Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sacrifice in love

Seems like a lot of my entries are becoming experiences I’ve had during house-visiting!

Our first visit was quite different than most of the other visits we’ve had. This lady was so excited … but sick. But her joy and life were stronger than her sickness. Only months ago she was close to death. And I really think her joy is part of what built her strength back up … it must have been. Some people you can see Jesus in more than others … and she totally had the love of Jesus in her! It was written all over her!

The visit that stuck with the most today was a house in which we were told a story of how the lady, already struggling with her own health, took in a man who was sick with HIV; its not enough that she’s sick with kids, but she said “come on, we’ll give you a place to stay and people to care for you.” Wow! Eventually he moved away and married … but his new wife was HIV negative. Enoch, who takes us to these visits, had a problem with this. Why would you even marry someone and do that to them? Enoch, even if the woman was madly in love with him, wouldn’t do that to her; he wouldn’t marry her. So, although the wife was still HIV negative, this man was probably infecting her with the virus.

Then, we were asked the question, what would you do? Would you marry someone with HIV? Would you marry them knowing that you’d never be able to have sex? Or, would you marry them knowing that you’d most likely become sick as well? Would you give yourself that death-sentence? With all that set aside, would you even marry them knowing they would most likely not be with you long? The popular answer was not to answer. To say that we can’t know what we’d do until we’re in the situation. We talked an especially long time about whether you’d marry someone knowing you’d never be able to be sexually intimate. The girls really couldn’t answer, but thought most-likely they couldn’t marry them. I, on the other hand, said I thought I would do it. If I was in love with a man, and really felt that we were suppose to be life-partners, I think the love and companionship would outweigh the sexual intimacy. Now, maybe this sounds crazy to most – and like I said, we really can’t know until we’re in the situation – but that’s my best guess. I think I love the heart more than the other stuff. I’d rather live a life with that person and sacrifice that one aspect of our relationship, than live a life without the person at all.

What about you? What would you do? Really, stop and think about it. What would you do?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fun Story

So you know those no-bake cookies with cocoa, peanut butter, and oats? We made some for Natasha’s birthday party last month and SO many of the Rwandans thought they were meat! It was priceless to see their reaction as they bit into it and realized it was far from meat! :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Listening to the Spirit

House-visiting: We went to 3 houses today … one was suppose to be at the hospital, but we got there and they had sent her home. But it was still fun to be able to see the hospital. So with lots of fruit and juice in hand, we traveled to her house, and visited her there. The poor thing: when she got up to greet us she was bent over almost 90 degrees! She had surgery on her uterus – apparently had lots of abysses removed. She looked like she was in SO much pain. But oh my, she was a beautiful lady … her face looked so soft. Its funny, you notice a lot more of the beauty in people when you see the suffering. I don’t know if its because you look for the good and beauty so that it doesn’t make the pain as bad, or if its just that with pain comes beauty. Maybe it’s a beauty that comes from strength and perseverance. It starts in the soul and grows outward … so much so that you literally see the beauty in people.

Anyway. It was just me on this visit. Jocelyn and Natasha went home after a couple visits because they were sick and didn’t want to put the people at risk that we visited, considering their weak immune systems. After talking to this woman for a couple minutes, I found out she had not received any pain medicine because the kind that would be the most effective was extremely expensive and not covered on her health plan (yep, they have health plans … paid by the church that sponsors Ubuzima). I continued to ask questions through the translator and found out more about her condition as well as about her husband and family. Her only two children died last year within months of each other in random accidents – the husband thinks someone put a curse on their family. Enoch, the translator, just kept saying how they were great kids. I think he had known this family for awhile. Somehow in our conversation, it came up that if she didn’t have this medicine she mentioned, she would die. Now, I don’t know how true that is, but I thought there might have been some validity to it – if she wasn’t given enough care and recovery time at the hospital, then who knows? Its always hard to know when to trust something or believe it. But I’ve learned to just follow my heart. And the whole time I was talking to this woman and her husband, it was on my heart to give her the money for the medicine. I had no one to really consult with, since it was just me on this visit. But I knew that if I left, and didn’t do anything, I’d regret it. I took that to be possibly the Holy Spirit talking to me. There’s no telling what they’ll use the money for … but if its not for the medicine, then I guess whatever they use it for was needed just as much.

* * * * * * *

The other two people we visited today had it pretty rough, too. You could see the emotional pain, weariness, and fear in their eyes. No money for school fees for the children, no money for food, trying to take care of themselves and their kids when their own health is failing. Sometimes it can be daunting to those of us who do the visiting. Like, there’s so much to do. You want to help them. You want to do something. But you can’t solve all their problems. You can’t dish out wads of money and make it all better.

