Friday, December 12, 2014

It is well

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well, it is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe 
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

So let go, my soul, and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

It is well with my soul.

-Bethel Music 


Thursday, November 27, 2014


I just finished a book called "bittersweet" by Shauna Niequist.  Her thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way have reminded & inspired me to never stop living in the freedom of His grace,  and to not be defeated by the difficult times in life but to grow from them.  Over the past few months, I've been reminded that if God truly removes our sins as far as the east from the west, the heavy weight of the shame and sadness of who I really am at the core, a sinner, is lifted and I can smile, and live, and love again because after all "my life is a story about who God is and what He does in the human heart." -bittersweet

From "Bittersweet"...
"But if you can find it within yourself, in the wildest of seasons, just for a moment, to trust in the goodness of God, who made it all and holds it all together, you'll find yourself drawn along to a whole new place, and there's truly nothing sweeter."
 "Don't get stuck in the past, and don't try to fast-forward yourself in to a future you haven't yet earned.  Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life's path." 
 "There's another kind of thin place, and we find ourselves in these places when our lives and our hearts are broken open.  Brokenness has a way of allowing the supernatural into our lives in the same way that deep joy or great beauty do --- and maybe, I'm finding even more." 
"When things fall apart, the broken pieces allow all sorts of things to enter, and one of them is the presence of God." 
"When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow."
Change on Hadley Ave... 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My heart won't stay away

Missionary, Miriam Adeney says it well...
"You will never feel completely at home again because a part of your heart will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richess of loving and knowing people in more than one place." 

Even though our time in Rwanda was short, it was so rich, and a piece of my heart is still there.  I'm still processing and praying about how my life will look differently because of what we did, saw, learned, and experienced.  For now, I'm excited about growing my relationship with our Rwandan sponsor son Cyusa and his father Alphonse.  My hope is that Andrew and I will have the opportunity to go back together to visit them and continue to bless and invest in their lives as I know they will bless ours even more.

I want to bring what I learned in Africa to Dayton, Ohio and continue to serve here because Lord knows, every day of our lives can be a mission trip...we don't have to go across the world to find people in need.

One of my Rwanda trip team members and friend, Angel Snow, sang one of her own songs "My Heart Won't Stay Away" each place we went.  It became sort of my theme song for the trip because I know my heart won't stay away from Rwanda and the people there.  I will always carry this experience with me and know that Rwanda doesn't end's just the beginning. 

Rwanda 2014 - short video of iPhone clips I took throughout the trip. 


Imana ni nziza

Imana ni nziza, translated in English is, God is so good.  We sang that song over and over again in a small village on the outskirts of Kigali called Bugasera, Kanaze inhabited by Batwas.

The Batwas otherwise know as Twa, are the smallest ethnic group in Rwanda, and are very much seen as the forgotten minority of the country. In general, they are a neglected tribe and suffer discrimination and marginalization.  Many Twa children are unable to attend school or receive medical treatment from hospitals because they are often times denied identity cards needed for state recognition.

Jane and Peter (pastors & Rwandan translators) told us about their friend, Phillip, who felt a calling in his life to move to this particular Twa community and start a church there. He heard about our team coming to Rwanda from Jane and Peter and asked them if they thought we might want to visit their village and minister to the families and that's just what we did.

Journal Entry Day 5: We spent the day visiting a Twa community in a small village on the outskirts of  Kigali.  We were told many, if not most, of the people in this village had never seen a white person before so we were all kind of wondering how 11 of us showing up at the same time would go over... and it went just about the way we thought it would. We stepped off the bus into a circle of what seemed to be hundreds of villagers starring at us with wide eyes, skeptical looks and whispering to eachother in Kinyarwanda. We basically felt like a walking zoo and it was one of those feelings and experiences I don't think I'll ever forget.  I was thinking, this is what it would be like for us if a random group of purple people showed up and parked their bus on our street.  Fortunately, Phillip, the pastor of the village, had already spread the word that we would be coming and gave them our purpose, which was to spend the day with them, pray over them, play with their kids, learn about their community, see how they live day to day life, and most importantly, show them that even though the majority of Rwandans neglect them as a tribe, we would actually fly across the world just to meet them. We visited their huts, we held their children, we saw how they grew their crops, and made clay pots, and after a full day of jump roping, soccer, coloring, nail painting, singing, dancing and more singing and dancing we all were thinking to ourselves..."did we really do anything meaningful today?" That question was answered towards the end of our visit when two leaders of the tribe came and spoke to us (Peter translating for us). They presented to us a basket filled with beans as a gift of appreciation & with emotion they said they would never forget this day because it was the day 11 people came from across the world not only to just recognize that they exist, but to show them and tell them how valuable they are to us and to God. 

