Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Reality of Ubuzima and HIV

Today was my first day of tutoring/homework club at Women in Action (otherwise known as Pastor Moureen’s) on my own. I have the equivalent of 3rd and 4th graders. It’s quite a challenge for me … so if you’re a praying person, please pray for that! I need to figure out how to teach English to kids who don’t speak English … really, to just teach them anything. This is not my gift, so I’ve been struggling quite a bit. Anyone have any thoughts or brilliant ideas?

* * * *

This afternoon was Ubuzima again. I think I’m starting to get the hang of the weaving. I have no idea what I’m making though. I just do what they show me until they take it away to fix it or show me something different. J I only wish I could talk to the women, to find out their stories or even just something as simple as how many children they have. But maybe that will come in time.

This was the last time the short-term team would see the ladies (& men) at Ubuzima so they went to the market in the morning and got everyone a bag of “goodies” – rice, beans, veggies & fruit. Mama Debra was there this time, too. She’s the leader of the ministry but has been gone the last couple times we’ve been there, I think because of the Pastors’ Training. At the end of the afternoon, she had some of the Ubuzima members come up and share testimonies. I think it might have been a special occasion because the short-term team was there.

A man came up first and was eager to share – he was a father with 6 kids, none of them with HIV, and was excited about how the Lord had blessed him. The next woman who shared is always so serious … but today as she told her story, the tears started flowing – but I think they were both sad and happy tears. She was a mother as well, and this time it was her husband that was HIV positive, not her. For 6 years. Praise the Lord! However, I wondered how many other mixed emotions might be going on. Praise that she was healthy, but turmoil because her husband was sick—and you could tell she loved him—and I wonder if there is hurt because her husband was potentially unfaithful … and then, has she been with her husband in all those years? What is that doing to her? Perhaps its not that he was unfaithful, but that’s usually how HIV is transmitted here. She was blessed as well to find Vivante Church, to find the community of support and love in her time of struggle and weakness. This was a common theme among everyone – the thankfulness for the support they had found in Vivante Church and in Ubuzima and how strong it was making them … helping them to persevere.

The next woman was one of the women who had come to help braid Natasha’s hair on Sunday. She was a single mother with 4 kids – she has HIV as well as all of her children. The other woman who braided Natasha’s hair, Alice, came late to the meeting – she had been at the doctor, was carrying what looked like x-rays, and looking very tired. Was a little harder to get her to smile today, it seemed.

The last person to share was a girl who was about 14 or 15. She has HIV. I think she said her father was still alive, but was sick with HIV. Her mother was gone. The tears started flowing with her as well. I could see the fear in her eyes. This timexI think the tears were more from the fear than from rejoicing, although she was rejoicing for how God had blessed her. It was comforting to think of this group being able to care for her and give her support and be mothers to her. Mama Debra stood beside her with her arms around her and told us how most of the women’s children in Ubuzima did have HIV. It was kinda numbing to think about the little ones we’ve seen every week being sick … especially this one with her “baby” on her back. This is the girl who came straight to me on our first day. I don’t know if she has HIV, but I’m thinking there’s a good chance after Mama Debra’s comments.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Emotions ... *&(*&#!

A view of Kigali ... everywhere you look

This morning was a tough one. Serge (Jen’s husband) gave his testimony about receiving his visa for Canada. He shared his frustrations with the waiting and constant negative answers he kept receiving. (Did I mention that he did receive his visa? He and Jen are now in Canada, and the interns are on our own!) His whole testimony was surrounding Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God …” It really hit home for me. Be still and know that I am God. Just be still, Emily … and know that I am God. Its that simple. I heard God speaking directly to me. After church, as the girls (Natasha and Jocelyn) and I stepped outside of the guest house where we had been chatting with the short-term team and were about to head home, I just broke down. Well, as much as I would allow myself to. I don’t cry in front of people very often, so when I do it’s a big deal – and its an even bigger deal when I cry in front of people I don’t really know. Don’t get me wrong, I’m friends with my fellow interns, but I don’t feel like we’re at the point where we really, truly know each other. Does that make sense?

I guess its just that the homesickness and anxiety all came to a head and hit at once. I miss my community and comfort. I feel like I should say more, but that basically says it all. I miss my community and comfort. And … I’m ready to be emotionally stable again!

