Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It's all so familiarly foreign.

The best thing I never knew I wanted. 
Hey, I miss you. You my best friend that I have laughed so hard with. The ones that we got kicked out of a public lake because we were laughing and talking too loud, too late, by some random old grumpy man while eating our ice cream. You friend, who we used to pack the guitar and worship lyric book, and go sit by Lake Ontario and sing our hearts out on the flat rocks. You coming up to give me a tight hug with a friendly smile at church every single Sunday. You at Womens bible study, who we have shared our hearts, and dove deep into the word, and tightened the connections of friendship and sisterhood. That friend who we would curl up with blankets in front of your fire place with our coffee and chat for hours, and laugh, and cry. 


From time to time, even though I have been here in Rwanda for almost four years, a tinge of homesickness sets in. It is not as often as it used to be. And now when I get to be there in the states, the homesickness for Rwanda sets in so much deeper and quicker. But no matter what continent I find myself on, I find there is always some homesickness, some sense of not fitting in anymore, or yet, lingering just behind the surface. I know that this is the life I have chosen to persue. And I am far from complaining. I know many missionaries that fear to share the struggle because we dont want anyone to think, we are regretting our choices. We are wanting to change how we live this divided life. But cant I say the same for you? You tired mama, with the blood shot eyes, and trying to juggle family, church, work, and life. I am sure you would not change it for anything. But there are the days, the days were you are just tired. All good things, do not come without a certain amount of exhaustion, a certain amount of sacrifice. Our dreams, our passions, they cost us something. If they didn’t, they would be cheap and insincere. 

So this morning as I was scrolling through facebook. And I just longed to jump through the screen and grab a coffee with you. To laugh with you. To curl up in front of the fire with you. To sit in the pew next to you. I wondered what I would say, what you would say. 

I would probably plop down on the chair or your couch and let out a big sigh. I would try to gather my thoughts, and my heart. I would hug you extra tight, and probably close my eyes, and take a mental picture, remember the feeling of your hug, because it is from YOU, and store it away in my memory bank to pull out on a hard rainy day. I would probably choke back some tears, or perhaps for those closest to me, you might feel a few tears drip on your shoulder. 

It would feel strangely familiar and foreign to me all at the same time. Even hearing a snow plow or a lawn mower, would jolt me back to remember, I was in my American home, not my Rwandan home. The smells, the lights, the buildings, the stores. By the time I saw you, I probably would have already done my normal walk around WalMart or Target. Not to buy anything, but just to wander aimlessly, and try to reacquaint myself with my surrounding back in the states. And spend an extra long time in the cheese isle, because that always blows me away, and I always eat way too much cheddar cheese. 

I notice the changes you have had in your life. That baby announcement, might be the baby in a carseat next to you now. Or that baby I saw last time, is now toddling around. Your kids that were in my sunday school preschool class, are now in grade school, and have become little people developing into teens. Some faces are missing, as I scan the church. Some who were just freshmen, or going into High School, have spread their wings and gone off to college. I wonder how your daughter got so tall. I notice the empty spaces, of people who have passed that I never got to be there for. A grief tinges in my heart, as I wish I was there to comfort you. As I wish I was there to cry at the funeral. I wish I had some closure on some losses that have happened since I have been gone. And you new wife, your beaming! Your belly is swollen, and you have settled into your new place in life. I wish I was there at your wedding. I feel strangely connected and disconnected all at once. My heart aches and rejoices all at once. I wonder if life will always feel so divided. If my heart will always feel so many emotions at once. 

And once we sat down with that coffee and you asked me how I was, and how things are going, and I replied “Oh things are good.” You know me well enough, to give me that look and say “Tell me everything.” 

I dont even know where to start to catch you up on life. So I search my mind and my heart on where to even begin, and wonder if you have the time, to really listen to it all. How I have longed to sit next to you, and share a coffee, or a meal. 

But perhaps catching you up is for another post. But once we got past the casualties. I would tell you….

I would sit up to the edge of my seat to tell you about the new programs. I would tell you about the girl who wants to be a Dr, and despite the odds, how she is rocking life. I would tell you about the girl who lives with her grandma, and how her name means “One who has much love.” and how she runs to greet me. I would tell you about the mama’s and babies and caregivers and foster moms. I would reveal in the community, I would probably say a few things a few times, because I just am shocked and awed at their strength. 

