Land of a Thousand Hills

Rwanda the beautiful land and people of a thousand hills.

In October 2017, I went on my first mission trip overseas, I went to Rwanda.  When I was twelve I felt God calling me to go out into the world to share His Gospel.  I had been praying for years to go on a mission trip overseas and He finally sent me.  The main focus of the trip was a series of conferences.  We also spent time with widows and children, hearing their stories and sharing God’s love with them.

Come and See Africa (CASA) hosted a conference for pastor’s and one for their wives at the same time.  I helped a woman pastor from London with the conference for the pastor’s wives.  We looked at influential women from the Bible and history who are not well known.  We also read scripture, discussed what we read and prayed for them.  We shared some Sunday School ideas.  A parachute was donated to CASA for churches to borrow for Sunday Schools and events.  We demonstrated for them how to use it and taught them some games they could play and songs to sing.  They sang their own songs and built their own games off of what we shared.  We also painting with watercolors, which we also did with the female University students.1009171249

Our team gave both groups Salvation bracelets and demonstrated how to use them as conversation starters or reminders for ourselves while we shared the Gospel.  The bracelets have different bands of colors on them: yellow, black, red, blue and then green.  The yellow represented light and good-what God intended.  The black represents sin and our separation from God.  The red represents the death and sacrifice of Christ to restore our relationship with the Father, which leads us to the white meaning we are cleansed of all our sins.  The green is our hope in Christ and the blue is our future of Eternity with Him.Rwandan Meals

The pastor from London and I did a skit together (with a translator).  In the skit we recognized each other from a mutual friend but didn’t really know each other.  I played a nominal Muslim and she was a Christian.  She sees me at a coffee shop and asks if she can join me.  We chat about our families and then I admire her colorful bracelet. She tells me that there is a meaning and story behind it and asks if she can share it with me.  She goes over each of the colors and asks me questions.  During our discussion, I ask her questions about each one from a Muslim’s point of view.  After the skit, we passed out bracelets and the women practiced with a partner.

The Apologetics Conference was for university students from the five East African countries of Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Congo.  The conference was focused on the seven “I Am” statements of Christ,  what they mean, the historical content, and how different worldviews approach them.  A man, from the African Center for Apologetic Research, came from Uganda for a few days to share about cults in Africa.  He gave resources to aid in understanding them more and how they aren’t in alignment with Scripture.  I talked with him a lot about some cults in groups in America, near where I live, that are working in Africa too.  I sat in on the conference with the students and learned much from the lectures.

One evening, one of the girls who worked at the hotel took me on a walk to town and we got some ice cream.  We asked each other many questions about our countries and cultures and each others lives.  She didn’t speak much English, but I think she understood more than she could say.  She asked me questions about English and I helped her a bit and she helped me with my French, which is very little.  I asked her if she could teach me some of their language, Kinyarwanda.  She was so shocked and told me that no other foreigner had ever asked her to teach them her native language, it’s always them wanting to teach her English.  I love learning new cultures and languages and love to learn what I can.1008171750b.jpg

She told me she was very impressed with how I pronounced the words and that I could remember them.  I was a little shocked too.  She taught me how to say, “Hello, how are you?” and “I’m fine.” I didn’t learn that much, but it was enough to make people smile.  Later, I used what I learned to try to talk with one of the housekeepers at the hotel.  She was very surprised and happy.  She helped me practice and tried to teach me more.

There were so many monkeys around.  I had never seen a monkey in my life before outside of movies and on television.  The few times I have visited a zoo they were always hiding. I was told to not feed them or get too close because they were aggressive and could attack me. I was very cautious of them, but they continually fascinated me.  Sometimes, when I had time I would sit outside just to watch them.  One night at dinner a few got inside the hotel and we had to chase them out, it was very exciting.1007171049b

 

I loved Rwanda and all the wonderful people I met there from different cultures and backgrounds and I was honored to heard their stories.  I tried new foods that I found I really enjoy, like goat and mushrooms.  Even though mushrooms are common in the USA, my mom dislikes mushrooms, so she doesn’t cook with them.   One evening we had mushroom soup for dinner. The mushrooms were from the mushroom plantation down the road, that we were going to visit the next day.  Before I left home, I had made a deal with myself that I would try every food that was offered to me and be open to new experiences. I love trying new things and adventures, so I tried the soup and purposely went out of my way to eat the mushrooms, instead of avoiding them  My friends at home tease me now and say it took me traveling across the world to try a mushroom.  The goat was also very good and not at all what I expected.  I loved the coffee and tea!  The coffee in Rwanda was amazing, the best in the world I was told by many people, who informed me that Starbucks sources their coffee from Rwanda. I was surprised though, to find myself drinking more African tea than coffee. I had not really had any tea that has tasted like that before, it had a bit of a spice but was not spicy.