* * * * *

Natasha had her hair braided by one of the women from Ubuzima today. It was quite interesting having two Rwandans in our house all afternoon who spoke no English! We had to call David, one of the ITeams volunteers who works with us a lot, to translate a couple times over the phone. What we thought was charades for water to wash with, was actually lotion/Vaseline to use for the braids. They were still here for dinner, so they got to experience a Western meal. Pasta with white sauce and green beans. I’d love to know what they thought, but I guess we’ll never know! :)Those strange muzungus (white people)!

Here's my fellow interns ... Jocelyn & Natasha

Communion in Rwanda!

We came back from Nyagatare on Saturday. Overall, it was a good few days. I have to say, I know more than I care to know about birth control now ... :)

One of my regrets for the weekend, though, was that I never sat in on the actual pastor’s training sessions. I have an idea what they were like based on the question-and-answer time we observed, but would have liked to see the actual pastor training in action. Friday night was the pastor’s “graduation.” Each time the pastors’ complete one of these trainings, they are given a certificate and sometimes a gift – this time it was a shirt and tie for the men, a katonge (wrap/skirt) for the women. A certificate is a big deal to them! They told us a story about one the of men, Innocent, who had completed a training session got pulled over by the police who were checking for proper papers from taxi/bus drivers. Innocent doesn’t have a Rwandan driver’s license (he’s from Burundi, I think) so he had no identification. He told the police he was employed with ITeams, they wanted proof, so he went home and got the certificate. Because it had his name on it with an official ITeams logo/seal, he was given no trouble!

Anyway, at the graduation ceremony, after they were given the certificate, we had communion. In preparation for actually receiving communion, we sang a couple songs. Not long after the singing began, I began to hear weeping. It was even more powerful to hear the weeping during the silence while we all ate and drank the bread and cup together. Put yourself there for a moment. Think about the silence and the sounds. And it wasn’t just a wimper here and there, it was weeping! It was a beautiful sound. One that I’ve never heard … and because of that, I was taken aback. Shouldn’t that be a sound we hear and make all the time during communion? When we think about the meaning behind it, the sacrifice that was made for us and the love surrounding it, shouldn’t it overwhelm us and bring us to tears?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Baby Steps

I put more things on my shelves in the closet tonight … and my bags are now in the other half of the closet. They still have things in them, so I haven’t unpacked completely, but I’m not living out of my suitcase anymore. This is a good sign people, means I’m starting to settle! I’ll let you know when I finally am all the way unpacked …

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pastors' Training

After Kindergarten, we rushed home to pack for Nyagatare. There’s a short-term team here from Canada and they are leading a Pastors Training in a small town called Nyagatare (Na-ga-tar-ey). They’re letting us tag along and see what its all about. The team is made up of 3 men, pastors who are doing the pastors training, and about 5 women who are doing other things like a women’s conference (for the pastor’s wives). They’re all over 50 so its nice to have some older people around.

Nyagatare is on the border to Uganda and Rwanda, so it took us a good 3 hours to get here. But it was such a beautiful ride! It was really nice to get out of Kigali for awhile and see something besides the city. Feels more like Africa. When they say Rwanda is the land of a thousand hills, they mean it! Seriously, there are hills EVERYWHERE. Even if you tried to find flat lands, you couldn’t. it was to see all the random things on the way – things like a large group of women doing their laundry in the river, and a group of farmers in the field, a bike here and there carrying 3 times its size in sticks or rice, goats everywhere, a school in the middle of nowhere, more hills, villages and mud huts, and then more of God’s beauty in the hills.

So the Pastors’ Training … basically there’s about 20-30 pastors all over the area that have committed to being a part of this pastoral training program for 3 years. They come twice a year for a week to Nyagatare to learn more about the Bible and leading their churches – kinda like an informal seminary. Most of these pastors have no formal training, they’ve never seen notes in a study Bible. So there’s lots of “holes” that are filled in these trainings. And a lot of the trainings can also cover how to behave as a Christian. For instance, Christian husbands respect their wives and don’t beat them. That’s common in this culture I guess. And to teach them their wives aren’t expected to wait on them all the time. Then, their wives come a few days later and receive their own programming. Not sure yet what that is, but I think its things like how to live as a pastors’ wife, etc. I know one of the topics tomorrow is on birth control. Because of the Catholic influence from the British (I think??), they have no concept of birth control. A lot of the times they have so many children, that its hard to care for them all. I think part of the concept of training the wives is to hope that they will take it back to others they know in the community.