You would ask me about my boyfriend, and I would laugh. You might remind me how I said I really never cared to date, and how many thousands times I said I would never get married. I would tell you how it all started with us both sharing in a odd moment for no apparent reason about how our mothers died. How we both were in tears on the front porch with our coffee’s, after a long day of meetings and running around. How somehow that turned into silence, that turned into us worshipping together, which turned into a relationship. How our first date, we went out to dinner, and shared our pasts with each other, and how when he took my hand, my stomach suddenly had a thousand caterpillars erupt from their raccoons and the butterflies were all a jumble in my stomach. How I felt like a giddy school girl. I would laugh, as I told you about our dating being anything but normal as we do full time ministry together. How our dates look more like devotions and the Word in the morning with our coffee and Moses running around pretending to drive a car in a cardboard box. How our dates consist of home visits and hospital visit, getting pee’d on by babies. How the hospital stresses him out, and some home visits stress me out. How we often remind each other to breathe. How we sit together in the Eno and talk about our pasts and dreams of the future. How sometimes I catch him watching me run around like crazy. How he tells me I am beautiful in the midst of the stress and the paperwork, and I am still in my sweat pants and old t-shirt trying to wrangle everyone to the table for dinner. How he tells me I am amazing. How he kisses my hand, and looks in my eyes. How he makes me feel like the most beautiful, women in the world. And how I blush when I catch him staring at me. How I often will stop when I am walking into a room and see him playing cars with Moses on the floor. How Moses and Rebecca run to hug him as soon as he walks in the gate in the morning. How I sit and watch him tell his stories, and he calls me his “Sweetie” and I call him my “cheesy” because he can get quiet cheesy sometimes. I would tell you how I catch him talking to the kids and older girls, and is trying to keep a mothers day surprise from me, and I am pretending not to notice. I would tell you how he is the best thing I never knew I wanted, that has happened to me. How I love his knowledge of the Word, and how he reminds me often when I get stressed “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you. Sweetie, thats our only job. We need to seek the Kingdom, and His Righteousness and everything else will come.” I would tell you about worshipping at night, and how passionate he is about worship. How in the dim of only a few working lights in the living room, Moses in my lap, and Rebecca curled up next to me in the chair. The girls deep in worship. Sometimes I just stop and open my eyes, and watch him leading us all in worship, and I feel so blessed that this strong man of God, see’s me as beautiful, who thinks I am amazing, even when I am running like crazy still in sweat pants, and old shirt, sometimes with pee still on me, because there is no running water and we climbed and hiked to multiple home visits to the babies that day. 

I would tell you I get stressed sometimes. Like really stressed. How I dont know how things are going to come together, how point A is going to meet point B. And how God keeps working on my heart and reminding me that he will provide our daily portion. I would tell you how often I ask the Lord, “cant it be a weekly or monthly portion?” And how somedays I tell myself over and over again “TODAY we are OK. Today we have what we need. Today, we have our daily portion. Today we have what we need to accomplish what the Lord has set before us for today. Today I just need to love the one in front of me.” and how when ever I look at things as a whole. I become overwhelmed and stressed. But when I break it down, and just concentrate on loving the mama, the child, the family, the baby in front of me, it isn't so overwhelming. When I concentrate on just getting that days tasks done, for that day, I am not so stressed. How I am getting better at reminding myself of that. 

I would tell you, how my first time back at church every time, I hide in the bathroom stall and weep. And I still am never sure what exactly it is. I think it is a bit of everything. The joy, the confusion, the over stimulation, the grief, the old and new faces, the missing faces. The sense of familiarity and foreign all mixed together. How I concentrated so hard on weeping silently so no one would know, and waited till the bathroom was empty to go splash some cold water on my face, and take a few deep breaths hoping no one notices when I walk out that I was weeping. But that smile when I see you, is so genuine. The happiness of seeing you is so real. That it might just take me back into the bathroom stall for another sob session. 


I would count down the days I have left to soak up my time with you, and the days I have left that I ache to get back to my home. And how that is always such a jumbled mess in my heart and soul. 


And before we parted for the time being, and we embraced in a hug once again. I would close my eyes and try to memorize it all over again. 

Play dates with my little man. 

They grow up too fast!

Home visits, somedays are our morning workout's. 

I only got pee'd on twice that day. Somedays, you call that a success! 


Bedtime stories with Tilly. 
Evening worship and devotions. A time we all look forward too. 
20 primary kids, 13 babies, and 8 mama's have stolen my heart. 
Worship or sermons in my ears, and I stop and look around,
and the Lords greatness takes my breath away. 


Somedays, I hold my breathe and my heart cries out
a thousand prayers. 



