"But I am like a green olive tree in the House of God; I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever."
When you think of a symbol of peace, what do you think of? A dove, a white poppy, a peace sign, an olive branch?
When I think about a symbol of peace, here’s what I see:
She’s also my hero.
Her name is Olivia, which means “olive tree.” And like her namesake, she has had to be tougher and more resilient than most children.
You see, Olivia was born handicapped, to parents living in poverty. In Rwanda, having a handicapped child is not as easy as it is here. There is often a lack of medical care and parental support. Olivia’s mother had to stay at home to care for her daughter, all the while dealing with neighbors who said that Olivia would never be anything and who could not understand this faithful Mama’s dedication to her child. They often told Olivia’s family to just leave their little girl at some rich person’s gate; to get rid of her.
"He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry, and will save them."
In November 2012, a team of Canadians traveled to Rwanda with an organization called Shelter Them, a ministry that cares for orphans and vulnerable children. While on their three week visit, they were able to distribute several wheelchairs to needy families who could not afford one. Olivia was one of the children chosen to receive a chair.
The next day, the mission team decided to visit one of the families who had received a wheelchair. Jules, who helps to run the Shelter Them office in Kigali Rwanda, knew that Olivia lived nearby and offered to guide the team to her home.
What they saw, shocked them.
It was an eye-opening experience for the team, who had never seen such shocking poverty.
When God’s people come together, mighty things happen.
Just one month later, Olivia’s family was given the surprise of their life: a brand-new rental house, paid for by donations from people all across Canada.
Recently, Olivia was taken to the St. Mary of Rilima Pediatric Orthopedic Center to receive medical attention. No one could have guessed that this little butterfly of a girl with sparkling eyes, forced to crawl on the ground like a caterpillar her entire life, was about to burst out of her cocoon.
I wonder, sometimes, if Olivia’s mama knew what a prophetic name she was giving her newborn daughter. The olive tree for which she was named is famous for its ability to grow no matter what the circumstances. Olive trees are virtually indestructible, their gnarled and twisted trunks proving to be one of the strongest types of wood. They remain untouched by storms, wind, and even fire, living for millennia. An olive tree is seen as a symbol of peace, wisdom, glory, strength, and purity. Perhaps it should also be seen as a symbol of hope; the same hope that gives strength to a little brown-eyed girl and keeps her looking ever onwards and upwards.
And I think to myself, if this little child can keep on pressing forward and reaching for her dreams, then what prevents the rest of us from rising above our most impossible circumstances and giving Glory to the very Lord who created the mighty olive tree thousands of years before a little handicapped girl would bear its name?
And if this little girl can keep smiling through situations that no child should have to experience, what prevents us from doing the same?
Each time we look at Olivia’s precious face, may she be a symbol of hope, of resilience, of bravery, and of strength.
Click this link to view a video of Olivia walking! Olivia Can Walk!
May she continue to grow healthy and strong; an olive branch in the House of her Lord.