Thursday, 14 December 2017

TOUCO Idaho Non-profit Helps Tanzanian Orphans

Jul/ Aug 2017

 


 

 

Fr. Bruno, Ronald & Kids: Ronald Rugimbana, far right, is a native Tanzanian whonow lives in Boise and works at Hewlett-Packard. Next to him is Father Bruno Mgaya, who started homes for orphans in Tanzania. The woman on the far left in the red headscarf is one ofthe matrons that Fr. Bruno selects to help care for the children. (Courtesy photo)

By Gaye Bunderson

Ronald Rugimbana learned the truth behind the saying “it's a small world” when his mother came to Boise from Tanzania to visit him one year. He had come to the U.S. from Africa in 1998 on academic and tennis scholarships to Boise State. Following graduation and a career in professional tennis, he set up home in Boise and got a job at Hewlett-Packard.

While here, his mother decided to go for a walk one day. Along the way, she came to St. Mark's Church and went inside. There, she met Father Bruno Mgaya, who was a priest at the church at the time. She discovered that Fr. Bruno, as he is frequently known, was also from Tanzania. When she got home, she asked Ronald if he was aware a fellow Tanzanian lived so close by. He admitted he was unaware of Fr. Bruno.

That was eight years ago, and Ronald is now very familiar with the beloved priest. Fr. Bruno started Tanzania Orphan's Upendo Community to help children in his native land. After Ronald got to know Fr. Bruno in Boise and became aware of his work, he traveled home to Tanzania for his annual visit. He and his mother drove to see one of Fr. Bruno's four orphanages, the one in Mafinga. “We wanted to cross-check and make sure of what Fr. Bruno had told us,” Ronald said.

Indeed, there stood the orphanage, just as Fr. Bruno had said. Ronald decided he wanted to dedicate his time to Fr. Bruno's work, helping raise funds back in the U.S. and visiting the children and assisting where he could when in Tanzania. He joined with other people at St. Mark's to form a TOUCO board of directors and became close friends with the current board president, Kevin O'Sullivan. Both men are immigrants to the U.S.; Kevin has lived here 32 years and worked as a civil engineer at Trus Joist in Boise prior to his retirement. The former New Zealander designed the roof structure for the Kibbie Dome at the University of Idaho.

Ronald was 'all in' when it came to TOUCO before Kevin signed on, and said, “I am so grateful Kevin showed up for duty.”

“My life has been blessed and wonderful and successful,” said Kevin. “I give myself freely to the undertaking.”

Both men share a high regard for Fr. Bruno. Central to the priest's motivation for starting the orphanages is the fact he, too, grew up as an orphan in Tanzania. As a frightened child, he slept under trees and scrounged for food. Despite being on his own, however, he stayed in school — a Herculean task for a small, lonely boy. He now has a Ph.D. in sociology, among other degrees. (For the full story, go to www.touco.org.)

Fr. Bruno envisioned the orphanages as a small family unit — they are in fact called “family centers.” He incorporated a matron program into each orphanage. Women ages 24 to 55 who are widows, single moms or never married live in the orphanages and take care of the children. It is often a bonus for the matrons, as they may otherwise be just as unfortunate as the children.

People in Tanzania are looking for opportunities, Ronald said, and may want to work at the orphanages just for that reason; but Fr. Bruno has a filter for getting just the right people with the right motivation, which is to love the children.

“The matrons are ladies who want to give back, and they devote themselves to taking care of the kids. They come from not-so-good areas, so it's a win-win for the women,” he said.

Both Ronald and Kevin praise Fr. Bruno's ideas about self-sufficiency and what they call his “self-sustaining mindset.”

“He's got a good recipe,” Kevin said. “I was delighted with what I saw when I went there.”

“Fr. Bruno made it very clear he did not want an organization that just relies on donations. He wants sustainability,” Ronald said.

Local people in the communities of Mafinga, Ibumila, Madeke and Uwemba, where there areUpendo Family Centers (“upendo” is Kiswahili for “charity and love”) donate their knowledge.That may include instructions on growing a garden or milking cows. Each child must contribute to the well-being of the orphanage by working at various tasks.

“He builds independence in them,” Kevin said. “Fr. Bruno is a clever person, and he does hishomework. His doctoral thesis was on how to help orphans become better contributors to society.”

Each orphanage has one acre of land attached to it, with wells and a septic tank.

Land is surveyed and utilized.

“Fr. Bruno has pineapples and avocados growing — he's a horticulturist, too,” Kevin said.

“Fr. Bruno has intensity. His Ph.D. defined him even better,” Ronald said.

The former tennis player explained the reasons behind the number of orphans in Tanzania include migration, health issues and poverty. Fr. Bruno resists labeling the orphans — such as referring to them as “AIDS orphans” — and said they are all children of God, and that's the only label he wants for them.

TOUCO does need some initial funds to get the orphanages up and running and, at present, to keep them running at full steam. That's where the board of directors comes in. TOUCO is an Idaho 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“We have very low-key fundraisers,” Kevin said. “People who know Fr. Bruno know he's a very loving personality. ... It's been exciting. The money just seems to come. Americans are very generous.”

“People on the board have faith and the spirit to give it back. We are driven by helping othersand sharing what we know,” Ronald said.

Kevin explained that by American standards, the orphanages are very modest in structure andhave limited operating budgets. But both men said there is a palpable sense of happiness amongthe children.

“They have nothing, but they are joyful,” Ronald said.

On one trip, Kevin wanted to teach the children baseball. There was no equipment, so the matrons fashioned a baseball out of whatever they could find. It was a day of fun for everyone — even with a makeshift ball.

For more information, go to touco.org. Ronald Rugimbana may be reached at ronaldrugi@gmail.com.

Farrell Ramsey Serving others as a deputy and chaplain

Nov/Dec 2017

 


 

 



Farrell Ramsey is both a law enforcement officer and a chaplain with the Elmore County Sheriff's Office. He leads a “cop church” every Sunday at his home. (Photo by Gaye Bunderson)

By Gaye Bunderson

First responders frequently see the worst of life: car wrecks, suicides, human cruelty. It can affect them at a deep level. Farrell Ramsey is there to make sure they can cope and carry on, with both their careers and their lives. He is a source of warmth in an otherwise frequently cold profession.

Ramsey is a certified law enforcement officer and chaplain with the Elmore County Sheriff's Office. Originally born and raised in North Carolina, his father was pastor at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Mars Hill. Ramsey met his wife Janet there — he was 6 and she was 5.

“She's my childhood sweetheart,” he said.

Ramsey followed his father into the ministry, and in the 1990s, when residents of the Pine-Featherville area wanted to start a church in the community and needed a pastor, he took the job. He was married to Janet by then, and two of the couple's children came with them, while their oldest child remained behind in North Carolina.

Ramsey was trained in logging and tree-trimming and worked for the Forest Service as projects came up. He and Janet held church in their house on Sunday and homeschooled their two children on weekdays. The small, home-based church was called Boise River Baptist. There was a one-room schoolhouse in Pine at the time, and the teacher there attended church at the Ramsey home and helped them out with homeschooling.

Ramsey also joined the Pine volunteer EMTs, which led to his becoming a part of the area search and rescue team.

In 1997, Robbin Ellis, then the resident deputy in Pine, needed a reserve deputy and asked Ramsey if he'd fill in. Back then, it was only a part-time volunteer position, but Ramsey stepped up to help Ellis out.

In 2002, he became a full-time deputy “in the hills,” as he refers to the Pine-Featherville area, and continued to pastor the church. He eventually studied at POST, or Police Officers' Standards and Training, in Meridian; in 2007, he started working as a patrol deputy at the sheriff's office in Mountain Home, leaving the hills and taking a job in the 'city.'

“It was pretty quiet when I left up there, but it was getting really busy,” he said, attributing the increase to a heavy influx of tourists.

