Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wrapping up our time in Musanze.

Okay, I'm back! I had thought I would continue updating while in Rwanda, but when we moved on to Kigali it just didn't happen. And then, before I knew it we were on our 36 hour trip home and then life started again! So, now it has been a week since I was in Rwanda and I figured it was time I sat back down and told you more about the trip!

I'll include some picture posts later on, along with my promised church post, but for today I just wanted to share more about what all we did...

Our time in Musanze was amazing. It is so different from Kigali there. It's kinda like hanging out in KC rather than New York City...only on an African scale. = ) The weather was amazing. While my family was sweltering here in 100+ degree heat, we were enjoying temps that never caused us to sweat and had us grabbing our sweaters in the evenings...gotta love going to Africa to cool down!

We had a chance to tour around a bit which was really great. Some people may think that a mission trip should be all about work, but I actually think that taking the time to do things like tour the country is really important. Serving others is not all about getting your hands dirty. I truly think you are missing the point if you don't take the time to get to know the people and the place that you are there to serve. Learning to love is huge and only makes the service that much sweeter.

Anywho, Musanze is kind of ground zero for those coming to see the gorillas in Rwanda (which Anthony is DYING to do) and so we took some time to head up towards the hills where the gorillas live. We didn't actually go see the need to book that WAY in advance and it costs quite a bit, but it was really fun just heading up to the area. It is so beautiful up there. The scenery never ceases to amaze me in Rwanda, but this area really got to me. It was so lush and there was so much farming there...a shortage of food there is not. They grow enough potatoes there to feed all of Rwanda and send them on to Burundi and Malawi.

We also headed up to Lake Kivu and the Congo border. The lake was really beautiful and it always just amazes me to drive through the country and see all the people just going about their daily lives. All those walking around with bags of potatoes on their heads and babies strapped to their backs. Little children with three mud bricks stacked on their sweet little heads and sometimes a small child also strapped to their backs. The water filling station with so many yellow jerry cans laying around waiting for their turn to be filled and carried back home. The farming, the women doing laundry in the streams, the crowds of people carrying everything under the sun on their heads on their way to market...I could drive around those hills for days.

Every moment was wonderful there...the evening conversations with the Mbandas, giving goats to "the poorest of the poor" congregants of their church, the constant supply of Fantas, the feasts that we rolled away from every evening, all the goods that we purchased from the Mothers Union was hard to leave Musanze, a place I have grown to love...but on to Kigali we headed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

These women.

Today we (the ladies) did a bible study for the women at the Mbandas' church...did I ever mention that he is an anglican bishop here? Well, he is...anyway, there were about 100 women there and we sat in chairs at the front of the church facing them. They were singing as we walked in, which will never get old, and then Chantal stood up and told them a bit about our group. At one point she asked me to stand up and told all of them about how I had adopted a little boy from Rwanda and how I hoped to again. The women all clapped and flashed those brilliant Rwandese smiles at me...

We each took turns introducing ourselves through a translator and saying something in Kinyarwanda. The other four all said hello or good morning, and when I stood up I almost did the same, but instead I told them that I wanted to share my favorite phrase in Kinyarwanda. I told them it is the one that I say every night to my son when he goes to bed...ndagukunda...I love you. They all shouted it back to me...100 Rwandese women said they loved me.

We were each asked to share something to encourage them from God's word. I chose to share from Psalm 71, which they had read at church on Sunday. Two verses had stood out to me that morning...

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb.
My praise is continually of you.
(verses 5 and 6)

I told them through tears how my son's life had started out with difficulty but that God had been there. That God had been the one who brought Nate from his mother's womb and that we could praise Him for that. I told them that no matter what difficulty they go through, or that I go through, that my prayer for them is that they will remember that God is there and so we can praise Him.

I was shaking with emotion when I sat down and so many of the women had tears in their eyes. In so many ways it felt like looking into the face of my son's birthmom and the way that they looked at me, so filled with love, just rocked me.

When we were done it was the ladies' turn to stand up and share a bit of their stories and why they thank God. It was so incredible to listen to these women. Nearly each one had either been an orphan, was a widow, or both. They talked about having no home and losing nearly all their family in the genocide. And yet they saw God through it all and they praised Him.

There was one lady in particular that I wanted to tell you about. She looked older than most, but it is so hard to guess how old people are here. She talked about how as she was walking to go into exile during the genocide, she was among a group of Christians. Another lady was trying to stick close to the group but they kept avoiding her because everyone knew that she was being hunted. One night she spoke with the woman and the woman told her that she knew they were Christians and wanted them to take her baby when she was killed. And that is what this woman did. Her own life was threatened for having the baby but she kept going back for her and today her daughter is 16. She then looked at me and said how she had cried when I had talked because she knew that it took a deep love to love a child not from you. She has another adopted child who can't walk or talk, she's five...oh, and they live under a tarp, because they have no home...and yes, she still thanked God.

This amazing woman whose life has looked completely different from mine, found that place where we are the same and at that moment nothing else mattered to me. I'll never forget it.

My heart aches that I can't know Nate's birthmom and yet on this trip I have felt as though I have embraced her as I have embraced these women...their cheeks pressed up against mine. I have looked into her eyes and at her smile as I have looked through tears into theirs. I can't thank her and yet these women have thanked me. I feel so overwhelmed with love right now...

Monday, July 18, 2011

My other home...

Well, I have finally gotten down to write a bit. I wish I could make this longer than it will be but the Internet and I are not getting along and I used most of our rest time to email Anthony...he trumps you all. = )

So here is a quick rundown of things so far...

