After a meeting with Bishop Emmanuel in Kibungo, who was suffering from malaria and came to the Diocesan office just to speak with us, we started the last leg of our journey as we travelled to Byumba. We broke the 4 1/2 hour journey with a very pleasant lunch in Kigali thanks to the local knowledge of Emmanuel who has driven us a fair few miles this trip.

Ian’s day was complete after managing to photograph a pair of Crowned Cranes on the drive to Kigal

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A change of driver in Kigali and we headed to Byumba, a fairly good road until we hit roadworks but we arrived safely and were met by Pastor Thaddee with whom we have worked for many years.

A long and very productive meeting over dinner with Bishop Emmanuel of Byumba, Pastor Thaddee and Didacienne, the field assistant who oversees the sponsorship project and it was time to post the blog and head for bed.

A long day ahead tomorrow as we head to a parish a mere 2 1/2 hours drive away, we are assured the road is not too bad!!!!

Prayers for journey mercies please.

 

After breakfast, omelette of course, we left for today’s visit.

The road was definitely an improvement on yesterday and we arrived in Rwintashya Parish without incident. This Parish overlooks Sake Lake and is a very peaceful and attractive location.

A wonderful greeting in the church by some of those who had received goats and we set off to visit a few of the homes. Whilst each of the testimonies are very similar and it is easy for us to feel we have ‘heard it all before’. It is important to remember that for each of these families receiving a goat was beyond their wildest dreams and really is life changing. Time and again we have heard from pastors whose congregations have grown and people have been given hope and a renewed determination to improve their lives. Of course not every one is a success story but that is the way of life.

Recipients are forming support groups, savings schemes and meeting to read the bible. They help each other through challenging times; communities are being drawn closer together and churches are growing. Who would have thought a few goats could have such an impact in these villages?

It is rare for muzungu (white people) to visit these remote villages and some of the children are cautious about coming near. They creep along behind us but will not get too close. Carmen had fun with the children by pretending to be ‘scary muzungu’ . We do hope they don’t have nightmares tonight!!

Back to the pastor’s house where we saw his bike which was provided to the diocese through CHI in 2014 and passed on to him by the previous pastor of this church.

Back for a quick lunch of chip omelette!!!! and it was off to visit Itetero Primary School where some furniture and books had been provided for the library. Funding had been sent for one cow which has now become four. The children attending this school now have milk in their porridge.

We visited the classrooms where the children were encouraged to ask us questions. One child wanted to know how old we were – today’s lesson….. never ask a child to guess your age.  Paul is 90, Ian 92 and Carmen 82!!! This trip has obviously taken a bigger toll than we realised

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Tomorrow we move on again, this time to Byumba. Hopefully we will have internet for the last stage of our journey. Watch this space.

As you read this post please keep in mind the torrential rain we experienced yesterday.

Today we were heading to Ndego Parish, where goats have been provided for a number of families. But first the puncture needed to be fixed!!!!

After the obligatory omelette for breakfast and already an hour late leaving we set off on the one hour drive to the parish church. This area is one of the hottest, driest regions in Rwanda. We were welcomed by Pastor Jean Pierre and invited to share food and drink. A large roll and boiled egg later we headed off to visit some homes in the local area, then on another 45 minute drive to a sub parish close to Lake Nasho, once part of the Akagera National Park but now given to the local population. The landscape here is totally different to anything else we have seen in Rwanda. It is relatively flat, very dry with minimal vegetation. 98% of the local population are subsistence farmers and providing goats gives a good supply of manure for improved crops and some income. Many are now attending church as they see God’s love in action through this provision. Pastor Jean Pierre told us how he had baptised 250 people in one ceremony due to the distribution of goats and the opportunity it had given him to evangelise.

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Rain is scarce here and drought is a constant challenge. That is until Carmen visits but we had to get there first!!!!

Thankfully the strategic positioning of some rocks and dried banana leaves together with the appearance of a couple of local men with muscle and we were free, if a little muddy!!! In the middle of nowhere, not a soul in sight, where did these men come from??

We arrived for our 11am meeting with a local government official at 1.30pm.Thankfully a very short stop before visiting the church and the homes of some of those who had received a goat. There is no doubt the gift of a goat is changing lives and we were welcomed wherever we went.

The daily thunderstorm arrived as we left, although we only felt a few drops of rain and it was back in the car and headed for the pastors house……. for a 3.30pm lunch…… which turned out to be a full traditional Rwandan meal.

We were scheduled to visit a second parish this afternoon. We arrived at 5pm! The light was beginning to fade and an hours journey on hill track roads lay ahead. We agreed a quick visit to meet another family before we headed off. Pastor Alain told us he had baptised 141 people in September as a result of the distribution of goats. Then an invite to enter the pastors house revealed another full Rwandan meal laid out for us. We did our best but couldn’t do justice to the effort that had been put in. We hope they forgive us.

It was dark by the time we left and many a prayer was offered as Emmanuel negotiated the treacherous road home. We had to decline the meal that had been prepared for us at the guest house. You can only manage so much of a good thing!!!

As we post this blog the rain is once again blessing us!!! Please continue to pray for journey mercies as we visit another parish tomorrow.

A night of thunderstorms and torrential rain caused some trepidation as we left for Gikonko School situated around 5000 ft above sea level. The road to Gikonko has always been a challenge. Prayers were said for journey mercies and we were off

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Much to our delight the rain stopped, the road has been improved and widened almost beyond recognition and thankfully we arrived without any fearful moments, in no small part due to Pastor Emmanuel and his skilful driving.

This boarding school is an inspiration. It excels in many areas despite facing huge challenges as many of the pupils here come from very poor families and are unable to pay the fees

.The cow provided some years ago is alive and well and has multiplied and the school now has 3 cows and another one due. These cows provide milk for the students and the aim is to increase the herd to at least six.

The school has performed so well that the government has provided them with 100 laptop computers. What progress from our last visit 5 years ago, when we saw 12 computer towers all of which were in need of repair. We subsequently sent funds for that purpose. These computers are now used for maintenance and repairs.

The children are well disciplined, very smart and the school has a very happy atmosphere. They have performed well in sports and their girls handball team is the top national team

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After a time of discussion and light refreshment it was on to Butare (Huye) our home until Sunday. We have very limited internet here but will endeavour to post the blog each day.

We are struck, as we drive through the country and speak to many people, by the sense of purpose and determination we see. They don’t just have innovative ideas and wait for someone else to provide the means. As we have heard many times, they plan, pray, do what they can and leave it in God’s hands. The outcome is amazing. It is such a privilege to be a small part of the huge changes we are seeing here.

     

We had a wonderful start to the day when Brigitte, our sponsored nurse from Gikomero Health Centre, arrived at the Guest House. She had made a special journey before work to bring us a gift made especially for us by her family. Two days ago we heard how she works every day and does not get much time with her family as the clinic is so short of staff.

Today she brought us a gift which must have taken a considerable amount of her valuable family time. How much clearer could it be that support for these nurses is really appreciated? We were so touched by this very special gift..

Next stop Shyogwe Health Centre where we toured the maternity ward and saw some of the beds we had provided four years ago

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The centre was well kept and seemed to be efficiently run despite overflowing with patients waiting to be seen. One man was lying on the waiting room floor having apparently fainted; there was no one to attend to him.

Despite being connected to the mains and having 3 water tanks the clinic often runs out of water. They need 4 more tanks to meet their needs.

Then on to St Peters School where we operate a School Partner project. Our tour was cut short rather abruptly when today’s thunderstorm hit, but we were able to see the workshop we had funded and the gardens where good quantities of vegetables were being grown for the students’ meals. Funds sent by CHI had been used to purchase the seeds.

We were given lunch and were amused to find the gravy in a washing up bowl!!!

We didn’t see the cow previously purchased which had apparently gone blind and been sold!!!! Yes day 8 and we have lost the plot 😉

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Today Paul has been asked to preach at the parish church in Gisanga.

We were collected at 8am for the one hour journey on the dancing road. This country definitely has more than 1000 hills!!! Services here start at 9.30am and last for three hours. Worship Rwanda style is very different from that which we experience at home. The church is filled with joy and exuberance despite the uncomfortable looking mud pews. Thankfully, as ‘honored guests‘, we had chairs.