Tonight after we got here (we came up with the women), we sat in on a question and answer period for the pastors. Its very informal, and allows them to ask questions about what they’ve been learning. It was very interesting … these guys had some hard questions, and very deep. You can tell they’ve been thinking about things and they want to learn and really understand.

Tomorrow, the “interns” will hang with the girls. I’m told there’s lots of singing before, so I’m excited about that. Finally, some real African singing! Woo hoo!


This morning was Kindergarten at Women in Action. It went a little better than yesterday. I think because they were smaller and I wasn’t intimidated. And I knew where to start this time – at the beginning. Didn’t have to look at any notes, etc, just knew to start teaching them numbers. So yes, we tried to teach them numbers 1, 2, & 3 today. They’re 3-5 year olds so for some of the younger ones, it was pointless. But it was still cute.

We sang Hallelujah/Praise Ye the Lord, they started to catch on. Then we showed them pictures of 1, 2, & 3 and had them repeat it. We tried holding up our fingers to have them recognize 2 fingers, etc, and then held up pencils. Not sure they got it. They can repeat things till they’re blue in the face. Then we had them color bubble numbers ... tried to help them understand what they were coloring. Some of the little ones had never held a pencil/crayon before, so that was a new thing. But it was adorable to watch. Then we played a game – duck, duck, goose but with amazi, amazi, echupa (water, water, bottle). They loved it. Of course, that game is always a hit with kids. Then we went over the numbers again, this time giving them numbers to trace to try and write them. This actually worked really well. I think it helped them to make it more concrete in their minds, instead of just a picture in front of them. I would trace the number with them and then say it, trying to get them to recognize it. Some caught on, some didn’t.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Getting into the Schedule

Started HW club with kids from Women in Action. Little ones love to hang on you. Katia (katee-a) took a special liking to me. It was a struggle ... this does not come easy for me and is gonna be my biggest obstacle. I compared myself way too much to Natasha and Jocelyn, almost cried on the bus when Jocelyn asked me how I was. Augh!

Pastor Moureen (she runs Women in Action) said I was quiet and implied that Natasha and Jocelyn had done this before ... probably b/c they actually did things and talked and “assessed” the kids. Oh well. I feel like the child of the group! I've been surprised at how many people comment about how I'm too quiet. I guess they're used to loud Westerners.

* * * *

Ubuzima in the afternoon. The whole first half I just sat there. No one showed me anything. I didn't want to ask because sometimes they don't seem to want to show you - they're content doing their own thing. But that's okay - I definitely understand that. One lady tried to teach me, but I wasn’t catching on and she wasn’t amuzed by that. I even messed the knitting up b/c I did the wrong stitch. But she should not have left me on my own, right?! She quickly ran out of patience with me. So I continued to just sit and watch others around me. Felt kinda silly, but its not about me as a friend reminded me. At the same time, I knew that other ladies were just sitting, so I told myself it was okay. Finally, I went over to Jocelyn and watched her and talked a bit. Then a couple ladies “called” me over to show me how to weave a basket of some sort. Its kinda like braiding. They were MUCH more patient with me and had fun with me. Nancy was my teacher ... they kept teaching me Kinyarwandan but I had no idea what they were teaching me. I just kept repeating it back to them, we’d laugh and then do the same again. She even gave me a tree tomato – she started pulling them out of her purse and I was one of the lucky ones that got one. I could have sat there all day.

After Ubuzima, we went to Bright’s house for dinner – his mom made a traditional Rwandan meal. Bright is one of the volunteers who works with Ubuzima. Cassava leaves (cabbage, etc) that tasted like spinach, fried potatoes, pasta salad (with onions and green beans in it), maize/cassava stuff, some kind of meat, peas, rice. After dinner: chai tea (that was really more like warm milk and sugar) and bananas. His mom spoke no English, but loved to show pictures ... and take our pictures! She also said I eat too slow.

Took motorcycle taxi home – first ride on one. I was initially afraid of them, but it was so fun! The driver spoke very good English and we had a conversation on the way back.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Traveling "Fun"

Tuesday we got a lesson on the bus routes in Kigali ... and oh, I was SO overwhelmed. I fought back the tears. All I could think was I can’t do this and wondered how I would ever find my way around and figure this out. BUT, I went home and studied the map Jen gave us and tried to visualize the city, which helped. It was rather amusing listening to Natasha and I try to get our bearings ... fighting and laughing at the same time.

Today each of the interns got a personal assignment to travel around the city. Yesterday was suppose to be our day to practice together, but it rained all day. Surprisingly, I didn’t freak! Had to be the peace of God with me. It was a pretty exhausting day though. First, you have to picture the buses in Rwanda. They’re not our big city buses, but more like rundown minivans cram-packed with people. There’s a driver and then a “money-collector” who shouts out the destination area. So you can’t understand anything they’re saying, you just listen for the name of the destination. Anyway, I found the first location on my assigned journey just fine and thought, “okay, I can do this!” But then it went down hill from there. I missed a stop, got on the wrong bus, took a route that was probably out of the way, and then when I finally ended up in town it was raining and the bus pulled into some alley and just sat there. Rwandans run for cover when it rains so no one wanted to get off the bus. I was soaked by the time I met the girls. But on the way, I made a new friend from Zimababwe who lived in London for awhile and now he’s working here. We were both commiserating about the odd parking fiasco and huge puddle we had to jump over from the bus ... invited him to our church. He was excited about attending an English service. Guess they’re hard to come by here.

after my bus ride adventure

Had my first request for my phone number/email today too ... which is very common here. He was the “new friend” of the first leg of my trip. We chatted as we walked. He found out I was from the States and immediately started talking about Obama. Said I was “Obama’s daughter” because Obama was like the father of our country now. Its crazy how much people love Obama here!! One of the computers in the internet cafĂ© I go to has an “Obama Jesus” as the wallpaper. And I think I even saw a shop that was all Obama merchandise!

Oh, and for all my Kentucky folk, I’ve seen a guy with a UK sweatshirt twice!!

Anyway, it was a crazy day, but I’m so proud of myself ... and relieved. I can get around by myself!

Keep in touch ... and comment away on this blog - I love to read them!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Different Kind of Communication

So Ubuzima …

I loved it. We all did. We told one of the leaders we could come everyday. “No, no, no, they can not come every day," he said refering to the Ubuzima members, "they have too much to do.” :) The first part of the “meeting” is prayer and announcements. They introduced us and asked if we wanted to say anything. I was the first to go up ... for those that know me well, and know about my experiences in Malawi, this is a big deal!

There was also a woman who brought two of her friends to the group for the first time. It’s huge if you are a part of this group because that means you are essentially announcing that you are HIV positive. So many people don’t get tested for HIV because of the stigma and also because they just don’t want to know if they have it. But despite the potential ostracization and finger-pointing, the women say that this group has been such a comfort and support to them. Being around people who are going through the same thing as you, its amazing how at peace you can feel. I can relate to that ...

The rest of the time we basically just sat with the women (most of them are women). One of the women had her little girl with her (see photo) and as soon as I waved at her, she came over to sit on my lap. No hesitation or questions asked. She was so cute with her little braids! Finally, the women warmed up and started showing us different knitting/crocheting patterns. As soon as I started to get the hang of one, they’d want to show me another! None of them speak English so its gonna be interesting to communicate. They were so patient with us ... and loved it that we were trying so hard. We all laughed a lot too – mostly them laughing at us. But oh, the smiles on their faces! Its interesting how it can change the whole atmosphere. And laughter ... its amazing how much tension it can erase. And how much you can communicate with laughter. I mean, even just the grunts and raised eyebrows when you were doing something right. It was so refreshing to be in contact with Rwandans. To be in their presence and interacting. Look forward to more of that.

Buses and Ubuzima

We got a big lesson on the bus system yesterday ... we're suppose to try it out tomorrow! Eeek! I'm slowly starting to get a grasp on the city. Oh, let's hope i don't get lost!!

