Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rwanda, Day 1

by Darlene McComis O'Lena   March 26, 2016

So the morning of March 10th arrived.  I arrived at O’Hare airport and took my luggage up to the nearest guy handling it.  He weighed both of the pieces and said “That will be $200.  You’re overweight on both of them.” Oh, great. Yep, I was not only bringing little gifts to my kids that I had sponsored (which, by the way, had now risen to 14 kids), but I was also bringing food items to Laura and the people I would be staying with, Randall and Jennifer Smith.  Certain items, such as peanut butter and saltine crackers, are harder to get in Rwanda, so I was bringing them some.  All of this made the luggage extremely heavy.  As I prepared to pay it, I began talking about where I was going and what I was going to do.  The man looked at me and said, “You know what? I won’t charge you for the second suitcase.”  What a nice man.  I offered him ten dollars for helping me, thinking he could buy lunch with it or something.  He initially took it, but, after finishing taking care of my luggage, he handed it back to me, saying “Take this and buy something for the Rwandan kids.”  I was already starting to see God working with this trip.

After two eight-hour flights, I made it to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Laura, founder of Love Alive International, was there to meet me.  We got in the car she had borrowed and set out for her co-workers, Randall and Jennifer’s house. Randall and Jennifer had moved to Rwanda last fall so that they could help Laura with the mission. As Laura put it--“you’ll find Randall and Jennifer’s house to be better for you. They have INDOOR plumbing.”   

As we drove to their house, about 20 minutes out of the city, I found myself looking at mud houses and some pretty poor neighborhoods.  We arrived at the house, which was surrounded by a concrete “fence.”  It seemed that the larger houses had these fences around them that completely enclosed the house. I met Randall and Jennifer and immediately felt like we had known each other a long time.  After we talked for a couple of hours, we went to bed.  When I saw the bed, I felt like I was in a movie set because there was mosquito netting around the bed hanging from the ceiling.  I crawled into the bed and slept soundly.  

At 6 a.m. the next morning, I was awakened by a neighbor’s baby crying, an African woman singing in her language, and a rooster crowing.  That was a jolt to reality.  I got up and went to the bathroom.  In the bathroom was a toilet, a small sink, and a drain in the floor with a faucet over it.  No shower.  There was also what looked like a large garbage can full of water.  It turned out that there wasn’t running water all the time.  When it WAS running, you filled this can up to use when there wasn’t running water.  Well, we hit PLENTY of those days.  

Laura had drawn up an itinerary for my time with her.  On the first day, Saturday, we drove over to a place called ERM in Masaka to have a Children’s Kids Club.  It is similar to our VBS.  This was the second Saturday that they had met.  There were close to 100 kids there.
When I got out of the car, the kids began running up to me, hugging me for all they were worth.  Such lovable kids.  These kids had nothing material-wise, but they had LOVE.  We played with them for a little while, then Laura sang songs with them in their language, told Bible stories to them (and quizzed them on the stories), and passed out papers for them to color. They got two crayons a piece.  That’s all there was.  They didn’t care what color they were.  They seldom got crayons.  Then, we passed out something cold to drink and a little snack.  Bananas are prevalent in Rwanda, so many snacks are bananas.  After 3 hrs. with the kids and one last hug, they walked home.  

That afternoon, we visited with some children in one of the worst poverty-stricken areas.  These children seemed starved for love.  These people, mostly women with children, had little, if any, money.  Many of them turned to prostitution.  We walked into an area and met the children.  Laura brought them little gifts-- balloons to be blown up and a little craft to make.  Seeing the brace on my leg, one of the women set out an old wooden chair for me to sit on.  I must have looked really hot (I was), so the children began to fan me with papers that Laura had handed out to them.  Nothing like having ten little kids fanning you all at the same time! I had my own air conditioning! Then, two of the mothers were examining my hair.  They don’t see long, blond hair too often. The two of them began to braid my hair while I was sitting there!

(I think they did it because they saw how hot I was).  I had one long braid tucked up in the back and a small braid on each side. It was sure funny !!

Doesn't she have a beautiful smile? And did you notice Darlene mentioned her leg brace? It doesn't show up in any pictures, but she wears it because she  has Parkinsons disease. I just wanted to mention that because it adds another dimension of challenge and inspiration to her story. She didn't let it stop her! Please visit again tomorrow when you'll hear even more surprises that will lift your heart to praise the Lord with her.  ferree


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