One lady had taken in an orphan with AIDS. So on top of everything else, she was burdened with the health and well-being of this child who isn’t even her own. She had to borrow money from her neighbor for his medicine, and it wouldn’t be long before he’d need more. And this boy. He was 4-years-old, but looked like he was 2. But, of course, you’d never know he was sick with the way he was smiling and crawling in our laps. But, really, I would have totally guessed he was 2! We ended up giving some of our ministry money to this lady for his medicine. Again, so many needs, where do you start? This was where we started. And we hope and pray that God will provide in other ways for the rest.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Welcome "Home," Aponere

I want to tell you about one of the kids I tutor/teach at Moureen's place and how God keeps watching out for him.

Aponere – his mom is gone and father not around, so he lives with a family in Chimichanga (area of Kigali). Their family is supported by Compassion Int’l and therefore has to work on a farm run by Compassion to help earn their “income.” Well, a lot of the time, they send Aponere to do the work instead of the other kids and so he misses school … sometimes 4 days a week. Therefore, he misses exams and gets low marks in school when really he’s an excellent student! My best one … he’s so quick and eager! He’s eighteen and in the equivalent to what we know of as 4th grade (which, being older in elementary school is common here).

So when we found out about this, we asked Moureen about it … especially b/c a couple of the kids Aponere lives with started coming to HW club and I wasn’t necessarily okay with that. We weren’t sure if we should even tell Moureen b/c what can she do? She’s got enough to worry about right now with the property about to be taken from them … and we didn’t necessarily want anyone to say anything to the family he was with or Compassion, b/c then they’d take it out on Aponere and it could backfire. But, somehow, it came up yesterday with Moureen. We told her the situation and she non-chalantly told someone to go get Aponere … before we knew it, she was asking him if he wanted to come live with her. He said yes and left and that was it. We found out later that he had apparently come to Moureen not too long ago and pleaded with her to go to school … so ITeams started paying his school fees. But it didn’t solve the issue of the fact that he was a “houseboy” and couldn’t really work and go to school at the same time, which it looks like he was trying to do. He just amazes me.

Anyway, we didn’t even have time to blink at the situation, much less process what had just happened. The thing is, it was just SO not a big deal for her. It was like me asking if someone wanted coffee, they said yes, and its done. We were blown away, but at the same, I’m kinda not surprised. Moureen has a huge heart for people, especially for the kids in the area … she would take them ALL in if she could. Jen and Serge, head of IT, had to tell her she wasn’t aloud to b/c there wasn’t enough money. But Moureen, if it was just her, would take them in no matter if there was money to provide or not. She's a pretty amazing woman.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Its All Relative

So, I have a saying about Rwanda: “Its all relative!” Rwanda is definitely teaching me to go with the flow more – I did to a certain extent in the States, but its at a whole new level here. Learning lots about expectations. Learning that if you say, do, expect, or understand something to be true, its all relative!

If you are planning to go to a meeting (or if you have a “program” – they LOVE that word here!), it might or might not happen depending on the weather. If you are planning to meet someone for lunch, don’t count on it actually happening – they might have made other plans or need to go visit someone or just forgot. If you order a chicken salad, don’t count on them actually having chicken that day – its on the menu, but it may or may not be available. You come home to cook dinner, the milk may or may not be good … even if you bought it yesterday. Even though the internet is working at the moment, it may not work in 5 minutes. You are told the food will be ready in 14 minutes, that might mean that its 40 minutes. It’s all relative!

Monday, April 20, 2009

My first "holiday"

This weekend we went to Bujumbura, Burundi to get away. Really, it was because we needed to leave the country in order to renew our visas. When you enter Rwanda, they issue you a free visa for 3 months and you either have to leave and come back or you can write and request a new visa. We chose the former of the two options!

So, Burundi is beautiful! We were near Lake Tanganyka ... went to the beach a couple times. Its beautiful! I think I might like it better than the ocean b/c of all the mountains on the other side and looking at the clouds on and in the mountains. In one direction you could look at some of the city of Bujumbura (capital city where we were) and in the other direction, you were looking at the mountains of the Congo! Stayed in the city (wish we could have stayed ON the beach, but it was more expensive) ... its a small city compared to Kigali and Kigali is a lot more developed. But Bujumbura had a nice feel to it. I could live there longer, but the French would be a problem. It’s a lot more common than in Kigali.

