Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rwanda: One Week Later

How has it already been a week since we left Rwanda? Hard to believe.

Over the last week, I have spent an entire day with my students talking about my trip to Africa, I have had countless conversations about my experiences, and I have shared my love for my sweet Erick.

The things that I have shared barely scratch the surface of my trip. There isn't enough time in the day for me to share everything the Lord has done in my life, in my heart, and in the people of Rwanda, but here are a few things that have touched my heart even more deeply now that I am home.

First, I realized all the more how in control of EVERYTHING the Lord is. A HUGE prayer I had going into the trip was for God to take care of my diabetes and blood sugars. Seriously, this can only be explained by God. My blood sugars have NEVER been more consistent and spot on since I was diagnosed. He is in control. Of everything. All the time. Even when we forget or doubt. It's encouraging, awe-inspiring, and amazing all at the same time. Such an answer to so many people's prayers. Cool stuff people. Thanks for praying for me!

I have also been thinking so much about Erick. How his life is so different than mine. How his concerns are different. How his family is different. How his education is different. How he has so little and is still very happy. It baffles me. How has God given me this amazing Christ-centered love for a child halfway around the world, when we are so different? I have so much and yet I complain about numerous stupid things every day. He sure does put things into perspective for me. I miss him and truly want the best opportunities for him. Changing the world for one. It's why I sponsor him. It has and will continue to change his life, his family's life, and his community's life. Change the world for one and I guarantee it will rock your world.

Another conversation I've had many times this week has been about my job. I was feeling the monotony of lesson planning, grading, kids who don't want to care, listen, or learn, and politics.  I needed a break, but not just one away from school. I needed the Lord to light a fire in my soul again of why I love my job. Rwanda did just that. Pouring into others instead of coming home, sitting on my couch, and staring blankly at the countless TV shows I watch every week completely changed my heart for something outside of myself.

When we went to the Africa New Life School and saw how the children craved learning, selfishly all I wanted to do was stay and teach there instead of in the US. BUT, why would I move there when there are plenty of teachers in Rwanda that are great and need jobs. (Ok Lord, I see now it's NOT what you're calling me to...). But, what they do need is training so THEY can pour into their own culture, people group, and raising the next generation to love and serve only Jesus. Being a teacher in the United States, I have SO many opportunities to go to teacher trainings. I am forced to get so many hours every year in order to keep my certificate. I've been fortunate enough to go to Twitter Math Camp (and am going again this summer) to learn more things than my brain can possibly hold. They don't have those opportunities to the same extent as we do in the US.

With all that being said, the biggest thing I have struggled with after returning is do I go back in June. My church is taking another trip to spend time training teachers. We would leave the day after the last day of school, I would have to take some days off of work, and spend even more money than the first trip. All of those things together terrify me. I foresee the busyness that my life will become (even more than normal) if I decide to go back. BUT if this is what God is calling me to, how can I say no. He's got EVERYTHING!

I know he's calling me to go back. That was evident immediately. It fits perfectly with who the Lord has created me to be. My imperfect humanity comes in when I begin to look at the circumstances. My money, my time, my friends, my family...the part that keeps coming up is MY. It's not mine. It's our heavenly Father's. I should trust Him with it. So be praying for the Lord to grow my faith in Him and my willingness to surrender it all to the One to whom it belongs.

The Lord used this tiny country in the center of Africa to totally change my life.

If you're a teacher and would like to come too, let me know.
If you would like to support adventure #2, let me know.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rwanda: The day I met my sponsor son

Today, I got to meet my sweet Erick. I figured pictures spoke more than my words ever could. There's definitely some joyful tears and smiles. He is precious. Prepare yourself.

We started at the Africa New Life School to pick him up, rode the van to his house, and met his mom and 4 siblings at his home. 

