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Hello Again Friends

June 27, 2014

Looking at the last publish date, we should surely be ashamed. This has not been our main means of communication, but we have been reminded that different people like different types of information. So let’s give this another go…

At present, we are furloughing in America. It is a short run, only nine weeks. We began the trip with an immediate dash to Birmingham, Alabama, with jet lag close on our tails. Hosted by Homewood Church of Christ in Birmingham, we gathered with other ATN missionaries, and supporters for KumvaRwanda. The weekend was rich in story telling and prayer. We were blessed to have representatives of some of our supporting churches from as far away as Colorado, Illinois and Virginia. (I think we won the prize for bringing the most visitors from the most cities!)

We heard great feedback from the people attending, that now the big picture of our mission in Rwanda through ATN, is more clear.

We left early and drove hard to get the three younger boys to Camp Tahkodah in Floral, Arkansas. This is a highlight for them during our Summer trips to the States. They fill up on making friends and exploring their relationship with God on their own.

The two week time frame gave Marty and I the much needed window for a vacation. We made the most of the opportunity – from the Gulf Coast white sands of Florida to the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. We played, ate and rested well!

We claimed our boys from camp and began the more work-focused part of furlough; reporting on the work in Rwanda, interspersed with family visits. This week, we have or will be sharing with Bentonville, AR., Greenville, MS., Conway, AR. and Monticello, AR.

We hope to see you along the way. We will be traveling to Texas next week.



Master Development Plan

May 25, 2013

The number of masters of Taekwondo in Rwanda is growing at an alarming rate. Why is it alarming? Because, our goal is to help every master in Rwanda Taekwondo Federation to have a life strategy, receive an education, get a job or start businesses, and most importantly, become disciples of Jesus that make other disciples.

Sounds crazily ambitious and those who know me also know that I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Currently there are forty-four masters of TKD in Rwanda that we have trained and certified. The problem we face is that each year that number is doubling! That would have us at over 700 masters by 2016!


How can we possibly help that many masters stay in school, help them get employed, develop life strategies, etc…? The possibility is found in equipping instead of managing. To manage can be defined as “to dominate or influence someone by tact, flatter, or artifice. Inherently management reserves power for one or a few. To equip is defined as “to furnish with intellectual, physical, or emotional resources that are needed for use or undertaking. By nature, equipping transfers power from one to many.

The vision of our organization, Africa Transformation Network, is to create Kingdom Communities of Obedient Disciples Transforming and Redeeming Rwanda.

My belief is that the equipping of these masters and the natural transference and discipleship inherent to Taekwondo gives us the opportunity to carry out ATN’s vision in a very unique and explosive way.

Can you imagine with me the effect of these masters developing other masters, investing in them, and blessing them from their own experiences of transformed lives?

This is the aim.
This is the hope.

This is why I am investing the best working years of my life in the people of Rwanda and I believe it is a worthy investment for you too.

Equipped and ready for launch

May 23, 2013

He has waited all of his life for this moment.  Our son Tucker has always been old for his age.  He has always looked ahead and sought to plan out his life, long before his time.  We have sought to be intentional.  We have sought to prepare him.  We have sought to provide him with the training needed and times of testing to give him the opportunities to rise to the occasion of his life.  More than anything we have sought to show him the Father, teach him to be a disciple of Jesus, and help him to listen to and obey the Spirit.  

He has had many monumental experiences that give him unique skill sets and perspective.  He has lived in Africa since he was two living in and learning two very different cultures, customs, and languages.  Because of this he is pretty comfortable anywhere in the world.  He has climbed mountains and paraglided off of them.  He has spent nine years training in Taekwondo and has competed in the World Championships on Rwanda’s behalf.  He has scuba’ed in the Red Sea and prayed for direction from God on Mt. Sinai.  He has managed to become an Eagle Scout and for his project made a leadership training ropes/challenge course that was portable and gave it to and trained orphans from Rwanda’s genocide in using it to develop others and teach unity.  

He doesn’t have his driver’s license.  He has never been out on a solo date before.  He thinks that cool music is stuff of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.  He has never watched a ‘horror’ flick.  There are many things that he has not experienced of the culture of the US, but in this we are not afraid, because he is equipped and ready.  He has discernment.  He has a heart willing to follow and pursue God’s wisdom.  He knows what it means to be a faithful man.  

Next year will be phenomenal for him.  He will work for a cousin in Arkansas.  He will learn how to drive.  He will have a checking account.  He will have to finish his scholarship applications by himself and make his decisions on schools.  He will get to spend time with family.  He will travel by himself to many places in America.  He will fly back to Rwanda for a short visit and by himself travel to South Korea and France.  

Such a full life for such a short 18 years!

And, for the next year, I am sure he will live and undoubtedly live very very well.

Ready, set, launch.  

Godspeed Joshua Tucker KoonceImage


Lost post: final word on the leg break!

