Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reality of Rwanda


A place so distant, it hardly seems real to me. I've heard the horror stories of the Rwandan genocide and couldn't eat for days after watching the film "Hotel Rwanda." But still, it all seemed like a terrible, made-up story. Something too horrible and far away for my mind to comprehend.

That was, until yesterday.

Last week, a couple from my church stood up on stage with a young Rwandan boy named Jean Claude and told us his story. Jean Claude was born with a facial deformity. His mother is dead and his father is in prison. He grew up in a village as an orphan. He is now 15 years old, but already dropped out of school because the other children made so much fun of him.

This couple from church had been to Rwanda on several mission trips and was impacted by Jean Claude's story. They worked it out for him to come to America for 3 months to have a surgery to fix his nose and recover before returning to Rwanda. Since Jean Claude does not speak any English, they also brought a young Rwandan pastor, James, to travel with him and be his interpreter.

When I saw them at church on Sunday, I just felt so compelled to hear their stories. So yesterday, I took the two of them to Muir Woods so they could see the famous California Redwood trees. From the moment I met Jean Claude, he completely captured my heart. Though he only knows a few words of English ("okay," "good," "hi," etc.) he has such a sweet spirit about him.

At the beginning of the day, he was very shy, but as time passed (and he realized how silly I am), he loosened up. I told him he was going to be our leader through the trails, so he took it as his responsibility to lead us in the right direction. He would run ahead, look in every direction, then point in the way we should go. He was several steps ahead of us much of the time, but I could hear him just laughing as he looked up at the enormous trees! He couldn't believe how BIG they were! Though he said to James that it would be even better if there were gorillas in the trees :)

I was able to talk to James quite a bit on our hike and his story completely floored me. He is 35, so the genocide is very much a part of his past. Three of his siblings and seven of his step-siblings and step-mother were all killed. He has seen so much death and hatred and injustice. What really amazed me was when he told me that he went back to the village where his family had been killed and befriended those who had killed them. He forgave them and shared the Gospel with them. Many of them accepted Christ. They said they just couldn't understand how he could forgive them when they had done something so terrible to his family.

I had such a wonderful time with James and Jean Claude. When I dropped them off that afternoon, tears began to stream down my face. I can't even really explain why. I guess spending time with them just opened up my eyes to see the realities of the difficult life they face every day in Rwanda.

I have been so blessed, yet I find myself complaining and sulking over pointless things. Seeing the outlook Jean Claude and James have on life was refreshing and inspiring for me. They are both so strong and rely on the Lord with everything within them.

What a blessing it was to spend time with them yesterday and to get a small glimpse of what God is doing in a country on the other side of the world. Rwanda is on my heart today and all the little boys and girls like Jean Claude.

Please be in prayer as he has his first surgery next week.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Spiritual Glasses

I still remember the day I got my first pair of glasses. I was in the 8th grade, and though I wasn’t blind, I was starting to have trouble seeing the board in my math class. I could get along just fine without glasses, but anything in the distance was definitely blurry.

I went to the eye doctor and I remember him saying, “Wow, you’ve been missing a lot of cute boys at school!” I had no idea how bad my vision was until he handed me a pair of glasses with my prescription. I was in Walmart and as soon as I put those glasses on, it was as if everything came to life. It felt like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy lands in Munchkinland and suddenly, everything goes from black and white to color.

The colors seemed brighter, I could see the features of people’s faces, I could even read signs all the way in the back of the store! I remember saying, “I can’t believe this is what I’ve been missing!”

Once I had seen clearly with those glasses, I refused to take them off. Life was so much more vivid when I could fully see and experience it. How could I return to a vision that was so blurry and unclear after experiencing something so much greater?

Coming to know God is like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time. Life that was once bland, aimless and blurry is suddenly transformed into a rich, fulfilling and vivid adventure. Once you’ve experienced God personally and tasted His goodness, you will never desire to return to your previous life.

Let’s walk daily with our spiritual glasses on, remembering that without Christ, we will miss out on so much!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


"I think I met the Mexican Jesus today!" I exclaimed to my dad on the phone.

Well, not exactly Jesus, and maybe he wasn't really Mexican...but God spoke directly to me through a stranger last week. Let me explain...

So for the past month I've been wrestling through options of what to do after I graduate in May. I had narrowed it down to two really great options. Both would be doing ministry I love. The big difference is that one is very close to my family and the other is very far away. After much prayer, I felt God leading me to the job that is a day's plane ride from the ones I love the most.

I felt a peace about the situation...and still do. But I also realize that there's despair that comes with any decision. Last Wednesday, I was particularly in "the depths of despair" (as Anne Shirley would say). I felt guilty for always choosing to live far away from family and wondered if I had really made the right decision.

So I got off work at 10am and had an hour or so to kill, so I decided to get a cup of coffee. When I got to Starbucks, the line was out the door. I didn't feel like waiting, so I drove around to a local cafe, but of course there was no parking. So I just decided to go to the gas station and get a cheap cup of coffee there.

I started filling my car up with gas and walked inside the old gas station. After walking past the tempting aisle of day-old doughnuts and chewy sprees, I put my $1.39 cup of coffee on the counter and waited for the man working to ring me up.

He was a Hispanic man and was very smiley and friendly. He started some small talk and I told him I went to the seminary right down the road. His eyes lit up and he said, "Oh, so you're a Christian too?!" Knowing that the county I live in is 97% unreached, I was surprised to hear that he accepted Christ a few years ago and is a committed follower. He introduced himself as Juan Carlos.

I didn't say much in our conversation, but he started quoting scripture to me. He knew absolutely nothing about me, but the last thing he said to me was, "It says in Mark that any man who leaves his father, mother, sister or brother for God will be blessed." Then he drew a picture on my receipt. He said, you are down here, with your family and friends. Then he drew and arrow up to God and said, "You need to be up here with God. No one else."

Bam. Smacked me in my face. I'm pretty sure I had to pick my jaw up off the floor before I could mutter a confused, "Uhh...thanks," as I realized that God had just used this man to confirm my decision to move away.

I walked away in awe. God seemed so personal and so tangible that day. He knew that I was doubting my decision and He spoke directly to me in an audible way. It was through Juan Carlos (who's initials just so happen to be J.C. :), a man who I wouldn't have met if the first two coffee shops I went to hadn't been too crowded. Praise God for being real and personal and for continuing to speak to us through unique experiences and conversations.

I have a feeling that whenever I start to doubt my decision again (which I'm sure I will), I'll be able to look back on this day and say, "Oh yeah, remember what the 'Mexican Jesus' said? Okay...I'll start trusting God now."

Oh, and if you're curious about where I'll be moving, here's a little hint: