Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Over dinner tonight (with my parents!!! In Rwanda!!!!), team Beebe-Thomas shared our favorite memories of 2014. Here they are:
Simon playing soccer at kics
Talya Anna (friend from kindergarten in Ohio)
Charlie having Annie (he's been a great big brother to her this year)
Annie no comment, but my guess is it's Toddler Praise
Susie moving to Rwanda and my parents visiting us here
Ben traveling outside the us with me (Rwanda, Israel, Rwanda)
Dad Beebe Mark and Kim's wedding
Mom Beebe whole fam on the bridge for family pics

It's been a great one! On to the next 365 days that God has written in His book (psalm 139) 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ben is a great boss...

...which is one of the reasons you should consider coming to work for KICS.
Other reasons are fun co-workers, a beautiful location, amazing kids, perfect weather year-round, and the opportunity to make an impact in the future of Rwanda, Africa, and the world. Also, while you'd be considered a missionary educator needing to raise support, we provide a decent service package to help with that.

Available positions are:
  • Grade 1 Teacher
  • Middle School Social Studies teacher
  • High School Math Teacher
  • Part-time primary music teacher
  • Foreign Language teacher
  • Primary principal
  • Instructional coordinator
  • Business manager
  • Spiritual Life Coordinator
  • School Counselor
  • Athletics and Activities Director

For more information, visit the employment page on the KICS website. Let us know if you're interested or apply now. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gifts for Growth

It's not too late to participate in our "Gifts for Growth" Campaign at KICS. We are 25% of the way to our $100,000 goal! Visit this website to make a donation. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Giving Tuesday

So, I didn't know that was a thing. I guess, just like Hallmark made up Sweetest Day to sell cards, some missionaries created Giving Tuesday to help fill in the gaps in their support. Just kidding, that's not what happened I don't think. 

But, real or not, it's here and we'd like to ask you to consider making us part of your Year-end giving for 2014.  We are so thankful for the many ways you stand with us through prayer, connection and encouragement. 

As we approach the end of this year, we have three opportunities we are a part of that we would ask you to consider giving towards:

  1. To our personal ministry account.  We are full-time missionaries with CRU and as such raise all of our salary and benefits for us and our family.  To give to us, please visit: Those of you who receive our paper prayer letters will get a letter detailing our needs. 
  2. To our school where we are serving, Kigali International Community School.  For the first time, we are leading a giving campaign to help us cover some basic literacy and technology improvements for our school.  Web-Elves are working on getting our donation page up and running. If you'd like to donate towards KICS, contact us. We'll let you know when we get things running online.
  3. To a project we have been involved in through our parent organization that provides food in one of the most closed countries in all the world.  Through partnerships, we have been able to build a few factories that provide bread and soy milk for children.  You can visit to make a donation.  Once the donation is processed, Susie and I will forward the money on in an appropriate way.  Please send us an email or in the comments section let us know it is for the factory.
If you have any questions about either of these three opportunities please let us know.  

We thank you so much for considering us and the efforts we are serving with as part of your year-end giving.  Please know that  any amount, large or small, would be beneficial for us.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

With Gratitude

With gratitude, I live this life in Rwanda, surrounded by beautiful faces, interesting trees, strange birds, searching hearts.
With gratitude, and a side of grumpiness, I open my eyes too early in the morning to inspect a child's coloring or to give permission to get a banana.
With gratitude, I scan my Facebook feed, seeing the faces of friends near and far - both of which feel like a miracle to me.
With gratitude, I review my kids' progress reports, noting their achievements and gains.
With gratitude, I think of their teachers - present and past - who have with love and patience inspired these.
With gratitude, I miss my family and football games that I don't watch and strawberry pretzel "salad."
With gratitude, I hug my husband who has made us dinner reservations tonight. With gratitude, I don't plan or shop or save or cook this year's feast.
With gratitude, I brush my hair, which has grown back from the assault it suffered to chemicals and high-energy waves.
With gratitude, I let Annie go to bed without making her change into her pajamas, because who cares.
With gratitude, I take hot showers, flush toilets, and drink water that doesn't make me ill.
With gratitude, I remember doctors, nurses, sonographers, therapists and mri techs.
With gratitude, I order Christmas presents for my kids and make plans for their 7,104-mile journey.
With gratitude, I pack for a Thanksgiving getaway with dear friends.
With gratitude, I reflect on the power Jesus has to soften hard things, to add flesh to dry bones, to offer healing and forgiveness.
With gratitude, I think of 20 students who I (I!) have had the privilege to teach for a short time.
With gratitude, I celebrate a friend's birthday in person and a brother's birthday from afar.
With gratitude, I host friends who traveled 24 hours on a bus from Kenya just to hang out with us this week.
With gratitude, after my worst nightmare comes true and I bump another car with my massive beast on a rain-slicked dirt road, I drive away after she tells me it's ok.
With gratitude, I try out the few Kinyarwanda words and phrases I know and breathe grace since we quit our lessons.
With gratitude, I hang out with missionary friends who have long and faithfully been here, gleaning from them all I can about culture, gracious living, and joy.
With gratitude, I type words into a thing called the internet and know someone will read them.
With gratitude, I think of the hundreds of people who give out of their abundance or out of their own need to fund our ministry.
With gratitude, I continue to repeat Ephesians out loud until I know it. Thanksgiving was my goal, but I still have two chapters to go.
With gratitude, I remember you in my prayers.
With gratitude, I grieve with my passport country, which is the home of grieving people this week.
With gratitude, I think of every person I know who has been affected by racism and prejudice, but has shared their life and story with me, so I (someone who has known privilege) can learn and change and understand.
With gratitude, I think of one of our best friends who is a white American law officer, who is brave and loyal and honest, who, just by knowing him, keeps me from being quick to assign blame.
With gratitude, I am eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:3)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rescuing Annie