I joined a group from my Uncle’s church to see their work with the local children. We visited a little school where the kids sang for us a song in their language.  The kids then learned to sing the song “Jesus Loves Me” and then they did it in sign language.  The group had purchased a cow for a woman and her children a few days before, so they went to visit her again and see where she was going to keep it.  I went with them and she showed us around the outside of her house and the pen that was built for the cow.  There were a bunch of children that kept coming out of her house and from all around it to see us.  They all had the brightest smiles on their faces and were full of excitement and joy.  We went out front of her house and passed out toys and candy and spent a little time with the kids.

A few days later, I went with the group to see a house they were helping a widow build, because her house was falling apart.  We were told that she walks fives miles to church and that her one room house gets so full it becomes a church.  The woman seemed to be very gentle and kind, a mother like figure to those around her.  We were swarmed by children a few of them spoke a little English, but it was only a few English catch phrases like, “what’s up” or they asked us for money.Widow and her house

 

I was able to see how they were building the house and observe the process.  They were making the bricks onsite. They kept her old house and built the new one in front it.

Me and the Widow

I raised money from my community in the USA to support the Rwandan community.  In Rwanda, I was able to see all the different areas of ministry and decided where to put the money.  I talked with one of the local pastors there who has worked with my Uncles for a long time and asked him what he thought I should put the money towards.  He suggested buying a cow for a one of the widows, she took in the abandoned daughter of a prostitute and is raising her as her own.  I really responded to the idea of supporting someone who is showing Christ’s love to an neglected child.  He also said that there would be enough left over, after buying the cow, to purchase health insurance for over a dozen families for a year.

Later, I was discussing his suggestions for the funds with my uncles in the “Missionary Room”.   That was a cozy, light filled area where we had our morning devotions and prayed, ate some of our meals and put together a few packets for the kids.  All of a sudden,  the pastor came in and declared, “I bought a cow and it’s name is Shae!”  We all just stared at him.  He explained that after we talked about what to do with the donations, he went and got a cow. It was right outside the door-making noise! We were all smiling and laughing.

Me and the widow and her baby

During one of our last days there, CASA’s Bible Institute held a graduation and the local news paper was there, along with the Assistant Mayor of the district and the Police Commissioner.  They came to to see all ways that CASA is helping the local community.  We began a tour with the graduation and then we visited the group of women gathered from the widow’s co-op.  Before the graduation started, I went with a pastor from London to go spend some time with the widows.  That was a highlight of the trip.  Even though we had a translator, we communicated mainly through singing songs and praying for each other in our own languages.  I could feel God’s presence, love and joy fill the room.  We didn’t have much in common on the surface, but  we all shared our love for Jesus.  I loved the time I had with these women.  They were so warm and welcoming, kind and joyful.  God showed me His global church, my brothers and sisters in Africa and gave me a glimpse of the bigger picture, the body of Christ all together singing songs and praises to our God and Savior.

Me with the widowsMy time with the widows reminded me that church is more than once a week on Sunday morning.  Church is so much more than that, it is more than a building.  It is every believer in Jesus Christ all around the world.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, there are no church walls separating us.  We are all one together in Christ Jesus.  God opened my eyes to that a few years ago, in Rwanda I was able to see it so clearly.

My trip to Rwanda pushed me beyond my areas of comfort and encouraged me to grow stronger in my weaknesses, like public speaking and being outgoing.  I learned so much about myself and and what church and life is like in Rwanda.  Since I’ve been home I have pushed myself to speak in public and to connect more deeply with people in my local mission field.  I am so excited to see where God leads me!  I want to go back to Africa and stay longer, see more places, and meet more people! I loved it!  I am invited to go back in January.  I am praying about the opportunity to go back. Please pray with me for God’s guidance.

God Bless you and thank you for reading,

Shae

 

 

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