The whole day was incredible and unlike anything I have ever experienced.  We ended up being able to help out financially with the building of a school in their village, something they've never had.  The  money was presented as if it were being given from Jane and Peter's church and not from us, the Americans there on a short term mission trip. We did this with the mind set of wanting to empower rather than enable and encourage the concept of Rwandans helping Rwandans.

Imana ni nziza 
ni nziza cyane.

(God is so good, He's so good to me)


Monday, July 28, 2014


We spent the last two days of our time in Rwanda at Noel Orphanage. Noel was once the largest orphanage in Rwanda housing over 600 kids. Now many of these children are at boarding schools and others have reunified with distant family members, but there are still many kids under 5 as well as older teenagers and kids with special needs.

Journal Entry Day 9: Before I came to Rwanda, I felt like I was in a pit.  I even brought this book to read on the plane ride home by Beth Moore called "Get out of that Pit."  But I realized today, I am entirely out of that pit...I don't know when it happened exactly, but some time between taking off from the Dayton, Ohio airport and now, 9 days into the trip, I notice weights being lifted, and worries dissolving.  And as I'm processing it now, I can see so clearly what the pit was...because I've been there before, and it's being consumed with my self.  I often serve myself more than I do others and wanting other people to love and affirm me and the reality is, God created us to serve and love others, so it's no surprise that I would be in a pit, when I find myself believing that this life I live is for me.  Beth Moore would probably have reminded me that in her book, but I re-discovered that the secret to joy in life is found in loving and serving others and the children of Noel helped me remember that secret.  
When we arrived at Noel and all those little faces with their big eyes were looking up at us, jumping to see in the windows, running along side the bus as we pulled into the gates, I could have been a puddle on the floor.  As I got out of the bus and scooped up as many kids as I could possibly hold & hug at one time, I felt in the deepest parts of me how much they needed to be hugged, how much they needed to feel special and valuable...and  in that moment, so many of the things in my heart and mind that had me in a pit started to disappear...and I thought to myself many times throughout the day, "I am exactly where God wants me to be right now."  And so I realize more and more, the closer I get to the life that God has called me to live, the further away the pits of life become. 
Journal Entry Day 10: We've spent the last 2 days at Noel Orphanage.  I could have spent our entire time here.  It felt a little overwhelming because there were so many children and we couldn't possibly give all of our love and attenition to every child in the way we really wanted to but we sure did try our best.  I tried to split up my time evenly with different ages...the teenagers spoke english pretty well so it was really great being able to communicate with them, encourage them, talk about school and what they want to do and be in life after the orphanage. The babies were so precious, I could hardly stand it...we played with bubbles and stickers like there was no tomorrow.  I think it was good to give the "orphanage moms" a little break and affirm them by telling and showing them how important their job is and hopefully we encouraged them in that.   
 These kids are so tough...they grew up in this environment that isn't very clean and without families, and without strong adult figures encouraging them and telling them they are special and beautiful and can go to school and get a job.  They don't own one thing to their name.  They share everything they have..clothes, food, space...they don't take piano lessons or go on family vacations...and I guess the thing that breaks my heart the most is that they don't get told over and over again, "God loves you so much, no matter what...even if you mess up and do something wrong, even if other kids are mean to you, or society has forgotten you, and even if you're not good at this or that...He still loves you, and that will never change." Our team lead a skit to emphasize this concept of God's love for them. We acted out the book "You are Special" by Max Lucado and we changed all the names in the book to African names. :)

Today I'm reminded of Hosea 14:3 "In you, the orphan finds mercy."