Three days a week, when I'm teaching, Annie stays home with Grace for a couple of hours. Grace gets her dressed, feeds her breakfast, does her hair adorably and plays with her. It's like having a stay-at-home-mom only better. Yesterday, I was surprised to get a call from Grace because not much can go wrong between 7-10 am. But, my growing girl had locked herself into our bedroom. In America, that's an easy thing to do because babies love to push buttons. It's also an easy thing to fix because you grab a bobby pin off the top of the door frame and pop, baby is freed.
In Rwanda, it's actually a bit of an achievement for a small child to lock themselves in, which is why I've never worried about it. It involves turning a key and what two year old has the attention span for that?
So Grace called and said "Annie locked herself in your room." So, ok, I'm coming home. I have a key to my bedroom. But then, I remembered that we leave keys to the rooms somewhere else (not gonna tell you where :)!!!!!!), so I called her back and told her where the key was. Grace (who is more Rwanda-experienced than I am) reminded me that as long as Annie has a key in her side, no one can unlock the door from the outside. Crap.
Theophile, one of our maintenance staff at KICS came home with me to rescue her. Of course, Annie had no idea she needed rescuing. She was chatting through the window to Grace who was outside keeping an eye on her. I'm so glad Annie didn't head to electric outlets, because there was exactly nothing Grace could have done from outside the bars except scream at her.
While Eddie was hatching a scheme to squeeze Annie through the bars (impossible), Theophile disassembled the lock and Annie was rescued. I mean, I had a feeling like I was pulling up a starving Chilean miner, but of course, Annie had no idea she was stuck.
Despite a whole day of reciting, "Annie no keys"and  "No doors Annie," I found her stabbing our door with a key last night. Gladly, the locking mechanism had been removed.

Grace babysitting from the window

It wasn't until my arrival that Annie realized she couldn't get out. 

Can I squeeze through those bars?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A childhood, past and present

There's something that's been brewing for a few weeks now. In it, I could sniff the potential for my kids' disappointment - the Christmas program at school. Auditions. Scripts. Acceptance. Rejection. Like with most things academic, this is not chancy for Simon. He would almost certainly get a part he auditioned for and bask in his success. For Sweet T, though, the forecast read different. Old enough to audition, but too young to read the script. Old enough to know she wanted what her big brother wants, but too young to understand her capacity. I could see it coming, and I began praying for her heart, and for my mother's shepherding of it. On the surface, there were two options: prepare her for success or prepare her for disappointment. Of course, both of those options are completely wrong. One risks building her up for a bigger fall, and one risks leading her to believe I think she isn't good enough. In speaking to a good friend about our daughters' various disappointments this school year, we chatted about how, of course we would love to protect them from Hard Things, but how so much more, we want them to know Jesus is with them in and bigger than those Hard Things.
Today, my mother's intuition was semi-confirmed by a reliable source that there will be disappointment, and probably tears regarding the Christmas program. I am thankful to know before she sees the list posted without her name on it.
I've spent the following couple of hours reflecting on two of my similar experiences as a child. First, was fourth grade. I was new at a small school and there were 4 girls in my class. Suzanne, Amy, Cara, and I were all each other had. I was immediately accepted by them because they didn't have a choice. The Christmas program was Psalty's Christmas (Christmas is a time, Christmas is a time, Christmas is a time to looo-ooove.) The auditions were for the ensemble (definition: girls who can sing). Suzanne, Amy and Cara all had (and probably still have) beautiful voices. One might think all 9 year old girls can passably sing, but not true. In fact, I didn't know I had a bad voice until I heard myself during the try-out and realized how different I sounded from the other girls. But, still, would they really cut one girl?!?!?! Yes, they would. And there I was, the only girl I knew that would be still standing on the risers when the stars took the microphone.
Of course, my Dad had the power to change all of this. And he did, in a very appropriate way. He didn't demand that I get a solo, but after he talked to the teachers, I ended up in the "sign language choir" (translation: girls who suck at singing but can be taught to move their hands correctly) with the third graders. Honestly, this did help. And, as a parent and teacher myself, I think it was the best course of action. But, it didn't take away the disappointment. The circumstances changed, and I felt seen and loved and supported by my dad, but I still felt the not-enough-ness that comes when your name's not on the list.
Next came fifth grade and what might turn out to be my worst day ever in my whole life. In one day, I lost the Spelling Bee (pacific. one eff, two effs, whatever, English is a dumb language) and found out I hadn't gotten a role in Pollyanna. I was crushed. It is still a memory that brings tears to my eyes.
Of course, my Dad had the power to change all of this (not in any way that wouldn't end up in a lawsuit), but he didn't.
Instead, when I came home and ran up to my bed after school, I found a heart-shaped box of candy and a letter scrawled on a card in a pink envelope (must have been Valentine's season). And, in the midst of my disappointment, words of love, affirmation and encouragement formed what would turn out to be the most significant memory of my childhood.
That's what I want for my kids. I want them to know they are loved through every disappointment, that they are enough, that they are great. Sometimes there will be a solution that can help. But, sometimes, there will only be the words I Love You.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Missionary Kids

