Day 18 - Laura & Christa

So, we’re a little behind… but since we got an extra day of travel, we figure we also get an extra day of grace. This trip has been amazing, inspiring and challenging. Those of you who know about the journey this team took before we ever stepped on a plane, will know that it has been anything but predictable. This theme continued all throughout the time we spent in Rwanda. Often, things did not go according to our plans, but isn’t God just like that? He uses the unexpected and the unpredictable to draw us closer to Him and closer to each other. He’s kind of awesome like that.

Parents, families and friends, thank you for entrusting us with your loved ones. They have been incredible. We have been so encouraged by the blog as this team has expressed truths that we, together with our Rwandan friends, have worked so hard to share with them. We have laughed until we cried, and we have cried together until we were able to laugh again. Our hearts are full with the privilege of being able to walk with these wonderful young people (and leaders!) during our time in Rwanda.


However, this trip is just the beginning of their journey - their Elevation Experience actually continues until next summer! We also hope that this has been the start of a life-long adventure with God as they respond to His constant invitation to join the work that He is already doing in our world. After they’ve soared like eagles for the past 3 weeks, we look forward to how they will continue to walk without fainting in the years to come.

Though not daily, we will continue to blog about the journey that this team is on. We hope you will join us along the way!

With gratitude,

Christa & Laura


We have This Good Robot, Hello Jupiter and Lawn Chair Bombers playing. There’s a bunch of sneak preview videos up on the tumblr along with an 8tracks.

The theme is TACO BAR. Well, we’re having FREE TACOS and trippy light shows… This Monday, 8 o’clock @ The UCafe— FREE live music, all ages, open to the public too so if people want to bring friends from like Suffolk Community they can.

We don’t condome it, but you’re allowed to come fucked up.
Submission from 

Great article on how Rwanda is addressing the issue of AIDS.

"In Rwanda, success is achieved when people living with HIV can earn a living, support their family, raise their children, and care for their community no differently than their peers."

We completely agree, this is why we prioritize training women who are HIV/AIDS affected with skills to run their own business and provide for their families.

Check it out and support our programs here!

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This is my bbz from across the pond, Fantasy Rainbow! He’ll be making his first appearance in America for all of you on February 13th! 

Check out his music! Most of It’s FREE, and who doesn’t love free music?

and like his FB page:

- Nicholas

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What do you guys think about this band coming to RYFC this fall? 

It would be a party right?!

Larry And His Flask//Call It What You WIll

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THIS is what you’re missing. Join the movement. #RYF

Day 16 - Dennis Semeniuk

Church in English! I would have never thought I would be so happy to listen to a sermon in English. The whole team went to the local Christian Life Assembly church today where we got to hear a preacher from the USA. I found that today God really smacked me across the face with reality and He opened my eyes to really see the poverty we as Canadians live in, let me explain.


In the beginning of this trip I found that I was an arrogant young man that had all the toys – a big truck, a big house, lots of expensive bikes and so on. I was expecting that these couple of weeks in Rwanda would be just another walk in the park and a nice break from my busy life at home. Ha, was I ever wrong. Yesterday hit me hard because we went to a very poor village. Driving by we were face to face with the people that made almost no money and lived in some of the most run down places. This is a place where every kid comes up to or runs behind the bus asking for money or food. I found myself in a tight spot because I knew that if I do give them money or food it would not fix the problem, instead it would just help them for a very short period of time.

This morning it really dawned on me that we are just like those kids.  We are always looking for more in the wrong places instead of reaching for what will nourish us for a lifetime. A short fix is the best that we can get. We go to church on Sunday without living it out through the week and then we feel bad about it so we return to church to feel a little bit better. Today in our daily meetings with the team we talked about how we would describe poverty and how it has changed since the beginning of the trip (before reading on, take a second and think about the definition of poverty). When one talks about poverty, the first thing the first thing that comes to my mind is the lack of money or power. However, if one says instead, that poverty is the lacking of a substance that is essential to life then I would say that we are way poorer then they are. In the time that I have spent in Rwanda I have seen that they are rich in love for one another and the Lord.  They are always ready to stop and praise the Lord in everything that they do.  Whether that is sitting on a bus, working on a construction site, or riding on a moto (a moto is a motorcycle taxi). I can’t remember the last time that I have praised God by singing worship songs out loud on the bus to and from work.


So, when you finish reading this post, I encourage you to open up your Bible to Isaiah 40:29 – 31. This passage is written in a way wherein the easiest comes first and then the most difficult comes last.  Thus, it is easy to be the eagle and soar but to walk and not faint is the difficult part.  We must rely on God’s power to help us for the long run. I have learned to be humble and to appreciate what I have.  Lastly, I have learned that poverty is not just a lack of material things, but is a lack of what I have realized is essential to life: God and loving relationships with others. 

