I ask our Compassion Rwanda host, Eugene, as he drops us off at the end of the rock-strewn road,
“How long is the walk?”
With a sheepish smile, he assures me it’s just a little walk.
“Do you mean a little African walk or a little American walk?”
He tells me,
Oh, dear. I know that proclamation means we are in for a long walk.
We travel through the hilly country of Musanze, Rwanda, for a home visit to meet my parents’ sponsored child. Marie Claire and her family live within the neighborhood of the child development center, but just barely. For the safety of the child, we require that a sponsored child live within good access of his or her center location, generally considered to be within a 30-minute walk.
We desire to serve the neediest possible. Sometimes that means traveling to where buses and cars cannot easily go. One of these needy places is where our group of seven sponsors ventures that day.
Our group walks the hilly two miles … up and down, up and down, up and down we go. The contrast between the lush, green hills and the red dirt road make for a striking view, even if the terrain is unforgiving.
It is hot. Sweat rolls down my back and forehead. We walk, uncertain of how far this African walk will take us. The red dust of the road cakes my feet and shoes. But at least I have shoes. Many of the people we encounter on the road do not have this luxury.
Finally the translator points to our destination. We’ve walked so far, and yet steep terrain lies ahead. We walk gingerly down the hill, stepping sideways until at last we reach the clearing dotted with family huts.
During this trek, I’ve been pondering Marie Claire’s reality. She does this every day. Every time she goes to the child development center. Every time she goes to school. When it rains. When it’s hot. When it’s muddy. When the ground is cracked and her feet hurt.
Even if her family had enough money for a car or mutatu fare, it couldn’t reach their house. What would happen if someone got hurt? Or sick? How fast would they be able to go get help? My mind raced with all the possibilities.
While the home visit was a beautiful time learning about Marie Claire and her family, what I really remember of that day is the walk.
As is Rwandan culture, the family walked with us down the road, along the two-mile stretch as we wandered our way through sticks and stones and dirt.
Little Marie Claire and I held hands the whole way. With her tiny hand in mine, I gave thanks for the window into her world this walk had given me.