Thursday, June 27, 2013

We'd Like to Share....

Welcome to Kimisagara. Watch your step.
Because of this compassion.

Because of Anasis.

Because my husband's heart broke.  And mine was already in pieces for Ismail.

Because of my boys.

     It became very clear during our time at Kimisagara that God had big plans for us.  For once, I didn't have words.  I couldn't write and I couldn't put my finger on it.  Ryan had a full heart and a much more clear vision for what work needed to be done.
     Dieudonne and I agreed that we would wait one week.  During that week we would pray and we would listen to God for direction.  That was Thursday.  By Saturday morning (7AM, we were still on East Africa time), he was texting me about the kids.  Here we are, a week later.  This is what we've got.

   We have a name.  A 501c3 submitted.  3 conference calls, a lot of cell phone minutes and an inbox full of God screaming "YES!THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO!" in the form of agencies, partners, mentors and people that know more than us.  We also have our team.  Dieudonne, Kayla, Ryan and I spent today getting coached by His Chase .  We are ready to share our mission:

  1. That every child of Kimisagara Orphanage shall know that they are a child of God (1 John 1:3)
  2. Every child of Kimisagara will receive the best education for them.
  3. That basic needs including clean water, food and shelter are met.

     What makes us different then every other non-profit?  It isn't us that is different.  It's Peter, Claude, Ismail, Issa and Gloria.  It's how Inasis stopped kicking around a ball to pick up a crying toddler.  It's about how these kids can sit on their dirt play space and overlook the world; hearing and seeing the schools and homes and safety that is all out of reach.  And yet they wrote this:

   To be honest, we are overwhelmed but incredibly encouraged and confident.  The plan is written and it's big.  Our goal is to have every child over the age of 10 sponsored and in a boarding school by the first week of January (when the new school year and term start).  Sponsors will have the option to visit their child each summer with Ryan and me.  We also plan to have an option for those that have excelled academically and socially to participate in an exchange student program here in Council Bluffs.  Ryan's school has been DHS approved and the initial I-20 documents are ready.  Room for more, right?
   It's a lot.  It's going to require some launch parties, some return travel to Rwanda, a lot of prayer and a ton of support from our community.  Kayla, D, Ryan and I are confident that our community is big.  We are the body of Christ and we are commanded to do this.  So let's go.
PS  Website up soon.  Invites in the works.

Friday, June 21, 2013


     I couldn't write in Rwanda.  I didn't have the words and I couldn't put my finger on what was going on.  I could share a lot of stories, pictures and feelings with you but it would not be enough.
     All I can do now is share that this is where Ryan and I met our future.  I can see clearly that God has been leading us here all along.
     The years of struggling to know how to love without restrain our Rwandan sons.  It was all for this.  Kimisagara is filled full of boys and young men.  The ones too big to hold and too grown up to tickle.  I was overwhelmed by the need to love them.  And even more overwhelmed that He has put that same urgency to do this in the heart of my husband and my D.
     What's really amazing is how God has orchestrated all this.  Let me tell you first about my D.  Dieudonne is a college kid in Omaha.  My brother introduced him to me years ago, when he was 18, because he thought maybe at the time he wanted a career in healthcare.  Dieudonne ended up at college near us, so we often would pick him up from the dorms and bring him to our small group for dinner.  I need to mention that D is a Burundian refugee and his story is his to share.  But obviously, he looks like some of my children, he is a great role model for all of them and his history overlaps with Rwanda's.  Last year, when we decided to lead this trip, we invited Dieudonne over.  When he said he wanted to go, we felt like he absolutely, positively had to be on our team.  He could interpret for us.  He could be an example and relate to these children more than anyone else, maybe ever.  And it would be an opportunity for him to return to his home (or close to it).  There were hurdles like crazy to get him back to Africa.  God opened windows when doors shut, He moved mountains and He cleared a path.  Dieudonne's presence in Kimisagara has been priceless.
     Midway through our time in Kimisagara, Dieudonne and I began talking about how every one of the older kids and men wanted to be in school.  We started asking about the cost.  We made a plan.  Our team began taking portraits of every single child and young adult in the orphanage.  We went back to our guest house and did this.
    With the help of all our team and the staff at the guest house, we created a spread sheet and gave every face a number.  Then we went back.
     Dieudonne and I sat on a stone ledge over a cliff in a hallway.  And we started to ask questions.  We wanted to get every face a name and a story.  It was hard.  Really hard.  But that is a story for another day.  What happened when we asked these questions was that this place became holy.  I took off my shoes as I listened.  Sometimes I would look at my D and he would say, "Did you expect this to be different?"  and we would continue on.  It felt like the most important thing I have ever done.
They stayed near us even after we finished.  Every now and then, Dieudonne would strum his guitar.

     We are spending this time now praying and waiting on God.  Next week, we will begin to write the stories out.  And we both know that our path is together, following God, in the future with these children.
     Then there is this man that I married.  I know we both assumed that he would be the man in charge of the money, keeping to schedule and generally balancing me out.  What we didn't expect was for God to shift Ryan's heart parallel to mine in so many more ways.  "Don't tell Kara, but this place does kinda feel like home," was his FB status when we landed in Rwanda.  He loved without restraint.  He found those children that stayed back, the ones with the downcast eyes in the shadows. He held their faces so that he could look in their eyes and he told them that they were loved by God and that they mattered to us.  At night, he knew when to comfort the team and when to challenge them.  He cried. A lot.  And he promised them that he would be back soon.  Ryan was he first person to enter Kimisagara and he was the last person to leave.    He has also informed me that he's ordering "How to Speak Kinyarwandan" on Amazon.  And he is always, always a man of his word.
Speaking truth to the fatherless. This is God's hands and feet.

     My boys at home didn't miss me at all; an answered prayer.  They did great.  We came home to them asking us what we were going to do next in Rwanda.  They just got it.  To us, this is more evidence that we are headed exactly where God wants us to be.  Remember, I am the mama that previously had drama filled weeks following a just a change in her work schedule.  This is big.  This is God.
     Our team included my parents.  To see their hearts break and to watch the physical and emotional stress that they endured humbled me so much.  Having my mom and dad love the least of these in Rwanda gives me confidence to carry on down this uncertain path.  It comforts me to know that they can truly understand why we feel called to this place.
     The rest of our team, I previously called it a band of misfits.  We could not have created a more mismatched-yet perfectly placed-group of people.  Each person had heart to give. No one hesitated, not once, despite conditions worse than anyone should ever live in.  They were beyond great.
     There aren't any words to describe Kimisagara. It is set apart from every other orphanage in that is it physically one of the most unsafe spaces I have visited but it also is the most love filled.  I saw God in the big kids that carried the little ones on their backs.  I felt love in the joyous singing that spontaneously erupted.  I witnessed young men, orphaned their whole lives, snuggle babies just because they could.  Not only that, but women began to trickle in, telling Dieudonne and me that this place welcomed them when their husband's left, when no one else would.
     That's why I took off my shoes.  Holy ground.  True religion.  Widows and orphans in their distress.  

This is my favorite.  My sons were never held like this.  And the walls above them didn't have this beauty.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Away We Go

   Tomorrrow Ryan, Molly and I head to Rwanda.  We are so blessed to have the opportunity to take loved ones with us.  Our time isn't long but every minute has been given a lot of thought and we are there with one intention: to love on kids who will probably never have an earthly family.
    A lot of people don't get it.  
  • "So you aren't, like, building a school or something?"  Nope, no building. No medical work.  Our job is to hold children that never get held.  Listen to kids that have something to say.  Pray for the mostly forgotten and forsaken. 
  • "It seems like that would just hurt those kids to give them attention and then leave them"  My scientific method, backed by years and years of research in child development, tells us that infants that get skin-to-skin contact for just an hour are healthier than children who aren't.  There is no price to place on giving a child touch.  The alternative, ignoring the 210 million orphans is worse.
  • "Don't you just want to take one home?"  Ugh.  This comment is the worst.  I know when people say this, they mean "it is so sad and if I saw that I would want to do more." So do more.  But don't consider children a souvenir or an accessory.
     While we are gone, we honestly have no worries regarding the boys.  They will be loved well (really, really well) by their Uncle Andy and Katie, then their Nana and Pops.  Dressing the crew is tricky, so I have labeled each boy for each day that we aren't here.  There are love notes stuck inside their underpants (I know boy humor), there are treats and fun activities and casseroles in the freezer.  I have been praying diligently for over a year that they don't miss us much while we are gone, that Etienne's heart will be confident in us, that our family here will have patience, strength and energy for My 3 Sons.  Truthfully, most of the time I feel like it's a Blake-E-Zeke world and the rest of us are sometimes invited in.  That is God's grace that we aren't worried about anything stateside.
     That being said, we covet your prayers!  Prayers that everyone stays safe and healthy, that Andy and Katie, Nana and Pops all have fun with little frustration. Prayers for good sleep for everyone. Prayers that Blake, E and Ezekiel just continue to hold onto each other (wrestling to the ground while doing so, I'm sure). Prayers that Ryan and I lead our team well,  both physically and spiritually.  
     Whew. This is crazy.  After all these years, it seems that we thrive on crazy.