Sometimes saying "yes" to something that challenges you is the reason why.  Going to Africa was not on my radar for this year.  But when I heard about this country and it's people, and how they were requesting married couples to come...how could I say no?  I am glad I said yes, because in that yes I met some of the most inspiring people who have challenged me to love more extravagantly and to take more risks in life for the sake of loving others.  

Rwanda.  April 1994.  90 days.  800,000 men|women|children|infants brutally killed.  Tutsi people killed by neighbors, family friends, teachers.  WHY?  For decades this country discriminated against two tribes the Hutu and Tutsi people.  In 1994 it exploded into the government spewing propaganda over the radio and making the completely innocent Tutsi people out to be threats.  So, the government told it's people to "exterminate" the Tutsies, and if you chose to hide them or protect them in anyway the consequences would be deadly.  

EVERYONE in Rwanda has been affected by the genocide.  Some lost their entire family, some survived by hiding in swamps for 90 days, some narrowly escaped their perpetrators machete hacks and have scars to this day, some were raped...repeatedly.  Some are living next door to the men that did this to them, some are in jail, some perpetrators are living free because they chose to confess their crime and apologize to the victims.  Some still have nightmares 21 years later and cannot sleep, some have adopted multiple children who were orphaned by the genocide.  Some have chosen forgiveness and are finding healing through sharing their stories.  Some have a heart to love their friends who have not been able to find healing.  

Though there is much brokenness here, there is also HOPE.  

1. Rwanda's beauty from our hotel balcony

2.  The Kigali Genocide Memorial...the concrete structures to the right are mass grave sites, approximately 250,000 people are buried here.  

3.  Names of lives lost in the genocide

4-7.  Our time with some "street kids." Some live on the street by choice, some live on the street because their parents cannot take care of them.  The missionary our church supports helps love on these kids and gives them an opportunity to go to school because public schools will not allow street kids in.  

8.  Catch Up School.  This is a school for kids who don't have a way to attend public school.  They also receive 1 meal a day (sometimes it's their only meal...and it is the only reason some students continue to come to school).  However, some days the school does not have water due to the public water tap running dry and therefore they cannot make porridge.  Teachers at this school are paid staff and receive $90 per month which is considered a decent salary.  Due to limited funding there are times when teachers go without a paycheck.   

9.  We took a photo of each child and when a team returns in April we will send their photos with them.  Many of these children do not have pictures of themselves.  WHY?  How badly I want each of these "forgotten" children to know who precious they are and how their lives are unique and important!  

10.  Want to know what Rwandan children play with?  Bike tires and sticks.  Many kids can be found rolling the tires around with the stick as a game and form of entertainment.  Other "toys" I saw:  soccer ball made from plastic bags and rubber bands.   In addition, a little boy had made a "train" out of a Colgate toothpaste box, he was pushing it along a bench.

11.  Church in Rwanda.  I get so used to the sounds of church music in America, that it is so beautiful to listen to the sounds of Africans singing to Jesus.