Thursday, December 31, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
This is a posting I just wrote for our Karisimbi Partners blog. You can read more about our work with Karisimbi Business Partners.
We were only there to deliver a gift. What we received in return was nothing like I expected.
All three Karisimbi Partner families have always believed in committing the ‘first fruits’ of our labor, which is why it did not seem strange to want to donate a portion of the first company paycheck. It was not a huge amount, but somehow it just felt right to give a tenth of our earnings to an organization that honors those trying to rebuild after the genocide. In particular, we wanted to support an organization that encourages entrepreneurship. We decided on Amani Ava Hejuru, an organization committed to helping marginalized women in Africa find peace with God and one another. They focus on relationship-building while giving the women sewing and marketing skills. Their products represent excellence.
We wanted to buy three beautiful baskets made from fabric scraps. It seemed symbolic –first fruits are gathered in a basket, and our first fruits would support the business of women making baskets. Our donation could buy three baskets with surplus funds for purchasing a quilting machine that would allow them to produce more products. I communicated with Grace, the Managing Director, and was invited to their workplace. Upon arrival, their workshop appeared to be a small garage converted into a space for eleven sewing machines. Greg and Kristen Urquhart came as well (we have all since decided that the next time we present such a gift, we must all be present). We said some brief remarks and went to leave. Beata, who manages the store, asked if she could sing us a song. The drumbeats started. Her beautiful voice rang out. The others joined in. Hands began to raise and bodies began to sway. Three of the women began to dance the traditional Ingonza dance. Translated from Kinyarwanda, the following words filled that small space with such joy it moved me to tears. “Your husband cannot give you peace, your neighbor cannot give you peace, your friends cannot give you peace, your job cannot give you peace....only Jesus can give you peace.” In a way, this is a Christmas message… one that they sing and feel all year long.
These are words sung by women who lost their husbands during the genocide in horrific ways – often at the hands of their neighbors. They know what can and cannot give you peace. Where we thought our gift was small, to them it was another way Jesus was showing his love to them. And they celebrated that recognition through song and dance, completely uninhibited. I felt I was standing on holy ground. My three-year-old daughter, Anna, was hugging my leg as she listened. I said a silent prayer that she would remember this and someday be able to receive the gifts in her life with the joy and peace these women embodied.
We have the privilege of access – access to education, resources, networks. With this privilege comes responsibility. These women have received the gift of life – a second chance. Rwanda has received the gift of a second chance. We have the privilege to serve with what we hold in our hands. We also have the privilege to receive what this country extends to us.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
So today, after spending a few minutes playing on the see-saws with a dozen or so little ones, I asked the helper if she knew Isaiah (just learned I am not allowed to post his Rwandan name). As soon as she pointed to him, I recognized him from the pictures. What a child of strength. It was such a joy for me to tell him in Kinyarwandan that I am friends with his forever mom and dad and that they are coming soon to get him. I was able to play with him, help feed him, and just watch and observe this precious boy.
He ate in a room I hadn't been in before. In the room were five handicapped little boys all in one crib. Their legs are crippled and for some they cannot even sit up. My heart broke for these little ones. There was a woman there from Burundi who was volunteering and so I joined her in feeding and holding these precious little ones. Angelo was the one with whom I spent the most time. Judging by his facial features and size, I would guess he may be as old as four years old, but he is still eating out of a bottle and cannot stand, nor can he speak. I asked if I could hold him and the helpers were so sweet to change him, put on nice clothes and then let me hold him. At first he was so animated and I tried to hold him up so he could at least move his legs. Then they gave me a bottle with which to feed him. I rocked him like a baby and just sang these words, "You are loved. You are loved. You are loved." to the tune of an old worship song called "You are Lord." I could feel his body relaxing in my arms. I kept looking into his eyes and telling him, "You are not forgotten. You are loved." I felt like I could stay there forever.
And then my friends were leaving, so I tried to put him back in the crib. He just screamed and cried. I told him I would be back. And I will.
Monday, December 14, 2009
http://carolinejoan.blogspot.com/ - Caroline lives with us here in Kigali. I've known her since she was a baby and am super proud of the dance school she's launched called Ballet Rwanda.
http://www.urquharts.wordpress.com/ - Greg and Kristen are one third of our partnership with Karisimbi Business Partners.
http://www.karisimbipartners.blogspot.com/ - Our company's weekly blog.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
While I love Christmas more than any other time of year, I’m already thinking about 2010 and I want to share that vision with you. And, I want you to share it with everyone you know.
Our team set the goal of raising $500,000 to reach another 5,000 orphaned children in 2010. We’re raising these funds so that…
> Fewer young girls are forced to trade sex for food
> More orphans will have food to eat, and the protection and love of Christian mentors
> No girl will end up in the commercial sex trade
The enemy preys upon orphans like this day after day after day. I’ve seen our enemy; he goes by names like AIDS, extreme poverty, and sexual trafficking. He robs children of their parents, their dreams, and their dignity. Who will stop this? It must be us!
Today I am on a mission to raise $500,000 and I can’t do it without you. Will you help by visiting http://www.HopeChestPartners.org and sign up as a $25/month partner today?
Your donation will feed orphans in Africa and rescue them from extreme poverty. Your gifts will support lifechanging programs for girls in Russia that help prevent sex trafficking and forced prostitution.
These are CRITICAL gifts that form the foundation of our programs. Without that foundation, we could never have grown to reach 10,000, and sit poised to reach another 5,000 next year. It is those gifts, your gifts, that make the difference.
For the Fatherless,