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We posted this a while ago but it's just as true today...

A DAY WITH PASTOR JOSEPH

Dear Readers,

Whilst the wonderful team have been fulfilling their duties, teaching and preaching the gospel, I have been working with Pastor Joseph to try and find the miracles needed to open the school in the beautiful village of Mageragere. I will post a full update in due course, but I thought you might like a glimpse into this world through a typical day in the life of Pastor Joseph.

The day begins early being awoken by birdsong and sunshine and I move to a local hotel where there is good internet access so I can work while I wait for Pastor to arrive. His first task is to get his car started. It is a blessing to have a car here because it is essential to access the people we are serving. However, like many, it is an old car and needs constant attention. The battery is failing and he needs to call the mechanic who arrives at his house on a motorbike with a spare battery in a cardboard box and two pieces of bare wire. Somehow this is enough to get things going and Joseph arrives to collect me from the hotel to begin the day’s adventure.

The car is left running and our first task is to get mazutu (diesel). It is rare that the needle on the gauge ever leaves the red zone as fuel prices are the same all over the world and money here is scarce. There is a lot to do today, so it is a privilege to provide him with a full tank and off we go.

Our destination is an open day at the new school. The building is ready and people have been invited to attend this event so that we could recruit our first intake to begin their studies at the end of February. But first there are the errands. If you are pastor in Africa you have to look after everyone. And if you have a car, you are an even greater asset. And if you are Joseph you don’t say no to anyone. I want to help him, but sometimes I am more of a burden. It is like this: people see him with a white man, a muzungu, and they assume, therefore, that he is connected with a limitless supply of cash. This intensifies the number of demands made on his time and he cannot turn down the people he is called to serve. He bears this asset (burden) gladly and we arrive at a small hotel where a group of church workers have arrived to distribute bibles in the area. They need the key to the church where they are being stored so we stop in the car park and are faced with a tough decision. Do we switch the engine off? I agree to stay with the car and leave the engine running to avoid another ninety minute delay in today’s programme. It is hot now but we are soon on our way again and the air in the car as we rush up and down the hills is both beautiful and very welcome.

We are now heading straight for the land, the site of the new school, and we soon leave the lovely tarmac road and engage with the challenge of the mud tracks which requires all passengers to hold on for dear life and try and anticipate the various lumps and bumps of our well-worn path to avoid head injuries and broken backs. Former travellers have helped by leaving tyre marks outlining the best route, but our speed is cut to an average of just 15mph and we need a full 40 minutes to complete the relatively short journey to Mageragere.

However, this is not wasted time. Joseph’s phone never, ever stops ringing. He takes call after call from all the people he is engaged with, gives them very clear and concise advice and then fills me in on the issues of which there are many and I reflect on how relatively simple tasks to most of us are small crises here. But Joseph is a solution focused man. He takes the impossible in his stride and knows that God has already provided the solutions. So we must relax and watch our Father at work. I am also solution focused, but my methods are to fling resources at the problem to make it go away. The challenge here is that there are none. Even with all the money in the world many things remain well out of reach. Solution focused here involves God inspired tactical astuteness. And we are learning fast. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and here we are in the land of a thousand hills, so why are we worried? Actually, we are not. It is exciting, inspiring and deeply fulfilling to be totally at the mercy of Jehovah Jirah.

Joseph prays, thanking God that we are alive to see this beautiful day. I rarely thank God for my life. I see that as a given in ‘entitlement’ Britain. But what a beautiful prayer. God decides whether we live or die, we decide whether we live well or settle for mediocrity. Today is too good to settle for anything less than the best. So we start singing our songs of praise in whatever language seems appropriate.

We are driving slowly and the phone calls are punctuated by local people arising from their seats to greet us as we go past. We are several miles off the main road now and a car is a rare thing. A car with a white man inside is a very rare thing. A bus with twenty white children in is cause for a street party – but they will come along later.