The church he started remained in Pine and is now known as Mountain View Community Church; Ramsey and his wife brought Boise River Ministries down to Mountain Home. Now 62, Ramsey decided to continue his dual careers in law enforcement and ministry after newly elected Elmore County Sheriff Mike Hollinshead asked him about working as a deputy sheriff-chaplain.

“The two jobs are more similar than you'd think,” Ramsey said. “I love what I do; it's the best job in the world.”

He holds a “cop church” in his Mountain Home house.

“Cops fall between the cracks in church services,” he said.

He explained there are several reasons for this, including: they work odd hours; they carry pagers that may go off during a service; and they tend to have strong personalities. All that makes Ramsey's church perfect for them.

“We can work with their weird schedules, and pagers can go off — even mine,” he said.

As for their so-called strong personalities, Ramsey has nothing but admiration for anyone in the first line of defense when danger arises.

“They're a special breed, and I love them,” he said. “They can't be thin-skinned. They're under extreme stress.”

When he is called out to any sort of crime scene, whether a DUI crash or a homicide, he is also there for crime victims; but, he said, “My first concern is for deputies. Cops are different. They can't come apart at the scene. You have to be a rock.”

He wants to help the people who have to be strong for others' sake.

“They need to deal with the stress or they're going to come apart,” he said.

Out on the street, officers may project an in-control persona, but when they speak to Ramsey in his capacity as chaplain, nothing is off the table.

“As first responders, they have to be objective and thorough, but the emotions are there. I want to be their safety valve. They have to be okay on the scene, but when they come into my office and we close that door, what is said in the office, stays in the office,” Ramsey said.

Even in smaller communities such as Mountain Home these days, heinous crimes are sometimes committed.

“There is no 'Mayberry R.F.D.' anymore,” he said.

The sheriff is fully behind Ramsey's work.

“What Farrell does is very valuable to this agency. He brings an avenue to officers that deal with stress and emotional issues. He gives them an open door that they can go in and deal with it,” Hollinshead said. “He goes to their house and talks to them and helps them start the healingprocess. It helps them deal with the emotions of our day-to-day job that we deal with, the visuals, the things we see.”

Did Ramsey originally picture himself in the role he's now been cast in?

“I'd like to say I planned this cop church,” he said, “but it just happened. It fell into my lap. I believe God designs us for what he wants us to do.”

He admits he deals with the same potential for burnout as any other person in law enforcement, despite the “chaplain” in his title. He said he copes by being a fitness buff and by living with his best friend.

“My wife is my No. 1 go-to person,” he said.

She is involved with outreach as well.

“She counsels with some of the ladies. She's instrumental in working with cops' spouses,” Ramsey said.

He asserts that, despite everything, studies still show the primary reason people choose to work in law enforcement is to help other people. In that way he's right: being a deputy and a chaplain aren't as different as you'd think.

Cowboys for Christ: Gospel in the Rodeo Arena

September/ October 2017

 


 

By Gaye Bunderson

Ridin’, ropin’ and gettin’ right with God: Cowboys for Christ has come to Idaho.

Mike Locknane, chairman of the men’s ministry at Ten Mile Community Church, said he went looking for a ministry targeted toward cowboys when his grandsons decided theywanted to participate in rodeo.

“I had two grandsons who wanted to ride bulls, and I wanted to get them involved in something,” Locknane said, explaining he wanted a faith-based organization that would fit the young men’s interests.

Locknane started looking. And looking. And looking.

“I should have dropped it because it wasn’t going anywhere,” he said.

Every faith-centered cowboy group he tried to connect with ended up getting away from him like a calf slips from a poorly thrown lasso. Still, he kept trying. For 6 to 9 months, he said, he tried to find an organization for his grandsons, one that he could openup for other cowboys as well. He felt spiritually motivated to do so, he said.

Then one day, he experienced one of those coincidences that, in the end, seems a lot more like something divine and a lot less like “just a coincidence” — he invited Pete Blockhan to church, and Blockhan showed up.

