I could have flown out of Africa after one day and been changed by what I had already seen. I was convinced of the need. I was amazed at God's work. And I was sold on what Compassion is doing to transform the lives of needy kids. Thanks be to God, there was a day two.
The rain changed our plans as it often does in Rwanda. Dirt roads become impassable. The Compassion project we had planned on visiting in Gihogwe was accessible only by roads that were too muddy to drive. Plan B took us to Maranyundo. Early morning was spent visiting one of Compassion's very innovative Cottage programs. Compassion secures or builds a house. A "mama" - usually a young widow who senses God's calling to pour her life into raising children who are not her own - oversees life in the cottage. Seven or eight orphans - some of them siblings - inhabit the cottage. Mama tends to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. In effect, she raises the children. The teenagers living in the Maranyundo cottage are - at the risk of sounding redundant - respectful, kind, mature, intelligent, and lovers of Jesus. They have nothing. Unlike teenagers in America, the walls of the rooms they share are bare, and there is no furniture to fill with earthly possessions other than a bed. Yet, they have everything. Each one lost their parents in the genocide. Each one lives with the pain. But their relationship with Jesus and their love for their cottage "family" is obviously redemptive. Again, I am blown away.
Then we go on a home visit. This time, seven of us walk down a long dirt path past the ever present poverty to the home of 12-year-old Clarice, a Compassion-sponsored child. Clarice and her bald-headed little sister are dressed in their blue school uniforms. . . the best clothes they have. Like all Rwandan children we've met, Clarice shows respect to us by finding it difficult to look in our eyes. However, we can't take our eyes off of hers. They are beautiful eyes that are full of love and hope. Those of us who fit, sit in the cramped main room of her cramped home.
A couple of others stand in the doorway. Her father is at work. Her mom is gone on an errand. These two beautiful young girls host us. We ask about her Compassion sponsors and how Compassion has impacted her life. We hear the story we will hear over and over again - Compassion has changed her life and the life of her family. You want to grab these little girls, pull them close, and never let them go. As with all of our home visits, we give the family what is to us a small bag of food (rice, flour, juice concentrate, and cooking oil). To them, the bag is gigantic and represents sustained life. I watch as the little girls embrace what I take for granted. One member of our team crumples up a $50 American bill and puts it in Clarice's hand, telling her to give it to her "mama." Yep, we break Compassion's rules. . . which is so easy to do in a situation where what is pennies to us represents two months salary for a needy family.
Before we go we stand together to hold hands and pray. This time, Clarice prays for us. That's right. . . this twelve-year-old prays for us. I'm still trying to figure out what it means for the poorest of the poor to pray for the richest of the rich. I'm realizing that what happened was that the richest of the spiritually rich, had in fact just ministered to the poorest of the spiritually poor. Thank you Clarice.