Monday, December 26, 2016

Touching the red soil of Africa!

Most of 2015 was spent working hard until the end of May 2015 when I was laid off from a 13-year career due to Calgary’s economic downturn. I finally landed a permanent position at a small family-run company at the beginning of September. They honored my previously-arranged trip to Rwanda in October 2015 to visit my Compassion sponsored children, for which I was very grateful. Before I knew it, I was packing my bags for my first trip to Africa – how exciting! I was met at the Kigali airport by my dear friend François and his son Yves, who is my unofficial godson. It was so heartwarming to meet this precious 7-year-old boy who welcomed me to his country with a bouquet of red roses. The following day I joined François, his lovely wife Lucie and their other son Imena at a Salvation Army church service where François and Lucie are on the leadership team. Post-service they hosted me in their home where we exchanged gifts and a lovely time of warm fellowship.

I was anxious to meet the members of my Compassion U.S. sponsor group who were arriving a couple of days later to start our tour of select child development projects in Rwanda and to meet our sponsored children. While most of the sponsors were there to meet one child, I had much more to prepare my heart for as I was meeting 11 children. How was my heart going to handle the emotion of meeting so many children on one day? God took care of that by arranging various visits for me throughout our tour with smaller groupings of my children, which gave me more one-on-one time with my kids. The second day of our tour had us boarding our bus to head three hours south of Kigali to a rural city called Butare where we stayed for three days and visited three Compassion projects.

As I had left my heart and soul in Bolivia in 2014, I thought that no other experience could match it – but then God had a different plan! He brought me to Rwanda, a country and people that forever changed my outlook on the world. From the atmosphere of reconciliation and restoration permeating their society after the horrors of the 1994 genocide to the warmth and resilience of the people, I found myself quickly falling in love with Rwanda. If I could choose one word to describe my experience in Rwanda, it would be “overwhelming”. God has an incredible way of stretching your heart beyond anything you could humanly believe possible.

Our second full day in Butare (October 14th) had us visiting a child development project in nearby Bugina where they had never received a visit from foreign sponsors. We were blown away upon entering the church to hear 200+ children singing us a welcome song they had composed in their beautiful Kinyarwanda language, followed by traditional dances and an acapella children’s choir. One of my correspondent children (Olivier) attends this project so I was able to spend quality time with him and his beautiful family in their home.

Thursday, October 15th saw us visiting a Child Survival Program (CSP) in the morning where one of my sponsored teens attends. As he was writing a national exam in the morning, he could not be there so was invited to join our sponsor group at a leadership dinner later that evening. During the afternoon, we were led on a tour of the University of Rwanda-Butare by five former sponsored children who were now completing their time in Compassion's Leadership Development Program (LDP) - Damascene, Fred, Samuel, Alexandre and Asifiwe. 

Fred and Damascene, two of the LDP students, were invited to give their testimonies at our dinner that evening. After returning to the hotel, I anxiously awaited the arrival of my wonderful 14-year-old sponsored son Blaise, who captured my heart the moment I met him – our time together was pure joy and the memory of that moment will remain with me forever. As he is an orphan, Fred and Damascene have taken it upon themselves to play the role of his big brothers!

We headed back to Kigali on October 16th, visiting a couple more projects along the way. Each project church put on their own unique presentations of cultural dances and singing, which were a huge blessing to all of us. We also learned how Complimentary Interventions are providing essential services such as clean water and toilet facilities at these projects.

On Saturday, October 17th I had the pleasure of meeting three of my older teens Yvonna, Claudine (who had travelled 6 hours on a bus to see me) and Emmanuel, while the rest of the tour group visited a nearby project centre. My three teens had to write their national exams on the official Child Visit Day, therefore had to meet me earlier than planned. It was a blessing to be able to chat with them in a smaller group setting, which lessened the amount of kids I would be meeting on Child Visit Day. Sunday, October 18th was spent at a local Kigali church who also host a Compassion project. That evening was spent preparing our gift bags for our sponsored kids.

Monday, October 19th was the BIG DAY!! Child Fun Day with our sponsored children!!! The emotions flowing through my heart were overwhelming!! We boarded the bus early in the morning and arrived at the Bambino Super City amusement park to await the arrival of our children. One-by-one the children were brought in to meet their sponsors. And I was honored to meet my children first, as I was meeting the largest group of children – 8 in all. I was overwhelmed and thrilled to meet them all (Derrick, Solange, Therese, Ruth, Emanuel, Protais, Benitha and Bryan). I prayed that God would stretch the walls of my heart to allow me to fully experience the emotion of meeting my Rwandan kids and my prayers were answered.

The U.S. sponsor group returned to the States and I stayed on for a few days and set up individual home visits with my two 17-year-old boys who live in Kigali suburbs – Emmanuel in Ndera (October 21st) and Derrick in Kayenzi (October 22nd). Words aren’t adequate to express the incredible blessing it was to meet their families and to visit their homes. In a society that tells them they don’t matter, with me being there in their homes in that moment instead of choosing to be somewhere else was so significant to them as it showed them that they DO matter and ARE important.

I will never forget the wonderful experience I had been blessed with in Rwanda, and I pray that God will continue to use me to fulfill His plan for my life, to reach “the least of these” wherever they may be and to release children from poverty in Jesus’ precious name!

Jesus states in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked”. Feeling so grateful for the honor and privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus in blessing and giving hope to the beautiful Rwandan people in 2015, sharing the overabundance of blessings that God has poured out upon my life!

1 comment:

  1. It's so fun to revisit your trips!! Thanks again for taking a gift on our behalf to Rwanda.