Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Friends on a Thousand Hills - Rwanda Part 6

I don’t know how to describe the joy of this day, and yet it brought so many tears.

I am here in Rwanda with Africa New Life Ministries on what they call a Vision Trip, but what I refer to as an education endeavor - educational for me. I am not here doing any great mission work or providing medical treatment. I am just myself, visiting the different ministries of Africa New Life, learning about their organization and learning so much about Rwandan culture and its delightful people. Honestly, my main motivation in coming here was my Congolese/Rwandan friends in Boise. I wanted to know more about them. How they lived. Their culture and the beauty of their adopted country.

Africa New Life has been so kind to me. Please each one of you, please, please consider sponsoring a child. They change entire families! They allowed me to skip a day of the official itinerary to visit my Boise friends’ grandmother in the western province of Rwanda. And when I say western, I mean that at one point the Democratic Republic of Congo was only one hundred yards away from me, and I could see the official border crossing. What I did not tell my dear husband is that this morning I received an email from the U.S State Department warning of demonstrations and disruption on the Congolese side of that border crossing. So. . . I hope he continues to let me travel. And look. Here I am safely back at the guest house. Writing too late into the night.

Not only did Africa New Life let me break away for the day, they provided a driver, the amazing Fabrice, and a translator, or as I like to call the sweet Miss Annette, my “minder.”

The drive to Gisenyi Province was perhaps the most beautiful drive I have experienced. And I have traveled a great deal. We drove through Kigali during rush hour, which was not an unpleasant (I mean I wasn't driving!) experience simply because I was mesmerized by the buzzing of the motos (scooters), weaving between cars and semi trucks and people. We stopped at the supermarket to buy gifts for grandmother (Tate), and Annette made me hold her hand as we crossed the street. Might I add that Annette is the same age as my children. 

We spent the day yesterday in eastern Rwanda, a dry and dusty land where cattle roam and a layer of red dust quickly covers your feet. Today, however, we headed west towards Congo and the land became green and lush. We climbed and climbed out of Kigali until we were driving along the top of a ridge with deep valleys on either side. Farmers were everywhere and women carrying bananas and firewood on their heads. There were more towns here and more people bustling about on the crowded streets. The amazing Fabrice would tap his horn every time we passed by a person on the street to warn them to stay to the side of the road as we sped by. By the way, Fabrice also taught me the specific hand signals drivers use to warn oncoming drivers of police up ahead. Handy. 

Twice I saw men carrying a door atop their heads. The farmland here was kinder and greener.

We drove passed the Dian Fossey Gorilla Institute, and in the distance I could see their mountain home. Annette told me that each year Rwanda holds a baby naming ceremony for the new gorillas, and just last week she attended that ceremony in the mountains. They named twenty plus baby gorillas!

The mountains are volcanic and volcanic rock was everywhere, used as fences and foundations to buildings. The fields were covered with small, tidy mounds of volcanic rocks, baring a tiny bit more of land for cultivation in this land challenged country.

Annette and Fabrice had been communicating with Tate’s granddaughter, Gentille, via cell phone and I knew we were drawing near their town when suddenly Fabrice pulled to the side of the road and a young woman got in. It was Gentille! She had been waiting there to show us the way to their home. We then turned down a rough and rocky road, towards Tate’s home. When we entered the home bearing the gifts her grandchildren had sent, Tate entered after us. I turned to greet her and as we hugged hello, I began to cry. It was such a big moment. I had come around the globe to see her. A very big reason I joined this Africa New Life Vision Trip was just to see Tate. I knew how loved and revered she was by her grandchildren. I was overcome.

And so while crying and wiping my eyes and smiling, I gave Tate the blanket and the milk her grandchildren had sent. Her son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter (Gentille) were also there as well as Annette, of course, or we would have been sitting in silence. I asked how she was. She had only good things to say about her life and how good God is to her. 
I showed her pictures of my family and of Boise and snow in Boise. And then. And then I showed her my gift. I had made a Shutterfly photo album of her grandchildren – all seven of them. And of all their children! The first page of the photo album, however, showed pictures of her daughter - her daughter who died in 2013, just six months after arriving in America. When she saw her daughter, she cried. I cried. Everyone cried. We cried some more. When I tried to turn the page after a few moments, she stopped me and stared longer at her beloved daughter. 

We talked about her daughter Mary and the sadness of her death. I assured her that her grandchildren were taking good care of each other and honoring their mother by doing so.

We took a long time looking at all the photos of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She poured over them and there was laughter. And then. . . And then. . . I showed her the videos her family in Boise had made to greet her. She watched each of them. Twice. 

Do you know the joy of giving others joy? There is nothing better. It seems almost a selfish thing to do. 

When it was time to leave, she took her walking stick and walked with us to the car. We hugged more. I said I wanted to come again next year with my husband. As we drove away, they stood and waved, and I hung out the window to wave back. Then I turned around in my seat and tears came and they came and they came and they came. Annette was so kind and handed me tissue after tissue as she patted my leg in silence.

Such a big thing for me had just occurred. I love her Boise family so much. Her grandchildren have become my children. And I knew I had just met the strongest woman I would ever know.

And so I will continue to write in my journal, “God you are so good to me. So good. So good. So good.”

And I will never forget the day that I met Isaac’s and Newson’s and Beatrice’s and Kamana’s and Emmanuel’s and Yvette’s and Stratton’s grandmother. It may be the only time they see a muzungu cry. Until I visit again.

And it was good day.

Tate - the strongest woman I will
ever meet


  1. Beautiful post! Someday I would love to visit Rwanda. I have a seminary classmate and friend who is from Rwanda. He was in Rwanda during the genocide. Blessed to be your neighbor at the Inspire Me Monday linkup today.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes, Shawna! What a beautiful, good life you have--one that is full of blessings because you opened your home to receive them. May God continue to surround you with his love and his blessings!

    1. Thank you, Anita. My friends in Boise gently chastised me for making them cry with every article I posted from Rwanda.

  3. I have heard so much of Rwanda from a dear friend of mine and to read this just adds to my vision of this country. What a special gift you were given to be able to give! God is SO good!

    1. I love Rwanda. Cannot wait to go back and soon I hope. Thank you for reading and your kind words.