November 2017

Dear Pray-ers:

  • Chaplain Fine's stay in Canada has come and gone. To all who had a chance to meet her, offer her hospitality or involve her in some activity, thank you! She learned how to ride escalators and elevators, use the underground metro, take the train, stay away from high-priced stores. She was astounded at the amount of food we consume and the ever-present glasses of water at the table. She feels that the prisons she visited offered living conditions far better than what she and her friends have at home.She gleaned some new ideas from our programs, wondered at the number of cars around and the number of kilometres we drive every day and the lack of people along the way. She was astounded at how many of us live alone, how beautiful our country is and how welcoming Canadians are. She missed the mountains and the Rwanda Team and her daily work, despite its enormous challenges. What an adventure!
  • The week after she returned, our dear friend and former leader of the Letters Project, Chaplain Lazare, died unexpectedly. He leaves his wife Tamar and 10 children and several grandchildren. The future will be very difficult for all and they have requested your prayers.
  • Jean Bosco in Burundi and his volunteer team continue to plough through constant challenges to get into the prisons once a month. They need protection and resources.
  • Goma, DRCongo, has once again lit up with fires and violent deaths. Simeon and his team had just managed as best as possible in the aftermath of a fire in the prison due to hunger and harsh conditions. Once again, they are tried beyond imagination. Pray for good governance, that people of faith and integrity will prevail, that kindness will be valued and that our team will have the wisdom and courage to carry on.
  • Donations in kind have been flooding into the office and a 'Buckingham' team has spent hours carefully itemizing and packing them into suitcases which will need to be fumigated and shipped - at a cost! (Hundreds of these items have been given out in the various prisons with a focus this year on the elderly and sick).
  • We hope to return in January. It is hard to be separated in difficult times.
  • Joy and sorrow, light and dark, life and death, peace and turmoil. May we have the wisdom to accept all that we are confronted with, and may we be bearers of hope in the midst of it all. Thank you for hanging in with us all.

Judy

August 2017

Dear Pray-ers:

  • Pierre and I are in Canada for the summer and enjoying our little old house in Gatineau. Our hearts, however, are very much still in the Great Lakes region of Africa, as the challenges there abound!
  • The Rwanda team has been doing a fabulous job working with the elderly and sick 'génocidaires' in the Rubavu Prison. We have had great joy meeting with small groups of about 35 of them at a time. We sing, share and pray together. Then we do our exercises - which is hilarious, always wondering which of us will topple over first. Chaplains Fine, Nelson and Kizungu have handed out several hundred pieces of warm clothing to the very frail who are cold at night. Many have only this contact with the outside world. As they are slowly released back into their communities after many years, the chaplaincy team has occasionally been able to pave the way for their re-integration, meeting with family and others, facilitating reconciliation opportunities and arranging for and accompanying them on the ride home. This is an emotional, intensive and expensive undertaking. We are thankful to be a small part of it.
  • This week the team in Goma, RDC were witness to a horrific event. A fire was set in the part of the Musenze Prison housing the women and juveniles with whom Simeon and his team work regularly. The cause appears to have been mounting despair at not receiving food for up to four days. The conditions are disastrous, and we ask for your prayers for the chaplains as they try to figure out what to do next in what seems like an impossible situation.
  • Jean Bosco amazingly has been able to visit all the Burundi prisons again this month. It is extremely difficult to find transportation money and food contributions to bring to each institution, but God has protected him and his team and we are so grateful for their faithfulness.
  • We had hoped to bring 5 team leaders to Canada this fall for a short program. Four were refused visas by Immigration Canada - with no recourse. So Chaplain Fine (Ms Delphine Furaha) will come alone in September. We want this trip to be a time of much needed rest, encouragement and renewal for her. (She is very excited and nervous - first time away!).
  • Thank you for allowing us to share these few snippets of real life with you - in all their horribleness and joy. Because of God's grace and your support.

Judy

May 2017

Dear Pray-ers:

  • Hoping to get this off to you while we are still connected to the internet. Has been an iffy affair the last while.
  • This is the big week when we receive the class of graduating WoW girls for a two-day deal here in Rwanda. (You know, sleeping 20 on mattresses on the floor at the Petit Sanctuaire Gisenyi, swimming for the first time in Lake Kivu wearing the pants we make for the prisoners, getting a pedicure and facial, eating out at the Auberge, the local buffet diner, and of course, the Certificate ceremony and gift basket. WoW! Pray for ease at the boarder crossing. Also that the water would come back on at the Petit Sanctuaire (has been off for couple months now). Not to mention that the plumbing would hold up. Plumber is here as I write.
  • The re-structuring at the Petit Sanctuaire Goma, RDC, is going well, after the big move to a new rental in January. Change is hard, though, and the new 'Production Unit' is under a lot of stress to succeed and be helpful in the broader prison ministry - which remains as challenging as ever.
  • Remember little M. who has just been released from prison. She is small, very underage and 'accused' of sexual assault. Her trauma has left her unable to speak, but willing to stay close to the other WoW girls and perhaps pick up some sewing....
  • The visa saga continues. Fine has been approved to come to Canada for a month. Three others have been refused and are on appeal. One case is pending.
  • The situation in Burundi is grim - pray....
  • Thank God for the many blessings we have, and that many times we are not even aware of....Rule of Law, food, (snake-free) housing, safety, medicine, public and private transportation, freedom to move around, clean water, toilet paper, education, social security, access to information,....well, you can see where I am going with this!

Delighted, as always, that you are surrounding us in prayer.

