Newsletter from Rwanda



Eyes to the Hills

Updates, stories, and prayers from the Lutheran Church of Rwanda, the Young Adults in Global Mission program, and me, your friend and ELCA missionary,
all from within the Land of One Thousand Hills.

Murakaza Neza & Murakoze Cyane!

Welcome and Thank You!

Before diving too quickly into what's been happening in Rwanda, the Lutheran Church of Rwanda, and the Young Adults in Global Mission program, let me first welcome you to my quarterly newsletter: Eyes to the Hills. Know that I am beyond grateful for your spiritual, financial*, and emotional support and hope this newsletter serves well to keep us connected in the years to come. Thank you for being present with me! Throughout the course of my service, please do not hesitate to share any questions, thoughts, prayer requests, or prayers in response to my newsletters. And if you are in a community that likewise has a newsletter, please also send them my way!

In this first issue, you will find a reflection on publicly witnessing to faith, a journal entry on a day turned 'round, a few pictures from these first months, and information about the LCR communities who will welcome YAGM in the year to come.

*Want to learn how to financially support me through sponsorship or by contributing a donation? Please reach out to me or the ELCA's Global Church Sponsorship department ( for more details and information! 


Picture #1: "Mugisha givin' Janelle the business." -Caption and Photo by Mary Braistad, '16-'17 YAGM who served in Kibungo, Rwanda. YAGM will continue to serve with the church in Kibungo this coming year!

Picture #2: Youth from the Kibungo Lutheran Parish gather for youth-led choir practice on Saturday afternoons. When I visited Kibungo in June, Mary took me to sing, dance, play games, and color with them as she did every Saturday.


A Public Witness

Last month, in the midst of preparing for the YAGM group to come, I joined the outgoing YAGM group in their final retreat. For an afternoon, I led a session on transitioning back home and thinking through the ways this year will impact their faith in action, especially  in the current social climate of the USA. In closing, Pastor Kate led us in an affirmation of baptism.

From our seats at a small, outdoor table, we renounced the forces of evil, confessed our faith using the Apostles Creed, and recommitted ourselves once again to participating in the body of Christ. And we did so publicly! We did so publicly with a group playing volleyball behind us, a family ready to jump in the pool next to us, and a monkey milling about above us. We did so publicly in the midst of a regular day, an ordinary hour, an obscure setting. We did so publicly, without any special marker of the occasion other than the words, prayers, and affirmations we shared in the presence of God and the everydayness of God’s creation.

It wasn’t a big scene. In fact, I’m certain most people around us didn’t know what we were doing or why we were doing it. However, this moment served as a profound summary of what it means to participate in God’s mission in the world. We are called to be vessels of God’s affirming love and overwhelming grace publicly in the everyday moments of life. We are called to be full participants in God’s creation, witnessing to the in-breaking of God’s kin-dom in the ordinary, open-air, unscheduled hours of the day. We are called to be a witness and to share God’s goodness and grace publicly, extending ourselves beyond the designated spaces or moments we reserve for worship, praise, and prayer.

For the extraordinary ways Pastor Kate and the 2016-2017 YAGM Rwanda team have so publicly witnessed God’s grace revealed and shared God’s love in the everyday moments of this past year, I give God thanks. And for all the ways the Lutheran Church in Rwanda, the YAGM preparing to arrive in August, and the church around the world (including you!) will continue to publicly witness in word and deed to God’s life-giving presence, let us rejoice!


The Guitar Club from Rwamagana Lutheran School (RLS) performs during the 2017 Talent Show. YAGM have served at RLS the past three years and a new YAGM volunteer will arrive in September to continue supporting the RLS science department.

Notebook Entry: 6.8.2017 


I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. No idea why, I imagine it happens like that to all of us once in awhile. All morning I took deep breaths each time irritation reared its ugly head, trying my best to let it go. By the afternoon I was pretty even-keeled, albeit not terribly energetic.

I walked up the steep road to the office and sat in the sanctuary of the Kigali Parish, waiting for my meeting with the Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda (LCR). I've learned that most people who come to the office for meetings first sit in the sanctuary (which also serves as the waiting room) for a time of prayer. I have begun that practice as well. Over the past few years, my personal prayer posture has begun to take the form of a basketball player anxiously sitting on the bench, hunched over with elbows on knees, hands folded out front, head bowed in deep concentration, ready for game time. Recently, a portion of my prayers have included asking God for guidance, courage, strength, wisdom, and daily pep-talks as I enter the busy months ahead. 


Today, however, something changed in both my prayer and my posture. (Click here to read on)


On the same day as my journal entry, Bishop Mugabo (second from the left) invited me to a late lunch with his former theology teacher from Uganda and other leaders of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda. #joy

Pictured left to right:
Prof. Rev. Sam, Uganda
Bishop Mugabo, LCR
Muvunyi Gerard, LCR 
me, ELCA 
Rev. George Twesigye, LCR

Picture #1: YAGM will return to the Western Province this year, serving with the Kamembe Lutheran Parish. Part of the YAGM's role in the community will be to assist local judges with English lessons. I met with two of the judges to learn what they hoped to achieve with the classes.

Picture #2: Kamembe Lutheran Parish in Cyangugu has plans to build their own church in the future. Currently, they are renting the above space for worship and church events. Pr. Rwampamira Godwin (second from the left in the other photo) faithfully leads this congregation.


YAGM Rwanda '17-'18

Please hold these individuals in prayer as they make the final preparations to head this way. They will arrive in Kigali on August 24th for three weeks of in-country orientation before heading to their host communities on September 15th.


Want to hear more!? (Literally speaking!)

Songs from Kibungo, Kamembe, and Rwamagana's youth are waiting for you at the SoundCloud link located in the middle of the icons below.  If you'd generally  like to learn more about YAGM Rwanda and the ELCA, check out the weblink on the left below. Also, visit the YAGM Rwanda Facebook page and "like" us there.  Feel free to email me or follow-up on more of my thoughts by heading to my blog using the two right links, respectively. Grace and peace to you all!

Copyright © 2017 ELCA - YAGM - Rwanda, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because at some point you shared your interest in following the work of the Church in Rwanda, the Young Adults in Global Mission program, and my experiences as a participant in that work. Please enjoy quarterly newsletter highlighting happenings in this part of the world!

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ELCA - YAGM - Rwanda

P.O. Box 5692

Kigali, Kigali


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All thoughts and opinions included in this newsletter are my own or from colleagues who I have asked for submissions. Thus, the opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or the church bodies (ELCA and/or LCR) for which I work.

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