Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When I am dry

I went to sleep on June 13, anxiously awaiting the next day when our B2R summer intern, a girl named Mary Lansden, would arrive.  She’d be sleeping in the room next to mine, riding to work with me every day, sharing my bathroom, sharing my office, inevitably sharing my friends and my life…and I didn’t know what to expect.

Fast forward two months.  I’m in Uganda, visiting Suzanna Davis and the orphanage that caused her to fall in love with this country.  Last night, August 13, as I stood alone, staring at the stars and listening to the bullfrogs and the hyraxes (huge screaming rats – no big deal), I started to sing – a scary combination of both of the aforementioned sounds.

You are my strength when I am weak.
You are the treasure that I seek.
You are my All in All.
Seeking You as a precious jewel,
Lord, to give up I’d be a fool.
You are my All in All.

Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your Name.
Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your Name.

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame,
Rising again, I bless Your Name.
You are my All in All.
When I fall down, You pick me up.
When I am dry, You fill my cup.
You are my All in All.

As I sang, I realized a couple things about this God I claim to love, serve, and trust.  There’s so much I think I need in life.  Praise the Lord, He knows better than to answer all my prayers, and He knows to answer some that I can’t even pray.  I didn’t know how dry I was, but God brought someone to Rwanda who spoke Truth into my life and pointed me to Him every day for two months.  I don’t believe Mary Lansden filled my cup.  God did, but He used Mary Lansden to do it.

As I sang, she boarded a plane in Kigali.  That season is over, and she may not come back next year.  All the same, I praise God for bringing her into my life, for using her in so many lives here, even if we only knew her for two months.  And while sad doesn’t even begin to cover it, I love that I never have to say goodbye to the One who brought her here, the One who knows when I’m dry and knows how to fill my cup.

Isaiah 46:11 – “From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.”

I don’t know about that bird of prey, but I have no doubt that Mary Lansden was summoned by the Lord to fulfill His purpose.  Love that girl.  So thankful for her.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pen Pals

Looking for a hands-on way to get involved with our Scholars? Become a pen pal! Just because you're on the other side of the world doesn't mean you can't get to know them. We're looking for people who would be willing to write an email once or twice per week. Not only will this give the students a chance to practice expressing themselves in a meaningful and practical way through writing, but they'll also begin to feel connected to people outside of Rwanda, which will make some of the scary parts of leaving home a little less scary. All ages are welcome to participate -- our students will be excited and thankful to write and receive emails from anyone between 1 and 92. If you're interested, please email me at mcfrazier@bridge2rwanda.org. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

I will rejoice.

Daniel 3:17-18 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.”

But if not…yet I will.

I realize the ellipsis here represents 7 books of the Bible, but these passages are parallel. We find a hopeless situation (whether inevitably getting dumped into a fiery furnace or inevitably starving to death) followed by a choice to trust God. Before I left Memphis, my good friend Jordan wrote 8 letters for my first few weeks in Rwanda. The letters got stuck in a drawer in all the bustle of settling in, and I’d only opened 2 of them until I found the pile last week. When I read the letter with these verses, I knew God had let this one get lost until now.

Early Sunday afternoon, one of our 2011 Bridge2Rwanda Scholars, Emmanuel, passed away after a swimming accident. He was leaving in just a few weeks to start school at the University of Rochester. So full of life and joy, he was one of the most enjoyable people to be around, and his death is weighing heavily on everyone. Please pray for peace and comfort for Emmanuel’s family and friends, that they would know and believe that Emmanuel is now truly overflowing with life and joy, even more than he was yesterday morning.

We don’t understand why this happened. Emmanuel was shot as a tiny boy in the genocide, but he survived. His parents were killed, so he was left with two sisters. He’s fought and struggled and overcome so much…just to die after hitting his head in a pool? It doesn’t make sense. He's started businesses and spoken at conventions. He was going places. He could’ve done great things. He would’ve changed lives. He already had.

"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." - Job 1:21

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” - Hebrews 11:1

But if not…yet will I?

