Land of a Thousand Hills! It is hard to describe a place so colorful and warm. I wish everyone reading these words could step through the screen and onto the red dirt in Rwanda! It is full of vibrant colors, hills for miles, banana trees that look like they are from a painting, and smiles that will deeply touch your soul! This is only the beginning of what you will experience in the beautiful country of Rwanda, Africa. Now that you are there with us, allow us to take you through what we experienced on our last trip to Africa.
The team of 10 arrived in Kigali (capital city of Rwanda) late July 19th. Over half of the team had never been on a mission trip, much less traveled across the globe to a foreign country! So taking people on their first trip is always so exciting! We had one bearded man, Shane, and 9 women: Sierra, Allie, Candice, Chasity, Kaylee, Roxanne, Claridy, Ashley, and Jessica, the leader and the founder of Come Away Missions. (That is me by the way, writing to whomever might be reading these words.)
When we first arrive, every team gets to meet Jean Baptiste, Pastor of Bible Way Baptist Church in Rwanda, our fearless leader, in whom I (and so many others) call family. We have been working with Jean Baptiste since 2009. (For more on Jean and how Come Away started please visit our website http://www.comeawaymissions.com).
The first full day in Rwanda always starts with education. We want teams to learn about the 1994 genocide that happened in Rwanda. Over 1 million Rwandans were killed in one month. This genocide tragedy is a large part of their history, and their hearts, even today. Knowing their pain and suffering from the past helps Come Away build relationships. Our mission is founded on discipleship, and discipleship is all about relationships.
We take all teams to two different sites: the National Memorial in Kigali, and a church about 30 min outside the city where over 10,000 were killed in the genocide. It is a very emotional day. Mouths drop open, eyes widen, as they read and hear the stories. We leave with a heaviness in our hearts that we try to talk out on our long van rides. It is a lot to take in but we feel it is a much-needed step before ministry can begin.
I could share pages and pages about my many trips to Rwanda but who has that long to read? 🙂 So I want to give you a brief overview of what we experienced on the trip and then let you read some stories from the team and, of course, pictures!
We spent most of our trip 3 1/2 hours outside the city in our home base village of Gahara. Driving the last 45 minutes into the village is like transporting you to the movie “Land Before Time”. It is just stunning!
The first day in Gahara, we had the privilege of attending our first ever wedding! The local pastor, Theonaste, married a beautiful Rwandan bride. The team learned so much that day and we were honored to be a part of their ceremony! Over the next few days, we spent lots of time with the sweet people of Gahara. We discipled young men and women, played and ministered to the kids, the medical team taught the locals practical ways to improve their life, worked with the COPO women ( Check out http://www.copomarket.com), and played a soccer game against the village men (and tied by the way….even though we all knew they let us score)! We enjoyed dancing, singing, and a wonderful message from Jean Baptiste at church in the village on Sunday! So many relationships were formed through discipleship and spending time together. As we left Gahara, it was tough saying “goodbye” to the people the team now called family.
We love to end the trips showing teams another wonderful part of Rwanda so once we arrived home from Gahara, we prepared for an early morning Safari!! What an exciting way to not only enjoy the breath-taking landscape of the country, but also to experience the beautiful wild animals of Africa!!! Truly AMAZING!!!