I expected each day to have one grand experience that moved me, touched my heart, and made me question why I had been blessed with so much. I was so wrong. Each and every moment of every day was spent being overwhelmed, changed, and reached the depths of my soul.
I’ve been told by those who have visited in the past that, “No body else will quite understand, aside from the group that you went with.” I don’t know that I will ever be able to explain to someone, who was not there, the things that I have seen or felt, or that I will give any justice to the incredible experience that you undoubtedly experience when visiting Rwanda. My impacted mind is filled with experiences, and joy, and what hope looks like. In an attempt to articulate what I saw, experienced and felt I have compiled some of the most memorable experiences from the trip.
We heard testimonies from sponsored children about how thankful they were, not one forgetting to say, ” I hope God blesses you or thank you Aspen Heights!” I think the most impactful thank you of the sponsored children was the boy that told his sponsor he loved her. He was as innocent as a person can be, and those few words showed me how much we were really making an impact. I never understood the impact that one simple action could have. It does not matter how minuscule we are compared to the universe; completing a small act such as sponsorship, or fitting a child for shoes literally can change that child’s life.
I sat there and watched the joy on the faces of the children as they took turns leaping into the game of double dutch or blowing bubbles with their small mouths for the first time in their lives. I watched classes of literally over one hundred students and one teacher wait for all of their classmates to be seated before starting their meals. At the men’s vocational school we heard more testimonies of older boys, boys that did not pass the 6th grade until they were 18. Boys that lived on the streets with no parents or family, no guarantee of food, sleeping under trees and dumpster diving. Boys that at one point thought that the whole world was evil and that everyone was against them. Then we heard these boys, with no prior knowledge of our visit, thank us for helping people that we did not know and had never met. This moment hit me hard. Fighting back tears I felt again the love that can only be felt from the heart of battered, worn, yet hopeful and loving people.
Sponsorship is important. People feel bad for the children. It is a visible problem. But what about the widows, the women who have been abandoned, the women who have no families left to care for them? We did multiple hope visits, in which we took three months of food to women in need. We met a woman who’s legs had been amputated and was in tears because she was so happy just to have people visit her. We met a woman in her nineties who could barely walk, could not work, and was being fully supported by Africa New Life Ministries and groups like ours who pay for her food. We met women who were learning trades such as sewing and cosmetology, who before Africa New Life, had no way of getting out of their abusive relationships. We saw a country where everyone is in need, everyone needs something, even if it is just someone to visit them and love them for the short time they are there. I saw that Aspen Heights as a company, with ANLM, are providing this along with sponsorship, and it was inspiring to see.
It is because of ANLM , Aspen Heights in Africa, and mission groups that there is hope. It is hard to trust a for-profit company and a company that promises true child sponsorship, because so many companies have made false promises and testimonies. I myself did not believe; but if I could tell people one thing from this trip it would be that ANLM is the most efficient and impactful companies I have ever seen and partnered with Aspen Heights in Africa and companies alike we are unstoppable! Children who have gone their lives starving are eating breakfast and lunch, women who would die in their homes alone are being loved and fed, boys who were sleeping on classroom floors are sleeping in a dorm that Aspen Heights in Africa paid for, children who are never hugged tight enough are overwhelmed by the love of groups like ours, children who would never go to school are being sponsored and realizes their importance, and most of all we are making a difference.