One of the ladies at our church (her husband works with ITeams) is from Burundi and has family there. So her sister showed us around the whole time. We ate at little restaurants in the town ... one day we ate lunch on a hill overlooking the city. It was actually in the "red zone" ... a place that used to be off limits because it was dangerous from the war, a lot of conflicts happened there between the rebel forces. Rwanda has all the attention in media about the genocide, but there’s been ongoing conflicts between Tutsis and Hutus in Burundi for years. Its interesting how many NGO’s you see in Kigali and hardly any in Burundi. Anyway, we broke so many cultural rules that day!! People don’t eat outside (we found out soon why – b/c you’re eating in front of people that might walk by and not have food), women don’t eat in public (now its not so bad, but in the “old days” you never saw the woman eating with everyone), eating and being on that mountain in the red zone.

We went to the top of a mountain one day to an old university that has been abandoned from the war and is now unofficially used as a community center – kids play soccer there, people exercise, play basketball, it’s a hotbed of activity! It also looks over the city of Bujumbura and it is absolutely beautiful!! It feels like the clouds are so close, too. One night (and for lunch the next day when we went back) we ate at a restaurant on the beach. Food is pretty similar ... nothing fancy. Usually they have burgers and sandwiches (but not great quality) at restaurants as well as traditional food (rice and beans and ‘fries’.)

All in all, it was a good trip, but I'm glad to be "home" in Kigali.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Traumatized by the Genocide

Not a lot of "processing" in this one, but i want to share our house-visiting this week. It was pretty impactful to me.

This week we kind of focused on people particularly affected by the genocide, considering how we’re still a pretty heavy time of the mourning season in April. At the first house, we found a lady who’s father sent his children away to Butare when the genocide began while he stayed behind in Kigali. She married and had a baby, but Butare turned out to be no safer than Kigali … her husband and baby were killed; she’s 32, so she must have been like 17 when the genocide occurred. Her father was killed in Kigali genocide (I think other family as well … the only survivors were half-siblings). Then, she “took” a husband during genocide – it was a forced marriage and she was raped. She started getting sick in ’03 and found out she had HIV in ’04 (from genocide). Her stepmother at first wouldn’t let her live in father’s house and continues to “encourage” her to sell the property, but its all she has left of her family. She’s been in mourning big time these last few weeks – she calls it “traumatized.” I SO wanted to get up and go comfort her as she cried, but I didn’t know if it was culturally appropriate! Another girl lives with her – they met 4 months ago at the hospital, and she invited this girl to live with her b/c she was alone. This girl was one of a whole group of people who where taken to a house during the genocide and it was set on fire … she was like one of two survivors so she has serious burns on the right side of her body and is looking at having surgery done in Uganda. Its hard for her to move her body b/c its burned together; she was hidden by a muzungu and that’s how she lived. She might have been like 4 or 5 years old. I think her parents must have not been with her cause she talked about finally finding them and they had been killed when she did – I think. It all is running together. She was in school but traumatized and when she remembers things, it causes her classmates to remember, so she was asked to leave school and get “treatment.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter, Beauty, Blessings

This is an entry with lots of misc things. Its probably not as detailed as I'd like ... hopefully I'll expand it later.

Easter was hard this year - didn't feel like Easter at all. They don't really celebrate it here, which blows me away. But it also doesn't help that April is the month of mourning from the genocide, so celebrations of any kind are not very common and sometimes frowned upon. But our church did make an effort to observe Easter, as least the English service did. We had an Easter message, but that was about all. And on Good Friday, they showed the movie Passion of the Christ. It was the closest I felt to the Easter season. I didn't watch all of it, but I know God spoke to me in the parts I did see. It just hits you a different way when you see that movie. You can put yourself there and it all becomes more real. As I watched Jesus' close friends and mother watching him being beaten, I couldn't help but imagine what it must have been like to see someone you treasure so dearly - your best friend or son - put through that. And then I thought, "well, Emily, but Jesus IS your best friend." But its just easy for me sometimes to think of Jesus as more removed or distant, but he's not. I long to truly love and think of him and see him as my BEST friend and one true lover of my soul.

* * * *

At Ubuzima today, Mama Deborah (leader of Ubuzima Ministry/Association) told some of her story. Her father and brother were killed in the genocide and all of one side of her extended family (I think). I don't have the time or space to relate the whole story, and don't know that I remember it all anyway, but I'll just say it was beautiful! I know, I know - how can you say a story like that is beautiful. But it was in the way she told it that was beautiful. And in the fact that Mama Deborah is beautiful herself, inside and outside. She has a glow about her and peacefulness and warmth that radiates from her. I wish I could know her more deeply, she seems like an amazing woman. And with her story of what she went through with the genocide, it just makes me think she is that much more amazing and beautiful. I think there's something special and beautiful that occurs when someone shares their heart, their story, their soul ... they are vulnerable but the fact that they are inviting you in, is just so precious to me. Maybe that's why I saw her as that much more beautiful.