May 8, 2013

I found this ‘lost blog’ on my phone today. Needed to post it to thank some special people. On a note of healing I had my first workout on the bike today back on the road. Negotiating traffic wasn’t easy, but I was so thankful to be outside on a beautiful day riding through the hills of Rwanda.

The final word on broken leg:
I could not have made it without all of you. From Caleb who sat by my side and fended off the crowd and police as well as made the necessary phone calls and then spent nights with me in the hospital. To my dear bride, Louise who held me on the journey to the hospital, parented solo while I stayed there, postponed Christmas just for me, and then chauffeured me around as I stubbornly refused to stop coaching. To all the dear friends who came to visit me in the hospital (one even brought by a visiting uncle who just happened to be the stunts and action scenes director for the last twelve Bond films!). To all of you back home in the states who prayed and encouraged from afar. I thank you all and praise God for you. He made us for community. It is the unmerited favor of His love poured out through your love, concern, prayers, and service to me that has healed, sustained, encouraged, and given me peace. Again, thank you for being my family.

Wish I could run.

April 22, 2013

But, I am glad I can walk.  For the last six weeks or so, I have dreamed at least once per week that I can run again.  For those not knowing, I broke my left femur in two places three months ago.  I have run since I was five years old.  In all I have run around forty-one thousand miles in my lifetime.  Now, though, for the moment, I can’t run.  

Why is it that so often we just focus on what we can’t do and stay there?

I can walk, cycle, do Taekwondo, work … the list goes on, which is amazing considering my condition just three months ago.  In reality, though, the thought in my mind I keep coming back to is what I can’t do.  Maybe it is the goal in front of me that drives me on to rehab my leg, to run again.  

Possibly, it reveals something about our nature to lose focus on the now and instead obsess about loss of yesterday.  

In conflict with that is my constant celebration of what God has blessed me to be able to do since my accident, but then there is the question that nags … Will I run again?  

So many times our identity is wrapped up in parts of ourselves that have been lost in years gone by instead of being based on the now or on where we are headed.  I’m challenged by Colossians 3 to focus on the things of Heaven and Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12) because I typically am focusing on the yesterdays that prevent me from getting the most of today and being full of hope for tomorrow.

Will I run again?  No idea.  Hope so.  Better yet, I may not run, but because of Jesus, I know I will fly.

Rwanda Taekwondo’s First European Tour and discipleship to Jesus

April 13, 2013

In March we took the top four competitors from Rwanda in Taekwondo, one woman and three men, to compete in the German and Dutch Opens.  Supporters of our work in the U.S. had given us enough money for travel and accommodations, we made the arrangements, and the next thing we knew we were in Hamburg, Germany preparing to compete against countries from all over the world.  Each of the opens had around one thousand competitors and in many ways is more like a World Championships preview than the level of competition we experience in East Africa.  There were many first experiences for our team.  In Hamburg it actually snowed ten inches.  I had a tough time getting them in their beds the night before the competition as they wanted to watch it fall through the evening lights.  It was the first time for many of them to leave East Africa.  It was the first time for any of them to compete on the world stage.  It was the first time for them to win matches on the world stage (sorry no medals this time).  It was the first time to experience nonAfrican cultures and of course foods.  It was the first time for them to see an art museum (yes one of the players almost touched a van Gogh! – I caught her hand just in time).  It was the first time for them to ride in a boat as we did the canal tour in Amsterdam.  It was the first time for them to see buildings older than their country.  It was also the first time for them begin to see how God can use them to encourage their country of Rwanda.  The press was so excited about our trip that they did an airport press conference before we departed.  Many firsts and also many challenges.  Everything was faster, stronger, and smarter than any competition they had ever experienced.  Because they were unranked, most had to play the best in the world in each of their divisions.  Everything was more expensive.  One of the players commented that the meal our team just ate was equal to three months of their rent for their apartment.  It was a good thing they didn’t see the hotel bills!  Everyone competed well at least once and we realized how close we really are to winning on the highest levels.  Beyond all of that, though, there was Jesus.  He was in our every conversation.  He was in our every competition.  He was in our every situation.  His praise fell from our lips in victory and defeat alike.  And, the team brought him back with them.  In just one week after our return an additional player, who is also the East African Champion for his division asked if we would teach him how to be a disciple of Jesus.  How does the Kingdom grow?  I am not really sure, but I do know God will use all who are willing and He has chosen to use the sport of Taekwondo to grow it in Rwanda.  It is about being a disciple of Jesus and teaching others to be his disciples too.  Please continue to pray that God will raise up disciples through Taekwondo in Rwanda and use them to heal and reconcile their land.




