Published Tue, Sep 03, 19. Written by Ryan Getchell.
By: Angel Galvis
After spending nearly 18 hours of travel from Boston to Kigali, Rwanda, my mind was focused on the work ahead with Manchester Christian Church’s mission team. As I sat in the back of our van on our way to Nasho, a village in southeast Rwanda, I was mesmerized by the landscape. I thought, “Wow, this is something else -- the land of a thousand hills!”
We passed by strong women walking miles to fill large yellow jugs with water while carrying babies tied to their backs. Men pushed bicycles full of plantains and sacks of rice. And bumpy red dirt roads leading to villages provided the well-known yet unwanted “African massage.”
The further we went on these dirt roads, the further we got from the quick pace and constant connectedness of the western world. And the happier people seemed.
When we arrived in Nasho, children ran alongside the road screaming, “Muzungu!” (white people), extending their hands to ask for money and empty water bottles. Because clean water is such a rare luxury, kids look for any kind of container where they can store some of the precious liquid -- a struggle Americans don’t usually face.
Every trip provides different opportunities for God’s love to be shared; and at the villages in Rwanda, His love is reflected in the joy and welcoming attitude of these people.
Each morning our team arrived in Nasho, we split into smaller groups to work on different projects. This year, we introduced a concept for water filtration and provided materials to many families in the village. Sanitation is an important matter for us to help with, as dirty water is a large cause of disease in an area where access to clean water is limited.
Over two days, we also visited six homes to equip leaders with resources such as Bibles and devotionals, and to encourage them to start small Bible study groups. The Great Commission click when I stepped into one home -- a mud hut big enough to fit only a few people -- to distribute some of these materials. This was the highest point so far in my trip, and the feeling I got was indescribable. I knew then that we are called to make disciples of all nations, and it was a great feeling of reassurance and love -- love only our Lord and the relationship with Him provides.
In total, we were able to provide the village with about 250 Bibles. We also donated a couple of sewing machines to the women’s cooperative, which enables them to generate income for their families. In addition, the team provided families with 40 goats as a source of food. Each family who received an animal is to share the first female goat offspring with a neighbor, to ensure the project becomes a self-sustaining ministry. We also conducted many activities with the children: We told the story of David and Goliath, which included a coloring activity; played games; and worshipped together to bring them closer to Jesus, and continue building the relationship that MCC has forged for many years. Phase 1was a success!
But there was one child in the village that really stood out to me. His name is Hasan, and for the entire time the mission team played games and interacted with the children, he latched on to my hand and did not leave my side. When I needed both hands for something I would let go of his hand, only to find him holding my index finger (as this was all his little hand could grasp) when I put my hands down again. When the activities were finished and we were ready to leave the village, I headed into the church to sit and rest. But as I walked away from the crowd, I realized he was still attached to my finger, not willing to let go.
He didn’t talk much, as a matter of fact, when I sat in the church he just stood there in front of me, looking like we were meant to have this time to connect. In my limited knowledge of the Kinyarwandan language, I asked him what his name was. His only response came from the pain I saw in his eyes, which appeared to tell of a life of struggle. Mariam, the translator sitting next to me, also tried asking for his name, but there was still no response. Instead, he put his head down and started drawing lines on the coloring paper all the children were given earlier in the day. He shut down any eye contact, but I knew he was holding onto some sort of pain.
One of the village pastors came closer to him and asked for his name, this time with a little more “pressure” for an answer. The child replied in a very, almost inaudible volume, “Hasan.”
I prayed in that moment, asking God what he was trying to tell me by putting Hasan in my path. Even though I don’t know for sure, I got the sense that Hasan was going through a very difficult time, like so many children in homes with multiple siblings and no resources. I thought maybe he was showing signs of abuse or neglect. Then one of my teammates pointed out that this boy found comfort and safety around me -- a complete stranger. In that moment, I knew God’s answer. Going back to Rwanda year after year to visit our friends and church family has given them a sense of community and fellowship, which brings them hope. They know that God loves them and has sent us to share that with them.
But the best part was yet to come as we neared the end of our visit in the villages: It was time to go back to Kigali, where the Child Hope Center was waiting for us with open arms. And Hasan’s story reminded me of the reason that we are helping children in this country -- to overcome life’s obstacles.
Over the past year since my last trip, the Mission Life team and myself have been working together with Bishop Theophile Rugubira and Africa Hope Initiatives to establish a child sponsorship program to address the lack of resources such as food, clothing and money for school supplies and fees.
It’s been less than two months since the Child Hope Center opened its doors, but children's lives are already showing transformation. Every day, kids go to the center after school to receive homework help, learn about Jesus and eat a warm meal.
I had the opportunity to experience it firsthand. Around 5 p.m., kids started arriving, ready to sing praises and hear the good news of God. I saw hope in the eyes of 40 children yelling “theacha me” (teacher me), while snapping their fingers, eager to answer questions the pastor asked. It was magical to see our work and the support of many donors coming to fruition.
I felt a profound sense of joy, knowing that God is using me -- and all of you -- to be a resource for His will to be done in the lives of these children.
I am just one guy, but I am blessed to continue to meet others along this journey who share the same vision. Though I make several trips each year to visit our partners and children -- such as the Child Hope Center -- countless others have found ways to make an impact and increase our reach through gifts of time, resources, knowledge and/or support.
You don’t have to be the boots on the ground to effect change and make an impact, it may be volunteering locally, offering a donation or simply talking.