Today was a day for home visits. One of the things that Africa New Life Ministries does that’s unique is encourage people to visit children that they have sponsored. I’ve been told that many organizations don’t encourage that. That is one of the things that I already see as a strength. When we write to our children and they write back we develop a relationship. It becomes a high touch ministry and from what I have seen so far, the kids we deal with need touching.
Dave, Suzette’s husband and my daughter’s boss, led the team in a devotional that reminded us that we needed to be filled with the Spirit in all that we do. He also challenged us and reminded us to realize that what we’re doing here can be done at home as well. As we shared during the devotional time it was great to gain insights into the other members of the team.
We took off on our trip to Kayonza. Africa New Life does a lot of work through education. The children we sponsor are able to go to school because of our support. The school at Kayonza is fairly new. It began by taking kids in poverty; kids who were orphaned, kids who had lost a parent and were in poverty or other street kids. Very quickly, these outcasts of society formed the school that was #1 in the country. It now has an interesting situation where the elite of society want their children to go. They pay full price tuition so that their children can go to school along with these kids whom they would never pay attention to on the streets. One student who is supported by Suzette didn’t know English three years ago and now he is the 15th student in the country for his age. (He’s 17 or 18)
As we took off, we realized that we had left three of our teammates back at the guest house. This was not good. They were going to meet their child in Kayonza. This was especially not good. Lucy and I felt bad because we had eaten breakfast with them that morning and we didn’t realize they weren’t with us. Fortunately, we had only been gone a few minutes so we didn’t lose much time as we went back to pick them up.
The countryside was beautiful as we drove and it was cool after a torrential thunderstorm the night before. I should note that this is the dry season here. The rain was not expected. One of the interesting things along the road is the way people share the road. Vehicles, motorcycles – especially motorcycle taxis, bicycles and pedestrians all share the road. Yes, men and women carry some of the loads on their heads. Some bicycles were loaded with water cans, or bananas, or leaves, or even building materials. Bikes are usually pushed up the hills instead of ridden the roads are so steep. Turnoffs from the main roads tend to be on hills of about 70 degree grade or higher. The road markings – things like lanes – are only suggestions. Passing zones are not marked and cars and trucks will pull out almost at any time to pass a slower moving vehicle. A car might share a lane with a motorcycle taxi carrying a passenger. It’s a miracle that there are not more accidents on these roads.
We arrived at Kayonza and began the process of meeting kids. My wife and my daughter will tell you that I’m very emotional and cry a lot at happy endings. Today I was crying for happy beginnings and happy continuations as I saw sponsors and kids meet for the first time, or continue a relationship that had begun in years past. Watching Travis, a 17 year old young man traveling with his mother, met his brothers and sisters for the first time. Ted and Allana met their son whom they had been sponsoring for many years. Suzette meeting with all of her kids. Alyssa acting as a stand in for a sponsor who couldn’t be there. She explained to the young man that she wasn’t his sponsor. His response is the reason why we’re here: “No, but you are someone and you care.” We met at the school and learned some of the history. Many of the children live on the premises in children’s homes. Those who have family leave during the holidays. Those without families stay in the homes. Africa New Life seeks to get kids united with families so that they have someone to be with. Often, the families are distant relatives and while they recognize their duty to take care of their family, they don’t always treat the kids with love. Their sponsors may be the only people who show them affectionate love. These kids live for these short visits and the letters and contacts that follow. They feel the love and acceptance of God because we are here loving them.
We left the school and began making home visits. When we do home visits we bring gifts of food for the family and personal gifts for the sponsored child. The gifts and the visit truly elevate the child in the eyes of the family and the community. When we give the gifts we pray with the family members who are there. As we travel in the bus, we attract many stares. At one village, we heard the children cry out “Muzunga!” And they began running after the bus. We drove all the way through with kids running after and beside the bus. We were afraid that one of the kids might stumble and fall under the wheels of the bus. Thanks be to God everyone was safe. When we arrived at the home, a party broke out among all the children as we played football and kids fought over the plastic bottle that one of our workers put out for the kids to play with. Two empty plastic water bottles were quickly snatched up as toys, as prizes for the kids to play with. They may also have been gathered for kids to hold water for themselves.
In this house we visited the young man who had been raised by his grandfather. We were disappointed and alarmed when we arrived because the grandfather was not there. It was especially concerning because we were told that the grandfather was in the hospital with malaria. We were amazed and honored as he walked in on crutches. He was dressed in his finest suit to honor his visitors. The crutches were far too big for the man, but he came home from the hospital just to be there. We were extremely honored. Ted and Allana gave their son a picture of the family. The grandfather took it from him and prayed for the family. When given a Bible he held it high and told his grandson to hold God’s word in his heart.
After home visits we brought all the kids to an amusement park fit lunch and a chance to go on some rides. One of the things that our group does is seek to give kids opportunities they would never have otherwise. Although one of the kids talking to his mom at one of the Hotel lunches told his sponsor, “one day I’ll bring my wife and kids here and pay the bill myself.” One of the fears I’ve had about child sponsorship in the past was that it would breed dependency. What I’m seeing here is that the work that Is done with the money that is given is designed to lead to independence.
The kids enjoyed the food and the park. Driving in and out was amusement park like enough for the the adults. Alas, I it was time to say good bye to the kids. One van took the kids back to Kayonza, after finally prying sponsors from the kids they had come to love even before they meet them. When they actually met them face to face, though, the love just poured out.
One of the benefits we experienced was rain. Last night we experienced a major thunderstorm. It cooled off the land. We had rain during the day that cooled off the land as well. In fact, we were almost cold at times. It did warm up enough so that we were a little hot on the way home. We were comfortable though. So of you were worried about us being too hot, the weather has been good.
We were tired and quiet on the way home. No one really wanted to leave the kids, but we knew that we needed to. The important part, though, isn’t that we left them, it’s what we left them with. We left them with gifts, sure, but we left them with a sense of being loved by us and by God. We left them with hope for the future. We let them know that they had a future.
There is so much more that could have been said. God has moved in exciting ways. I’ll continue to share some of these thoughts after I return. We continue to receive ministry from God who uses some beautiful people from Rwanda to minister to us. May we be able to continue in ministry when we return to the States.