Friday, July 13, 2012

In which I discuss the idea of stories but don't tell very many

I have much to say, but I’ll keep this as brief (and, therefore, scattered) as possible.

 I took my parents to the Kigali airport last night after 11 days of gallivanting around Rwanda. We trekked the gorillas, spent a couple days at Lake Kivu, celebrated my roommate’s wedding, and went on a safari at Akagera National Park. We also spent a good deal of time in Kigali, and I got to introduce them to my friends and students and show them my house, office, and favorite places around town. The time went really quickly, but I’m so grateful for it!

Backing up -- My two weeks at home at the end of May were a wonderful blur of family and friends, including John Lyle and Sara Shaw’s wedding and Will and Kristin soon-to-be Frazier’s engagement. SO excited for that one. While away from Rwanda, I couldn’t believe how much I missed being here. While home is home and will always be home, my life is now in Kigali, where I have a schedule and a routine. Rwanda is my rhythm. It felt strangely like coming home when I landed – confirmation that this is where I’m supposed to be. Can we say…praise the Lord?!

My life here looks just like it did in Memphis. I teach, hang out with my students, and hang out with my friends. Sometimes it feels strange to have a blog where I write about all the same things I was doing last year. I just happen to be doing them in Africa now. I'm not saying this to minimize the significance of my life here. Rather, I want to emphasize that my life in Memphis was just as significant. My purpose in writing is not to tell you all about me. I hope these are stories about God, about just a few of the ways He's working in this country, in the lives of those around me, and in my own heart. And I know I'd be able to tell you similar stories even if this blog was entitled "MC in Memphis."

Several people have asked for a list of my students’ names, so here are all 28: Ange, Carlos, Cynthia, Daisy, Danny Biz, Danny Musa, Dickson, Emmanuel, Eric, Fabrice, Gloria, Honorine, Jean Luc, Nancy, Nathan, Patrick Rukundo, Patrick Rwiranga, Richard, Ritah, Roselyne, Rosette, Solange, Sonia, Sylvie, Timothe, Tracy, Vincent, and Wilson. I’ll eventually tell you a bit about each them, but I’ll start with three.

Fabrice came into the class as a sweet, quiet boy. One day, his glasses broke, so he had to go buy another pair. I don’t know what’s in these new ones, but he hasn’t been the same since. He’s goofy and loud and funny and sends the class into hysterics with his comments. One day in class I called on him in class as “Fabulous Fab,” and he quickly replied, “Yes, Marvelous MC?”

Timothe is a smart, determined young man, focused on his studies and on his goal. His brother is currently a student at North Central College outside Chicago, so from the beginning, Timothe’s aim has been to join him as soon as possible. Well-respected by many of his classmates, Timothe maximizes every opportunity to learn.

As of this week, Timothe and Fabrice have both been accepted and received scholarships at universities in the US for this fall, so they’re headed out next month. Timothe is going to North Central, and Fabrice will attend LeTourneau University in Texas. Even though it’s exciting, obviously, because that’s our hope for all of these students, I’m so sad to see them go. We’ll miss both Fabrice and Timothe, but we know they’re ready to go.

Eric is Rwandan but went to the same high school that His Excellency, President Paul Kagame, attended in Uganda. He and his brother live in Kigali with virtually no money. His father was killed in the genocide, and his mother lives in poverty in a village. He was the “chosen one” of his siblings to go to school in Uganda, so his family’s hopes are resting on him.

A few weeks ago, Eric told us that he’s had an enlarged spleen for 6 years. It’s a source of constant pain, but he’s never received anything more than over-the-counter relief. He’d never looked into surgery because it hadn’t been an option. It doesn’t matter if one of your organs is about to burst if you don’t have money to do anything about it. The day after my parents arrived, Anna Reed, our B2R Scholars Director, took him to the emergency room because he could no longer bear the pain. Countless tests and several hospital visits later, they think Eric has Myeloproliferative disorder, which can lead to blot clots, strokes, heart attacks, and even leukemia if not treated. After more blood and bone marrow tests, we’ll know if he really has this disorder. If so, he’ll have to be on medication for the rest of his life, but supposedly the medication works well and isn’t too expensive.

Please keep Eric in your prayers. He’s our top-scoring student, absolutely brilliant but so humble. The rest of the class loves him even though they’re all a little jealous of his English. They call him “Longman” because they think he secretly wrote our book, Longman Complete Course for the TOEFL.

Because many of our students, like Eric, have no income, we encountered a problem at the beginning of the program. The plan was to have class in the mornings and self-study time in the afternoons after lunch. However, Rwandans eat rice and beans for lunch, which isn’t really pack-able, so their options are to go out for lunch every day at a place that’s close, which costs about $1.60, or to go home, which means paying for transport both ways and costs about the same…or not to eat. Most students choose not to eat.

At this point, we don’t have the funding to provide lunch for them every day…but we started 3 weeks ago. Oops? We’re just trusting that God will provide. When I first told the students we were going to bring lunch into the office for them, several of the students showed signs of excitement while others hesitantly asked, “How much…will it…cost?” “Nothing!” I said. Some cheers went up, but most sat silently, staring in wide-eyed disbelief. Slowly, the room filled with murmurs of “You’re kidding” and “Not possible.”

I unknowingly volunteered to raise the money for this, and as I said, we started a few weeks ago. We had initial costs of $800 to buy tables, chairs, cooking equipment, etc. The food itself will cost $500 a month – 28 (students) X 5 (meals per week) X 4 (weeks per month) = 560 meals. If you have any desire to get involved, shoot me an email (mcfrazier@bridge2rwanda.org), or if you know of anyone else who might be interested, please pass this on.

I wish I could share so many more stories from the past 2 months – stories that would make you laugh, stories that could bring tears to your eyes, stories that should draw you to your knees, stories that might give you nightmares, and stories that would make you wish you lived in Rwanda. I so appreciate that you care to read a few of my stories when you are each living your own. Stories are the stuff of life. Watch for them, share them, and give the glory for each of them to the ultimate Storyteller. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I'm not dead

...though at least one bird in Rwanda wishes I were. At about 2:30 on Friday, I walked down to the nearby Umubano Hotel to get a meat-pocket-sandwich of sorts (called a “gozette”). As I was pretty hungry by this time, I called one of my students, Tracy, to find out if it was culturally acceptable to eat as I walked back to work. She responded (unknowingly causing my imminent woe), “Sure! It’s not a big deal. Go ahead.” I took my first few bites when I saw Tracy and one of last year’s students, Christian, walking toward me on the street. As I put my arms in the air to say “Oh hey,” a huge bird flew down and knocked my food right out of my hand. I shrieked, and everybody on the street loved the show. Pedestrians, moto drivers, riders, and buses with faces and arms pouring from the windows all roared with laughter. The bird (apparently it was a kite though I could’ve sworn it was a full-sized eagle when its wings hit me in the face) attacked twice more before I escaped – running, checking over my shoulder, and being followed by its beady eyes all the way. Sure, Rwanda, I’m happy to risk my life to provide some fun for the rest of you on a Friday afternoon.  

Wikipedia says: "Kites are raptors with long wings and weak legs that spend most of the time soaring. Most feed mainly on carrion but some take various amounts of live prey. They are birds of prey which, along with hawks and eagles, are from the family Accipitridae." In case you missed that first sentence, these babies are raptors. I was attacked by a raptor.

I’m afraid I could write pages and pages about the last two months, so I’ll have to hit the highlights. Long story short, I blinked, April ended, and May’s quickly following suit. Here’s what happened. 

