Blog Category: Todd’s Blog From Rwanda

“I Want Heaven!”

By Anna Nyhart,

Pastor Lambert shares the remarkable story of Danatha:
Nyirakadeheri Danatha is her name; but we address her “Mukecuru” as a
respectful name for the elderly. She has been blessed to grow older as her age
has far passed life expectancy in Rwanda [64.52 years (2015)]. Mukecuru does not
remember well how old she is, but tracing it from history; he might be above 80.
She knows about the death of King Yuhi V Musinga (1944) and how he was taken
to Kilembwe Congo passing by Kamembe (1931). She also knows about the reign
of King Mutara III Rudahigwa (Successor of Musinga) and the first Republic (1961).
Mukecuru is so thankful to God who has kept her life until this far. “I have seen
many people go; young and old”: I survived all wars that took place in Rwanda
(1959, 1963, 1990 and 1994). I want to believe that there is a reason why God
preserved me. It’s to testify of His goodness! “God loves me” this is her sigh every
time; while talking with her! And she would sing: “Jesus loves me this I know, … I
am so glad that Jesus loves me, …! Though she has also lost all teeth, Mukecuru is
never ashamed to smile as she claims; she’s got every reason to stay happy.
Mukecuru is still strong in the Lord; she walks 3 kilomiters (one way) coming to
Church every Sunday and Saturday (for prayers). Unbelievable! Seeing her with a
walking stick, one wouldn’t think her steps can ever make such a long distance! I
asked her how she chose to fellowship with us at Joy Christian Church: “I started
attending cell group meetings at Birembo (Mpanga). With prayers and fellowship;
I felt revived again as I had stayed for many, many years without that experience. I
used to go to a protestant church before the 1990s. When we divorced with my
first husband and my second died, I felt disappointed and discouraged. I lost hope
and it was like God had abandoned me.
The cell leader (Mugwiza Emmanuel) has been so supportive. May God bless him;
he helped me get up again. When I came for the first time to Joy Christian Church,
I appreciated everything I found there. I continued attending church services until I
made the greatest decision ever: December 24, 2017 was one of my biggest days!
Want to know what happened? “I was baptized”! I want to rectify and surrender
my life to Jesus before I go into the grave. This God that has been so good to me, I
want to see Him. I want heaven, I want eternal life and that’s what I wish for each
and everyone who has followed Jesus Christ. So help us God!

  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda

New Year New Life!

By Anna Nyhart,

Pastor Lambert submitted the following story:

PRISON as a path to Christ! 

Everything in life happens for a reason, and there is nothing God allows to take place aimlessly, as long as we come to a point of understanding that He is in control. This is one of the conclusions Kanani Samuel drew as quoting Jeremiah 29 verse 11; “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. “Even in prison, God still had better plans for me” says Kanani. And these were no other than getting my attention and drawing me closer to Him.

Kanani Samuel is a humble cool quiet man. Without provoking him you’ll never know he has something to share. But when he sets to speak you feel interested in listening to him. He is one of the people who will tell you how to look at problems not as obstacles, but turn them into opportunities. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation that you can’t do anything about it, but to endure. In that case you have two choices: to either complain or comply. But with me, says Kanani, I realized complaining wouldn’t get me anywhere. I thank God; He taught and gave me grace to handle what befell me.

I was born in 1975, grew up in a family that didn’t honor God. My parents were still involved in ancestral worship. Though once in a while they would pretend go to Church. I used to go with other kids to Seventh Day Adventist Church and at the age of 15 I was baptized. After the 1994 Rwandan genocide, I was falsely accused then sent to jail. It was so hard for me; but as I was not the only one. I decided to move on with life. I met some godly men who got saved at prison, and they encouraged me. I was taught the Word of God and led to Christ. There I had an opportunity to read the Bible and spent quality time with the Lord in prayer.

After 7 years I got released from prison with the joy of having known my Savior. I must thank God for that experience, as I believe He isolated me from my family and used prison as a path to Christ. When I heard about Joy Christian Church in our neighborhood; I found it to be the right one for me to continue growing my faith in Christ. One of the things I appreciated is the love I found there. In fulfilling the greatest commandment, I think “love” is what most believers lack in our days; this must be restored. Please pray for me that I may love and serve Christ even more.

From Todd: Matching Donation Update: We reached our goal (and surpassed it) by raising almost $35,000 in less than 2 weeks! Our donor will match $22,000 with his $33,000 for a total of $68,000! Praise God and thank you! What a great way to close out the year and start 2018!

  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda

Matching Gift!

By Anna Nyhart,

A generous donor contacting me yesterday with an incredible offer.

