Mid-Year Financial Update

Dear friends,

What a whirlwind the first half of 2018 has been! We have seen tremendous growth and strength in our programs and churches, accomplished many goals (both professional and personal), and clocked another year here in Rwanda. We are so grateful for all of your support and encouragement!

One of the things we are excited about is the opportunity to host more church teams and visitors! As our programs become more established, and our life here more stable, we have the capacity to host more groups who want to learn about our ministry and build relationships here in Rwanda. If you or your church would be interested in visiting us here in Kigali, please contact us! We would love to have you!

Working with a recent team, who blessed us with photo and video content of our ministry. Can’t wait to share with you soon!

As we look at the second half of 2018, we have SO much to anticipate and celebrate. Matthew’s program quadrupled this month, we both celebrated our 30th birthdays, we will host 3 teams in the next few months, Halle will start full time at a new school, and I (Karli) am starting a new social media consulting business. We have so much to be thankful for!

Part of looking ahead to the next season is planning financially- so, we have a few needs we want to make you aware of. Firstly, I am going to start seeing a professional therapist here in Kigali twice a month. In addition to my need for ongoing grief counseling and anxiety support, I’ve had a few traumatic incidents recently (we are safe, don’t worry) that I really need to process with a professional. For me to have 2 sessions a month with a professional therapist here will be approximately $100-120. This is an additional cost we need to raise.

Secondly, Halle is starting a full time pre-K program next year- yay! She is SO excited and can’t wait to start. It’s the same school she will likely attend until for the duration of our time in Rwanda- and we have many friends there between the staff and students. The school has offered us the biggest discount it can, but the price is still a bit higher than we had budgeted for the year, mostly from new student enrollment fees that we hadn’t anticipated and don’t get discounted. All told, we need to raise an additional $2500 for the next school year for Halle.

Our sweet girl can’t wait to go to Pre-K at KICS!

Thirdly, I (Matthew) have been painfully learning the need for MARGIN. Out of a desire to be a responsible steward of the gifts God has given us (namely, your financial support), I have time-after-time set our budget according to what we need to survive…in ideal circumstances. And we just aren’t in ideal circumstances. And month-to-month additional expenses cause us to cut out the planned expenses (date nights, get-aways, etc.) that we need to stay healthy. So in addition to the expenses listed here, I am asking for MARGIN, so that I can buy Karli a small gift from the market (her love language is very much “gifts”), even in a month that I have to replace the brakes on my truck.

Finally, we have had a few families end their financial support of our ministry in the past few months. (We understand and we love you!) This leaves us with a deficit, and an opportunity to partner with new families! We have approximately $300/month in financial partnerships to replace.

So, dear ones- first, of course, we just want to make you aware of these needs so you can pray for them to be filled. If there’s anything I have learned in the past few months, it’s the amazing power of prayer, to protect and to fulfill our needs. We covet each and every one of your prayers, both for the needs themselves and for the circumstances that precipitate them (new schools! New partners! Therapy!)

Secondly, there are a few ways you can help:

If you are a current financial supporter, you could prayerfully consider increasing your support, or giving an additional one-time gift to help with these extra expenses. You can click here (then hit “log in to my donations”) to review and edit your giving.

If you aren’t a current financial supporter, we would love to chat with you about partnering with our ministry in some way! We cherish every dollar that is sent to support us, and steward it as the Lord’s. We are grateful for every donation, any size 🙂 You can click here to give ❤ 

And for all of you- we would love for you to prayerfully consider who in your community might be interested in learning about our ministry! Expanding our network of supporters and forging new relationships allows us to serve on behalf of so many families (all over the world!) and keeps our ministry vibrant and stable.

Please know how difficult an update like this is to write (it’s the hardest part of our job!) and how much we love, respect, and pray for each of you. We take our budget VERY seriously, and are doing our best to both steward money well and maintain both a healthy family and a vibrant ministry, so that we can continue to serve in Rwanda for years to come!

Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions- we cherish each of you and your friendships.

All our love, the VonHerbs

FOR ALL MY SKIMMERS: We need to raise approximately $450 more per month (plus $2500 one time) to cover new expenses (Halle’s school fees, counseling for Karli) as well as replacing lost supporters and giving us a bit of financial margin. We’d love to chat with you about how you can be a part of the solution!

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July Ministry Update

What a month July is shaping up to be!

This is the month we’ve been anticipating- our impact QUADRUPLED in Gasabo Diocese! While we have been running our Agri-Faith Association, Sowers of Hope, in one parish for the past year, we now have expanded to THREE MORE- and we couldn’t be more excited.

Meeting with the pastors of our 3 new parishes!