People rush up to shake hands, they wave, they get excited. Who visits them? Not many, so this is a great day. The smiles and the greetings alone make the journey worthwhile. Some stop the car to make their demands directly to Joseph. He smiles, laughs and then we go on our way. “How can you help everyone?” he reflects. I go into deep thought and try again to come up with the global solution that no one has yet found. And yet again, it eludes me. So I laugh as well. Back to Plan A. Let go and let God. Anyway, who says we have got it right? These people are really happy. And here we are, wanting to spoil everything in the name of progress. The more you think, the more you realise how life is about relationship, not possession.

We arrive at the new school, a beautiful building standing alone in about 16 acres of land. Across the valley is the most amazing view. We all pause and just look. Take a good look because in a few years this outstanding natural beauty will all be tarmac and concrete. None of that has reached here yet and so we have a chance to meet the lovely local people who need our help but do not do school fees. We begin with a prayer and then look at a few draft budgets. And then we pray again. The sermon on Sunday was having confidence to meet Jesus half way by stepping out of the boat in the storm and walking on the water. Right now that seemed a whole lot easier. Nevertheless, after just a short hour crunching some numbers we work out that we can run the school for the first 70 pupils for just £19,000 in the first year. It is all in touching distance. Many arrive to say that they want our English education but no one has fees. So we pray again and again. We then get a visit from the local leaders, passionate to see their community blessed by the school. We agree that some form of sponsorship is our only choice and we ask them to come up with criteria and a short list of young people they feel would most benefit. They walk out with heads held high and feeling like kings. They are now the selection committee. A job they are going to take very seriously.

Joseph knows that success is found in letting the local people determine their future. We can have influence but not control. An important lesson he has taught me. All the local cattle and goats sound off in agreement. In fact, here, you can sense the whole of creation groaning. Waiting for the moment when Kingdom values will again determine how people live and think. Money is not the issue. The land is worth five times the amount we paid for it and if the school does not succeed, the Muslims will buy it and make a real success of it. However, our prayer is that by grace, so immense and free, we will see God’s glory here.

Time to go. We are off now to a government school in the town. They have agreed to share their English syllabus, schemes of work and assessment materials with us and we are eager to get there well before dark. And the car won’t start! In the middle of absolutely nowhere. My father would be quoting some choices phrases to describe our delicate position and without any doubt they would all be totally appropriate. I would love to tell you how we all joined hands, looked up to heaven, prayed in tongues and the car started, turned into a golden carriage and flew off over the hills like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but sadly, we had to phone the garage and wait for ninety minutes. £2 later and the man with the battery in the cardboard box went on his way having given us the life line we needed. We headed back through the local villages answering the same number of calls and smiling and waving at the same lovely people. Joseph gives a lift to some local pastors and all the way into town he encourages them to love and look after the people. They are simple men, but highly effective in their task. God bless them all.

Arriving at the school in the town, we decide together that we need to leave the car running. So we delight some 14 year old boy by asking him to stay in the car and watch over our things. I am sure he never stopped smiling for the whole hour we were there. I met the head teacher and the English department staff who told me that the man we were supposed to meet was unwell. Or is it not well? I had to pause and deliver a quick English lesson. I stopped when I got to the phrase, ‘not unwell’ because they were getting very confused. We were able to help ourselves to books, past papers and schemes of work and we even asked how much they were paid. We were surprised to receive a very polite answer to our very impolite question. It all helps. You need to know the market.

Joseph then offers the teachers a lift into town as otherwise they would have to walk for an hour or so. Everyone is used to that here, but the offer was gratefully accepted. We talked more with the teachers and their insights informed us greatly. This was a very useful visit on our journey to develop a successful English school. Joseph is so good at meeting people and getting the most out of them.

Joseph drops the teachers and then has to attend to the million or so requests that he has received courtesy of MTN (BT). The most urgent is that there is no food left at the primary school that Joseph runs. First stop is the development bank. Joseph has to negotiate a small extension to his loan and withdraws enough to meet tomorrow’s food bill. He feeds about 600 children each day through meals at the primary school. Until recently, Joyce Meyer helped with this but Joseph became a victim of his own success and they were deemed to be less needy. No hard feelings. People give and expect money to be prioritised properly. In a way it is a complement. God bless Joyce Meyer for what she has done. I have seen first-hand the difference her input has made to these children.

