Sorry for the delay

I will be posting more of the trip hopefully tomorrow! I spent some time this weekend decompressing and getting my powerpoint ready for tomorrow’s doctoral interview. If you are praying person say a prayer for me at 6:30p.m. tomorrow. I will be giving a 10 minute presentation, a 10 minute interivew and a 30 minute writing sample. I’m not sure what the writing sample is all about so I think I am more nervous about that. I think I will be ok presenting but I’m hoping I don’t choke on that one!

I’m ready for a nice relaxing night, hopefully I can get to bed early! Pray for my pain! It has been intense this weekend! I need all the help I can get ūüôā

Day #2 – Genocide Memorial, Reconcilliation Village and Hotel Rwanda

Monday was an exceptionally busy day! We started at the usual 7:00a.m. and actually we did not get back to the hotel until after 9:00p.m. We loaded up on the busy on our way to the Reconciliation Village. The night before we had watched “As¬† We Forgive” (http://youtu.be/mK0W4jx2OZY) at our hotel conference room. You watch the story of the country play before your eyes…you cannot help but be overcome. The very streets we walked on, one day was covered in bodies. The smell of the country had to be the smell of death. The people we talk to or the people we pass on a daily basis…fell into one of two categories ….survivors or perpetrators. The families of both sides unmistakable marred for life.

The question that many times was asked this week….how did you forgive..or have you forgiven. I believe the Bishop John said it well when we said that the Rwandan people have to learn to accept responsibility for their actions in the past but to not let those actions affect their future. I have been asked to share what I felt happened in this country….the only words that come to mind is that Satan descended¬†into this country. Why? Because there is no other explanation for the atrocities that happened there. What people did to people, there are no words to describe it other than pure demonic. If you have another word…or another reason why…I would love to talk to you about it!

We stopped at this church on the way to the Reconciliation¬†Village (I will tell you more about that name), the first thing you see at any Genocide Memorial is the purple/white colors banded together. But let me go back, yes I said a church. A church, a holy place..a place of God..in a church at this location over 5,000 men, women and innocent children were slaughtered. While I will not share with you the stories we heard, I will share with you that it was heart wrenching to walk in to this place of God and see skulls, bones, the bloodied walls, the blood stained clothes and the personal items left behind. This was not the only church…there were MANY churches that became slaughter houses because the Tutsi’s ran there for safety¬†and protection and instead found themselves corralled for a slaughter.

I was touched by the beautiful garden that was next to this place. I tried to think about what it had looked like back then and compared to what it is now. There was hate and anger such few years ago….today there is hurt, pain but a hope for reconciliation. A hope to move forward from the physical scars….a hope to heal from the pain.

 

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Day #1 Continued – Kiboga Village

We went to a cool restaurant for lunch and then afterwards we headed to our first village. This village was the Kiboga (Widows) Village, created post genocide for the women who were left widowed with a few surviving family members. It took us a while to get there but we enjoyed spending some time listening to their stories, watching the kids and taking in that all of these women had suffered such a loss.

There was a water well there too, a couple in VA had paid the $15,000 to dig a deep water well. It provided this village with water saving their kids an estimated 5hr hike for water. Could you imagine spending most of your day hauling water?¬† That is what these women and children do….and you wonder why the kids can never go to school. They are responsible for helping their mom get water, so education is pushed down the ladder of priorities.

The houses were so bare, lacking the family portraits that are so common in US homes. These women really did not have much at all but they smiled so beautifully! You have to ask yourself…how can these women smile after what they experienced? How do these women wake up every morning after they experienced such horror. I could see the effects of HIV/AIDS in several of the women and the children….it breaks your heart to see that these women are tied to the genocide even now 17 years later.

The kids were precious, you cannot really put into words watching kids just be engaged with you because you speak another language or because you have things they have not seen before. To open the kids up we had colors and coloring books.  Many had never colored so that was fun. A small group of us were able to break off and go with translators to the homes. I was touched by how you were always created with a hug and warm handshake.  You absolutely cannot find such warmth in the US, in fact if you were to drive into a new town you would probably be stared at or ignored. It is sad how far America has come, you really have to search to find a place where you are created so warmly.

We were at the village until late, talking and learning from these women. They have strength I hope to one day have, strength to face tomorrow despite how awful the day before has been. We have so much to learn from this population, they have sustained a horrific past but are working so hard to have a hopeful and promising future.

We made it back to the Bloom Hotel in time for dinner and time to  spend in our de-brief groups. I then stayed up talking with my roommate before we finally called it quits. We were tired and jet-lagged but ready to get out into more villages..what we did not know was what Day #2 would have in store for us. It would be something that probably none of us will ever forget.

Day #1 in Kigali – Church of the Blessed Mango Tree and the Widow’s Village Part #1

The first morning in Africa, I think we all desperately needed our coffee!! Seriously being jet lagged was (and is) noooo fun what so ever! Our alarm went off at 6:30a.m. and we were up and dressed for breakfast by 7:15a.m. The breakfast was what became our “normal” breakfast – bread, fruit (which I never touched) and eggs made in some weird way. I had to get at least two cups of coffee before I could actually see straight (just kidding).

We were loaded up and on the bus by 8:00a.m. to make it to the church of the Blessed Mango tree. Nice name right! The church for this congregation had been destroyed in the genocide, post-genocide the congretation had met under three mango trees. Finally thanks to a donation from a group in the United States, this congregation was blessed with a brick building and then later they were blessed again by another donation. This time a roof was added. There were no windows, doors or floor (it was sooo muddy) but they did not care.

The kids were wonderful, smiling and many just wanted hugs! For many of these children they were blessed they had not seen the genocide, although sadly many were products of that genocide. They loved to be hugged on and loved on. We broke up into three groups and told bible stories and taught the kids English songs. The kids loved the stickers, bubbles and of course the candy that we handed out to them.