A full table, makes my heart full. 

Ester, our inspiring missionary, in the primary program. 

Cow hoofs for dinner. Though I happily ate my rice and cassava leafs. 






Sunday, April 24, 2016

We have felt helpless and hopeful.

We are coming to end of the first month of the new programs.

In these last few weeks, we have felt helpless and hopeful.
We have sat silently on a hospital bed, holding a mama's hand.
We have sang at the top of our lungs and worshipped in homes.
We have held our breath, and we have sighed with relief.
Seen the Lord move, and hit our knee's in the midnight hours.
We have worshipped in the mountains, and hiked more than we thought we could.
We have formed and began relationships with 20 primary students and their families,
and 13 infants and their families.
Laughed so hard our faces hurt, and cried some ugly cries, feeling my way in the dark for the toilet paper roll, snotty ugly cries.
We have been blessed beyond words, and frightened at times.
We have prayed with babies, kids, and mama's.
We have began to fall into a routine of this full time ministry.
We have found a house to use as an office, and began to hang curtains and make it another home.
Through the Lords grace and mercy, we have been blessed.





In Christ, 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

When we dont even know God is preparing us.....

About six months ago, I started to hike the mountains and hills around me. It was in an effort to get in better shape.








As everything ministry wise, seemed to be in a "wait" season, I hiked. I would put in my ear buds, and would climb and climb. I would get lost in the worship music in my ears, and would pray for the program that was so strongly in my heart. As I got stronger physically.














Then the other day I was going to a home visit. And as my guy called back to me "We need to increase speed to keep up with the old man!" I giggled a little to myself.















And as the worship music played into my ears. I realized 6 months ago, there would have been no way I would have been able to do this.

















Maybe it wasn't a season of "wait".

Maybe.... just, maybe......















Maybe it was a season of preparation. 

All those prayers, all those hikes. 

Maybe the Lord was preparing me. 

For a new season of ministry. 

When I didn't even know......





Monday, April 4, 2016

Awed by God.

I wish I had time to get into details about every visit. But soon the sun will burst through the window, the kids will wake up, and the day will be full speed ahead. But for now I wanted to share a few pics of the home visits yesterday for the infants. (today we meet with social affairs to do home visits to the primary kids!)

When you hear of a baby left by the river near your home,
which sparks a new passion in your heart. That becomes a new
ministry. Which becomes that baby sitting on your lap. 

Visiting the triplets. And teaching the mama how to use bottles.
She has not been producing enough milk for the triplets. 



Got milk? 

This mama of twins lives the furthest away. She is to malnourished
to nurse her twins. She met us by the road, then left me in the dust,
for the 45 minute walk up to her home. 


The amazing Theirry. Translating, being pee'd on by babies,
loving on mama's. So blessed by this man in my life. 

The twins took to the bottle instantly. First bottle feeding, and
a mama, who needs some help feeling some great relief. 

This mama and her three littles has captured my heart! 

This visit turned into church. I loved watching her heart for her kids. 


THOSE EYES! 

Abandoned 3 months ago. The widow who took this little girl,
who has found herself in some hard situations. I couldn't help but just tell her
over and over again how she is wanted, desired, loved.
The mama who took her a true hero, who is showing her love.
I have been amazed again and again, at the love, strength, courage of these mama's. Of those who have taken in abandoned babies. Of community working together. Of love that breaks down walls. Of hope, of redemption, of more than I have words for.

In Christ,
Tina


Friday, March 25, 2016

Between Friday and Sunday.

This morning I sit here as the birds are beginning to sing, my coffee is hot, and my dog is sleeping next to me. The house is still quiet, Andrew Paterson "After the last tear falls" is playing on my phone quietly.

Breathe.......

I was sitting here thinking of all the changes that have taken place in my almost four years in Rwanda. From instant mom, to volunteering at the orphanage, to the orphanage closing, to now a new season of ministry.

I sit her gawking at what God has done. Many days felt like Friday. All hope seemed lost. Things constantly felt at a stand still. One road block after another. I was referring to it as my desert time. No matter how much I clawed at the cracked dry ground, I just couldn't find a drop of water. So many changes in health, in life, in ministry. And everything felt it stayed at this standstill. This desert, which seemed the forest was no where in sight. How long would I wander this desert Lord? In His goodness, He always provides. But many days, I found myself... clawing at that cracked dry ground. I had some even think perhaps the Lord was calling me back to the states. But my passions still were ignited. I still had fight left in me. Fight for those who were closest to my heart. Vulnerable children and infants. I would hear another story from time to time "A baby was left in the field. No one wanted to take the baby, because they have no way to feed them." And my fight was stirred up all over again.

