I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep so I went into the eating area to work on yesterday’s post about the trip. I’m running a day behind on my writing and was hoping to get caught up. It was so early the coffee wasn’t even made yet. I met Fred as he helped get things ready, though. I had heard the name as someone who was an important part of Africa New Life – and I met him as he was carrying heavy urns of coffee and water for us.
Lucy led the devotional. She did an amazing job of taking the story of Mephibosheth eeting David after his exile due to Absalom and reminding us that just as Mephibosheth had no rights in regard to David, but was treated with grace, we are in the same position with God. Still, He invites us to the King’s table and gives us the privilege of inviting others to the King’s table. Just an aside here, but I am so amazed at the ability and work of my wife. She knows her limits. She’s willing to stretch them and she does everything with high quality and grace.
After that, Lucy, Liz and I went down to the shop at the Africa New Life Ministries center. One of the things the organization does is teach women to sew so that they can make a living. As part of that, they have a shop that makes custom clothes as well as other items – purses, souveneirs, dolls, etc. We each got measured for something, picked out the fabric and then headed for the Daycare. Their website is http://www.newlifethreads.org do check out out!
The Dream Daycare Center began as a dream of one of our teammates, Tina. Tina is Suzette’s sister and realized that either ladies were bringing their infant children in with them during their sewing classes or leaving them at home while they walked to and from their classes. Tina had experience in Daycare work and set out a plan. The plan has been fulfilled and now the Dream Daycare Center cares for 25 kids while their mothers take classes in Sewing or Cosmetology. Reports are that these kids, when they graduate from daycare and go to school are leaders in their school. They sing songs at home about Jesus. They are taught by an amazing group of women that truly deserve the name “Dream Team.”
Then came the trip to Bugusera. While heading there we went over the Akagera river. The river winds all the way to Lake Victoria. During the time of the 1994 Genocide the river was a dumping area for bodies. The bodies floated ask the way to Lake Victoria. Remember Fred? He lived in Uganda at the time and his job was retrieving bodies that floated all the way to Lake Victoria. Fred is the brother of the founding pastor, Charles. He is an amazing man with a beautiful spirit. He is humble with a servants heart. I could only hope that I have the same gentle spirit if I ever had to feel with anything remotely as horrendous.
In some cases the swamplands around the rivers of Rwanda became hiding places for those the perpetrators of the genocide were seeking. As we traveled we learned that the Hutu majority had shown a pattern of oppression and murder since 1959. In the Bugusera area the persecution had been intense. In one instance a group of Tutsis has been placed in an area where tsetse flies were located. They were left to die slow painful deaths.
Then we arrived at Nyamata. The Nyamata Genocide Memorial is a raw remembrance of man’s inhumanity. The memorial is a church building where people had run to for shelter. Thousands of people crowded into the area seeking shelter. The militia broke through doors with hand grenades and shoot, sliced and killed everyone in the building. Bullet holes and shrapnel holes peppered the building and the roof. Blood stains were still evident, especially in the area where the infants and children had been gathered and thrown against the wall. The major reminder of the genocide was that all of the benches of the church and areas of the floor other than walkways were covered with clothes from the victims. They were piled about a foot high.
Outside we visited one of the mass graves. Skulls and bones were neatly arranged on shelves that stretched so far that ten people could stand in the aisles. There were about three layers of the shelves. It was one of the mass graves that was the final resting place for the 45,000+ people in the area who were killed. As we left the grave a lady who was cleaning the other mass grave there was pinned out. She was a survivor of the genocide. One of our members went to hug her and pray for her. He husband joined them. When they came back they reported that she tried to encourage them and that she prayed for them. The recovery and the forgiveness of the people of Rwanda amazes me!
Then we went to the hope of the future of Rwanda; the school at Bugusera and the children attending that school. While home visits were not on the schedule today we learned about the school. It had originally been built by the U.N. but the local authorities weren’t able to staff it. Africa New Life had developed such a reputation that the government asked them to run the school. ANLM reminded then that they would teach about Jesus which was ok with the government as long as they taught the state curriculum. So ANLM now runs the school. They have more kids than the school can handle already and they are working on getting another one in the area. They have many more kids who need to be sponsored in that area because the need is so great.
The kids are smart, too! We not only had some good conversations, the kids asked to use my camera. Before long, they were using it like pros! One benefit is that I have a lot of pictures of me for this trip. At first, I couldn’t get the kids to get in the picture with me but eventually they got in the pictures. Meanwhile my wife saw some kids that were hanging out in the background. She went over and talked with them. They wanted to find out about her country do they started asking questions: “In your country do you….” was the stem they used. Perhaps the most challenging question was when they asked if in our country did we love God. Lucy could only talk about herself and her love for God and her desire for people to love God in our country. We often think that because of our financial well being that we are poor-eminent in spiritual things also. The spiritual atmosphere in this country is something we could learn from. The spirit of forgiveness and restoration is also something we could learn from. We come to help meet physical needs and impart spiritual wisdom, but the wisdom we gain is far more than err impart.
When I came up Lucy was explaining that we didn’t have any mountain goats where we live. That was another one of those “do you have…” questions. It was difficult to describe flat coastal plains to people who live in Rwanda. It was an amusing part of the visit.
We brought the sponsored kids to lunch at a new hotel in the area. It was an experience that they would never have without our presence. It is an inspiration to these kids letting them see that they don’t always have to live in poverty. Again, the staff treated the kids with courtesy and respect and we had a fun time. The sad part of these trips is when we leave the kids knowing that in most cases we won’t have a chance to see them again for at least a year. I’ve said it before, but this short time with the kids in some cases is more love than they will be shown in a year.
It was a short day so we went out for coffee and then shopping. One of the fun things on the bus is interacting with great team members, getting to know them and laugh with them. Some of the younger team members were trying to learn some Kinyirwandan phrases and we had a great time laughing and trying to pronounce the words.
Shopping is a tricky process for Mzungu here in Rwanda…At last four me. On the one hand, err don’t want to pay Mzungu prices. On the other hand if we negotiate then down so much that they don’t make a profit are we helping them our hurting them. Obviously, they don’t go down in so far in price that they will hurt themselves, but it also won’t hurt us to pay a few dollars more for our trinkets.
As we met for our team debriefing tonight we heard an interesting story. Tina told us about a person in her home church who said that God had laid it on their heart to give them some money to help a family. She asked what she should do with the money and the friend told her something like, “I don’t know. Maybe you can buy a goat or something.” So, she bought a goat and had to lead it into town. She had a family in mind to bring the goat to. When she brought the goat the father was extremely grateful. As Tina looked around she saw that the family had no food. The father told her that he had prayed that morning that the kids would die in their sleep that night do they wouldn’t suffer from lack of food any more. Tina went to the school office, got enough food for the family for about a month and brought it to them. She discovered that two of the kids were looking for sponsors. She did a short video with each of the kids going to post it and find sponsors for the kids. She talked to her team about the situation and one of her team members volunteered to sponsor them on the spot. The father went from Praying for his children to die so they wouldn’t suffer to having a month’s worth of food, a goat that they later became pregnant with twins, and assurance of help for the family. What a difference in the life of that family. What a difference in the life of that new sponsor as her carrying followed her giving.
Tomorrow is our big day as we will get to meet or Rwandan daughter. It will be a long trip because there will come a point where there will be no roads where we are going. We’re learned a lot about how we can do a better job as sponsors from this trip and so we’re especially excited to get to meet Jesca, too get to know her, and to get to know her physical needs do that we can provide real hope. We also expect God to use Jesca and her family to teach us and make us grow spiritually.