God bless you all,


Day 15 - Peter deKoning

Another Saturday out of Kigali!  After a busy and rewarding week of camp it was a treat to pile on the bus (after a pleasant sleep-in and slow morning…) and head north for the day.  We were heading up to visit the Sacola Cultural Centre near Volcanoes National Park – something I’ve been greatly anticipating.  I think I might be missing the mountains around Vancouver more than I realized!

Once we made our way out of Kigali, we were finally able to see (and for some, able to feel it in their stomachs) why Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills.  After climbing switchbacks for half an hour we made it to the top of our first major hill of the day - from then on we followed ridgelines and rivers for hours as we climbed our way to the volcanoes.  It was hard to peel my eyes from the windows as we passed by the mosaic of farmland and village.  Every hill seemed to be terraced to the summit with dozens of small plots farmed for maize, potatoes, bananas, cassava and a variety of other crops.


By the time we got into Kinigi, I think everyone was ready to be off the bus.  The cultural center is below Mt. Sabyinyo – a volcano that looks like a set of teeth and sits at the point where the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda meet.  The cultural center was called SACOLA (Sabyinyo Community Livelihood Association) - a community-oriented eco-tourism project designed to protect Volcanoes National Park,  the gorilla population and other animals that live there as well as improve the livelihood of people in the surrounding communities.  The tourism dollars are supposed to help support education, small-scale agriculture, and businesses in the communities nearby as well as provide alternative income to poaching.  

The cultural center focused on traditional Rwandan life between the 15th and 20th centuries.  We toured a replica of the King’s Hut and Chris and Destiny were chosen as our king and queen (a position Chris looked a little too comfortable in…). Our guide told us about all the ladies the king “made funny” with and how decisions were made in the communities the king oversaw.  Our last stop was a nearby village where community members performed a traditional song and dance for us.  The village was a bit of a shock for the team – a level of material poverty we haven’t experienced yet on this trip.  Although the dancing and singing was beautiful, it was also extremely uncomfortable – the juxtaposition between our way of life and theirs was too abrupt for it not to be.  It made for a long and thoughtful ride home in the dark.


Throughout the trip we’ve talked a lot about poverty as more than simply material deficiency, but as broken or damaged relationships with God, with ourselves, with each other, and with creation.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed the day and was thrilled to see so much beautiful country, I found it also raised many questions for me.  Amongst all the beauty, there was evidence of broken relationships in people and the landscape.  A lot of the work I do back home centers on our relationship to creation and how we manage and restore ecosystems, and so two different (but related) aspects of the trip really stuck out to me…

My first questions came on the drive up to the cultural village.  Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Sub-Saharan Africa, yet it still remains one of the most rural.  In the last 50 years, the population has tripled, and the natural and semi-natural habitats that covered almost 50% of the country in the 1940’s and 50’s been reduced to less than 10%.  The rest is under heavy use by humans and been altered greatly.  Land is extremely valuable here – it seems every square inch has a purpose for somebody. And while the patchwork of farmland was beautiful I also found myself wondering what the ecological cost of that was.  I noticed no trees or plants lined the banks of many rivers and there were significant signs of erosion along many streams – you could see the river eating up the land.  I could almost imagine the torrent of water that must tear down the creeks and rivers during the rainy season taking valuable soil with it. To me, this is a sign of sickness in the landscape. 


Again at Sacola, similar questions arose about our relationship to creation. Humans use much of the land in Rwanda intensively, and so I understand the desperate need to protect the remaining wilderness in the country.  Community-based ecotourism projects are becoming more and more popular globally, and at times they are a great opportunity to build up communities and provide alternatives to poaching, timber harvesting and bush-meat hunting. So, I have many questions about how things worked specifically at Sacola… what is the relationship between the cultural village and the communities surrounding it?  How are the benefits distributed?  How have the people’s relationships to the land changed?  Are they completely barred from harvesting of any kind in the forest?  How is it different from how they used the land in the past?  Due to the language difficulties, it wasn’t possible to get answers to these questions, so they remain questions.   I think there are probably many positives to what is happening there, but also maybe some negatives.   

Both of these situations –the landscape on the drive up and Sacola – raise a bigger question of how to restore our relationship to creation.  What does it mean to live well on the land, leaving space for the creatures we share the land with but still providing people with the opportunity to flourish?  Often in conservation projects, people are removed from the land so we can protect our forests or charismatic species like gorillas, but we do so at the expense of the people who have lived on the land for centuries.  I’m not sure if this is what has happened around Volcanoes National Park, but the cynical side of me is worried that is the case. In trying to correct an aspect of poverty in the communities around Volcanoes National Park, another has replaced it.  It seems to me that our broken relationship with the land contributes greatly to poverty in our other relationships. 

So, I’m left with many questions. I’m not sure what the restoration of many of these relationships really looks like, but I am confident that humans are a vital part of the landscape and the process of restoration. In the New Creation we will see flourishing people, places and creatures – not the flourishing of one at the expense of another.  God’s plan is for the restoration of all things and for that I am grateful, even if it’s a mystery to us, how that will look in the end. 


Peter deKoning

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