Jesus Is So Cool!

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If you remember, in one recent post of mine (Noteworthy Experience) I posted about Jean Baptiste, the young street boy I met a few weeks ago. Well, needless to say, I wasn’t too pumped about that interaction. A few days ago, I was reprocessing that event and I prayed to Jesus that He would let me see Jean Baptiste again, so I could love on him a bit more and get him some more food. Wellll…..He answers prayers :)

I was walking around on the street above my house and he came up behind me asking for food. At first I didn’t recognize him, but I beckoned the boy to follow me and started walking towards the same grocery store I had visited last time. I turned and got a better look at him and realized that it was Jean Baptiste! I said his name and he looked up at me and gave me a brilliant smile. He gave me a hug and when the men at the store tried to stop him from coming in, I just put my arm around his shoulders and marched on through. He got a carton of milk and a loaf of bread again and as we walked in separate directions, he kept giving me the thumbs up and smiling really big. It was really really awesome. Jesus really answers prayers. All of his other street boy friends were standing down at the other end of a dirt road branching off the main road and they were all pretty excited to get some food. I am so blessed that God has put me in the position to help. I still wish there was more that I could do. Especially after that poem I put in the last post (check it out if you haven’t already–its mind blowing and convicting and heart wrenching all in one)…I see that street children have super difficult lives and they don’t have anyone to raise them right. They grow up into dangerous men and women because they only know how to live in do-anything-to-survive mode. Whew. These kinds of interactions leave me with a lot of conviction and heaviness of spirit. But I have to trust that God is good and He can protect these boys even if I can’t.

Idi, one of the boys from the Center.

Another story about street kids here in Rwanda: One of our boys from the Center, Idi, a 12-year-old ball of fire, has been missing for the past week. We heard that during holidays he had gone back out to the streets instead of staying at home and had been thrown in jail because he didn’t have an ID card. Some leaders had gone to all the surrounding prisons looking for him, trying to get him out to bring him back to the Center. But he wasn’t to be found anywhere. So people were at a bit of a loss. On Tuesday, his best friend from the Center and one of the leaders went out to Kigali and searched for him. They finally found him (I didn’t hear where or under what circumstances) and he is now safely back at the Center. Everyone was worried that he was in trouble or hurt or something. We are all very relieved that he is taken care of now. Such is the life of many children around the world. I can’t even fathom the magnitude of this injustice.

I am getting ready to come back home and I know that it will be a hard transition. Though I am excited to see everyone that I love and miss, I know that I will have so many questions and challenging questions to wrestle with. Reverse culture shock can really get you, and I just have to be prepared. I will be in Oregon in about 3 days. Wow. I can’t really imagine being back. It’s not real yet…but I guess it will be soon :)

Rwandans Orphans Project

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Two of the younger boys living at ROP. They were really goofy and hyper, like young boys tend to be.

Yesterday, my friend David texted me and asked if I wanted to accompany him for his first day of teaching English at a local school/orphanage for street boys. I jumped at the opportunity to see another program similar to the Center for Champions. I took a bus out and met David (a Rwandan friend who I met while at the Center) and we walked out a ways into a village-like area. It seemed like we weren’t even in Kigali anymore. We walked into a small, gated property where some smaller boys were hanging out in the yard. There were some buildings, obviously classrooms and dormitories and an office building. I met the directors Jenny and Sean and Jenny showed me around the place. They have rabbits and goats, using them for food as a sustainable project. I saw their little library and play room with donated books and games from American families, a sewing room where they make quilts to sell, a beautiful wall-mural (painted maps of Africa and Rwanda), their clinic and their sweet volleyball pit. It was really awesome to hear about how they are run and kept up and all the activities they offer for their boys.

Some of the boys signing up for English class...they are sitting in one of the classrooms found on ROP campus. Adorable, aren't they?

Meeting the students that my friend David will be teaching was really sweet as well. They ages of the boys range from 6 to 20ish. There are around 100 boys that live there, I believe. Some are in the Catch-up school (like they have at the Center) on campus and some are out in the community going to Secondary school. It was really neat just to get a glimpse of another program that works with these marginalized children.