You might also like:
Rwanda: Part 1
Rwanda: Part 2
Rwanda: Part 3
Rwanda: Part 4
Rwanda: Part 5

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rwanda: The day I saw a hippo

We had a 14 hour day today, so this post will be short. :)

Cool things from the day:

1. Cyusa, who is one of the top 11th grade students in Rwanda, and I had math lessons on the bus this morning. 
2.  I led surprise worship with Cyusa and Zach at the Kayonza and Kageyo New Life schools. So FUN!

3.We also had worship time on the bus. Love singing harmonies with sweet men who love the Lord.

4.  We saw a hippo today!! They are apparently the most dangerous animal in Africa.

5. More kids sang us the songs they learned in class. Precious.

 6. Ann got a rabbit from her sponsor kid's family. 

7. I relieved myself in something other than a toilet...successfully. #overshare #getoverit

8. Hung out with refugees who have been kicked out of Tanzania. We sang songs with the kids and blew bubbles.
9.Made a new Rwandan friend who is my age and has a new job in Kageyo. She will be their nurse.

10. In Kageyo B, the kids basically attacked the bus when we pulled up to the school. I don't think I've seen so many kids screaming before.

11. Lincee is an expert balloon hat maker!

Ann and Jacqueline

The church in Kageyo A
We're all about the baby goats in Africa!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rwanda: The day I got proposed to

Today has been great! This morning we went to the Africa New Life Staff devotion time. Singing and praising God in Kinyarwandan has been such an amazing thing to experience. God is so good. Pastor Gerald brought the Word from Galatians 5:16: "If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." He talked about how our communities do not get destroyed by outsiders but by each other on the inside. Our words are hurtful sometimes and can destroy long-time relationships in a matter of seconds. He called us to repent, ask forgiveness, and pray for healing in the relationships we encounter regularly. Convicting for sure.

After that we took a tour of the New Life Family Center, which is a room filled with sewing machines where the women spend a year learning to sew. In just two months they’ve sewn a vest, a uniform shirt, and they were working on a straight skirt. It’s so wonderful how they are learning a trade to support their families. Roommate was super excited to see pictures of this. :)

Up the hill from the New Life property there is a home that houses the Dream Center Day Care, that meant we got to play with BABIES! As soon as we walked through the gate, the 6 month to 3 years olds squealed with delight or screamed because the umuzungu (white people) are scary.

We played games, loved on babies, and sang songs with the caregivers and children. These women have no official teaching training but are doing a great job teaching these sweet loves English, music, and writing. We prayed with them, and every child folded there hands and prayed with us. They LOVE saying amen. PRECIOUS!

We walked back down the hill to the New Life property, where the African College of Theology is also located. This is so important to Rwanda because 6 months of being involved at Grace Bible Church is more training than most pastors have in Rwanda. They offer night classes to pastors, so they can improve their Biblical education and leadership skills to be more effective for their communities. ANL is also partnering with a few universities in the US to offer masters programs to the pastors here hopefully in the next few terms. They are also building a kitchen and dormitories, so the pastors don’t have to travel as much or find housing while they are taking classes. That’s so dope. (refer to Rwanda: Part 3 for clarification).

We came back to the New Life Guest House for lunch…which I don’t think I have talked about yet. There are 12 rooms upstairs each one has bunk beds and a personal bathroom. There is a common area where we eat together with the medical team and pastors that are here serving. I feel like we are living like royalty. They cook and clean for us, it’s DELICIOUS, and it's cooked over a fire. Definitely the best housing situation I’ve experienced on a mission trip, and most have been great.

After lunch, we had an amazing afternoon. We played with the Dream Boys, fed them lunch, told them about David and Goliath, and danced to the Biebs, which they knew the song. HILARIOUS! There’s videos. NO WORRIES. These boys are dear to my heart mostly because they remind me so much of my students at Northbrook. Many of these 5-13 year old boys have lived on the streets, stolen petty things to survive, and done weed. BREAK MY LITTLE HEART! But many of their situations sound so similar to the stories I hear at school.

