Monday, September 21, 2009

So what is there to do in Rwanda?

I am just three weeks away from the experience of a lifetime! This trip is gonna be so cool because it's not your typical mission trip with a specific agenda and schedule all planned out. I get to live like part of this family for five weeks and do whatever they do! It's very open-ended.... gives God plenty of room to work. They tell me they lead a low-stress lifesyle, which is something I definitely need to experience. I get the picture that things will be flexible and we will do whatever God puts before us each day. So, I don't know a lot of what to expect, but I know some things we'll be doing as God allows. We'll spend time at a home for street boys that is run by a Rwandan man. These boys just love having people come in to spend time with them. We will teach them simple skills and basic hygiene, bring them gifts and treats, and just spend time playing and loving on them. There are several other orphanages in Kigali that we can visit also. There is a women's center where they learn skills and make things to earn some income. Chuck and Debbie, the missionaries I'm staying with, helped a young woman get off the streets several months ago and got her into this center. They also helped her get living accomodations and medical care. Sadly, she is HIV positive and has been very ill. She has a young daughter who lives with someone else because she is unable to care for her. I don't know the stories of the other women, but we will be visiting the center, checking on this girl, Elizabeth, and maybe taking time to talk with some of the women and learn their stories. I have no idea how much I'll be able to communicate directly with the people. English and French are the official languages of Rwanda, but many of the people, especially children, do not speak much if any English. Chuck and Debby speak French but not Kinyarwanda, which is the native language. So they have a lot of difficulties with communication themselves. But love communicates in any language and that is what I pray God will speak through me.
I will get to know the workers at Chuck and Debbie's house. They are part of the family, too. It is part of the culture to have people work for you when you can afford to pay, and it really helps them out. They have a Bible study with the workers twice a week, done in French and translated into Kinyarwanda. They do all sorts of fun things as a household and everyone is included. I think I'm going to have a blast! I may also get to do some fun stuff like learning to play tennis, which is a popular sport in Africa, visiting a game park, and going on a retreat to the beautiful country by lake Kivu in the west.
This is going to be an amazing cultural and spiritual experience and I'm praying I will come home changed! I'm not doing this to achieve a specific goal or see results; I am going to seek God's heart in a deeper realm, to be broken and changed by the needs I see, and to learn to love people with God's perfect love that casts out fear. Fear of people is a big problem in my life: fear of those who are very different from me, fear of what everybody thinks and how they see me. If I can be set free of fear I will be free to love and give without reserve and compelled to share the life of Jesus with everyone in my path. This is my desire above all else, that God will use this trip and everything else in my life to bring me deeper in love with Him and teach me to love people. Love is all that really matters! I don't care how He does it, I just want God to deep changing me and bring me closer to Himself. So these are some great things if you want to know how to pray for me.
Thanks for reading and for truly caring about this journey that God is taking me on!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Road to Rwanda

It started back in January. The last several years have been a spiritual desert in my life. I felt like I was running in a hamster wheel of defeat. I had reached a plateau in my relationship with God and though everything may have looked great on the surface, inside I was slowly dying and riding this rollercoaster of trying to please God, failure, and spiritual depression. If you know the song "Slow Fade" by Casting Crowns, that was my life. Every new year I would look back in discouragement over the fleshly patterns that were carving ever deeper ruts in my soul. My journals told the same story over and over. Lustful thought habits, discontentment, escapism, addiction to my own pleasure, total self focus. Yet there was always an ember of desire yet remaining for God. In His overwhelming love and faithfulness He kept on drawing me, calling me back to Himself, never letting go. Don't you love His mercy? We could never deserve it but He keeps on pursuing us even while we chase our tails round and round.
So at the beginning of 2009 I was looking back over the past year but with a deeper desperation than ever that something had to change. And I sensed a new hope that this year would be different. God had me at a point where He was showing me who I really was more clearly than ever before and I saw how I had become consumed by selfishness, greed, and idolatry. At the core of my belief my life was about me. But God was slowly waking me up to how dead I had become and that the fruit of following my own desires was starting to become outwardly evident. My life and my relationship with God were so shallow. I'd been crying out to God desperately to do whatever it would take to change me and let me fall in love with Him, because at the root of everything I loved myself more than God. Even so He had been speaking to me in so many ways and He gave me the hope to believe that 2009 was the year of Jubilee!
Shortly after this I was reading a blog and this person posted a video that profoundly impacted me. It showed two little kids in an isolated African village who were crippled with polio and starving to death. They lay in the dirt half-naked, barely able to move. Their eight year old sister showed up with water which she had walked miles to get so she could bathe the children. She was doing all she could do for them. The people who found these kids were agonized by the scene and you could only watch these precious children cry out pitifully in their hopelessness. Their story had a good ending as these people took them to get medical care and a permanent home and they survived. Seeing the intensity of their suffering made me ask myself some tough questions and I realized that I need to go and see need and suffering in the world for myself. I can read things and see videos and all, but it's not real enough to me. God grabbed me deep inside and showed me that I'm not here on this earth for me. God created us for intimate relationship with Himself and put us on earth to enjoy Him and express Him. As a redeemed child of God in a world that is now fallen, I am here to be His hands and feet to the broken. My life is about Him. I knew all this in my head, of course, but I realized I wouldn't get it to my heart unless I could enter into some of the brokenness myself. I began longing to have my eyes blown open and my perspective turned around.
The plight of the innocents, the helpless, abandoned children all around the world, has always pulled strongly at my heartstrings. Many times I imagined working with orphans somewhere. But I'd never thought seriously about Africa. All of a sudden, through this video, God was putting Africa on my heart. So I started looking into ministries to orphans in Africa and missions trips. Then my mom said I should get in touch with this missionary couple we know in Rwanda. They were led there about a year ago to reach out to street kids and orphans. We thought perhaps I could visit them and be a part of their work. When I wrote to them, pouring out my heart, they responded that they'd love to have me come! I was so excited and at first I felt that I was definitely going. But as time went on I got some different input from another source and began to wrestle over where God really wanted me a young single woman. It took months of tossing between two opinions until God gave me the assurance that this desire to go to Africa was really from Him and I decided to go for it. So now, here I am, headed to Kigali, Rwanda in exactly 24 days! God is so awesome and I am so excited! Next time I'll give you some more of the details on my trip.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

At last.... I'm a published author!

Welcome to my world! I've wanted a blog for years but I didn't think I had much of a story to tell. Some people have this awesome way of describing the mundane, the unpredictable, and the downright disturbing scene of day to day life. That takes a special kind of focus, I'm sure. However, I now have a story and thus a wonderful excuse to make my mark on the world of cyberspace! I am preparing for an adventure to Rwanda, Africa to seek and experience God in a radical way. October 12, 2009 is D-Day! I am so excited for the chance to share my story and all the adventures I will have along the way. And you, the reader, are vitally important to this venture. You are my support and my reason for writing. So, thanks for coming along with me!
Coming up next.... the story behind my journey.