I never would have planned on raising missionary kids, although as soon as I fell in love with Ben, I began to learn about what it means to be (or marry, or give birth to) "third culture kids." TCKs are people who grow up with multiple cultural identities, and this life breeds all kinds of unique strengths as well as creates some challenges.

One of the great things about staying on staff with Cru when we made this transition is that the organization cares for our entire family. When we were at our pre-field training a year ago, a couple of Cru staff members came up to visit and spend time with our kids. They encouraged them to be Missionary Kids (kids who share their faith in a new culture), as opposed to Missionaries' Kids (kids who are dragged along by their parents' jobs). They gave our kids a book called Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World, which Simon has devoured at least twice.

This week, he came into my room and asked if he could borrow some paper to make a list. Later, he requested tape so he could hang his project on his wall. This is his list: "Tips on being a successful missionary."

Obviously, I am proud of him, but what brings tears to my eyes is how pleased I am that he is embracing this experience and choosing to learn from it.

(It should go without saying that not all of our moments are rosy, but some of them are!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Highlight, Lowlight

Highlight Lowlight is a tradition/game/conversation we try to have daily as a family. We each go around and share the best and worst part of our day. For the kids, it usually sounds like this, "My highlight is I was line leader. My lowlight was someone laughed at me."

Today I'll give you my overall Rwandan Adventure highlight and lowlight, which both happened within the past 24 hours.

Last night was my lowlight when, driving home from a friend's house with Talya in the backseat, I was sideswiped by another (bigger) vehicle. We were both fine and the damage to the car was minimal, but it was just an overwhelming moment of NOW WHAT DO I DO? I've never been in an accident before, much less in a country where I am a foreigner and in a car that I don't own, and in a situation where I am likely to be blamed just by reason of my appearance (Mzungu), and can't communicate with the authorities because of language difficulties.

It got additionally confusing and comical when the police informed me that the other car was a government car ("His Excellency's"). My response was, "The government should drive better, no?" I thought this was hilarious, and the police officer giggled. Looking back, that is a very unwise thing to say in a country that offers no freedom of speech. Yet, God protected me from another driver, a system I didn't understand, and my own foolish words. I came home and the car is at the shop to get the fender put back in place. Where is Van Eck Automotive when you need them?

And then I had my highlight today. I believe I've mentioned chapel groups. Each week at chapel, we break up into discussion groups to chat about the morning's lesson. We keep the same groups, so it is a great opportunity to get to know four of my sixth grade girls. I've been amazed at the opportunities to talk about the gospel both in class and in chapel groups. These kids know the salvation gospel - Jesus died for your sins - but what a privilege to be able to talk about how each of them can be confident in God's love for them and what that means in their 6th grade lives, and in my life.

The last week of the month is set aside for chapel groups to spend more time together. The school provides sodas to set the tone and we planned today at lunch as our time to chat. So fun! Ineza, Laura, Elise and Nicole joined me over cafeteria food and Fanta and I told them we could talk about whatever they wanted. The questions started with what percentage of the world is Christian, which I googled and we discussed what that might mean. That led to their experiences with people of other faiths and Catholocism, which is predominant in Rwanda. It was fun to explore the richness of Catholic theology and a few practices which differ from what we teach at KICS. Then they asked how I met Mr Thomas, which is always a great story to tell to pre-dating adolescents.

It is a highlight to share our life with students - that is why we're here and I'm thankful God is providing opportunities for both me and Ben.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I Keep Singing Oceans

Oh my gosh, I'm about to be a brat. But, today is Sunday and it's been a great day of worshiping in a church, eating with friends, resting at home, and getting to know new people.

