I thank God for the place in which I find myself. In this home, in these books, in this church, in these arms. In a world where laughter meets my tears, joy meets my sorrow and hope meets growing despair. I watch the candle flicker, flashing pieces of light on the photo that sits atop my bookshelf next to the globe. The photo is one of seven women walking down the muddy road in Rwaza sector, bright patterned skirts poking out beneath large rainbow umbrellas. There are a few pictures that come to mind when I think of Rwanda and this is one of them.
There is also a photo that I took on one of my walks home. Trees line the edges, a man is walking down the road, brilliantly shining clouds are in the center and it was taken on that dusty red road that I got to know so well. I haven’t forgotten those steps I took while I was in Rwanda. Steps that got me home, steps that showed me what poverty looks like, steps that told me the world is huge and also so small. There are differences, but there are similarities. We have lessons to teach, but we have so many more lessons to learn. I am still coming to learn where exactly the steps I took in Rwanda are taking me now. It’s hard to take steps on the dusty roads and return to my paved streets and step into the carpeted classroom. I long to step inside the photos on the screen, but I find myself pinned to my notebook and my chair. Today is not the day to step into the photo of South Africa or Rwanda, today is the day to ask myself how the picture of poverty will no longer be taken. It will no longer be taken because someday it will be gone. But not today. And probably not tomorrow.
There are also pictures that are only in my mind. I hear Rwanda and I am thrown back into the mud hut in Ruhengari. The congregation of Grace Church crammed inside one hut singing songs and drinking Fanta in celebration of a young boys’ baptism. The beauty of community, the closeness of family and the vibrancy of Christ was so clear in that moment. I never wanted it to end. I wanted to listen to the rain pour on the tin roof for the rest of my life, but I had to leave. I stepped outside of the hut, outside of the bus, outside of the plane and into the streets of my home that I am in now. Seattle, you are still a part of my heart. But Rwanda, you have captured part of my heart and you are not giving it back.
No, not a day goes by when I don’t recall Rwanda. It’s impossible to forget, much more impossible than I anticipated. I had a fear of forgetting, just like a had a fear of going. Now I no longer have a fear of forgetting, but instead there is a fear of remembering. Because everyday I remember is a day that my heart aches and longs to be in the place that I once called home. Yet just as I long to be in Rwanda, I long just as strongly to be present right here, right now. I have responsibilities, studies, friends and family to hold me to this world that I truly love. And that is what the first sentence of this blog comes from.
I thank God for the place in which I find myself. In this home, in these books, in this church, in these arms.
I am blessed beyond belief at this moment in my life. Everyday I ask myself how I can possibly be so lucky. To have a family who loves me, friends who care for one another deeply, a church that has a growing passion for the poor in the world and their community and someone so consistently at my side when the madness of life makes me want to quit…how is it possible that these worlds have collided into such a beautiful blessing?
I find myself in this home. A house full of eleven girls is where I have made my home this year. It is a coming together of dear friends after one long year apart and it is a grand adventure. I have never been in the house alone before because there is always someone home. When I open the door I hear laughter in the kitchen, tears in the basement and the busy typing of the studious ones upstairs. I go to my room where the walls are lined with the portrait of my life. Sheet music and group posters, family photos and words of wisdom from the greats such as Henry Nouwen, and of course the large piece of Rwandan fabric as a backdrop for the photos and notes and trinkets that made up two very exciting months of my life.
I find myself in these books. It was hard to return to the classroom after being in what they call “the real world,” but it is also a good thing. Every essay I read on development, every story I hear about social business, every statistic I hear about countries struggling with AIDS and every photo I see of a malnourished child make me remember why I am sitting in the desk. Though there is part of me that wants to quit school right now and do something, the other part of me knows that sitting in the desk is good. I have a newfound passion for all that I am learning. I care for the subjects more deeply than I have cared about school in my whole life.
I find myself in this church. Bethany Community Church has been my home for nearly 16 years. Though it has grown to about eight times the size of when I arrived, it still feels very much like home to me. I told the Kindergarten through Third grade students about Rwanda on Sunday and I realized that the heart these kids have for the world is very important. Thousands of miles away there are children with holes in their shoes who walk three miles to school everyday and have trouble doing their homework at night because it is too dark. Then there are these kids in the middle of Seattle who say they want to help. This church is opening the eyes of their entire congregation to the world that is out there and the needs that we can help see met. I am blessed to call this church home.
I find myself in these arms. When no one else had time to listen, he asked me how I was feeling about going to Rwanda. I told him I was scared and he heard me. Five months later, I find myself walking down the street, my hand in his and I feel blessed. He is a sturdy rock when the world feels like it’s spinning too fast. As he rests his chin on the top of my head when we hug, I thank God for bringing someone so solid into my life during such a transitory season.
Undoubtedly I am blessed. As each day goes on and overwhelming details, statistics, essays and facts run through my head, I remember that God put me here for a reason. Right here.
In this home, in these books, in this church, in these arms.