I honestly could only tell you 1 or 2 of their names because they spoke so quietly and said their names so quickly. They only really understood “what’s your name” and “how old are you” in English, so that is all I know about them. I told them I am a teacher, but all of their favorite subjects are English. BOO. I had a kid tell me that he should be my husband (that has happened at school too…) and the boys grasped onto my arms and felt my hair because they were fascinated. They were excited to see someone look into their faces and love them instantaneously.

Lura Jane, our mama on the trip and Grace’s actual mom, is experienced in Bible story telling. She told the GREATEST version of David and Goliath I have ever seen and Yvonne, our missions director, translated the story just as fabulously. Their teamwork was on point.

When we left, I was rocking the ugly cry. When a boy looks you in the face and asks you if you will be his sponsor, you just want to hug them and say YES OF COURSE! It was so hard to leave after only spending 2 hours with them. They are a special group of boys, and a group that is so close to my heart because of the love they crave.

After that we had two more hope visits, where we brought food and prayers to families who have kids on the sponsorship waiting list. I was amazed at how challenging it is to get to some of their houses. We had to trek through the mud to get to both of their homes. These people have to do this every day, multiple times a day, and we complain about parking too far from the front of the store. It’s silly. I am just dumb-founded at the things I talk and complain about during a normal day. Spending time with these beautiful people has been so humbling.

At dinner tonight, the university ladies from the Esther Home (I talked about this in Rwanda: Part 1) came to the guest house and had dinner with us. I keep saying that __________ was my favorite part of the trip so far, but this might actually have been my favorite. These ladies are just like US college students, studying similar things, having the same worries, and doing the same things for fun. It kind of blew me away. It was just fun to have girl talk about the differences of our countries and the thing that all women struggle with. I loved sharing life with them and opening up right away to make them feel welcome and loved.

Today, the Lord poured into my soul. He showed me even further how important it is to love others unconditionally. It doesn’t matter if they are women, men, or children, rich or poor, or white or black. He is calling me to watch my words in my classroom, with my coworkers, with my family, and with my friends. The closer the relationship, the faster my temper flares, and the faster my patience wears away. Good and convicting day. Thankful the Lord is sanctifying my spirit. He’s not done with me yet.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rwanda: The day I got a pedi in Africa

Things you need to know before reading this post:
Amanda and Grace (the 18 year olds) taught everyone else new phrases.
1. That meal was “on point”. Meaning it was satisfying and perfect. 
2. That’s so dope. Meaning that’s cool.

I don’t think it’s possible to have a bad day in Africa. Even if things don’t go as planned (which they never do…it’s AFRICA), the Lord ALWAYS has a plan and it usually turns out better than the best laid plans we have.

Gotta start with last night…I called my mommy on FaceTime. She was in the McDonalds drive through ordering her coffee. I about wet my pants (along with the girls sitting at the table with me) when she squealed with delight and told the people at McDonalds that she was talking to her daughter in Africa. I love that woman.  SO. MUCH. She dope.

Ok…now for today.

Today was not a day that most would consider a day on a mission trip. It might sound like a trip to the Galleria.

We poured into the Rwandan economy. AKA We went shopping and got our nails done. I know what you’re thinking. We sent her money to do THIS?! Well, yes you kind of did. But, it was really a day of ministering to sweet people who love the Lord in a country that doesn’t have a lot of material things.

This morning we went to a ministry called More Than Sparrows. Some friends of Grace Bible Church started this ministry for women to get out of prostitution and have a way to provide for themselves. They make jewelry, towels, ornaments, beads, little animals, and all sorts of other things that women love. We dropped off some more supplies for them that we had brought with us, and we shopped, of course. (Pouring into the economy and a group that is on point and needs our support!)

When we walked in the mud “house,” there were 20-30 women sitting on the floor of the main room, which is smaller than half my classroom. Some had their children with them, one woman was breast-feeding her 1 month old, and one woman looked about 60. They were women of all ages and most likely all walks of life. All of them were working on a project (making beads out of rolled paper, embroidering tiny beads, or sewing towels), while still trying to take care of their children. It was a humbling sight, to say the least.

