The first morning in Africa, I think we all desperately needed our coffee!! Seriously being jet lagged was (and is) noooo fun what so ever! Our alarm went off at 6:30a.m. and we were up and dressed for breakfast by 7:15a.m. The breakfast was what became our “normal” breakfast – bread, fruit (which I never touched) and eggs made in some weird way. I had to get at least two cups of coffee before I could actually see straight (just kidding).
We were loaded up and on the bus by 8:00a.m. to make it to the church of the Blessed Mango tree. Nice name right! The church for this congregation had been destroyed in the genocide, post-genocide the congretation had met under three mango trees. Finally thanks to a donation from a group in the United States, this congregation was blessed with a brick building and then later they were blessed again by another donation. This time a roof was added. There were no windows, doors or floor (it was sooo muddy) but they did not care.
The kids were wonderful, smiling and many just wanted hugs! For many of these children they were blessed they had not seen the genocide, although sadly many were products of that genocide. They loved to be hugged on and loved on. We broke up into three groups and told bible stories and taught the kids English songs. The kids loved the stickers, bubbles and of course the candy that we handed out to them.
The bishop of the church blessed our group, we had to all stand up in front of everyone and tell our name, place we were from and our age. Yes our age! Why is age so important? Thanks to the genocide there was a small (almost non-existent) older population. The genocide that happened in 1994 (so now 17 years later) had created a larger younger population and a very small older population. Anyone over the age of 20yrs. old had been affected by the genocide, so to be our age was a blessing. The older you were the louder you were applauded! 🙂
Being 25 years old, I could not help but think about how young I was during the genoicide. How old were you? How old were you when this country lost an estimated 1 million people in the matter of 90 days. The streets we walked on, was one day a17 years ago covered in bodies, blood down the street. A very gross and disgusting thing to think about but you could not help but realize that when you were in the country.
We landed at the very airport where the president of the country was shot down in 1994. Thankfully we landed safely, but it was something you could not help but think about as we landed. As I looked at the women of the congregation I could not help but wonder how many of them had suffered at the hands of others during the genocide. You could see sickness in a few of them…probably the onset of HIV to AIDS. You saw some extremely thin and sick children…you could not help but wonder about them.
Yet joy was brought when we saw two healthy babies that were born a few weeks before we arrived. Infant mortality is so high in Africa, we prayed that this children would be the lucky ones that survived. There are so many things that this country desperately needs – medical care, education, trade, and much mental health assistance.