There are times when my mind is too scattered to collect enough thoughts.  I wanted to say good-bye to the staff today, but I knew I would not be able to come up with the right words to say.  I love to write letters and they often help me process.  So here is the letter I have written to the World Relief Rwanda staff–a group of people who have become dear friends and have made this place feel like home.  They are my family and it is hard to say good-bye.

Dear World Relief Rwanda staff,

It’s hard to know what words to say to you.  Three months ago I had met only two of you, Myal and Maurice, and now I have found in each of you a friendship that I will never forget.  There were days that I wanted to turn back, days I wish I had never come to Rwanda, but those days quickly passed thanks to each of you.  It always seemed that when life was making me feel down, one of you knew exactly the right words to say to make life pick me back up again.  I am leaving on a plane soon to go back to America, but as Stephanie said weeks ago, “the journey does not end here.”  She’s right.  The journey does not end here.  The journey will follow me wherever I go, even all the way to Seattle.

Though my rainy city of Seattle used to seem so different, the more I got to know each of you, the more I realized we are not all that different.  Though I love my home in Seattle, I have found a wonderful home in Rwanda thanks to you.  From the day I entered the office you all greeted me with open arms.  Though your Kinyarwanda greetings intimidated me at first, you taught me how to say the words properly and it quickly turned into a fun challenge for me.  I think that’s how the whole summer has been, really.  When I was intimidated by a project or heavy questions weighed down on me, you helped me.  You helped me learn how to carry the weight of those questions and see the hope that Rwanda holds.

My heart would ache when I saw children with tired eyes, hungry stomachs and bare feet.  And then I met the children that you so lovingly dedicate your lives to every single day.  They were singing and smiling and praising Jesus.  They were learning how it felt to be loved.  You have taught me much about love.  You have taught me that love can conquer mountains.  You have taught me that love comes in many forms.  You have reminded me that to love is the greatest gift you could ever give.

My summer in Rwanda is surely one I will never forget.  Stephanie asked me what my favorite World Relief moment was and it was hard to answer her.  So many things come to mind when I look back at this beautiful summer.  Field visits with Pascasie.  Saying over and over again for weeks and weeks, trying so hard to remember the right way to say, “Ndi umukobwa uwa pastori (I am the daughter of a pastor).”  Enatha, Pascasie and Clemence laughing as I tried to understand the difference between “mamawe (my mama)” and “mamawe (it’s amazing!).”  Exercise classes.  African tea.  Words full of wisdom and jokes full of joy.  There is something in each and every one of you that I very much adore.  Whether it is your smile each time I walk by your office, your kind heart, your brilliant mind or your loving personality, you have each shown me immense love and for that I am eternally grateful.

I don’t know how to begin to thank you for the lessons I have learned from working with each of you.  Lessons about being beyond dedicated to your career.  Learning to find the hope in situations that look grim and the light in the midst of darkness.  God placed each of you in this place for a reason and it is a joy to see the way you are changing the world.  I thank you for sharing so much with me over the past ten weeks.  Even a million words would never be able to fully share with you the deep impact that my time with you in Rwanda has had on my life.  Though “thank you” does not seem like enough, it is all that seems fitting.  So, thank you.  Thank  you all for allowing me to work with you and learn from you and share my life with you.  It has truly been a pleasure and I hope that I will be back again someday soon.  I love you all very much and God bless you.

-Holly Nadine Dahlstrom