The majority of the congregation were young people and, as this was the one week in the month when the four chapels which make up this parish all come to the parish church, the church was full to overflowing with some standing outside listening to the service through the windows and doors. No pressure on Paul then!!!

The choirs from all the churches sang and danced. We attempted to follow the Kinyarwandan hymn book and join in the worship (not entirely successfully) and then it was time for Paul to preach. His sermon was taken from Psalm 19 and translated by Pastor Jean Pierre from Shyogwe Diocese. We have to trust it was translated accurately because he received a round of applause at the end

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Having been photographed with all the key people in the church we were directed to enter the pastors house for lunch. The many members of the congregation watching on were not being given the chance to say hello so, in true CHI style we caused a little havoc and went to meet them. Not wanting to worry Kevin but he may have a rival!!!

   

This impoverished community have spent five years building a new church big enough to hold them all and a few hundred besides. Their belief that the church will grow does not allow room for doubt. The church has been constructed brick by brick as means allowed but now they have reached the roof. 167 roofing sheets and framework will cost around £4000. Most cannot even afford a bible!!! But we are left in no doubt the roof will go on. Will we be able to play a part? More for us to consider on our return.

Back to the guest house by 1.30pm and a welcome afternoon off. The sun shone and we headed out for a walk to the church on Zion Hill. Yep, up another hill.

An interesting chat with a very intelligent young man over a cup of tea rounded off our afternoon nicely.

If you have tried unsuccessfully to leave a comment on our blog please try again, the technical issues have been rectified.

Shyogwe Guest House is fairly new, we have electricity and hot running water (in some of the rooms at least). A pleasant breakfast, no porridge in Shyogwe, but the regulation omelette soon appeared.

Then it was off to Gikomero to meet with Bridgitte the nurse supported through our Nurse + Project. This was our first opportunity to meet her but we felt we knew her already from her letters and photo’s. She greeted us like long lost friends and became quite emotional as she tried to convey her appreciation for the support she has received, she wanted to say so much but did not have good enough English to express herself. A great deal of smiling, hand shaking and hugging delivered the message very clearly

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As we stood talking with the clinic director, Carmen seemed to collect children – two hands to hold just weren’t enough

This health centre, started just 6 years ago with one microscope in a small house, the pastor’s wife (a nurse) started doing blood tests to check for malaria and other parasites. With funding from the local government and some input from larger charities, this health centre now consists of 4 new buildings treating up to 150 patients a day plus 20 beds and a maternity unit. The staff consist of eight nurses, only two of whom are qualified to degree level. Five are government funded, the Diocese have to fund the rest, they have never had a visit from a doctor!!!

The challenges are immense, lack of medicines, equipment and a broken water pump are just a few of the challenges faced, the staff however, far from moaning and complaining, work very long hours, smile, praise God for the things they are able to achieve and pray they will be paid at the end of the month (there are no guarantees).

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We have been in Rwanda less than a week but in our hearts have already allocated all our available funds, our heads of course will not make final decisions until we return to the UK.

The rain continues to make the roads interesting although many have been improved beyond recognition. There is real progress being made by the government here improving the infrastructure and supporting rural communities, but there is still so much to be done.

This morning we said goodbye to Kigali and headed south to Shyogwe Diocese, our home for the next 3 days.

A warm welcome from Bishop Jered, some light refreshment and a tour of the training centre found us running an hour late. The scheduled 1.5 hour lunch was achieved in 20 minutes and it was back on the road to Gisanga where we are supporting a Parish Project

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The main roads in Rwanda are fairly good, but once off the main road it is a different story. They are commonly known as ‘dancing roads’ or as Bishop Jered explained, a free massage, we have yet to be convinced!!! One hour and well massaged later we arrived in one of the driest areas of Rwanda we have yet experienced.

The new school building had been funded by the government but, in order to create enough land for the building, the Pastor had given the land he used to grow food for his family. 1002 children and 14 teachers attend this school, the books we had purchased will never be enough!!!

We saw the water tanks we had provided and visited the head teachers house where some repairs had been funded.

