It seems appropriate to reference Sir Isaac Newton here since after all, we all are affected everyday by some of his most famous work and engineers constantly use his principles. Newton's 3rd law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. While this refers to physical actions and forces, Newton's 3rd law does a good job of describing my experiences this summer. Although I may have 'transformed' some broken equipment by repairing it, I've been transformed in so many ways by this trip. Over the past 9 weeks I've had some absolutely incredible experiences that I'm beyond blessed to have been able to participate in. Reflecting on these experiences as I wrapped up my time there on Sunday and arrived home on Monday, I'm extremely grateful for the ways that I have grown and the ways that God has been working in me and through me.
Volunteering at the Children Might Foundation was something that was lined up mid-way through my trip and turned out to be one of my favorite experiences. At the end of our fourth week in Kigali, everyone found out where they would be placed for the second month. When I found out I was going to be working in Rwamagana, I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed as I heard about how some locations had amazing scenery or interesting things to do while Rwamagana was a boring little town surrounded by only banana trees. As I packed up to move to our new home stay for the second month, I told God that I trusted He had a reason for sending me to this little town instead one of the other locations where I could be waking up with the volcanoes in my backyard or in a room that overlooked a beautiful lake. As always, He had some pretty good reasons. I was able to learn about the Children Might Foundation (CMF) and volunteer there for a few weeks which is an experience I couldn't have had at any of the other placements. Volunteering at CMF, I was able to become friends with some incredible people who provide a great example of what it really means to share God's love with the least of us. Through my time there, God's enlarged my heart for the impoverished and opened doors for future trips back to Rwanda.
One day while walking through the town on the way to lunch with our supervisor, a beggar woman whose face was severely deformed and appeared to have been majorly burned or scarred somehow came up to us asking for money. When we didn't give her any, she started grabbing our supervisor's pockets and was desperately trying to find some money. We all felt bad about not giving her anything, but said we didn't know how she would spend the money or if a few francs would actually make a lasting difference. A few days later as I was waiting in line at the bus station to buy a ticket back to Kigali, she came running into the bus station courtyard and begged from everyone. As I stood at the table getting my ticket, she practically tried to grab the change out of my hand. Again, I felt bad not giving her anything but didn't know if giving her a few francs was a good idea or not. The next weekend, I was at the bus station again since we traveled to Kigali every weekend. Once again, she was at the bus station, begging from everyone waiting to get on a bus and harassing everyone getting off a bus. As I stood against the wall, hoping that she wouldn't come up to me, she eventually came up to me and begged for money. When I didn't give her any, she grabbed my wrist and continued to beg. I'm ashamed to say this, but I was pretty uncomfortable being grabbed by this woman whose appearance was slightly horrific and was also minorly annoyed that she was so forward with begging from everyone coming and going at the bus station. On the bus ride back to Kigali as I was thinking about the beggar woman, God reminded me that no matter how repulsive she seemed to modern society, she still was a child of His which made her beautifully and wonderfully made.
The next weekend, Casey and I decided to head back to Kigali at night after work instead of in the mornings like we usually did. We bought our tickets for the last bus of the day and I found myself wondering if the beggar woman would be there since it was the last bus and after dark. I hoped that she wouldn't be so I wouldn't have to deal with her grabbing my wrist or pockets, but instantly felt ashamed for thinking that. In the back of my head, I kept thinking 'Laura, you know she's going to be there since you really don't want to see her and that God's trying to stretch you'. As anticipated, she was there. As each bus pulled in, she would run in front of the bus to beg from every passenger that came off the bus and even followed people across the bus station when they ignored her. As each bus filled up and prepared to leave, she was there pounding on all of the closed windows, desperately trying to get a few francs. I found myself against the wall again, counting down the minutes until my bus arrived and hoping that she wouldn't approach me in the meantime. Continuing the trend, she came up to me just like all of the previous times at the bus station. When I didn't give her any money, she spit next to my feet, grabbed my arm, and continued begging. I felt God gently telling me to give her my water bottle, but I tried to push that aside. As I was standing there being stubborn, God again told me to give her my water bottle, this time a little louder so I wouldn't have an excuse that I didn't hear Him. Somewhat reluctantly, I handed my water bottle over to her which she immediately grabbed and ran off to the next person while saying 'merci beaucoup' (French for thank you very much).
This little interaction reminded me of Matthew 25:35-40 and while I can take no credit for giving her my water, I'm thankful for God giving me a louder reminder when I ignored the first one. “ 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' ”
Many times while trying to repair a device, I would find myself thinking about how it would be really helpful if specific people were along on the trip with me because they would be a great addition. Ranging from teaching expertise, plumbing knowledge, remembering difficult names after only meeting the person once, creative thinking, crafty repair experience, to extreme patience, I thought of a lot of people whose skills I could have used. On another bus ride (I spent a lot of time on buses which gave me tons of time to think), I found myself thinking about another passage of scripture and it reminded me of how great the family of God is. Romans 12:4-8 reads, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully”. While I have some talents, I also lack many others, but in combination with others, we can have an entire skill set. It's a beautiful thing when many believers come together and share their different talents to work towards a shared mission.
Speaking of buses, God's evident there too. Two weekends ago, two of the other students in the group were going to stay at my home stay Sunday night. All of us had been at Lake Kivu for the weekend and it was a 3 hour trip back to Kigali, and then 1 more hour back to Rwamagana. Instead of traveling 6 hours in one day to get back to their home stay, they planned on staying at my home stay and then just leaving early Monday morning to complete the remaining 2 hours of travel. Once we got to Kigali, they reluctantly decided to complete the entire trip that night, and headed back to their home town. I thank God and everyone that has been praying for the group's safety this trip that they completed the trip Sunday night because Monday morning, a bus from Rwamagana to their home town flipped and everyone in the bus died. Had they stayed at my home stay Sunday night, that could have been them on that bus. Another time when everyone was heading to the rainforest, a dump truck was flying around the side of a mountain and almost collided head on with our bus except that our driver swerved off part of the road to avoid the crash. During the trip, there were multiple times that seemed like we should have crashed, but God was with us always and kept us safe.
I want to say a gigantic thank you to everyone that has incredibly supported me on this transforming experience. From continual prayers, to generous financial donations, to notes of encouragement, and simply following along with my trip through this blog, the support has been amazing and really provided strength and comfort. I hope that all of you have been able to get a glimpse into my time spent in Rwanda, learn a little bit about their culture, and see how God is working across the globe. Murakoze cyane! (Kinyarwanda for thank you very much)
As I finish my last blog post for this trip, I want to share a song with everyone that has been a prayer of mine and describes part of my journey on this trip. I took a leap of faith by deciding to go on this trip, not knowing how I would fundraise the cost or what I was getting myself into. On the trip, so many times I asked God what I was doing there and thought He was asking too much of me at times, but He always was with me. I'm not sure what He has planned for me next, but I'll walk by faith and wait to see what He has in store for me.