Today was PACKED with stuff. I’ll do my best to summarize and shorten, but just settle in to your chairs cuz this might get lengthy.
Let me start by saying that mission trips rarely go as planned. Today’s entire day went almost nothing as we planned it. And while that may irritate type-A people like me, I know it’s totally God’s hand working. Our morning got a slow start due to some translational communication issues. We told our guide (Peter) that Jean Claude would be guiding us through the Genocide Memorial. Well, Peter understood that to mean that he wasn’t needed as our guide today, and was just going to take today off. We sat in the bus outside our hotel for about 40 minutes waiting for Peter (which in Africa, he would still be considered “on time”). Then we got in touch with him and realized the communication error. Whoops. Oh well, we’ll just head to the Genocide Memorial and meet Jean Claude there. Well, we show up (45 mins later than planned), and JC is not there. So we wait another 30 minutes. Finally, Emmanuel and Salomon, the other leaders of Best Family Rwanda, walked up and explained that Jean Claude was taking his mother to the hospital because she is not doing well. Of course we understood and continued on as planned.
The Genocide Memorial is a very heavy place. Our team visited last year, just as all VO teams to Rwanda do. Since the majority of our team has been to Rwanda before, most already knew the terrible history of the genocide in 1994. However, that didn’t make it any less powerful or sobering. It’s incredible to see how far God has brought this country in 19 years. It is truly a beautiful picture of Christ’s redemptive and restorative power. I will never get over the love and joy found in these people, in spite of their bloody past.
Afterwards, we went to Jean Claude’s law office and the Best Family internet cafe. It was cool to see it in person after hearing so much about it! It’s on a very busy street, and our big group of mzungus (white people) got several raised eyebrows from the locals. Then we enjoyed a buffet lunch together. It was mostly rice, potatoes, fruit, and a meat. There was also a tray covered with foil. I peeked under to see what it was, and the worker there thought that meant I wanted a whole bunch of it. He plopped a chunk on my plate and said “Maize…bread.” I looked at this big square chunk of white stuff that strongly resembled soap and thought, “corn bread? Hmm” Lemme tell ya, they have no idea what corn bread is. That junk tasted like eating uncooked grits. Officially my first Rwandan food that I could not stand.
Then (finally, 2 1/2 hours later than planned), we went to the home of Best Family Rwanda. I have been SO looking forward to this after Blake and I have been so involved in this ministry for a year now. It was everything I expected and more. We were greeted by many of the children (there were 50ish there today). Instantly, I was reminded of the feeling I had last year–that we come here to love these children, but they teach us so much about love. They don’t wait to know your name or your status or your similar interests. They just simply love you for being there, and that’s it. A lil girl of 10 years old named Belize grabbed my hand and didn’t let go. I had my arm around her and she would pull it even further around her so that we could barely walk we were so entangled. She didn’t care at all. (Granted, she might have cared if I slipped on the very treacherous terrain and took her down with me, but luckily we didn’t have to find out).
At the BFR house, the room was electric with energy. They sang and danced and did chants for us. They presented us each with personalized cards (how thoughtful is that?). They spoke many times of how we honor them with our presence and how much they love us. Seriously y’all, my face was hurting from smiling so much. I have never in my life been in a place that just bubbled with such overwhelming joy (ahem, American Church, take note). If I had more time, this could definitely be a blog post in itself. I cannot express just how much love was in that room.
In case you don’t know, Visiting Orphans’ motto is “Go. Be. Love.” and it reflects the emphasis they put on being relationship driven rather than task driven. Jean Claude announced that when he came to America, he asked the staff at VO to explain more about their motto. He decided that he wanted to implement something similar at BFR. So, beginning this year, BFR instituted a program called “Come and Be Loved.” On the first Saturday of every month, the BFR kids go to the house of someone in need and serves them however they can. They collect firewood, clean houses, bathe children, cook food, donate money, build latrines, and more. This floored me. BFR is made up of the poorest and most vulnerable children, yet they are the ones going out into their community and serving others. What a picture of Christ (ahem, American Church, take note), and a testimony to those in their community.
Anyways, tomorrow is actually the first Saturday of July, but because we are here visiting, they decided to have “Come and Be Loved” today instead. This is where things went even more off-book from the itinerary. Jean Claude said we would all be serving a family that lives in the forest and survives on very, very little. It’s a woman who has 5 children (3 of whom are in BFR), and her husband has a drinking problem and is often gone. Jean Claude said it would take about 15 minutes to walk there. Um…FALSE! Y’all…WE CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN. I am not kidding you. We just started following the BFR kids, having no idea where we were going, and the terrain got more and more rugged and steep. We straight up hiked at least 2 miles on a very steep incline on soft dirt that kept sliding out from under our shoes (there were a few falls, but no injuries). It took us over an hour to reach our destination (apparently we need to teach Jean Claude how to tell time, cuz no one could’ve made that in 15 minutes). The views on the way up were stunning. I can’t wait for y’all to see our pictures! The BFR kids are all apparently part mountain goat because they had no trouble at all traversing the mountain in flip flops.
When we reached the house, I paused to think about 5 young children, all under the age of 12, making that trek each day to get clean water in heavy jerry cans or to collect firewood. Then I imagined them making that journey with their infant little sister strapped to their backs. It’s nearly impossible to imagine, but they do it every day. The house itself is just a mud hut with no electricity. The leaders of BFR had given us all a small item of food to donate (like flour, sugar, etc.). They also bought a mattress so the family would no longer have to sleep on the dirt floor. Inside the house, we found Sahda, the mother, holding her infant child. We prayed over her and her children, and she prayed for us.
The house could only hold a few of us, so the rest of the BFR children stood outside. And once again, that bubbling, uncontainable joy could be heard. They were singing, shouting, jumping, hugging, and more. In fact, they had been singing and shouting all the way up the mountain (while the mzungus gasped for air). It’s so beautiful to see them all so happy together. They are a picture of “Confident Hope” that is BFR’s motto. We joined in and sang, danced, and laughed together. Unfortunately, the sun was going down, and we definitely did not want to climb down the mountain in total darkness, so we had to cut our visit short. Before we left, we prayed again for Sahda. We put her in the center of the circle and laid our hands, both white and black, on her. We all prayed together at one time for her in whispers, and y’all that was a GOD MOMENT. When there are about 60 people all praying to God Almighty, in multiple languages, all at once, on a mountain overlooking a city that has been restored to beauty after horrific tragedy, God. Is. There. It was powerful stuff.
We climbed down the mountain and returned to our bus. Then returned to our hotel for dinner, worship, and team debrief. It was an incredible, unplanned, beautiful joy filled day. I can’t wait to go tomorrow to spend the whole day with BFR! I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂
P.S. Thanks for the concern about yesterday’s hair dryer fiasco. My hand has been trembling all day, but the fireman on our team says as long as I can still feel it and move my fingers then I’m good.