Ever since I was a teenager I’ve dreamed of going to Africa. U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” was my personal Africa anthem, and I planned on serving the Lord as a missionary in Africa.
But life has a way of not turning out as we think it will. I’m not a missionary. I’m a social media “maven,” and that’s how I finally got to Africa. To Rwanda, specifically, on a Compassion tour.
Since I’ve been back home, I’ve wanted to share my experiences, write profound blog posts, and stir the world to sponsor the 266 of the 280 kids at the Rurenge Student Center who need sponsors (hint, hint).
But at the same time I want to guard what I saw, felt and experienced. It was sacred and special and I don’t want to share it.
I’ve read many staff and sponsor accounts of visiting the developing world, and in all of them it seems they were affected in a way I wasn’t. What is wrong with me?
I didn’t cry when I was there and I wasn’t overwhelmed by anything I saw or experienced. My heart was stirred, though. Deeply.
Like at one of the churches we visited.
A woman stood and shared that she would be going to the U.S. to study. Then a proud father stood and said that his son had received a full scholarship to a university in the U.S. Everyone was happy for them. They clapped and cheered at this good news.
I felt sad, though, as I heard them share. Sad because, as great as these opportunities are, I longed to experience this same congregation cheering about full scholarships to Kigali University.
I want an education offered in Rwanda to be seen as just as valuable – if not more valuable – than an education offered in the U.S.
Then there were the beggars.
One afternoon we went to the market to get a gift for the family we were visiting. I didn’t even know that the people who came up to us outside the market were beggars until we drove away from them.
At first, I felt guilty about that. Was I so wrapped up buying stuff at the market that I didn’t see the need right in front of me?
As I’ve thought about that moment, I’ve asked myself: Was it perhaps a good thing that I didn’t recognize these people as beggars? Because maybe that means I saw these men and women as Christ does. He doesn’t see them as beggars and neither did I.
Lastly, there was Ritah, the Leadership Development Program student.
At one of the child development centers we visited I was asked to address 250+ kids with some encouraging words. I panicked and my brain shut off.
There I was, this “distinguished visitor,” and I stumbled over a few words about love and blah, blah, blah.
Then Ritah stood up to speak.
Ritah’s love for the children we visited was evident in everything she did. The room became electric as she told the little ones,
“I used to sit were you are now. I was one of you and look where I am now. You can do this, too.”
The children ate up every word that came out of Ritah’s mouth. It was amazing.
So, while I didn’t break out in tears at the poverty I saw in Rwanda, in each of these scenarios I believe I experienced a reflection of God’s heart for the people there.
And it was His heart for my Rwandan brothers and sisters that deeply stirred mine.