Our trip was pretty uneventful and we actually arrived on time in Kigali on Saturday. Of course it took a really long time to gather all of our baggage, we only lost one bag (Deb's personal suitcase...which she should get tomorrow), but none of that mattered when I could see Chantal's face in the crowd. Just the thought of her makes me smile but seeing her fills my heart. I have to say though I had a few flashbacks about the last time she greeted me at the airport and the mess I was walking into and I thanked God that there was nothing like that this time...

We drove that night for a couple of hours to the north to Musanze where we are staying for the first half of our trip. It was dark the roads were winding and I hadn't slept in 36 hours so it was a real relief to get to our hotel.

Sunday morning was AMAZING! I will write about it more extensively when I get back and can post a video to go with it. Let's just say that those who don't think that dancing and worshipping God can go together need to spend some time in Rwanda!!!

The evening we spent with the Mbandas listening to the stories and all about Mbanda's job as bishop here. It was so interesting and just great to be together...I had never met Mbanda before and I have to say that I consider it an honor to know him.

Today has been a busy one. We toured a preschool that has started in a local church (one of 148 that they have started since November!) and boy do I have some cute videos to post from that! The kids were ages 3 to 6 which is just one of those things that digs into my soul as I see Nate's sweet face among them. (I just realized that I will have to blog about the emotions of this all later...there is just too much to think through right now.). We then went by Sonrise School, where the oldest 12 kiddos from NHHs go to boarding school. It was a really neat place and you could tell that everyone was proud of their school. It is one of the best schools in Rwanda and 50% of the kids are orphans...insane. After that we ran by the land that the new houses will be built for NHHs and then grabbed lunch and are resting.

I can't even begin to tell you how good it feels to be here. To look at all these faces, hear all these accents and language and know that I am in truly has this amazing sense of home for me. And I deeply love it here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Friday, July 8, 2011

Comparing eggs...

So, at dinner tonight Elise for some reason told us about this day in her class this past year when they looked at the insides of a brown and white egg. "They were both the same." she told us, "Just like how people can look different on the outside, but we are all the same on the inside." Hmmm...I simply wasn't going to let this pass...

The next 15 minutes turned into a conversation about how we actually AREN'T all the same inside. God created each one of us differently and rather than pretending that we are all the same, we should learn to love and appreciate what is different about each other, both inside and out. We then all told something we loved about another family member, both inside and out. (Even helping them to decide whether something was an outside thing or an inside thing, was really interesting.) It was such a sweet conversation and I so enjoyed hearing everyone come up with things. Here are a few for each family member that came up...

Adele: inside...creative; outside...her blonde hair
Elise: inside...nice; outside...her long hair
Lucy: inside...goofy; her middle toes are so long
Nathan: inside...silly; outside...his fro-hawk
Mom: inside...loving; outside...pretty clothes (I had a dress on today.)
Dad: inside...playful; outside...his nose

It's okay that we are different, in fact, it's beautiful. But how we chose to think about those differences, now that's what is truly important.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My heart...

Almost here. In less than two weeks I go. And the emotions have begun to swell within me.

I met with my team the other night and walked away crying. I think that it just really hit me...they have no idea. And there is no reason why they would, I know that, but it's hard to know it just the same. For them, they are about to embark on a new adventure. They are headed to a land and a people they don't know. They are going to discover how best they, and the church they represent, can come alongside those that are there and help them. There is a simplicity to their mission and while it may move their heart, open their eyes, and perhaps make them all, it will require little from them. And that's okay. That's the reality and there is nothing wrong with that...God still moves greatly in those spaces...but for me, well this is a very different trip.

The awkwardness: So, Anthony and I have left the church we have been with for so long. The same church that I am going on this trip with. We have a real peace about our leaving, but there is definitely some hurt and sadness that is there and the reality that my going on this trip is preventing us from getting the separation that our hearts deeply desire in order to heal right now. But we trust that God knew all of this and has a purpose for my being on this team, whether I am able to understand it or not. But the rest of my team carries none of this and there is a real loneliness that comes from carrying that alone. I could use some serious prayer for this.

The emotions...part 1: The last time I was in Rwanda, I was there to get Nate. I was in this difficult place of fighting to bring him home, feeling insanely alone without Anthony, and being a mom to this little boy who was in once sense already deeply knit in my heart and yet a complete stranger. It was overwhelming in every sense of that word and I am so aware that as I walk in some of the same spaces that hold incredible memories for me, my emotions may go absolutely crazy. We'll walk into New Hope Homes and while the others check out the building and life in Rwanda, I will see the exact spot I stood in when I was handed my son, the porch I stood on as he screamed and I tried to comfort my child, all the while desperately needing someone to comfort me. They'll look at the children and see these sweet little brown people, I will look at them and see my son and then be faced with...

The emotions...part 2: My hopes...oh, how we hope to adopt again soon. The rumor has been that Rwanda will reopen before the end of the year, and we are so anxious to enter the process again. There's so much that could be said on this, but truly what it boils down to is that not only will I be dealing with emotions of the past, but also those of a future and it is all a bit overwhelming. Luckily there is one exception on our team who will understand me a bit on this. One of the men has his family's paperwork in Rwanda right now and may even know who his children are when we are there, which is just so crazy and I can only imagine what emotions he'll have to sort through while we are there!

So, in short, I am in serious need of prayer. This trip is not about me. Even though I am no longer a member of Christ Community, I am still going there to help them think through their relationships in Rwanda. I can't let this be about me and my struggles. At the same time though, I am not one who hides my heart and my heart is about to be seriously overwhelmed and perhaps my experience is part of what my team needs to see...I don't know. All I know is that I am about to go back to Rwanda and I can't wait and I am just so deeply aware of my need for God in all of this.

I'm also so aware of how inept this post seems to be in describing what I feel...but it is all the words I can find right now.