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.”
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
As 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!
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.”