Rwanda 2016 – Processing and Sharing

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I have been posting on Facebook about one aspect of the trip at a time. It is too much to communicate in one conversation. But for those not on Facebook, I want to post things here for you as well.

“I am back home now, but again, more of my heart has been left with the kids in Rwanda. This trip was much different than 2014, for good reasons. And hard, for other reasons. I am still processing the days and events and will make a more official post after some time. But I am sure of this, God wants to use you. Even if you don’t know why God is calling you to something, you can be sure it is worth it and that He will be with you, using you, helping you, and refining you. All the while, He is working in every heart and life around you, doing the same! You may not feel knowledgeable enough, equipped, ready, whatever it is, but He doesn’t need you to be. Just say yes friends. Take the risk, take the step, say yes.”

13592619_925234604270901_1904877360101309372_n“I think I’ll talk about one aspect of the trip each day. There is far too much for one day, it would make for a novel.
First up, this beautiful bookshelf (as well as most of the other furniture) was made by Emmanuel, one of Imana Kids first working grads. And thanks to many of you, is full of books for the kids to read and continue to work on their English. This is at the Sparrows Nest, a home where Imana Kids can come when they are not at boarding school. The kids from Kimisagara Orphanage were a family before we ever came along. The big kids looking out for the littles. It is a special bond they share and I love how this library will be another way for the kids to interact. We left a team member there, Sam. He is staying through October to help our in country director, James, and help the kids with their English. I know this library will get a lot of use.

13775453_925712090889819_5282403048490511590_n 13775427_925712094223152_8505540692303626218_n“We’d often spend time with the older kids after dinner each night, many times not ending until 11:00 or later!
Some of the things we worked on with the older kids was getting them ready for “the real world.” We practiced public speaking by sharing 3 things we like about ourselves, then listening to others give 2 compliments. (Hard for even us loud Americans.) It was amazing to hear the 3 things they liked about themselves. Many said they were hardworking, good pray-ers, and helpful people. And their peers had great things to say about each other too, such a close-knit family atmosphere. It was a good exercise, not only for public speaking, but confidence building.
We did an interview relay where we talked through how each item was important in an interview, like hygiene, professional clothing, eye contact, etc.
We also demonstrated an example interview and talked through how to prepare. Then, the following night, 23 of them had mock-interviews where they were able to practice all we’d talked about! They had so many good questions about the whole process.
I know they are much better equipped to graduate and apply for jobs or continuing education. Five of these kids are number one or two in their class and the headmaster says our Imana Kids are a great bunch of students. And to think, when we met them at the orphanage jut a few years ago, they weren’t even in school.
We took them out for lunch to Mr. Chips for burgers the day they received their report cards, to celebrate. Most ate them with knife and fork, but we tried telling them it was okay to pick them up and use their hands. :)
So proud of them! This is what sponsoring can do! Give someone an opportunity to succeed if just given the option!

13654380_926364267491268_893207875055611598_n 13769436_926364274157934_5500983498466499768_n13686771_926373900823638_842838230916873009_n13626961_926364320824596_2643622628941295287_n13769530_926373904156971_7146875638571358555_n13599996_926373930823635_1081859363185457934_n “Our youngest kiddos are at a preschool at Foursquare Church. When they were at the orphanage we hired nannies to come in and help care for them. Those nannies continue to care for our kids at the school and help the teacher. Sponsoring children this age provides these kids the tuition and supplies they need to go to this good school. Medical insurance, and breakfast and lunch while at school.
The difference in the behavior of the kids this age was so good to see. Last time I was there they attached themselves to you when you came and were devastated to see you go. Which gives ya warm fuzzies, but isn’t healthy behavior. Not the behavior you’d want from your kiddos with strangers. This time they were excited to see us, but less unhealthy attachment and it was almost no big deal when we left. I think I was more sad then they were! This is so encouraging! It means they are in a safer place, a better “place” physically and mentally.
I’ll let the pictures speak for all that we did with the littles.”

Each child (even the bigs) received their own soft lovey blanket to cuddle and be their very own. Many probably never had a baby blanket.

Each child (even the bigs) received their own soft lovey blanket to cuddle and be their very own. Many probably never had a baby blanket.

Here's my buddy Alan and Yassin. I love how each person has their own skills and preferences to offer the kids and there are always kids to benefit from your style of play.

Here’s my buddy Alan and Yassin. I love how each person has their own skills and preferences to offer the kids and there are always kids to benefit from your style of play.

Day 2 - You are Loved. And nothing can separate you from the love of Love of God.

Day 2 – You are Loved. And nothing can separate you from the love of Love of God.

God's loved poured out for them in the form of shaving cream. :)

God’s loved poured out for them in the form of shaving cream. :)

Day 1-God is Love. I enjoyed watching my boy Musa with his crafts. He sorted the stickers by color and made sure things were centered. I just love that I can know such details about him. Overwhelms my heart.

Day 1-God is Love. I enjoyed watching my boy Musa with his crafts. He sorted the stickers by color and made sure things were centered. I just love that I can know such details about him. Overwhelms my heart.

Breakfast! Some kind of warm porridge and a bread roll.

Breakfast! Some kind of warm porridge and a bread roll.

At the orphanage they played with small pieces of plastic trash in the dirt. Now their preschool has a grassy field and recently got a swing set!

At the orphanage they played with small pieces of plastic trash in the dirt. Now their preschool has a grassy field and recently got a swing set!

“Can I just lighten the mood today a little bit and talk about the physical act of flying across the world? The fact that it takes two days just to travel there? I do not fly very often. In fact the last time I flew was the 2014 trip to Rwanda. I don’t take the opportunity lightly, and I think it is an honor to be able to do go. There are many people will never get to fly, so I am not complaining.
But goodness gracious, approximately 13 hours there and 16 hours back for just the long flights. Then tack on all the connecting flights and it makes for a long couple days that blend together and feel like one REALLY long day.
And I should mention, DC to Ethiopia and Ethiopia to Rwanda are on an African Airline. So you’re tired and crammed into a small space for a lengthy time, the middle seat of course…. and you’re served African Food.
On the way there I bought a bag of chips at the airport, put them in my carry-on and that familiar taste lifted my spirits so much! I’m definitely budgeting for a little more of that next time. :)
I also sat next to a sick lady on the way back, doesn’t it always seem to be something when you fly? Or you’re stuck in the middle next to a guy who had one too many red wines and is dead to the world, so you can’t get out to pee? I changed seats half way through because my headphone jack didn’t work in my seat and I could only watch silent movies. But it was also nice to get away from the hacking. Did you know all middle seats aren’t created equal? The middle seats in the center section are wider and roomier than the middle seats by windows.
This part of the trip makes me want to poke my eyes out. But it makes what we do possible, so it is worth every minute.

13645156_927586460702382_151640430997192104_n 13645354_927586500702378_989808172017448990_n 13658987_927586480702380_6411434653761046229_n“Remember when I mentioned taking 25 DaysforGirls.org kits along to Rwanda? Well, one night we had a guy / girl split time where our men (and Sam, 😜) talked with the boys about boy things… Sounds dangerous. And the ladies talked with the girls about everything from dating, to hygiene, to diva cups and virginity. It is tough knowing these girls have grown up without a mother to guide them through life. But, these girls don’t know how lucky they are to have TWO midwives as a part Imana Kids. I mean, I want to have Kara over one day to talk to my daughter!
So after some time talking, we told them we brought another option for them. We showed them the daysforgirls.org bags, everything included, how they worked, etc and they broke out in cheering and clapping! It was a very cool moment and I was so honored to be a vessel for bringing that ministry to them. So Evie, please share with the other ladies how well received they were. You ladies blessed a lot of girls with your hard work.

13872750_928333267294368_4171082042454731370_n 13873094_928333270627701_399074489153474056_nAs my calluses on my left hand begin to fade, I am reminded to share about worshiping in Rwanda.
For me, it all started Sunday, at New Covenant Church, the local church Imana Kids has sort of partnered with. It was my birthday and I was in tears of joy being there worshiping with my friends on my birthday. It was a birthday gift from God. A real taste of heaven you guys, they GET the joy of the Lord and their passion shows. Even if I wasn’t able to understand their language, I just made up words of my own and worshiped to myself. :) Manya probably thought I was loony.
I was given a guitar to bring (Thank you Art!), a travel case (Thank you Josh-Allyssa!), and even accessories (Thank you Jerry!) I chose some songs that followed our lessons and talked about God’s never ending love for them.
Many of the kids love to sing, and asked me about it, remembering I’d played at the orphanage last time. I didn’t have time to use it the first couple days, but after that, whenever we had a moment without anything else we needed to do, I pulled out the guitar and worshiped with whatever kids wanted to join me!
I left the guitar at the Sparrows Nest so next time I (or anyone else) travel, we don’t have to find another guitar and travel with one time and time again. As fun as it is to carry it around airports and find a spot for it on each flight, it will be nice to not have to worry about that next time!13886491_930233603771001_5592479324704754590_n13924984_930233607104334_3726215011967172011_n

We spent time with our primary students after lunch each day in the open area of their boarding school. We have nearly 60 Imana Kids in primary school, so this is a large group, with a wide range of ages, to engage in the open air. It had its challenges, but we did our very best to adapt and love each and every child. We began with activities illustrating our memory verses each day and would then break out into different areas of playing! One proud moment was when our director James was busy and we needed a translator, and one of our older primary boys Nshimiyimana Zdan Ally translated for the group! These kids have done so well learning English, I was impressed with their progress in the last two years.
Another highlight of this age group was meeting the sponsor son of a personal friend of mine and being able to introduce him to them by giving him their letters and photos… and give him lots of hugs for them! It was the first Imana Kid that God personally used me to find a sponsor, so it meant a lot for me to be able to give him his gift and tell him all about his sponsor family.
We had something come up while we were there and had a chance to engage these kids with TBRI. I am thankful to be under Kara and Ryan‘s leadership and to be able to learn from them how to relate to these kids in a healthy way, and be sure we are doing the right things for them, not more harm. This is the age group that really inspires me to learn TBRI before returning. If anyone wants to join me for Empowered to Connect in April, let me know!

*clarification of TBRI from Kara: “TBRI- trust based relational interventions- should be a mandatory model of care for any kiddo with a history of rough beginnings. It’s been a life saving skills for our family and for our Imana Kids. I finally feel like I am loving them the way they need to be loved.

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The primary boarding school can be seen from the Sparrows Nest. They spotted us the right away the first night we were there.

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This is my friend’s sponsor boy Robert

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This is Arry, who translated for us. By the time I return he’ll be in secondary school, crazy!

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Obstacle Course Fun :)

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We tried to teach them kickball and baseball :)

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Bible Verse and Mirror Activity

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Prayer warriors, activate!

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We’re closing in on take off day and I want to send the itinerary and some details of the trip, so you can be praying. Thank you all for your support through helping with fundraisers, donating supplies, giving money, and lifting up needs in prayer. It all means so much and I’m excited to include you all in this mission to love and serve.

Thursday – Fly Sioux Falls to Denver to DC

Friday morning – Fly out of DC

Saturday morning – Arrive in Ethiopia

Saturday afternoon – Fly Ethiopia to Rwanda

Saturday remainder – Get settled in

Sunday – New Covenant Church (All morning African style!) Genocide Memorial, Prep for the week

Monday, Tues, Wed, Thursday – With the Kids!

Mornings at the Preschool
Afternoon at the Primary School
Evenings with the Secondary/Older Kids

Thur Afternoon thru Friday Morning – Debrief at Akagera National Park

Friday ALL DAY – Fly Rwanda through Dublin to DC

Saturday morning – Arrive in DC

Saturday afternoon – Fly DC to Denver to Sioux Falls
Saturday evening – Arrive in SF

Our focus this trip is to let these kids know they are LOVED. They do not have have anyone telling them they are loved everyday like you and I, and our children. We want them to know they have have a Father that loves them, and that will NEVER change. So our lessons and activities are centered around these three things, God is Love (1 John 3:1,) You are Loved (Romans 8:39,) and You are Called to Love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8.) Please pray that God speaks that loudly and this message is understood deeply in the hearts of the kids.

I also have the privilege to lead worship for my team and all the kids while we travel. I was graciously given a guitar to bring with the intent to leave it there as a blessing with someone who will use it for God’s glory after we’re gone. I did this two years ago and gave the guitar to a young man at New Covenant Church. I am praying for God to lead me to the individual in who’s heart He is working in to be a leader in His kingdom.

We will also be talking about hygiene and interview skills with some of the older kids who are graduating in December and will be either applying for jobs or further education. I am bringing 25 Days for Girls kits, and am proud to be able to do so. Days for Girls is a great organization.

Of course we have lots of fun things planned as well, including a movie and popcorn night at the Sparrows Nest, and a dance party night with glow in the dark bracelets and balloons! I cannot wait to see our sponsor son, Musa (and all the others) again and see how they have grown the last two years, and how their lives have changed! I am honored to be bringing with me Alan, a gentleman from my small group at church, and a gift to hand deliver to a little boy from their sponsor, who is a friend of mine. It is exciting to see others around me join in on the mission of Imana Kids and change the world of an orphan on the other side of the world. Maybe one of you will travel with me next time!?

Thank you for your prayers! Please feel free to pass this on to anyone else I missed who you feel would commit to praying for our team. If I can update in country I will. If not, I will send a follow-up email after I return. And I pray that you see God’s goodness all around you in this crazy time in the world. God is still good!

Just a few weeks out now!

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Thank you to all who have donated and been praying. I am so thankful for your support. And your continued prayers are definitely what I need most.

There are some things I need to take to Rwanda for the Sparrows Nest for those who would still like to donate. I will update this list as more plans and details are hashed out:

  • Regular Tylenol
  • Regular Ibuprofen
  • Regular Benadryl
  • Regular sized towel
  • Soap (liquid or bar)
  • Flash drive(s)
  • Scissors
  • Glue Sticks
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Sanitary Pads
  • Book Series e.g., Little House, The Boxcar Children, The Magic Tree House, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Books from Scholastic’s recommended list (http://www.scholastic.com/100books/)

 

Exciting News!

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Remember in my last post when I talked about giving the excess funds raised to anyone who would come along? And how we were praying for men to say yes to helping with some future male graduates on life skills, mock interviews, hygiene, etc?

Well, I am SUPER excited to announce that my friend Alan, from my small group at church, felt God stirring his heart and he has decided to go!!!

Last I updated, I had raised $215 over my goal with one fundraiser left. Well, along with some amazing friends help, we had another babysitting night and raised an additional $506!

Alan playing hoverball with Christian

Alan playing hoverball with Christian

Alan came and helped that night, not sure if it was going to all work out at his job, but wanted to help me out. We were praying for all the details to work out. :) I am SO excited that God used little me, and for the $721 in additional funds to go to Alan!

THANK YOU ALL for your participation, donations, time helping me out, etc. If we pop into your thoughts, would you say a quick prayer for the team, the time we have preparing, and for Alan?

Soli Deo Gloria!!

THANK YOU!

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Thank  you! Above and beyond y’all! We (together with God) surpassed my fundraising goal! Crushed it really, I’m still in awe.

$4,115 in just 5 weeks. God doesn’t love his children a little bit. He LOVES his children LAVISHLY. I can now focus on other preparations for travel and not worry about this part! Please be in prayer with me for the team and the kids as the trip nears.

The excess funds will go towards a team member who is coming up short in fundraising. Which leads me to my next point. We need a few good men to join us July 15-25 in Rwanda. There are 6 Imana Kid boys graduating in December that need men to work with them on mock job interviews, hygiene, life skills and everything Guy-related.

God pushed this door open for me and provided more than 100%. If someone says yes, I WILL HELP YOU RAISE FUNDS. I have one more fundraiser left that I will do for YOU! #‎gobelove‬ ‪#‎dosomething‬ ‪#‎loveyourneighbor‬ ‪#‎speaklife‬ ‪#‎rwanda‬ ‪#‎orphancare‬

http://www.visitingorphans.org/mission_trips/events/rwanda/2016/07-15/rwanda–july-2016-trip-leader-higgins

An Update, Finally ;)

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So, 17 days ago, I posted my fundraising total here, $785. That was just 9 days after registering for the trip. That was a super great start, huh?!

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to post an update. Don’t worry, I’ve been busy fundraising!! I’m not still at $785. There is a delay in getting checks added to my fundraising account and I kept wanting to get a “real” total. It kept changing so fast, I just didn’t ever change it! I am still waiting for a lot of the checks to be added, but I just HAVE to tell you about the last 17 days!

I planned a free will donation garage sale fundraiser and gathered MANY things from MANY generous people to add to my sale. The weather ended up being less than ideal for a garage sale. This was my post after the final cold rainy day of the sale:

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the MANY donations of items to sell this week. And God brought the shoppers out of the cold windy rains to do their part. :) Now, two years ago when I did a fundraising garage sale for my trip to Rwanda, I did a couple days and just my own stuff. I think I raised $400 tops. I am so excited to share that TOGETHER, we raised…
………Drum Roll Please………
…
…
…
…
…
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$1,730! THAT is a testimony of the Body of Christ coming together to support one measly member on a mission. Thank you.”

Last night I held a babysitting fundraiser at my church and asked for a free will donation. I had almost 40 children come and raised $505! I have also been given additional donations from friends and family through support letters mailed out. I believe there are a couple pending donations that haven’t gone through yet, so this is not an absolute accurate number, but according to my records….

$3,440. I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY. I am still processing, so I don’t have a lot of words yet. But I feel validation that God is sending me back to Rwanda.

Leah is Headed Back to Rwanda!

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I am so excited to be headed back to Rwanda! I will keep a running total of my fundraising progress here.

Tax deductible donations can be made online at: www.visitingorphans.org under the DONATE link and under ‘Fund Category’, choose: Rwanda July 2016 Trip (Leader: Higgins)
***Be sure to put my name where it asks if you want to preference the donation to the work of a specific team member.***