Then suddenly in the last few weeks. Something in that desert happened. A tidal wave swept over it! Suddenly life got busy. REALLY busy! Suddenly things were falling into place. A part of me panicked, because I knew I had to get these kids and babies sponsored. And such a short time to do it.

wait......
wait......
wait......
wait......
wait......

GO, GO, GO, GO, GOOOO!!

It has been the most beautiful crazy busy ever. Looking at houses for offices. Walking down dirt roads, running into babies and kids in the program. Impromptu home visits. Organizing profiles on all the kids and all the infants. Finding where and how we can buy large things of formula, bottles, and porridge. Getting to know names, faces, stories. Praying in the morning hours before another rush of meetings, and paperwork.

Praying over every primary kid by name.....

Praying over every infant by name.......

Praying over every caregiver and mama....

Praying over every sponsor......

One morning I was busy on the porch working on paperwork on my computer. Moses had piled boxes on the back of his tricycle and covered them with blankets. I looked up "Hey Moses, whatcha doing?" "I am bringing milk to the babies!" They watch. They listen. Even if its almost lunch time and said child is still in his pajama's.

I have met so many people who have stepped up and stepped in. Neighbors who have taken in mentally ill mothers, and infants. Mama's that heard of a newborn left by the river, and even in her own need, stepped up and stepped in and brought that baby in. I have seen community at its best. 
As my household and gardner/day guard/ He does a bit of everything guy run play with my kids as I sit on the porch with someone about formula. I have seen my people stay late, show up early, because they see the need, they are invested too. 

Suddenly Friday turned into Sunday. Suddenly the desert was gushing with water and new life. 

This song has so much meaning to me. I still remember driving 
to the trash dump in Ethiopia, and this song came on my iPod. 


Running into kids and babies in the program.

Running into the triplets in the program.
One family is sponsoring ALL THREE triplets. 

One mama, one room home, 2 children, 3 infants, and a sick husband.
Suddenly her story was not just words in a government building,
but an impromptu visit, to start building relationship. 


20 Level 1 poverty primary kids who will get health insurance,
school supplies, shoes, etc. 


The house next door we will rent as an office.
We will have the primary kids come here for games, crafts, lessons.
Time to just build relationship, to do things like VBS type activities.
Where we can gather all the parents for meetings, trainings, etc. 
Interviewing each of the children with the social affairs director. 

So what do you do between Friday and Sunday? 

You trust the time before Friday. You trust what God has spoken before you found yourself in the desert. You trust the time you spent with Christ. You trust the times he lifted up your head. You trust the stones falling around, and the Savior writing in the dirt. You trust when his words calmed the storms. You trust the times you sat as his feet and poured the incense. You trust the time you found yourself walking on water, looking at Christ before you. You trust the word spoken and the healing. 

You trust God is working.... 

In Christ, 
Tina




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Meet the babies!

As I sit here to type this blog post. This song started playing on my playlist. This song went on repeat and became a prayer for all the kids and infants in the program.

But let me tell you a little of where this came from. This program. When I used to volunteer at Noel orphanage. I was often in the infant room. And the mama's in there would tell me what brought the new babies into the orphanage. From mothers with mental illness, or the death of the mother. Malnourished moms who could not nurse and feed their infants. Knowing that they could get those basic needs met in the orphanage, often they were left there.

After the orphanage closed, I had heard about babies being abandoned. Struggles. But let me just say, I have met so many hero's in this. Relatives, neighbors, friends, stepping in and stepping up. I met so many people yesterday, who are real hero's of the faith. Warriors. Champions. You will see, when I introduce you to the babies accepted into the program.

It is $75 a month to support one of these infants. What that looks like for each is different. Each have different needs. I wish I could give you a total and complete overview of this. But since this program is so new, I cannot do that. We are choosing to band together, to support these women and babies. I will be doing weekly home visits to all of these families in the infant program. Some to bring much needed food to nourish a mother, so she can nurse. Some it will be formula and bottles. Clothe diapers. Medications. They all have different needs. I will be sending bi-weekly reports to the sponsors of the infants to let them know how the infants are doing, and what needs where met, where there finances have gone too. And to watch these infants GROW!

This is orphan prevention. This is family. This is stepping in and forming relationships. It is sharing tangible hope and eternal hope to these families. It is loving them, and walking with them.