Also went to Ubuzima (HIV ministry) yesterday and had a blast laughing at myself with the women. They started teaching me to crochet. I loved being with them. All of us did. Interesting how a smile on their face just lights up the room! More to come ...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Genocide Memorial

We visited the Genocide Memorial this afternoon. This was something I was looking forward to, believe it or not. I was the last one out ... of course. I'm always the one that takes the longest. I wanted to soak it all in. I could have gone through it a couple more times – I wanted to really understand and there’s so many details and complicated history that I’m still not sure I have my mind wrapped around it all. I actually didn’t get to finish, because they closed!

The first floor is all about the history of the Rwandan genocide. How things were actually going on long before the events of 1994. Basically, the genocide could have been prevented, but because people didn’t pay attention, well ... you know the story.

I was pretty numb through most of this part. I think because I kinda knew what to expect. Either that or I was just dumbfounded by how it could happen. And the fact that I was walking on the same ground that it happened.

Half of the second floor is about all the other genocides that have happened in the world. Like the Holocaust, Bosnia, Kosovo, Namibia (I think??), Cambodia. (which I didn’t realize that many had happened - I mean I remember hearing about the atrocities, but didn’t really realize they were considered genocides. Well, some countries still haven’t declared them genocides).

The other half of the second floor was all dedicated to the children lost in the Rwandan genocide. This is when I got choked up. They had pictures of children who were killed, with their names and what their favorite toy and food was. Who their best friend was, what their personality was like. And how they died. The worst one was a little girl who was beaten to death with a club. And a 5 year old whose eyes were gouged out and then shot in-between them. Its one thing to shoot them, because its over just like that, but it wasn’t just shooting them. There were machetes and clubbing and one baby was even thrown against the wall. I never got to this one, they turned the lights off before I had a chance to finish. Maybe it was God protecting my heart. I heard about the baby from the other interns. Its just beyond me to comprehend how anyone could do such things to a human, but then to a child??!! I mean, there were 2 & 3 year olds! How could someone do such evil things to a child, especially so small and innocent?! And that’s exactly what it is evil – that’s the only explanation to such horrific things. And these were beautiful kids! I can’t even imagine what it’d be like to go through that part of the memorial if I was a parent. I think about some of my friends who are parents, and I honestly don’t think they could handle it. I think they would leave. One of them, I know she probably would avoid it altogether.

(outside the memorial; this is the grave for all those whose bodies have yet to be discovered - kinda like the "tomb of the unknown soldier")

On the way home, Jen asked us our impressions. The thing that was most prevalent was anger. She asked what I was angry at. At first, I couldn’t really put it into words. I was angry that it happened and is still happening today. I was angry that people could let such things happen. That our world is made up of so much corruption. Angry that there are people who could even fathom that things like genocide are okay. And that the horrific and inhuman ways of committing genocide could even exist in one’s thoughts. Were they crazy? Are they crazy? Seriously, are they mentally ill? How does one’s mind form such ideas?

I was angry that these genocides basically happened for no reason. Or if there was a reason, it was so insignificant, so simple, that you just can’t even understand how it could lead to murdering thousands, sometimes millions, of people. How did it get so far? How did anyone think it was okay? I was angry that there is so much ignorance in the world. And so much apathy. And so much desire for power and control. Those are the things that started many of the genocides. I can’t tell you specifically the events behind all the genocides, because I don’t remember. I just remember it didn’t make sense. I remember reading one of the displays several times(I think it was for Armenia), looking for the reason the hatred began. But I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t understand. Perhaps if I knew my history better, and was more up-to-speed with foreign affairs and what is and has been reality and not fed to me as an American, then maybe I could have understood better.

I heard one of the other interns say she just kept thinking, “where was God is all this?” Do you have an answer to that? Really, anyone?

I guess maybe you have to focus on God stopping it. Perhaps? That He didn’t let it continue? That for a time, Satan was holding enough people captive that these atrocities happened. Its all about original sin, right? Its about free will? But how is it okay for so so so many innocent people to pay for the messed up free will of so few? But then there’s also the question, why did God wait so long to rescue the Israelites?

