Monday, December 21, 2009

Update on Aponere

Jen emailed me this morning with the text of a note she received from Aponere. Remember my HW club kid? See below, exactly as the note was written.

Hello momy,
Many thanks you for come our country.
Momy I enjoy my heart because you helped me.
Please I want to speak to Emily momy
I do not forget you and Emily forever
Always I remember Emily.
I want to see you Emily face to face.
God will bless you many because you help me.
A reason told to this because I like you and Emily.
I do not know my mother but now my mother is you.
In 1999 years I hurt 2000 years 2001 years I hurt 2002 years I hurt 2003 I hurt 2004 years I hurt 2005 years I hurt 2006 year I hurt 2007 I hurt 2008 year I hurt but 2009 I enjoy my heart because Jesus gave me everything.
First Jesus gave me my mother you Second Jesus gave me school.
Number three Jesus gave me a house and food.
I miss you momy. I know English will come to tell you very things
I know your eyes cry.
Many promise me that you will be my mother forever
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with me
Our father is the king we pray.
Momy you and Emily Jesus bless them every day every week
Every time every month every year
I will remember the time for help me momy
I like the Bible
Jesus loves me momy.
I thanks you things that make for one momy
Is yourself who helped me
God bless you
Thank you so much momy.

I cried! I didn’t even know she was in touch with Aponere. I had told her and Serge to keep an eye out for Aponere when I left because he had so much potential. But I wasn’t sure what would actually come of that, ya know? Well, they (Jen, Serge, and ITeams) got a house for him and another boy from HW club and they support him with rent, food, school, life. They’re trying to get them both to eat right, said that Aponere is a really responsible guy. But I knew that! She said he spends his money very wisely and looks after the other boy, who I think might have been one of my kids in HW club as well. Aponere’s English is coming along very well, amazing really. Serge makes him speak English when he’s with him, so Aponere practices every day.

So my boy is good! I get goosebumps thinking about it. He’s gonna do so well, guys. He’s so smart and do determined and so eager. I’m so so excited for him! To think of where he’s come from, of what he’s sacrificed, and of just the small part of the journey I took with him – and to see where he is today, its really pretty incredible.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm ba-a-a-ck

I'm home!!

First meal: Chili’s
First reunion/neck to hug: my fab friend Michelle
Favorite thing once I arrived on USA soil: using my cell phone
Material possession I missed most: my car
Travel time: approx 28 hours
Fun fact: its amazing how a pair of jeans you haven’t worn in 6 months can feel so new!

Thanks for everything. Thanks for reading. Thanks for the journey.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More goodbyes ...

Tonight was my last night in Rwanda. We spent it with Mama Chantal (aka, Mama Meat) and Mama Debra. Lots of laughter, good memories. My goodbye with Debra was emotional. Not really a lot of words were said, but they didn’t have to be. I think we both just knew. We heard each others hearts and what they were saying.

The closer it gets to me leaving, the sadder I get. I didn't expect that. I’m ready to be home, but in a way this has become my home. These people are people I love and have done life with for awhile. And will probably never do life with again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Goodbye to Ubuzima

Today was my last Ubuzima. It was sad, but I felt so loved! They presented me with all kinds of gifts and with a certificate of appreciation for my time serving them. Certificates are a BIG deal in Rwanda, so this certificate was a bigger deal than what you and I would normally think of. Mama Debra, Enoch, and Bright (Ubuzima leaders) all gave speeches about me, and they had some of the ladies come up and talk about why they were thankful for me and what I had meant to them. Then they all “laid hands” on me and prayed for me. A group of praying Rwandans is a unique experience. No praying to yourself in silence. Its every man for himself, praying out loud and passionately, all at once. Of course, I couldn’t understand any of it, but it was still special.

After Ubuzima, Natasha and David had a surprise for me. They took me to a movie! A theater had just opened and we had been wanting to go to a movie since I’d been there. Now it only had one screen, and was about half the size of a theater you’d find in the States, but still it was a movie on a big screen. So fun! And, Natasha finally got a picture of me on a motorcycle for those of you at home that can’t picture me on a moto, as we call them in Kigali. :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Big Opportunity to Bless

So you know how I/we have this ministry money to use? Money that’s part of my budget to be used to bless others in big ways? Well, I got to bless the pants off of someone special today! Bear with me, cause this entry is gonna be a long one, but I promise you’ll want to read it!!

As I’ve been preparing to leave Kigali, I’ve been tying up loose ends with my money. Like figuring out how much I need to keep for travel, what to leave behind for the ministries of ITeams-Rwanda, and what to do with my leftover ‘ministry’ money. In thinking about the ministry money, Mama Debra (leader of Ubuzima) keeps coming to my mind. She’s always been one of my favorite people in Rwanda, and I’ve always felt there was so much more to her to know than I do. So I’d been thinking and praying about giving a large sum of the money to Mama Debra. I mentioned it to Jen b/c I was I didn't want to make Debra uncomfortable or offend her. But Jen did nothing but encourage me to follow through with the Spirit’s leading!

