Lots of FB posts, a few videos, and a couple emails, but incase we’ve missed you with any of these updates, here is a digest version of the VonHerbulis family’s ministry in Rwanda.
We have been in Rwanda for nearly 2 years now. This means that Hallelujah, now 4 years old, has spent nearly half of her life here, while Shepherd, now 14 months, has spent 80% of his life in our new home.
Are we settled here? Does it feel like home? The answer is both yes, and no. We have a great community here. We have a church that we love. And we are well into adjusting to the rhythms of this life. Especially after spending 2 chaotic months in the States over the holidays, Rwanda certainly feels like home. But, at the same time, this is not our culture, and that tension is real. There are still days when we wonder what we are doing here, and why we are putting our family through this stress. But those are mostly balanced by days where we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. On those difficult days it helps to remember our calling, and to lean into faith, looking to God for our strength and comfort.
We are asked often by friends and family, “What does a typical day look like?” The answer, of course, is that there is no typical day. However, here are a few routines in regards to our family’s life:
Preschool for Hallelujah- Halle attends preschool 3 days a week and she LOVES it. She is doing very well. She is taught in English, and she is the only white kid in her class. In the Fall she will likely go 5 days a week, which has me (Matthew) scrambling to make the best use of the days she is home.
Playgroups- Karli, Halle, and Shepherd attend different playgroups throughout the week in a community of families with toddlers. While fun for Halle, this also provides Karli with a support network. Many of these moms are also part of a weekly bible study that Karli is a part of.
Pizza and a Movie Night- Every Wednesday night we invite over friends (usually young adults) for homemade pizza, and a kids movie. This is one of our favorite routines. While we don’t have a TV, we do have a projector that we can shoot onto the wall in our living room.
Swim Lessons- Saturday mornings, Halle, along with many of her friends go to swim lessons at a hotel pool in town.
Our Land- As often as we can (maybe once a week) we head to our land just outside of town (about 30 minutes) for picnicing, hiking, tree climbing, etc. We are still struggling to get building permits, but we eagerly await the day we can build our house, and live there full-time.
So for the most part, I (Matthew) work in the field or at the church office during the week, while Karli and the kids do preschool, playgroups, maintain the house, etc., then we try to cling to evenings as family time. Probably pretty similar to your family, save a couple details.
The Agriculture Ministry:
In June of 2017 we launched our “Agri-Faith School (AFS)” in one of the rural parishes. I was invited here to invest in agriculture to support a preschool nutrition program combating malnutrition in rural churches. I assessed the greatest need for agricultural development, along with nutrition (the 2 usually go hand-in-hand) to be DIGNITY. Odd as it may seem, I believe the biggest obstacle to improved agriculture in Rwanda to be the shame associated with the poor, rural life of a farmer. Working through the local church, we are combatting that with an Agriculture School, teaching agriculture as a ministry of the Church.
Seven months into the program, on February 4th we commissioned our first graduates and sent them into their local churches as “Sowers of Hope.” Now, instead of being poor, rural farmers, they are Agricultural Ministers, serving God, Neighbor and the Land by farming well. In one of our local churches we had 35 people show up to the first of our farmer’s trainings- and 22 of them weren’t even members of the church! One of our farmers was just awarded for having the best corn crop in the village! There are certainly improvements to make (we are learning as we go), but this early into the program, we are celebrating the fruit already being produced.
Where do we go from here? Well, this is really the pilot program. In June, we will be launching the AFS in 3 new regions. This means we have less than 5 months to evaluate the existing program, make edits to the curriculum, multiply our staff, and raise the remaining funds to sustain this program. And this, the funding, was one of the reasons for our east coast tour this Winter.
From mid November to early January we got to visit family, friends, and churches from Florida to Maryland. While there were a few rest stops built in, for the most part the trip was a whirlwind. We got to see many of you east coast friends, and, unfortunately, many of you we didn’t. Highlights include: founding several new church partnerships, preaching 8 times in 5 different churches, sharing more ministry presentations than I can count, lots of meals with friends, Shepherd’s first birthday, a vacation with the VonHerbulis family, celebrating Christmas (3 times), and welcoming baby Juliette (Karli’s sister’s baby) into the world.
Of the $36,000 target for the 2018 AFS budget, we have hit about $28,000. Which gives us a lot to celebrate, and a lot of work yet to be done. To donate straight into the Agriculture Program, go to www.hopeonathousandhills.org/donate and choose the designation “Agriculture Program.”
Or write a check to: Diocese of Christ Our Hope, memo: “Gasabo: Agriculture”
and mail it to:
Diocese of Christ our Hope
PO Box 52449
Durham, NC 27717
Your donations are not a drop in the bucket for us. Every dollar goes to program costs directly affecting the lives of Christian farmers in Rwanda.
Please pray for:
-The health of our family: Sickness and stress, and stress and sickness have been a constant battle here. Ask that God would boost our immune systems and give us peace.
-Our recently commissioned farmers and their local church ministries
-Healthy growth of the Agriculture Program in 2018
-Our outstanding staff facing an exciting, but also ambitious year
-Building permits for our land
-The finances necessary to continue this work
You all mean so much to us, and there really aren’t words to express our gratitude. Though challenging, this life and work really is wonderful, and it’s only possible through your prayers, encouragement, and support. If you recognize the value, please consider sharing our story and inviting more people to partner with us. And please let us know how we can be praying for you, as you pray for us.
Amahoro n’umugisha! (peace and blessings)
The Vonherbulis Family