We arrive at the primary school to deliver the money. It is getting dark now and there are still some children staying on to learn. Their bus is late so they are making the most of the extra hour’s tuition. The head teacher at the school then lists all the other problems, all of them exactly the same as we face in the UK but with less flexibility and fewer resources to solve them. We discuss things together, come up with absolutely no solutions, but they are grateful that we came to see. Another lesson from Joseph: even if you cannot do anything, go and talk. Give your support in any way you can.

We are now very hungry as it is past 6.00pm and we have not eaten. I am eating later with the team but I offer to take Joseph for something. Hotel Rwanda is the nearest and so we share a plate of chips and some coffee. I practise my Rwandan as I am nearing fluency and everyone just laughs and delights in telling me all the wrong things to say. Not that I need any help. We discuss our day together. We get a phone call from England as someone has tracked down the supplier of the text books we need. Joseph phones them and we make an appointment to visit tomorrow. Many come and greet Joseph at our table. His coffee is replenished at no additional expense. He introduces me to important diplomats and simple Rwandans alike. An amazingly broad ministry.

We get back to the Scripture Union guest house where I am staying with the team just in time for me to join them on a night out to the MTN centre and some ice cream. I wave goodbye to my muvande mwe mwange (my brother from the same womb, as he calls me) and he returns to his home for some rest. No doubt before he gets there, he will have more calls, more errands and more car troubles. Tomorrow we begin another adventure. Or is it the same adventure? Probably a bit of both.

Paul Johnson
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Update

It is with regret that Equip has learned that Eddie Mwunvaneza is no longer able to take up the position of Principal at Kingdom Secondary and Vocational School as announced earlier this month. He has made the courageous decision to step back from the post recognising that the time commitment required may conflict with his current pastoral responsibilities. Eddie remains committed to the vision of the school and we are grateful for his willingness to consider the position.

Paul and Ruth are heading straight back to Rwanda and will put appropriate leadership into place as quickly as possible to ensure that the education of the current students is not impacted in any way. This is our highest priority. Please hold them in your prayers that they might make wise decisions.
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We are continuing with our programme of building improvements. This is our new strong store which will allow us to keep resources secure and therefore available to students. If you can help fund this project please contact us at office@equipuk.org. Making our resources go further means we can help more students gain the education they need. ... See MoreSee Less

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Graduation Video
Graduation Day - just in case you were not sure how they felt!
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Equip added 5 new photos.

Meeting Sarah

Many of you will remember 'Sarah's Story' that I posted last year. Sarah was one of our students who as a small child had lost her family in the genocide and now, at the age of 26, was completing her education. In that post I described her as I saw her then, "slightly more distant and reserved than the others". She spoke barely any English and we communicated through a translator.

This week we met Sarah again. Now a confident and poised young woman with a much stronger command of English, she and her husband still live close to Kingdom Secondary and Vocational School. At Saturday's graduation ceremony, we were proud to be invited to stand with her as she had her official photographs taken and while we were working at the school this week, she came over to see us and invited us to visit her home.

What a privilege! It was a real joy to meet Joseph, Sarah's husband, an earnest and Godly young man, and to see them both so settled. Their house is small and sparsely furnished. The main room is dominated by a large fridge, besides which sit plastic buckets of samosas and snacks. Joseph makes these to help feed some of the local people: while we were there two young school boys came in and tucked into snacks which were washed down by huge mugs of milk. We were offered some of the samosas, they were absolutely delicious!

Sarah's time at KSV was spent studying hairdressing, and although she is currently needed to support her husband's work, she is keen to find employment in this area now she has graduated. Sarah's increased self esteem after just a year is highly evident. No longer distant or reserved, she hugs us warmly, giggles happily and chats away to us in English. She and Joseph are also members of the church that meets in the school and their Christian faith is clearly a strong foundation of their marriage. We were blessed to spend time with them.

