Important Lessons Learned From Time in Rwanda

Her words touched my heart.

As she shared her story, her eyes revealed years of struggle and hardship. A survivor of the genocide. A single mom of 3 kids. A woman fighting HIV+. Her frail, weak body poured out her heart to us as we crammed together inside a tiny room she called home.  

We asked how we could pray for her and she said, “Please remember.  Remember me and my family in your prayers when you return home.” Her words keep ringing in my head.

Please Remember!

It has been four years since our life changing trip to Rwanda. I thought it would be special to share some of the lessons I learned as well as remember the God moments, the heart felt stories, and especially the people.

Florence, the single mom that I described above.  

As I stared into her eyes, I could see that life had been very tough. She shared her husband left her when she became sick and paralyzed by the illness. Thankfully the church stepped in to help with her children and get her medication. On my hard days as a single mom when I am tempted to complain or get frustrated, I want to picture Florence. My difficult days do not even compare to her struggles. We truly have so much to be grateful for. 

Let’s remember to choose gratitude!

Joseph, a twenty-year old who we met him on another home visit.

Sadly, he lost his father and siblings in the genocide. This young man is seeking. As we sat in his home with his mother, he asked lots of questions. He showed an interest in learning more about Jesus and being baptized. Even after sharing our faith, he was not quite ready to make a decision. Before we left, we prayed for him. It was special that we were able to plant seeds in this young man’s heart, and I know God will continue to water them. Praying for God’s perfect timing for him. We were thrilled to hear that he attended church the following week– God is so good!

Let’s remember the power of prayer! 

 Innocent, a preschool teacher who we met while helping at his school.

When we asked about the challenges he faced as a teacher, he shared that they don’t have any visual aids or hands on supplies to teach. Only a pencil and paper. As a fellow teacher, my heart just broke as a pictured my classroom full of colorful posters, manipulatives, and hands on supplies. To help, we began saving our bottle caps from our water bottles as math manipulatives. In addition, before we left, we gifted this school with crayons, soccer balls, stickers, and colored construction paper. I will never forget their smiles as they received these teaching aids. Helping meet others’ needs is a priceless gift.

Let’s remember the importance of helping others.

The sweet, smiling faces of the children.

It is wonderful to see how much joy they have. I remember meeting Divine and his younger brother, Jeffrey at church. Divine was only 10 years old and he was holding and taking care of his 18 month old brother. Jeffrey had fallen asleep on his lap, so he could not participate in the singing or bible story activity. To help, I held his brother so he could participate. This is not uncommon in Rwanda to see young children caring for even younger children. The older siblings don’t complain about the additional responsibilities whether it is walking to get water or taking care of younger siblings. 

Let’s remember to have joy no matter what the circumstances.

The group of women who heard my testimony in a tiny alley on the streets of Rwanda

Holding up my cracked clay pot, I told them how my world had been turned upside down and inside out when I had my miscarriage and how my heart had been shattered into a million pieces when I went through my divorce. Through it all, I declared how God’s love and comfort had met me in the middle of my heartbreak. With fresh tears, I encouraged the women to remember that God would take their brokenness and turn it into something beautiful. The horrible circumstances they had endured, the painful moments they had felt alone, the tears they had shed—God would not waste any of it.

Let’s remember how God specializes in redeeming our broken stories.

As I think back to our trip four years ago, my heart is grateful for all the important lessons we learned and the amazing people we met on this life-changing trip. Our hearts are forever changed! Thank you for Remembering Rwanda with us!!

Love, Jodi

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