Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jude the "cowboy"

I recently returned to the US to attend graduations of grandkids (congratulations Nick and Emily) and to congratulate Heather and Adam on marriage. It was great catching up on family news and seeing friends but I was really happy to return to Rwanda. So here I am in Kigali trying to catch up with everything on this blog entry.

We have spent the last four weeks completing reports, compiling documents and policy and procedures, etc. for official presentation to officials so we can get our registration as a local NGO. We finally received the document we were waiting for and now the Rwamagana Lutheran School has official standing as an NGO and I was able to get my visa extended to December. In spite of all the paperwork and interviews, we have come to the conclusion that Rwanda is doing a good job making sure organizations are going to do what they say they will do and that the people are actually here to work for the betterment of Rwandans. This means that construction on our first classrooms can begin right away. We still need to raise money to complete the roof but will hopefully be able to welcome our first students in our own facility by January, 2010.

During all this traveling from Kigali to Rwamagana to Kibungo, I was able to go with Pastor John to his project at Mumeya where the community has begun building a medical clinic. I was there in 2007 and at that time all that was there were piles of rocks for the foundation and a series of trenches where the foundation would begin. During that visit I met a young man named Jude who was taking care of some young Rwandan cows. He loved having his picture taken - one of which is included with this entry (finally figured out how to do it!) - and he tried very hard to communicate with me in his extremely limited English. Imagine my surprise when I arrived there a week ago and there was Jude to greet me. His English had improved to the point that we were able to converse quite extensively. I told him that I remembered him from before and he said, "You remember me when I was a cowboy? Now I am a student!" He told me that he is studying hard and wants to continue going to school and learn as much as he can. It is wonderful to realize that the children in this very remote area have the opportunity to attend public school, but it is also sobering to realize that after grade 6 they will have to attend private school for grades 7-12 and this is an expense that most of the families in that area cannot afford.

What makes this story so compelling is that Jude is the same age as my two grandsons who have completed, or almost completed, high school and will have the opportunity to achieve "higher education." Jude, and many other young people in Rwanda often spend twice as long trying to get an education beyond primary school. These young people value education more than anything and recognize the need for it. I feel blessed that the project I am here helping with will provide a way for some of these students to continue their education.

So once again, thank you church congregations and other donors for your help in establishing this school. We thank you for your prayers and contributions. To the youth at my home congregation at Muhlenberg Lutheran Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, thanks for continuing to care about your Rwandan sisters and brothers. If you have any comments or questions, please send them - I value hearing from you. I will try to answer your questions in the next blog entry I post. I will also include a picture from the Rwandan Cultural Dance Troupe's performance last week at our school land site - it was great.

I send prayers and blessings to all of you from Rwanda........
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