Monday, May 30, 2016

Love wins

I used to say she had a sixth sense. She always knew when I was coming to the orphanage it seemed. 

And it was pretty well known she had dibs on some part of me. My hand, my back, 
or my hip. 

I often saw these eyes staring up at me, as she grasped my hand in the crowded orphanage. 

Occasionally we could get some time together without hundreds of others. 

Then this 9 year old girl, who wore clothes of a 5 year old moved into my home. 

It was a new adventure for the both of us. 

And somehow she has grown into a pre-teen! 

And her joy is contagious!

I call her my rainbow bright girl, and my pinky brewster. 
She loves all things sparkly, mis matched, rainbow, and extreme. 

And if she is happy, sad, excited, whatever emotion it is. 
She feels it with every fiber of her being!
When she laughs, she throws her head back, and you almost see it 
go from the bottom of her feet and just explode. 
When she is angry, her looks could turn boiling water to ice. 
She she is happy, I do not think her feet touch the ground. 

She is surely starting to come into her own. 

And its been a rocky road. Anyone who has parented a child who has a trauma history
knows, its a journey all its own. I remember the first time she told me she was hungry
and asked me for something to eat, and how I swung her around and hugged her so tight
and told her how proud I was of her. There are some silly little milestones sometimes you can 
point back too, and realize bricks where coming down from the walls. Other days just 
seem like normal days, but you dont realize the routine, the structure, that is laying groundwork
into the bonding. 

I dont know what spurred me to write this blog. 

Oh yeah I do. After I got myself ready and the kids all fed and off to school, 
and was going to the office to meet with the mama's and babies from the village. 
I forgot something in my room. 

I ran back into my room, and found this and a piece of candy Rebecca left on my bed. 
I cried a happy snotty my face is leaking in many ways cry. 
And when I got to the office, I taped it up on the wall, right where I can see it
when I meet with the mama's. 

To remember......


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What's new..

My friend Lauren is coming to Rwanda in January. She sponsors a set of triplets in the infant program and we just adore her. I love when I go to visit the family and hear them ask about Lauren. She is selling these t-shirt to help support her family get into a safer home. You can read more about her family and her trip here.  Any proceeds over 71 shirts sold go into an emergency fund. Which this first 6 weeks of ministry has surely been a learning curve, of having babies sick, resuscitated, ambulances, transfers to Kigali, moms, babies. So anything over 71 shirts, will go into an emergency fund, that when these situations come up, we are not grasping at straws, or running home to grab our grocery money. And I am super jealous y'all. I can't get mine till January!! And I just love them! You can directly to purchase a shirt here. 

I am so excited to say that this mom is SPONSORED! 
We met her a few weeks back, when we were visiting another mom when her twins were in the
hospital. This mom had been living in the hospital for 6 months, left there 
beaten, abandoned, and pregnant. We were able to foster her twins ourselves, 
before another foster home was secured, and send the mom to Kigali for more specialized
care. And we are so glad that once the mom is discharged soon. 
That we will be able to help her steady herself on her feet, and see her reunified with
her precious little twins. 

We still have these two twins who need a sponsor. We are grouping them together
for sponsorship because of age, and level of need. (no need for formula, baby cereal, etc) 
$75 a month covers health insurance, and basics of porridge, sugar, powdered milk, home visits, etc. 
If you would like to sponsor them, shoot me a message at or it is really easy to set up, and is tax deductible. 

A few other things from lately.....

Guys, we are still floating on clouds that this girl is smiling. 

We love Giraneza, and we adore her foster mom.
When everyone else said "Not my problem." she stepped up,
stepped in, and constantly amazes us!!! 

Because you can never beat the views when hiking to home visits. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of banana tree's,
I will fear no incline. This visit to Gato and Gakuru (the twins above in need of sponsors)
I thought for sure I had stumbled upon the land of never end banana tree's. 

We stopped along the way to play some soccer football.
My attempts left most all the kids, parents, passerby,
in hysterics. I never knew my attempts to bounce a ball on my foot
would provide so much comedy. :p

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The smile I waited for....

When we first met Giraneza she had been abandoned 3 months prior.

She had not spoken, her age was guessed, and her past a mystery. 

The first home visit, I just kept telling her over and over, 
how wanted, loved, cherished she was. 

Her amazing hero of a foster mom, a widow with a young teenage son at home. 

Giraneza would play with other kids, would even get caught smiling shyly or laughing. 
But when it came to adults, there was certain fear. 

Oh, how we all longed for her to know she was wanted. Chosen. Cherished. Pursued. 
We all longed, for that huge wall around a little heart would come crashing down. 

Every time I would do a home visit, or she came with her mom to
the office I would tell her before parting. "I can't wait to see that smile!" 