And, earlier this week, I saw this post on Facebook called Stop Singing Oceans. And I skimmed it. So, let's be honest. I SKIMMED it. I didn't finish it and I didn't study it. What I read got me all fired up; it felt judgmental and critical and I started crafting a fine blog critique of blog criticism. And then I called myself a hypocrite and put the thing to bed.

But then, as I walked into church this morning (late), we started singing Oceans. So, of course, it all came back. What I took to be the author's point was that we shouldn't ask God to lead us to place with no borders if we don't mean it. Again, all fairness: maybe that wasn't her point. Maybe in my judgmental high, I missed some irony or a deeper point.

But what washed over me this morning as I re-wrestled with these ideas was thanksgiving. Because, every Sunday morning, I am invited to loudly and with spirit sing songs full of words that are impossible to fully mean. As a wretch, a sinner, at war with my flesh, I am unable to worship God with complete purity of heart. But, we gather together anyway and do it. And I am so thankful that we can do that. That we can enter into a place with God where we can say/sing/pray/recite/responsively read deep words of affirmation of our faith - a faith that I don't always feel, and I don't always mean, and I am terrified of where it will lead, and I still know is Truth.

I can do it with transparency before God because he knows my heart. He knows the things I am holding back. He knows the borders I'm hoping He will let me keep erected. He sees those things and invites me to worship Him anyway. He invites me to sing Amazing Grace even on the mornings when I'm sure I'm less of a wretch than you. He has allowed the great hymns and the contemporary tunes to be authored by sinners and sung by the masses. He asks for our my whole heart, but promises that where my worship is incomplete, insufficient, and inattentive, He intercedes for me with the Father.

So, I can sing Oceans or the Doxology or Holy, Holy, Holy to the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. And on the Sunday mornings when I do it as a hypocrite (about 4 times a month), He sees what I'm holding back, accepts what I offer and calls me His.

One of the songs that I kinda hate, but still holds so much meaning for me is "Here I am to worship." The tune kind of gets to me, but the sentence, "Here I am to say that you're my God," feels like exactly what worship should be. Me saying that over and over again. Sometimes I don't have a lot to bring, but I can always say that with confidence and joy.

So, we have found a church that we are enjoying. It's called Christian Life Assembly. It's a fairly diverse congregation, but *feels* mostly African, which is something we were desiring. Today's sermon was a beautiful, truthful, deep, artful exploration of the gospel (Galatians 3:3) throughout Scripture. We are hoping to join a neighborhood cell group soon and get to know some more people. We just had a great dinner with one of the pastors and his family.

Disclaimer: Ben hasn't read this post and the opinions expressed herein are mine alone. (Susie)

Friday, September 12, 2014

A brain update and a pretty picture (not of my brain)

I had a brain MRI last week and it has yet to have been reviewed by my dr in the states but a few docs here have peeked at it and have given us the thumbs up. So, we pray thanks, breathe faith, and take another step into the future. 

Also, we are on a staff retreat right now in a beautiful place called Kibuye. I mean, these forested hills overlooking a lake look more like my lake George than my preconceived notions of Africa. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Baby, Baby

In no particular order, here is my firstborn through the years:

Gosh, I love him. He gets better every day. He's smart and funny and interesting. He loves to learn and read and ask questions. He is kind to others, and helpful to me. He has weathered this change with courage. He's nine and the older he gets, the less I find myself hoping it slows down, and the more eager I am to see who he's becoming. Happy birthday Simon - use your powers for good!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Diversity and the commitment to my discomfort

I read this article yesterday. Actually, I skimmed it. Then, I threw my iPad at Ben, and ordered him to read it and report on his thoughts. The sentences I skimmed in a hurry made a huge impact on me. I was fascinated by the principle presented on pursuing diversity, even though, it kind of seems obvious. If diversity is a priority in my life, ministry, organization (what have you), than I will be committed to my own discomfort. I will prioritize my dissatisfaction, and I will not whine when I experience it. I will offer up my preferences to Jesus for another who is different than me, and I will do it in praise.

I read this from the standpoint of someone whose main ministry responsibilities outside of the home have involved conference planning (heavy on musical worship, prayer and Bible teaching). I have worked on teams where we have put A LOT of thought into reflecting and encouraging diversity - in a context that is not super diverse. The context is important, because reflecting diversity is easy (I would imagine) if you have it. For instance, if I was to put together promotional materials for KICS, it would be a natural thing requiring no effort in photoshop to reflect diversity in our student body. It's just there. Showing it and celebrating it are easy. In my last ministry assignment, there wasn't a lot of diversity to reflect, but we had a desire to encourage it, and facilitate it. Of course, there was a tiny bit of ethnic diversity in our conference rooms, and honoring and respecting those brave souls (because, it takes courage, people, to be the glaringly invisible one in the room every day at your job) and their backgrounds, cultures and preferences was important.