* * * * *

I want to know the stories of people here who lived through the genocide. That was one of the things that attracted me to Rwanda. But I’m not sure how much of those stories I’m going to experience. People don’t talk about it much, from what I’m told. Not that they won’t, but its just a very sensitive subject. Um, understood! And even aside from the heaviness of such a topic, Africans don’t share a lot personally anyway.

I think perhaps I’m going to have to just know that all the people I work with were affected in one way or another. Realize that some maybe are dealing with deeper issues and pain and trauma than others. And then just trust that God will allow my love and heart to penetrate through them and give them the healing and comfort they need. From my experience with Malawi, and I’m finding the same will probably be true of Rwanda, I know that you don’t always have to do things by the book. That there are many ways of communicating and showing love and giving peace … and finding it. So just like I might communicate in a nonverbal way to a Rwandan, perhaps I can also know their story in a nonverbal way. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will tell me their story. And their heart will tell me their story. If I can even get to their heart ...

Ministries: almost there ...

Still adjusting ... slowly. Pray for that - that comfort and peace and familiarity will come SOON!!

Today we had a pretty intense meeting with Jen. She told us in detail about the ministries of IT we could be involved in. I thought you'd be interested, so here goes ... we haven't gotten our schedules together yet, still getting that worked out.

* Ubuzima (means something like hope in Kinyarwandan)
This is the HIV ministry run by Vivante Church. They minister to about 150 HIV positive people. The main part of the ministry is a meeting on Tuesday afternoons – kinda like a support group – but its mostly women who gather to knit. So I think all 3 of the interns are interested in this ... we’ll probably go and just sit with them and learn to knit/crochet. They don’t know English, so its basically just being present with them and communicating in nonverbal ways. Bingo ... that’s me, one of the things I really learned to appreciate in Malawi! :)

They also go out visiting to people’s homes – only about 50 end up gathering at the house. Most of the others either can’t travel, or just are too busy, or simply aren’t strong enough to make the trip. It sounds like the majority of the women look and seem pretty healthy, but there are some who do look weaker, etc.

As Jen was talking about this ministry, particularly the visiting homes, I started to get teary eyed. I could totally throw myself into this ministry. Its on the top of my list. But I knew it would be even before I left the States. Part of our budget here is a "ministry contribution" ... its extra money that we are suppose to set aside to use to bless people we come in contact with or ministries we are involved in. When we see a need, they want us to have money to be able to answer that call or need. Jen said one of the past interns used most of hers to bring food to the people she visited or to help with an expense that one of the families had. Hmmm, I could get into that.

*Women in Action
Pastor Moureen has a heart for those who have found themselves in the sex trade. This program is a basically a home for former prostitutes. I think she's taken in orphans in the area as well. She was given the property by a family member (I think), it used to be a nightclub so there are rooms along the back where about 20 adults live. Mostly they are women. I think there’s one family.

There are about 30 kids involved in this ministry. I’m guessing they are the children of the women on the property and some other "stragglers" she's adopted. But I’ll find out more soon. Several opportunities here. It sounds like ITeams would love for us to help with a kindergarten program for the little ones not in primary school yet. And then also to be involved in a sort of homework club – helping them mostly with their English and math.

There’s also a traditional church service that takes place on Moureen’s property. I’m excited about this because I don’t think I’m gonna get as much “traditional” singing/church at Vivante Church (Vivante has an English service, in addition to Kinyarwandan - they're the church ITeams is associated with). So I’m hoping to attend this service quite frequently. But we’ll see ... I’m told it can get exhausting.

*Street Kids
Sounds like this is a pretty big ministry. Basically like a mentoring program for kids on the street. Some of the kids live with women from the HIV Ubuzima program. The rest use Vivante Church as the home base. They have a feeding program a couple times a week, gather for football, etc. The intent of this ministry is to meet both the physical needs and spiritual by discipling the kids. A lot of the NGO’s in the area try to reach out to the kids but don’t seem to be very effective. Its because the spiritual nurturance isn’t there with the NGOs. So ITeams finds the chiefs/leaders of the street kids for the different districts of Kigali (kinda makes me think of the book Lord of the Flies), and they bring them together and teach them leadership skills and help them succeed. Then, those kids can care for/mentor/lead the rest of the kids. They send a lot of these 'chiefs' to school and help with basic skills before even entering school – some of them have never held a pencil! So it wouldn’t be surprising to find a 15-year-old in 1st grade. But if the kids want to do it, ITeams supports them. One of the kids from their program is now a commissioner in Kigali – sells real estate.