Judy and Pierre

April 2017

Dear Pray-ers:

  • The annual Genocide Commemoration in Rwanda begins today, April 7. It is a time of great emotion and introspection. Much has been accomplished in terms of reconciliation and reconstruction. Much will always remain as painful reminders of an unspeakable time. Pray for our team as they continue to face these challenges head on, fearlessly and with enormous compassion and hope.
  • Simeon and the Goma team have successfully moved into our new rental house. Thanks to the Heaven's Family partnership and special donations from YOU, we have solar electricity, reservoirs to collect rain water, a new program configuration, and a stream-lined team. This has taken a lot of time and energy, but they are ready! Please pray that they will be given wisdom, protection and optimism despite the harsh and unstable conditions.
  • So many of our collaborators would like their own home, a good education for themselves and their children, and more secure health care. These are legitimate concerns and would certainly preoccupy us were we in their shoes. May God's will be done for them.
  • Jean Bosco and his team in Burundi carry on with prison visitation against all odds. They must constantly reapply for permission, skirt internal conflict, and look for the means not only to get around and eat themselves but also to find transportation to prison and the funds to bring something to the inmates, whether it be a box of soap or a bag of flour. It is a persistent strain. Courage!
  • In Rwanda, Fine and her team have been focussing on follow-up with the elderly and palliative cases, giving out milk, warm clothes, counselling and optimism. Many have never had a visit in 15 - 20 years. Hope incarnate.
  • There are lots of joy moments as well: literacy graduation ceremonies, underwear distribution, exercise routines, creative crafting, milk or beignets or sometimes even a meal together. All because of your faithfulness. We continue to recognize the privilege of being your hands and feet.
  • Pierre and I return May 1. We need physical strength and God's unfailing direction. And the world needs peace.

February 2017

Dear Pray-ers:

  • Yesterday Chaplain Fine and Eileen spent the day at the women's prison here in Rwanda. They were able to deliver 10 care packages to the pregnant and new mothers. The packages were received with tears of joy. Then they had an exercise session with the very old men and women who have been there since '94. Several kept toppling over in gales of laughter as they tried their best to follow the leader. Followed up with some good listening time with a group who have not had a visitor in 15, 20 years or more. A great time.
  • We felt privileged today to spend February 14 in the men's prison also here in Rwanda. We are thankful for the groundwork set by our 'Rwanda 3' chaplains which allows us to be welcomed with open arms and to have easy access to the fellows. First we had a good time with the 400 offenders who have met with their genocide victim survivors. They tell us their heads are full with nowhere to put their thoughts and so they are very grateful for these moments of sharing. Many of them have begun to sleep through the night without nightmares. Many of the victims have been unbelievably generous in helping the offenders with bits of food, or school fees for their children. All miracles of grace.
  • Jean-Bosco, Burundi, organized a meeting last weekend in Bujumbura for 35 clergy to expose them to prison chaplaincy. He is very pleased with the results. Some were receptive, some very opposed, but the issue was presented and God will do with it what He chooses.
  • Simeon and the team in Goma survived the move to a new rental property - bigger but unfinished with NO water and security problems. Thanks to the generosity of Heaven's Family we have lighting from a solar panel system! Many challenges remain, particularly as the prison conditions continue to be abysmal and violent. Also, the computer and other equipment stolen.
  • Working actively on getting five leaders from DRCongo, Burundi and Rwanda to Canada for one month next August-September. We would like to offer them a time of rest and planning for the future as well as a chance to see some Canadian programs. The two major challenges are finances and visas. The excitement around this possibility is palpable!
  • Please pray for all these people who are doing little things that are such big things in God's scheme of things. They need courage, staying power, health, safety and total confidence in divine guidance.

July 2016

  • Pierre and I will be at home in Canada the next couple of weeks. We are hoping to rest up and re-energize a bit. The trick is to not always be thinking about what we could be doing! To our great delight, work continues full steam ahead without us.
  • The ministry at Musanze Prison in Rwanda is focussed at present on the sick and elderly, many of whom have not had visits for 10-20 years. The chaplaincy team chats, counsels and prays with them. They are given warm clothes, something for their feet, and the possibility of reconciliation with their family, victims or community is broached. Their joy and appreciation is astounding. Remember chaplains Fine, Nelson and Kizungu.
  • In Goma, there are three sewing workshops at the Petit Sanctuaire: the WoW group of 20-25 vulnerable girls, a class for local girls who contribute a small fee, and the production group of graduates who are desperately trying to get contracts for things like school uniforms. Pray for these efforts and for encouragement for all the participants.
  • The prison ministry in Goma continues to be hard, needy and exactly what we are called to do: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, bringing good news. Pray for Simeon, Assani and all the team as they never give up despite formidable odds (and bugs). And clean water!
  • Jean Bosco and his team of volunteers (100% !) visit all the outlying prisons of Burundi on a regular basis. As soon as they have funds for transportation and a bag of beans or soap or salt, they set out. Their office was vandalized lately and the computer and printer stolen which makes their work that much more difficult. They are an inspiration.
  • We ask in particular that God would grant safety and protection as the Great Lakes area is rife with conflict, partisan violence and political sensitivities. This always overshadows the daily needs and everyday concerns of the ordinary people who want only their dignity and survival.

Thank you for your solidarity with us in this strange world which God loves.

xJudy

March 2016

  • We will spend Good Friday tomorrow with Simeon's team at the Petit Sanctuaire Goma. There will be tea and a special time of sharing what Good Friday means for each of them. We are looking forward to their reflections as they 'carry on' despite much hardship. Three of the chaplains spent the day here today at the Grand Sanctuaire, and as one said - we have nothing. We need everything.
  • Lillian has managed to empty the suitcases shipped last week and sort out into the different categories your gifts for our many care packages. Fine has made a list of the very old and weak men in Rubavu Prison which is on a mountain and very cold at night. Most of these genocide perpetrators have not been visited for 10, 15, 20 years and so own nothing except their very flimsy cotton pink or orange jail suit. The warm jackets, socks or long-sleeved shirts and occasional footwear are received with tears of thanksgiving. It is hard to convey to you their appreciation. We were also able to buy some 'babouches' - heavy plastic sandals, which will be given to those who cannot sew the old pieces together any more.
  • We are trying to put together a larger meeting of those involved with us in prison work in the Great Lakes area April 1-2. It has been several years since we have been together as a group. Pray that the Burundi people will be able to make it. Pierre is planning to do a teaching review of Restorative Justice principles and prison chaplaincy. We need energy both to receive people and to teach.
  • The Letters Project phasing out is going very well. Chaplains Fine, Nelson and Kizungu have met with all the available offenders who had a personal meeting with their victim survivors. The testimonies have been deeply moving, and the overwhelming result is a sense of peace and a lack of fear to return to community. We need wisdom to decide whether to share these results with the Correctional authorities for future action.
  • We are also planning an overnight gathering of the special group of victim-survivors who helped us locate other victims over the 7 years of the project. They called, hiked and investigated for us and saved our team hours and hours of searching. This will take place during the month of April, genocide commemoration time. Pray for peace, balm for their souls.

Feel like I should limit myself to these items so as not to swamp you.We wonder how you all are. We are immensely thankful for your gifts and prayers which allow us to continue in our hobbling sort of way.

with Resurrection thoughts,
Judy

November 2015

  • As you know, this mission involves a lot of updating, fine-tuning and pruning. Change is never easy, especially after working on the same projects for several years together. Nevertheless, it is time to put everything on the table and look to the future. We need divine guidance for this. Hard, but exciting!
  • The Letters Project (delivery of 430 letters, 280+ victim-offender meetings in prison) comes to an end in December. It has been amazing grace. Should we take on more letters? Have more victim-offender meetings in prison? Would the finances come through again? We are blown away by God's grace every week.
  • The 2014 graduates of the WoW sewing centre in Goma have been waiting for their 2-day celebration in Gisenyi with us for a year. It will take place November 12-13. Remember the 20 girls and 4 instructors who will cross over. (We need more energy, mattresses, sheets and towels…).
  • We are holding our first ever Goma Women's Day November 19 here at the Grand Sanctuaire. Eighteen members of the Goma team or their spouse will spend the day together, study our theme, eat out, have a flea market at the house here. Pray that it will be lots of fun and relaxation for all.
  • November 16, we go to the women's prison in Musanze (Ruhengeri). We will present certificates of completion to 35 women who have been taking crafting courses (along with a little cantina money), and the annual baby packages to 50 prisoners who are there with their children 3 and under. We are thankful for the fine instructors and leaders in this prison (they are women prisoners themselves) - Patricie and her team. Remember the heartbreak as the children who are older are removed from their mothers and sent to extended family somewhere.
  • We have had lots of electricity and water cuts, but very few visits by repairmen so far. Great.
  • Simeon needs wisdom, health, discernment for the daily incredibly difficult situations that arm of the ministry presents.
  • The latest three Bugesera water taps are completed. At the same time, thanks to friends in Buckingham, we were able to leave 23 chickens with the neediest families in the villages. Joy.
  • We had a touching moment this morning when our cook-houseman, Samson, asked if he could leave early. He had saved enough from his salary to buy a couple of bags of cement and he was going to finish the floor in one room of his house. Joy again.

We are 'lonesome-er' this time. Miss you all and count on your prayers.

Judy

July 2015

Dear Pray-ers:

Happy Canada Day Everyone! What a blessed and privileged land! We have our flags up on the balcony, and our Canada toothpicks in the dish. Yahoo!

  • We have done our 6 weeks here in Gisenyi and will leave in a couple of days for the summer (and tests) in Canada. You have prayed us through this comeback, and we hope to return to a regular schedule here in September.
  • Despite not being the Energizer bunnies, we were able to spend time with all the members of our Rwanda, Burundi and DRCongo teams. The theme of Mission 10 is 'Listening' (Isaiah 30: 18-21). We tried to listen carefully and to understand where these amazing people are and have been for the last year in their work and personal lives. We are certainly aware of the issues and certainly cannot solve them. Only God...but it is a joy to be part of this together.
  • There were over 110 packed into our little Petit Sanctuaire house in Goma last week. Twenty more GBV (gender-based violence) girls graduated from the sewing course in 2014 and are waiting for their party with us in the fall. By then another 30 will have completed the course. Would love to give each graduate her own sewing machine so that she could become self-supporting. Right now these girls do not even have diapers for their babies (which makes for an interesting Daycare program).
  • Care bags are flying out of the house with fresh new underwear going to ladies in several prisons and programs as well as chaplains' and families. This has been such a blessing! Thank you to Eva, Vaila, Bethany and Ottawa women and many others. Cannot tell you what a day-brightener this is for the women.
  • Thanks to generous gifts, we have completed 3 more water projects in Rwandan reconciliation villages, a wall (of literal protection) around a female chaplain's house, and helped another chaplain's 2 sons start in medicine and geology. Maybe a turning point for this impoverished family...!
  • Our key man in Goma, Simeon, has still not been able to get a satisfactory medical follow-up to a serious diagnosis. Need wisdom regarding follow-up - or just outright healing!
  • 'Gisenyi Go'! Despite being stretched beyond our limits, with the encouragement of friends, we are trying out a new project to respond to the desperate need for respite and PTSD among the chaplains. We are opening the Petit Sanctuaire Gisenyi as a rest and retreat place for chaplains from Goma, Saturday - Monday 3 weekends a month. Fine will be hostess and there will be an evaluation in September. Will need some income to make this happen. Pray that the dollar rate goes back up, too!
  • Victims continue to come for dinner Tuesday and then to meeting with their offender on Wednesday morning. Each one's story is sacred and heart-breaking. Each meeting in prison, however difficult, filled with grace.
  • Word came this week in the middle of a meeting that a little 5-year old boy who had been missing since Friday after school was found drowned in a latrine pit on the church school grounds where 2 of our chaplains minister. Working hard to be present in this tragedy in a meaningful way.

Thank you for remembering us - more important to us than you will ever know.

Judy

May 2015

Dear Pray-ers:

As I write to you during this beautiful Advent season, I realize that the name of the game is 'Waiting'.

  • After several months of medical interventions in Canada, Pierre and I are heading back to Rwanda. We expect to leave June 1.
  • We are so proud of all the chaplaincy teams who have carried on, showing their flexibility and understanding with postponements and changes in plans.
  • Lillian and Luc did a wonderful job with the latest water project for the Rwandan village of Murama. We have received funds to complete 3 more connections to 3 neighbouring villages. Truly 'drinking at the streams of Living Water' thanks to God's grace and your generosity.
  • Thank God for Simeon's leadership in DRC. The small setting for the WoW women in Goma continues to be problematic, and we continue to search for means of sustainability and safety for them and the children.
  • It is a constant challenge to honour our commitments at the Goma prisons, particularly keeping up the de-bugging and hygiene needs.
  • The last planned stage of the Letters Project relating to genocide mediation in the Rubavu Rwanda prison is almost over. We must now decide whether we have the means to do more. The Rwanda team of 5 is incredible but suffering from secondary PTS. Just this week, the survivors at the meeting, a couple, had lost their brother-in-law and his 6 children. They were all buried alive, the event still an open wound 20 years later. Thank God, meeting with the offenders means a new phase of life for all concerned.
  • Please pray for wisdom as we get up-to-date with all the projects, discern the future and really listen to our co-workers. In our own strength, we are not capable.
  • Pray also for political and factional peace as the three countries we are involved in (DRCongo, Burundi and Rwanda) are all experiencing tensions at the moment. May strong emotions de-escalate, and may selfless leadership full of integrity and compassion prevail.

Thank you for hanging in!

Judy

December 2014

Dear Pray-ers:

As I write to you during this beautiful Advent season, I realize that the name of the game is 'Waiting'.

  • Just as Abraham and Sarah had so much difficulty waiting for God's perfect will, so we today want to jump in with our own plans. Prayer for patience to be still and know that He is God.
  • The work in Goma, DRC, continues at a fast pace with ever-increasing needs. Simeon is too busy. Pray that he will be able to catch his breath and wait in peace.
  • We wait on decisions as to whether or not we can get our own place for the WoW centre in Goma which has long outgrown the little rented house.
  • The people of Goma wait for stability, safety, good governance and relief from crushing poverty and sickness.
  • Our team in Rwanda waits earnestly for the day when the intense pain involved in sitting down and sharing with victims and offenders will end.
  • The Rwandan team also waits for a greatly needed personal renewal, as they have been working in traumatic circumstances for years.
  • Jean Bosco in Burundi is waiting for any support for the work he and his team do in the prisons and after-release programs in Burundi.
  • Pascal and the Murama villagers are waiting with great anticipation for the completion of the water project.
  • We all wait in faith for the means to continue all these things.
  • Personally, Pierre and I are waiting impatiently for the beginning of February to travel again after his health issues grounded us for several months.

I am tempted to add all the things that we are thankful for, but perhaps in the next email, after the 'fullness of time'.

Thank you for waiting together with us in hope.

Judy

June 2014

  • Pierre and I are back in Canada for the summer. We have a series of medical appointments and tests, house and yard work, grandkids and preparation for the next mission, so the time will fly!
  • The work in Goma, DRC, under Simeon's capable leadership is growing by leaps and bounds. We wonder where the capacity for a bigger clientele and more responsibility will come from and just trust that the Lord provides according to his will. Simeon needs strength and wisdom.
  • The women at WoW have started working on the 1000+ pairs of pants that we will provide to the Central Prison in Goma. This is an enormous and exciting work project for these girls and will really stretch them and their teachers, Balon and Josée. Hoping the old treadle machines with their bits and pieces repairs will withstand the challenge.
  • Conditions in prison continue to be SO difficult. Pray for food and clean water for the men and women, integrity within the administration, good learning in the literacy and Bible classes, and safety for the chaplains, especially Assani, Ezekiel, Aimérance, Trésor and Monique.
  • In the Juvenile section of the Goma Prison, we continue to welcome and clothe newcomers, de-bug and counsel as well as offer literacy and medical services. Huge resources needed.
  • A bigger facility is still critical for the Goma work. We need legal advice and solutions and an indication that funding would be a possibility. Meantime, some days about 100 people are stuffed into the Petit Sanctuaire.
  • Last year's theme was 'A spirit of excellence' from the study of Daniel. We are really trying to do everything well and to constantly improve. It has been a steep learning curve, particularly in administrative and reporting skills. The Goma team also received its first computer and is working at becoming computer literate (notwithstanding the constant lack of electricity).
  • The Letters Project in Rwanda continues to welcome victims weekly who travel down to Gisenyi to meet in prison with the offenders who decimated their families and tore up their lives during the genocide. Our team of five chaplains has been at this for several years now and they are war-weary in this battle for healing and inner peace. It is never easy to listen to this much pain. Remember them every Monday and Tuesday when these meetings take place.
  • Remember the 'Great Canadian Underwear Drive' and other efforts to 'fill the basket' before we return in September.

Have a wonderful summer but don't stop praying!

Judy

April 2014

You are our resurrection! You have kept us alive over the months and years that you have followed us here in the Great Lakes region of Africa. We often feel that without all of you, we would be pushing daisies!

  • Our Easter weekend began on Good Friday with a heart-searching session of asking forgiveness among our teams here, and we are trusting that the effects of this will be amazing.
  • The 20th anniversary of the genocide (month of April) has been meaningful but subdued. Twenty years later there is a new generation of children who want to move on. The balance between the undiminished hurts of some and the future perspective of others is not always easy. We have tried to spend this month listening, talking very little.
  • The Letters Project - on hold during April- will start again next week. Pray for the psychic and spiritual energy needed by all for this extremely difficult work. Requests to be part of this project keep streaming in and it is so hard to say no when we know how restoring the process has been for everyone involved.
  • Remember Burundi's team 'Barnabas Africa'. Chaplain John Bosco's home was severely damaged by rains last month and he has no wall, water, electricity, windows in his old car, etc. Fine had a wonderful visit (she went in my place, to my great appreciation) there with Ida and the Women's Prisons ministries where they are concentrating on literacy and agriculture. Thank God for this tough work amidst great poverty.
  • Finding a new place for the Goma work is again in a Holy Fog. We have found a possible property, but not the finances or the legal capacities to purchase. So, we remain crammed into the WoW centre - where we will wait until 'the appointed time'.
  • The first 15 girls graduated from the sewing program and we had a two-day bash over here at the Grand Sanctuaire with them. Went swimming in the lake, ate, had beauty sessions, ate, sang, ate, slept very little, ate, had a diploma ceremony, ate. Great fun and the first time out of the country for most.
  • A wonderful answer to our request for funds to make 1000 pairs of pants for the main prison: one of you has made this project possible. The team under Captain Ezekiel is now sourcing the material, etc. The girls are very excited.This will keep the workshop running for several months. Never without complications of course - the population has risen by more than 100 in the last month, and the director has asked for t-shirts as well….One headache at a time….
  • Hunger continues to be the main problem at the EGEE (Juveniles). Sometimes they do not eat for days and get very sick, especially with diarrhea. They have been burning old rubber shoes for fuel to heat water. Still, it is out of this black hole that we have seen Easter in action. Simeon's team discovered that one of the kids was Rwandan - in a Congolese prison. He had been abducted several years earlier when he was 13 and smuggled across the border to work as a field hand in the interior. Last year, he was returning from selling milk when he happened upon his boss - strangled and left in the field. He was picked up and thrown into jail. It was discovered that the older shepherds had killed the 'patron' because he had not paid them in 2 years, but Jean Pierre was singled out for the crime. Between the Goma and Rwanda chaplaincy teams and Pierre (who signed at Immigration that Jean Pierre was his son), we got him into Gisenyi, found his mother in the mountains after 4 days, and had a very teary reunion here at the Grand Sanctuaire. We sent him off with clothes and registration money for school and many prayers. We left them with Gravel for the bus and moto ride home as you can imagine how he had stuffed himself for 4 days. He has a new beginning offered to him - an Easter moment to remember.

xJudy

February 2014

  • This week we are expecting 6 friends from Heaven's Family USA. They will be looking at Simeon's PJIRIDI in Goma. They have been a blessing to the work there.
  • Next week we are having a 3-day chaplains' meeting here at the Grand Sanctuaire Gisenyi - expecting 25 from ICOPUR, PJIRIDI and Barnabas Africa - the whole family! Please pray for safe travel, a profitable time together looking at chaplaincy and ministry issues, and rest, especially for those from DRCongo. Also, that the water and electricity will stay running and that we will find enough mattresses!
  • We are preparing the baby packages, underwear and craft helps for the women in the Ruhengeri Prison. May we have the words and attitudes to be an encouragement to them.
  • Our responsibilities at the EGEE, Juvenile lock-up in Goma, continue to be huge. We need to find a second set of clothes for 70 young boys and 5 girls so that the clothes they come into custody with can be burned because of various body bugs. It is a constant battle to keep the vermin at bay - no water, no soap, no disinfectant, daily hunger and thirst. A couple of boys tied pants, hand towels and mattress covers together and escaped over the wall, so these things have been confiscated and will have to be renegotiated (and most probably lost in the shuffle). Newcomers have to be showered down, shaved and dressed. Expensive, even for the chaplains to find moto money to get to the prison to do this.
  • The Literacy Project is off to a slow start - pray for this effort as it will change these young lives.
  • Pray for cooperation among the staff and integrity in the use of material goods.
  • Pray for cooperation with Heal Africa Hospital and continued stability in the region (not a given!).
  • The Letters Project victims continue to come to the Petit Sanctuaire every week. Last week, Verie, in her 30s and very traumatized, told of crawling out from under her parents' dead bodies and running into the bush to hide. She hardly speaks and when she does, it is in a very soft, low voice. But - she said she wanted to come herself to meet her offender and tell him in person that she forgave him and that he was welcome back into the community. This was particularly poignant for the team as the offender was not very forthcoming, would not reveal where her family's bodies had been buried, and would have merited a much less compassionate reception. God's grace is amazing.
  • We have a lead on a fantastic property in Goma with usable buildings and room for a garden and expansion. A safe place for the WoW women. What should we do? Where would the financing come from?
  • We are well and appreciate beyond words your support and the chaplaincy teams we work with here.. There is all kinds of work to do!

We thank God for everything.

Judy

Summer 2013

Here we are, mid-summer, and still counting on your prayers for so many things.

  • The situation in Goma is calm at the moment, but there has been sporadic fighting in and around the city since we left. Our team is strong, but nerves get frayed. Pray for safety.
  • The Central Prison in Goma - which suffered huge damage last year after the rebel take-over, was again looted in a riot in June. Pray that peace will prevail and that we will be able to rebuild this fall. They need oil lamps (especially in the women's section), soap and hygiene products, literacy materials, medecine, food, clothes and bedding - the list is endless.
  • The Petit Sanctuaire in Goma - a rented facility - is for sale by the owner. We will have to find a new home for our ministry centre, the WoW project (Women's Wellness), sewing workshop, literacy program and dispensary.
  • The medical team is starting public health courses (with a new projector, Praise God!) on various health issues. So important.
  • The Rwanda chaplaincy team, ICOPUR, is feeling the effects of secondary trauma, even if the work of RJ meetings is going very well. They need strength and renewal.
  • Over 200 more meetings in prison left to do on the Letters Project, and each one costs about $175USD.
  • We need authorization renewed to go inside the Rwanda prisons.
  • More funding is needed for the next mission.
  • We hope to have all medical appointments over with good results to be able to return in September.
  • Our house in Gisenyi has been repainted and plastered. Pray that the mould problem is solved.

What can I say? We continue in fear and trembling. We go in confidence and expectation. Mostly, we shake our heads at ourselves and chuckle at our temerity and your faithfulness.

Judy and Pierre and all the Just.Equipping team

February 2013

Pray-ers 3, 2013

  • Thank you for your intentions for us last week. The meetings in prison went well. In the first case, the offender was not only forthcoming about his role in the genocide, but also agreed to ask publicly in April for forgiveness from our local community here in Gisenyi for having buried, dead or alive, about three thousand people. This should have a very positive effect on the community which became known as 'the commune rouge' because of all the bloodshed. In the second case, the two brothers, the offender admitted that he had killed the Tutsi mother and lied to his father and the village about his involvement. He agreed to write a letter to his father and the village saying that his half brother had been right all along and that they should stop persecuting him. Hopefully a good start on restoring both a family and a village. All so painful, though.

  • Fine's housewarming yesterday was a great success - lots of people, food, singing and dancing, sermons and testimonies, a house tour, rented plastic chairs, ululating, heat and dust and special Rwandan costumes. She was truly excited and appreciative as was all her family who came from far and wide. Thank you for this miracle, Madelaine. Just a side comment on God's goodness. Over Christmas, Soph and I had stuffed all the curtains I could fit into a suitcase for me to bring back for Fine's house. When we finished dressing every window last week, not one window was missing a curtain, nor was there one left over. Loaves and fishes.

  • The Goma political situation is holding. The young pregnant girl was released this week. There is a possibility of some funding towards the Women's Wellness Centre in the Petit Sanctuaire. Last week the place was packed with the girls and their babies. We were there for the mid-day cup of watery porridge which they all appreciate so much. The sewing workshop is operating but we have no material to practice on. The literacy program is starting up again. We realize that we need to add a sort of daycare facility at the back of the room so that the girls can put their babies down and concentrate better. We would need two caregivers, floor mats, some blankets and toys. The repercussions of sexual violence against women are incredibly far-reaching. Pray for these girls and babies. Pray for D. who was an Interahamwe bush wife in her teens and who has been unable to shake the trauma and physical problems since then.

  • The biggest challenge at the moment is the Petit Sanctuaire Goma. We have committed to a major renovation - $4400 -which was not in the plans earlier. Chaplain Ezekiel and his family of thirteen live in the room at the back and also act as our watchman (la sentinelle). The indoor and outdoor drains have blocked as has the outdoor latrine. Apparently the construction was faulty (surprise) and all has to be dug up. The girls and children have been running around, often barefoot, in several inches of dirty water in some places. This is a recipe for disaster, and I feel I cannot allow the situation to continue any longer. We will, at the same time, roof and cement the back alley to give another room to Ezekiel, and build an outdoor kitchen room for both the Women's Wellness program and Ezekiel's family - again mainly for health reasons. We are feeding too many people every day to take contamination risks. As you may remember, I was not enchanted with this building from the beginning. My reticence has been somewhat mollified by the fact that this has proven to be a relatively safe part of the city. We did not lose one sewing machine in the looting last fall!

  • Coming up, we have a very big weekend in Bugesera to celebrate the water project. We will take 10+ RDC and Rwandan chaplains, and about 10 JE friends. It is a long bus ride. We will provide a traditional meal, the media will be there - in other words, a big deal. Pray for all the organizing details, and that people may see the amazing hand of God in all (including the participation of both Rwandans and RDCers).

  • After many trials (the latest one being the snowstorm), Eileen and Norm should arrive tomorrow, more than a week after their scheduled arrival. Luc and Lillian, the week after. Pray for safety for them.

  • Pray for energy for Pierre and me. We do not suffer from solitude.

  • Jacqueline and Gaston's Pam is recovering well from surgery, but Pam's husband Steve is not well. Pray.

    Thinking of you all!

    xJudy

  • November - December 2012

    Prayer for Advent 2012

    God of waiting and gifting,
    reach down into the gut-knotted mess
    and, Magician that you are,
    grab hold of the one piece that when raised up
    straightens, separates, frees all the other threads..
    So that untangled, we are laughing, patient magi,
    ready for the trip, gift in hand.

    JA, December 2012



    01 Dec 2012

    Dear Pray-ers:

    Thank you to so many who have sent a note saying you are praying and thinking about us. We have felt particularly buoyed this time by home connections and we are very grateful.

    The situation in Goma and North Kivu, RDC is in an unnatural calm at the moment. Lots of ultimatums given, none heeded. At night there is lots of looting, assaults. In the day, all the various militias in town tend to look at each other over their rifles and stay in their own neighbourhoods. This cannot last, of course, but there are no good guys, no strong favourites. The government troops have no ammunition, no money, no food and little loyalty. The M23 is not large, if you discount the Rwanda - Uganda influence. The Mai Mai tend to fill the vacuum outside of towns that the others have deserted but they are very violent. And on and on. Our team members all have friends going to funerals for people killed in the fighting, but the number of deaths has been relatively low, and most are unreported for political reasons.

    Lots of good news!

    We are thankful that we had a good day working with the team in Goma yesterday. The streets were empty, banks and shops closed, all the vehicules which had not been conscripted hidden, and guns in evidence everywhere. But, our brave team was working on an action plan. Here are their challenges: The offenders who were released from prison have been 'asked' to return. Some have been picked up but they cannot be returned to the prison, as there are NO doors there! All the doors were removed by people in the neighbourhood after the coup. So they are crammed into 'cachots'. Many magistrates have fled for fear of reprisals. Our team feels burdened to work on reconciliation between victims and offenders in the city to avoid violence and to keep some from returning to jail. Pray for their safety. Pray as we try to refill material for the health and literacy program, furnishings for the Petit Sanctuaire, food, safe water.

    In Rwanda, the Victim - Offender meetings for the Letters Project start this week at the Rubavu Prison, about 15 km from the house. We will welcome the victims who will come by bus or moto the night before, feed and coach them for the next day in prison, and offer support and feedback after the meeting before they head home. Exhausting and exhilerating, difficult and full of God's grace.

    We had two days of training in Trauma Resilience Model with Jon Nattel from Montreal. As we were giving this course to both teams while the war was going on, you can imagine how relevant it was. There are three more days which will have to be organized while we are away Dec5 - Jan12. This will be a challenge for the teams here.

    The 'Build a House for Fine' project should begin Monday. It could not have happened at a better time as she and all her adopted children have to vacate their mud brick house which is no longer safe. It is a complicated project, and we have received about 30% of the funds necessary to finish. Fine is delighted and so thankful.

    The Bugesera Water project is going along very well. The women and children will be so relieved to have water in their village. Thank you!

    Had an early Christmas gift of goats and chickens for one of the Reconciliation villages!

    So many other things going on that we find it hard to pack up this week. We leave Dec 5. I am anxious about the trip. Plan to return around January 12, and expect to have some Canadian team members with us in the new year.

    Just pray for anything that comes to mind. We need it all!

    Judy and Pierre



    22 Nov 2012

    Dear Friends:

    We have returned to our house in Gisenyi, Rwanda on the RDCongo border. When the rebels took control of the city of Goma, there was relative calm and few fatalities, although all kinds of other trouble. As long as the President does not try to send his troops back, there will probably be peace.

    Thank God we are all safe although the little hotel between us and the border was damaged from shooting, and Simeon's roof was damaged in two places with bullets landing on his youngest daughter's bed. We have one of the bullets in our meeting room to remind us to be thankful.

    There is no water or electricity in Goma and so people are drinking from the polluted lake. Pray that some infrastructure is put back in place before cholera spreads.

    There was some violence at the prison during the take-over. When the government troops retreated at 5:00am, they opened the doors and all the prisoners (over 1500) went free. I had been praying that they would open the doors of the women's and youth section where we work, and they did. I had feared they would be forgotten. So, the jail is empty, both the innocent and the very guilty including 400 military and several M23 leaders are on the streets of this desperate city.

    All our equipment and supplies at the prison have disappeared. All the lanterns, educational supplies, infirmary gone. We will have to start over.

    Food prices have sky-rocketed and so our chaplains who were very hungry before are suffering.

    Those of you who met Christine will want to know that she and her husband in Bukavu are expecting their baby in February. Pray for her safety as well, as some of the rebel forces set out this morning to capture Bukavu. It will take them a couple of days to get there and hopefully that takeover also will be with a minimum of violence.

    Pray for our Rwanda team involved with the Letters Project. Things were going well, but this new trauma has left everyone dazed again, shaky and lacking confidence. Some react aggressively and others withdraw. We have a meeting with them this morning.

    We count on you and are very thankful to know that you are there for us. We feel privileged to be here at this time and feel that December 5 is coming too quickly.

    Judy and Pierre

    January, 2012

    Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for Just.Equipping

    At the end of January, an incredible team of climbers reached the summit of Kilimanjaro on behalf of Just.Equipping. We congratulate the team and thank them for their support. Please, read John deVries' article about the climb. It gives you a good idea of what these courageous climbers went through. Bravo and well done!



    Mission # 7

    Mission # 7 to Rwanda/RD Congo (Goma) and, possibly, Burundi begins on January 20th,2012 until April 20th,2012. Pierre and Judy Allard, Eileen Henderson, Deborah Martin Koop, Luc Desforges and Lillian Amell will join local prison chaplains in their ongoing and challenging projects. Thank you to all of you who are making this trip possible. Keep us in prayer as we try to encourage, equip and journey with key leaders associated with Just.Equipping. We want to remain healthy and full of optimism, humble, teachable and always ready to sacrifice our hot baths and lattes. Our greatest joy will be to know that God has used us in some way to lighten the load for our brothers and sisters. The greatest sense of accomplishment would be to feel that through God’s spirit, justice has been advanced. The greatest fruit will be love and respect among victims, offenders, chaplains and communities. Tall orders! For this reason, we have adopted the verse from Ephesians 3 – depending on the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can think or imagine. Thank you for travelling with us!

    We want to salute the 13 climbers who hope to reach Mount Kilimanjaro on January 29th as a fund raiser for Just.Equipping. You can follow their exciting expedition at: www.kiliclimb2012.blogspot.com/2011/12/blog-post.html

    Pierre and Judy Allard

    January, 2011

    The Just.Equipping Team leaves January 24, 2011, for three months in the Great Lakes region of Africa. We will be headquartered in Gisenyi, Rwanda. This year the emphasis will be less on group teaching sessions and more on nurturing and journeying with key leaders with whom J. E. has been involved in recent years. These leaders – ordinary extraordinary people – are living out important restorative justice projects at great personal sacrifice. They are heroes in need of encouragement and respite.

    We count on your support and prayers!

    May - June, 2010

    Just.Equipping was delighted to host two international students: Deogratias Gashagaza, Prison Fellowship, Rwanda and Father Babychan, Prison Care Support Network, South Africa.

    Deo and Babychan attended the Restorative Justice Spring Intensive session at Queen's School of Religion, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. They then accompanied several Canadian prison chaplains in their various assignments and spent a little bit of time relaxing in Quebec. Special thanks to Father Stan in Kingston, the Quebec and Ontario chaplains who were such gracious hosts, and Eileen Henderson. Deo returned home with more challenges than planned: he broke his ankle playing soccer in Chaplain David Shantz's backyard!

     

    We are deeply saddened by the death of Just.Equipping Board Member,the Reverend Rod Carter, May 2010 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Rod was an inmate, a teacher and a prison chaplain. He became Regional Chaplain, Ontario and was seconded to Queen's Theological College where he was Director of the Restorative Justice program. He was part of our teaching team in India and Africa, he was involved in IPCA, and he taught Week One during the Restorative Justice Spring Intensive session at Queen's. He met many of our international friends and had a heart for justice before God. He was no stranger to depression, but like so many before him, he used it to write intensely moving stories and articles. His personal tragedies - the death of his son Jeff and wife Sally - marked him indelibly and the hill became harder and harder to climb. In the end, he went home to God- where he wanted to be....We miss him. He was a friend, a wise man, a mentor and a prophet. We thank God for his life.

     

    January, 2010

    The Just.Equipping team is leaving on February 1st until April 26th for Mission # 5 in Rwanda, RD Congo (north Kivu area) and Burundi. A number of teachers such as Philippe Landenne (Belgium), John de Vries, Eileen Henderson, John and Joan Palardy are joining te team at different times during the mission. The challenges are great, the money is scarce but we are moving on with the confidence that 'in Him all things hold together' (Col. 1:17). Thanks for your continued support which makes these missions possible. Without you we would never get off the ground! - Pierre and Judy

    October, 2009

    Judy Allard, Pierre Allard and Jeff Denault are leaving on October 18th for three weeks in Rwanda and RD Congo. Supervision of the ongoing projects where Just.Equipping is involved, meeting with correctional officials, planning teaching sessions at the Butaré University and interviews with survivors and genocide perpetrators are the main focus of this mission. A Just.Equipping teaching team will return to the Great Lakes region of Africa for three months in early February 2010.

     

    Summer 2009

    Sr. Joe Eke, Nigeria, Justin Mabouth, Cameroon, John Ngabo, Rwanda and Simeon Muhunga, RD Congo took the three weeks intensive training in Restorative Justice at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. This was followed by involvement with Correctional Service of Canada chaplains in a variety of institutional and community projects. What a great summer of training and renewal for these four leaders!

    Videos 2009

    Three new videos have been added to our website. ‘What about us?’- The Bugesera Project; Three Prison Chaplains (featuring Simeon, Kizungu and Adolphine); Trois aumôniers de prison (mettant en vedette Siméon, Kizungu et Adolphine).

    Pierre Allard was interviewed on 100 Huntley Street on September 30th, 2009. This interview is also available on the web.

    April, 2009

    The team is back safe and sound from Africa. Please have a look at our report available here, or on the menu bar on the left. We will also be adding more pictures to the report and posting a new gallery.

    The French version will follow as soon as it is available. Thanks and God Bless to all those who helped us along the way.

     

    Africa Great Lakes Region and Cameroon, 2008

    We are back after nearly 3 months in the Great Lakes Region and Cameroon.

    Hard to describe our incredible adventures. Check out the 2008 report for details.

    A Word for Pakistan - Rev. Dr. Pierre Allard