I also think about this issue from my current situation - a minority in a foreign country. This situation also requires complex distinctions, because in my current context, minority does not equal marginalized. I'm an ethnic minority, but my relative wealth still grants me a power and privilege that are likened to the white privilege I bore at home. (Pause for a conversation on intersectionality....) In my Rwandaful world, there is a community of ex-pats that is the most dangerous size: small enough to know everyone in it and large enough to adequately meet my social needs (taking away the need to burst the bubble and interact with people who come from a background significantly different than my own).

My point is, there or here, living a life that reflects and encourages diversity requires intentionality.

So, this church, East End Fellowship in Richmond Virginia, has a rule:
When we gather together to worship on Sundays, everyone should be happy with no more than 75% of what is happening during the worship service. Why such a strange rule? Because we realize that in our culturally diverse congregation, if you are happy and comfortable with more than 75% of what is going on, it most likely means that your personal cultural preferences are being dominantly expressed. So we’ve decided that no one cultural form will be dominant and everyone will be equally unhappy with the worship!
What if I approached my conference planning with that goal in mind? What if I scanned the post-event evaluations with an eye toward holding myself accountable to that? What if our emcee informed the group at each session that each person in the room would only be happy with 75% of the night - in deference to another?

In church. What if I ran away from a church that scored an A+ on my comfortability scale? What if I sought out a church that made me roll my eyes a minimum of five times a service or squirm in my seat - but where I looked around and my brother and sisters had their hands raised in Allelujahs?
What kind of bravery would it take to intentionally fall short of people's expectations - a whole 25% of the time?

More importantly, what if I trusted Jesus to transform my rolling eyes into thank offerings and my squirms into dancing?

My Jesus calls me to a life of self-sacrifice, and I willingly offer that to him in so many areas, but I cling to my preference on worship. Hymns! I demand. With their original melody! Stop changing the tunes! If you don't know what the words mean, google them, don't change them! How can you sing Glory Hallelujah with your hands in your lap? Why the repetition? I cry out, like it's for justice instead of vain preference.

What if I made a decision to be "equally unhappy" for the sake of another - and it led to us both being more deeply satisfied? What if I applied that "rule" - 25% of mine for more of yours - to my finances, my time, my marriage, my parenting?

Happy Sunday from Team Thomas!

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Rwanda has a very interesting take on community service. The last Saturday of every month is called umuganda, and the city shuts down for the morning for neighbors to come together to work for the betterment of the area. We still are learning about how this works. We first experienced umuganda in 2010 when we were here for our adoption. We had limited time to complete some important errands and got up early one Saturday morning to learn that we couldn't leave the hotel until noon. 
This morning is umuganda. With no construction work being done across the street, no buses or Moto taxis running, no shops doing business, the quiet feels almost noisy. 
I think the way it works is that each community plans a group activity and makes an announcement of the plans in the morning. We asked Eddie to scope the situation last night and he thought the official umuganda activity was maybe not intended for families. Mzungus are not specifically expected to participate, but we do want to be a part of our community as much as possible. 
So, after breakfast, we headed out our gate armed with bags to pick up trash. Kigali is relatively litter-free. 
There are some interesting official and unofficial laws that keep this city clean and orderly. (Plastic shopping bags are illegal here.) 
Yet, in 10 minutes the six of us collected 4 grocery bags of bottles, wrappers, parts of shoes, and other assorted items. 
A few roaming locals were definitely surprised to see us out there. With the gate and our car, a normal but unfortunate barrier exists between us and the rest of our world. 
What are your thoughts? I think the idea of umuganda is both inspiring and beautiful but the compulsory part is new to me. I can't help but think it would never fly in America where we hold individualism so close to our hearts. But what would our cities look like if we were compelled to take responsibility for them together? If we were all required to spend three hours a week picking up trash? We'd at least probably litter less. 
(Behold, the fruits of our labor)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

It's different here.

What's it like here in Rwanda? It's different than America. There are big differences - differences that I can't even explain in this format. But, mostly, there are a million small differences.
It's helpful for me to think through and reflect on that stuff at times, but it's also dangerous. Comparing can lead to perspective, but comparing can also lead to dissatisfaction or arrogance. Despite what my snarky, sarcastic (negative) tone might imply, I am much more prone to self-satisfaction than to dissatisfaction.  I love it here. The weather. The beauty. The school. The friends. The newness.
Let's discuss some of the differences.

We have help.
We have two workers - Eddie who is our night guard and also performs various outdoor duties. Eddie might be one of my top 25 people in the world (I think that number safely leaves room for family at the top). So far, he has hauled one guy off to jail who was trying to climb our wall during the night, he has made countless runs for Vitalo (my beverage of choice), he's killed a chameleon/iguana/lizard thing, he opens our gate when visitors stop by, and he's currently replacing all of the screens on our home windows so the mosquitos can't get it in. He smiles when I try out the two phrases I know in Kinyarwanda. He's fixed the netting around the trampoline so the kids won't get hurt. I don't know when he sleeps.