Jason, Carolyn, and I with some of the boys
in Tom's village
April 2-6 – Carolyn and Jason Zermeno came to visit after their 6 months in Uganda. They were the first faces I’d seen from home in a couple months, and it was so fun having them here. They’d been doing “Storying” in Ugandan secondary schools, which is a Bible study method of sorts. I was dying to see them in action, and they agreed to do it for my students! Carolyn told the story of the crucifixion 3 times from memory while the students just listened. Then, the students took turns, each telling one line of the story until they’d done the whole thing themselves. After, Jason led a discussion with the acronym “SPEAK” (Sin to confess, Promise to believe, Example to follow, Application in our lives, and Knowledge about the character of God). The students loved it and told me the next week they’ll never forget the story of the crucifixion. I didn’t like seeing Jason and Carolyn leave, but I’m so thankful that the trip worked out at the last minute! They headed back to the U.S. on April 10th, so we barely got it in. 

Left to right: Mary Patton, Lia, Katherine, 
Sierra, Leslie, Georgina, and I

April 6-13 – I went with six other girls to Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. Wow. What a week. Full of crazy adventures, lots of laughs, and the conclusion that I should be a sunscreen commercial. The only sunburn I got was from the two hours we walked around town on our first day when I didn’t wear sunscreen. After that, I practically dipped myself in SPF 70, and those UV rays couldn’t touch me. Now I’m a believer. Some highlights: snorkeling, getting sick (saves money when you can’t eat on vacation!), and playing frisbee with a couple Massai warriors.

Just a sunset in Zanzibar. No big.
One day, we played beach volleyball, and a Peace Corps volunteer named Lisa (not one of our seven) broke her leg. As soon as we saw her bone sticking out, most of the other players were useful. They thought quickly, sought help and supplies, and remained calm. I, on the other hand, was a total wreck. I grabbed my stomach and started dancing around on my tip-toes repeating, “I’m so bad at this stuff!” My First Aid certification expired a few years ago, but that’s still no excuse. I finally got myself together and tried to help in whatever way possible. Clearly I’m not gifted at working with broken body parts, so I sat next to her, grabbed her hand, and tried to make her laugh in an effort to take her mind off the pain. I knew that distracting her would also distract me, so it worked out well. There were six of us who sat with her for six hours while we waited for the Peace Corps to arrange her transportation. None of us knew each other before, but by the end of that time, we felt like old friends. After we loaded her onto the ambulance and wished her well, we all planned a trip to Norway for next January. I love new friends.

A few days later, we met a guy from England who does film research. His current project is a movie about an American girl who works for an NGO in Africa. Oddly enough, all seven of us work for NGO’s in Africa, so we were exactly who he was looking for. He ended up sending us the movie script and asking for our input. This is no independent film. The main girl in “The Hunger Games” is playing the lead in this movie. It’s not coming out for three years, but it’s going to be big, and not only do I have the script, but I have an invitation to add to it. When it hits the theater, I’ll let you know which lines are mine.

April 14-21 – A group from IPC in Memphis came to run a VBS in Musanze for Bishop Mbanda, including two of my dearest friends, Chuck and Vicki Halford. I met them at the airport for a few minutes as soon as they arrived, and they gave me a suitcase full of goodies from my parents before they took buses to Musanze. I had to teach that week, but I was able to join them up north from Wednesday through Saturday. The VBS was wild. They expected 1000 kids, so they generously planned for 1200. In the end though, the number was approximately 2540. TIA, baby. On Saturday, we all rode the bus back together to Kigali, and we spent the day in my city. I also got the chance to bring Chuck, Vicki, and two new IPC friends, Gene and Noelle Douglas, to my house. Gene and Noelle are friends with my brother Will and his girlfriend Kristin. They never talked to Will and Kristin about their upcoming trip to Rwanda though, so they didn’t know Will had a little sister here. As soon as I walked up to their group in the airport parking lot, Gene whispered to Noelle, “She looks just like Will Frazier.” This used to happen to me all the time, but it’s slightly less common now that I live on a continent Will’s never been to. I’ve only been gone 4 months. I haven’t changed colors or gotten a new face or anything, but I haven’t been recognizable to anyone in these 4 months. I had no idea how happy those words would make me. 

