Abstract and Amazing

Abstract and Amazing

Sponsorship.

One of our team members put it quite well – abstract. It wasn’t until this week that I actually realized how complex, yet strikingly simple it can be. Most find an adorable face online, resonate with their description, and choose to send an organization some amount of money every month. Where does it go? How is this helping a child who is seemingly worlds away? Do they know I exist? Do I truly know about them myself?

Although beautiful already, meeting Raissa was a surreal experience. I wasn’t aware that this situation – sending $35 a month to Best Family – was perfectly orchestrated by God’s sovereignty. So much so, that it wouldn’t be until one year later that I realized I had actually met Raissa previously. As I scroll through pictures on my Facebook, smiling in our Rwandan hotel bed as I glimpse upon Lake Kivu, I become stopped as I notice an old picture of a smiling girl with hearts drawn on her forehead. Was this Raissa? Surely enough, this smile under the drawn on hearts from 2016, showing the same still-aligning teeth, is the same I met days before. The Lord in all his graciousness and love, brought me back to Rwanda, and this time so much deeper. More abstract and complicated than before – but also more beautiful. Every time I come to this country, this continent, the seeds sink deeper into my heart. What was once a fun-filled and joyful couple days spent at Best Family has become an experience that needs careful intentionality. It isn’t always that you get to meet the girl or boy who was once just a picture on your laptop screen.

I knew this day would flash before my eyes in an instant. How can I soak this in, and not miss a thing? So scared to miss one smile or big hug from this little girl. What’s more – we got to visit her family and her home near the Best Family branch in Gikondo. Sure, I had participated in home visits previously, but they never resonated with me like they would now. The home I was stepping into was the home of the smiling girl who desires to be a teacher one day. Immediately we were greeted by her grandmother, who although does not speak English, she does love the same God. Raising her hands to the sky and softly speaking “murakoze” (thank you in Kinyarwandan), I knew we were thinking the same exact thing, just in two languages. Thank you Lord that an abstract and distant situation is now so personal and so heart-wrecking.

After carefully walking down a small dirt decline, you meet her front door. Walk in, and you’ve arrived into their humble but beautiful living room. There is a couch on each side, and a recliner in the middle, blocking the entrance to the next room. As my eyes look around, they aren’t distracted by much. And isn’t that the way it should be?

What I recall is a picture frame close to the ceiling, with Jesus inside. Most importantly, I recall the way I sat on the couch with Raissa on my lap, trying so hard to hold back the tears. As one falls down my face, I am not really sure if sadness or joy overtake me. Maybe a mixture of both.

I told my team that home visits can be a little awkward. This time, I just embraced the silence between our translator, our team, and her family. Sometimes it’s perfect just to sit, and be still, and enjoy the presence of others. Briefly we exchanged questions about one another, and got to know her grandmother, and also her dad, who was very sick. If you look to the corner nearby, you’ll see the bags of food we brought – rice, flour, sugar, and beans. It’s easy to think pridefully about these things. We come, we visit, and we bless the family immensely by giving them something that seems pretty simple and small to us Westerners. This family, however, blessed me far more than I ever could them. My $35 a month does not really compare to perspective. That night I remember writing in my journal “would Raissa be proud of me, if she saw the life I was living in America?” What are the things I am so tightly holding onto with no eternal significance? Would my life, if shown before her eyes, make her proud? Or would it show her things that only cloud most people’s hearts?

Admittedly, and a bit shamefully, I look forward to going home – where I can comfortably make my Aeropress in the mornings and drive my car to the job in which I have a salary. Honestly though, none of that compares to sitting in a materialistically humble home with big, big love and joy. Although life does not promise me another visit to Raissa, or even Rwanda, I hold tightly to this experience and pray that many others can as well.

Guest post by Sarina Thomas