Jen was telling us that a lot of the kids don’t have any goals or hope - their goals are to just live another day. But eventually you’ll hear them aspire to be taxi drivers – to have their own car and drive around the city and be self-sufficient. This is their dream! Yeah, puts our own dreams in perspective. Sometimes we have so many opportunities that we don’t know what to dream or which goal to chase. The thought of having our own car in the States is not a foreign idea. Its kinda the norm.

SO, tomorrow we’re all going to sit down and talk about what we are interested in and get a schedule together. Hopefully when i get in a routine, it will feel more normal.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Touchdown in Rwanda

Yes, I’m here!

Its now been 5 days since I arrived in Rwanda. I’m slowly adjusting … more slower than I hoped, but I knew that would be the case coming into this. The first few days were REALLY rough. Lots of homesickness, ache for the lack of connection with dear friends, fighting the desire to say ‘yes’ if someone said I could hop on a plane and come home … just simply being overwhelmed by it all.

The thing is, there really hasn’t been that much to be overwhelmed about. We haven’t been hit by too much all at once. I think its been more of my own mind making me crazy.

I didn’t sleep at all the first night. But every night has gotten better – I’m starting to wake up and forget for a moment that I’m in Africa. So that’s a good sign, right? Oh, and I dreamed about the tv show LOST too … so my mind must be getting back to normal.

Because things with ITeams Rwanda have been a little hectic this week with visitors coming in all at once, and the 3rd intern just arriving on Friday, we are finally starting to get into the “nitty gritty.”

I’m living with 2 other interns, Natasha and Jocelyn. Its interesting – I can already tell how we all have different personalities and how those will work well to balance each other out. It'll be challenging, but good. I guess you could say they are both more free spirits and are all about the adventure and trying new things … whereas I’m the more “grounded” one who kinda thinks through things more and says, “wait, let’s find out which bus route is the right one so we actually get home.” We kinda need each other to be the thing that we’re not. Interesting how the sermon today at church touched on the fact that we each have our own spiritual gifts and how they work together in the Kingdom. Well, in so many words ...

Our house is rather daunting ... in Rwanda, there isn’t a middle class. Its either upper or lower class. When I post pictures, you won’t think I’m in Rwanda! But, they’ve told us its important we are as comfortable as possible, since there will be enough culture shock and adjustment as it is. But I’m still taking bucket baths, so that part feels like Africa. :)

We took our first trip to the market yesterday ... this felt more like Africa. Scary for me, but eventually it’ll be good. Right? Its kinda one of your typical Africa experiences. Well, at least in my opinion. We’re staying in the city of Kigali (capital of Rwanda) so its been interesting comparing it to Malawi. In Malawi, I spent the majority of my time in a village, away from most “civilization” whereas in Rwanda, we’re living in the city. A very different feel. Doesn’t feel as much like Africa because of all the development. A lot of people are losing their homes because the government/city wants to build on their property. In fact, one of the members of the church I’ll be attending could be moving into our house because of this. It’ll be interesting to see how the “feel” changes once I get into working with the people and ministries. I think its been hard for me to feel like I’m here because I haven’t had much personal contact with Rwandans yet.

Tomorrow we’re meeting with Jen, the missionary here who is our team leader (and who helped start ITeams Rwanda) to start to map out our schedules and what specific ministries we will be a part of. In talking to Jocelyn and Natasha, I think what we desire out of this experience, how we want to be in ministry and both give and get, are all different. So it’ll be fun to see how each of our stories play out. And it kinda confirms for me that my own heart and compassion are giftings and not necessarily just a given for anyone doing this kind of work. More to come about that one ...

We’re also going to the Genocide Memorial tomorrow – something that, believe it or not, I’ve been looking forward to. Yes, it’ll be rough, but I think it will bring me into Rwanda in a whole other level.

Okay, its 11:30 (Rwanda time) and I really should have been sleeping by now … more to come!