David writing down the boys’ names for the English class. What a guy! He really has a huge heart for street children.

While exploring their website (www.rwandanorphansproject.org) I found a link to their blog and while perusing this site, I came across a poem written by one of their graduating students. It really touched my heart and I thought I would share it with you all. It was originally written in Kinyarwanda, but the boy translated it into English–so it is a bit broken in places. I find that it really shows the hurt and pain that street children experience. And it breaks my heart to think of my friends, people that have impacted me deeply over the past few months, had to experience this life. When you read it, remember that the author is a boy rescued from the streets, given an education and the opportunity to realize his full potential. He is a gift, and so are all the other children still sleeping in parking lots or under bridges. We all have the responsibility to reach out to the helpless, the orphaned, the widowed, the oppressed…and here is one example of a certain group that you can personally affect and help and bring hope to.

I am a child, same as the others
By: Lucky Faustin

I am a child, same as the others

I am a child like other children
I was born as they were born
I was never protected as they were
I suffered from difficulty and stress
I never wanted this, the love that was lacking

I am a child, same as the others
Your love is needed

Poverty is not a sickness
No one is born rich with wealth
You have to work hard
Fight against ignorance
Help those who are alone to be adopted
Pay their school fees for them
Help them when they are sick
Try to treat them well

The solution of poverty is to work hard
To work together willingly with others
Unify together
What you don’t know, you should ask

You cannot be sorry for your life
It may cause you to wander alone
You may spend nights in the bar, smelling like beer
When you return home you hit and torture your wife
That is not a family

When you see children in the road
Take one in and find someone to take another one in
The solution to their life comes from you
Uproot the wonderful completely

Education is greater than birth
If a child can learn he can become a leader
He may have a future without problems
He can be a soldier or he can be a policeman, protecting the country
He can build houses
He can help others in the streets

ROP is an exemplary place
We have the best behavior, culture and education
We have the teachers of our future
We will never criticize our leaders
Our guardians
Our parents
They always have us first
They are committed to us

Our parents live in America
They have always given much help in our lives
They really love us very much
We appreciate Sean and Jenny so much
We always live together with them
We joke and spend time together with them
They always give us what we need all the time
May God bless them

The children suffer from hunger
They take a decision to go to the streets
Where they become street children
This is caused by a lack of peace and harmony in their home
Each day, every day

They may spend nights under a bridge
They greet others on the streets
“How is it, man?” They say
“Be strong!” They say
Wearing rags for clothing

A girl sleeps wherever she can find
Sometimes where man take advantage
She can become pregnant
By luck she may live through it
She lives together with her baby on streets

A boy on the streets consumes drugs, alcohol and poison
They beg
Their voices change
The child becomes mature
He becomes a dangerous man
Because he lacks an education
And culture from his parents

When you pass by him, having a bag
He tears it from your shoulder
If you say something
He beats you
You may ask what happened to him
He tells you to go away
Saying the only one who cares about him is himself
He is not well
He suffers
Because nobody came to help him
Maybe someday he is in danger
Or he has nothing to eat
And he dies
Because nobody came to help him

You listen to me.
That is the street child’s life.

A Day in the Life of a Rwandan.

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We needed the proper clothes before we started in on our chores.

We went out on Saturday and spent the day at Azizi Life, an organization that has reached out to atrisans who are living in poverty and has brought these artisans together to design and create beautiful artifacts out of natural elements. Azizi Life then sells their products and pay the artisans the fair amount. These men and women can then have a positive impact on their communities and neighbors by sharing and spreading the wealth. This program has proved extremely beneficial and helpful in the lives of the people involved.

We were able to go out and meet with some of these artisans. We were split into groups and the artists and their families took us through one of their normal days. Florida was our hostess–she has a wonderful,active husband and three adorable children. We were also joined by two other women who were weavers of jewelry for Azizi. We started by dressing in traditional clothes (squares of fabric wrapped around our heads and waists) and then headed down the mountain to start cultivating a field. We threw the hoes around, getting a few blisters here and there. It was rewarding to look back and see all this dark soil churned up behind you. But it was also hard work.

Cultivating the earth.

All the precious women we worked with through out the day.

We then walked back up the steep hill, grabbed some jerry cans and then walked back down to the water source for the community. It is just water pumped from the nearby stream. We filled our cans up, and walked back up the hill. We felt a little foolish because they gave us small jerry cans that hold maybe only a gallon–give or take–while the husband carried two HUGE ones while he jogged back up the sketchy mountain path. It was crazy that they had to do this multiple times a day. And if they have washing to do, they have to do it down at the stream because there is no way to get all the necessary water up to their house. There were clothes and sheets and clothes spread out everywhere, drying while the owners were scrubbing away at another load.

Florida standing by the water pump.

After getting water, we went back up to Florida’s house and were given small sickles. We went out behind the house and found some long, green, juicy grass that they use to feed the cows. We cut the grass with the sickles, tied them into bundles and then placed them in the cow pens. Then it was time for lunch.

Earlier that day, we had watched Florida start the fire in the kitchen–it was started underneath a dark pot that was propped up by two large stones. There was a bowl of cassava soaking in water, waiting to be cooked with beans. This is what we ate for lunch. Cassava is a thick, mealy root that fills you very quickly. It is often referred to as the “starvation food” because it fills your stomach after a small amount is eaten. The cassava was cooked with beans and it was a really special experience eating with the family. We also ate some avocado, which was ripe and juicy and delicious. We asked the family if this was a normal meal that they ate, and they said that it was only for special occasions. They normally make flour out of their cassava (by drying and then grinding the root) and using that flour, they make bread. That is their normal meal because it is the least expensive.

Florida, our lovely host, preparing the fire to cook cassava.

Florida's son and their cows--cows are prized possessions here.

All in all, our time with Azizi Life was eye opening and incredibly impactful. Just to be a part of their daily chores puts things into perspective–I remember as a child trying to avoid unloading the dishes from our dishwasher or vacuuming the living room. I wasn’t really aware that there were small children daily walking back and forth from their homes with jerry cans full of water, or young girls cooking for their entire family while carrying their younger siblings strapped onto their backs. What different ways of life. Its mind blowing.

We then sat down with them in Florida’s house and we were taught how to weave bracelets. We used natural sisal fibers taken from a large plant that grows all over Rwanda. We learned the process to take the fibers out of the leaves and then we chose died and dried fibers to make our own bracelets. We sat in a large clump with artisans interspersed amongst us and had a grand old time while we braided and wove. Our bracelets might not be the most beautiful, but they were fun and rewarding to make. After the whole day was finished, we got to look at all the different crafts (purses, trays, picture frames, carved figurines, earrings, etc.) and made some purchases.

If you guys want to see or learn more about this awesome organization, check out their website: http://azizilife.com/

You can even buy some of the products if you are so inspired. They are so beautiful, I wish I could have bought one of everything.

Visiting, visiting, visiting.

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We have been so busy this past week…its getting crazy since we are all trying to live these last few weeks to the fullest. We have made some really good friends in Kigali and are constantly running around visiting their families, playing music, going to parties, etc. Its awesome!
Two Saturdays ago, the 5 of us who worked at the Center went up to Musanze, which is in the Northern province of Rwanda (about 1 1/2 hours bus ride out of Kigali) to visit our friend Samuel (a boy from Center for Champions) and his family. It was one of the best times since we have been in Rwanda. Musanze is beautiful and really close to the equator, so it was an incredibly warm day. We sat in his house and ate a lunch of rice, beans, dodo, and potatoes. They served us by piling the food on two huge plates and we all had forks and dug in. Communal plates–a new and fun way of eating. It was a bonding experience. Samuel stays with his older brother (Bosco), sister-in-law (Arenelli), niece (Pamela) and the sister-in-law’s brother (Papi). We told stories, shared different pick-up lines, took tons of pictures, and laughed a LOT. We walked down to this swimming hole and the boys and Arenelli jumped in right away. The water was freezing, and the entire neighborhood were out watching the muzungus swimming, but it was such a fun time. Arenelli is one of the most wonderful ladies in the world, and she and her husband, Bosco, were the first openly affectionate couple I had seen in Rwanda. The whole day was fantastic and hilarious. One of the best days of my life.

Pamela with her Teddy Bear.

Eating rice, dodo, beans, and chips (potatoes) out of the community plates…soooo goooood.

Samuel's family...the man on the right is Papi, then next to him is Bosco, then Samuel, then his sister in law Arenelli and lastly his little niece Pamela.

The next day, Sunday, we all went to our neighbor’s house to celebrate the baptism of our little neighbor girl, Gladys. They had a big white tent set up in their side yard and they had tons of people over–family members, friends, church members, etc. These events are a big deal. The host and hostess took so much pride in the amount of people who were there, they were running around, serving fantas and cokes, serving food and just having small conversations. They began playing all the popular Rwandan songs we have become so familiar with and we had a dance party with everybody there. It was so awesome.

With Gladys at her baptism party...she was wearing her princess dress.

And then on Tuesday 3 of us interns went to visit our friend Richard in his home here in Kigali. He is another boy from the Center for Champions. We listened to music and took a walk around his village, meeting his neighbors. While we were walking down the road to head back home, we randomly saw another boy from the Center, JMV. He doesn’t have a phone so we haven’t been able to get in contact with him. It was so lovely talking and walking with him–he and his housemate ended up coming over to our house on Friday for some hang out time.

Arley, Sarah and I with Richard in his home.

 

One of the neighborhood kids near Richard's house.

Oh yes, one more fun visit–Arley and I met a guy named Jash at church a few weeks ago and we really hit it off. He was one who came over to sing and play music around our camp fire last week. He invited us over to his house today and it was SO MUCH FUN. He had a few friends over and we just sat around, drank fanta, took hilarious photos and listened to music. Arley is a very talented musician and he brought some of his songs over to show the guys…the catch is he plays metal, and this was one of the first times they had heard this type of music. But it didn’t stop them from being incredibly impressed. Turns out that one of the friends, Benjamin, is a music producer. He brought us to his house where he had his own homemade recording studio and we played around with the equipment and beats and such things as that. Through these two guys, we have been introduced to a Christian band here in Rwanda who record their music with Ben. They are some of the most talented musicians in Rwanda and we have their songs in our iTunes now. Its just fun networking and meeting all kinds of new people.

Jash and I at his house. He is seriously the biggest goof ball in Rwanda.

Over all, this has been an amazing time. We have just been getting to know people, learning about and attempting to participate in the Rwandan culture and simply loving every second…except those seconds that are dedicated to homework. Homework just gets in the way here.
We only have about 12 days left here. I am freaking out. We are almost done with classes–just one more week. Then we have a last week of freedom, packing and cleaning before we climb back on the airplane. Gosh.

Noteworthy Experience

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Yesterday a group of us went out to eat at the restaurant across the street (New Fiesta). I first had to go and exchange some money at the Forex Bureau so I walked on while everyone else went in and got us a table. As I was walking, a boy came up behind me, trying to get my attention, saying he was hungry. Now, I have seen a lot of boys out begging recently–I wonder if it has to do with the school holidays. During the holidays, many of the centers that take in street children close and the kids are back out until holidays end. I looked down at him, a short boy with a red shirt and dirty kaki pants, and I knew that I wasn’t going to refuse him. He reminded me of some of the younger boys at the Center for Champions, only 12, 13 or 14 years old. I figured that I could just bring him back to New Fiesta and have him sit down with us while he eats so we could not only give him a meal but get him out of the rain for a bit. I quickly exchanged my money and walked with him back to the restaurant.

