Saturday, July 12, 2014


I've been sitting here at the computer for 30 minutes now and still don't know where to even begin.  It's hard to put into words what I saw, experienced, and learned in Rwanda but one thing I can say for sure is that I'll never be the same.

I don't always hear God's voice clearly in my life and often times I make a decision to do something and hope that it's God's voice I've heard and not my own.  But then there are other times that I hear Him so loudly and obviously that I couldn't miss it if I tried and this trip to Rwanda was one of those times.  Back in January, our pastor was reading a verse from the book of James.  I flipped over to James to follow along and as I was flipping,  James 1:27 caught my eye…it wasn't underlined or highlighted, but the words just jumped out at me in kind of a random way, and so I began reading:
"Religion that our God accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in distress…"  

Those words in that very moment began to grip my heart.  I wrote the verse down in my journal and thought about what religion really is and how we've distorted its meaning in so many ways. But here is a direct word from the Lord telling me what pure and true religion really looks like and I started to think about how I currently did not have any orphans or widows in my life that I was looking after or caring for.  After church I had a long conversation with A about how that verse had jumped out at me and how I was feeling so strongly that day in that moment that I wanted to obey this clear calling from God to love and care for orphans and or widows in difficult situations.  A encouraged me to pray about it and start looking into opportunities or organizations in the Dayton area where maybe I could do jus that.  So I wrote James 1:27 down again, this time in the notes tab on my iPhone which includes a list of ongoing things in my life that I'm praying about.

About a month later,  I walked in the door wiped out from work, threw my heels off and sat down to check my email.  Waiting for me was an email from Carla, a girl on one of the worship teams at our church.  I didn't know who she was and I read on to learn that she was on a team at our other church campus in Xenia and she had sent this email out to everyone on a worship team at Apex.  Her email started talking about an upcoming trip to Africa through an incredible organization called Visiting Orphans…she talked about how the trip would include music to connect with the people we meet and how the vision of the trip was to go be love to the people of Rwanda and empower and help and encourage them.  And at the very end of her email she said "what better and more tangible way than this to live out James 1:27."  And that that was it….I had heard God's voice and I knew in that instant I was going to Rwanda.

So as there is so much to say and process, I decided I would write about each day one blog at a time. This one is already getting long so I'll end with one of my journal entries written at the end of our first full day there.
Day 1: Here I am in Kigali, Rwanda journaling under a mosquito net and I can't imagine being anywhere else in the world.  It's only the 1st day and I've already fallen in love with Rwanda and the people here.  Jane Mutesi, our translator, guide and co-pastor with her husband Peter, inspires me.  What a strong, smart woman of God who continually serves, gives and leads the people in her community so humbly and with so much selfless love. I've only know her for a day but I want to be like her.  We have a team of 11 people from all over the US and I'm looking forward to getting to know them. 
The team
The people here inspire me and I'm amazed at how this 3rd world country has developed and come so far since the genocide that happened here in 1994. In just a week we will be here in Rwanda celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the end of genocide. A banner was hanging on the wall of Jane and Peter's church that said: Isaiah 61:4 "They will rebuild the ancient ruins & restore the places long devastated; they will renew the united cities that have been devastated for generations." Rwanda & the people here are still suffering from the affects of the genocide in ways unimaginable. I'm eager to learn and understand more over the next couple of weeks. There is a sense of pride here as the people are working hard to rebuild their country. They have 1 day a month called "cleaning day" and the whole country stops and sets aside that day just to clean.  I'm amazed at the forgiveness I've already seen in people I met today whose family members were murdered in the genocide. It's unbelievable. There is a sense of brokenness and freedom here all at the same time. 
outside Jane & Peter's church
Peter and Amilee, both had family killed in the genocide
This morning we worshiped at Jane and Peter's church and spent the rest of the day ministering to the children and families in their community. We danced, we played, we worshiped, we hugged…I received more love from the people in this community today than I could have ever given.  Some observations from the church: unexplainable joy, laughing, dancing, praising God…I think I saw a glimpse of heaven as I watched the men, women and children dance and sing their hearts out for the Lord with so much passion, desperation and whole heartedness. The children: such innocence, desiring to be held, love holding hands, they love my hair, wanting to feel loved and valued, child like faith. The welcoming of the guests: all guests got hugs and a round of applause…I loved that, think I might suggest it to Rob (pastor at Apex).  Sweating, hot, small 1 room building, 3 hour service, but so much joy, so much worship. Everything spoken in Kinyarawanda, thank goodness for our translator Jane. Words from the pastor: The church is not this building, the church is you & I, Alleluia….Let us not leave here the same…we are not black or white, we are children of God…we may be from different nations but we are all in the kingdom of God…because we have different colors, different people from different nations, we praise the Lord. Amen. 
(Pics from Day 1) 
When we first got here yesterday, I immediately noticed the poverty, you can't miss it…and my first thoughts were "wow, I'm so blessed" which is true, but it was so clear today what being blessed really means.  Many of the Rwandans that I met today are blessed because they have hope in something so much greater than a good paying job, a nice car or a sweet vacation home.  Many of the people in this community don't have much when it comes to material possessions.  Most don't have running water or a toilet, or more than a few pieces of clothing, they don't have a car or a lap top or a kitchen table…many of them lost friends and family in the genocide, but they have a savior, Jesus Christ, and it was made clear today in Jane and Peter's church that they find their strength in Christ alone.  My prayer for today: The lyrics to 2 of my favorite songs come to mind: 
Oh God be my everything, be my delight, my Jesus, my savior, my soul satisfy...
Break my heart for what breaks yours…open up my eyes to the things unseen... 


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