Mar 13 – 15: Peace and Reconciliation Men’s Retreat
This was the first retreat held for men. Participants listened attentively to the sessions, but worked in silence when they were at the tables. Kae changed direction by encouraging a 30-minute soccer game. After that they started to talk. By supper time there was general chatter and laughter around the tables. Card playing at the end of the day furthered their team building.
Werner taught a lesson on Joseph and we brainstormed words for how Joseph might have felt at different stages. The men worked in groups to complete the sentence, “I feel —— when ———. Kae used Psalm 23 and asked them to share why they placed their sheep where they did. They also shared around the tables as they made their own shepherds and sheep. At each step the level of sharing increased.
Following afternoon tea they opened up and all shared their stories, some speaking more than once. This was what we were working toward. The men enjoyed games, soccer, singing and even an entertaining and laughter-filled talent show in the evening where everyone was included and cheered on.
Morning worship was lively with singing and dancing. When the men shared at the last session they all expressed their appreciation for the retreat. They have new friends who understand them and will support them.
Many of the women connected with YEGO need childcare in order to attend healing retreats, receive counselling, participate in education, find employment, or hold down a job. With the help of donations from Anne and Bill Hill of Edmonton, Canada, Athanasie’s dream of a daycare to help these women has become a reality.
The women and girls are all previous retreat participants, so it was good for everyone to reconnect. Craft time gives the women a chance to be creative and to share. Tea time is important too. For many women who struggle to provide one meal a day for their families, tea time is a special treat. After a lesson on how God cares for us, the women started a mural, made of butterflies covered with words describing how God sees them.
Today the group talked about the need to recognize and name our feelings in order to heal. We studied Hagar’s life and named the feelings she would have had at different stages of her life. The women then shared their feelings in small groups. A number of women were contemplating suicide but through Yego they have found a family where they feel safe. By end of day, the talk centred around gratitude and how it can move us from a circle of fear to a circle of love.
Today’s lesson was about compassion. The women embroidered intertwining hearts to illustrate that compassion connects our hearts. Worship started with lively singing and dancing. Emmanuel had just started preaching when some of the women “challenged” what he was saying. A discussion followed until a consensus was reached and the sermon continued. It is International Women’s Day so maybe a challenge was in order.
The CAL program aims to help women and youth who have not had a chance to go to university. It’s a 6-month program, offered free of charge. The first class graduated this week! Below is a picture of them proudly displaying their completion certificates. The second class is ready to begin. For more information about the program, see: Update on computer-assisted learning or More than a computer class
Dance and music program
Students from the program performed as part of the celebrations to recognize the first CAL program graduates and to officially open the new sewing program.
Kae Neufeld writes:
After we cut the ribbon for the new sewing centre we had a demonstration of how to use the machines. Then our first student threaded a machine and sewed some stitches.
With new sewing machines from India, and sewing supplies brought from Canada, YEGO is ready to start its sewing centre! Although no instructions were provided, the team managed to assemble two working machines.
While the first day was filled with laughter, singing, teaching and storytelling, there is so much pain and trauma that still needs healing. Unlike previous retreats, all the women participating this time were educated professionals.
Participants and leaders of women’s healing retreat
After Mackensy led morning exercises, the women continued to tell their stories. In past retreats, lessons would start by 10 am. But a strong need to share meant that their lesson on Psalm 23 didn’t start until 3 pm. Each woman was given a sheep to place on the scene and tell why she had chosen that spot. At one point, a small bird flew into the room. At first it appeared to be dead, but a little care and water soon enabled it to rejoin its flock.
The final lesson was on using our gifts, no matter how ordinary they may be, to serve others. The women heard a story about “bucket fillers” – people who do kind things to make others happy. At lunch one of the women stood at the start of the food line handing everyone a plate and greeting them. She found a way to be a bucket filler right after the lesson. The women also used their creativity to make yarn dolls.
The women touched the retreat leaders’ hearts with a beautiful dance and song to show their appreciation.
Editors note: This just in from Kae Neufeld, Mackensy Cumin and Susan Dueck who are in Rwanda to help deliver healing retreats to YEGO recipients. It’s so perfect, and has such a beautiful lesson of patience and gratitude, that I reproduce it here in its entirety.
Challenge: The van needed air in the tires before we headed south to the Retreat Centre.
Miracle: We found a service station with a working air pump after only the third try.
Challenge: After about an hour and a half on the road our ride turned very bumpy.
Miracle: On the narrow road with no shoulders we were next to a turn out.
Challenge: We had a very flat tire.
Miracle: Jimmy our driver is a mechanic.
Challenge: The back of the van was piled high with our luggage and retreat supplies.
Miracle: When we unloaded everything and got at the spare tire it had air in it.
Challenge: We now needed a new tire because the spare was a small one for short trips only.
Miracle: The next service station was nearby.
Challenge: They had no tires.
Miracle: The fellow there hopped onto the back of a motorcycle and guided us to a station that had tires.
Challenge: They had tires here but there was no one who could sell us one.
Miracle: Jimmy, our driver, had a friend in the next village who could help us.
Challenge: In our rush to get a tire we were stopped by the police for speeding.
Miracle: Emmanuel, in his own words, humbled himself and pleaded our case, saying we were extremely sorry and that we would not speed again. No ticket.
Challenge: To meet up with Jimmy’s friend.
Miracle: We found him and the shop had a tire.
Challenge: We had to unload all the luggage again to get at the tire and put the spare tire back.
Miracle: The ground was dry so our luggage did not get dirty.
Challenge: The back door of the van would not stay up.
Miracle: Mackensy was tall enough to hold it up while all the unloading and loading took place.
Challenge: The used tire that was available had some holes.
Miracle: Plugs were inserted and the tire held air.
Challenge: We were two hours late for lunch at the Retreat Centre.
Miracle: There was a lovely hot lunch waiting for us.
Dr. Kae Neufeld, Mackensy Cumin and Susan Dueck from Edmonton have arrived in Kigali to help with the important work of YEGO Rwanda. Werner De Jong, pastor at Holyrood Mennonite Church in Edmonton, will be joining them in March to help with the retreat for male youth. The leadership team is planning for these upcoming retreats:
Feb 28 – Mar 1: Walking Together in Hope, women and girls
Mar 6 – 8: Kindness and Compassion, previous retreat participants
Mar 13 – 15: Peace and Reconciliation, male youth
In preparation for setting up a YEGO sewing centre, the group plans to shop for sewing machines while in Kigali. Kae has also collected scissors, thread, pins and needles, measuring tapes, zippers, buttons and various other sewing aids to get things started. As Athanasie knows how to crochet and knit, Kae has brought along supplies to teach others these skills as well.
Presentation to teachers
In the evening, Susan delivered a presentation on stress to teachers at Kigali Parents School. It was well received. Susan has a background in training and working with therapy dogs and is experienced with working with people who are stressed.
Dance, music and drama help youth heal from social isolation, despair and anger which characterize trauma and depression. It is both therapeutic and an income‐generating program, developing skills that can lead to job opportunities. In 2019, 10 youth were hired by various cultural dancing clubs in Kigali. These are paid positions that enable the youth to earn a living.