Imaculee helps me inside the house. She cleans. Everything. Daily. I mean, really. It's not even necessary to have a bathroom cleaned every day. Or your bed made. Or your exercise clothes ironed. But she does it. She also cooks for us a couple of times a week.

Having help is a wonderful thing, and I have to admit, I am ashamed at how necessary it feels to have someone clean up after us. But, I'm not comfortable with it. Nor do I really wish to be, I think. I CAN do these jobs, and in my home culture, it would fall on me and Ben to do them. Yes, we are providing jobs for people who need them, but that isn't satisfying to the deepest part of my heart that cringes at the idea that someone else is cleaning my toilet. Yes, we are kind and fair with our workers (more so than other potential employers MIGHT be), but still. It is not right. It is not wrong. It is also not comfortable. And, no thank you, I don't want advice on how to be comfortable or uncomfortable with it. It is the nature of our new life. And I am thankful for these people who are always around and who help us learn.

We also have a babysitter, Grace. Grace is a 19-year-old American third-cultue kid who comes on the three mornings a week I teach at KICS to watch Annie. She also babysits once a week for date nights.  Grace is an answer to prayer. She lives near to us and I can count on her to be on time when I need to get to school. Being a grown TCK, I love having her as an influence on my budding TCKs.

The Food.
One of things people wonder about living in a new country is the food. I've found that people associate foreign with weird and spicy and Africa with rice and beans. As a mom to four American children, I've had to develop new routines for planning, procuring, and preparing food. It's that tricky balance of leading them to embrace things that are different, while still realizing that they are kid and need to eat something.

So, there's lots of fruit. We are in a tropical location, so it's easy to get pineapple, mango, and tiny sweet bananas. Our two Rwandan favorites are tree tomatoes (Japanese plum) and passion fruit. The things we miss are strawberries, blueberries, and grapes. Imaculee usually buys our fruits and veggies at the market. These things seem a lot cheaper to me than they were in the States, obviously, because they are grown here.

Grocery shopping. Imaculee does our market shopping, but I shop for meats and dairy products at one of several grocery stores. It's not kroger. It feels about the size of a Trader Joe's. And the selection is similar too in scope, but obviously the specifics defer. I can get fresh meat (but not so fresh that I can hear moo-ing in the background), sometimes fresh milk, yogurt, and gouda cheese.

So, the challenge is finding a rhythm to shopping. The grocery stores are rather spread out and tend to carry the same things. So, either all the stores have fresh milk or none of them do. (By fresh, I mean the kind that has an expiration date). All the stores have vanilla yogurt or none of them do. Today, strawberry yogurt was what was available, so that's what I bought. Yes, I could make my own yogurt. Maybe I will, thanks.

Our staples have had to change. We can get cereal, but the familiar kinds are pricey, so we usually eat yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast. We can get peanut butter easily, and deli ham, so sandwiches are what the kids get for lunch.

Remember back when everyone's blog was full of pictures of what they bought at the grocery store and boasting about the deals? Well, here's my version of that. This is what I bought at the German Butchery today. (If you assume that the German Butchery is a butcher shop operated by Germans, you would be in good company (with me) but incorrect. It's kind of a chain here.)
Clockwise, starting with the brown bag on the left:
2 kilos of chicken legs: about $12
1/2 kilo beef fillet: about $5
strawberry yogurt: $1.16
Temmy's Sweet Flakes: $3.63
Honey: $6.53
Rwandan Peanut Butter: $3.19
1 bag of sugar: $2.03
a tin of popcorn kernels: $2.18
Nutella: $6.53

I passed on the cheddar and feta cheese because I thought it was too pricey for something relatively unnecessary. 
So, for a little over $40, I bought meat to get us through the next couple of dinners, some goodies for breakfast and lunches and snacks. And I'm sure I'll be back at the store tomorrow. Because we don't have wide aisles, huge carts, and a minivan with automatic doors, it is difficult to do a week's worth of shopping at one time. Yes, some people do. They're much better adjusted than I. But, I'm happy and at peace with my temporary system.

Ex-pats handle it all differently. Some shop around for the best prices at the different stores. I tend to buy what I need wherever I'm at. Just like I didn't coupon in the States, I'm not spending time on the price comparisons here. We also try to look out for each other. Today a friend found (shredded!!!) mozzarella cheese and pepperonis at a store I rarely go to, and she picked me up some. Therefore, pizza will be in our future.

Rwandan food is not spicy. We brought in our luggage a wide array of hot sauce, sririacha sauce, tabasco, buffalo wing sauce, etc. Ben is hanging in there, much as I did when we lived in India.