We are so humbled by the welcome we receive wherever we go and the constant message is, your practical support is valuable but your visit means so much. These people have so little, they feel forgotten and find it hard to believe anyone cares enough to come all this way to see them. The stories we hear are heartbreaking but they put on their best clothes, smile and praise God for our visit.

There is so much we can do to improve lives here, the first phase of this project is complete but we think a phase two is looking likely.

Another thunderstorm saw us seeking shelter in the pastor’s house, how can he possibly minister to his people living in these conditions? After some discussion we learn that he has no transport and his attendance at parish meetings requires him to walk the distance it took us an hour to drive.

We left Gisanga at 6pm in heavy rain for a 7pm dinner date with the Bishop, is it very bad manners to keep a Bishop waiting!!? No time to change but he didn’t seem to mind.

A very pleasant evening with some traditional dance, joining in was not an option, we’re not sure our version was quite up to scratch.

 

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Rwanda is known as the land of 1000 hills and today we seem to have been up and down 999 of them as we visited two more remote parishes and met more sponsored children. What a blessing and a privilege it is to hear the testimonies of these families and to witness their joy at the hope they feel they have been given for the future. It is also humbling when we visit their homes and are welcomed like long lost family.

Alphonsine (below) was so overwhelmed she could not stop dancing and singing praises to God.

We saw two cows funded in 2015, each of which had produced calves, and heard about the difference such a relatively small gift was making to the welfare of the parishes. The calf was called Joy of Christmas, guess when it was born??

The view from the top of the hills would have been far better without the thunderstorm that accompanied us for the latter part of the day, neither travelling or holding a conversation under a tin roof are easy in the rain.

 

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A quick breakfast and we were on the road again. A major change since we were last in Kigali is the volume of car traffic. This city has grown and developed beyond recognition since we were last here in 2013.

A 30 minute drive and we arrived at Kikangahara for a visit to Hope Academy Nursery School. Supported through our School Partners Project this building now has new windows, doors and a coat of paint, inside and out. A security fence and play equipment make it a happy place for the children to come. As with all the church run facilities they take the poorest children who cannot afford the privately run facilities. Without these Nurseries pre school age children would often be left alone whilst the parents went off in search of work. They are now reasonably well equipped with desks and chairs but are in desperate need of other basic educational materials.

Next stop Bumbogo, we had very clear memories of this journey on our previous trip and approached it with some trepidation, located at the top of the hill the road had proved a challenge. As we headed off the tarmac we held our breath, but amazingly the road was flat and as we wound our way up the hill it became apparent the government policy of providing improved roads to the more remote villages was having an impact. We arrived at Bumbogo in record time.

A visit to their new nursery school, built by a larger charity, found 167 children in 4 classrooms. They had benches but no tables or any educational materials, this was best demonstrated when the children proudly showed off their counting abilities, using discarded bottle tops!! For the first time ever we met children with special needs in school, the young girl on the mat was a wheelchair user, how anyone uses a wheelchair on these hill tracks is beyond us. Despite the lack of materials the children were happy and greeted us with songs. A relatively small sum could make a huge impact in these classes

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Entering the church we were greeted by the children sponsored through CHI and their guardians singing and dancing in praise to God for the opportunity to be sponsored.

The testimonies given by both children and adults left us in no doubt of the value of sponsorship, the additional benefits from sponsorship in the Gasabo Project gave us a great deal to think about.

After a hot lunch it was on again to Kinyinya and yet another nursery which was in the process of construction when we last visited. Here we met more of our sponsored children and had the opportunity to visit two of them in their homes.

        

The highlight of the day was probably Ian meeting his sponsored child at Bumbogo Parish.

Over all a very encouraging day as, despite the obvious ongoing hardships, the support offered through CHI sponsorship really does seem to be having an impact which goes far beyond providing a basic education.

 

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The ‘new’ Kigali guest house sits in the Cathederal compound which we can see from our rooms.

The day started with a breakfast we didn’t expect…. porridge!!! That said it was very pleasant and followed by fresh pineapple was a good start to the day.

We were then visited by Merard, a very eloquent and successful young man who was one of CHI’s early sponsored children. Now married with two children of his own and a successful career in the Kigali planning dept. his is definitely a story to encourage any would be sponsors.

A walk to the local ‘shops’ to stock up with water and it was back in time to be collected by Arch Bishop Onesphore for lunch at his home. En route a visit to two church plants in the Gasabo Diocese, The first in Gisozi Parish had a foundation but worship was in a ‘big top’ not allowed under Kigali law.

The second at Batsinda (meaning ‘they always win’) where the land and rather sorry buildings had recently been purchased. However a small mothers union group were enjoying a time of worship.

Over lunch and through the afternoon a time of discussion with AB Onesphore and his wife Josephine regarding the work of CHI and the impact it has in the lives of those supported and the impact on their ministry.

Tomorrow the work starts in earnest!!!

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What do you pack when you head off overseas?

Our cases contain toilet rolls, antibiotics (just in case), first aid kit and torches, not forgetting the tennis balls, tee shirts, pens, and Bible notes to distribute when we arrive. 

So finally we are packed and currency is safely stowed (no credit card facility where we are going!!).

It is 3am and more than a little bleary eyed we have said farewell to our families and are headed for Heathrow, destination Kigali, Rwanda. 

Ahead of us around 15hrs of traveling, not the most appealing aspect of our trip but it has to be done. We pray for journey mercies and no delays.

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WE ARE BACK Safe and sound if a little ragged round the edges. Praise God for journey mercies. Thank you all for your interest, messages and most of all prayers while we were away. If you have felt challenged by our reports and would like to contribute to any of our project please do so through this website or by contacting the office...

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We awoke to blue skies and sunshine today, it has been quite overcast this trip. As we had a free morning before our flight we thought it would be a good idea to walk to the beach, 5 mins from the guest house, and relax for a couple of hours.
It was a pleasant walk to the beach but we think the pictures tell the rest of the story.

In half an hour we leave for the airport and God willing we will be home tomorrow morning. NO we will not be in the office!!!

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On the way to Kimwanyi this morning we stopped to ‘rescue’ two young children aged around 2 & 3 wandering across the main road. Unfortunately this is not uncommon as youngsters are left to fend for themselves while parents go in search of work.


Ian preached at the 9.30 service at Kimwanyi on Ephesians 1 v 15 – 23 It was, as always, a good sermon. By the time the service and songs of thanks etc ended three hours had passed, the inevitable photos and then yet another wonderful …lunch at Patrick’s house cooked by Frank. More photos then it was “time to go”

A quick stop to collect our luggage and 5 hours later after a brief stop at the equator and a detour to visit Catherine (Head teacher at Kimwanyi) who had been involved in an accident and was unable to be at the school) we arrived back at the Serene guest House. A light supper and it was time for bed.

In many ways we will be sad to leave Uganda tomorrow. We have strengthened relationships with those we have worked with over the years and made many new friends. It will be good however to return to our families, drive on relatively safe roads, eat familiar food and not have to use a long drop!!!
Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey. Please pray for God’s guidance as you consider how you can play a part in this work.

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Yesterday a young girl, aged about 10, led the singing, despite wiping away tears the she completed her song, later we learned that her mother had died just two weeks ago and she was being cared for by a teacher as she had no one else to care for her.
It was our last day with the children at Kijjabwemi today, what a joy this project is. We spent some time playing ball games and action songs then after a short service several of the young people, gave testimonies about the… difference sponsorship and learning about Jesus had made in their lives. The confidence of these children never ceases to amaze us.
After lunch we joined the youngsters who taught us some craft skills, even very young children are able to take part, these skills are not just recreational but give them skills that enable them to provide for themselves in the future. The crafts they make at the project are sold to the church congregation with the profits being fed back into the project to provide for the children.

The young children were fascinated by the hairs on Paul & Ian’s arms.

After being presented with yet another gift of a plaque of appreciation we said a sad farewell and headed to Kimwanyi to meet with some of the young people who are part of the youth project under Pastor Patrick’s guidance. They expressed their thanks for the funding that had enabled the Easter Cup to take place. This annual youth outreach event involving the youth from surrounding churches in the parish had been in danger of being cancelled due to a lack of funding. Thanks to donations to our Spiritual Growth fund we were able to step in and help.
Despite the fun we had today we can’t help but remember the plight of so many children who still need sponsorship,

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Today we visited Kagaanda School, unfortunately half the classrooms have had to be put out of use as the main wall is about to fall in, but lessons continue in the church and under the trees, the resilience of these people is amazing.

Despite these challenges we were blessed with an ama…zing display of song and dance by the children and teachers, we even joined in at one point but that video will not be appearing on Facebook!!!!!

We were presented with gifts of fruit and veg from many who struggle to feed their families, there are just no words in those situations.

Thankfully we are planning to help with the renovation of this school who’s children also have to walk 1 1/2 km each day to fetch water, their small water tank currently requires repair. Hopefully we will be able to find the funds to assist with that also.

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First stop was Kimwanyi Church where we met with the church committee, this was the first time we had been inside this church.

After the last few days seeing so much need today was a breath of fresh air.

Our partnership with Kimwanyi Parish goes back to 2009 when we started the Mozzy Project in an effort to reduce Malaria in this community. Those who follow our work may remember the dire conditions we saw in this clinic, you may also remember that the first 18 months saw a drop of approx 40% in cases of Malaria presenting at the clinic as a result of this intervention.

Over the last 7 years we have supported, through your donations, with medicines and equipment and financial support for an extra nurse, Nurse Prossy has now been at Kimwanyi for 4 1/2 years. It is three years since we last visited and the difference is hard to put into words. The dark, dingy clinic has been transformed by the addition of two perspex panels in the roof which let in light, the wards are less cramped as the rooms have been re-organized, the pharmacy shelves whilst not exactly full do hold some vital medicines and the new beds and mattresses are a blessing to patients and staff alike. In addition to the wonderful transformation in the clinic the nurses are now putting more time into follow up visits to people in their homes, to give advice on prevention of many of the most common illnesses.

It was not all positive as we learn that none of the five medical staff have been vaccinated against Yellow Fever, Hepatitis B or Typhoid as the funds are just not available. All these illnesses are rife in this area, in fact we are not allowed into the country unless we have a vaccination certificate for Yellow Fever. It costs £50 per person to vaccinate these staff. We have a policy of never making decisions about supporting any initiative until we return to the UK and evaluate all the information, we have broken this rule and promised to provide the funds for all the required vaccinations.

There are still needs to be met at Kimwanyi Health Centre but overall we were greatly encouraged.

Due to the lack of rain this year the water in the two water tanks supplied is being reserved for drinking. We walked down the hill to see where the water was being fetched from, it was a long steep walk but Pastor Patrick was proud to show us the water pump which had been broken and out of use now repaired and working. The community have been so motivated by the intervention of CHI in the community they have repaired the pump and built new latrines for the clinic. We carried water containers back up the hill and would not wish to do so daily.

We saw the Eucalyptus trees which have been planted by the youth in the church as a cash crop, The saplings were purchased with your donations, they grow quickly and are large enough to sell after three years, they can be pollarded so give a continual income, the first planting are almost ready to cut and the income will be used for the benefit of the church, clinic and school.

Apparently some of the local insects are edible, flying ants are readily available as you walk around and provide a good source of protein. Yuk!!!

We saw the chicken farm started with funds from the livestock project, which provides enough eggs to supplement the diet of the local youngsters and surplus to sell, and the goats which when there are sufficient will be used for the benefit of the community.

After lunch we visited some of the families who had received pigs as part of the livestock initiative. This project has been a wonderful success, as the animals breed one piglet is passed to another family, almost 200 families, irrespective of faith or no faith at all, have now been given a pig and set on the road to self sufficiency. One lady told us “I can now pay the school fees for my children” In addition a young man who has acquired some veterinary skills has started a small pig breeding programme and is also able to instruct recipients of pigs in the correct care of their animals.

With the exception of the clinic work this transformation in the community has happened in just two and a half years, it is wonderful to see this poor community almost self sufficient.

Patrick tells us his congregation has grown in that time from about 35 to over 200.  James 2 v 17: Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

A short visit to meet with the Acting Bishop of the Diocese and we were home before dark.