09 June 2010

Colorado in June

I am on the road and have been nestled down in the valley of Crested Butte (CB)for almost a week now. My time in Denver prior to the drive to the mountains was productive. Meetings that provided me with a larger picture of opportunities and conversations that were hard. Not negative hard, but the kind which allow you to know you are surrounded by people who are not afraid to ask the hard questions and answer the hard questions you ask.

While I was in RW in May, I met a dentist from CB and upon his learning I would be in Denver, promptly invited me to the place he calls home. I accepted. Michael Faktor has a heart for others and is a great host. We had been in town for just a few minutes and he had already introduced us to local coffee shop owners, Danika and Arvin and Dave the owner of the bookstore. CB was already starting to feel like a different kind of place.

We went to meet with Pastor Jim of Oh Be Joyful Church and arranged to talk about KAAC during the announcement portion of the service. Michael would talk for 5 and me for 10. Michael continued to introduce us to all of the local folks and treated us to a delicious Thai dinner at Ginger. Friday he took me on a tour of the village the only way to really see it -- on bike. Rebecca enjoyed a mountain run and milling around town, she's a mountain town girl at heart, so she is quite comfortable here.

Michael, along with the folks at Rumors Coffee Shop hosted an informational meeting sharing the partnership with Elk Avenue Dental and KAAC~R. Michael is going to sponsor at least 2 high school students from the village to travel to RW this winter and work alongside me and KAAC. We are so excited about this. As the details of how the selection of the students are finalized and trip details are more concrete I look forward to sharing more with you.

Church on Sunday turned out to be 1 and a half hours of the Lord moving and the Spirit leading. Michael's 5 minutes turned into 30, as he shared from his heart and work in Cambodia and the excitement he has for the future in Rwanda. Pastor Jim got up and spoke to the congregation and it was decided that the kids would stay in the service and listen to me share the story of my growing up in Liberia and how that drives my work with KAAC in Rwanda. The Lord was working in the hearts of His people as I watched the faces and eyes tear in the congregation. When I finished, Pastor Jim stood up and invited Michael to come to his left, as I stood on his right and we locked arms. We locked arms as a church as Jim prayed over us, the church and praised him for the providence of the days past, the present service and the days to come. The Lord is doing something in the village of Crested Butte and Musanze, RW and KAAC will be blessed because of them. I pray that we, KAAC, are able to bless them back.

As the days passed and we met more and more people in the community our plans too changed. We didn't make it to our R & R in Frisco, but instead a few days turned into a week in CB, with a side trip to Aspen via Kebler Pass in Michael's Fiat. It was a dusty drive over dirt roads, but the views made the dust minimal.

The rest of the week has been filled with meetings and meals shared with locals and many conversations and buzz surrounding the trip in the winter. I have been invited back to preach at OBJ and we will have another informational meeting with parents and interested students to get the ball rolling on fund raising and service projects to decided who will be the chosen students to travel to RW. Tonight we will be a part of a big cook out with people from the Community Church in town.

Tomorrow we will wake early, pack the car, stop by Izzy's for breakfast and head back to Denver. We have a dinner party to attend there and meetings on Friday before heading back home just in time for our boys closing ceremonies at Kanakuk.

Above -- Leaving for a ride on the lower loop and around town.
Above -- On Sunday I ran into a person I had been trying to reach for a number of weeks. He lives in TX, but happened to be at OBJ Church on Sunday. Yet another way God spoke that day. Meeting with Jackson about high and low element challenge courses and developing the theological base for each element. (Enjoying lunch from Izzy's Bagel Shop -- our favorite place to eat in town.)

(Left and just for fun) Here is a photo of Rebecca and me enjoying, Micheal's car on Kebler Pass after he took us to meet friends and overnight in Aspen.

01 June 2010

Home for 2.5, away for 3, home for < 24 hrs, away for 12

I am home. Well, home in the states. I arrived late on Wednesday night after almost 36 hours of travel, exhausted, but ready to see my family. Rebecca met me at the airport and we were able to enjoy a late dinner date, before heading back to our little Ozark Mountaintop.

The boys had their final day and a half of school and end of the year Cub Scout event -- with that SUMMER had officially arrived!

I had a serious case of "the jetlags," as my 6 year old calls it, and afternoon naps were becoming necessary. What better place to take naps than at a pool or hammock lakeside? We loaded up the car and headed to my in-laws house on Lake of the Ozarks. After just over 48 hours home, I was on the road again, but this time for a bit of R &R and time with my family.

