It is our third full day in Rwanda, and I can't begin to explain how much being here is impacting me. It is a trip that is redefining my worldview and our role in how we take care of our brothers and sisters around the world. Breaking me in a very good way. Extreme poverty is real. When you see up close the poverty and terrible conditions that kids and entire families are living in, it breaks your heart. We have it so well in America. If you've been on an international trip to a third world country, you understand this. But if you haven't, it is hard to understand. Incredible poverty and literally no temporal belongings, but incredible faith and hope in God and an ability to persevere and live day by day.
One of the things our group has been dialoguing about is the incredible faith that the kids and families we are meeting have. A faith in Jesus that truly guides them and is the only thing they have to stand on. For us in America, we don't understand this. We have lots of belongings and temporal treasures that distract us from relying on God. Even for those who don't have alot in America, we still have way more than most of the rest of the world. And it dilutes our faith. It causes us to rely on ourselves. It impedes our ability to know Jesus and rely on God for everything we need.
Today we visited another project in the northern part of Rwanda. About 2 1/2 hour drive from Kigali, the nation's capital. We were only around 15 miles from Uganda at this project site. Spent time with more kids, hearing them sing, watching them dance, and interacting with them with hugs, soccer, candy and lots of smiles. We also visited with a group of HIV AIDS victims who are being ministered to through a local group in this part of Rwanda named Friends of Jesus. They shared their stories with us, and we prayed with them and were impacted by their courage, strength, and perseverance to live day by day trusting God.
We also visited an orphanage, where there are 6 orphans who are cared for by a beautiful lady named Charlotte. Charlotte is a women of incredible hope and grace. She herself was mistreated as a child- beaten, abused, and not given any sense of hope. But she came out of that, and now cares for these 8 orphans by giving them a home and a family filled with love. Hearing the stories from these orphans was truly impacting. In fact, I think meeting the orphans and the caregiver is the most real expression of the Gospel I have ever seen. Amazingly beautiful- redemption and restoration wrapped around grace in a way that for me paints a small glimpse into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Many times when you see poverty and brokenness and hopelessness up close like I am seeing it this week, you start to think "how can I really make a difference?" It's overwhelming, and it's easy to think anything I do won't really have an impact. However, I keep thinking back to something Rick Warren said to me two weeks ago at Catalyst West Coast. I was making a statement regarding how Rick hugs everyone he meets, and Rick backed that up with his theory of Look, Touch, Speak. Based on Jesus' ministry, when Jesus would meet someone, he would look at them to give that person a sense of identity, touch them with a handshake or hug to give them confidence and comfort, and speak a word of encouragement to give them hope. Look, Touch, Speak. Simple yet powerful. So I've been living this out the last several days. I am not sure sometimes how to deal with extreme poverty- most of us aren't. But I know that Love is the universal language, and in that way maybe one child will be impacted by even simple things like a hug or a smile or telling them they are special.
So take a trip to Africa. Specifically to Rwanda since I am now biased. Take a trip so you can understand how incredibly blessed we are in America, and how much responsibility we have to help our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world. We CAN MAKe a difference. Especially with children, widows and orphans. And if you can't take a trip, then sponsor a child. I am seeing the power and beauty of sponsored kids up close, and it DOES make a difference.
And check out Jeff Shinabarger's post from today with some great thoughts and great pictures from our trip.
Marakoze. That's Kinyarwanda for Thankyou!