2017 Academy Vision Trip Recap | Yonee Jefferson
I am thankful that we serve a God who is sovereign and not swayed by our temporary emotions. If it were left up to me, we would not have gone to Rwanda. But praise the Lord we did, and my life is all the better for it. We were only on the ground for about 8 days told but we managed to get a lot packed in. It’s important to know that the purpose of this trip was not to go and do, but to go and listen. Rwanda has done an incredible job in reconciling people and rebuilding their country since the days of the genocide just 23 years ago.
When we landed, Tom Allen, the man who would be our host for the next week, greeted us warmly, fed us and then we did some much needed sleeping. Our first full day in country was spent visiting the genocide memorial sites. Before coming to the country, our team read a book together about the genocide and reconciliation so we had some working knowledge about what was going on, but it was sobering to visualize and walk through places that were once places of mass murder. We got to debrief that in the end and talk through the depravity that we all have in us and discuss the parallels in America’s society. It was a heavy and baffling day, because I could not understand how people could move past that. I am glad that we started with the memorial, because from there we were presented with the ways that people have moved forward. After visiting the memorial, we went to a women’s co op. The women at the co op had come together to form a new community, many of them widows and had HIV from the genocide. They came together and now have a business together selling materials they made. It was an incredible first glimpse into what the Lord was doing in Rwanda. The next day we went to a village and did a program called Azizilife. We got to learn from women in a village what life for Rwandan women was like. We(mostly them because we were better observers than doers) prepared food, hoed a plot of land, cut grass with a sickle, fed a couple cows and fetched water all before lunch and my heavens it was exhausting. After lunch, we got to have a dance competition and make bracelets and balls made from dried banana leaves. We received so much help and love from the women in this village and they showed us up big time. Thursday, we got to hear from two men about programs called microfinancing and microsavings. This was one of the coolest days, because we got to see community in action and see what taking care of your neighbor really looks like. I would love to talk to you more about that in person so come find me and we can chat about it! Thursday is also the day we met the guy who would be our driver for the remainder of the trip! His name was John and he was one of my favorite highlights! On Friday, we drove to Musanze. We visited a technical school that was converted from a military base. We also had dinner with Bishop Mbanda. His life is a testament to the Lord’s faithfulness and you should read it in his book, From Barefoot to Bishop. It was incredible getting to sit and listen to what he has endured and what the Lord has carried him through. On Saturday, we got to drive to another village where Tom has a house. Honestly, one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. It was beautiful and tranquil at the top of the mountain. But, you could always go down the mountain and be greeted by kids galore. We got to walk through the village and meet the people and see the school that is there and watch kids light up as they danced and played together. On Sunday, we got to go to church at a school that was birthed out of the genocide. The genocide left many orphans and they were filling the street with nowhere to go. Bishop John knew they weren’t too far to be redeemed so he started Sonshine. It was incredible being able to worship with them and to be able to here Big Dog speak! We headed back to Kigali on Sunday to get ready for departure. On Monday, a man named Gabriel showed us around and took us to his business where he hires people to make cards out of recycled paper, stimulating the economy.
We began the long journey home that night and arrived Tuesday night.
I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be able to go to Rwanda. I learned so much from the people about being a neighbor, recognizing the need to have people in your life, the beauty in interdependence and taking care of each other. I saw what the Lord could do with a people who are hungry for him, how only he can bring restoration and reconciliation to a place that once had no hope. I saw what it looked like for the government, churches and communities to all teach and encompass reconciliation and the impact it has on the people. It was incredible and it was such an incredibly beautiful place to be. And of course, everything (almost) that we ate was delicious.