A lot of people have asked about Charlie. He is in pre-K, which isn't offered at KICS, so he just started at a school called First Impressions. He swears he hates it, but he seems happy. One thing I love about it is that it seems to be the most "Rwandan" setting our family has been in. I haven't seen a white kid at the school. At KICS and at church and around town, we are certainly in the minority (from a complexion standpoint), but there are foreigners like us everywhere. 

Charlie's first day of school.

School is about the same here. The kids are happy.  A few (blessed!) differences for us: no uniforms. less homework. two recesses!

Well, it's not deep, but I find these types of details interesting and it's fun to introduce you a bit more specifically to our Rwandaful life. 

Oh, I did decide to teach 6th grade Bible at KICS, at least for a couple of months until their teacher returns from maternity leave. I'm enjoying the students and imparting my excitement (if not my knowledge) about the Bible. Please pray for them to grow closer to Jesus and for Mrs. Hanlon and her baby in the States.

And, you guys, thanks for your support. Ben is shining in his new job, and I love having a front row seat. Not many people (I know of one other) can love hundreds of kids so well, but still have room in his heart for four favorites.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Many have asked what have our first 6 weeks in Rwanda looked like.  The last six weeks have been full of firsts.

The first time we set up a house in Rwanda.  The first time we ran out of water.  The first time we went to the airport to pick up friends.  The first time I played golf in Rwanda with Simon and the first time I've seen goats on a golf course.  The first time my wife called me because she was lost and I honestly had no idea where she was or how I could get to her.  The first time I took a Moto-taxi and wondered why the driver only had one hand on the handlebars as we were going downhill.  The first hike up Mt. Kigali.  The first day I sat across parents and their child as we talked about their dreams for their future (that has been a lot of fun).  The first day of admin and staff orientation with a new team.  The first day with reliable internet..and the list can go on.

Tomorrow, the firsts continues with our first day of school at KICS.  The first day of third grade for Simon.  The first day of first grade for Talya.  The first day Susie will be teaching 6th grade Bible.  The first day I will greet Simon, Talya and each student at the door as the Director of KICS.

We are thankful for all the Lord has allowed us to experience in our first weeks here in Kigali.  We look forward to many more firsts.  Thanks for your prayers as we begin the school year at KICS and officially begin this first year in this season of life in Rwanda.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Down a hill, without any language skills

Ok, so I have to be honest. I know it sounds a bit impressive that we're in Rwanda, but we don't have it that hard. Rwanda is known as "Africa Lite," basically an easy version of what people picture as "Africa." It's clean, fairly easy to get around, and there is a large community of ex-pats here to make you feel like home isn't too far away. Sure we run out of water at times, and go through many a power outage, but we have toilet paper and internet and our iPhones work.

I'm a total wimp, and I've been doing pretty great here. I've been driving around, which has been stressful because of not knowing where I'm going, but the driving itself is not anxiety-inducing like it is in India. Many of the roads are not paved, and while that's bumpy, it's fine. When people ask how I'm transitioning, I feel like I'm able to reply, both honestly and enthusiastically, "great!" I usually follow with the caveat that there may be a day when I don't do great.

It was bound to happen. Today is that day.

With all the kids in the car, I followed a friend to another friend's house, where I've never been. It wasn't far, and it wasn't far off a main road, but I didn't pay close attention to where I was going because I was following. But, due to the normal and universal circumstances of motherhood, my friend had to leave an hour early to pick up a sick kid, and I was left to drive home by myself. Which shouldn't have been a big deal.

But I went downhill when I should have gone uphill. I blame it all on Simon. He is my navigator and he totally fell asleep on the job. Anyhow, I was not on a paved road and it was narrowing quickly. It wasn't bumpy; it was mountainous. On these types of roads, it's very hard to turn around, and usually better to just keep driving forward until you get out to another road. So, I kept driving. Down. I heard the bottom of my car crashing against the mountains sticking up out of the road. Charlie and Annie were playing some sort of squealing game, which works wonders on my sanity. I ended up in a valley, surrounded by a large number of Rwandan children screaming "Mzungu!!!" (white person) Truly, I couldn't have looked anymore Mzungo than sitting in my car on a road that was never intended for vehicles with four wheels, nearly crying, and muttering under my breath. I had to stop my forward progress when I came to a bridge that was narrower than the width of our car. I had steep ravines about one foot from each side of my car.
Accompanied by my adorable yet annoying audience, I completed a one-million-point-turn to go back up the hill. My audience followed, laughing and begging for money. And then I got to the part of the road that was narrow, mountainous and both dusty and muddy. The tires started spinning. Rwandans were howling with laughter. My kids were looking uneasily amongst themselves. I scanned the crowd, and was pretty positive that no one in this valley spoke English (why should they?) or drove a car. Certainly, if they were able to drive, they'd be too smart to bring a car where I'd attempted to bring one.