Tonight was my going-away party, which was great – just a good time to be with all my Rwandan friends one last time. Mama Debra was one of the last people to leave. As I walked her out to the gate (the cultural thing to do that we mzungus often neglected), I stopped her and presented her with the envelope of money. I explained to her that I knew she was aware of the money we, as interns, had set aside to bless people. (Because she was head of Ubuzima, she saw us give it away all the time as that was where we found most of the opportunities for blessing) I told her that I had a lot of leftover money from that fund and that I wanted her to have it. The money was for her to use however she wanted. If she wanted to use it for Ubuzima, she could. But it was intended for her! I told her I didn’t know what her situation was, what her needs were, but that I felt like God was telling me to give this money to her, and to give her this specific amount. (Keep in mind that if this amount is a large amount to you and me, its huge for a Rwandan) I went on to explain how much she meant to me, and that she was one of my favorite people in Rwanda and that she would always be in my heart. I told her that I saw how much she gave endlessly to others, and how I wasn’t sure I had known anyone with more love. So I wanted her to receive back some of that love, some of the blessing she gave out to so many. She asked me a couple times, “this is for me?” I think it caught her off guard, she didn’t quite know what to say, but she was very grateful and just remained her calm, peaceful, beautiful self.

Not long after, Natasha and I were cleaning up from the party. Jen and Serge had left just a few minutes earlier, but a few minutes later I received a call from Serge. He asked me what I said to Debra when I walked her out, and I explained. While Jen knew my plans, Serge had no idea. It turns out that Debra, when she got home, opened the envelope with her family around her, and began sobbing. She called Serge in tears and just went on and on about how she couldn’t believe what I had done. Finally after he calmed her down, she told him what happened. And she told him why my kindness had been such a blessing to her. She would have called me herself, but her English is very minimal and she knew she wouldn’t be able to communicate with me like she wanted to.

Most people don’t know that Debra has a hard life. She seems so put together, always presents herself as not lacking or needing much. You’d never know she was struggling. And she’d probably never tell you, either. But as Serge explained from his conversation with her, last week Debra didn’t have money to buy food for her family. Its my understanding that Debra is one of the people that buys the food for the street kid feeding program, and I assume she uses this same vendor for purchasing supplies/food for Ubuzima as well. So because she has a very good relationship with this person, she pleaded with him to let her purchase food for her family on credit and she would pay for it the next Monday. Today is Sunday, tomorrow is the Monday that debt was due. Just that morning at church, she had had words with God about how she had this faith that God would provide, but that she didn’t know how she was going to be able to take care of this debt. And now, she can take care of it! Not only that, but just a few days ago her children had been kicked out of school because their school fees weren’t paid. So now, not only was Debra going to be able to pay off her debt for the food, but she would be able to pay her debt for the school fees and her kids would be able to go back to school without missing anything! AND, she was even going to have money left over to feed her family with no worries for the next month!

What makes this story even better, is that I almost didn’t give the money to her tonight. I was going to wait until Tuesday when I saw her at Ubuzima, but I just felt like now was the right time. Had I waited, she wouldn’t have been able to pay the debt on Monday. I love how much I listened to the Holy Spirit, and I didn’t even really realize I was doing it! And it meant so, so much more to be able to bless someone I loved and cared about and actually knew, as opposed to the rest of the people my ministry money had gone to. I mean, I knew them, but not like Mama Debra. She had a special place in my heart, and to be able to bless her in such an extraordinary way – just to be able to bless her period – meant a lot to me. I can’t stop thinking about it! I’m beaming. God is so good!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

On American soil, but still in Rwanda ...

Not only did I get to celebrate my birthday in Rwanda this year, but I got to celebrate the 4th of July!

I just got back from a 4th of July picnic at the American Embassy. It was so surreal! Being on the grounds, it didn’t feel like I was in Africa at all. It felt like I was in the USA! It looked and felt different. I wasn’t used to all the green, green grass and so many white people in the same place all at once. And the building just looked like buildings in the States. I went inside and the bathroom made me feel so much at home!! I was told later that they have the building materials shipped over from the US! Now, in my opinion, that’s a little extreme, but anyway. There were hot dogs and hamburgers, chips and potato salad. Everything typical of a 4th of July barbeque. I had heard that sometimes the Marines have Dr. Pepper shipped over, but they said it didn’t get here in time this year. I would have been in heaven. There was also volleyball, and some other lawn games, but mostly it was all about socializing with the other Americans. I even saw someone I knew from the States! Sarah served with me in Malawi when I worked with Children of the Nations, and she was in Kigali on a short-term trip. We hadn’t seen each other since Malawi, and now here we were reunited in another African country. I think that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, it’ll definitely be a fun memory!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Preaching, Teaching, and Growth

Just a warning ... this is a long one, so bear with me.