As soon as I walked up to the door, a man leans back in his chair, blocking our entrance. He frowned really deeply and used an overly forceful voice saying, “You cannot bring that boy in here! He cannot come in. Do not bring him in here. He steals from the cars. He cannot come in!” He repeated himself a few more times, jabbing his finger at the boy accusingly. I’m sure my face showed my shock, at first, and then my incredulity as I processed his words. I became angry, and said (in a fairly sassy voice) “Ok, I’ll take him to another place then.” We turned around and walked to the nearest grocery store. The boy (his name is Jean Baptiste) seemed relieved to be away from the man. He was stopped however at the door of the grocery store. He had to explain that he was with me to get some food, he wasn’t coming in empty handed. The employees looked at me cautiously and then moved to let him walk in. He only took about five steps in and grabbed a carton of milk. He looked at me, and I gestured for him to get something else. He then grabbed a loaf of bread, turning down anything else. It only cost a little more than $3. After I made the purchase, he grabbed the food to his chest, said thank you and scooted out the door and around the corner.

And I walked back to New Fiesta to eat a chicken burger and drink a Coke with my friends, out of the cold rain and mud. I felt so disturbed by the event that I actually had some welling of the eyes, and shed a tear or two. Something just felt really wrong about the situation. First of all, I was so struck by the refusal of grace from the man at the door of the restaurant. I saw him again and couldn’t help but glare a little. If the boy is stealing from cars, is known for being a notorious thief, then maybe instead of just hating, excluding and ridiculing him, somebody should try to help in some way. Granted, because of his lifestyle, he is probably not trustworthy. Honestly, he would probably steal something if he had the chance–its the street kid mentality, the way they survive. I saw this while at the Center–I had my watch, markers, pens, money, bracelets and other various trinkets stolen from me or my backpack while I wasn’t looking. Its just how things are–it takes time and transformation to change this kind of approach to life.

Secondly, I sat down at my table after it was all over and felt a deep sense of regret come over me. I was convicted. I barely talked to the kid. I walked ahead of him as I led him to the store. I probably made him feel inferior–I was the muzungu who was giving him charity, pity, instead of being the friend he needed, someone to treat him like he was valued. If I could do it over again, I would walk side by side with him, asking him more than just “What is your name?”, even though he didn’t speak English. Any small conversation or even a pat on the shoulder could have made the situation more personal, instead of just me doing a “good deed” for the homeless boy.  Boys from the Center, boys who are now my friends–they were in this position not too long ago. Wow. I felt so humbled and ashamed, and I still do.

Jesus came for the sick, not the healthy. For those in need, for those enslaved to sin and darkness. In the same way, I should be living my life for those oppressed by injustice, lack of resources, lack of opportunity, etc. Just buying this kid milk and bread wasn’t enough for me. I was hit so deeply by the whole experience that it really hasn’t left my mind. I wish I could find Jean Baptiste and his friends he undoubtedly shared his food with, and I wish I could…do…something–anything more than what I did. Jesus wants to reach deeper than just filling his little belly for a few hours; He wants to fill his heart, show him how valuable he is, what his gifts and talents are. How many people around the world are being robbed of their true potentials by life’s circumstances, by those people who are controlling the majority of the world’s resources, by those who refuse to help and instead sit comfortably in their chairs in the restaurants, in their homes, in the theaters, in the mall, etc?

What am I doing to resolve the systemic issue here? I’m just learning, but the problem seems so huge, so deep and twisted. Satan has done his work well–sin has poisoned human relationships to the point where a grown man with enough money to groom his hair, dress in nice, clean clothes and eat plates of food outrightly (and without a hint of guilt) turns away a poor, dirty, hungry boy who resorts to stealing in order to eat. To the point where an American girl, studying abroad, hurrying to get back in time to order her nice meal whisks in and out of the boy’s life who is starving for attention and affirmation. I don’t know what I can do, but this experience has affirmed for me the deep vocational calling God has placed over my life. I hope I will never act like this again and that God can champion through me for the rights of children and young adults who are restricted from reaching their full potentials.

Please, God. Don’t let them walk alone. Stay near these boys and girls.