I called Ben and asked him to pray for me. I wanted to ask for help, but as I had no idea where I was, I couldn't very well direct anyone to my location. In Kigali, there are street numbers, but no one knows them or uses them. I'm actually not sure what they're for.

A guy (an answer to prayer?) flashed his wallet at me, giving me a glimpse at what I think was a driver's license. So, desperate, I flung my door open and let a stranger in my car with my keys and my  4 kids. (Mom, how are you doing?) 

I had mixed emotions as I watched him grind and spin the tires deeper into the dirt. 1) Vindicated, that it wasn't just me, and 2) ashamed that I'd brought my car down this stupid path that wasn't a road.
Eventually, he got out of the rut and took off up the hill. I scrambled up in my flip-flops, after my kids, and was given back the keys and the driver's seat.
My new friend having not much more luck than I.

the rut I was stuck in.

help to the rescue!

After a morning like that, it's ice cream for lunch.
And, still, I had no idea where I was, or how to communicate with anyone in the vicinity. But, I did learn my lesson. I announced to the kids: "New rule: we never go downhill, only uphill." I called Ben and began shouting the words on random signs I was passing, but ultimately decided to just keep driving. Uphill.

I ended up on top of a hill that seemed to be overlooking Kigali, which meant I'd gotten myself outside of the city (I think). So, I went back down to a backseat chorus of, "Mo-om, we're going downhill!! You said we can't go downhill anymore!!!" I found a mototaxi driver and called Ben. Between my mototaxi driver and Ben's kinyarwanda-speaking waiter, we arranged for me to follow the driver to a location I knew. Guys, it took a long time to get there. I have no idea where I was.

Anyway. I truly love it here. But today, Africa got the best of me.* Although, I can't blame Africa. I was the one dumb enough to not ask for directions before I left the driveway.

For those interested in the details, we drive a pimped-out Rav4 with sweet rims but not enough seat belts. It's the school's car, but they've allocated it to our family. We are currently exploring some changes to our transportation situation, but doggedly making this work in the meantime.

A mototaxi is a motorcycle that operates as a taxi. That is how Ben generally gets to and from work. It works great for one person, less great for 6 people.
mototaxis waiting for riders.

Next on my to-do list: find a kinyarwanda teacher.
There are many ways that my amazing husband is like my amazing dad (aside from the new vocational similarity). One of my favorites: they answer the phone when I call. Even if they're in a meeting.
*Africa didn't beat me, because Africa is not my opponent. Today, what got the best of me was my own foreign-ness, ignorance, and insistence on independence.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pictures of Life

These pictures are in a perfectly random order, but I want to get this posted while we still have internet service so you can see a little of what our life is like here. 
Pulling up to our house - The houses here are walled in with a gate. When you arrive somewhere, you honk until their guard lets you in. Eddie, our guard, sleeps during the day, so Simon has taken charge of gate duties.

Please don't judge. The car seat laws here aren't what they are in the States. The school provides us with a car, and we are so grateful for that. The car isn't big enough for all of us to be belted properly. It's quite nostalgic, really; it makes me think back to when we were kids and would pile in cars, smooshed in and falling asleep on our siblings. 

See, despite the uncomfortable, jostling road trip to Kumbya, she is happy!

This is our road. The way the dust has been smoothed out gives us hope that pavement is in the plans.... 
Ben in his office at KICS

Despite making new friends, they are still each others' most consistent playmates. 


One of the kids' favorite activities (obviously) is to twist themselves up in the swing and then let go until they spin themselves dizzy. 

looking down our driveway

Home Sweet Home. Fun trivia/history fact: Pre-genocide, our house used to be the headquarters for Campus Crusade in Rwanda. 

It took me a while, but I finally found a map of the city.  
After dragging these kids all over following a hand-drawn map, we finally made it to the place that sells tortillas, hummus, salsa, bagels, and smoothies!

Our room. Where I'm sitting to type this. 

Your room when you come to visit us. 

Our dryer. 

This is the inside of our water filter. Just thought you'd want to see the fun stuff (ants) that gets filtered out of our water before we drink it!

Simon playing in the yard. 

Imaculee, our helper around the house. 

This is the room we've designated for toys and books and stuff. 

You may remember that one of the most exciting things about moving here is that Kigali is also the current home of our dear friend the Thompsons. Of course, when we arrived they were back in the US (showing off their beautiful new baby), but Hunter just returned and we are so excited!!!!

Annie hated the trampoline for the first week, but once she turned two, she was sold!

Annie has also pretty much hated all water her whole life, but today she couldn't get enough of the pool!

Charlie was also pretty proud of his swimming abilities. 

That's all for now. I'm going to say a prayer and hit publish, and hopefully you'll see this soon! Oh, and then I get to run and open our very first care package! Yay! A word to the wise - it is not cheap to send things to Rwanda. If you want to send us granola bars and cheez-its, we recommend buying a plane ticket and hand delivering.