Friday, October 30, 2015

The Overplayed Weekend

Last week I made this ridiculous comment to my husband, “Maybe I’m not as introverted as I used to be.” Ha!

I love people, and sometimes my love of people means I fail at calendaring. So it was that last Friday night we took four fantastic boys ages eight through thirteen to a Boise High School football game. It was tons of fun, and I confess our entire reason for being there was to see the marching band. Yes, the marching band. Twelve-year-old Celestine plays the trumpet in his junior high school band, and we were giving him a peak into his future. I love marching bands. I mean they can play music while marching forwards and backwards and sideways. How is this possible?

The next day started early with our normal church day activities. For us this means two cars. Kevin went one way. I went another, and we met at church with cars overloaded with refugee friends. After church Kevin and I took eight friends to our favorite Indian restaurant for lunch. Only two of those eight friends were older than thirteen. We had the biggest table in the restaurant. We were loud and silly and two year old David told some of his best stories. No one knows what they were about but from his facial expressions and hand gestures, they were definitely action packed. 

During lunch two children spilled water. One child ate so much his stomach hurt. At one point during our meal a woman sitting at the table next to ours caught my eye and said, “You have a lovely family.” I smiled and there was laughter in my eyes as I shared a look with my friend Beatrice (mother of four of the children at the table). She smiled my favorite smile and said, “You have a big family.” It was a moment to treasure, made even better because my own sweet daughter was sitting across from Beatrice and sharing “David duty.”

From that crazy meal we delivered our friends to their homes and went home to rest for two short hours before riding our bikes to Boise State University where we enjoyed the Homecoming Parade and football game with good friends. Go Broncos!

It was a late game and we left the stadium at 11:30 p.m., riding our bikes through silent, misty night air. The moon was glowing through the clouds. I wondered how this could be my life.

Sunday brought more fun, a church scavenger hunt and a birthday party. Kevin and I divided and conquered as he took a carload of children to the scavenger hunt, while I went alone to celebrate eight-year-old Alphonsine’s birthday. I arrived to a room full of Congolese and Rwandan friends. Happy Birthday was sung in three languages. The highlight was a new tradition Alphonsine’s uncle started, in which a giant piece of cake was smashed into Alphosine’s face. It was hilarious.

The weekend was energetic, fun, and filled with friends. I loved it, but I woke late on Monday exhausted. I pretended it was Sunday and accomplished nothing all day. 

It’s good to know who you are. I am an introvert. I love people, but you guys wear me out.

I am so blessed.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Friends on a Thousand Hills - Rwanda Part 14

What does hope mean to you? To me hope is a promise. It is God’s promise to me that he is never giving up on me, that I always matter to him, that he will never leave me. It means my future is something to look forward to with joy and not something to fear.

I have a bossy husband. This only seems fair as he has a bossy wife. About two seconds after I arrived home from Rwanda he told me I should write a “big picture” article about Rwanda. You know, what is the one main thing that sticks in my mind about Rwanda. What did I learn? What is my big take away?

And so because I am such an obedient wife. . .  and after mulling everything over in my mind these last few weeks and praying a lot about it, here we go.

Hope. I saw hope in Rwanda. I saw men and women trusting that tomorrow will be better than today, that their children’s futures will be better than their parents’ present. I saw this in everyone I met at Africa New Life Ministries. I saw this in the eyes of children at school. I felt this in myself as I spent time with and cried with and prayed with these resilient, loving, generous new friends.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19

Before I ever left my home in Boise to fly to Rwanda, so many friends prayed with me, came to my house to pray with, called me, text prayed for me (that’s a new high tech way of praying. I hope God is up to date with technology).

We see a lot of suffering in this world - a lot of evil taking place, which thanks to today’s media, we can watch happen from the comfort of our living rooms. We can choose to make a difference in this suffering or we can choose to stay comfortable in our living rooms. But I happen to live in a world surrounded by people who are choosing to make a difference. I am surrounded by friends who are tutoring refugee children after school, who are taking them shopping for new clothes, who are showing up in their lives and making a difference. They are choosing to do all this smack in the middle of their own busy lives, and while raising children of their own. This gives me hope. So much hope.

Some of us will not even watch the news, choosing instead to be unaware of what is happening in the world. We think we can protect ourselves from pain by closing our eyes to the world around us. I've had friends tell me they don’t want to know what is happening. They purposely choose to be unaware that children are hungry and dying. I don’t understand this, because choosing not to know doesn’t make it not happen. Children are still hungry. Children are still dying. Pretending bad things don’t happen helps no one.

We must look pain in the eye. We must be willing to share another’s pain, even absorb the pain of others. When we do this, hope grows.

Hope and fear cannot share the same space. If we choose to live in fear, hope runs away. My country, indeed our world, is being rocked by the current and increasing refugee crisis. Our world is changing. Demographics are changing. Neighborhoods look different, more colorful, and there are a lot more children around! If we let change fill us with fear, hope runs away. For hope comes from God, but fear is not from God. The two are not compatible.

For my God tells me, “I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind.” Please let’s live into that! Let’s chase away the fear-mongers. Let’s give fear the boot and live into hope. Hope will change the world.

I understand that holding onto hope is often fiercely hard. I know evil is always present to some degree on this earth. But it is only ever by fixing my eyes on Jesus, that hope can show its face in me. One of the hardest things I did in Rwanda was visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial and the memorial that is the Nyamata Church. It filled me with pain, but I would do it again, because evil and pain cannot be erased. They must be replaced with something else and to do so, evil and pain must be confronted. We face them down and put hope and love in place of evil and pain.

We cannot change our world if we only do easy things.

Visiting these places, it became clear to me that there is no way forward in hope unless forgiveness comes first. We cannot live into love and hope without first letting go of hate and anger. Forgiveness is the path to hope.

Hope grows when we help each other. When I decide to send a child in Rwanda to school, hope explodes in her. Hope is contagious. My sponsored child doesn’t hold that hope tightly inside her. No. It spills out of her onto her brother and sister; onto her mom and dad and her school friends. Hope is not selfish.

Hope is healing. To you. Is it impossible to look into the sparkling eyes of a child and not see hope? If you are lacking in hope, spend more time with children. Let them fill your life with laughter and silliness. If you are lacking in joy, become a joy-giver. Do you know the joy of giving others joy? There is nothing better. It seems almost a selfish thing to do.

Sometimes giving hope is easy, like taking children to a volleyball game. Their joy and laughter skyrockets. But sometimes giving hope is hard, like sitting with a friend whose brother has just died. We cannot change our world if we only do easy things.

Sometimes hope is as easy as an automatic bank withdrawal that sends a child to school each month. Making that child perhaps into a future doctor. A future leader. A future hope giver.

Africa New Life Ministries – sponsorship.

Isaiah 58:10
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.