While I was busy painting toenails and fingernails, Jeremy really connected with a few of the older boys at N*el.
These are the ones I keep thinking about---the 16, 17, 18 year old boys who lost their families during the gen*cide. These boys have grown up in the orphanage. They long to have a "mum," dad, brother, sister. They want someone to give them a chance. These are the ones that cannot be adopted (they have aged out), yet they long for a forever family.
All week I have asked God to show us our place,
our part in Rwanda.
I think it has something to do with
these boys and girls,
young men and young women.
We said good-bye at lunch time and it was very difficult to let go. We found out we would need to stop by N*el after lunch to pickup guinea pigs, but we would not all get out of the van.
One good-bye was hard enough.
But when the boys saw our van again, they RAN to get letters they had written to us right after we left. They wrote one to "My mum," "My dad," and to "My family."
I could not believe what I read. This is one letter written to "My family":
Dear my dad and my mum,
Please, I want to tell you my history. I have not brother, sister, my dad, mum and family they was die in the genocide. But now I have my family, my dad, my mum, my young brother, my sister and my friend. I'm your child. I love you dad. I love you mum. I love you brother and sister. I will remember you. I pray for you my family. I will never forget you.
Thank you my family,
It makes me cry all over again.
I'll close with Jeremy's thoughts from an email he sent to a friend one week after we got back:
"Once we returned from Kigali on a Sunday night, I hit the ground running with work the next day. It wasn’t until Sunday, Dec 5, when I was filling out an evaluation form from AGCI (organization we went thru) at 5:30 am (because that’s when I am waking up these days), that it really hit me.
Until that point, if asked what was most impactful about the trip, I would have answered about the affect of the Genocide on the people of Rwanda. Just how many people were directly affected and how recent it was.
On Sunday morning, the question on the evaluation form asked the same thing, but this time God showed me what really impacted me. He used the teenage boys at the Noel orphanage to show me a picture of myself. Let me explain.
The Noel orphanage has 600 kids ranging in age from 4 days to 20+. Just under half of these are over 16 years old. They were born right at or before Genocide. They have lived at the orphanage their whole life, and they have no place to go. As I spent time with a few of these teenagers, I realized what they treasured most. It wasn’t the activities we brought to “do” with them, it was spending time just sitting next to them, talking to them, knowing their name, and holding their hand. I walked hand in hand with 16 year old boys that wouldn’t let go. They have a deep, deep longing desire to be known, cherished, and loved by a parent. Someone that is proud of them and loves them unconditionally.
It took me a week to understand, but now I see what God wanted to teach me.
Those young boys are a picture of my soul. My soul longs for my heavenly Father in a way that I can’t even express in words (Rom 8:23). God is the only one that can satisfy this desire to be known, cherished and loved unconditionally. Yet I (and Satan) fills my life with activities (some are fun and some even good), but they distract me from the deep relationship I desire to have with my Father. I fail so often in just sitting with Him and holding on to him, not wanting to let go.
As I remember those kids, and see the pictures, and read the letter that one of them wrote, I see a picture of the hope that Paul describes (Rom 8:24-25). These teenagers have not become jaded by the number of visitors that have come to their orphanage to visit with them only to never return, and especially to not take them as their children. Instead they wait eagerly with a hope that perseveres. They express confidently that we are here to be their mom, dad, sister and brother. They know that they aren’t leaving with us, but they want to know that we long to be with them and to know them and to love them unconditionally.
So now, as I look at their pictures, I see myself. An orphan who has been adopted. Because of Christ, I no longer have “the spirit of bondage again to fear, but I have received the Spirit of adoption” and I can now confidently “cry out, Abba, Father!” I recognize the deep desire within me that only God, the Father, can satisfy.
When a friend challenged us to memorize a certain passage in Scripture last Spring, Vanessa and I chose Romans 8:1-30. I had no idea that God would teach me His word and hide it in my heart, and now use it and orphans in Rwanda to show me a picture of myself."
Tomorrow, we say good-bye to our friends in Rwanda...I do not like good-byes.