What does this look like, by the numbers?

PARISH 1: GASURA
This parish, our original one, is in the multiplication phase. For the past year, we have been “teaching the teachers” here: those farmers elected by their communities to receive the class  first, with the idea that they would then take it out to their local churches and multiply. And now- this is happening!

What has been one class of teachers at one church, is now 5 classes at 5 churches, being taught independently by those teachers. That’s about 160 rural farmers being discipled and taught each week!

A cow at a student’s farm.

PARISHES 2,3,4: BUMBOGO, KINYINYA, RUTUNGA
These parishes have begun teaching the teachers in the “AgriFaith Commissioning School (AFCS)- what Gasura did last year as the pilot parish. Each local church community elected four farmers to receive the class first- and those farmers will then teach their own classes in their communities next year. Between the three parishes, we are teaching 53 farmers, plus 3 pastors to go forth and disciple their communities next year!

If you can’t tell, we are really proud and excited about our growth, and praising God each step of the way for the excitement and involvement of the local church leaders. Recently, Matthew noted that the farmers have been showing up EARLY- almost unheard of and definitely a clear sign of enthusiasm and the value this program is bringing to these communities.

Student farm visit.

THINGS TO PRAY FOR:

We need to hire a new full-time employee to help oversee all of these groups! Pray for the right person to become a member of our team.

Pray favor and healing over our vehicles (this sounds weird, ha!). We have 3 vehicles, and typically we are lucky if 2 are working. The rural roads are a war zone here, and our vehicles are constant casualties. This is a huge financial stressor. Pray for wisdom in how to handle this problem, and the providence to be able to make the right choice.

Pray for open hearts for the new classes of teachers– that they would receive both the theological and agricultural classes well, and it would permeate their hearts in a way that would overflow into lasting change in their communities.

Pray for the newest classes being taught by our trainers in Gasura– that the agricultural ministry would be relayed effectively and that the gospel would be spread with conviction and excitement.

Finally, pray for continued growth in our financial support, as we often have unanticipated expenses (like the dreaded vehicle repairs), in addition to the inevitable growth in costs that quadrupling a ministry comes with 🙂

Grateful grateful grateful for each of you!

All our love- the VonHerbs

Land of a Thousand Hills….and Emotions

An acquaintance, who recently moved back to America after living in Rwanda for some years, remarked to me in passing: “our years here in Rwanda were both the best and worst of our lives”.

I didn’t think much of her comment at the time, but as the weeks have passed, I have realized just how true that is- and how much I need to learn to live (and ultimately thrive) in this dichotomy.

So much of our life here is fantastic- idyllic weather, a thriving ministry (that just TRIPLED in size and impact), cheap produce, great community, heck- I even have a part-time housekeeper.

sunset at our future farm. pray for a building permit!

But, at the same time, so much of it is extremely difficult- anxiety-inducing driving, constant surrounding of far-reaching poverty, long distance away from family, language barriers, cultural stress, lack of building permits for our house (ugh).

My word of the year is BLOOM. I felt like, last year, I put down roots here in Kigali- really learned my way around, got comfortable driving, we bought land for a future home and research center, began to thrive as a church and community. My goal for this year was to really feel like I was “coming to fruition” I guess- you know, blooming, fulfilling my purpose.

But, guys, if I’m totally honest- I feel like every time I’ve started to even produce a weak, tiny leaf, a bird comes and picks it off. Discouragement has been so rampant in these last 6 months. We’ve been witness to extremely difficult things, been exposed to so much hardship, and even just finding peace within our home has often been difficult. We have felt spiritual warfare in every arena of our life- our physical health, our marriage, the happiness of our children, our safety, our joy in the Lord.

Do you see what I mean? So much good. And so much difficulty. It’s hard to give you an honest picture of our lives via social media or a blog post because honestly, it’s both things. It’s amazing, cheap weekend getaways with family in town, and it’s hearing the screams of a woman in the middle of the night. It’s avocados for free from our farm, and it’s knowing that our neighbor’s alcoholic father won’t pay for her to go to school. It’s having wonderful, life-giving friends, but having 4 almost-accidents on the way to their house. It’s getting to make a difference in the lives of friends, but also wondering if the relationship is genuine. It’s having a thriving ministry, but only getting to see our family every other year. It’s beautiful and it’s brutal, all at the same time.

All this to say- if you think our life is easier here, you’re right. And if you think it’s unspeakably more difficult, you’re right about that, too. As we navigate how to handle balancing these two realities, remember our family in your prayers. As we struggle to bloom, send us encouragement- it’s like water on our dry days. And as we share both the good and the hard, sit with us there, and celebrate that the Lord is near in all of those places.

what my life looks like 99% of the time

Ministry Update: February 2018

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.

Family:IMG_5140

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:

IMG_5069Preschool 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.

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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.

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The First Graduates of “Ababibyi B’Ibyiringiro” (Sowers of Hope). We now call them “Intumwa mu babibyi” (the ones sent from among the sowers)

 

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.

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Commissioning our first graduates. They were commissioned by Archdeacon and Archbishop, and presented with a personalized bible and work boots

 

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.

U.S. Trip:IMG_5610

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

September Update

Hi, friends!

August brought a number of unexpected twists and turns for our family- the biggest being the passing of my Pappy, George, and the corresponding unplanned trio back to America to be with my family. Thank you so much to each of you who reached out, encouraged, prayed, and donated to help make the trip possible. It was a perfect as a trip for that purpose could have been, full of peaceful time with family. I am so, so grateful.

August was SUPPOSED to bring the start of Halle’s school year, but it was delayed a week because of an unannounced Rwandan holiday. Seriously- they announced it the night before via Twitter, and that’s not uncommon. Ha! So, she started last week at Discovery International School and seems to really like it so far! This has given me some much needed margin/introvert time and freedom to do some things I have been wanting to do, like volunteer at our local birth center!

August also brought us 2 new employees for our ministry staff- Edmond, Matthew’s new Assistant Director of Agriculture and Nutrition, and Emmanuel, our Farm Manager. Emmanuel will live on our farm property, oversee research projects being completed there, and help maintain the land. Edmond has been a volunteer  for Matthew’s trainings and is super passionate about Agriculture- we are happy to have him fill the gap left by Deo last month.

Matthew’s Agri-Faith training program continues to be the highlight of his week. Last week, they demo’d how to build a proper compost pile! The farmers start each week with a lesson on a fruit of the spirit, and talk throughout the class about how the exemplify that fruit through their farming. It’s a new concept to most- that they should farm differently because they are Christians! What a cool thing to see (and discussion to be a part of!) They also organized a class Umuganda (a community service day) to build one of their own, a widow who also recently lost a 2 year old, a garden bed. They kept saying, “We are Christians, we should help each other in these ways!” It’s amazing to see them connecting the dots like this- really putting their faith into action and living differently because of it.

This month, I’ve had a few firsthand opportunities to use our resources to bless others- and I want to share one with you. One of our Rwandan teammates, Immaculee, is pregnant (around 25 weeks) but is very high risk, and has weekly (or multiple a week) appointments. Because I have a car, I’ve been able to drive her to appointments recently, when she would typically have to walk or possibly take a moto- or someone else from the ministry would take a half day to take her. I’m so grateful to have the means to help out whenever I can- thank you all for your generosity that allows us to have 2 vehicles here.

I have continued to serve on our churches leadership team, both coordinating volunteers for various roles in the service and, this week, launching an all-new small groups program! I am so excited to see how this blesses our diverse community, as I have seen firsthand how beautiful small group communities can be.

Shepherd is still growing like a weed and charming everyone he meets! He is big boy crawling now and pulling up on everything- and trying all kinds of food! For the record, he LOVED Chick-fil-A fries the most 😉

THINGS TO PRAY FOR:

-Diligence and understanding for the farmers in Matthew’s training program, that the way of Christ would be newly illuminated to them. These first students will go on to become the trainers for future trainings in their own communities- discipline their own peers and multiplying the knowledge they are learning. Pray that they take ownership of what they are learning and that it really clicks in their hearts and minds.

-Matthew will be preaching later this month while our priest is out of town!

-We are constantly bombarded with poverty needs, including multiple people coming to our home each day to ask for food and money. We want to help, but do so in a way that is both sustainable for us and dignifying for those asking. Pray for wisdom, in each specific situation and how we posture ourselves in the community as a whole. Pray also for the conversations these interactions spark with Halle, and the example that we set for her.

-Pray for Halle as she settles into school, and for me as I create a new rhythm of life. I am beyond excited to start volunteering at our local birth center that primarily serves vulnerable women. Finally, how I’ve been wanting to serve all along!

-Pray that I (Karli) would be able to use my “free time” well, to both practice self care, pour time into my business, and devote time to volunteering here as well. Pray for discernment as I decide where to put my skills to use.

-Pray continued favor over the planning and permitting of our future home in Gasura

-We are beginning to plan a trip to America for December and early January. Pray that we can wisely balance the need for support raising with the desire to spend ample time with friends and family, and that we can build in some rest along the way. Specifically, you can begin praying for favor in flight times and prices!

We are so grateful to each of you, and would LOVE to know how we can be praying for you!