Yesterday we had all the moms come to the office for a meeting. 
Which could be five more blog posts in itself. 
As I heard one share an issue she was having, and the others
encouraging her. I just sat back, and held back the tears. 

But as I was trying to explain something to them, and encourage them. 
(basically a example of worth. Taking a bill, asking what it is worth, 
crumpling it, stomping on it, and then uncrumpling it, and asking 
what is its worth? And explaining things in life can do that. They can 
leave scars, they can dig us in the ground, but that does not change our worth. 
Our sins can leave marks, and impact, and others sins can leave marks and impact
but it does not change our worth. It does not change our value.) 

But as I was saying one part of it, for emphasis I was cringing my face. 
And we heard a little giggle. 

Let me tell you, that room erupted with cheers. 
Of course we all stopped in our tracks, and kept trying 
to keep those giggles and smiles coming!

I was so honored I got to be there for her first smile, 
since she was abandoned. 

I loved how the other moms, jumped in to encourage the foster mom. 
Encourage her to keep engaging. 
To keep loving. 
That her past will not determine her future. 
That none of our past's will determine our futures. 

I dont think my feet have touched the ground since. 
Its a smile the foster mom waited 5 months for. 
A smile I waited 6 weeks for. 

And that smile.... so worth it. 
That giggle..... music. 

3 moms and and 8 babies not present in this pic. 
(we have triplets and three sets of twins in the program!) 
One mom in the hospital, one set of twins at a Dr appointment, etc...

And getting a picture of all of us.... was a bit comical all in itself. 

But watch out world. 
These women, incredible!
Their strength.... intense. 
Their hopes..... high. 
Their dreams...... getting bigger. 
Their God...... active. 

Raising the next generation of world changers. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away."

And just when you think you might impart a thing or two. 
You just sit there blown away, at all they are teaching you. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The most courageous moms I know

Dear moms in our program, 
You probably woke up early this morning, and had no idea today was mothers day. 
I couldn't help but think of you, all that you do in a day, and how you have inspired me. 

You sweet mama, who was orphaned yourself at 2 years old and found yourself in a crowded refugee camp, alone. A family took you in, only to leave you alone as a street kid at 6. A solider in another country told you lies in your teen years, spoke what he knew you wanted to hear. You bore him 3 children, till he threw you out of his house. A shame to be thrown out, like dirt to be swept from the floor. Another man stepped in, and you bore him a child. You left back to your home country with your kids in tow, a newborn at your breast, and no place to go. You dream to someday learn to read and write. We keep encouraging you to dream a little bigger. To think of what you enjoy and would like to learn. You walk everyday 10 miles with tables, chairs, baskets, luggage, whatever you can, to earn a little bit of money to make sure your kids have enough just for that day. You rise early, and go to bed late. You momma, are my hero. You have refused to give up, to walk away. You dug dip and found your strength. And as you wept in our office, and shared your heart, your struggle, your past, I saw courage beyond words! 

You amazing mama. You are a widow, with 4 children at home of your own. You found out a lady in your village with mental disability, and the mentality of a 6 year old, was pregnant. No one knew till this lady in her 40's, and minimum ability was pregnant till she was 8 months along. Your hands already calloused from the days toil in the dirt, to grow another crop. You could have shrieked back, and shut your door. But you stepped up and stepped in. Not just for that mother, but her baby. You fought with the mama with the most gentle touch, to try and get her to nurse the baby after it was born, yet the trauma of the rape and her mental disability, always made it a struggle. I will never forget our first home visit to you. I was drenched in sweat to make the long hike up the mountain. When we got there, we just hoped we caught you at home. And you were sitting outside on a blanket, feeding the mom, and the baby on your back, while your kids were just coming home from school. You have taught me to refuse to shrink back in need. You have taught me to step up and step in. You have taught me what it looks like to open your heart, your arms, and your home. You sold your first crop, just to buy a bottle and powdered milk for the baby. I am so glad we were able to provide you more bottles, and formula. Overtime I see you, this strong, confident, women walks in. And when your tears fall, you are all the stronger in my eyes. Thank you for refusing the shrink back in the face of need of a women who you had no obligation too. Thank you for showing love. You are a hero beyond words!

You mama, a widow also. Your feet stomp the ground, and your arms twist in ways I have no idea how, when you find work as a traditional dancer. Your son at home, and your husband's loss you still grief. Yet when a one year old was left abandoned, scared, alone. When others shrinked back, you stepped up. When others said "not my problem." you said "I will take her." I see your pain, when this sweet precious girl, still shrinks away from all adults. She cannot speak a word, and none of us know her trauma. Your love, your vision, your hope, has encouraged me. You came up with a plan and presented it to us like a boss, for mushroom farming. And I am so excited to watch you start on this endeavor. You are smarter, more couragous, than you know! 

