theater program. Matthew will also be serving the people of Rwanda by volunteering at clinics and non profit organizations. We look forward to joining a local church and becoming part of the Kigali community.

(Kigali International Community School)
(Kigali International Community School)

We are in the process of fundraising for our work. We have committed to two years in Kigali, Rwanda. We will be raising $2,000 a month and $3,000 for travel and moving expenses. Please remember that no gift is too small to help us reach our goal.

If you would like to give a one time gift or become a monthly supporter you can visit our sending organization Resourcing Christian Education International to give. If you would like to become a monthly supporter we encourage you to fill out an Electronic Funds Transfer Form; this enables your donation to be deducted directly from your checking or savings account on a monthly basis.

Image 22If you would like to join us with prayer support and receive email updates please send an email to matthew.sophia.rwanda@gmail.com.