Hey everybody! We have a little bit of extra time at the hotel tonight, so today’s post will include yesterday and today (Monday and Tuesday), and then we’ll be all caught up.
Yesterday, I woke up not feeling so great. I had a VERY sore throat that made it difficult to swallow. I also had symptoms of a sinus infection with sneezing, congestion, coughing, etc. And to top it all off, my stomach was having some bathroom problems, if ya catch my drift. The sinus stuff was bad, but to have stomach issues when you’re out in a village where there are no toilets is even worse. So I took some medicine and prayed I would feel better. Thankfully, my stomach did feel better soon, but the sinus infection lingered and really just made me feel weak and fatigued. Plus, me and other members of the team were feeling a bit emotionally drained after saying goodbye the day before to our other BFR kids. Blake has also developed the cold symptoms (along with a couple team members) so please be in prayer for our health and that we would be energized!
In spite of feeling sickly, I was still excited about seeing Gasharu village after hearing so much about these new children. First I’ll give you some background: In April, Best Family Rwanda welcomed 30 new children from Gasharu, ages 2 to 11, into their family. This is a “Genocide village” where homes were given to widows and orphans of the genocide. It is a very poor community. Very few men live here as it is almost all women and children. In this culture, it is difficult for a woman to find work, especially if she also has to care for children all on her own. Many of the mothers are very young and are victims of rape or of just being taken advantage of by older men. When the girls get pregnant, the men deny that they are the father and provide no support. Also, many of the children are being raised by people who are not their parents (like grandmothers, aunts, etc.) because they were abandoned or their parents had died.
So yesterday, on our last day to spend with the BFR, we visited these 30 children in Gasharu. The morning was EXHAUSTING but tons of fun. As always, when we got off the bus, we were rushed with kids as they grappled for hands and arms to hold. A 10 year old girl named Sanyu and a 4 year old boy named Pascience (or Pas as we called him), latched onto me. As with all BFR activities, it was mostly comprised of singing and dancing. Since all of these kids are under 11 years old, it was SO CUTE seeing all of their little bodies wiggling and their sweet high pitched voices. They had prepared a few dances and songs for us. My favorite part was when all the kids stood up front, and one of the BFR leaders would point to them and say things like “What are your dreams?” “What do you wish to be?” “How will you help others?” and so on. They all answered without hesitation, “I want to be a teacher!” “I want to fight for the rights of children!” “I want to be a nurse!” and y’all after being there only about 15 mins, it was starting to hit me what an impact BFR makes on these kids. I mean, 4 months ago, they probably didn’t have any dreams or goals. They weren’t in school and lacked the “Confident Hope” of Jesus that Best Family instills in its children. It was really moving.
Soon, they joined us in the dance party. I kid you not, we danced for nearly 3 hours straight. We did traditional Rwandan dances, we did a conga line, we taught them the macarena, we did the hokey pokey, and mostly we just swung and spun kids as they giggled. All of us were POURING sweat by the end of it. It was a serious cardio workout, y’all. I think I burned 3 times as many calories as I ate that day. Afterwards we had a little free play time before lunch. Some played soccer, painted faces, blew bubbles, colored, etc. We also had balloons which were a huge hit. No matter what country you’re in, no one wants to let that balloon touch the floor. No one.
After lunch, we went on home visits. We split into 2 groups, and we each saw half of the children’s homes. We continued to take pictures for the sponsorship program as well. So for the next few hours, we walked all over the village, meeting families, shaking hands, and learning more about these kids’ lifestyle. All the homes are made of clay. Some were only one room the size of a closet while others were several rooms with decent space. But no matter the size of the house, the stories from the families remained the same: “this child’s parents abandoned her” “this one’s parents are dead” “this one has HIV” and so on. Whether or not they had a large living room did not change the fact that these children are living without parents and without the means to go to school and have a better life…until BFR that is. All the families were SO thankful to BFR for providing school fees and insurance. Not only the kids, but their parents also were given hope through this program.
So finally, after a looooooonnnng day of playing and dancing and singing, we went back to the hotel for dinner. But our day didn’t stop there…Jean Claude asked if Blake and I could meet with him, Emmanuel, and Salomon about the future of BFR, the sponsorship program, etc. So the 3 guys came over to the hotel to have dinner with us and then we met together afterwards. Um…how bout our “lil meeting” lasted FOUR HOURS! It was a very successful and very detailed meeting. I’m really glad we were able to have that discussion because it’s so much easier talking in person rather than through emails. Our team member and Best Family Ministries secretary, Kim, joined us and took minutes. We are so grateful for her and her 10 pages of notes!
After the crazy long day, not feeling well, and being super emotional about leaving BFR, I was SO ready for bed. We still had to pack, and I still had to blog so it was 1 AM before I got to bed and then I woke up at 5:30. Needless to say, I woke up this morning still not feeling so hot, and Blake and I both felt a little worse than yesterday. But thankfully today was not quite so busy.
This morning we drove from Kigali to Gisenyi. It’s the same road we drove last year with breathtaking views. The lush green landscape, the volcanoes towering in the sky, the waterfalls, and even the monkeys on the side of the road all make for a truly beautiful drive. Once we got here, we went to No. 41, a ministry that employs women from Noel orphanage to make bags, and other sewn goods. Each bag sold feeds a kid for a year, so it’s a really really cool ministry. It feeds kids and provides women who grew up in the orphanage with a consistent income. We also visited His Imbaraga which is very similar. The difference is it is men who grew up in the orphanage, and they make leather goods. We were very excited about going there because we sponsor a young man named Alsen. Totally thought his name was Arsene before today because that’s what he has on Facebook…In fact I’m still not sure which is correct, but whatevs, we love the guy. He recognized us instantly so that was cool. He speaks very little english but that didn’t matter.
Lastly, we went to Noel Orphanage for a very brief visit to say hello and let them know we will be returning later this week. We visited here last year, and it was an awesome experience. There were over 600 kids living there last year, and it was like being in a giant mob when you stepped off the bus as kids all tugged and pulled at your fingers, wrists, waist, and clothing. They were all clamoring to be held. This year, however, most of the kids are now going to boarding school through an awesome program called His Chase. So the only kids at the orphanage are the little babies who are too young for school. It was eerily quiet walking into Noel without the hundreds of kids screaming and mobbing us. It’s super disappointing to not see Nirere and Emmanuel, my two kids that I fell in love with last year. They are the ones that accepted Jesus as Savior the last day I was there. I long to ask them about their walk with God, about the Bible that I gave them and what they’ve learned. But I know it’s for the best that they are in school. Empty orphanages are a good thing. Several of the team members do feel a great deal of disappointment at not being able to see their kids from last year so please pray that God will heal our hearts in that area.
After our quick stop at Noel, we came back to the hotel. We are so glad to have gotten in a bit earlier as we are all feeling exhausted and weak, several of us battling sickness. Please pray for strength and healing! Thankfully tomorrow is our “day of rest” so hopefully we can recharge our batteries then. Thanks for your prayers.