Thursday, September 1, 2016

Friends on a Thousand Hills - Rwanda 2016 Part 5

There is a certain point each year when I travel to Rwanda that I break down. Today was that day. I thought I had created an itinerary this year that allowed for more rest, but that was a joke. Every day is a race, and not a sprint, a marathon. It begins early because I push myself to do a lot, running, prayer time, writing, and social media updates, because experiences this big, that involve so many people deserve to be shared.

Tuesday we spent the day at the Gihembe Refugee Camp. It was wonderful and hard and exploding with joy, and imploding in sadness and despair.

Today we drove to Kageyo in eastern Rwanda. We left pavement and drove hours on red, hard-packed dirt bumping bumping bumping along. All the while passing small settlements of the poorest people you will ever see. People living in mud homes that are crumbling around them. Children wearing only a torn t-shirt. I know I wrote about it last year, but the pain of seeing it doesn’t get easier. The land here is experiencing a drought, which means this already difficult area to farm has become nearly impossible. How they survive, I do no know. My last letter from our sponsored daughter Umulisa was a thank you for food we had sent. She said, “How did you know we had almost no food?”
Yvonn's Family
We visited the daughter my own mom sponsors. Her name is Yvonn. She is a delightful fourteen year old in grade P5. Her father is too ill to work, so they survive on what her mama can cultivate and earn. Her mama has seven children. The youngest one month old. As we gathered in the front of their little home, I held baby Jean Pierre. I told Mama Yvonn he is a beautiful baby and she replied, “I would give him to you if I could.” I could only smile at her in return, but inside I was hurting.
Yesterday as we left the refugee camp an older teenager boy stood next to the car, tiny children swarmed around him as they each tried to slap my hand before we left. The teenager said, “Give me money.” I shook my head knowing it is forbidden and would cause chaos and certainly make me uninvited in the future. As I sat in the car waiting to pull away he kept saying, “Help us. Help us.” I could only look away in pain, because I could not help him.

After visiting our two children in Kageyo this afternoon we drove to the Akagera Game Park. A modest, aging lodge/hotel within the wildlife park. It sits atop a hill overlooking the second largest lake in Rwanda. Baboons scamper about. Exotic birds I’ve never seen sing outside our window. We’ll stay here two days to rest and go on safari. 

The paradox is not lost on me. As we entered the hotel, attendants came out to take our bags and freshly squeezed passionfruit juice was brought to us. A television was on reflecting the election cycle in the United States has become no less grotesque since we left home. After fives days of constant emotional upheaval, I became a whining, cranky, crybaby. 

Finally, after Kevin did his best to cheer me, I went into the bathroom, laid down on the floor, covered my face with a towel and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Because do you know how many hungry children whose faces I looked into today? How many near naked toddlers raced after our truck as we bumped along the roads in front of their homes? If you can come to Rwanda and visit the homes I’ve visited and not lie down and cry for a long while, you’re made of stronger stuff than me.

Tomorrow I know I will have recovered. I will sleep in a comfortable bed. I will wake early and pray and write and talk with God. And I have a lot to say to him! Tomorrow will be good and my mind and body and heart mostly recovered, but for tonight I sit here in this sadness and anger that this is a world where unkindness and cruel words reign in the United States news cycle, and I drive my expensive car to Whole Foods to buy fancy food, beautifully packaged just for me. And in this same world tonight the children in Yvonn’s community will go to bed hungry.
This is the world we have allowed. This is the world we’re okay with. As long as I can do my next thing, hang out on the lake, go to a movie, buy the newest iPhone. Well then that’s okay. Carry on.
There is a lot of guilt in these words, because I doubt those families who are going to bed hungry, those strong mamas and hard working papas are having a cry-fest or temper tantrum. But then they don’t have that luxury. They were dealt a different life.

This morning I prayed these words, “Oh, Jesus, Kageyo is so hard to visit, it’s so hard to know such places exist. Please may all my hope and glory come only from you. May I trust you completely, knowing you are my granite strength. Always my safe-harbor. Be all my strength.” (From Psalm 62)

Please, please change a life and sponsor a child. Our sponsored child, Umulisa, will move into secondary school next year as she continues on with her dream of becoming a nurse. This is happening. Her life is being changed for $39/month. You can change a life - Africa New Life Sponsorship.
The Children of Kageyo
Read Friends on a Thousand Hills - Rwanda 2016 Part 6 here.


  1. I knew I shouldn't read this in class. It's too hard to hold back the tears. I feel your feels. It's hard not to give up at my job because there is just so much poverty and abuse and hopelessness amongst my students. But one life touched has a ripple effect that you will never know about. And I know you've touched more than one life.

    1. Thank you, Anita. Yes one life blessed, changed. It's all worth it. Thank you for what you do in Arizona.