We stayed as long as possible before Rebecca said, "J, we have to go. I have laundry to do, Target trip to make, clothes to label and trunks to pack." Just for the record, I was not the one lingering in a lounge chair beside the pool and she had plenty of time to make it to Target before they closed for socks, boxers and swimsuits. Our boys head to Kanakuk Kamp this afternoon.

The photo above is of my almost packed bag. On this trip the time difference is only an hour and the mountains are a little more rugged than those of Rwanda or our Ozark Mountain home. I am headed to Colorado to meet with old and new friends. Friends who believe in the work we are doing in Rwanda and support us in more ways than they may realize.

I'll be in Denver for 3 days and then head to Crested Butte for 4 and then onto Frisco before catching a plane and making it home just in time for my boys closing ceremonies at camp. I'll arrive home for 2 days and then hit the road, not the sky, for Texas.

If you are in any of those areas, please leave a comment here (or DM me on twitter or write on my facebook wall) and let me know if you would like to grab a cup of coffee and hear about the most recent activity with KAAC ~ Rwanda.

Quickly, I want to wish a happy start of the summer to our good friends at Camp Kivu inDurango, CO. Today is the first day of the first term at Camp Kivu! Braner, I'm excited about this summer for you and where you are headed. May the Lord greatly bless you and Jamie Jo, your family, theKivu staff and the campers who will attend this summer. Know that my family and I are praying for you and excited to see what this summer holds. Thank you for investing in the youth of America and doing so with a desire to show them a world outside what they currently know.

22 May 2010


It has been almost 3 days since I have had water at the house. I woke this morning to find that it was on. Off to fill jerry cans, the large container that we use for water storage and any pitchers I have in the house.

Today, when you turn on the tap pray for those who do not have that luxury.

*photo credit -- Click

16 May 2010

Visit to Butaro Hospital across the lake from KAAC

On Saturday I had the opportunity to visit a hospital that is being built across the lake from the KAAC~R property. It is being built by Partners in Health with help, I believe, from the Clinton Foundation. In short, the afternoon was encouraging and informative.

It is very important that as KAAC works in Rwanda we approach the gospel of Jesus Christ holistically. An aspect of that we are trying to engage is allowing the community to benefit from this camp. We want the kids who will attend camp and the leaders who come with them to be impacted by the gospel. And we desire the people who live in the area and walk past each day, to grow to understand the love of Jesus through the work we do and our involvement in their community.

We often discuss the importance of having local materials to build with and employing locals during the construction phase (and after as well). Not having seen a large facility in the area built in this way, we ask questions about how it will happen. On my visit, many of my questions were answered, many more came to mind, but most importantly, I was given affirmation that we can accomplish what we feel we need to do and do it under the umbrella of holistic ministry.

I am very encouraged to begin building a relationship with the gentleman who is leading this project. I was given a tour and spent the afternoon and shared a meal with the him, the lead architect, their carpenter and a handful of locals who are on the work crew.

One thing that made a large impression was the on site carpentry shop. They are making almost everything there. They are not flying in beds from Uganda and materials from Kenya, but making them in Rwanda with their hands and using local materials. This is so wonderful. They are training people and people are working, keeping the money not only in Rwanda, but in the local community. There have been a few exceptions of items that are unable to be made from wood and lava rock. I guarantee I have not seen the local dark, porous lava rock look so beautiful in all of Rwanda.

Currently they have 3 shifts of people working around the clock, 7 days a week to finish the hospital on time, not African time, rather British time. Construction is due to be complete 15 June 2010 and will be visited by the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, for an opening ceremony.

At the end of the day, as I navigated the curves and potholes of the road to home, I was energized and hopeful. Friends, the visions and plans that I believe the Lord has given to KAAC are possible. The timing isn't exactly what we had planned, but if this hospital can be built and complete on schedule, then so can KAAC. Will you please take a moment today to pray praising God for what he WILL do. Not asking him to do something, but let us praise him for what he is doing and will do.

It is late and I am exhausted. I drove to Kigali and back today and must be at the property before 7am tomorrow for a meeting about water. I will travel back to Kigali on Wednesday for a funeral, stay the night and attend meetings on Thursday. If I may ask for one more prayer, please pray for my family. We miss each other. As you can imagine it is not easy to s pend so many weeks apart. Thank you, I know Rebecca and the kids will be thankful. I know I am.

14 May 2010

Rain & More Rain

It has been years since I have experienced the rainy seasons of Africa. I remember the mist that went on for days in Liberia, but it is different in Rwanda. The sun can be shining one minute and then the clouds quickly roll in and the downpour begins. This week I left the Ishema Hotel from a meeting and was headed back to the house/office when the rains came. Soaked.