* * * * *
One of the Rwandans we work with, who accompanies us on house-visits, requests each week for transportation money and there has been a big stink about how much money to give him. Poor guy is so frustrated because he keeps getting the run-around. My heart has been convicted lately that we've been making too big of a deal out of how much money we give him. I mean, after all, its only about the equivalent of $4 ... I've been thinking about and paying attention to how I might use some of my individual ministry money to bless Enoch. Sometimes we forget that even those who work alongside us and minister WITH, don't have it as easy as us and need blessing just as much as those we minister TO.

* * * * *

We were able to use some of our ministry money to bless one of the ladies we visited a few weeks ago and pay her rent for the next 2 months. Part of our budget each month has a certain amount of money set aside to be used to give away to a need we see in someone's life - to bless them in a special way. This lady was going to be kicked out of her house if she didn't pay, and it had been on our hearts to help her somehow. Unfortunately, paying her rent isn't a long-term solution, but its what we can do now. And we can just hope that it gets her by for now and that in the meantime, God will provide for her in other ways so that the months following she will still have a roof over her head.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Trouble at Moureen's - Intercessors needed!!

A large part of our time here is spent helping/teaching kids at Moureen's place - aka "Women in Action." Just a few days ago, we learned a lot of these kids lives are potentially going to be turned upside down in a couple weeks. A large number of them live on a property managed by a lady named Moureen, who is also the pastor of a church that meets there as well and in charge of Women in Action - the association for former prostitutes and their children.

Last week, Moureen received a letter from the owner (who mysteriously disappeared after the genocide and is now living in Belgium) saying everyone had to vacate the property by the end of the month, with no explanation as to why. It is very difficult for even just one person to find new housing in Kigali, so you can imagine how daunting it is to think about 30 people being displaced! And this is where I spend half my time working! So, needless to say, we’re all pretty stunned and don’t know what to think or what we’ll do in the near future if this all does play out as expected. PLEASE PRAY FOR THIS SITUATION!! Pray for guidance for Moureen and the other leaders of ITeams, pray for provision of the families being displaced, and pray for a change of heart or circumstances of this owner. And ask your friends to pray!

Genocide Commemoration Week

This month has been pretty quiet around Kigali. April is a time of mourning for Rwanda in that it was in the month of April that the genocide occurred, this year marks the 15th anniversary. In order to “help” people remember what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again, you will find numerous memorials held around the country all month, radio shows with testimony, tv programs and music videos commemorating the genocide, and nightly prayer vigils. The city is covered in purple – the official mourning color of Rwanda for this time. Last week was the official mourning/commemoration week so most of our activities and ministries were cancelled and even today at Ubuzima (HIV group) the attendance was low because many are still observing the mourning or visiting relatives and/or graves. On Tuesday (April 7), life basically stopped in Kigali–stores were closed, transportation was slim, and hardly anyone could be found in a city where the sidewalks are normally jam-packed with people. April 7th is the day after the president’s plane was shot down, marking the beginning of the genocide (although, I don’t know that you’d officially call it the beginning – the killing had already started in many villages outside Kigali as the Interhamwe were planning the mass murders that would soon take place). The other interns and I wanted to attend the national memorial service, held in Kigali this year, but we were advised not to go alone. But how do you ask someone to come along and translate that kind of stuff? Especially when most of the people we work with were so closely affected by genocide. So instead, we stayed at home and watched what we could on TV, the parts that were in English. Most of the commemoration events and programs are in Kinyarwanda so we’re still pretty sheltered from everything.

Hopefully more later ...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Am I Serving God, or is God serving me?

I’ve now crossed my half-way mark of the time I will spend in Rwanda! It some ways it feels like I’ve been here for longer, other ways it feels like I just got here. I think I’m finally settled now and have been able to focus more on why I’m here and doing the things I’m doing, rather than trying make myself comfortable. But you know, it never really should have been about me ... its about God and the people who are here. I’m not here for me – I’m here for them.

Last week I was reading 1 Corinthians, I think it was verse 7 or 8. It was The Message translation, so you never know what the specific verses are. But I love this translation of it ... its something I would never think about from the more traditional translations like NIV, RSV, etc. "We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him." A lot of my prayers since I’ve been here have been things like: "Help me find my place; Make me comfortable; bring me relationships; I want to do this and not that." Hear a theme? Me. Now, I know that those prayers are okay – there is no prayer that is wrong – but I think lately I’ve been focused on what I can get out of this experience, rather than what God wants me to do. I know that I need to remember to focus on the fact that I’m serving and not here to get my own needs met or find what makes me happy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


So, its been awhile since my last post ... I've got lots of stuff to write and update you on, so bear with me ... its coming.

If you are on my email update list, some of the first few blogs will be repeats, since I included them in my email.

Thanks for reading!