I have found myself fortunate in the last twenty one years of my life to never know the meaning of a broken heart. Friends have come and gone, family members have passed away, but never has my heart been so torn as it is right now. Ten days upon my return from Rwanda, I find myself in the midst of moving houses and longing for a simpler life. I see hills of a different patchwork, not of potato plants and banana trees, but of pine trees and redwoods. I say “yago,” but nobody knows what it means. I carry around my Simba shopping bag, but it doesn’t cause anyone to think twice. Who wants to hear my story? Who cares about what I have seen? Through a painful realization that this journey will never be as significant to anyone else than it is to me, I have finally found my own personal definition of a broken heart.
A broken heart is a heart that is no longer whole. For me, it is a heart that is torn between two worlds. I could sense something missing inside of me when I returned, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then one day I realized that my heart was in two places. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how severed my heart truly is. It’s difficult for me to be wholly in one place. A broken heart is a heart torn between two things. Two people, two places, two circumstances…what has broken your heart in the past?
I’m not here to find the remedy for my broken heart. Perhaps it will remain broken and maybe it’s best that way. While I watched Out of Africa with Mom on my left and Dad on my right, I wept when I saw the red sun fall behind the acacia tree. In a single frame of film footage, I was transported to the world I wish I were still in. I have been struggling to muster up a proper good-bye to Rwanda and I have found it virtually impossible. Maybe that’s because it’s not time for a good-bye. The beautiful staff at World Relief Rwanda told me that I would be back and my God, I hope they mean it. I never said “Murabaho” to anyone on my last day. I thought this word meant good-bye at the end of the day, but the staff said, “No! That means good-bye for a long time. Or forever. Don’t use that one.” I thought I would be saving that word for my last day, but not once did I utter it from my lips. I think I inherently know that I will return to Rwanda someday.
The final scene in Out of Africa was pulled out of my heart directly. Meryl Streep is reflecting on her time in Africa and she ends it the way she began, ”I once had a farm in Africa.” After some time she says, “If I know a song of Africa…does Africa know a song of me?” I know a song for Africa, too. It is a song of the giraffe, of the children in uniforms that don’t fit right, of the tough leather feet of an old Rwandan man. There are things everyday that sing the song of Rwanda to me. Tiny things that once felt like nothing now feel like everything. A patchwork hill, a banana and a bicycle with a bag of groceries balancing on the rack. Though there are daily reminders, it is often too simple to forget where I’ve come from. Sitting among boxes of stuff and loads of furniture in a big empty house, I remember the world I’ve returned to.
It’s a world of things. I don’t want to live in this world of things, though. I want to live in a world full of love and life. When people in Rwanda asked me what I missed from home, the only thing I could really come up with was “people.” I missed my family and my friends. Though all of the other things that make home feel like home are nice, like big bodies of water and a four bedroom house by Greenlake, if you took it all away and the people remained, it would still feel like home. I think I definitely learned this kind of satisfaction from Rwanda.
Rwanda is a world where family is the center of everything. I remember talking to a group of three in Rwaza sector of the Musanze district. They told me that if they could choose anywhere to live, they would probably choose America and I asked them why. They believed that America is the world where everyone is happy and no one is hungry. I told them that even in America there are people who go to bed hungry. “We have a lot to learn from you,” I told them. Their looks of surprise helped me to continue. “Even though you are poor in Rwanda, you will always have someone to turn to. A family member, a neighbor, a friend. You will not go to bed hungry because the people in your life wouldn’t allow it. That’s what we have to learn from you.” Do you hear what I’m saying? This isn’t a give and take relationship we are building with Rwanda. It is a relationship where we share with one another the different lessons we are learning each day. It is not a relationship where we teach and they learn. It is a relationship where each day we are growing and learning together.
The song of Africa…what a beautiful melody it is. Can you hear it? I hope that you can. Each day I am back in Seattle, the melody gets drowned out just a little bit more. Drowned out by high-speed internet, shopping malls and traffic jams. Days are ruined because the light turned red and we had to pause from our busy and important lives for sixty seconds. The light turns red and I pray. God, please. Please let the melody sing louder today. Please let the song of Africa sing out above the busyness. Let the song of simplicity and joy sing louder than that of a thousand belongings and a hundred frustrations. That is my challenge upon my return. It is a challenge to remember the things that make Africa sing out in my heart and it is an even bigger challenge to live them out in my everyday life. Can you help me? Can you help me listen for the song that calls us to a different standard? Walk with me as Africa lives on in my heart and continues to teach me new lessons each day.