I love to travel. I also love to serve others. Put the two together, and I am in heaven. This fall, I had just one of those opportunities. I went to Rwanda with five other people from my church on a short-term mission trip.
Over the years, I learned- mostly through observing others- that an important aspect of going on a short-term mission trip is determining before you leave what you hope to get out of the trip.
What you hope for may not be your biggest take-away, but it keeps you focused on going for a purpose rather than just going through the motions.
Why I went to Rwanda on a short-term mission trip?
Here is the answer I posted to this question on our church’s Facebook mission page:
Last fall a young man named Alex shared his story at our church. Alex was a 4 year old Rwandan boy when the 1994 Genocide occurred. He watched as friends of his family murdered his grandmother and uncle. Alex and his siblings fled for their lives. They lived in unimaginable conditions for a long time. Eventually Alex found himself in an orphanage where he received a small shoe box sized gift from a ministry called Operation Christmas Child. That gift changed his life.
Over the years, Alex came to know Christ, connected with World Help’s Children of the World Choir, was adopted and received an education in the United States. Eventually he began working with Operation Christmas Child. Recently he had the opportunity to return to Rwanda and give shoe box gifts to children in the same orphanage he found himself in after the massacre that devastated his country, his family, and his heart.
The most stunning part of his story though was that he took this opportunity to visit one of the men who murdered his family in order to offer him the same forgiveness Christ had shown him.
Alex’s story is powerful no doubt, but it resonates with me personally. It is the reason I want to go Rwanda. Because of my personal story, I am drawn to a country that models not just Remembering but also Forgiveness and Reconciliation.
Yes, I want to go and help the hurting in Rwanda. There are so many in need, and my heart breaks for them. But when I hear the stories of Rwandans like Alex and like those leading Africa New Life, the ministry we worked with, I realize they have discovered something very important.
As genocide survivors, they understand that for healing to occur we must admit the truth of what happened in our lives, confess our part in it, and forgive those who hurt us. Yet they go a step farther. They do the work of reconciling and rebuilding.
My purpose for going on a short-term mission trip to Rwanda is to learn from the resilience of a people who understand pain and yet chose not to allow that pain to destroy them. I will do this by serving the people of Rwanda, working with them, and building relationships with them. My hope is that I can learn how they practice reconciliation so I can better practice it in my life.
*If you would like to listen to Alex’s story, visit the Springbrook Community Church website/ messages archives. Search Operation Christmas Child message date 08/18/2013 or visit the Operation Christmas Child site to view a video of Alex’s story.
I am grateful I knew my purpose for going to Rwanda. It kept me focused on seeking an answer to my question. I learned so many things while in country, but I was blown away by how much I discovered about remembering, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to share what I learned.
This means taking an in-depth look at the Genocide. Because it is a difficult and often overwhelming subject, I will not post about Rwanda daily; however, through this process I will answer several important questions.
Understanding how God answers the hard questions is vital to the process of rewriting your story. [Tweet “Understanding how God answers the hard questions is vital to the process of rewriting your story. “]
Below is a list of posts I plan to write for this series. As they are written, I will add links so you can come back to this page and find new posts. However, subscribing is easier. Each post will show up in your inbox as they are written. Click here, enter your name and email then click the Subscribe to List button.
- Why I Went to Rwanda | Finding Purpose in Going
- A Brief Overview of Rwanda | The Context to Serve
- The Genocide & Ebola | How the Unthinkable Happens
- The Genocide | Where Was the Rest of the World?
- The Genocide: Where is God in a World of Hurt? | On the Problem of Pain
- The Genocide: Why We Must Remember | On the Importance of Remembering
- The Genocide: Putting a Face on Pain | On Remembering Well
- The Genocide: What it Means to Be a Survivor | On Making a Difference
- The Genocide: How Should we Respond? | On the Role of Compassion
- Africa New Life: A Brief Overview of the Ministry and Its Purpose
- The Genocide & Ebola: Applying What We Learned | On Never Again
- The Hardest Question: How do You Forgive the Unforgivable? | On Doing the Impossible
Have you ever gone on a short-term mission trip? What was your purpose for going? What did you learn from your experience?
I look forward to hearing your answers and traveling this journey with you.
Until we meet again.