Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rwanda - Home of My Son-To-Be

Rwanda: Home of My Son-To-be, Land of a Thousand Hills, People of Sorrow & Reconciliation, A Country Close to God's Heart!
The terraced hill sides from Kigali to Kibuye.
Ever since we decided to adopt a son from Rwanda, I've had a deep desire to go there and serve the people... To give back to the place that will give me more than I can ever repay them for- a son. I went with my church, Saddleback Church. Saddleback calls our mission trips- PEACE trips. PEACE stands for: P-plant churches, E-equip servant leaders, A-assist the poor, C-care for the sick, E-educate the next generation. These trips are very intentional and in response to the needs identified by the local churches (not what we think they need).  I also got to focus on our adoption but first I want to tell you about my other experiences with a team of 11 other amazing, Christian servants!
After hours & hours of travel!
When we first arrived we went to the PEACE office in Kigali. Kigali is the country's capital. There they have a very well organized team of people dedicated to the PEACE plan. When any of our church's teams go to serve in Rwanda it is through this "system". It's very cool because it's all in response to the needs identified by the local Rwandan pastors. Our desire is to come along side the local churches and serve them- always giving God and the local church the glory. Our team was requested to help continue what another team began last year, a soccer outreach program. The churches are starting to reach out to the community kids (including the street kids) by starting soccer teams (they LOVE soccer in Rwanda). We also were asked to do a 2 day seminar on how to do Sunday School for the kids. The churches wanted to know how to incorporate the new kids that come to church as a result of the soccer outreach programs.
PEACE office sign in Rwanada - for my Saddleback friends :)
We did the bulk of our "work" in Kibuye, near Lake Kiuv the western boarder of Rwanda. We stayed right behind the local hospital in dorm style houses. We had flushing toilets and running water. We usually had electricity and sometimes hot water. It was very basic by American standards but very nice for local, non-tourist standards. We had a cook who would prepare our meals which was extremely nice so we didn't have to take the time to drive to a near by restaurant to eat every meal. Because we were located right in the middle of town we were able to walk to most our daily activities. This gave us the opportunity to really experience more of the culture. As we walked people would often walk with us and practice their English- especially the little kids! They loved to hold your hands and walk with you. There was a school located right above us on the hill so we got to play with the local kids all the time. It was so fun. We met several street kids (orphans) while walking to and from our activities and it broke my heart. I met one boy, Enrique, who I would've adopted in a heart beat! My friend Ginny and I got to know him a little and some of his story over the days. His story was sad. We did our best to plug him into a local church that welcomed the street kids into their congregation in hopes he would be cared for and get connected to a loving family. Please pray for this dear boy and that a loving family takes him in and cares for him as their own.
Enrique & me
We help put on a huge soccer festival with several local churches. It was so fun! That was one of the main focuses. A lot of meetings before hand and planning- before and after. One of our team members, Joe, is a soccer coach and also helped other local coaches learn drills and team building tools.
The kids loved these dried plant awards! They were so proud!

One of the other things we got to do was visit homes and talk with the people about the sponsorship program our church is involved in. The local church identifies families that has taken in orphans and helps financially "sponsor" that family. All the families we visited were so special and extremely grateful and hospitable. The program involves more than just monetary help. It is a whole program designed to educated people on good hygiene, clean water, growing their own food and micro-enterprise. First the pastors of the churches get trained by the PEACE headquarters staff or Saddleback volunteers on a PEACE trip, then the pastors train certain church volunteers who then go out into the community and teach their neighbors. Usually, the families in the sponsorship program are trained-they call them CPTs (Community PEACE trainers). These families are doing amazing things in their own lives and the lives of others around them all in the name of Jesus Christ. The picture below is taken a one of the CPT's houses. She treated us with corn on the cob- such a giving gesture. In the background you can see one of the filter, which is part of the PEACE clean water initiative. Neighbors come to her to fill up their water jugs with clean water. While they are waiting for the clean water she says she tells them about the true living water- Jesus.
You can see the water filtration system behind us (Ariana, Noel & me).
We also went to the local hospital to pray with the people. It was extremely heavy, since many of those people will not leave alive or will be sent home to die. Most of the people knew Christ so we held their hands and prayed for relief of pain and comfort. It was so heart breaking I can't even describe it. To pray with people moaning in pain, mothers crying for their children... it was real suffering and real pain relying solely on prayers. A stark contrast to the hospitals here in America.
My sisters & I in the hospital courtyard area with head's of staff.
Another sign for my Saddleback friends!!
We got to do serve in several other ways- a lot to share in a brief blog entry... not to mention my adoption stuff. I will share more about that in another entry, another day... so stay tuned ;) I am so thankful God allowed me this experience. It broke my heart in many ways. I've wrestled with God for days about the things I experienced. He is such a mystery to me- CS Lewis had it right when he portrayed God as a wild, loving lion in The Narnia Chronicles. God does things His Own way, in His Own Time. It's not for me to understand but to trust. It's not an easy walk but it is a rich one. If you want to live a life that is more rewarding than anything you can imagine then risk your time, money, and heart by loving beyond yourself.