I did not expect to fall in love with Rwanda.
I was already in love with another country, another culture, another people, another cause.
The ten days I spent working in Thailand serving women in the sex trade industry turned my world upside down. It seemed unreasonable to expect the same from another mission trip.
And yet, Rwanda wrecked me. Only my wrecking happen in country. It happened at home.
A week or so after the trip, I began a 30 part blog series. I quickly negotiated it down to 12 posts. I only wrote 4.
Those four posts are among the most challenging and most fulfilling I have ever written. I learned so much about Rwanda. Those lessons helped me begin to process the things I saw and experienced.
Even though friends and readers urged me to continue my series (Thank you for your loving texts and notes. They did not go unnoticed or forgotten. I may continue the series yet.), the truth is I HAD to stop writing.
This country I didn’t expect to hold a candle to Thailand was undoing me.
She still is, and not just her, but her neighboring countries as well. They have been for years, only I didn’t realize it until now.
Rwanda has stolen my heart, and I am shocked.
It isn’t the weather which hovers between the mid 80’s and low 60’s almost year round.
It isn’t the landscape which takes your breath away.
It isn’t the people. Although they are amazing.
It is the pain that draws me to Rwanda.
Her pain, a pain so different from Thailand’s yet equally weighted in need of freedom and healing, speaks to me.
It is the kind of heartbreak that requires one to begin again from a place of complete devastation.
It requires a fight, resilience, and strength to keep breathing when it hurts more to breathe than to give up.
It is a pain that clings to hope.
A hope that dreams of loving and being loved, of healing and forgiveness, of living fully alive accomplishing dreams bigger than your heart can hold.
It is a hope in something so much bigger than yourself. It is a hope that begs our Savior to show up and move.
Yes, Rwanda wrecked me.
I am still picking up the pieces. Processing all she taught me. All she is still teaching me.
I am leaning hard into my Father’s arms, asking him what He wants me to do, discovering how He wants me respond.
These are the things Rwanda is teaching me:
I still love Thailand.
I pray for her people daily. Human and sex trafficking are atrocities that need to be eradicated.
I hope to return someday to both serve and enjoy Thailand’s culture and her people. However, I am not certain that my heart’s purpose is to be poured out on trafficking.
There is room in my heart for Rwanda.
I also hope to return to Rwanda, and hopefully to her neighboring lands.
I feel a deep connection to Rwanda that goes beyond short-term missions. I am not certain what it means, or where it will lead.
My heart quickens for children ravaged by war, for the orphan, for the traumatized, for the faces that have experienced and done more than their hearts can bear. These are the people I see myself serving.
Although my personal experiences are far from theirs, it is a landscape of pain I relate to. I see the hurt behind the smiles. I see the joy behind the hurt. I see the hope underneath it all. It is a hope that begs to be set free.
And I want to help.
Helping doesn’t always mean going.
Before I return to Rwanda, helping means supporting and sending others to discover how their stories collide with Rwanda’s.
This has been a long journey for Joe and Tanya. Originally, they were to go on our trip. Life and circumstances delayed their trip. Finances and conflicts have continued to fight against them.
Yet they have pursued and pushed and persevered. Joe and Tanya have chosen faith and obedience over fear and comfort. They are going to Rwanda, and I am so excited!
Short-term mission trips are vital.
They not only impact those we serve, they impact us.
Short-term mission trips are designed to wreck us. They are designed to change the way we live, to make us aware of needs around the world, to spur us to action, and sometimes to help us realize our calling.
When a mission trip wrecks you it is important to understand why.
Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes it happens in an instant. The secret is remaining open to the wrecking.
That means facing each day, whether at home or abroad, with an open heart and open hands while you let “a broken world slam into your comfortable life” ~Jeff Goins, Wrecked
It is not an easy thing, but it is worth the effort.
What do you think about short-term mission trips? Has a mission trip ever wrecked you? Where was it and why? Leave a comment and tell me your story.