We are in Rwanda! It’s so strange to be in a foreign country that is so familiar. On this, our third trip to Rwanda, I now know the roads between the airport and the hotel. I remember enough words in Kinyarwanda to be polite and draw smiles from those who are assisting us with baggage and welcoming us to the hotel. I ask Jane, our awesome guide, about her husband Peter and her 8 children. I chat with Ezekiel, the hotel manager, and catch up with him about his wife. Last year, he had gotten married the day we arrived at his hotel (and yet still came to greet us) so I remembered that he just had his 1st anniversary. It feels so natural, catching up with them about their lives and drinking passion fruit juice in the hotel lobby.
Thankfully, we had the afternoon to rest after a looooonnng day of traveling halfway around the world. Then at dinnertime, we all reconvened to eat together, and the hotel served us a special meal of pizza! We had invited the BFR leaders, Jean Claude, Emmanuel, and Salomon to join us for dinner, but we had not heard back from them. Then, as we were sitting there eating, we saw the three of them come up the stairs. And to my surprise, they had 2 little guests with them! One was Gislaine, the sponsored child of a couple on our team, and the other was Belyse, our sponsored child!
If you read my posts from last year, you probably know all about Belyse. She and I were inseparable last year, and it was emotional leaving her. She is a beautiful girl who just had her 13th birthday last week. We have been writing to her frequently since we last saw her. She was the first one to burst into the room, and she quickly strode toward us. We just barely rose to our feet before she launched herself into Blake’s arms and held him tightly. Then she did the same to me. I don’t think she ever wanted to let go. I held her face in my hands and tears were brimming in her eyes and she hugged me again. Then of course we exchanged hugs with the 3 BFR leaders, and it was like reuniting with family after a long time.
We all sat back down and ate together. We shared gifts for the leaders and for the children, and we shared laughter. Even though we were all extremely tired, nothing could dampen our delight at seeing our friends. Emmanuel said that Belyse had been asking when she would get to see us. She lives in the Gikondo district, which we don’t visit until Thursday. She told Emmanuel she couldn’t wait that long so she brought her to the hotel tonight to see us. I’m so glad he did! It was such a great surprise. I know that children are blessed by sponsorship because it meets so many of their physical and mental needs through the provision of money. It also helps meet their emotional and spiritual needs if sponsors diligently write to their child, encouraging them and sharing about Jesus. But people forget that sponsorship also blesses the sponsor. My heart was so full tonight at seeing Belyse and spending time with her! Her sweet presence made me forget about my exhaustion, my stiff body, and the fact that I probably smell bad from not having showered in a while. She didn’t care. Her happiness was visible on her face. Emmanuel asked why she was happy and she said, “because I get to be here with my mommy and daddy.” Talk about heart melting!
Tomorrow morning we will be visiting the Genocide Memorial. It is a somber place that reminds us of the evil people are capable of carrying out and the redemption that God is capable of seeing through to completion. Jean Claude will also share his testimony with us, and though I’ve heard it many times, it is still a terrible thing to imagine him going through. After a morning of learning about how Genocide nearly destroyed this country, we will visit Gasharu, a village for Genocide survivors. This village, full of widows and children, is a testament to survival and to the importance of relationships and community.
Please pray that everyone will get a good night’s sleep and feel well rested tomorrow, and that jetlag does not hold anyone back. Pray that God opens our hearts to the people he has placed before us on this trip. Pray that we grow together as a team and that we make the most of our time here, glorifying God in all that we do. Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement!