Monday, January 16, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Rwanda

From Katie: In July my friend Hannah began The World Race, that is visiting eleven countries in eleven months.  Currently on month six and finishing up her time in Rwanda, Hannah blogged this post about how God got her attention. It has been reposted here with permission.  To follow Hannah as she finishes up her journey, check out blog. 

"A Little More of Jesus Inside of Me"
by Hannah Dagenhart

As I look out over the valley that we are about to cross once again, something at the bottom catches my eye. A group of children are gathered down at the “bridge” (a few logs held together with barbed wire and mud) to fill up their water jugs from the creek. The water is dirty. No doubt the cows in the adjacent pasture drink from it and tramp mud through it as they pass. Nonetheless, it is used for everything from laundry to cooking and I can pretty accurately assume, for drinking.

Some of the children have spotted us now as we are descending. They have all straightened up from filling their jugs and now they are shouting, jumping and waving: “A mzungu! A mzungu!” Even though they are the most adorable kids, dressed in nothing but dirty and ill-fitting rags, sometimes I’d rather not have the attention all of the time. Anywhere we go people shake our hands, give a thumbs up, shout out greetings, or walk beside us. Sometimes I make the mistake of politely shaking neighbors' hands in order to continue on but later realize I actually know them. We have met these children before. We have walked with them up the valley, sometimes carrying their water jugs for them. We have seen them in church or passed by their homes.

Some village kids at a nearby home.

As we continue down the hill their smiles become more clear and their squeals of excitement more adamant. Before we reach them they abandon their water jugs and run to us, arms open wide, ready for hugs.
We walk hand in hand to the bottom and there they give up their water. Several times before we have helped them make it to the top, so this time they are willing to hand over their burdens. I pick up two jugs, one from each of the kids smiling next to me. While they aren’t extremely heavy for me, they’re certainly not light. Imagine carrying a couple of milk gallons in each hand as you climb the mountain. I smile and take them, in my heart half resenting that I must carry the water when I’m already tired.

Then the Lord hits me with a lesson. Hannah, these kids understand. They know how to give up their burdens to someone stronger. Remember? I told you: “Cast all your cares on Me because I care for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). How joyful these youngsters are to give up their burdens. They do not feel guilty or try to carry part of the load. They easily and freely cast off their burdens. 

I feel convicted for being selfish and unconcerned. My Jesus would never have thought twice about carrying their loads. He would be delighted to do so with no thought for Himself. Thank you for continuing to teach me, Lord. I am learning, one small step up the mountain at a time.

We reach the top. We pass off the water as we are going a different route but the smiles stay the same. The children have such joy. We meet up with our pastor who is talking to two women as they harvest corn to give to us. I continue to be amazed at the generosity of God’s people overseas. They give not out of abundance but out of sacrifice.

We continue on up the hill and to the left as we go to visit a house that we know well. What started as a visit for evangelism erupted into a discussion of Christianity mixed with a presentation of the Gospel. It ended with many onlookers and seekers gathered and a few women with lives changed. We have come back the following week to encourage these women and their children in their new faith. Our team prayed over them for provision for their children, as well as healing for two of them that are affected by HIV/AIDS. My heart goes out to them since we visited the Genocide Memorial and learned about the extreme hardships and pain since the horrible event nearly 18 years ago. Many people were killed, many women raped (mostly by HIV positive males), and others were tortured and humiliated. This country needs healing so badly.

Still, there is hope. The purpose of our visit that day is to take Bibles to the women, as they had none of their own. We give one each to Delphine and Liberty. The looks on their faces are priceless. They are truly thankful to have received God’s Word in their own language. We pray for them as they thanked us.

Delphine and Liberty excited to receive their new Bibles.

As we pass through more cornfields and plots of banana trees we come to Godanse’s house. This woman has such a love for the Lord! As one of four women at last week’s Bible study, she has a Bible that is tattered and torn. She carefully turned the pages that were still intact as she searched for the passage in Romans, handling the Word with such grace and reverence.

Now, a week later, we arrive at her home with a new copy of the Word. She quickly invites us into her home, which was crumbling, small,and smells of the putrid pig kept right outside. I have never been more honored to be a guest in anyone’s home. As I take the Bible from my backpack she holds her hands to her face in disbelief. I pass it to her as she doubles over with laughter, her eyes dancing with joy

She keeps saying, “Amen! Hallelujah!” as she thanks us repeatedly. This gift means the world to her. There is more excitement and joy than I’ve ever seen – all for the Word of God. Oh God, that we all would love your Word like Godanse. Godanse walks us all the way out to the path, still laughing and smiling as she clutches her Bible. She gives me such a powerful handshake that my hand stings. I will never forget her.