When it rains is pours. Much like in life. When the rains of life begin to fall, often we feel as if it is pouring. In moments of down downpour where do you turn? In moments where the rain gradually falls faster and faster, where do you turn? In moments of a sudden downpour where do you turn?

Do you get soaked, like I did on my bike ride home this week? Do you pull out your rain suit and move into the storm, remaining dry under the plastic? Do you wear your rain boots, like my wife does, when there is a threat of rain?

I hope that you have a you have rain boots to wear just in case. Verses from the Scriptures you are able to recited when you see something may be heading your way. I hope you have a rain suit to pull out and wear as you head out into the storm, knowing that you have a Lion padding by your side.

But I also hope that at times you get soaked.

I hope that you find yourself soaked and turn to the Lord and allow Him to grab you by the hand and splash in the puddles of life, because He has it all under control. As we trust in Him, we must be confident that His ways are Sovereign, even when all we see are rain clouds and puddles. When all we hear is the rain on the zinc roof above our heads. When all we feel on our cheeks is the moisture of raindrop after raindrop.

I am off to Kigali for the first time since I have arrived in Musanze. It's time to pull out the umbrella and walk to town to catch a bus that will take me South. Look at your forecast today and if you will share, how are you prepared to handle the hours ahead.

Photo Credit Blog - Dispatches: Africa

06 May 2010

6 May 2010

I am at the house/office in Musanze with Tim and Gilles. I am slowly adjusting to the time. Up at odd hours and tired in the afternoons. But hitting the ground running helps keep me awake when I need to be. Another day and I will have adjusted to the time much better.

I arrived to find that the dog, Sozo, had recovered from her recent surgery, where she was spayed. The garden was in full bloom. It always seems to be full of vegetables. It's carrot season which makes for delicious additions to salads. Dama, gardner/day guard and Petti, home keeper, are both doing well. They tend to the house/office when we are away. They will make incredible additions to the KAAC~R staff when the camp is finished. I have been greeted by our friends who live near by and heard that I had arrived in town safely. It is good to be in my other home.

I am very encouraged to learn that the classes and ideas that we have been teaching to the staff of Ishema hotel about money management are producing fruit. They are working to escape the cycle of debt many find themselves and have collectively saved a very decent sum of money to help cover each other when an emergency happens. The Lord is working in ways that we never thought in the beginning.

I was in meetings at the house this morning and then headed up to Lake Kivu and the surrounding villages for the afternoon and evening. Friends, Rwanda is so beautiful. Each time I drive the roads, I am reminded of the creativity and love God has for each of us. My wife, Rebecca, is reading through Matthew 5 -7 each day that I am away and shares with me what God reveals to her. The reason I share that is because today as I looked at the terraced mountains I began to think about how incredible it must have been to be sitting on the mountainside in Galilee hearing the words, "Blessed are the..." out of the mouth of Jesus.

Can you even imagine?

I will leave you with a message I sent Rebecca, when she asked if there was anything I needed tweeted while I was away from my computer this afternoon. I did. This is what I sent. It's way over the 140 character limit. It fits better here. This is in reference to the meetings I had this morning. "We have been talking about starting a small challenge course in Kigali, training for youth leaders. More specifically where to start the training. The lack of discipline in staying in the work is bad, so how do we get them to see the importance of reading to grow and to lead the next generation. We talked about the challenges of getting US people to come help train and have activities that will be hands on for youth workers and youth themselves. So starting small and training well is critical to success. So the issues is how do we get them to see the critical issue, feel the emotional need to change and be motivated about changing the direction of their country."

11 April 2010


I have piles of small white & yellow note pads. They are in my car, any bag I have carried in the past 15 years, on my desk, my bedside table and dresser. They are tucked into the books I am currently reading and books I have read and also inside my kindle case. I always have one inside my Bible. With the exception of the small Bible I carry to church with me. Inside that one is a moleskin. I got it in my stocking. I think my wife is trying to convert me, but it isn't working and I don't think it will happen.

Last week when Rebecca was in my office and we were talking about what I should write as I remembered the acts of '94 in Rwanda, I found a note pad and on some of its pages I found a talk I had written. It was written for the afternoon when I spoke to the kids who attended soccer camp during the summer of 2009. I wish to share what it said with you. I shared a sentence or two last week, but today I'm sharing what was written before and after, in black on yellow.

I hope the words that were written last summer encourage you to seek change in your life that will be felt across the world as I present a similar challenge to you that I presented to them.