I don’t know…These are just the thoughts that are racing through my mind.

Fabrics, Friends and Freaking Mountains.

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Disclaimer: Internet has been quite janky the past week so there won’t be any pictures with this post.

Really I should be working on homework right now…but instead I’m writing a blog update because I haven’t in a while. I thought I would share with you about our daily adventures here in Kigali. We  have recently been shopping like mad for souvenirs to bring back with us…I think I’ll be leaving half my clothes here in an effort to bring back all the lovely treasures I have collected (don’t worry–its not ALL for me). We have been getting some really sweet clothes made at the local market, Kimironko. We have a special friend named Josephine who runs her own stall, selling amazing African fabric and making us the various clothing designs we bring in. I’ve had some fun pants and shorts and dresses made…all in crazy beautiful fabrics that only Africa can provide. We have also discovered this really neat Co-op where women who have contracted AIDS because of the violence enacted against them in the genocide come together and use their sewing prowess to create wonderful bags, computer cases, pillow cases, and many other crafty things. It’s like walking into a rainbow paradise where you want to spend every cent you have to support these women and also walk away with some marvelous keepsakes.

So besides spending money, I have been making some invaluable memories by visiting my friends from the Center for Champions. Like I’ve said before, many of them are in Kigali during their holidays and are staying either with some of the other boys or with various family members. We have been blessed to be invited to visit many of them in their homes. Its always an adventure trying to find our way around to the various corners of Kigali. Once you get out of Town, you find yourself in another world. The houses are much closer together–its like a maze that you have to walk through. We even had to climb a mountain….Our friends Bruno, Amani and Donat invited us over and we were really excited. We rode the bus into Kichikiro and met them at the bus stop there. We were told beforehand that it was a 15 minute walk to their house from the bus stop…but of course, a Rwandan 15 minutes is actually about 40. We finally walked into this small, green valley, sprinkled with houses and small stores. Donat looks up to the highest peak, points and says “We live the very tallest.” Despite his broken English, I quickly realized we were planning to hike up the thin, muddy path up to the top of the hill where a small collection of houses was visible. It was an adventure, hiking in sandals, being chased by the small children who never see white people in their side of Kigali. The visit was really fun, and definitely worth the climb.

We went to meet Eric’s family as well–another boy from the Center. We met his mother and three sisters and several nephews. We also had the pleasure to meet the friend of the family who was “in the Spirit” the whole time. She was a bit wacky, falling on the ground, yelling, dancing, singing, hitting the walls…she was a bit excited to have my friend Ryan and I in the house. It was an experience, let me tell you. Eric said he was really proud to have us over, and his family was so sweet. It is so fun to actually be a part of our friends’ lives, show them that we are interested in them a part from just the Center.

And finally, last night, we had some friends (Jash, JC and Brian) come over and hang out for a night of pizza and worship around a bonfire. They all three are friends from church who speak really amazing English. JC and Brian spent 6 months in–guess where? Portland, Oregon! I know! Crazy right? JC is coming to Portland to go to University (PCC, here comes one of the best guys in the world). These guys are all talented musicians and we are going to be in their first music video. Whoo hoo! They love Jesus like nobodies business and they love pizza almost as much.

All in all, we have been making some really really good friends. I enjoy spending my time with everybody, getting to know this new culture through my interactions with the people. School is getting in the way though. Hah. Ironic since its a study abroad so really that should be my focus. But I already have a severe case of senioritis and I would like to have a small break from homework–seriously, reading a book a week for one class, writing a paper everyday and participating in intensive research can be a bit tiring, especially since I’m trying to live it up for my last three weeks. THREE WEEKS. 23 days. Holy smokes. I can’t believe its gone by this fast. I still have so much to do!

Promo Video!

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8SA64QxzRk

You all should check out the website above! Its the promo video that Arley made about the Center for Champions. It’s short, expertly made, and a good source of information on what the Center actually is and the work that they are doing. It is such an amazing program doing a lot of work in the lives of the students living there.

Arley is a pretty talented fellow.