Blessed with perspective

February 28, 2013

It was just another Saturday morning ride.  Had decided to take a week off from coaching and prepared to go for a thirty to forty mile cruise.  As I headed out the door, Tucker, my oldest son insisted that I not go by myself, but that I ask my friend, the triathlete Caleb, to accompany me.  He was available and within thirty minutes we were making the four mile climb out of the valley we live in towards the metropolis of Nyamata.  I remember it being beautiful weather and traffic was rather light as we cruised along conversing about our wives, kids, and work.  As we descended into Nyamata I got a little ahead of Caleb, averaging thirty plus miles per hour, and noticed a motorcycle taxi approaching in the opposite lane.  He wanted to turn into the gas station, its just that his timing wasn’t real good and I happened to ride right into his path.  I saw it coming just before impact and found myself yelling at him in Kinyarwanda (no translation available).  I heard and felt my left femur break and then I was laying down in the parking lot of a gas station. There aren’t reliable ambulances in Rwanda, beyond your wife and friends.  I knew I had broken my femur, I just didn’t know how badly.  My leg was swelling like a balloon with the internal bleeding, so I did my best to elevate it and keep it still against the other leg.  Spectators grew to a couple of hundred people and the police who were just 100 yards further down the road hustled to me to catch the motorcycle driver before he got away.  There was a lot of chaos around me and then there was my friend Caleb, putting his hand on my shoulder and asking me what we should do and if I was alright.  Peace.  First he prayed over me – healing and peace; then we started making phone calls to find a vehicle to pick me up.  The police hovered, the spectators grew in number and the Holy Spirit and Caleb comforted me.  First thoughts centered around the hope to walk again someday.  Other thoughts were of schedules to keep and fear of the interruptions in my plans the injury would cause.  I laid in the parking lot, thankful for the cushion that my helmet provided, post accident, and I conversed with God about sin and grace and lots of mercy.  It was a still moment that seemed to last for hours.  Periodically, the police would interrupt with hopes that I would take the next car into town as they were getting really embarrassed by me laying on the side of the road waiting on our car.  For the most part, though, I didn’t feel a lot of pain, as long as I was still, I just laid there quietly, breathing deeply and asking God’s mercy.  Two vehicles arrived about forty-five minutes after the accident and eight people picked me up and tried to gently put me in the back of the car (they weren’t hugely successful).  We had called the Taekwondo President, a resident surgeon, to help prepare the hospital for our arrival as well as an American doctor to meet us there.  Urgent care in most of Africa is not much of a reality, but I was impressed that after the thirty minute ride to the hospital people were actually standing in the driveway waiting to attend to us.  My friend the surgeon was on his way to the hospital from the Southern Province and somehow made it in just a couple of hours after the accident.  His arrival brought a lot of comfort and peace.  He is like one of my sons or nephews as he has no family other than a couple of younger siblings that he protected in his parents’ attic for three months after the rest of the family were all slaughtered in his front yard during the genocide.  Morphine is a good thing.  Especially when it is administered with good timing.  Too bad they didn’t have that when they set my leg.  I screamed like a girl.  The Rwandans just smiled and said, “Sorry.”  X-rays showed the break was just above the knee and that there was a shard that had broken off laterally about six inches long.  At this point we were praying for wisdom as to whether or not I would have to leave Rwanda, which I didn’t want to do.  I was looking at a critical time in my work of training the Rwandan Taekwondo Team and we had four major tournaments about to occur in just three months.  Two of those tournaments, the Gorilla Open and the East African Championships, I would be hosting and directing and I had no clue as to whether or not we would have to cancel the whole schedule.  Doctors discussed options and we looked at the capacity of the hospital and we decided to go for it, in Rwanda.  Dr. David had found one eleven inch long titanium bar in the stockroom with four screws.  They were going to surgically implant the bar inside my femur and secure it above and below with the screws and it would allow an active guy like me to recover more quickly, possibly walking in just four months.  The surgery went well and then it was time to start recovery.  I walked out on crutches to our car five days after the accident and three after the surgery.  By Saturday, one week after the accident, I was back coaching my team again.  Two weeks later we hosted and I directed the first ever tournament in East Africa to use the electronic scoring system and the first annual Gorilla Open Taekwondo Championships.  And now, just over two months later I am walking with just a cane, have started doing Taekwondo again little by little, haven’t missed one day of coaching and we just hosted the East African Championships which the men’s team won and Rwandans took away six gold medals and two silvers from.  Next week by God’s grace I take four players to the German and Dutch Opens in Europe.  All in all what can I say?  God is good and loving.  He spared me and my family from tragedy.  He gave me peace in the whole process.  He is the Healer.  I cannot believe the progress from a double femur break.  He does not put us to shame as it says in Romans 5:5.  Lastly, I would like to say that so much good has come out of this.  I had to be still for the first time in my life.  I had to learn how to walk again, which hasn’t been a bowl of cherries.  I had to be dependent on others for help.  He pulled me off the mat and made me watch my players, which made them a lot better as I could now recognize things they needed to change.  Truly, I am blessed to be alive and then blessed so much beyond that to have a purposeful life for Him and such an incredible family to share it with.  Amazing how a new perspective can come so quickly.