Archives for the month of: October, 2012

Jambo! I have said this one single Swahili word (meaning ‘hello’) more times than I can count.

Taryn and I cannot even begin to describe our experiences and the heaviness of the past two days. Our hearts are anguished and shattered from the unfathomable stories we have heard. So we have decided to give you a glimpse of what we are taking in and documenting with one specific story.

This is Sifa Shukuru. When we met Sifa she entered the room with a grace that cannot be described. Her shy smile immediately warmed our hearts. She is a gentle and kind young girl who loves to sing and dance for fun. Often you can find her playing games with her friends, many of these involve dance. Sifa dreams of being the director of a school in hopes to help poor people, orphans, and those in need. This aspiration is extremely humbling after we heard her story, which was heartbreaking and unimaginable for such a young girl. Here is her story.

At the age of four she was working in the farming fields with her mom and younger brother, when a group of rebel Rwandan soldiers ambushed them. Her mother and brother ran away, and tragically she was left alone. Sifa was held captive and raped one by one by the ten rebel soldiers. Her mother returned to her after the soldiers had left. Because Sifa was so young and endured such a trauma as this, she was found unconscious. Sifa’s mom took her to the hospital, and they were able to do surgery to try and repair the damage. Her story was told to the director of the Dina Center for rape victims. After Sifa was released from the hospital, she was sent to the Dina Center for girls. Her parents are still alive and she is able to visit them only on holidays. She needs food, clothing, medicine, water, school supplies, and support for her studies, as well as prayer for emotional and physical healing.

Before I come to Africa next time, my goal is to learn French; it is the official language here, and it would help a TON with communicating with the people.

Today was an exhausting and heartbreaking yet encouraging 10 hours of documenting. Exhausting because it was non-stop. Heartbreaking  because we heard countless stories that continued to echo with each child. Encouraging because we were able to witness how ALARM is working to provide resources for these children to get the education that they desire in order to follow their dreams. Taryn and Janet, our interpreter, interviewed 19 orphans today, and I worked to capture a small piece of them through photography. At the end of every interview, Taryn and I prayed for each of these children.

We also were privileged to be a part of ALARM’s tailor graduation for 17 young girls. It was a very humbling experience to see girls who have gone through the worst of circumstances, be offered a new opportunity that will forever change their life. It was fulfilling to see their faces light up, and their family present in support of them.

It was quite a life changing and eye opening day…

P.S. On another note, Taryn and I each are not responding well to the food, and are hardly able to stomach the different combinations provided to us… so we might return home having lost a bit of weight.

Bonjour from Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo!

After a 21 hours en-route, Taryn & I safely arrived into Kigali, Rwanda yesterday evening. Twice while we waited for our bags, the electricity went out in the airport, but we were thankful our luggage made it. We were enthusiastically greeted by three of the leaders from ALARM, and taken to the base to eat dinner and sleep.

Taryn woke up this morning, ill, with painful stomach cramps and chills. Before we left for Goma, she thankfully started feeling a bit better. We ate breakfast, and were on our way to Goma mid-morning. The three hour drive was incredible, driving through lush green mountains, and observing a very different culture and way of life operate. It is surreal to be here.

Once we made it to the DRC, we were greeted by three new ALARM leaders. They brought us to the Bungwe Hotel, we ate a delicious lunch of roasted chicken, and all met to talk about our schedule. The remainder of the afternoon and evening we have had to rest and catch up on sleep.

Tomorrow the work begins. We are going to a girls graduation where they have learned how to tailor and sew clothing. Two of those girls that are graduating are orphans that Taryn and I will be getting their information, story, and photos for ALARM. After the graduation we will meet all of the other orphans that we will be documenting.

That is all for now… there is wifi in this hotel, so I will try to update daily if possible. Please continue to pray for our health, energy, grace, and that we would be a source of light to shine in this land.

Until next post, Salut!

I think it is interesting that, one day seven months ago, with much time on my hands, I devised the contour of Africa out of burnt almonds. My thought was, “Africa, oh how my heart longs to meet thee.” I had no idea that I’d be on my way there so soon.

Today, Taryn and I begin our trek: Portland, OR > Amsterdam, Netherlands > Kigali, Rwanda. It will take us a solid 24 hours to get there. The time difference from Oregon is nine hours ahead. If traveling goes smoothly, we will arrive there at 7:00pm on Saturday (Rwanda time). My desire is to communicate as much as possible for those who are following along with this journey, so keep checking for new posts.

Bon Voyage!

I observe everyone in this world being so wrapped up and consumed with trying to do all they can to make their dreams come true and fulfill their desires… I’ve been one of those people. “Once I have this or that, I will feel better, my life will be meaningful and valuable, I can stop working so hard, I will be happy…” Those are ideas that we believe in because it’s how the world portrays life is supposed to work, but it’s not truth. Think about it, imagine you had everything you wanted… your dreams and desires fulfilled.. would you be completely full? Would that be enough for you? The world – Christians & non-Christians alike – are so focused on making everything but the one true God enough, so focused on looking to everything else but the Almighty to give fulfillment and satisfaction, but the truth is – is that only God can ever be enough for us… nothing else will satisfy completely.

I honestly don’t even know what my dreams and desires are anymore. I have an idea of things that I’ve always thought were my dreams and desires… yes they are good things to want, but I think about having them, and I still will be unfulfilled and searching for more and new ones to give me fulfillment because what I have reached and obtained still isn’t enough. I’ll be wanting and expecting more from relationships, and when I don’t get it I’ll be disappointed and hurt. I’ll want to do more impactful things to make a difference in this world, to give myself a “name & legacy” that other’s will continue to talk of long after I’ve died… how much is enough though? …before we work ourselves to death and our works become our glory rather than God’s?

Why doesn’t God fulfill my (good) desires and dreams? What is His dream for me? What if He wants me to dream a new dream that I’ve never imagined?… What could that possibly be? Perhaps it’s discovering that even beneath my desire to love and be loved, my greatest desire is for the Most High, my Lord and Savior. What if everything I could possibly hope for and want on this earth crashes down in flames around me; for the reason of generating an ache to feel deeper and stronger passions & dreams to know Him, that become more intense than my desire for all the good things I still want? Yes, this is His desire for me.

I have been desperately searching for fulfillment in all the wrong areas. It’s been my discovery through much destruction and hurt I’ve caused others and myself, as well as through a process of revelation, heartache, humility, weeping, grieving, confessing, repenting, letting go, and more, that God alone is enough for me. I have finally learned this crucial lesson in the toughest way. It has long been my tendency to put second place desires (relationships, dreams, and the like) above my first place desire (God). I especially have looked to relationships to be enough for me, not my Heavenly Father. In doing so, I placed demands, expectations, pressures, and hopes upon the other that were unfair, selfish, unrealistic and wrong, as well as expecting and demanding that they come through for me in the way that I would come through for them. It was easy for me to be the victim and manipulate to get my way. I didn’t respect other’s free will and “no’s”. My disillusion of being hurt by them, was really me being hurt by myself in the unhealthy way I maneuvered. Blame was put on everyone else but myself, and was my excuse to avoid accountability for my actions and motives. Operating in this way, I set myself up for monumental disappointment and hurt, made the other person an idol, and denied God from being my one true fulfillment. The truth is, is that I’m pitifully human, and have for my entire life been surviving and functioning in self-protecting habits, defense mechanisms, and ugly learned behaviors. I was blind, but the veil has been lifted and now I can see wholly and clearly.

It is detrimental to look behind and see the path of damage I left that caused much hurt and confusion in other’s and me. I am now exerting myself to clean-up and repair this damage, in order for healing and reconciliation to triumph. It starts with me taking responsibility and ownership for my actions, motives, and words, by humbly confessing and authentically repenting. When I don’t get something that I feel I need from someone, or something doesn’t go as anticipated, or shitty circumstances happen, or whatever, it’s me letting go, standing and saying, “God, You are enough for me in this…”.

Recently in my life, the Lord has worked healing to the core as I have positioned myself in a proper stance with Him by slowing down to a stop and remaining still. I’ve spent endless hours, days, and months alone, isolated apart from the relationships and things that I look to for fulfillment, affirmation, and love. It’s been me deeply immersed in the presence of my Heavenly Father, praying, listening, writing, reading, reflecting, thinking, as well as receiving momentous revelation, gentle correction, healing, humility, and forgiveness. The Lord Jesus Christ has been my only every day friend that I have been sprinting towards for everything.

I will conclude with this powerful challenge; I cannot change or heal what I do not acknowledge.

just a glum & melancholy October fall day… the vibrant beauty intensifies while being nurtured with tears from Heaven.

I was thrilled to receive my passport in the mail today, with this blissful documentation that will allow me into the Democratic Republic of the Congo!! Please read about my dream and upcoming journey to Africa; I would love for you to partner with me in this incredible opportunity. This is really happening!