Our heart at Equip is to see young people like Sarah find fulfilment through quality education, good jobs and ultimately, faith in Christ. Please visit our website www.equipuk.org to join in our vision and help young men and women like Sarah have a positive future.

Thank you
Ruth
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Bonaface's story

Bonaface takes his job very seriously. As you greet him he stands sharply to attention and then shakes your hand warmly in the usual Rwandan way of touching his own right arm with his left hand as he shakes yours.

Bonaface is our caretaker at the Kingdom Secondary and Vocational School. He is responsible for security and also manages the land that surrounds the school, enabling local people to supplement their own crops and cultivating cash crops to increase the income of the school. He is highly protective of us as visitors. Always watching, always vigilant, he notices what we need and when. If we walk the perimeter of the land to check progress on its development he walks with us to beat away the snakes. If the new flag needs hoisting up the flagpole, compulsory in Rwanda, Bonaface is your man. He rarely speaks, even in his native tongue, but somehow his character shines through; loyal, dependable, strong.

He has seen much in his lifetime including the horror of the genocide. He now lives with his family at the school. His daughter Gloria is the cleaner - a tough job with no running water. They are both an integral and much loved part of the school community. They also both earn very little - resources are rightly directed into the education of the students but without Bonaface and his daughter, Kingdom Secondary and Vocational School would be a poorer place.

Can you help support Bonaface and his colleagues give students the chance to learn skills that will enable them to move to a level above subsistence farming. Please visit our website to donate or click the donate button on our Facebook page. Just £15 a month will support a young person to study.

Thank you for helping us change lives.

Ruth
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Mama Eric
If you have a few moments, come with us and visit this amazing lady, Mama Eric, in her beautiful home.
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Monkeys
On our way to the school we saw some monkeys.
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Equip added 2 new photos.

New Principal

Today we headed off to Kingdom Secondary and Vocational School to meet with the staff. It was a special day as we were there to introduce their new Principal. We have spent the past week interviewing and checking credentials and were now ready to announce who had secured the post.

Our journey up to the school was interrupted by a sighting of a troop of monkeys amidst the trees who convenient posed for photographs for us! We also saw several wild turkeys but sadly, we were not so quick with the camera.

The news of the new Principal was very well received by the staff who gave a round of applause when we announced that Eddie Mwunvaneza, a lovely, strong Christian man, has accepted the post. A Rwandan who has lived in Canada for many years, he has a PhD in Intercultural Studies and has lectured extensively in theology and Bible Studies in both Ethiopia and Canada. We have been particularly impressed with his leadership and management skills and feel confident that when we leave Rwanda the school will be in safe hands. Please pray for him in his new role as he takes on the challenge of moving the school into its next phase.

It was then off to the Bank of Kigali to spend hours changing signatories on the bank account - oh the joy of African bureaucracy!

Ruth
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Equip added 23 new photos — with Rv Joseph Karasanyi Nyarwaya and Paul Johnson.

Graduation Day

Today, ten years on from his first visit to Rwanda, Paul Johnson stood at the Umabano Hotel in Kigali, waiting for the Kingdom and Secondary Vocational School's first ever graduation ceremony to begin. One man's vision translated from a row of graves, to rows of chairs ready to celebrate the achievements of young people who are launching into life now equipped with skills to gain productive employment.

Preparation for this momentous event for the school was a typically African affair. Even yesterday, catering was still being arranged, gowns were not ordered until late last night, (apparently usual here!) and because the teacher who was in charge of the production of the final certificates had fallen off his motorbike and ended up in the hospital with an injured wrist, we spent much of Friday rushing round the city to ensure every student would have the appropriate accreditation. (A minor injury - he is now fine.) Even this morning, having been assured students would arrive by 9am to robe up and that all the teachers would be there to supervise, nothing really happened until gone 10am as they arrived, to quote the Rwandan phrase, "slowly by slowly"!