Tracy and I
May – I’ve been catching up on emails, grading, planning, and just generally settling into some kind of routine. I taught my students how to play Ultimate Frisbee, took them bowling (almost all of them for the first time), had a baking day at my house, and have just been having an all-around ball with these 26. Oh, and I teach them TOEFL prep on the side. As I get to know them more, I can’t believe some of their stories. Y’all have GOT to come meet these kids. They love Jesus, and they’re smart, funny, energetic, and driven. I couldn’t be more grateful for the group. We have such a good time, and they're not the only ones learning through this program.

As I write, I’m sitting in the Brussels airport, but by the time this actually makes its way to the internet, I’ll be back in the land of the free and the home of the brave. One of my best friends, Sara Boyd, is marrying John Lyle Shaw next Saturday, and I get to do that thing you do when someone you love gets married – carry some flowers down an aisle. [Has anyone ever thought about how funny that is?] I’m pumped for the festivities to begin.

Can’t believe I’m almost home. Those months flew faster than a kite outside Umubano. If you don’t hear from me for another 4 months, it may be worth checking to make sure I didn’t get eaten on the side of the road.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dr. Tommy

One Sunday morning near the beginning of March, I walked to the doctor/clinic because I’d been feeling sick for a few days.  I knew I had a parasite or an amoeba, but everybody says it’s good to check…so I went to check.  You just have to take a quick test or two, get the drugs, and you’re done.  So that was my plan.  All went according to said plan until I met with Dr. Tommy after he got my test results.  Dr. Tommy is a Korean doctor who lived in California for 3 years and has been here at this clinic for almost 2.  He’s the man.

He walked me through my chart/file/piece of paper, explaining different numbers and symbols.  His descriptions were things like, “No malaria, no amoeba, no parasite, no worms” and “Typhoid is coming!  Typhoid is coming!”  Well, I was pretty sure I had a parasite and even more sure I didn’t have Typhoid.  I told him I took Typhoid pills, so he said it could be my body reacting to the pills.  He also said it could be a bacterial infection.  Done.  That was it, and that was easy.  Thanks, Doc.  Give me the drugs, and I’m out.
Then he says, “You’ll need to stay overnight and get on an IV.”  WHAT.  You’re kidding.  Am I dying?  But he’s a doctor, and I’m an English teacher.  So I decided to let him do what he does, and I’ll keep doing what I do.  I followed his orders and spent my first night in a Rwandan hospital of sorts.  Not bad at all.  I won’t include all the stories, but it was an adventure. 

The next morning as Dr. Tommy listened to my stomach, he said slowly (hear Mr. Miyagi’s voice as you read), “Much better today.  Yesterday was a lot of music in there….”  So I got to come home after the music stopped.  Hallelujah.

That day happened to be orientation for our Scholars, and since then, things have been going non-stop.  At some point, I’m sure it’ll settle down a bit, but right now it’s crazy how much needs to get done to get the ball rolling.  I say “I’m sure it’ll settle down”…but I’m really not sure.  All I know is that I love it.  We’ve got a class of 26-28 (numbers haven’t been nailed down yet), and each one is kind of my favorite.  I’ll put up pictures and tell stories and much, much more.  These 26-28 faces are my life for the next 9 months.

In other news, I went to Sonrise graduation a couple weeks ago and saw all my favorite boys:

Theogene (in red), Barack (cap and gown), John of God
(007 on his uniform), and Jean Baptiste

Then I stayed to hang out with Frances and her husband Danny in Musanze.  That night, Danny built a fire (for us to roast marshmallows), set up the tent (for Frances and me to sleep in right outside their house…we were going to go camping, but then it looked like rain), and brought us breakfast in bed (“breakfast in tent” doesn’t have the same ring).  All of my favorite weekends are spent in Musanze.  So grateful for Frances and Danny.

Just for fun, listen in on this phone conversation between me and my roommate Kelly:

“Hey Kel, how are you?”
“Good, thanks.  How are you?”
“Great.  I have a question.  Can I have some students over to make cookies tomorrow night?  It may be a pretty good number of them, so I just wanted to run it by each of y’all.”
“Sure!  No problem.  Can I have a friend over tonight to have a baby?”