The leaders of Rwanda are saying that the best natural resources Rwanda has is the youth. They are doing everything to empower and equip then to dictate the pace of their future.

What this tells me is that the leader of this country have a succession plan in mind. That succession plan is YOU the children of Rwanda.

It has been said that "without a successor there is no success." So the preparation for you future leaders began this past week with Kids Across Africa Camps.

As we join hands with your great leaders to bring about transformation, you will encounter Jesus. When you encounter him, he will create, articulate and communicate a compelling vision to change what you talk about and dream of. To make you go beyond self interest, enable you to see yourselves and the world in a new way, provide insight into the very heart of things and to bring about the highest order of change.

This Jesus, who was also God, left heaven to invest in us in such a way that we are empowered. His joy is seeing himself reproduced in others.

When that change happens in YOU it will be felt all through Rwanda and across the continent of Africa.

08 April 2010

USSF Passback

A fun photo to share with you from the shoes that were recently given to children at an orphanage in Rwanda. They were donated to KAAC~R for soccer camp. Having a few extras, we were able to pass along 40 pair of indoor shoes to children who otherwise may not have shoes. CLICK

One week of Mourning

7 April - 13 April

Yesterday began a very a somber week in Rwanda. It is the week where the horrific events of 1994 are remembered. During this week many of the shops are closed and the energy on the streets is different from the week prior and the week that will follow. Family members make journeys to visit mass graves, placing beautifully arranged flowers to honor those who were killed, never knowing if the bones of their loved one are actually below.

Can you even imagine?

I am not able. Last April I was in the country during this week. I had the opportunity to observe and reflect on the events that would forever shape the country and the way the world would react if genocide happened again. One of the things that I observed as the people mourned, was the resilient look they had for a better tomorrow. Not only is is spoken about, but it is believed and acted upon in the hearts and lives of many Rwandan people. There is a plan in Rwanda for the next day and the day after that and the day after that -- Succession.

The leaders of this country have a succession plan in mind. That succession plan is through the youth of their country. It has been said, "Without a successor there is no success." This is exciting for us at KAAC~R! Isn't it?

As Rwanda mourns this week, upright and on their feet, they look to the future, their youth. That is exactly where we fit into the picture. KAAC~R is the place where the youth will be trained as servant leaders, not bad Rwandan leaders, bad politicians. It is the place where the youth, many orphaned and alone, will be loved and taught the transforming gospel of Jesus.

As I sit in my office in Missouri, preparing to leave in a few weeks to a country that I have grown to love, I have great joy in this time of sadness. Please take time to reflect on the tragic events, but do not, DO NOT, dwell. Because they are not dwelling in Rwanda. They are looking ahead and moving in that direction.

What will you do to be a part of the forward movement?

The article below was taken from the Hirondell News website and shares the message President Kagame, has for his country during the following week and days ahead:

Arusha, April 7, 2010 (FH) - On the sixteenth anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide, President Paul Kagame on Wednesday called upon his fellow citizens to commemorate "upright, on our feet" the 1994 mass killings of Tutsis, asserting that the future of the Nation depended on it.

"We must mourn but upright, on our feet", the Head of state said in Kinyarwanda to thousands of people gathered at the national stadium in Kigali. "We must find in our grief enough strength to build our future. We have the capacity to achieve this goal. Always keep that in mind: building our future is our concern".

"There is no alternative. We have to help each other so as to prevent those responsible for our pain from finding reasons to triumph", Paul Kagame explained in his speech which was broadcasted live on national radio and TV.

He also claimed that "bad Rwandan leaders, bad politicians" had been the root cause of the genocide.

He did not spare the international community either. Switching briefly into English, he added: « The convergence of national bad politics and international bad politics resulted in what we commemorate today".

He then urged Rwandans to "change national politics" as they could not change international politics.

Finally, Paul Kagame sharply attacked unspecified international organizations, declaring that his country had not lessons to receive from them with respect to human rights and democracy.

The official opening ceremony launched a week of national mourning, until April 13.

27 March 2010

Headed South on Monday

On Monday Jonathan will hit the road and head south from the Ozarks. His first stop will be in Oklahoma then onto Texas returning through Arkansas. As he travels he will be meeting with friends and supporters of KAAC~R sharing the newest set of architectural drawings and plans. His schedule is below, so let us know if you would like to visit and see what's happening on the Rwanda side:
Monday ~ Norman, OK
Tuesday ~ Dallas, TX
Wednesday ~ Midland, TX
Thursday ~ Leaving Dallas driving through Fayetteville, AR
Friday ~ Back in Branson

Photo Credits CLICK