Day Two

November 17, 2015 | Janie

Well, what a ridiculously great day. After breakfast we split up into three groups: Shannon and myself, Shane and Tracy, and Terri and Lorraine; pairing off made it easier to visit the families of our sponsored children in their homes. The only bummer is that I did not get to visit homes other than mine and Shannon’s, but what we did experience was amazing.

First off, I had a chance to reunite with Boscoe, one of our drivers from past trips. He has not changed and still has the same great smile.

We drove a while and then, to my surprise, discovered that we were picking up Gerome (one of my sponsored children) along the way. So we stopped and received him into the van before traveling on to the home of Jean de la Croix, my other sponsored boy. We were greeted with flowers, singing, and huge smiles. Many people were there including Jean’s family, Gerome’s family, some extended family, neighbors and friends. We fit a lot of people in that small mud hut, which they had decorated for us with great pride. We exchanged quite a bit of information with each other and asked many questions, including how World Vision has impacted their lives. Just astounding.

Rwandan families greet the team


Steve meets in the homes

As we left, our team quickly made its way to a brand new cement court that was constructed for basketball, volleyball, and other games. While I went about one-for-five from the floor, I can at least say I made a basket in Rwanda.

Shooting hoops in Kivuruga

We said goodbye and travelled on to the home of Sifa, who is sponsored by Shannon. After a long drive deep into the mountains, we had about a 20 minute hike to get to her home. We followed a beautiful, winding path to get there, and, of course, downhill was better than uphill! Her family was so excited to see Shannon; they had pictures that Shannon had sent them posted up on their walls. I will let Shannon share her experiences, but what I saw was completely beautiful.

Shannon meets the children

After the home visits, we met with all the children and available parents at a nearby hotel for lunch, an exchange of gifts, and some play time. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. Things came to an end right before the rains began. After tearful goodbyes it was time to get back into our vehicles.

Shane and his new friend

Terri meets her Kivurugan friend

Party and Lunch

We then travelled to see first-hand the impact of the clean water efforts in Rwanda. We drove for a long time before turning off on a back road to get to one part of the project that benefits both local residents and a Kivurugan school. If you ever complain about a windy, bumpy or narrow road, you should stop. I don’t care where you have been, I would challenge you mightily to find a road like this one. It was such an adventure, but so cool to arrive and talk with the people about the project.

We stood along one of the outlets of a huge pipeline funded through sponsorship dollars. This project is radically changing the quality of life for thousands of people. Seeing and hearing the stories of transformation resulting from clean water was overwhelming—especially when we learned about the ongoing strategy for the community to own the pipeline and make everything self-sustainable.

We had hoped to go to a tailoring cooperative, but between the rain and how behind schedule we were, we decided to defer that trip to another day. We really are wanting to see the cooperative because such efforts are the heartbeat of current economic development.

Luckily Shane is sharing his Bluetooth keyboard with me or my thumbs would have fallen off. There are so many things I could continue to say, but I need to head to dinner and then to bed so that I can at least be somewhat rested for the amazing adventures that lie in store for us tomorrow.

The people of Rwanda greet you with incredible gratitude and joy.


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.