Author Archives: Janie

Day One

November 16, 2015 | Janie

What a powerful first full day for our team in Rwanda. Since I’m typing with my thumbs, you will get the short version. Maybe others will be able to add to this.

We all went to bed quite late and exhausted from our 20 hours of travel and 8 hours of time difference. But we still got up early for a wonderful breakfast at our hotel in Kigali before heading out on our big adventure.

The first stop was the World Vision National Office where we were able to connect with the national staff, including a reuniting with Charles, who was with our team in 2011 and part of 2013. He has a sweet heart and I was excited to find out that he and his wife just had their second child this summer.

Steve with WV Guide Charles

We enjoyed a chapel service complete with acapella hymns and a teaching about grace. We all introduced ourselves and shared about Our Response and our love for the people of Rwanda.
Some of the national staff met with us then to go over national initiatives and the alignment between WV and the government.The collaboration and alignment is unparalleled, with WV coming alongside the top priorities. There were so many cool things going on to continue building unity, reconciliation, and development while educating and reducing the impact of poverty.

Team meets with WV staff

2015 Team with World Vision Staff

After our time with the staff we went to the Kigali genocide memorial. While my fourth trip, this stop is still greatly meaningful to me. Clearly the entire team was impacted by both the atrocities of 1994, but also by the hope that has emerged since then with a strong focus on “one Rwanda” rather than revenge or division. The memorial is an important destination for every trip team and continues to be a great way to make sure we are all grounded in the context in which this radical transformation is happening. You can see one of the mass gravesites in the photo below.

Mass Grave at the Kigali Genocide Memorial

Wall of Remembrance at Kigali Memorial

We then had a late lunch at Hotel Des Mille Colline, better known as “Hotel Rwanda.” The meal was great but it was difficult to separate what is happening there now versus how things looked about 20 years ago. With the genocide still fresh in our minds, eating was a bit more difficult.

Since we were still tired and now running late, the plan was to just drive through Kivuruga to Musanze, where we are staying. However, we managed to convince our driver, Jimmy, to stop in one of the Kivuruga villages and walk one of the roads a bit, just to get a feel for the Kivurugan community. It was a great choice. While we didn’t spend a lot of time there, we walked a road where the market used to be and where some shops remain. We talked with people, took pictures and laughed with kids. We also hugged old ladies, looked at the volcanoes, and managed to keep from falling on the steep and slippery mud road. I tried the stick and tire game (fail).

Getting to know Kivuruga


Sharing cell photos with Kivurugan kids

Cell photo sharing

Having fun with the kids

These spontaneous activities usually end up being among my favorite. I asked one guy about World Vision and he just smiled and said, “Yes, World Vision.” I also had a few people recognize me. One of the leaders on the Interfaith Committee spotted me and we shared a few precious moments. Also, as we got back to the vehicle, a younger man ran up, “Stephen! Stephen!” he said in greeting. I couldn’t place him exactly, but I know we had interacted on prior trips. It was personally rewarding and encouraging to be remembered by name years after an encounter. I wish I could have been as gracious!

With that we headed to the hotel and had a wonderful dinner and discussion with Jimmy. We discussed the memorial and the genocide, as we all continue to try to wrap our heads around what not only what happened, but also the unbelievable transformation that has emerged. Jimmy is such a great leader and ambassador for his home country.

And now, off to bed. Tomorrow we will visit the homes of some of our sponsored children and meet with all of them for a lunch party. After spending a lot of time with the kids, we will visit a water project, which is always exciting.

Thank you all for your support and well wishes. I would love to have you all here!


2015 Trip: Prepare for Takeoff

| Janie

Kivuruga 2015 Trip Team

Well, the day is finally here. After delaying since February due to Ebola concerns, we finally leave to reconnect with friends and experience the beauty, hardship, and hope of Kivuruga, Rwanda. Our days will be filled with great experiences ranging from an understanding of the national vision for Rwanda, to the historical impact of the genocide, through active projects happening in Kivuruga.  The 2015 trip team is made up of the following members:

  • Steve Fredlund (Director of Our Response; trip team 2009, 2011, 2013)
  • Shannon Lynch (participant on 2011 trip team)
  • Shane Buff
  • Tracy Vaselaar
  • Terri Bouley

Here are a few thoughts from team members as we prepare to begin this journey:

Steve Fredlund: On this trip we will encounter wonderful people, see the impact made by East Central Minnesota, and struggle with how can we possibly help even more,all the while wrestling with what it means to be human, or at least American. How will we reconcile the wealth of our home country with the poverty of these people? What is our response? How will this affect us? Will we turn a blind eye? Will we become bitter? Can we go on as if we hadn’t seen anything? Will we become more grateful? Where is God in the midst of the Rwandan poverty, American affluence, and our wrestling? All these questions and more await our team.

Please keep us in your thoughts & prayers for safety, reduced anxiety for our family and friends, opportunities to encourage those in Kivuruga, understanding of the impact we are having, and personal transformation. Thank you to everyone who donated rain boots and soccer balls, sewed dresses, provided financial support, helped with logistics, participated or volunteered at events, sponsored children, or in any other way has helped impact Kivuruga and make this trip happen.

Tracy Vaselaar: I am looking forward to meeting my sponsored children and their families, and see glimpses of God’s love in the lives of the people in Kivuruga and throughout our travels. I pray that the hope and joy of the community that I’ve heard about from other trip team members reaches a place in my heart that changes me forever. I’ve been looking forward to this day since January 2011, after hearing Sara Groves talk about her stories of meeting her sponsored child. I am SO excited, and can’t believe the day is finally here!

Shannon Lynch: Having been a part of the 2011 trip team, for me the excitement lies in seeing the improvements/changes that have taken place over the last four years. Also SUPER excited to visit and learn about the Orphan and Vulnerable Children Tailoring Cooperative, and the Corn Farmers Cooperative. And seeing my sponsored child Sifa again , of course!!

Terri Bouley: I am hoping that God will open my heart, my eyes and my ears to all the wonders of his beautiful creation of the country and the people of Rwanda. I hope that He will bless me with the ability to shine his light though me and give me the words to express my emotions so that I am forever changed.

Shane Buff: Expecting to see what breaks God’s heart. To have my eyes open to something that will impact my life going forward. To hear whatever it is He has been wanting to tell me when I get there.


A Note from Steve

November 12, 2015 | Janie

Trip Team #4 Ready for Take-Off


Well, here I am again on the precipice of another trip to my favorite place on earth, Kivuruga, Rwanda. This will be my fourth trip in the past six years and I am just as excited as the first. The excitement, however, has moved from the mystery of that first trip, with a focus on “what will I see” and “how will I be changed,” to now focusing on re-uniting with friends, looking for specific areas of impact, and watching as new team members get to know these wonderful people, and see first-hand the impact we are having and the joy and gratitude they carry.

I am hoping we can provide regular updates on the website as we try to transmit our experience back through pictures and words, which hopefully Janie Pearson can receive and post (thank you, Janie). It’s never quite certain what we will experience, but we know it will be life-changing for all of us.

Thank you for your support, encouragement, prayers, and well-wishes as we once again journey to Rwanda. The team this year consists of myself, Shannon Lynch (also a member of the 2011 team), Shane Buff, Tracy Vaselaar, and Terri Bouley. We look forward to talking with all of you when we return. We hope to see you as we celebrate our impact and kick-off the Christmas season with Jason Gray, on December 5.