The bishop of the church blessed our group, we had to all stand up in front of everyone and tell our name, place we were from and our age. Yes our age! Why is age so important? Thanks to the genocide there was a small (almost non-existent) older population. The genocide that happened in 1994 (so now 17 years later) had created a larger younger population and a very small older population. Anyone over the age of 20yrs. old had been affected by the genocide, so to be our age was a blessing. The older you were the louder you were applauded! ūüôā

Being 25 years old, I could not help but think about how young I was during the genoicide. How old were you? How old were you when this country lost an estimated 1 million people in the matter of 90 days.  The streets we walked on, was one day a17 years ago covered in bodies, blood down the street.  A very gross and disgusting thing to think about but you could not help but realize that when you were in the country.

We landed at the very airport where the president of the country was shot down in 1994.¬† Thankfully we landed safely, but it was something you could not help but think about as we landed. As I looked at the women of the congregation I could not help but wonder how many of them had suffered at the hands of others during the genocide. You could see sickness in a few of them…probably the onset of HIV to AIDS. You saw some extremely thin and sick children…you could not help but wonder about them.

Yet joy was brought when we saw two healthy babies that were born a few weeks before we arrived. Infant mortality is so high in Africa, we prayed that this children would be the lucky ones that survived.  There are so many things that this country desperately needs Рmedical care, education, trade, and much mental health assistance.

We Finally Made it to Africa

We landed in Addis Abba, Ethiopia about 8a.m. CAT, after being 2hrs delayed we finally were back airborne. We stopped over in Entbe, Uganda  before finally landing in Kigali, Rwanda about 2:00p.m. It was soooo nice to be at our final destination!

We got set up in our hotel (the Bloom Hotel) which was not really bad at all. Trust me the beds felt great when we finally got to about 9:00p.m. To see the moon for the first time in Africa, you realize you see the same moon in the US. I was happy to finally have arrived in Rwanda and also excited to see what the future days would bring. The journey was long! Very long and very grueling…my body was not happy at all! In fact I suffered sooo much that first day..the cramped sitting in the plane really did a number on my already tired and sore body.

But the good news is that my body held up! ūüôā

The Travel to Rwanda

The journey for me started not on the day I left Houston,¬†TX¬†for the country of Rwanda but it started before that. It started when over the summer I sent in my application and waited for a response. Part of me was wondering if I would get picked, mostly because¬†if I looked at someone’s medical history and saw their problems..the status of mine would flag concern and honestly I would probably put that one of the low-end of the decline pile.

I did not know how the process would go but I finally got that email РI was wait listed (alternate). I did not even bother to call about it because I felt that it was a lost cause. I did not expect to be one of the first alternates and certainly not someone who would get a chance to go to Rwanda of all places. Lo and behold, the acceptance letter came in just two days after I was notified I was waitlisted.

Now I know that over 750 people applied for this trip! 750 students sent in their applications, letters etc. and only 19 students went on the trip! You may not be a believer in God, but I know that those 19 people were handpicked for a reason! They didn’t just fall into the trip! There is no way for anyone to select the “special” 19 people whose lives were going to change because they saw what is going on in Rwanda.

The journey began on the day I got my acceptance, I had to go for all the painful shots and work with my doctors to get my body “healthy” enough to make the travel! And finally the day came that I needed to fly to Washington D.C. to meet with my team. I left Houston early after noon on Wednesday, November 9th. The trip was the first one I had taken in a while, especially alone. I was luckily selected to go through the full body scanner! WOHOO! I can mark that one-off my list!

My plane was late to the Houston gate, which meant when I was airborne for Charlotte, NC. I was going over and over in my mind how I was going to run across two terminals. I asked the flight attendant if there was anyone the plane from Charlotte, NC to Washington D.C. could be held for me. She said she would make an announcement.

For the first time, the flight attendant asked that when we were at the gate, anyone who had a flight leaving within 15 minutes of that time (I had 10 minutes) to please let them out so they could “attempt” to make their connecting flights. I was able to escape the plane and run (yes run) across two terminals and make it with 3 minutes before the plane was leaving (not boarding).

BUT WAIT! There was a huge crowd of people at my Washington D.C. gate! Yup my Charlotte plane was grounded for maintenance. I ended up sitting on the floor for 45 minutes for that to get fixed! By the time I got to Washington D.C., I was two hours late for my team meeting!

When I finally got to the hotel the team meeting was already in progress. It was great to put faces to a new. I had a wonderful roommate (whom I ended up rooming with in Kigali). She was so sweet and had the heart of a true giver. The breakdown of the team was 3 of us had finished, 5 were under-grads going into counseling and the rest either 1st or 2nd year counseling students.

The first night and the next day were spent training (what we were going to do) and getting to build team relationships. You do not realize how critical that is to a successful team, when no one has met the next person..it is good to spend at least a day letting that happen prior to when you are on the field.

You could see such a range of people, for some this was the first time they had been overseas since high school and for other this was the first time they had been overseas period. I was able to share my experiences with travel and with being a missionary kid. I could see some people they would truly grow from this experience! I was excited to get on my transatlantic flight and most importantly to see Africa with my own eyes for the first time.

The Notes from Africa

Hello! Finally I have found some alone time and after spending some days thinking I am ready to share as best I can what all happened over in Kigali. It is hard to believe it was only last week that I¬†was sitting in a village somewhere it what seemed like the middle of no-where or that I traveled almost half way around the world! Such an adventure! So I will do my best to go through what we did, saw, felt etc. during the time in Kigali, Rwanda ¬†:). It may take a few days to get it all done but I will at least start today ūüôā