Friday, April 22, 2016

Rwanda: The Rest of the Story

Dear Reader, Darlene had a very full week in Rwanda that will encourage and inspire you to keep pressing on. I'm reminded of Hebrews 12:1 which says, "...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Even though widowed, abused, and as she mentions here, wearing a leg brace, Darlene has learned to run! It's a great joy and privilege to meet women like Darlene (and you!) who come back to life after being knocked down by life's greatest sorrows and challenges. That's what God does! He gives new life whether it's in heaven's eternity (as our late husbands experience) or today's step, by step, by step we take in the strength of the Lord.   ferree

by Darlene McComis O'Lena   March 26, 2016

Meeting some of the sewing students she sponsored....
On Monday afternoon, I got to meet Claudine, the young woman I had sponsored the sewing machine for when she graduated sewing class.  Claudine is a beautiful young woman, very quiet, with a small child. She was thrilled that she now had a sewing machine to make clothes not only for her family, but to sell.  We visited at her home and met her husband.  He seemed like a kind, gentle young man.  He thanked me over and over for what I had done.  Claudine presented me with a beautiful quilted bag that she had made for me to thank me.  They offered us the customary bananas, then he prayed before we left their home.  

Tuesday. We went to Fumbwe sewing center, and then Laura and I delivered a few mattresses that were donated to a few of the women.  One woman said it was the very first mattress that she had EVER slept on.  Oh, the things we take for granted…. 

I also got to meet Godance.  I had seen a picture of Godance a few months ago as she graduated from a sewing class.  She has been a BIG motivation to me because she is a young crippled lady and walks with two canes. Godance wanted to learn to sew so bad that she walked two hours to get to the sewing class every day.  What an inspiration!  We met with Godance at her home and she was thrilled to get to meet me!  We even compared our leg braces!!  
Godance and me.
  Godance is crippled and uses two canes to walk. 
 She graduated from the sewing class
 and now can make clothes to sell for income.
 We were comparing our leg braces.
Meeting some of the school children she sponsored....
I visited with some of my sponsored students in their homes that afternoon.  Their homes reminded me of little caves.  They were made from concrete and had 1-2 very small rooms.  The door to the home was generally a curtain hanging.  They always offered me a seat on what was probably the only chair in the house.  And they ALWAYS offered something to eat, as was their custom.  Mostly, if they were very poor, they would put out a bowl of bananas.  If they had a LITTLE money, they were proud to offer you a “Fanta” soda.  Yes, Fanta is still available out there.  Fanta almost seemed like a status symbol.  Each parent expressed their sincere “thank you” for sponsoring their child in school, as schooling would not be affordable otherwise.  I even received some gifts from some of the students, whether it was a handwritten letter to me or something they had made.  Before we left each home, a prayer was said, as is the custom there.  

Visiting various sites and ministries....
On Wednesday, Randall, Jennifer, and I visited the Genocide Memorial in the morning.  What a sad place that is.  The Genocide happened about 20 yrs. ago between two tribes.  One of the tribes was seeking power.  They used their machetes to hack people to death, even small children.  Thousands were killed.  The pictures of the people that were killed were hanging in the building.  Rwanda set up a memorial garden for the dead and buried what remains were found.  I was thankful that they gave the people a decent burial and remembrance.  

That afternoon, we went up to the hospital in Masaka.  Laura, Randall, and Jennifer routinely go up to this hospital, bring small gifts to the patients, and pray with them.  Most of the patients truly wanted the prayers.  I noticed that the hospital didn’t seem very clean, with patients lying on dirty sheets.  Laura told me that the people had to bring their own sheets.  
Next we visited with baby Grace in the hospital. She is a newborn that had been abandoned.  She had a mark on her head, as if her mother had tried to kill her, and is somewhat delayed mentally.  Laura and Jennifer take turns going to visit her and exercise her legs and arms.  They also bring clean clothes and blankets for her.  As I was getting tired by now, Laura suggested that I sit in a chair with baby Grace and rest for a while.  So, I sat and rocked Grace.  I sang “Jesus Loves Me” to her and any other songs that came to mind.  I noticed that I had a number of women coming by and staring at me.  I guess it looked unusual for a white woman to be rocking an African baby! Jennifer said I looked like a “Grandma” there!  Well, I’ve had lots of experience with that….

That evening, several students showed up for a Bible Study.  These are the older students that were going to vocational school to learn a trade.  The students were very friendly.  We played Jenga with them, which they EXTREMELY loved !  Then we talked about the Bible.  One student, Manuel, said that he loved the book of Revelation!  He was a very educated young man.  He proceeded to talk about many Bible stories and that Jesus was coming back some day.  I really loved listening to him and commented that maybe he should be a pastor someday…  

On Thursday, we took a two and a half hour ride up into the mountains to the Akagera National Park.  It seemed we were one of the only people there.  It was beautiful up there, with its mountains and savannahs.  We started out driving in our little Toyota car, but it started to rain.  The dirt roads turned slick immediately and we slid around as if we were on black ice. We did manage to see many monkeys, zebras, warthogs, several species of birds including an eagle, a large crocodile, and a hippo who decided to duck under the water just as I was taking his picture!  

Friday, I was terribly tired, so we decided to stay home that morning.  We were having a party for all the children that I had sponsored that afternoon.  We set out bananas and breads for them.  The children showed up and we fed them.  Laura had brought some games, so the children were taught to play Memory and make puzzles.  I have to say that the Rwandan people really concentrate at everything they do, even games.  There is no fighting or arguing when someone wins.  They all get along.  If only our American children were like that!  We went outside with some bubbles that Laura had brought, which were a BIG hit!
On her last day in Rwanda....
On my last day, Saturday, we once again went to the Children’s Bible Club in Masaka. Laura brought the bubbles along, which these children had never seen.  Oh, what FUN!! The children were THRILLED as I continued to blow bubbles for them to catch! As Laura went on with their Bible stories, I had two children, one new little child and one of my sponsored students (whose name was DARLENNE) sitting next to me.  They cuddled up closely to me as if we had known each other for years.  Oh, how my “hug tank” was filled in Rwanda….   

As I flew out that night from Kigali headed for Amsterdam and home, I realized how God had made all the pieces fit in this trip perfectly. It took 20 years to go, but 20 years ago I would not have been a widow and had a story to tell.  20 years ago I would have still been married and maybe not have been able to go with a husband who was ill. 20 years ago, I might not have had a healed heart yet from all the abuse, but now I am comfortable talking about it.  20 years ago, I would not have been the independent woman I have now become, able to travel this distance by myself.  Oh, yes, God really DOES do things in HIS perfect timing.  God really DID turn my TRIALS INTO TRIUMPHS.  And He alone fulfilled my heart’s desire…
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”.
Psalm 37:4


  1. I just finished reading all of Darlene's stories. Tears are STREAMING down my face, and I am "ugly crying". How God has mightily used her! From being allowed to sponsor not just one child but FOURTEEN, to the way her personal story resonated with the widows of the villages, God never ceases to amaze me with His Plan for us. I am certain, beyond any doubt, that when Darlene dies and leaves this earth, she will be given one of the most beautiful crowns Jesus has at his disposal, and her heavenly mansion will eventually be filled with the Rwandan women and children she touched. Thank you Jesus for Darlene, and may the Father continue to bless her abundantly, along with the women and children she has touched. In Christ's precious name, Amen!

  2. Amen, Kelly! And now you've got me searching for the kleenex. ..

  3. Amen to everything Kelly said.


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