Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Week in Little America

Culture shock hit me as I was blessed to have the opportunity to visit the capital city of Kigali last week to help choose Rwandan students to be a part of the Presidential Scholars program. This is a program started by a consortium of universities that work with the Rwandan government to both contribute the money to give Rwandan students a free education in the US at universities like my alma mater, Hendrix.

We took the 150 students who scored best on the national exam (given at the end of high school) and gave them an English test. We then picked the best 50 to interview. Finally, we chose 17 deserving, wonderful, and now very happy students.

I learned a lot from this experience, but was also surprised at how much spending a week in the capital with 9 other Americans eating at nice restaurants and speaking English felt like…well, being in America. Like a Little America, and it gave me a bit of culture shock. I had my first hot shower in over 6 months. Others toured around the city, but I was content to spend free time enjoying a bed larger than my room here in the village, a shower and bathtub, a hotel pool (though unheated of course), a hotel gym, and the tv and refrigerator in my room (neither of which I used because I didn’t need them, but it was nice knowing they were there….). All these “usual” parts of a hotel really just kinda blew my mind. So did eating hamburger and fries, tacos, etc. There are places in the capital to get such Americanized food, but to get to the capital is quite a trek, not to mention it all costs a lot of money. So I was so blessed to have this opportunity paid for. 

There are all kind of missionaries in all different places. I am by far not the poorest, and not in even the poorest environment. But my village is substantially different than a growing developing city like Kigali (where there is also nothing wrong with being a missionary). So while there, I got to realize how much I have identified in a way with my village. All of a sudden the people around me weren’t speaking my new language or wearing the types of clothes we wear or eating the type of food we eat. And it felt a little odd to be a part of. So even though now back home in the village I don’t have my hot showers any more, it’s still good to be back. 

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Hard Lessons Learned

Hard Lessons Learned

Today I spent a good 30 minutes crying on my bathroom floor. When I first accepted this call as a missionary, I thought many things:
1) I will be changed, but will change others more.
2) Because this is a calling, I won’t look back.
3) Because I am intelligent and well educated, I will do my job well.
4) My faith will grow through this experience.
5) I will be here for many many years.
6) Old demons and struggles of mine from years past will not haunt me again.

6 months in, I have come to discover many things.
1) I am learning way more than I am teaching, and I teach a lot.
2) Before coming here, I’ll admit I idolized Rwanda and was a little rough on America sometimes. Being here, I’ve seen things about Rwanda both more beautiful and terrible than I had known before. But I’m even more surprised at how God has changed my relationship with my home country. He has given me a sense of pride in where I come from, with it’s problems and all. He has given me a sense of gratitude for my church and family that I previously took for granted.
3. Running a school is hard work. There are a lot of aspects of my job that I am super amazing at. There are others that I am not. I’m humbled by my lack of experience. I’m being shown that while God has gifted me greatly in educating and leading, my forte is not and continues to not necessarily be managing, though I give it my best daily.
4.) My faith flounders all the time. Being here in the center of God’s will for me is not enough. I still have to actively pursue him daily as he actively pursues me.
5) I might never come back to the United States. I might come back in 3 years. I might come back at the end of this year. I cannot plan. I am open to listening to what I feel I’m being asked to do, whether that means being homesick or looking like an idiot for not being gone nearly as long as expected.
6) Wherever you go, there you are. The struggles that have plagued me for many years follow me wherever I go. Demons I hoped were behind me have resurfaced and require me to fight, even in a place where they are not understood. Hence, the crying today.

But as I sat crying, I also ironically felt a lot closer to God than I have in a while. I just kept praying, “Use it for your glory. Use it for your glory. Use all my misconceptions, all my inexperience, all my naivety, all my hard work, all my love, all my struggles, all my sickness, all my uncertainty, all my failures, use them for your glory.”

To tell you the truth, I have no idea what God is doing. I don’t know if he’s training me and preparing me to better serve this school long term, or if he used this school as a way to get me to this country so he can show me somewhere else he wants me to serve here. I don’t know if he is using my time here to change Rwanda more, or affect those in America following and praying for me, or just to change me. I don’t know if he wants to soften me to living in America again, or teach me to love a new home. I don’t know.

But I know that game I have played with these children has brought a smile to them.
I know that every new Bible story they have heard from he has enriched them.
I know that every long hour put in has helped coworkers have more peace.
I know that my friendship has been a blessing to the other missionaries here.
I know that nothing has been wasted. And nothing will be.

So why the picture of 7 year old me? Because I love this photo. I have this peace on my face. God is with that girl. God has a purpose for that girl. And, “the LORD will fulfill his purpose for me, his love endures forever.” Psalm 138:8 So let him continue to work in me, however that looks.