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RWANDA MISSION TRIP JOURNAL: FORGIVENESS, REDEMPTION, RECONCILIATION

200px-Africa_(orthographic_projection).svg174873_154564152669_1671769_nFirst of all before I unleash these stories to you please understand that anytime you go and step out in faith with God on anything be prepared for extreme warfare to ignite in everything around you.  Your job, marriage, friends, family, literally everything so understand that there is an enemy who wants to take you out but, you’re worthless to him until you stand up and fight for the truth then the gloves are off and the spiritual battle begins.  With that information, please enjoy reading the journey that I experienced along with an incredible team of people this last summer in Rwanda, Africa.

In Him, JHollis Life-Line Worldwide

RWANDA MISSION TRIP JOURNAL 2012:

10-17th-19th 2012

My wife Sandy, Tanya Grabbe, Micky Jones, and myself hopped on a plane in Nashville, TN and our journey had begun.  We landed in Chicago where we had to literally run to catch our next flight to London.  After arriving in London we hung out until my friend Mark of the iSing Worship App/World Wide Message Tribe showed up for lunch.  We had a great meeting and some coffee then we waited a few more hours for our flight to Nairobi, Kenya.  The flight to Nairobi was about eight hours so I watched movies, listened to music, and read a book.  Once there we met up with some of the Daily Audio Bible (D.A.B.) team and we had a great time beginning what would be life-long relationships with them.  We walked around to the “Duty-Free Stores” and I bought a leather passport holder which had a really cool print of Africa on it.  We then boarded for the flight to Rwanda and off we went as I listened to Lecrae’s new album “Gravity” over the beautiful African sunrise of orange skies.  We stopped in Burundi briefly and from there we finally arrived in Kigali, Rwanda.  When we got out of the airport the D.A.B. team was waiting for us where we loaded up the vans and headed to lunch at a coffee shop called the Bourbon Café.  The coffee was amazing and the hamburgers were a bit spicy but, tasted way different than in America no preservatives in your food goes a long way on flavor.  Bishop Nathan addressed us about the country of Rwanda and the church what it should be and what it currently is.  After lunch we headed to Bishop Nathan’s gorgeous house outside of Kigali where you could see for miles of the green lush land of a thousand hills.  While there we fellowshipped with the D.A.B. team and started getting to know each one of them on a personal level. We then headed to Hotel Chez Lando where we stopped briefly for a team meeting and prayer time and then off to dinner we went.  Sole Luna served amazing Italian cuisine overlooking the countryside of Kigali where we got a chance to speak with several members of the team and heard from Father Brian Hardin and Mike Greenberg giving us a brief overview of the week.  We then headed back to the hotel where we fell fast asleep.

 

10-20-2012

The day began for me at around 3:45am because I simply woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.  So since I was wide awake I took my phone and went for a walk around the hotel garden and then to the front parking lot where I listened to the D.A.B. and had an amazing time in prayer as the red and orange sun came up.  Around 5:15am I headed back to the room in the morning sunlight to find Sandy awake praying and journaling.  After showering and getting dressed to the sounds of the streets of Kigali we walked through the garden under the sunny skies where we ventured up to the rooftop of the Hotel Chez Lando for a breakfast buffet.  The food was amazing and the deck overlooked the city of Kigali with breads, eggs, mushrooms, chicken gizzards, beans, cereals, cheese, ham, complete with a hot sauce that burned your throat but was really good.  Nothing like coffee from the country probably came from just outside of town, it was rich and the flavor was infectious.  After breakfast we loaded up the bus and headed to the Genocide Memorial Site in Kigali which of course being my second time was even more overwhelming but, powerful.  The story of forgiveness and redemption hit so close to home.  Afterwards we got on the bus in silence contemplating what we had just seen and experienced and then headed to lunch at an outdoor café.  Afterwards we got on the bus and headed to another genocide site called Ntarama which was left intact as it was eighteen years ago with images that I will never forget.  I was deeply impacted by seeing where human beings were tortured, raped, killed and where bombs were dropped in this place just the sheer horror of the events that took place there.  At the end of touring this site we were greeted by young children and we got a chance to hug and speak with them before getting on the bus.  We then had a few hours journey to Butare which was where we were spending the majority of our next couple of weeks.  When we arrived we went to dinner at Hotel Credo where we ate goat on a stick, plantains, veggies, etc. We had a great time of fellowship with Theogen, Honory, and Pastor Lambert.  After dinner we got to our rooms unpacked and went to bed.

