Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Godspeed, India travellers

Knowing what a life-changing experience it was to go to Rwanda, and how helpful it was to me (and others) to blog about it, I want to offer a prayer for those who are in India right now and are blogging about the experience. God bless you, may you be a blessing to the lives of the children you meet and may you especially encourage our heroes, the frontline staff members and volunteers who work with the children every day. May God touch you and change you in ways you could not have ever imagined. For those who see this message, please check out the India blogs at http://compassionbloggers.com/trips/2009-india.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Red Hot Pepper Jump roping



more pictures if I can figure out how to load them

Warmly welcomed at an Anglican student center

Writing to her sponsor - have you written to your sponsored child lately?

Mosquito net - provided by Compassion's Complementary Intervention Program

Playing with preschoolers on playground

Monday Feb 16 - Remembrance

On our last day in Rwanda (Sat. 14, Valentine's Day), we went to another student center, and at this one we did a craft project. We did the craft in 3 shifts with 3 different age groups. It was a lot of fun. The kids caught on to the craft really quickly. They all wanted to practice English. Funny but the kids can't distinguish the question "how are you" from "how old are you" and if you ask the latter they will say "I am fine, how are you?" So you have to ask them, how many years do you have.

We had a wonderful farewell lunch at the Novotel (a Valentine's banquet), and Eugene came at the end to say good-bye. His wife was still in the hospital and she was improving, but not all the way better. He had been home taking care of their baby since Wednesday. He was a bit frazzled but seemed relieved that she was improving. John did an admirable job taking over with our tour even though he had expected to be only assisting all week. We made sure we thanked them, and our bus driver, Mupenze. We got to relax at the hotel until time to go to the airport. We had a chance to share some experiences and talk through some guided questions. The topic of the genocide came up again, and it struck me how the roots of the Rwandan genocide started with the pre-WWI German influence; how our country was built on Christian principles... and the genocide of the native Americans; and how easily humans perpetrate evil on each other and justify it to themselves.

I don't want to ever forget the things I learned in Rwanda. I learned how love can cross all rational racial, ethnic, and political boundaries; I learned how I can be content with very few possessions; I learned the spiritual need to combat materialism wherever I find it in my life; and how from a pragmatic standpoint combating materialism can let me provide for someone who has so much less than myself. I cannot change all the poverty of Africa or Rwanda, but I have certainly made a difference in the life of one -and now two - children and their families. God has richly blessed me. I am a rich world citizen. From whom much has been given, much will be required. I am ready, now more than ever, to give.

If you would like to sponsor a child, please click on http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/default.htm?referer=43458. You CAN make a difference in the life of a child.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Day 6 - Friday - Echoes of the Genocide

I did not sleep well last night. I just kept reliving the day yesterday with Uwezo. I don’t feel sad, just empty, like when one of my children is away from home. It really does feel like he is a part of my family now more than ever. Now, when I think of him, I can imagine his voice, see his shy smile, and remember this amazing time we had together. Finally I got up and went out on the balcony to pray a bit and found myself crying again. Amazing how someone gets into your heart in such a short amount of time.
We started our day today being true American materialists, by shopping at an artesan market and a mall supermarket where many people got coffee. I spent all my money at the artesan shops and got lots of cool stuff to show to you all!
This afternoon we went to the genocide memorial here in Kigali. It is not like the ones Jay saw 8 years ago. This is a burial ground outdoors with some amazing intentional gardens to focus contemplation on genocide and restoration. There were Rwandans and westerners and some Asians too at the memorial. The inside portion was an amazing chronicle of genocides that have occurred in the last 150 years or so – I had no idea there were so many. Of course we all think of the WW2 Holocaust, but did you know about the Armenians in WW1, and did you remember about the Bosnians and the Cambodians, and there was even another African race that I had forgotten about that was virtually wiped out. They did not mention native Americans but they fit the category. This portion of the memorial also explored the causes of genocide and the possibility of prevention. It stated that all genocides were premeditated and well orchestrated. This level included a children’s memorial, with larger-than-life photos of children ranging in age from 9 months to 12 years, who were targeted in the genocide and killed by torture, clubbing, machete, gunfire, or beaten against a wall. The captions told about what the children’s personalities were like, what they liked to do, favorite foods, and then ended with how they were killed.
The lower level of the memorial was dedicated entirely to Rwanda, and it was extremely candid and explicit about the severity of the genocide. It depicted the roots of the Rwandan genocide dating back to 1962. But really the 1994 genocide began in 1990 with smaller “test massacres” that let the interhamwe practice their organization and preparation for a mass genocide. If the international community had been paying attention, or if they had even acted when it began, it could have been stopped.
I walked through the mass graves – there are a bunch of them, and one that looks to still be opened. The recorded tour said that bodies and mass graves are still being found and the bodies brought here for burial. The gardens feature elephant sculptures – you’ve heard the phrase, “an elephant never forgets”? The elephant is a symbol of never forgetting what happened so that it will never be repeated. The gardens were sculpted with a lot of thought and artistry, and they are beautiful and peaceful. I thought the memorial was a perfect tribute, mixing brutal honesty and hope through beauty. I did cry when going through it.
We had dinner tonight with the leadership development students – LDP. Compassion Rwanda just started LDP with their first class this past January. They have 35 students, and 4 of them joined us for dinner – Egibe, Peter, Esther, and Emmanuel. I mention them because they were striking in how they have overcome poverty and a language barrier – university is now taught in English – to enter college. Egibe is a genocide survivor – both parents were killed in the genocide. He did not go into details – you could tell by the look on his face that he remembered – but he survived by being placed with an aunt who took him in and raised him. I have no idea how she hid him. Esther’s family took in an orphan of the genocide. And we found out that John, who has been with us all week, as our tour specialist, was affected by the genocide. He was exiled in Uganda at the time of the genocide, because his father had fled in the 60’s. But his entire extended family who were in Rwanda at the time of the genocide were killed. So it’s amazing the widespread impact on people. And I just kept wondering, where was the US? Why didn’t we do anything? We sponsored Uwezo in response to the genocide. Not a global solution. But it was a start. And after meeting him, I realize it was a very good investment.
This is my last blog while in Rwanda – we have one more visit to a student center tomorrow morning, because Saturday is usually the day when the programs are in operation, so it will actually be the best day to see it. Then we come back, relax at the hotel, and head to the airport at 6pm for our 9pm flight. It will be a long trip home, but I will post pictures and finish blogging on Monday when I get home.
This has been an amazing journey with lots of unexpected blessings and lessons. God is good. See you all soon.