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27Sep2020 Update

Rwanda Project Updates (September 2020)

 St. Paul’s has been developing relationships with people in the Cyangugu Diocese of Rwanda over the last two decades. Many come from large families and live in rural areas where the agrarian lifestyle is no longer sustainable. Most have been deeply affected by (recent) historical events including the HIV/Aids epidemic and the 1994 genocide. Whereas many feel bound by poverty and despair, church-sponsored programs offer hope through programs including Youth Education, Microfinance and Housing. Since it was not practical for a team from St. Paul’s to visit Rwanda this past summer, updates from the Diocese are being obtained primarily through Wilber Mugabe, our new administrator for Youth Education and Microfinance.

 Biweekly reports of new cases of COVID 19 in Rwanda remain relatively low, likely due in part to strict lockdown measures imposed by the government. Some inter-district travel has been allowed to resume, but only using private means; public transport is not yet allowed. Although an announcement was made that schools would reopen sometime in September, it hasn’t happened yet.

 With assistance from Jane Kabanyana of Hope International, some training has resumed to prepare groups for participating in the microfinance program. Observing appropriate social distancing, two groups in the Bweyeye archdeaconry were recently trained in topics including savings, credit and preparing business plans to be eligible to receive small loans. Jane’s presentation included identifying needs within the community, preparing tools, establishing prices for commodities, seeking advice and funding, and saving a portion for unplanned events like the current crisis. Two individuals who had previously received loans and who have managed to stay in business were provided an opportunity to share the challenges they face due to COVID 19. These include limited access to markets because of restrictions on transporting goods, closed borders, unemployment, and inflation due to high demand and low supply.  

Prayer requests include an end to COVID 19, provision of more funds and reopening of schools and churches. Some of you will recall stories about a young lady named Naome, who participated in several youth conferences we’ve sponsored. She learned about savings groups and helped several of her friends start savings and bible study groups. She has been studying engineering at university and also training to become a missionary. She recently became engaged to Vincent, who also plans to be a missionary. They would like to get married next year. Currently her classes are on hold. She asks us to join in praying for God to make a way where there seems to be no way.

Reminder: Our support for Youth Education, Microfinance and Housing programs in Rwanda are made possible through donor support. Although support can be sent directly to St. Paul’s, contributions to the Saint John’s Legacy Foundation earmarked for any of these projects are eligible for matching grants.

- Wendell

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St. Paul’s is privileged to support Scott and Olga and their four children who are working primarily with college students in East Asia. They are our featured Missionaries-of-the-Month for July. Although they had planned to visit us in person, COVID19 disrupted these and many other of their plans. Below, Scott provides a brief overview explaining just how challenging life has been for them during the last few months, but then goes on to describe how they are finding great opportunities to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.

What is Your Life?

In James 3:13-16, the writer states that we “do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” Few living now would disagree—we cannot predict the future, and sometimes are unable to even have much control over the present.

  • A two-week holiday in Thailand turned into two months
  • Olga’s credit card and phone were stolen
  • One of our sons had a fever on the day of our return to East Asia, so he was flagged at the airport and sent to the hospital for three days of testing
  • We were quarantined for two weeks in a hotel upon return to our city
  • We have yet to be reimbursed by airlines for cancelled flights

Needless to say, stress levels have been high in our home for the last few months. Yet, in all this I am reminded of the words of a wise friend: “These are great days for the gospel, Scott”. 

  • John, a Korean pharmacist living in our neighborhood, tells me of his thriving ministry to African and Indian students studying here
  • John introduces me to Presley, his Zimbabwean son in the faith, who is shepherding a small network of disciples at two local universities.
  • John, Presley and I meet outside the locked gate of his campus to talk and pray together.
  • John asks me twice to pray about helping Presley after he returns to Korea in June. After turning him down the first time, I agree after hearing God speak clearly about it.

We are living in a time of trial but also great opportunity. Pray that our family would be strengthened by God to respond well to the trials and make the most of the opportunities that lie before us. 

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Please keep Scott, Olga and family in your prayers. They work in an area where there is strong opposition to the Gospel message. We hope soon to have a video update to share.

St. Paul’s recently provided some support to another mission agency in East Asia (not related to Scott and Olga’s work).  Ratanak International https://www.ratanak.org/ provides freedom to Cambodians who are survivors of domestic or international sexual and labour exploitation. Last winter Peter and Rene visited Cambodia to learn first-hand about the extent of this problem and the great work being done by Ratanak. A portion (1/4) of the matching grant provided by Saint John’s Legacy Foundation (SJLF) was designated for this cause. (Recall that contributions to SJLF for general missionary support or Rwanda projects are eligible for matching grants.) 

- Wendell