Saturday, 13 April 2013

Rwandan Sisters and Newfoundland Adventures

People say, “Home is where the heart is.” That may be truer than most people realize. For some people, “Home” may be returning to the place they grew up. For others, it’s a favorite vacation spot that they return to year after year. Maybe for you, “Home” is found with a group of people: your children and/or spouse, perhaps, or maybe your friends or other family members.

I think my home is in Africa.

At least, that’s where my heart is.

Over the past couple of years, Africa – specifically, Rwanda – Has become part of me. I eat, sleep, breathe, and live Africa. I can’t get away from it; it’s there with me, all the time. It’s there when I lie awake at night, whispering Kinyarwanda words and phrases to myself. It’s there when I burst out singing “O Suifuni Mungu” at random moments during the day. It’s there when I write letters to my two girls in Rwanda. (Scroll to the top of this blog and click the tab that says “My International Family,” to see pictures of them) It’s there when I find myself listening to the African Children's Choir everywhere I go. It’s there when tears fill my eyes every time I hear certain songs or see certain pictures. It’s there when I see an Africa-shaped hole in the clouds and the sun pouring through. It’s there when I seem to feel an invisible drum beating in my chest, invisible eyes following my every move, and an invisible hand clasping mine.

It was there last weekend, when Rwanda came to town in the form of twin sisters Jocelyne and Josephine. 

Let me say this: “boring” is not a word in these girls’ vocabulary. They are Rwandan firecrackers. The joy of living literally bubbles and splashes out of them at every step, and if you’re around them, you can’t help getting drenched!

Needless to say, the weekend of April 5-7 was one adventure after another. Friday, we had a get-together at the home of Sherry and David, who run the Newfoundland branch of the Shelter Them office. Saturday, we headed down to the mall for an all-day fundraiser. And Sunday, the girls sang and spoke at our church, Open Door.

I could give a rundown of the weekend and a play-by-play account of all that happened, but for me, the technical details are not as important as the “little” things… the things that most people would forget.

Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with “Papa Joshua” (our name for our friend Scott) and poring over photos from last years’ Rwanda trip. Sharing stories and laughter with a roomful of people connected by only two things: our love for God… and Rwanda. Listening to the girls tell stories of their homeland. Almost falling asleep in David’s armchair, surrounded by the warmth of God’s family. The nine-year-old girl who was the first to approach us at the mall, willingly donating the spare change that she had. The woman who stared spellbound at our presentation for nearly fifteen minutes as it was being played on a TV in a corner of our booth. Jo patiently weaving tiny braids into my hair when I confessed that I would love braids like hers.  The joys of watching the girls interact with people of all ages, giving hugs to all and sundry. Jocelyne throwing her whole heart and soul into playing a set of bongos loaned to us by the gracious music store owner whose shop we were set up practically in front of.  Josephine dancing fluidly in the center of the mall court, drawing stares and smiles from passerby, and then scooping up a five-year-old girl who had stopped to watch us play and twirling her around in a crazy dance. The innocent giggles of a child. The blending of chocolate skin and vanilla. Both of the girls adding their harmony to our band, Driftwood Cross, who were set up beside the Shelter Them booth.

Jo and Jo with Driftwood Cross (one member missing from photo) I am on the far left, playing the cajon.

It had been so long since I’d seen my “Rwandan sisters” that I’d almost forgotten (but not quite!) how much they simply love people. Their acceptance of people is instantaneous and genuine. There’s something almost dazzling about watching them dart from person to person, making sure all feel welcomed and special, yet somehow managing to give each individual their full attention. Whether posing for pictures with strangers, explaining our Child Sponsorship program for the millionth time, taking time for personal chats with children, seniors, teenagers, men, women, whoever; Jocelyne and Josephine give willingly and freely of themselves over and over again. And they still find time to have adventures and live life to the fullest in between!

Josephine, left, and Jocelyne, right.