Rwanda….the land of a thousand hills…and a million beautiful smiles!
As I write my final post on our blog (its taken me several days to get my thoughts together), I have so many emotions going through my head…joy, thankfulness, guilt, helplessness, love, etc.
To begin, I want to again thank all of those who so generously supported us and made this trip possible. It is very humbling to trust God, rely on others and be completely overwhelmed with gratitude at what God accomplished through all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!
As many of you know, this trip for me was a huge step of faith. A year ago, I would have said that Rwanda is great for Matt, but I would support him from the comforts of the USA. All of this changed on January 16th, 2012 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) when Matt asked that I bring Austin to an informational meeting at Africa New Life Ministries for details of an upcoming trip to Rwanda. I said I would take him and Trevor came along as well. As I sat through the meeting, I felt God start to tug on my heart. Before I knew it, God was giving me the desire to join Matt with our family in Rwanda and to trust Him with all the details. God called me to go to Rwanda with my family, I stepped out in obedience and faith and He blessed the entire experience more than I could have ever imagined.
The highlights of this trip are too numerous to count but I will do my best to share a few. The first big highlight was probably on the first Friday we were in Rwanda. We drove to the community of Bugesera, the newest community under the direction of Africa New Life Ministries. Our group split up and the Roth’s and Taylor’s were given the opportunity to deliver food for a month to an extremely poverty-stricken family. This family was so welcoming and appreciative. They huddled all ten of us into their 8 x 8 ft living area, finding most of us a place to sit. Matt then had the opportunity to share Christ’s love with them and the free gift of eternal life. They were overjoyed to hear the Good News. Through a translator, they told us that they had wondered if God knew that they existed. But because we came, they now knew that Jesus loved them and did know who they were. It was an amazing sight to watch Matt, with our children looking on, help lead this couple to the Lord…a scene I will never forget.
The next highlight would be meeting Isaac and Farisa for the first time on Saturday in Kayonza. We were unable to locate them when we first arrived but within 15 minutes, they had both found us. It was such a blessing to meet them in person and see the pure joy on their faces. I especially bonded with Isaac. He was with us almost every minute of the three days we were in Kayonza. I still remember back in early 2005 when we first selected our first two sponsored kids. The first was Frank (now living in Uganda) and then their was a picture of another young boy. I remember saying to Matt… We need to sponsor this boy also. It was Isaac. It has been amazing to watch him grow into a handsome, intelligent young man. He was so caring, helpful and open with us. A couple highlights with him were when on Monday, when Dylan was home sick for the second day in a row, he gave us a note he had written to Dylan, letting him know he missed him and was praying for him to get well soon. When we were doing home visits Monday afternoon, he asked to go to Doreen’s house first (our newest sponsored daughter) because he wanted to know where his new sister lived. The last highlight with Isaac was having him be our translator between us and his mother at Isaac’s home visit. It was so cool to see how much he had learned and progressed in the last 7+ years so that he could be our translator for three days and the most moving, our translator between us and his mother on his home visit. Seeing the tears roll down Isaac’s face when we were saying goodbye Monday afternoon (along with my many tears) and leaving him was the hardest part of our trip other than having to leave Dylan behind that morning with other members of our team and not have him with us on our home visits. Our time in Kayonza was my favorite of the entire trip!
A last highlight would probably be the basketball clinics and games that took place while we were in Rwanda. It was so exciting to see many basketball lovers, young and old, from our group come together with The Pebbles Africa New Life team and other basketball players in Rwanda for a shared passion of basketball and Jesus. It was even more exciting having LA Laker Steve Blake and his wife, Kristen, be a part of our group. He shared his testimony in front of thousands during our game versus the National Team. He and Kristen participated wholeheartedly with the group and were a joy to get to know. They were both transparent with the group and would stay up after our evening debriefings to chat with everyone and answer questions that many of the basketball minds were curious to know about. Steve even took a group with him to one of his early morning (5:45am) workouts and led them through a ball handling workout and played one on one with them. It was a highlight of Austin’s trip and great to have a positive role model for him to see!
The final highlight would be the fact that I was able to share this amazing experience with my entire family. I am so thankful I was obedient to God’s calling to go to Rwanda. We will all be forever changed!
In His love,