Sunday, August 28, 2016

Friends on a Thousand Hills - Rwanda 2016, Part 2

In two days Kevin and I will travel to the Gihembe Refugee Camp in northern Rwanda. We have a long list of friends to visit. Friends we have never met. Friends we love. Many refugees from Gihembe have been resettled to Boise. Refugees like our friends Agnes and Justin, and Lucy and her beautiful, energetic children. Refugees like Calvin and Jackson, twenty-something year old brothers who arrived three years ago, leaving mom, dad and siblings behind. Refugees like our friend Louisa and her beautiful daughters, Giselle and the rambunctious twins Agisa and Agisaro. It is their families we will meet in Gihembe. We have been planning this day for so long.
Agnes, Justin and Rachael

Giselle, Agisa and Agisaro

Weeks before leaving Boise I began receiving messages from friends in Gihembe. Messages like, “I will be eager to see you. May God protect you during this journey.” And another, “My family tells you that no matter when, we are available to welcome you.” And always this, “May God bless you.” And “We welcome you.” Do you know how humbling it is to be loved by individuals you’ve never met? It overwhelms me and simultaneously makes me feel incredibly special.

Here is what I know. Friendship changes everything. It can relieve loneliness. It can bring joy. It can cure hatred. It does change the world, one person at a time.

When my friend Agnes arrived in Boise in the winter of 2014 with her son, they arrived alone with no family to protect them from loneliness or help them learn a new culture. When we discovered they had arrived and were living in a hotel while awaiting permanent housing, Kevin and I brought them to church each week. Justin (now 14) recently told us he was amazed the first time we picked them up. He thought, “White Americans (muzungus) are driving me to church!” This was incredible to him. As they languished in that hotel room for several weeks (the housing market is very tight in Boise), we took them to the mall for a small excursion. Nothing exciting, a stop at the Apple store to play with the iPads, a fruity Frappuccino from Starbucks, and a lot of window shopping. When we returned to their hotel, Agnes spoke to Justin and he translated these words for her, “My mom wants you to know this has been the best day of her life.” Friendship changes everything.

You guys, be friends with the men, women, boys and girls in your cities, in your neighborhoods. Love them like your own family. Love them like you want to be loved. We don’t know what sadness lies inside each other, but we do know how and who to love because Jesus showed us how to do exactly that. This is the way of Jesus. This is the way of Christianity. This is how we bring heaven closer to earth.

“God’s will be done, God’s kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6

Let’s bring heaven down friends. Let’s love so well and so widely that heaven is seen on earth more and more and more and more. Let’s bring it down so our neighbors are lonely no longer - hurting no more. Let’s bring it down so your neighbors, your city know you by your love. Know Jesus by your love.

As we visit our friends, please pray we bring God’s kingdom down in Gihembe as it is in heaven. 

Historical Note: Gihembe was established in 1997 to host Congolese refugees, most fleeing the aftermath of the 1994 genocide which began in Rwanda. More than 15,000 people live in Gihembe. Over fifty percent of them children.

Read Friends on a Thousand Hills - Rwanda 2016 Part 3 here.

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