The baby was left by the river right after birth, and laid there for two days, alone, and crying. It was a miracle she survived. When you heard, as your own baby nursed at your breast, in an unfinished house, with rocks of the foundation on the floor. You stepped up and stepped in. You took this precious newborn into your arms, and nursed her alongside your own baby. Till you got sick and could not nurse either baby. A neighbor boy who only had his mom, and she died. You stepped up AGAIN and took him into your home as well. You dug deep into your pocket, and deeper into your heart. I see the kids surround you, and I see the sweet baby now a year who was left by the river, burry her face in your chest, for comfort. I see how the young boy and this sweet girl, are treated no different than your own children. I see them reach their arms to you for comfort, for love. And you know just how to calm their cries, to comfort their hearts. You could have stepped back, shrieked back. But you choose love. You choose action. You chose to give hope. Do you know you are a life saver? You have literally saved lives? Do you know how amazing you are? I will tell you this with every visit, and every tear. 

You mama, who is in the hospital right now in Kigali. You know the sting of abandonment. You were left beaten and pregnant at the hospital. Now you are getting the care you need, and the hospital was your home for 6 months! You gave birth to beautiful twins, who wake me up in the night, as so many moms have shown me how to refuse to shrink back, but to step up and step in. Next week you will come home, and live again in community. I look forward to getting to know you. To getting to know your heart. You have changed me in more ways than you know. You have stolen my heart!

You mom, in a one room home you rent for just $6 a month. Your preschoolers running around, and your triplets. Two are asleep on the blanket on the floor, and one you are bottle feeding. Too malnourished yourself to have been able to produce enough milk. Your husband with epilpsy, and having 3-5 seizures a day. You wake up early to go fetch clean water for the home. You mop the dirt, rock floor. You have yet to have a good nights sleep, and I wonder how long it has been. You take care of not just two preschoolers and three newborns, but a sick husband. Your commitment is strong! Your loyalty a thing to admire. Your hard work, makes me feel like a wimp! 

You mom who has a toddler, and newborn twins. We sat on your hospital bed, and held our breath as they resuscitated one of your babies. I prayed harder than I knew I could. I saw the strength, and fear in your eyes all at once, as you gripped my hand, with your other baby asleep on the bed. You stepped outside comfort zones, and traveled further than you ever have in your whole life. You ran out to find the medication needed to save your baby girl. You never left their sides in the hospital bed. I dont know how you make that walk everyday up and down the mountain to bring goods to your village, to make a little money. You do it many times a day with a baby on your back, and clean water for home on your head. You never stop. Your love, dedication, loyalty and love has challenged me. And when your baby left the hospital and we still watch and wait to see if one of your precious babies has brain damage from the lack of oxogen. You have not missed a beat! You have taught me to face trails with courage, with tears, and with prayer. You have taught me to dance to life. You have taught me love without limits and hesitation. You have taught me what it looks like to step outside your comfort zones, go further than you ever have, because love drives you. Life drives you. Hope drives you. Christ comforts you. 

You new teen mom, raped, and rejected. You are coming into a program, with other moms, that will encourage you. Encourage you in your strength for choosing life. Who will applaud you for stepping up. Even though your rapist is in prison, and the baby now nurses at your breast. Your still a baby yourself. In a situation I am sure you never dreamed of. Your scared and alone. But if I know the community, this little group we have had come together. I know you will find hope, courage, strength, and vulnerability. You will be welcomed with open arms, and open hearts. I cannot wait for you to meet the other moms, the other babies. 

Today mom's. You have no idea mothers are celebrated. And I can think of no other moms more worth celebrating. And as I type this, and the rain falls, I am sure your day has already begun. I am sure you are already rushing around fetching water, collecting firewood, getting the babies bathed, and kids ready for the day. Your hands have already been hard at work. 

Thank you for your gifts of hope. For refusing the shrink back, but to choose to step up and step in. Thank you for teaching me about love and courage. You are heroes more than you will ever know. 

Happy mothers day to the moms in our program. 

You really do leave me in the dust!

We are trying to raise for an emergency fund. 
Our program provides formula, health insurance, porridge, sugar, and powdered milk to these moms
and babies. But we have found in the first month of the program, we need an emergency fund, to cover ambulance's, to Kigali. Medications, and other dire situations that come up. We also currently have 3 babies in need of sponsors. 

If you would like to sponsor one of the infants, please email me 
for the information on how to sponsor. 

If you would like to donate to our emergency fund, you can do so at  (All donations are tax deductible) 

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......