And with no further ado.... meet the babies.


UWIDUHAYE Ester (SPONSORED)

 Age- 12 months 
Abandoned at birth by the river. 
Found at 2 days after abandonment
No medical needs except initial dehydration and weakness

Foster mother-  Claire 
Foster mother took her in when she had an infant of her own to nurse both babies at the same time. 
Single mother 


Biggest need is clothes and food. 

Still in need of a sponsor of $75 a month for a year commitment. 


IRAFASHA Noella (SPONSORED)

 Age- 2.5 months (bday 12-25-2015)
Triplet #1 

With the birth mother Valentine 
Husband is present (health issues)
2 other children in the home
All 7 rent one room for 5,000FRW a month 

Mother has not been able to produce enough milk for triplets 

Major need- nourishment for the mother to nurse 3
Formula and bottles

All infants have had persistent cough



IRADUKUNDA Kevissa (SPONSORED)
Triplet #2

















AKEZA Giselle (SPONSORED)
Triplet # 3



All triplets are in need of individual sponsors.














GIRANEZA (SPONSORED)

 Age- (guessed 1 year)

Abandoned 3 months ago 

Foster mother- NYIRABASARE

Infants health needs- 
Vaccines
persistent cough
one leg turned and significantly shorter than the other

Foster mother is widowed
One biological child (14 years old) 

Foster mother is a traditional Rwandan dancer
so work is not persistent. 

Immediate needs- 
Food, clothes, porridge, and fruits for infant 



ITANGISHAKA Moussa (SPONSORED)

 Age- 2 months
Birth mother- Jacqueline 
Birth mother- orphan, severe mental illness
Became pregnant by rape. 
Was 7.5 months pregnant before pregnancy was discovered

Was taken in by a neighbor-
Neighbor - Clautride 
Clautride is widowed and has 4 kids in the home. 

Clautride tries to put the baby to the mothers breast to nurse, but it is a struggle with the mental health issues. 

Greatest need- 
Formula, bottles, and clothes 




MUPENZI JEROME (SPONSORED)

 Age- 6 months

With the biological mother 
Mother- Zainabu 

Biological mother fled to Congo during the 1994 genocide. 

She has four other children. 

Returned to Rwanda 6 months ago, with nothing. 

Currently has no housing for her and her children. 

Infant medical issues- umbilical tumor 

Immediate needs- 
housing, clothes, and food. 




TUMUSIFU Nadine (SPONSORED)

 Age - 1 month 
Twin #1 

Lives with the biological mother - Beliique
Has another child of 2 years in the home. 

Babies were born premature. 

Health issues of infants- 
Flu, coughing, and under developed optic nerves 

Mother is malnourished and has been unable to produce milk
for the twins. 

When asked what her biggest struggle is she replied- 
“I am so tired. I cannot sleep because I am hungry, and the babies cry because they are hungry. My breast bleed because the babies nurse but nothing comes for them. I now know what it is to be really tired.” 

Biggest immediate needs- 
Nourish the mother so she can nurse the infants
Formula and bottles
Clothing for infants (they have 5 outfits for the twins total) 
Clothe diapers 


BOTH BABIES IN NEED SPONSORS






GATO Iriraneza & GAKURU Alice (SPONSORED) 

 Age- 2 years 

With biological mother- Clementine 

Both twins have had malaria multiple times. 

Poverty level 1

Immediate needs- food, clothes, porridge. 

SPONSORS NEEDED 
For these two, we are grouping them together because
of age and the level of need. So one sponsor at $75 a month for both toddlers. 
























This day, was so special in my heart. As the Lord ignited this passion in my heart over a year ago, and to see that come to fruition. I cannot explain! God has a way, that the ones who he places on my heart, and praying for them. To one day be sitting there with one in my lap, in my arms, and it hitting me. "For this child, for this baby, you have prayed! This is face of the one, you never knew, and pleaded before my throne for." Oh my heart! 







If you are interested in sponsoring an infant please email me at 
thenannytina@gmail.com
or 
TinaInRwanda@gmail.com 

I was blown away, at the widows, the ones who took an abandoned infant into their own home. Those who took in a neighbor. These Rwandans are the true hero's and warriors. And I am so excited to walk alongside them, and to help them with these babies. 
To ensure these babies have the essentials they need to have the best start possible! 

I was also so impressed with the social affairs officer in the sector. How well he knew the needs, the stories, and the hearts. God has surely made a way for these babies. 


In Christ, 
Tina