Frustrations on our part ran high. Used to rigorous time keeping and forward planning, we began to doubt that the event would ever happen. But this is Africa and things are done differently here. And we had to learn to wait!

And as the students and their parents began to arrive, so the excitement mounted. Many of them come from the poorest districts, so for them, being in the smarter part of town was an adventure. Some had travelled a fair distance to attend, walking since early this morning to be there. With the students now fully robed, great amusement set in as we discovered that they had all put their gowns on back to front! A quick rearrange sorted the problem and we were ready to celebrate.

The ceremony itself was simple affair; prayers, speeches, a brief video showcasing their work and of course, the presentation of certificates. We were honoured that not only parents and family members had joined us but also pastors from the churches that these young people represented. Each had dressed in their very best clothes for such a special occasion. They listened and applauded, laughed and took photographs on their mobile phones. In their eyes one could see their pride and thankfulness, knowing that each young person now has a better future. The teachers were equally proud and it was lovely to have Augustine with us, looking so smart in his jacket and tie despite still being so poorly with the after effects of Malaria.

As the formal part of the day ended we moved to take the official group, individual and family photographs. It was touching that many wanted their 'English Mum and Dad' to join them in the pictures but also a poignant reminder that for many their parents or family had simply not been able to afford to attend. With the event captured for posterity we enjoyed refreshments together, sodas, samosas and banana cake. To us simple fare, but for many it was a feast of rich food they would not usually have and it soon disappeared!

And then it was time for home? Not at all. We were invited to return to our seats and the students took the microphone. Rarely have we heard such eloquence as they shared how Kingdom Secondary and Vocational School has transformed their lives. They spoke of their thanks to not only their teachers but also to those in the UK who had supported their education financially and they gave glory to God for His provision. They recognised their responsibility to now go out and not only put their newly acquired skills to good use but to pass them on to others whenever possible. To show their thanks to us and to God they broke into a spontaneous time of dancing and worship. The function room at the Umabano Hotel came alive with Rwandan song and dance giving praise to God. The staff came in to see what was happening and stayed to listen and enjoy - it's obviously been a while since this predominantly middle class and tourist hotel has seen such a celebration!

After a tough few days, sorting out a number of issues that have needed addressing before we return home and also battling the heavy rain which has constantly altered our schedule, our spirits were lifted as we were reminded so vividly today of why we are involved here Rwanda. This generation have missed out on so much. There are those who are without parents and grandparents to raise and guide them. There are many who have experienced financial hardship and insecurity in a nation struggling to rebuild itself. They are some who have been failed by a secondary school system which is in its infancy in providing for all young people. Yet today we celebrated the achievements and success of an amazing group of young people. Your support in giving to this project has given each one the opportunity to study a vocational course at KSV and has, quite simply, changed their lives. Thank you!

Ruth

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  • Construction Class

  • English Lesson

  • Tailoring Workshop

Your donations are transforming the lives of young people in Rwanda

We keep our administrative costs to a minimum by giving our time voluntarily. We also carry out routine monitoring visits at our own expense.

Equip has now been working in Rwanda for over ten years. Our main project, the Kingdom Secondary and Vocational School in the Mageregere area of Kigali, has trained over 100 students. We are thankful for our growing team of supporters who turn these young people’s dreams into reality.

Keeping Equip supporters in touch with our progress is a high priority. You can find important information on this website and on our Facebook page, ‘equipuk’. However, to become part of the Equip vision – please sign up to our mailing list. We’d love to have you on board!

How we allocate funding


I pray that God will bless all the children in these schools and prosper all those who give to us by His mercy

Mama Eric


I am grateful for my place in the primary school and I am hoping, one day, to be president.

Rebecca


I am grateful for the land that has been provided. It provides food for our families and a school for our children. There is hope for our future.

Mussa


Thank you Equip. We have the chance to go to school and develop our education. We want to speak English and use the computer.

Daniel


I am an English teacher and I am grateful to be able to teach at the secondary school. Please ask if there is anyone else who can help us with this vision. They would be most welcome in Rwanda.

Augustine