June 8, 2022
Our week in Rwanda ended with some meaningful time with the Harkleroads. We got to sit in on the international small group that they host in their home on Wednesday night. We were able to see Jennifer and the kids’ school on Thursday, helping Jennifer relocate her classroom for next year and participating in the kids’ water day activities before a large storm cut our celebration a bit short. We got to play soccer with the students that Willing To Go is working with in a slum area of Kigali and even tour many of their homes, which was eye-opening and humbling, to say the least.
Saturday was punctuated with a trip to Akagera game park, where we went on safari. It is hard to describe the sensation of seeing zebras, giraffes, impalas, buffalo, crocodiles, rhinoceroses, elephants, and many other animals in their natural habitat. It was truly an experience of a lifetime. We celebrated Pentecost on Sunday at Holy Trinity Cathedral, an Anglican Church that the Harkleroads attend. While unique, it is amazing how this compares with our own worship in the US.
A forty-five minute plane ride later, and we landed in Uganda on Sunday evening. Missy and Francis Angalla have been wonderful hosts. I know that we have talked about their work with Amani Sasa, prayed for them, and even hosted Missy at FBC Griffin. None of that, however, prepared us for the massive scope of the work that they are doing and the life-changing impact that their ministry is having in this place. The first half of this week has been spent just trying to take in all the various aspects of ministry at Amani Sasa and listening to testimony after testimony of God’s powerful hand at work here. We have been able to bless this ministry through the items we brought with us, and we have been blessed in far greater proportion by their ministry to us. There are so many stories that we want to be able to share once we return.
Please pray for us as we finish up our week here and prepare to travel back to the US. Pray that we don’t have any travel issues or any issues related to COVID protocols. Pray that we might be open to the things the Spirit of God is teaching us and that we may be able to be a blessing to Missy and Francis through the rest of our time here.
Pictured below, you see the team working with the Love with Actions program in Kigali, Rwanda during the first week of the trip.
7,684 miles. That is the distance from Griffin, Georgia to Kigali, Rwanda. It took us approximately 26 hours of travel time, 17 of which were in the air. We touched down on three different continents in the process. One of our team members celebrated his 17th birthday over that time. There were passport checks, COVID tests, security screenings, baggage x-rays, safety videos, and numerous in-flight movies. In many ways, we could not be farther from home and yet we found a piece of home waiting for us at the airport in Rwanda.
We have enjoyed a wonderful beginning to our mission trip, though it has not been easy – physically or emotionally. One of the first things that we did to orient us to our time in Rwanda was to visit the national genocide memorial on Sunday afternoon. While we may know a little of what happened in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, it is impossible to adequately express the horror that so dramatically shapes the landscape of this country. At the same time, the dramatic transformation and healing that came in the aftermath of such tragedy has countless lessons to teach the world (and the church).
Monday’s trip to the African Transformation Network afforded us the opportunity to venture outside the capitol city of Kigali (which is heavily influenced by the West) and experience an average day in the life of a rural Rwandan. We milked cows, fetched water, dug up and peeled yams, carried baskets on our heads, sifted and ground sorghum into flour by hand (between two rocks), cut grass to feed the cows (with a machete), and made incredible new friends. It was eye-opening to say the least, but we walked away with an admiration, love, and newfound kinship for this people shaped by the land of a thousand hills.
Tuesday’s trip to Love With Action, a school for children with special needs, once again tugged on our hearts and allowed us a moment of vulnerability and connection with some of the most amazing people. We split into groups and helped with various needs — building walkers, assisting with therapy, helping feed the children, playing with them, and learning about the work of this inspiring organization. After the school provided us with a feast for lunch, Gilbert (the school’s director) took us to visit the homes of a few of the children and their families. It was unbelievable to watch as members of our team were able to offer words of hope and encouragement because many of us had firsthand experience with similar struggles as these children and their families. We were welcomed warmly by the families and one father said this was the first time that he had hosted a “Mzungu” (white person) in his home. We took time to pray for each family and to offer them a special blessing.
Our days have been capped off with laughter-filled nights spent with the Harkleroads. They have been the most wonderful hosts, having us in their home for dinner each night. It has been encouraging to be able to update them about Griffin, put faces with the names we’ve heard them speak of over the past four years, and getting to see this community that they love so dearly. Thank you for continuing to pray for them and for our team — for physical strength and stamina, for open hearts and minds to receive the lessons God has in store for us, and for us to be courageous in our witness such that God will be glorified through our time here. Murakoze!
Please pray for our team members: Steven Norris, Michelle Norris, Jeremiah Norris, Elijah Norris, Jean Moore, Becky Owen, Ava Kate Owen, Olivia Owen, and Chris Jones.