I had the awesome opportunity of going on a mission trip to Rwanda in August with some members of my church family through a group called Africa New Life. This was such a rewarding experience for me. Not only did I conquer some fears, but I learned some valuable lessons that I will continue to hold very close to my heart.
I absolutely hate long flights and will try as best as I can to avoid them, much to the disappointment of my husband. When I decided to go to Rwanda, I simple did not even think about the flight. All I saw was an opportunity to impact the health of many and bring the gospel to those who needed to hear this good news. As the planning got into high gear it suddenly dawned on me that this was going to be an extremely long flight. My natural reaction was panic, but then I simply prayed for the courage, relied in what I know about casting my anxiety and fears on God and relaxation set in. Yes, the fear get resurfacing as the time drew near, but I kept encouraging myself that I can do all things in Christ who gives be strength. This approximately 16 -hour flight (with stops) went very well.
I participated in health education, attending to patients and taught vacation bible school. I had the opportunity to hear stories for various women from some of the women of Rwanda, which were very similar to some of our stories here in the U.S. I had the opportunity to visit some schools and some historic areas, such as the markets and the Genocide memorial. I was just amazed about the gratefulness expressed by the least of things you did for someone. More amazing was that no one was begging for anything they wanted to be taught how to do things so that they would be able to continue doing after we left. I saw Faith in God taken to a new level.
For those of you who may not remember, in 1994 there was the Rwanda Genocide where within 3 months of fighting approximately 1 Million people were slaughtered. All this took place as the world watched silently. Neighbors killed neighbors, relatives killed each other, children were killed before their parents and parents before their kids. It was a time of sheer terror and mayhem for the people of Rwanda.
I was so impressed with how well it appears that these people had moved on with their lives and how much they spoke about forgiveness and the fervor in which they were trying to rebuild their lives, and their communities.
I did not meet any person who was not affected by the genocide, some had no memory of the actual event, but only knew, they had no mother or father or grandparents or siblings because of the Genocide.
Here are some lessons I learned:
- The same God who keeps me safe on the ground and on short flights is also able to keep me on very long flights.
- As I complain about what I don’t have, stop, reflect and start to praise God for what I do have.
- When I wrestle in forgiving those who have done me wrong, realize that if the people of Rwanda can forgive the horrific things done to them, I certainly can forgive the things done to me, which pale in comparison to wrongs against the people of Rwanda.
- I also realize that there are people who are not looking for a hand -out but simple for a hand up.
- We are not very different in how we hurt and feel pain.