Autumn 2017 transform   

‘’This is not just a garden but the restoration of human worth" said our partner Bishop John regarding this small plot of land (pictured right) that we purchased for a pastor and his family in a historically marginalised community in Rwanda. 
Bishop John told us that the pastor used to have to physically restrain his children from stealing crops as they were so hungry.  Many houses of the Historically Marginalised People (HMP), also known as Batwa, own no land around their houses with other landowners working the land right up to their front doors. 

Of course, we love seeing people we work with becoming Christians but that is God’s work in their lives – maybe in response to seeing God’s love in action. 

 

We are inclusive in all our work and if there is no more than the restoration of human worth, that remains an excellent outcome of all we do.

At the end of July, I returned from a mission trip to Rwanda with my wife Ruth, MPUK trustee Penny Foster and her husband Allen.  It is a joy to share how your support through prayer and giving is being used to bring transformation into this nation.

 

Human Worth at the Star School

When the Star School was launched in 2007, our motivation was helping with the post genocide restoration process in a small way.

Rwanda will live with the consequences of the genocide for many years but the good news is that there is now a bigger vision for the school. 
People with disabilities remain marginalised in most parts of Africa – much as they were in the UK only 20 years ago. 
So when we replaced the mud steps with new concrete steps in June, we ensured that the project included a ramp.
Our hope is to link this ramp with walkways around the school as part of the strategy to make the school disability friendly.

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One interesting thing we did on our visit to the school was to visit the girls' dormitory unannounced!  (All the girls were at their classes).
It was amazing to see how some of them made displays from their bedspreads.
The wooden bunk beds are now 8 years old and are very rickety. We have agreed to assist the school in replacing their 90 bunk beds with metal framed bunk beds.
Each costs £85. 
Funds for the first 25 were sent earlier this month.

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Human worth in the Red Zone Community on Nkombo Island

 

At our home, we have two taps from which I can drink water and two cisterns that flush.  I have never considered that these have anything to do with my human worth. 

I am wrong.

For the past year, we have been feeding the Red Zone children on Nkombo Island on Lake Kivu in Rwanda.  The reduction of malnutrition is easy to see and we are continuing with this programme. 

 

Diarrhoea remains a life threatening condition on the island and the main cause of the high mortality rate in children under five.

So in May, we launched a WASH programme (WASH = clean water, hygiene and sanitation).  The Red Zone families have been collecting water either direct from the lake or from a borehole which requires a 3 hour round walk to collect.  The bore hole water is considerably cleaner though far from pure. Both sources of water need boiling on wood fires before being safe and are often drunk lukewarm.   So we have started supplying basic water filters that cost us just £20.  I have titled the photo top right ‘My first cup of clean cool water’.  Alongside this we are providing pedal powered hand washing facilities at just £1.50 each.   This is a low cost/high impact ‘human worth’ project. 

 

I enjoyed meeting this delightful 80 year old man (see pictures to right).

We will be replacing the shed of his pit latrine from which he emerged before washing his hands.  Clearly the ladies on the right of the bottom photo are enjoying this too!

We have also been supporting a nursery school in this community.
There are 350 children at the school with only 4 volunteer teachers.  

The primary school is the other side of a big bay on northern Nkombo Island so the children either have to make a long trek there overland or travel across in a dugout canoe. 

Many drop out of primary school because of these challenges. 

We are hoping to buy a plot of land near the church for £4000 so that a 9 classroom block can be built. 
Once the school has been built and open for a short period of time, the government will assist with salaries for the teachers. 

That is something worth aiming for!

 

Human worth amongst the Historically Marginalised People
(also known as Batwa)

Can you imagine being called a 'Historically Marginalised Person' (HMP)?   
Few things can be more degrading than that.
I would love them to become the BEP (Beautifully Empowered People).

 

After my first visit to a HMP community in 2014 (Nyagiseji village) I wrote ‘No photograph can capture the despair and utter hopelessness of the HMP who were removed from their ancestral homelands in the 1970’s with no compensation’. 

Unlike anywhere else I have visited in rural Africa, we were met with stonewall silence.  Adults lay around on the ground in lethargy while the children went out to beg.

The transformation in this community which I visited again last month made me weep...

 

We were welcomed by singing and dancing. 
The children are going to school as a result of our Back to School project. 
The adults are now part of a cooperative, farming a large field that we purchased for them  (see picture above with other team members and volcano in background).
We have given the community 2 cows and one has already produced a calf.
Owning a cow builds self-esteem as well as providing milk for the family, manure for the field and some disposable income. 
And importantly, the community are now taking pride in their village  - flower beds in the sliver strip of land they own around their houses and even an archway on the way up to their field!
We have also supported a HMP dance group who came a commendable third in a recent competition.  
 

 

Finally, our first adult literacy course is coming to an end.   It was a particular joy for Ruth to hand out Bibles to the students completing this course (pictured right with our partner Bishop John in background).

Our hope is to roll out what we have done in this first village into another village over the next year.  We visited Nyabageni village which involved a scramble up a mountainside close to where the gorillas live.  We were shocked with what we saw – simply raw poverty.  We visited the shack of 18 year old Mugisha who lived there with her husband and baby (see picture below). Maybe you imagine Africa like a constant good summer day in the UK – but up here it gets cold and exceedingly wet in the rainy season.  We will restore Mugisha’s house so that it is weatherproof. But such activity is not the long term solution.  To bring human worth to this community we must empower the people.  Our hope is to buy a field for £5000 for this village and set up another cooperative.  Our partners will also be encouraging the children to return to school and in September we will be launching a second adult literacy programme in Nyabageni village.  Our hope is these forgotten and marginalised people will grow to understand that ‘God has remembered them’.  I am thinking that our 2017 Christmas appeal must be for this ‘HMP to BEP’ programme.
Lord God, you came to give honour to the least, those forgotten, overlooked and misjudged. You came to give first place to the last, those left behind, misunderstood and undervalued. You came to give a warm welcome to the lost, those who are orphaned, abandoned and destitute. Help us to be your ears to listen to their cries. Help us to be your voice speaking out love and acceptance. Help us to be your feet walking beside those in need. Help us to be your hands to clothe, feed and shelter them. You came for the least, the lost and last of this world. Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.

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Some Snippets

Child sponsorship
Child sponsorship is one way to enhance human worth in Rwanda. 

Most of the children on our sponsorship programme are in the boarding section of the school as their home living conditions are not conducive to study. 

My wife Ruth will take over responsibility from me for running the UK administration of our child sponsorship from 1st September on a volunteer basis. 

Ruth is pictured right with Agnes who administers the programme in Rwanda. 

New church building on Iswha Island
Iswha is a small island just north of Nkombo Island where we have the Red Zone project.  Four people who visited this island earlier this year made gifts to MPUK which have been used to fund a new church building on the island.  The church is now built (see picture right) and soon there will be water harvesting from the roof which is all part of the project. The hope is that the church building will become a community centre and be used for a nursery school, feeding programme and more.  As the other buildings on the island are low level mud brick constructions, the visual impact of this building must be similar to how medieval cathedrals looked centuries ago!

Oswald Chambers
Oswald Chambers was an early twentieth-century Scottish minister best known for the devotional classic "My Utmost for His Highest".  During World War One, he was a chaplain in Egypt and died there on 17 November 1917.

Our team in Bulgaria are keen to publish a centenary edition of My Utmost in Bulgarian and, thanks to a generous grant, this book will be launched in November 2017

Learn and Lead
It is now 3 years since we launched The Essentials for Excellent Leadership which is available on line via our website. 

This material has not only been used in several countries in Africa but also in India and the Philippines.

We have been requested hard copy manuals of this course and thanks to another grant we will be able to make this available in 2018. 

We are also progressing with the online Bible Study correspondence course in Russia supported by another grant. 

There was a slight software glitch in that during the trials of this material several experienced and well trained pastors failed the online exams! 

This glitch has been sorted out and we hope to launch in the autumn. 

 

 

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 … and finally 
What does the Bible say about human worth:  ‘Fear not; you are worth more than many sparrows’ Matthew 10:31

 

 Richard