On the plane flying back from Rwanda…I’m a little delirious due to jet lag/lack of sleep, but so thankful for another great visit with our friends in Cyimbili. Let me try to give an overview of what was accomplished these past 10 days in Rwanda, and how the Chapel’s partnership is making a tangible, lasting difference in a community.
Hope for a Thousand Hills divides our vision for Cyimbili into three sections: Economy, Community, and Eternity…
The central aspect of our economic efforts is the coffee. Cymbili is the largest coffee plantation in all of Rwanda, with the potential to produce huge quantities of premium quality coffee beans each year, which in turn provides hundreds of jobs for local residents.
Here is a shot of the beautiful plantation, which sits on the shores of Lake Kivu (the lake which separates Rwanda and the Congo):
And this is what a coffee tree looks like. This picture was taken last week (early February), when the trees were not yet ripe. The coffee “cherries” will turn red and be harvested in spring/early summer; they will then be put through a process that makes them ready to be sold to coffee distributors.
In 2010 the Cyimbli plantation did yield a small, quality harvest, from the trees that were already present when our partnership began. But the best is yet to come. We recently helped them plant 25,000 new coffee trees, which will reach maturity and begin to produce a harvest in 2-3 years. This harvest should produce enough income to support the community without any outside financial help.
We spent substantial time last week meeting with Etienne, a US-trained agronomist who specializes in coffee, discussing details of the business plan. Etienne has high hopes for Cyimbili coffee! Here is Etienne with Marita and Jamie:
Another aspect of our economic development is investing specifically in the women of Cyimbili. During last week’s visit, we met with a Rwandan micro-finance organization, which would build small groups of women who are establishing a small business—meeting with them weekly and training them to succeed. Here are Marita and Jamie meeting with a group of women with high business potential!
In recent days some of our Rwandan friends have spent time speaking with people in the Cymbili community about the effect that the revitalized plantation has had on the community. Without fail, people are expressing deep thankfulness for how the thriving of the plantation has blessed their families. One example is a man whose wife works on the plantation, which is providing enough income to send their child to school. It is very common in Rwanda for children to be held out of school due to lack of funds, and for many families in Cyimbili, a coffee job means school!
One of the exciting parts of this partnership is the fact that we are making a difference in an entire community. Although the coffee plantation is the economic hub, there is also primary/middle school with about 800 students, a high school with about 500 boarding students, a medical clinic, and a church.
Our vision is to see this community thrive.
On this trip, Dr. Don Rumbaugh (a Chapel missionary) and I spent lots of time with the high school students, teaching English and basic Christian discipleship. Throughout the week, there were about 15 high school students who made first-time decisions to place their trust in Jesus Christ. In this picture, I had just taught about forgiveness: what it means to receive God’s forgiveness based on Jesus’ work on the cross, and then pass that forgiveness on to those who sin against us. This student is sharing a story of forgivneness from his village.
And here is Dr. Don sharing with a group of high school students:
On our last day with the high school students, Jamie and I wanted to leave each student with a hopeful vision of what their lives could become…so we took a page from the Chapel’s mission statement, encouraging them to dedicate their lives to Loving God, Loving People and Serving the World. Many students stood up and shared their personal life dream—we heard from students who wanted to be doctors, pilots, pastors, engineers…even a military general. In a country that has seen so much suffering and poverty, it was amazing to hear these teenagers filled with hope.
Having Dr. Don on this trip was invaluable, because he was able to spend lots of time with the staff of the medical clinic—assessing their needs and determining how we can be most helpful to them. We are currently working on a plan to help re-structure the clinic and also provide an online consultation service by which the doctors and nurses at the clinic can seek medical advice from Dr. Don and other American doctors.
Personally, my main goal on this trip was to invest heavily in the Bible Institute students. There are currently 22 student in the Cymbili Bible Institute, all of them preparing to serve as pastors throughout Rwanda. I took the week to teach through the book of Acts, sharing the biblical model of evangelism, establishing churches, and moving outward missionally—all in the power of the Holy Spirit. What a privilege it was to work with these students, who are so hungry to learn and grow.
In addition, there is a thriving church in Cyimbili which has grown much stronger since our partnership began. In contrast to our services in America, their three-hour worship services don’t seem rushed at all! So much singing, prayer, and traditional African dance—it’s really a beautiful thing to experience. I had the honor of preaching the message at the service, and seeing several people step forward to receive Christ. Words can’t explain the joy of being a small part of what God is doing in Cyimbili!
There are about two years remaining in our partnership with Cyimbili, and in the coming weeks, we will be finalizing the dates for a summer trip.
So on behalf of the people of Cyimbili, Thank You to Jacksonville Chapel for choosing to invest in Rwanda. Sharing our time, resources and prayer with them is helping to fill this community with great hope for their future. Please continue to pray for God’s blessings on these wonderful people!
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