He told me that he would match all donations between now and December 31st by 150%!

So for every dollar you donate he will donate a $1.50! He will do this for donations up to $22,000!

In this season of celebrating the greatest gift of all: God coming to us as a baby in Jesus. Give a gift that will be multiplied to City of Joy Rwanda! Your gift will be used to “make disciples of all nations!” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Here’s the link to give a tax deductible donation:   

  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda

Merry Christmas!

By Anna Nyhart,

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas from the Ellingsons!
Todd, Andria, Esther, Zeb, Eliza and Ella

A tax deductible year-end gift will help us reach our community for Jesus!

  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda

Baby Eliza Arrives!

By Anna Nyhart,

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil. 4:13

“My contractions are 4 minutes apart!” Andria told me Wednesday night as we were getting the kids ready for bed! “What? How did this happened so quickly?” I asked. Apparently she had been having mild contractions throughout the day but now they were getting closer together. Our first three children had all come very early (almost 2 weeks) so we had been waiting “not so” patiently for Eliza to come since it was one day past her due date. We drove into Thunderbird Banner Health where it was confirmed that it was time at 6 cm dilation! Being the 4th child this one could come quickly from here on out. The epidural was immediately ordered and during the epidural process the contractions came back to back. We looked at the nurse who was ready to call the doctor back! Was the baby coming now? On the same day that our 2 year old was born?

But after 15 minutes the epidural set in and allowed Andria to relax. It would be almost 4 hours now until Eliza to make an appearance. This was perfect timing as an antibiotic was administered twice as planned for strep G virus (which had been found weeks earlier) which needed 4 hours of drip time so help the baby not get the virus during birth.

Then the moment came! Pushing! And pulling! Yes, a sheet was handed to Andria to play “tug-of-war” with a nurse to help Andria “push” the baby out. The baby was so large that we began to realize that we were in for a long delivery. Then the heart monitor showed the baby’s heart beat laboring! The cord was around Eliza’s neck! A team of 6 people immediately appeared out of nowhere and stood ready for a “Plan B” if needed. The pushing (and pulling) became more intense as the heartbeat continued to drop. The doctor remained calm and determined which helped us focus as I was behind Andria pushing on her back to support her efforts. I began to recite Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd….” The doctor asked for a suction cup thingy to try to assist the delivery but wasn’t able to get a good hold on the head. “Ready. Push. 1, 2, 3……” as the nurse called out the mantra once more, Andria (who was as calm as a cucumber but determined as a pit-bull) began to push again. Finally the baby moved a little further and Eliza’s heartbeat was restored to a healthy range! The doctor looked at me and she gave me that look of relief and calm confidence that everything was going to be ok!

It seems like it took about 1 hour but finally Eliza came squishing out! Blue and a severe cone head– it made me do a double take wondering if the umbilical cord which was now over her shoulder had done any damage. But soon she began to cry and gasp for air. The small army of nurses shot into action and soon had everything under control! It was one of those moments when time stood still and a tear came to my eye as I had just witnessed the miracle of life! Eliza was ok. Mom was fine. In fact Andria chatted with the doctor that this birth wasn’t nearly as bad as her others! This of course made us chuckle together (the doctor and I) as we both had been a little bit more concerned!

Eliza weighted 9 pounds 13 ounces and was 21.5 inches long! She had a piercing newborn baby cry that has told us of her fighting spirit!

We arrived home on Friday 3PM and had a good first night at home. Andria’s mom spent the night with and is such a blessing! Thank you for your prayers!

  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda

Catholic to Islam to Joy Christian Church!

By Anna Nyhart,

Pastor Lambert shares the story of Beatha: This is a spiritual journey of Mukantwari Beatha. She is an interesting and happiest woman you can ever meet. Talking with her you won’t contain yourself, you’ll laugh all the way–as she makes jokes about almost everything and she takes life easy. She is free and upbeat! Beatha is a mother of four but you won’t guess it by looking at her. You won’t believe her first born is 20 years of age! “What kept you still looking so young Beatha?” If you asked her she would reply “Young? Really! I take good care of myself!”

From her childhood she learned to live a simple life as to avoid stress and stay in a healthy mood; since she was raised with only her mother. She grew up with her two siblings and their mother who had been separated from their father. That affected their upbringing in some ways, as they did not experience fatherly love! She grew up going to the Catholic Church and complied with everything about the church. She received all the sacraments: Baptism, Penitence, Eucharist and Confirmation.