 

10-21-2012

The next morning we woke up to a beautiful day so Sandy and I went for a stroll through the courtyard behind Mater Boni Concilii Hotel.  The trees were lush green and tall, the flowers were unbelievably beautiful of all kinds it was so breath taking.  We went to breakfast and then loaded on the bus to go to church at Bishop Nathan’s Cathedral.  There were two services the first was in English and the second was in Kinrwandan.  We got to share a bit with the church where we were from and then Bishop Nathan put me on the spot and had me sing so I chose an Italian Aria from my opera days it was crazy.  After church we all went to lunch at our hotel and then we went to a high school for a beauty pageant/talent show to honor the top students.  It was amazing to see the talent that everyone had!  We then headed to Bishop Nathan’s for dinner and fellowship with his church staff.  Bishop Nathan showed us his gardens behind his home and then we presented the staff with water purifiers to have good drinking water.  We then ate dinner and had an awesome time of fellowship.  We went back to the hotel after dinner and went to sleep because we had a full day on Monday.

 

10-22-2012

Monday morning came and we had a super busy day and went to the village of Kigeme for Rwanda’s Healthy Mums and Babies Program from the ministry of Embrace Rwanda.  It was an incredible experience for us all we got to meet Hilary who was over the Embrace Rwanda ministry and we had a meeting in one of the main buildings explaining what exactly Embrace Rwanda was about and how it helped single mothers get a new start on life with a goat, some seed, and some basic needs it was truly amazing.  We got to hear a local Bishop speak and several women in the program speak about how the program has impacted their lives.  We broke for lunch and then we broke up into groups and were assigned to a single mother to go to her house to see how they were impacted by the Embrace Rwanda program.  While we were there we prayed over them and their children.  God really impacted each one of us to see first-hand how this was an amazing life-changing program.  On our way back we could see that several families from the Congo had set up refugee camps along the hills of Rwanda because of the impact of the war; we were literally seeing history in front of our eyes.  I don’t know why but, it really impacted me to think about how these families were stripped from their homeland and forced to go live in a tent for how long nobody knows?  I pray God’s blessings and protection on them all.  When we got back to the campus in Butare we had dinner with each other and had a time of fellowship and fun.  After hanging out for a bit we were all tired from the long day so went back to our rooms for some rest.

 

10-23-2012

Tuesday we woke up to a beautiful sunrise as only Africa could have and then we went to breakfast.  On my way I passed a guy with a NY Yankees hat on and I vaguely recognized him I thought to myself then I shook it off.  When I got to the dining hall I heard a voice behind me and it was my friend DJ Sean Blu from Atlanta, GA!  He was there touring Africa with two artists Mahogany Jones and Roselyn Welch.  I mean how amazing that was, I’m half way around the world and I run into people I know…God is absolutely awesome!!  After breakfast we loaded up the bus and took off for an amazing journey to a place called Kibeho which is a small town in Rwanda famous for reported apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ occurring in 1981 and 1989.  Some of the visions associated with these sightings were seeing rivers of blood and gruesome sliced heads and limbs which were said by many to be an ominous foreshadowing of the coming Rwandan Genocide in 1994.  During the 1994 genocide there was a massacre at Kibeho killing many refugees who had escaped thinking that this would be a safe haven.  This place had a lot of history and who am I to discredit what was seen there?  The original lady who had seen this happen spoke to us while we were there and it was truly amazing to hear her stories.  After which we loaded up the bus and we visited the Maraba Coffee farm/warehouse which was really cool we got to see the entire process from start to finish on how each bean was shelled and inspected and then placed on conveyer belts to be bagged and then sent to the warehouse for roasting.  When we were through we jumped on the bus and went back to sleep at the campus in Butare.

 

10-24-2012

This day started with a heavy heart because the night before was extremely hard my wife and I had a huge argument…well let me back up before we left on this trip we had been fighting non-stop and were actually talking about getting a divorce etc. You know satan was up to his tricks but, this time was for real he really wanted to end our marriage and for us to go our separate ways.  I knew it and recognized all of this from months ago was just an attack on our marriage but, didn’t know how or what to do about it.  We were both in a place where we hadn’t been before and it was one of the hardest times in my life to go through.  It was mainly pride, selfishness, etc. things that should have been a simple conversation was on “TIMES-TEN” so needless to say I was not excited to do anything today.  I was angry, scared, confused about everything especially why I was sent here half way around the world fighting with my wife all the while I was supposed to be doing “ministry”  well today the “HELL” hit the wall and then guess what?  God came in to take our hearts back from what satan intended for evil God turned around for good.  After breakfast we got on the bus and took a journey to a village way out in the middle of nowhere to go to a school and hear stories in person from genocide survivors and their perpetrators.  To say it was impactful was an understatement, it was life-changing to hear the stories of torture, death, and destruction and then to follow it up with forgiveness, redemption, and repentance.  I’m almost tearing up writing this today just the impact of how we in America have our “problems” but compared to these monster, huge problems in another land doesn’t really matter at all.  We need God’s love to change our hearts and minds so bad it hurts.  As they were sharing a huge storm came through with high winds and it blew through in less than 10 minutes.  Almost immediately afterwards the sun was shining through the windows as we worshipped in song with the choirs singing and dancing for us it was truly a “God-Moment” that will forever be burned in my memory.  As we left the school we shook every hand and hugged so many children and adults as well and the unmistakable pure love and joy was surrounding the room it was unreal.  We got on the bus and went to eat lunch and then we went back to the campus at Butare.

 

10-25-2012

Thursday already? Wow! Time is flying while we are here in Rwanda.  Today started out as a day of reconciliation with my beautiful wife, Sandy and a time of joy for me personally.  We ate breakfast and then went our separate ways most of the ladies went to a village called Gisanze and Musange to help launch the Healthy Mums and Babies Program with Embrace Rwanda.  The other half of us went to the site where the school that we had built in Tennessee was going to be placed.  It turned out to be a busy day of getting rocks out of the yard cleaning up the back room for school supplies, etc.  But, we found out during a meeting that morning that the locals wanted to take ownership of the project on how the school was placed and how the roof was to be built etc.  Which was hard for us to hear, we thought in our “western” mindset that we would be working hard and I guess “prove” that we were on a mission trip to do all this good to show the Rwandan people how it was done.  Instead we were humbled and had to submit to their authority because this was a gift from us; they now wanted to build everything else and put it up the way they wanted it to be so that it was the most useful to them.  Well as we were working cleaning up the area a bit we got a call from Mike Greenburg saying that he, Father Brian, Pastor Lambert, and Innocent were in Kigali trying to get the school building out of customs.  So essentially we waited until an agreement was made.  Around 4:30pm the truck was spotted coming around the corner with the cargo container and all of its array of colors it was an incredible sight to be seen.  It took quite a while to get the container positioned and it was nearing dark when we actually got it into position with the crane.  Before that we unloaded everything on board and stored it in one of the back rooms of the existing buildings.  It was a mind-blowing experience that night just interviewing everyone from the Butare campus and their feelings as they saw what had just happened and then the excitement of their voices.  It was so awesome!!  After we got back to the campus we ate dinner together and shared about everything that had happened that day it was so great.

 

10-26-2012

Today was much of the same we worked separately the girls went back to Gisanze and Musange to work on launching the Healthy Mums and Babies Program for Embrace Rwanda.  The guys we went back to prepare the cargo container and we went into town to get some supplies for the project.  When we got back to the school site they had guys cutting out windows and doors etc.  It was really a different experience than what we thought it would be watching them work but, we got to help put up the swing set/slide for the kids which was really crazy because the directions were not much help.  After the work day ended we went to the National Institute of Museums of Rwanda and some of us went through it and some of us went shopping up and down the main street in Butare.  I went shopping with the wifey and we found many cool things for our families.  Then we went to dinner and talked about the activities on Saturday that would be happening

 

10-27-2012

So today was a hard day being the day before we left but, exciting because today we get to dedicate the Cargo Container Classroom.  Unfortunately, I can’t come to Rwanda without getting sick at least one day so today was mine; I guess the sun got to me and I got really light-headed and nauseous.  So I missed the ceremony but, I was praying throughout the day that the rain would stop so that everything could proceed.  Later on in the afternoon I felt better and we all went to dinner and had grilled fish and rice…yummy.  After dinner we all just hung out and reminisced about the trip.  We went to sleep and I know I had a hard time sleeping just thinking that this was the last night.

 

10-28-2012

We went to church at the Butare cathedral and had a great time in praise and worship and the Word.  Afterwards we loaded on the bus for a long travel day to an amazing place called Lake Kivu.  Which was about thirty miles from the war in the (DRC) Congo.  The place we stayed at was absolutely gorgeous called the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel and was like nothing else in Rwanda it was basically a five star hotel with all the amenities including a hot shower.  The food was amazing and we just got a chance to kick back and relax after two weeks of missions work.  We went to sleep so refreshed and renewed.

 

10-29-2012

The next morning we woke up and had the most amazing breakfast buffet and loaded up on the bus to Kigali.  After we got to Kigali we boarded the plane and said our goodbyes to the team and went our separate ways.  It was a trip I will never forget and full of so many memories of the people, the culture, and what God did in me personally.  We landed in Nairobi and had an eight hour layover while we watched as Hurricane Sandy had landed on the east coast in America on the television.  We then boarded the plane to London and prayed for safe travel.

 

10-30-2012

Arrived in London at Heathrow airport and ate breakfast and then departed for America.  We were diverted around the hurricane that had hit the east coast; we landed in Detroit, Michigan and we all were so happy to be almost home.  After a small layover we boarded the plane for Nashville, Tennessee.  We arrived home around 9pm and met the great Jill Parr who took us home and we were extremely happy to sleep in our own bed.  God is good.  Thank you Jesus for an adventure of this magnitude that will forever be in the back of my mind to remind me to rely on you for everything.  Amen

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