Sunday, May 27, 2012

Meet my Rwandese daughters.... (Part 1)

Alysse Uwera



On my first trip to Rwanda in August I met Alysse. And it was totally a God thing. Normally you will find me coo'ing with some babies. Chasing toddlers. Dancing with kids. I am normally not one drawn to teen ministry. Our team had left Noel to go to Pfunda (a tea plantation down the street) for lunch. When we came back, I did not see Josiane. (I will share more about her next!) A fellow team member had nail polish and handed me one so we could divide and counqure. Instantly you are surrounded by out streached hands. Doesn't matter boy, girl, they all want to add some bright colors to their fingernails. At least a dozen or more sets of tiny hands were reached out toward me. My gaze divereted over for a moment and I saw about 6 teen girls sitting back watching all the action.

(This is where they were. This is a picture from April though.)

For some reason I felt drawn to go over to them. I felt a tug in my spirit to go to these teen girls. So I held up my hand to the other kids surrounding me, and pointed to other people painting nails. I walked over to the teen girls, held up the bright pink sparkly nail polish and pointed to their hands. They shyly smiled, and extended their hands. I quitely began to paint their nails. Then Alysse broke the silence. She asked me my name, where I was from, questions about America. I told her how beaitiful Rwanda was. Then she asked me something that took me aback. She asked me where the scars where from on my arms. I was able to give my testimony, and Alysse was translating to the other girls. I think in that moment, looking up at her from painting nails as I spoke. And that was that! Alysse was never far behind after that. I had a baby wrapped on my back, a toddler on my hip, and Josiane holding my other hand. Alysse would come to me "Tina, you must be tired. Please, sit." At one point I saw her chatting with my team leader with a bunch of other girls. And I hate to admit I often was not idle long enough the rest of the day to sit and talk more. (700 kids in a orphanage keep you moving!!)

When we were about to board the bus, Alysse said "I will see you tomorrow mum." I was a bit caught off guard, and did not know how to respond to that. So I just gave her a hug and said "Yes, I will see you tomorrow." (We visited 7 orphanages on this trip in August, in two countries in Africa. We spent two days with the kids in Noel) Later that night at the hotel, we all gathered together to pray, and discuss the day. We also were talking from this book "The Blessing." and how parents can bestow the blessing upon their kids. How we all desire to be loved and known, and ways to express love to these kids. My team leader mentioned she was sitting with a bunch of girls, and Alysse asked her "Why do you come visit us?" and she responded "We cannot take you all home with us, but we can come be your mom for a day or two." All of a sudden it clicked, why Alysse had called me Mum before I left.

A friend set Alysse up with a facebook account. And I was utter flabbergasted to have had recieved a couple texts from her as well after I came home to America. As they were doing to reunifications, Alysse was going to go to a family member, that was not a good situation. So then she was going to go to her grandma. In the midst of a bunch of chaos there, and aching for her. I had this front row seat to a time of uncertainty for her. I was able to talk with her via facebook from time to time. My heart was aching and breaking for this teen I bonded so much with on this visit.

I was able to sent her to boarding school with the help of some friends in Rwanda. Who are amazing and incredible. Alysse was so happy to be able to go to boarding school. And I was so thankful to know she was alright, continuing her education, had food, water, etc.

I was happy to know that when I was coming back at the end of March that Alysse would be on break from boarding school. I was not planning on seeing my sponsor daughters the night I got into Nyundo. I would have traveled from Syracuse to DC, DC to Addis Ababa Ethiopia, Ethiopia to Uganda, Uganda to Kigali, Rwanda. Then a 3 hour drive from Kigali to Nyundo. I would be arriving in the evening, and smelly (from traveling and showers on planes, just has not happened yet!), and jet lagged. But of course I could not contain myself. I could not know they were so close and I had yet to go see them.

As soon as I walked into the orphanage gates, kids along the walls, and sitting by their dorm rooms saw me. Instantly the girls started to scream "UWERA, UWERA! YOUR MUM! YOUR MUM!!!" I think she could have won a race! That girl came sprinting out of absolutely no where, and it was a sweet embrace of reuinion. Josiane was fast behind Alysse, and ran up to my friend Tara jumping up and down saying "Is Tina here? Is she here? Is Tina here?!" It was a sweet reunion, and I think we all slept better knowing we were all on the same continent and even country and even village once again!!

That night I saw Alysse, the first thing she did after we hugged for a few minutes is say "Mum, do you want to see my marks?" OF COURSE!!! So she RAN to her dorm to go get her grades from her first term in the boarding school. She was THIRD in her class. Yep, she is one smart cookie. (And she is fluent in four languages! She can speak English, French, Kinyarwanda, and Swahili!!) I have a very smart and sweet daughter!!

It was a very sweet time of bonding with my girls when I was there. The next day I took Alysse and Josiane out to lunch (we couldn't find Valentine to come with us.) to celebrate their good grades!! (Both third in their class!) I am one proud Mummy!! We had baga (burgers), Coka (we say the last part, "cola" they say the first "Coka") And I of course had a Citron (a citrus fanta), and amafiriti (French fries) at White Rock on the shores of Lake Kivu, where you can see outlets of Congo as well.

Happy to all be together, waiting for our burgers and fries.

The view of Lake Kivu from our table.


Alysse is the sweetest girl, who has a beautiful laugh. She is so silly. And I love when I get to see her be carefree. The two weeks I was there, we baked a cake together. (we were power walking down a random Rwandan road carrying two birthday cakes, melted icing, to get to New Life for Valentines bday lunch with all the girls in No. 41. I think I nearly knocked sugar cane off someone's head on the way!) We laughed, sang, cried, talked about hopes and dreams, prayed, discussed concerns and fears, the past, the future, beaded necklaces, watched a movie together, jetted all over Rwanda on motobikes, visited her grandma, went to market, she does A LOT of translating for me, went to Genocide memorial services, and just bonded a whole lot more!

School supplies.. (And a pink backpack of course!)

On our adventure collecting supplies for Birthday cake's!


  Today Alysse sent me a email and said -
"I talked to Josiane yesterday and told her you are coming soon. She cried a lot of happy."

I am so glad my girls can cry all kinds of happy! I cannot change the circumstances for the 163 million orphans in this world. But I can change it for a few of them. And I can love a few well. I am so glad that I listened to that tug in my spirit to go to her in August. Because now I have this sweet, kind, smart, loving, silly, Rwandese daughter.

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