Beatha was only 21 when she got married to a Muslim man. “How did you meet with him, Beatha?” My Aunt connected us. The man came, lectured to me about Islam until I was convinced and decided to marry him. Unfortunately after ten years we separated. “What happened?” There were some practices in Islam I couldn’t handle. Polygamy being the biggest! When my husband married a second wife; I got upset. I left him and came back to stay with my mother again! But, Beatha; didn’t you know Islam allows men to have many wives? No. I think this is the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life. I rushed into marriage without knowing some deep secrets of Muslims.

I felt disappointed and moved in with my mother. I had lost all hope with Islam! It’s been now 12 years ever since I separated with my husband. During this time I didn’t feel like going either to a mosque or any church. In 2015 when Joy Christian Church started I felt within me; “it’s time to go to church now”! My first time in this church was the best experience I will never forget! We sang, worshipped and heard the Word of God. I felt deep within: “This is a place to be!” A remarkable difference with Islam: No segregation between men and women. Normally in the mosque there is a curtain (Pazia) that separates men from women.

I have now understood about Jesus Christ; that He is the only way to God the Father and that salvation is by grace through faith. I got baptized in February 2016 and joined the Church choir! I want to surrender my life to Jesus and serve Him for the rest of my life! Please pray for me that I may stay on the right track with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda

Foot, Hand and Mouth Disease Hits Our House!

By Anna Nyhart,

We have been state-side for over 2 months and almost the entire time at least one of our kids has been sick. Coughing, running nose and slight fevers have plagued us. We thought Ella was coming down with strep since some of her friends had it. We found out that all three kids have Foot, Hand and Mouth Disease! Our new “concierge” doctor got us in within an hour of contacting the office. He took one look and said the blistery sores in Ella’s mouth and hands are sure signs! Foot, Hand and Mouth Disease isn’t serious but can be painful (and itchy) as we learned last night as Zeb was up until 2 AM with foot blisters! The virus just runs its course usually in 7-10 days but is highly contagious. Who would have thunk it! Foot, Hand and Mouth Disease has invade our house!

We appreciate your prayers for quick healing and restful night’s sleep!

  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda

Baby Update!

By Anna Nyhart,

God has blessed us with the pregnancy of our fourth (and final) child! Andria is due November 21st and we will have her (yes, another girl) in Arizona at a hospital. After birthing complications with Ella and Zeb we decided that if we would have anymore children we would do so in a hospital in the states.

Andria’s pregnancy has been difficult like her others. Morning sickness, back and hip pain have plagued her most of the 8 months. She is ready NOW to have her! Andria is as tough as nails but it is wearing on her. And with three little ones to care for it has been extra stressful on everyone. Please continue to pray for our family as we experience this incredible gift of life together.

“…for the JOY of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8



  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda

State of the Union!

By Anna Nyhart,

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

I had lunch yesterday with a friend and our conversation reminded me to write on this important subject: money! Since our mission is independent and we are supported solely by your generosity, I think it is important to have a frank discussion on this matter. Next month our new Board of Directors will begin monthly meetings where all major decisions will be made! Our organization has grown too large for “Todd and Andria” to run it! God is doing amazing things and now a Board of Directors of 10 individuals will manage it.

Our family has not drawn a salary in the 7.5 years that City of Joy Rwanda has been in existence. We have been able to come back to the United States each year for the past 5 years which makes some people a little uneasy. We understand that this isn’t what a “normal” missionary does. But this is what God has called us to do for now. There are a number of individuals that have specifically supported our family so we can return to the states annually.

We hope to one day to have a salary and to create college funds for our children and maybe even a little savings for our family. Please pray for our Board of Directors as they will be instrumental in the development of a plan for family’s compensation.

We do realize we aren’t “normal” missionaries.  And for some people we fall too far outside the “box”. But God has honored our commitment as it may be. We celebrated over 130 baptisms recently as God’s Kingdom expands in Rwanda!  If you feel like God has given you a different direction for our mission, we welcome your input. After all this is God’s ministry not ours!

  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda

Grateful for Goats!

By Anna Nyhart,

Our family arrived in Minnesota last month and now we are in Arizona. We head back to Rwanda January 9th. Down the road from us our good friends, the Arnolds, have 4 goats. Almost every day we take the kids to feed the goats. The goats love eating the tree leaves that are just out of their reach! I find it ironic that we have goats in Rwanda AND in the states and our kids LOVE them! It seems that goats are a bridge between cultures!

One of the lessons that God has been teaching me is how to equally value life (and people) in Rwanda and in the states. God obviously values both Rwanda and the states equally but I must confess that I have struggled with this. If I am to be a good disciple I must pursue, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that which I see my Master (Jesus) doing. Jesus valued people because God created them! So some how my children and their love for goats in both Rwanda and the states has brought God’s promises to my heart!

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:11-12

  Filed under: Todd's Blog From Rwanda