We had such an amazing and fruitful trip to Rwanda. I feel like this was such a meaningful trip in so many ways. I never know what to expect or exactly what to pray for when I go to Rwanda, so I just diligently ask God to show me the main purpose of the trip when I am there. He is always so faithful to answer this request of mine. During my first trip, He connected me to John who is now my beloved son. Throughout the second visit to Rwanda, the Lord revealed to us the need to somehow find a way to provide training, education, and employment opportunities for the visually impaired students who were graduating high school. John and I began praying and seeking ways to achieve this as soon as we got back home. Over the next year, we raised enough support to rent two facilities for the students to live in and learn different trades that will empower them to work and live independently. We call it the Hope in His Vision Academy. We stayed two weeks here and learned what daily life is like for the students and for Callixte, the Academy Supervisor. The Lord really showed me how much of an impact this ministry has on the students and employees on a deeper level than I had previously known. He has grown my love for them and is knitting our hearts together in love. We studied Colossians with the students, and a verse that stood out to me was Col. 2:2 "I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God's mysterious plan, which is Christ himself." I deeply desire this for each of them as well. Many of the students are orphans in that they either have no living family members or their family has essentially disowned them because of their blindness that is unfortunately seen as a burden. I got to see how the students are becoming a family and how they see us as family. We spent a huge amount of time taking several of the students to the best hospital in Rwanda in order to figure out their medical problems. We would wake up and catch motos to the hospital first thing in the morning. There were several days that we spent the entire day at the hospital going from one specialist to the next and spending hours and hours waiting. One of the students later told John how that meant so much to her that we waited with her despite our hunger, thirst, and fatigue. She said that her own family would never do that for her and that she was so thankful to get to experience that kind of love. That small sacrifice meant the world to her. I think a huge purpose of this trip was to be the physical hands and feet of Christ to show the students that they are loved and valued.
Another very profound experience was visiting Joseph and his family in their rural village. We rode in the van we rented for about four hours until we got close enough that the road was too bad for the driver to continue. We came across a "bridge" made of logs that had rotted and had to get out and walk the rest of the way. No one had been to Joseph's before, so we trusted a stranger who said she knew him to guide us there. After about 45 minutes of crossing small rivers and navigating the bumpy path, we spotted Joseph and his brother standing at the top of the hill anxiously awaiting our arrival. We spent some time in his home hearing his mother share how she had been praying for Joseph's future and how this was a miracle from God that we came to visit and learn how we could be involved in Joseph's life. Joseph is a young man that Callixte had known from the school for the blind and has always cared for using his own resources. However, after graduating high school, Joseph wasn't able to go to college and spent the next four years of life secluded from society. His mom thought he was more of a burden than a contributor to the family, so she left him alone in their tiny, dark two room mud hut all day while she and his siblings went out to work. She got tired of this and eventually started trying to poison him since she saw that he had no future. This broke all of our hearts so deeply. She truly believed that his vision impairment meant he was not capable of working or having a hopeful future and that ending his life would be the best option for him. She was thrilled when we asked her if we could take Joseph with us back to the Academy to give him an opportunity for a brighter future. Joseph left with us with nothing but the clothes he was wearing and his cane. Before we left, Joseph blessed us all with his testimony of getting saved only three months prior to this visit, and with the sweetest song I've ever heard. He titled it "Jesus is the best friend forever". Joseph is already sponsored and is flourishing at the Academy.
I spent a lot of intentional one-on-one time with the students so I could learn more about their stories. I also had the opportunity to get to know Callixte even better and see all that he so passionately does from the overflow of love from his heart. He truly cares and works so hard to meet everyone's needs. He is the most humble and gracious person I have ever met, and I am so thankful to do God's work with him. We visited Manzi one day and had a lot of fun visiting with his wife and baby girl. He also has 70 chickens, and we had a blast playing with them. We spent one morning with the primary and secondary students talking, singing, and playing hide-and-go-seek and Braille Uno. Braille Uno was also a huge hit with the Academy and college students. I loved sharing meals with them, going to church together, waking up to them singing praise songs at 5am, and having late night chats with them.
I love that there were also four other people who shared this experience with me and John. Having Chelsea and Colton join us for the entire trip was such a blessing in so many ways. From helping me and John carry all of our bags at the airport to leading and facilitating group activities at the Academy, these two were such a blessing. Chelsea's passion and determination to fight for the vulnerable people we serve is contagious and an inspiration. We are so happy to have her join our team as a board member now and are praying about how she can be even more involved in the future. I loved having my sister Aurora join us for the first part of the trip. She has such a gift and captured all the perfect moments and personalities in pictures and videos so that we can not only cherish these memories, but also share the beauty of our experience with you. She also got to love on her daughter that she sponsors at the Academy and be a source of comfort during her medical process. John was a huge advocate for the students we took to the hospital and an excellent translator too. His joyful presence was a light to everyone, and I loved seeing how he took very seriously his role to lead Bible study when we divided into guys and girls groups. He deeply cares about sharing the gospel. It was also so special to be in Rwanda again with Katie, six years after meeting her there. Katie has a heart of gold and such a willingness to help any and everyone she comes in contact with. She has been an integral part of my journey with John and with Hope in His Vision. Our team was sacrificial, selfless, and not high maintenance at all! No one cared that we didn't have hot water, only had cold water about a third of the time, and ate the same thing every day:-) They were all just happy to be there and serve. It was a joy to serve with each and every one of them. Thank you for reading all of this and feel free to share with others. We are working towards getting all of the current students sponsored so that we can grow and help more in need. There are many other "Josephs" out there that need our help. Please think about joining us in this mission. We also have several students that are in need of different surgeries and treatments as we were able to finally get their problems diagnosed. If you want more specific information about this and how you can help, please let me know.