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Number 41

Day 7: One of my favorite experiences of the trip. We spent the day visiting the girls of No. 41 and the associated feeding program.  No. 41 is a ministry that provides employment for girls who used to live at Noel Orphanage and helps them transition into life outside of the orphanage whether that be university or employment or both.  No. 41 gives these young women an opportunity to learn a skill, (sewing) and at the same time gives them the ability to help a local school in their community through a feeding program. Check out the video :)

Journal entry day 7:
This morning we went to the school associated with the feeding program & No. 41. No. 41 agreed to feed the kids from this school a few years ago and it started out with 250 kids and grew to around 1,500.  It was so crazy, when we pulled up in our bus, it felt like hundreds of children were rushing toward us.  It was probably the most amazing thing ever.  I wish I could have hugged every one of them.  I always wonder what the kids we visit are thinking when they see us, like "what the heck are these people in Keens doing here" but I do know, wherever we've gone, they love to be hugged & held, and they love being tickled and chased around...and they really love "selfies" & then seeing themselves in the picture which makes them practically fall on the ground laughing which makes me fall on the ground laughing and it's hilarious and adorable. 
We met the director of the feeding program and he was yet another selfless Rwandan leader who amazed & inspired me. We got a tour of the school and ate the food the kids get which is like a bean/cabbage mush, high in protein & vitamins. 
This afternoon we visited No. 41 and got to meet several of the girls that work there. They sang and danced for us and of course and we did the same for them.  It was great, I love how we sing and dance wherever we go to break the ice.  It works so well!  It's like, when we're singing and dancing, we're speaking the same language and I love that.  I went on a bit of a shopping spree at No. 41 but it was totally worth it knowing that just one of the $30 bags I bought pays for 100 meals at the feeding program, and after seeing all those little faces this morning and watching some of them eat... it was worth every penny and more.  It was amazing to meet the girls, see where they sew and experience the positive impact this ministry has had on the girls and the children in the feeding program.  We will be spending more time here over the next few days. 


Confident Hope

Our 6th day in Rwanda, before we traveled from Kigali to Gisenyi, we spent the day with the Best Family in the Gasharu community.  BFR is a ministry for orphans and vulnerable children in difficult situations.  The focus of BFR is to provide a Christ-centered family structure with an emphasis on education, healthcare & social welfare.  One of the coolest things about this ministry is the story of how it started.  BFR was founded and started by three former Rwandan orphans.  All three became orphans as children when their families were killed in the genocide.  Growing up together in the orphanage, they learned to rely on God and each other to survive  whether it was sharing food, school supplies and basic daily needs or praying together.  Now all grown up, these 3 men have poured their hearts and lives and all the money they have into building the Best Family and implementing family structure, medical provisions, education, and basic needs.  Visiting Orphans found out about the Best Family and came along side them this past December and started the Kunda sponsorship program with the goal being to connect every child in the Best Family with a sponsor who is active in their life and financially helps provide education, health care and basic needs.
 Journal Entry day 6:
We visited the best family today and I loved every second of it.  Such an amazing organization lead by 3 selfless Rwandans.  It was so cool to meet them and see the results of the love, time and energy that they have poured into those precious children.  It was so adorable, they all, in unison, punched the air with seriousness and pride and shouted at the top of their lungs in English "Best Family!" "We are here!" "Confident Hope!" The leaders went on to point to individual kids and shout "what is your purpose?!" And the child would stand up really straight & tall and shout at the top of his lungs what he wanted to be when he grows up.  Agghh it was so inspiring, beautiful and heart touching.  They sang and danced for us, we sang and danced for them. We've learned a few songs in Kinyarwanda and they loved it.  We played hard all day and and it was sad to say goodbye.  
On another note, I'm excited because Jane and I worked it out to enroll a new little boy in the Best Family sponsorship program.  This little boy's father, Alphonse, has been the bus driver for the Visiting Orphans teams in Rwanda for several years until this year.  He became very sick with Aids and even almost died recently.  He had dinner with us last night and I learned you can can get free Aids medication from the government now which is what he's doing but anyways, when he got sick, he lost his bus and his job & he and his little boy are in a very difficult situation.  It's totally from the Lord how it all came about for me to be able to sponsor his little boy, who I now consider my "Rwandan son." I haven't even met him yet and Jane couldn't remember his name so I don't know that yet either!  I got like 60 seconds of wifi at dinner tonight and in a text, got to tell Andrew about "our new son" briefly and he was really excited and wanted to know his name which I didn't know.  But I'm so happy this little boy gets to be apart of the Best Family and I will actually get the chance to meet him in Kigali on Monday!  I can't wait to meet him and be a part of his life.