No joke.  So her Rwandan friend Diana came over, and the house was all in a tizzy, and Diana was the chill-est (“Have you had another contraction?” “Hmm, let me see. I can’t remember…”), and we were all pumped because she said we could watch, and the mid-wife was keeping us calm and getting all her medicine ready, and Kelly’s room was transformed into a mini-hospital, and Diana was walking around, taking visitors and making jokes and being hilarious, and the rest of us were all squeaks and nerves.  But in the middle of the night, due to a minor complication, they ended up taking Diana to the hospital.  She had her baby there, and they’re both fine and healthy.  I was bummed that I didn’t get to witness the live birth, but all’s well that ends well.

Richard, the Director of Academics for the B2R Scholars, is leaving for the U.S. tomorrow, and he’ll be gone until September.  He was going to sell his car, but then he realized that he’ll want it when he comes back…so he asked me to keep it for him!  How incredible is that?  So I’m inheriting a car tomorrow!

Here’s the less fun part of the story.  People talk about how dangerous it is to ride motos here, or how scary it is to drive, or how many buses they’ve seen roll over, or how many bodies they’ve counted on the street, or how many children they’ve pulled from an upside-down vehicle and ripped their own shirts off to stop the bleeding…and when I listen to story after story, I get nervous.  (Usually the conversation happens when I say something like, “For all this crazy driving around here, I’m surprised I haven’t seen any accidents.”  People answer, “Just wait.  You will.”  And they launch into what they’ve witnessed.)  I haven’t seen any of the blood these people recount.  But hearing these things churns both my stomach and my heart.  For the people who died.  For the people who lost arms or legs.  For the people who lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters.  For the people who watched.  For the people who will see it tomorrow.  For the people who will live it tomorrow.  For the people who will die this way tomorrow.

So what do I do?  I sit in my room and never leave because there are a thousand ways to die outside these walls and if I just stay here I’m sure to be safe and secure and happy and healthy until I’m at least 89 (track record in my family), and I’ll be perfectly content right here with my fan and my new closet and my Honey Nut Cheerios from Tom Phillips. 


I’m not saying I’m going to drive around this city like a crazy Memphis soccer-mom talking on the phone with 6 kids in the car.  I’m not wingsuit base jumping and climbing Mt. Everest and drinking gallons of Rwandan water straight from the tap because I want to see how close I can come to dying without actually dying, just so I can say I beat death.  I’m not a complete idiot. 

But my dad is Tim Frazier, so I can’t sit in my room and eat Honey Nut Cheerios all day (though I definitely can for part of the day, and I get that from him too).  

Mostly, this is for my mom, who I know will lose sleep over the fact that I’m now driving in Rwanda.  The truth is, Piz: it’s not that big of a deal.  Most people know that.  But the other, bigger Truth is: my days are numbered, and not by me.  So no matter how I live, what I do, or where I am, I can’t bring myself any closer to death or keep myself from it.  Every time people start telling stories of what they’ve seen on these streets, I remember that I’m not going home until Jesus says I am.  But when He says it’s time, nothing’s stopping me.  Not even Dr. Tommy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thanks for RSVP-ing

So grateful God has put so many party-ers in my life.  Within a number of hours, Carlos’ sister’s school fees were covered, and today we offered him a spot in our program as well as an internship with B2R that will take the place of his previous job.  In fact, in just a few hours, God raised more money than we needed, and we’ll be able to put the extra toward helping Carlos (and other students) pay standardized test and college application fees.  Many of our students may be able to get by for 10 months without working, but paying $160 test fees and $75 application fees is something they’re already anxious about.  So thank you, thank you, thank you ALL for your prayers, your gifts, and your excitement in getting involved in the lives of these students.  I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for the next 10 months!

And in case you wanted to help but didn't tell me, don't worry – this party has no deadline.  Keep the prayers coming, and if you want to help with any of the students' fees, just let me know.