The church we have been visiting since moving to San Antonio has a strong emphasis on missions. They have three teams traveling to Rwanda next year, and it is encouraged that families travel together. This is an idea I have promoted for a long time. The first family mission trip we took to the Dominican Republic to spend our spring break at an orphanage changed our course as a family. The experience broadened our understanding of how the people in this world don’t live with the basics of life that we have in America, like a roof, running water, refrigeration, three meals a day, beds, and closets with clothes. We want our kids to know this for themselves as eye witnesses.
Yesterday a pastor from Rwanda spoke to us. He personally lived through the genocide where in 100 days over 800,000 people were murdered. Now the killers and victims live in the same nation and he says the only hope of reconciliation and forgiveness will require God’s supernatural power. He said without forgiveness at the cross there is no hope for Rwanda. There is a practice in his community where the first calf born to a cow is given to a family in another tribe as a sign of reconciliation. He is passionate about leading his people towards understanding the liberating power of forgiveness.
He shared some examples from his life to show how he has learned to be content with plenty and with nothing. When his family fled the genocide they stayed one year in a refugee camp with his church members. After describing how hard life was there he also said it was a most glorious time of ministry, and now he looks back on the times of teaching the bible and prayer meetings with gratitude and appreciation as the best time of his career.
He described the regular life of an African which I feel I have come to understand and know so well. He painted the picture of busy markets selling food for the day, fetching water at the well, women carrying bundles on the head and babies on their backs, seeking firewood for fuel, and eating the same diet every day except for two occasions when meat is offered: Christmas and when a guest of honor is visiting.
This caused me to remember the first mission trip I took to Uganda and our group was offered a feast in the village church of goat stew. I did not understand then that we were guests of honor and this was one of two times a year these people would be able to eat meat. I abstained from that meal, choosing to go hungry than upset my stomach. I wish I had known. I remember watching them eat with their hands sloppy messy food knowing they rinsed their hands with only dirty water prior to eating and feeling embarrassment for them. I wish I had known then what I know now. Last year on Christmas eve was the first time we visited the orphanage in Kyengera and we watched a hundred children line up for the only meat they will eat that year.
The truth of the way people live in Africa strips me bare and I feel burdened. Each time I visit, when I hear stories like this Pastor’s, read books about life in Africa I just wonder how did America get on the course she is on when the world’s children are suffering? (we spend 450 billion on Christmas every year)
When we discuss the future of Kirabo Seeds in light of the recent break up with our partners there, as a result of the deception and betrayal we feel liberated to embark on God’s calling for us without the burden of needing the umbrella of a Ugandan organization. We are taking steps to incorporate ourselves in Uganda so we can own land and operate independently. While we are committed to the cause of the orphan first and foremost we are exploring the truth that we are in a position to help all needy children by connecting sponsors to help them have a Christian education and find hope for their future and break the cycle of poverty. We believe God has something important for us to do, and we are more than willing to go to the ends of the earth to do our part.
Maybe some people who experienced the same kind of trouble we met trying to help needy children in an African country would say forget this! It would make sense to turn our backs and put our efforts and resources somewhere else. But we feel this betrayal and disappointment has only increased our determination to help. As a result of our learning the hard way we are now all the wiser and more prepared to do a better job. We hope for amazing growth of Kirabo Seeds so we can reach many children with God’s grace.
After church service yesterday we shook the Rwandan pastor’s hand and introduced him to our daughter. The smile on his face and his wife’s face lit the room. He said, “oh, thank you for taking care of our children.” We can be citizens of the world in a community held together by Jesus and there are no geographical boundaries. Leaving for home I felt a great sense of encouragement that we are on the path God has for us, even though we are enduring great persecution, sadness and hardship in the journey.
Sometimes I even wish freely without restraints of realities that we could just go live there for a while. I hunger for that simple life, to participate in the community, to work hard, and love deeply. I hope someday that will become our truth.