Blockhan wears a cowboy hat and boots and fits the mold of the American cowboy to a“T.” Locknane started to tell him how he wanted to start a Christian group based on rodeos and livestock. Something in Blockhan just jumped with excitement — he had personally known Ted Pressley, founder of Cowboys for Christ. Finally, Locknane found his connection.

“It’s incredible. It’s so obvious when it’s a God thing and not a me thing,” Locknane said.

A wrinkle in the plan was that Pressley had passed away. But when Blockhan contactednew Cowboys for Christ president Dave Harvey, the chute opened. A chapter of Cowboysfor Christ launched in September of 2016, with Blockhan attending the District 2 High School Rodeo in Homedale as his first ministry opportunity.

Locknane’s grandsons not only participate in Cowboys for Christ, they are listed as founders of the local chapter, along with a friend. The young men include: Dillon Green, 21; Bryan Green, 18; and Clayton Snow, 19. Rodeo cowboys to the core, they got baptized in a stock tank in a rodeo arena. When Blockhan attends rodeos — and he feels high school rodeo is his main calling —he has a display full of The Christian Ranchman newspapers, as well as Gospel tracts. Hewears a special belt and belt buckle that announce his faith in God. Locknane, who owns Locknane Accounting in Nampa, runs the business end of the organization. Costs for the nonprofit include Bible study materials and travel costs for Blockhan.

Blockhan quotes Matthew 16:15 as the guiding Scripture for what he does: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

“I want to get God’s word out there and get people saved,” he said.

Through the main branch of Cowboys for Christ, which is headquartered in Fort Worth,Texas, he achieved status as an ordained chaplain. “It’s a regular course of study — nothing too difficult,” he said. “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

And in fact, he wants more people to do it. He needs more rodeo enthusiasts to get ordained and help him meet needs at rodeos around the state.

“Christianity is moving through rodeo cowboys like it moved through auto racing,” Locknane said.

Membership is open to both men and women and includes anything to do with rodeo and livestock, including cutting and roping events, and 4-H and FFA chapters. Women arealso welcomed to become chaplains. Said Blockhan: “We need ladies ministering to ladies.” There’s plenty of enthusiasm for rodeo among women, who participate in such events as barrel racing and queen competitions. (In fact, there is a Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and all-female rodeos, where women compete in breakaway calf roping, tie-down calf roping, team roping, bareback riding and bull riding, in addition to the barrel races.)

Locknane tells the story of how Blockhan conquered the Riggins Rodeo.

Traditionally the first Idaho rodeo of the year, the Riggins Rodeo has a reputation for being wild and rowdy, with plenty of drinking among the fans. “Pete went up there and asked the announcer if he could pray before the rodeo,” Locknane said. The announcer said he’d have to ask the board chair, but Blockhan eventually got the go-ahead to start the state’s rowdiest rodeo with a moment of prayer.

Both men said that, as far as they know, it was the first time in the 69-year history of the rodeo that a public prayer preceded the rodeo action. Turns out, the rodeo clown was a Christian and kept pointing Pete out during the event and telling the crowd he was holding a Cowboy Church, which Pete actually does. Blockhan never expected the clownat the Riggins Rodeo to show such enthusiasm for the ministry.

“The Lord has blessed this,” he said.

Locknane and Blockhan believe people can and should be reached wherever they’re at.Though church can be a literal structure with pews and pulpits, believers — and potential believers — are all over.

“We go to church to learn to reach people,” Locknane said, pointing out that Jesus preached on hillsides and lakeshores. Everywhere a Christian goes is a place to minister, he said.

Blockhan believes with all his heart that a great revival is coming. When it does, he’ll be doing his part to tell people about Christ in the dust, danger, thrills and excitement of the rodeo grounds.

For more information, contact Mike Locknane at 208-880-5675 or locknane@hotmail.com; or Pete Blockhan at 208-391-8984 or bootheart99@yahoo.com.(Blockhan said it's all right to text him.) The national Cowboys for Christ website is at cowboysforchrist.org.

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