The dope part was that each item was marked with the name of the woman who made it. I picked up two dish towels that looked identical, but I wasn’t sure if I really wanted two identical things. The ladies working the store said that Vanessa, the one who made the towels, made 5 things in 6 months and most of her things hadn’t been sold yet, meaning she made very little money. Of course, after knowing her story I had to buy both of her towels.

Next, we went to Abraham’s store. This was purely shopping, but we were supporting a Christian man who supports Africa New Life. Supporting the believers in Rwanda is so dope! Then, we had lunch Meze Fresh, which is like Chipotle-Rwandan style. My burrito was on point. :)

After lunch, we had girl time. This is when it’s fantastic to be in Rwanda with 5 other women. On the New Life property, where the church and Kigali sponsorship are located, there are a few other buildings. One of the buildings is the Dream Beauty Academy. A few ladies got manicures, a few ladies got deep conditioning hair treatment, and Lincee and I got pedicures. It was so fun to see these ladies have people other than each other to practice on and BONUS: women who have umuzungu (white people) hair. They were so sweet, but they were nervous and shaking trying to paint our nails. Lincee and I got to know Zenago and Lillian. They spoke a little bit of English, so we chatted as much as we could. All the ladies there were beautiful and sharing Christ’s love with them was a perfect afternoon.
Gettin their nails done!
Amanda rockin the deep conditioning treatment.

Me and Zenago
Grace finding her inner African
LJ was so excited to have her hair done! Then I became her personal hair stylist for the rest of the week.
After that we had 2 home visits! THIS IS WHAT AFRICA NEW LIFE IS ALL ABOUT! Child Sponsorship is on point!

Child sponsorship offers the children in Rwanda an education that they would otherwise not have access to. It also provides food and school supplies so they don’t have to worry about their basic needs and can focus on their education. It also gives them an education in Bible teaching, which is the most important part. Child sponsorship allows us to raise up a generation who loves Jesus and will continue to rebuild Rwanda with a Christ centered world view.

Lincee and her precious JD

The dress McKenzie's girl is wearing was her Easter dress
The home visits are when the sponsor and the child get to meet each other. My home visit with Erick is on Friday. CAN’T WAIT! Lincee and Mackenzie (she’s here with our ANL team leader) had their home visits. Both had met their children previously, so they weren’t very long, but joyful tears and hugs were plentiful. My heart melted and made me even more anxious to meet Erick.

We would be shocked in the US to see homes like this. Their homes are not dope. Neither home had electricity, lamps, or lights of any kind. We have NO idea what that is like. Even when we lose power, we have lamps, fire, flashlights, or generators. We are very rarely completely without light. They also only had two or three small rooms made out of hardened mud. My classroom, where I work not LIVE, is bigger than both homes from today put together.  It amazes me how much child sponsorship will change these kids lives and their families, and even their communities because of the opportunities available to them now. God was kind of blowing my mind with this today.

So today was a day of shopping and primping, but it was also an extraordinary time of ministering to the people of Rwanda.

Fun things from today:
1.  I’m almost out of money…too much shopping. OOPS.
2.  I have lots of presents. Gift giving is my love language.
3.  Today, it rained as we were getting to the first home visit, which was down the mountain. So we walked/slid down the muddy mountain in flip-flops in the pouring rain and the boys were too prissy to get out of the van. We definitely got dirty = funzies!
4. Bill Gates is building a hotel and convention center in Kigali. The convention center looks like the top of an egg. Weird.
5. They put too much soap in our foot baths for our pedicures and we ended up with bubbles EVERYWHERE.
That's right. We climbed down the hill in the pouring rain and survived. And of course my jacket is pink...
Sorry for the dope and on point references.  :) It happened all day long with hashtags, so I had to share with you.

Love to you all from Rwanda!

You might also like:
Rwanda: Part 1
Rwanda: The day I fell in love with the schools

Meet John. He was our driver and pretty much the coolest guy ever.