Its been amazing to see the growth that's happened in me since my time in Malawi and even in seminary. I look at myself and think, "who is this person?!" One of the biggest surprises has been the fact that I taught a series on the covenants!

Seminary was one of the hardest, but most growing times of my life. One of the life-changing classes, and my favorite class, was Introduction to the Old Testament by Dr. Sandy Richter. Through her class, she gave me a new love of the Old Testament, when for so long I was scared of it, b/c of all the kings and wars and things that didn’t fit or make sense. One of the ways she helped “organize my closet” was in her presentation of the OT through covenants. There is a theme in the Bible of covenants, which I had never realized. It started with Adam and Eve, then to Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and finally Jesus (the New Covenant). I could go on and on about this, but perhaps reading the notes from my lessons would be better if you’re interested! I can feel myself starting to preach!

Dr. Richter recently published a book that essentially lays out her curriculum from the class, but is meant to be read by lay people. I brought The Epic of Eden with me to Rwanda but never would have guessed I'd use it in this way. Never would I have been able to remember all the details and teachings from the class that I want to share with others, so it was definitely a God thing that I brought it.

The entire week before I presented (or taught or preached-whatever you want to call it), all I did was prepare! I mean, it was practically 24-7! I didn’t leave the house. I skipped all of my normal activities and responsibilities. I don’t think I’ve worked that hard in the entire time I’ve been in Rwanda. There was SO much information and I remember so many times when I started to have a freak-out session because of all the things swimming in my head that I didn’t know how to translate in words and on paper.

It started out as being a sermon series, but then Jen needed more time for her series so we had to move my stuff back. But I’m leaving in a few weeks, so there wouldn’t be time to do it in 4 weeks. There was no way I could get it all into 2 weeks, so I kicked it off one Sunday, then we had two special teaching nights during the week (which where translated into Kinyarwanda), and the last was given the following Sunday at the English service at church. I was able to recreate some of the diagrams and maps from my class for PowerPoints (yep, we have PowerPoint in Rwanda) ... and they made quite an impression! The full-time missionary here and her husband have been excited about the series for awhile. And they given me great feedback! The pastor of the church has requested my notes to possibly teach it to the Kinyarwanda service - this is huge b/c the relationship between he and the mission organization I work with has been very strained for awhile. It was so fun to hear about light bulbs that were going off for people, connections they were making. And they say it all made sense, it wasn’t too academic or over-their-heads and were even teasing me about what this means for the future, that I should be a teacher. Dr. Richter always told us she wanted us to be able to simply “tell the story [of God], and tell it well.” That was her mantra. SO I'm telling the story, and telling it well!! And honestly, never in a million years did I think I'd be telling it like this. Maybe to friends here and there, but not to a church ... in RWANDA!
* * * *
Its really cool to look at this whole situation and see how much I’ve grown in the last several years. I know I mentioned that at the beginning of this blog, but its big; even just last year, I would have reacted so differently to so many things about this.
1) I would have never volunteered to do this on my own – to teach, let alone teach the material of Dr. Sandy Richter, material that intimidated the crap out of me!

2) I never once freaked out in all my preparations. So many times in seminary, when I didn’t know what I was doing or was overwhelmed by the material or frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t communicate what I wanted to, I would get so emotional. I would stop and cry and doubt myself and what I was doing. I would tell myself I couldn’t do it and was crazy for even trying. Eventually I would get out of that place and be able to do what I needed to do. But this time, none of that happened. Yes, I was overwhelmed by the material and workload and thoughts in my head, but I knew that it would all work out. There was a peace that remained with me the whole time ... I didn’t know how it was all gonna come together, but I knew it would. And it would be because of God. He would give me what I needed to say, and help me communicate like I needed to. I knew this. Yes, I doubted what I was doing, but I knew I could do it. And it was more of a funny “what have I gotten myself into?” than a serious one. Does that make sense? And finally …

3) in the days before I was to give the teachings/sermons, Serge had his doubts. He was concerned that it wouldn’t keep people’s attention and wouldn’t be received well. This had nothing to do with me personally, it was more of because of his own knowledge of how Rwandans work and how they respond to African preaching, rather than “white-girl” preaching. In the past, this would have torn me down. It would have made me doubt myself and fear would have taken control. It would have brought up so many negative feelings about myself. But this time, I was so confident! I kept telling Serge, “don’t worry, it’ll be good.” I didn’t let his anxiety make me upset, it just made me more confident about what I was doing. Isn’t that awesome? SUCH a change in me, and a big one!!

This teaching is probably the highlight of my time in Rwanda. The biggest and most rewarding thing I’ve done. Rewarding from the preparation to the delivery to the emotions tied to it. God’s been growing me, and maybe He needed to bring me to Rwanda to show me this one particular way I’ve grown.