<- a mural i was fond of in the belgium bakery
how does one begin to process the opportunity of a lifetime? i mean, not many people even get the chance to travel and see more of gods creation than what's "outside their front door". we have been blessed to visit africa, even if it were just this once, but to start to imagine living there brings processing it to a whole new level!
i am sure that a reflections post from joe would look different, just as it would from any other person. these are my thoughts and i hope this post will be honest and clear and helpful. not just helpful for me to reflect on as we transition into this "move", but helpful for others to see a glimpse as well. this is more of a thoughts post. i will blog pictures and other specifics in other posts!
first off, getting to rwanda was forever long. i was grateful for NOT having the boys along this time or a family size baggage ontourage, and will pray hard for a more direct flight by the time we are all going again! everywhere we landed on the way there was nighttime, so while i got an amazing view of the little (or big -not too much of a science buff) dipper, and enjoyed the lights of ireland by night, i was frustrated to have traveled 2+ days to still not see ANYTHING! even landing in kigali was at midnight so not much was happening when we rolled through the streets the first time!
the family who hosted us was great! they, probably without realizing or even trying to, taught us much and humbled both of us while we were there! they are a family who has been in rwanda for 5+ years. they have adjusted, learned the language, made friends, and in my opinion, been a blessing to the country! i can only pray that we might be so "settled" five years into life there!
we were pleasantly surprised to find out there is a bigger team in the country than we were told, with i believe eight AIM families...it is a newer ministry and is quickly blossoming with open doors because of the switch to english as the official language (as is in our case). we met people who had been there [specifically rwanda] as short as 2 mos and as long as 6 years. also, some of them have been in africa for 20+ years. for me, it was harder to see the families who still had fresh in their minds the challenge of moving a family there, and helpful as well. we are thankful for each of the families and their open hearts and their willingness to drag along 2 more in their busy days! we are especially thankful for the family who hosted and organized our trip!
in some ways, rwanda will be a much easier place to live than even philly! it is a beautiful country! i cannot express that enough!! it is kept clean and is very organized in the way it is run. it is safe for even a young woman to walk alone (not the case here in philly). i saw many bikes "parked" along the side of the road, untouched! here, ppl pick/break locks to steal bikes. there, even plastic bags are banned to help keep pollution/trash down. there is a fantastic (and affordable) international christian school we visited and hope to send our boys to. every side of the road is well manicured and has a worker "keeping" it up to par, and the paved roads are far better than philly roads. they put philly to shame actually! street vendors have been moved from the streets and, from what i understand, been given specific locations to sell their goods. the city is rather small, giving it a "quaint village" feel over the "hustle and bustle of a city" feel! the country itself is also quite small making it just a couple hour drive to a handful of other countries.
on the other hand, there are also things i find particularly challenging. english, though now the official language, is only spoken by 1% of the country. though it will start being taught in schools, it will become a language only the well educated know, and not many make it to secondary school there. french is followed by a mere 3%, leaving kinyarwanda, the heart language, as the one widely known/spoken. we were told kinyarwanda is the 7th hardest language in africa to learn. you can imagine my excitement here to find that out! we are lucky that AIM's policy is the first year spent there is focused on language learning!! there is also the whole history of the country. for me this was very hard! i have many images in my head, thanks to many movies and articles, and i found myself imprinting those images into life there. instead of the empty ditch on the side of the road, i saw a filled ditch. when workers worked with their machettes, i imagined what might have been done there 16 years ago. i am a super sensitive person, so this doesn't come as too big of a surprise to me, but was still a hard pill to swallow. i was able to talk with some of the missionaries there about these feelings, and they also struggled with this to an extent in their beginning. the key to this is handing it over to god! this will be one of the things i pray for most in the next few years! we also saw one movie in particular that talked about the forgiveness happening in the country. i was amazed to hear about this -it is HUGE to forgive the things that happened in 1994!! unfortunately, that is NOT what we saw/experienced while there. *this is not to say it is not happening, as we could only see so much in so few days. this is to say that what we experienced this trip was different than that. we've learned that to talk about the two groups means using "code" (not mentioning the specific names), so we'll call them the H's and the T's. we learned that the two groups are pretty segregated. even the ones who call themselves christians don't worship with those of the other group! most of the stories told come from a specific side, and i wouldn't be surprised to hear that work environment is separate too. we also felt there were [understandably so] trust issues. people were not quick to smile/say hello, even when you spoke their tongue, and there was often mention of the "muzungu" (white person) when we were around and people literally just stopped and stared, more so than any of the other countries we've been to.
i so much wanted to end this trip with a zeal and passion for africa. in a sense, i wanted to "replace" my love of oaxaca, mexico with rwanda, africa! for those of you who know me, that is a huge request! i think the hardest thing about this trip was leaving NOT absolutely in love...but at the same time, i have never been more convinced of what god wants from us!! we both feel absolutely confirmed in gods calling, and for this we are so grateful!!! i have learned that nothing will replace oaxaca for me -it is a place that has formed me and helped make me who i am today, a place filled with many years of fond memories and many people that i love! god was good to me there and grasped my life! i also believe god will be good to us in rwanda! i believe that he can best use the gifts he's given us there, and i have seen the many needs. it is good to have a real view of what transitioning to another home will be like (making new friends, learning language, finding a new church home, adjusting the kids, etc.), rather than a romantic view of "everything will be perfect b/c we're finally doing missions!". i am reminded of how much i will need to rely on god, and how much i will need to rely on prayer, prayers from people like you! while i didn't leave thinking "this is soo exciting and will be so much fun and so easy", i left thinking "this is good, and this is honoring/pleasing to my god and i am ready to take this next step with him".