We keep walking, literally to the top of the hill. The radio tower is in sight nearby and the view of the valley is absolutely incredible. Our team is soon met with smiles and greetings from the four widow women that live in this home. One of the women, Kimana, who is usually bubbly and sweet at church, looks rather down. We ask if she was sick, and she clearly is, so we pray over her as we present her with her own copy of God’s Word. Even after being nauseous all day, you can see the thankfulness and happiness in her eyes.

Taryn with Kimana

Our tasks for the day complete, we begin our descent. There are still miles to go before we reach home, but my heart is much more thankful now than when we’d started.  As I walk the hills, I have quite some time to think. 
I begin to ponder about my life and how it compared with that of my Lord and Savior.

My feet sometimes have blisters or scrapes. They are dusty, and I have a tan line from my Chaco sandals. Some days my legs ache when I walk those hills. My presence is always announced as I walk down the street: “A mzungu! A mzungu!” Several people, young and old, run to meet me and enthusiastically extend their hands. When I stand outside of a store for more than a minute or two I am approached by beggars in filthy clothes. As I pass children who only know a few English phrases I am met with, “Give me money!” Anytime we go to visit or attend a service we are expected to share a testimony or song, some nugget of wisdom.

What about Jesus? I turned my thoughts to Him. How He had walked tons of miles through dust and dirt to reach people. He probably had a tan like mine across His dirty feet. His calves probably burned from going over mountains and walking through towns. I bet His clothes gave off a pleasant aroma of man-sweat since He wore them day after day. He had people following Him constantly – needy people – those asking for healing, those seeking teaching, some just looking for an exciting show. I’m sure He shook a lot of hands, had people begging for His attention at every moment.

In many ways I see myself in similar situations to those of our Lord. Yet, most times I react – not like Jesus – but like His disciples…

Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14)

I recently read the story in Matthew of how Jesus fed the five thousand. Do you realize how the story starts? Jesus finds out that John the Baptist has just been beheaded. One of His good friends, a relative, has been executed. He takes a boat and intends to withdraw to a solitary place, but the relentless crowds followed Him there. What does He do?

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

Then, as evening comes, the disciples tell Jesus to send the people away – they have no food. I can only imagine that the disciples were restless and wanted some supper for themselves as well. So, Jesus, already knowing they can’t do it, tells them to feed the crowd. After the disciples admit their inabilities, Jesus takes what is there and offers it to the Lord. The crowd is fed and there’s an abundance left over.

As I’m thinking about my spiritual journey lately, I realize that I’m more like the disciples than Christ. The disciples were supposed to look like Christ, yet they still gave in to their human tendencies. They were grouchy with children and they answered to their stomachs rather than to their spiritual appetites. (I know that the Twelve were godly men who gave up everything to follow Christ. They gave up their lives in the end, but at times, they’re only human. Like me.)

The house of some church members at the top of the hill.

Throughout the past six months I have been meeting with my team each night for “feedback.”  We give each other honest feedback on what we see and offer compliments as well as constructive encouragement. My team has consistently told me that the Lord has blessed me with good discernment. I realize it’s true because I can analyze these feelings and situations to see where I need to change. While I don’t celebrate the fact that I feel like a grouchy disciple some days, I am so thankful that the Spirit lets me know of my shortcomings. He points out the rough areas and breathes conviction on the things that need to change. It’s a refining process. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s embarrassing, but it’s necessary and beneficial.

Most of this month has been a battle of the mind and heart. No matter what my mannerisms on the outside appear to be, I know my heart and so does God. I have seen the importance of getting into the Word, of praying for an attitude change, of putting up a strong fight against self-pity or homesickness. The mind is a powerful thing and how we steward what goes into it will determine what type of disciple we ultimately become.

I want to be more like Christ, I really do. But it remains a conscious choice that I must continue to make every day for the rest of my life.

"A Little More"
*Lyrics by Shawn McDonald*

Just the other day went walking
Down to the corner and I saw a man
Sitting with a cup in his hand
Saying, "Hey won't you give me something
Won't you give me something to eat?"

I took a look into his eyes and
I saw he had a story to tell
But I walked away with my pockets full, full of change
And I said, "I got nothing for you"

It's time to confess that I need a little more
Jesus inside of me, Jesus inside of me

Don't you see, Jesus was homeless
Walking from city to city
Teaching people how to love
Giving them grace and mercy
Giving them grace and mercy

Now, Jesus was a friend to the friendless
Loving on all the outcasts
Teaching them that there was more
More than what they're living for
More than what they're living for

Don't you see, if you do not learn love
Then you will be completely nothing
You could be absolutely amazing
But you would be nothing

No comments: