It has been a little while since I have blogged - I have been so busy, a wonderfully good type of busy! I have visited several AMU beneficiaries at their homes to hear about their life stories and prayer needs. I have also visited two schools in the community as part of AMU's community outreach and education campaign about HIV/AIDS Awareness. I also visit weekly with one of AMU's women's microenterprise groups where women affected/impacted by HIV/AIDS work together to sew, basket weave, or farm to provide prayerful emotional and financial support to each other (AMU provides training, loans, land, materials, etc.)
One of the homes I visited belonged to a dynamic 77-year old grandmother/survivor of genocide who is taking care of her granddaughter “Arin”who has HIV and became an orphan after the genocide. Arin comes to AMU programs. She lives in a home built for widowed genocide survivors. To get to her home we had to climb a hill, really more of a mountain which I would do again just to be emboldened by this grandmother’s tremendous faith and spirit! The grandmother explained to us how her family was once well off with many cows but after the genocide she was left with nothing but her faith remains strong. She was able to survive the genocide by God’s grace explaining that she faced many killers who said over and over, “this old woman cannot do anything” sparing her life. She is widowed and her daughter the mother of Arin and Arin’s older sister died in the genocide who she says she sensed was also HIV/AIDS positive. She had Arin since she was four months old and knew when she was around five years old after taking her to the hospital that she was infected. She said that with God she has been able to provide for Arin. Despite her challenges, this grandmother has more life, faith, and spirit in her than I have seen in most.
I also visited two schools as part of AMU's community education campaign about HIV/AIDS. The kids are so beautiful, welcoming, and full of spirit.
I accompanied Rev. Samuel and Chantal Utamuliza who is the Coordinator for AMU's HIV/AIDS project in Kigalito a school for AMU’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign. One of the schools we visited was the Bweriankori Primary School where I met the Headmaster, several teachers, and students. For their HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in the community AMU goes out to schools/churches to talk about prevention and also services. Another component of AMU’s partnership with schools is AMU’s provision of needed resources e.g. additional classroom space, bathrooms, water heating systems, school supplies, etc. The Bweriankori Primary School has been in partnership with AMU for around fifteen years in which AMU has added additional classroom space, additional bathrooms, and a water heating system.
Rev. Samuel spoke to the 400 children (approximated) children in attendance and provided them with a powerful story about a wise man who lived in a village. This man was so wise he explained that everyone in the village sought his counsel. One time, however, one of the children, a small boy, in the village thought that they could outsmart the wise old man. So the boy put a butterfly in his hand and after making a fist to conceal the butterfly’s status, he approached the old wise man and asked him whether the butterfly which he could not see was alive or dead? The child thought they could outsmart the old wise man by either killing the butterfly if the wise man responded that the butterfly was alive, or even let the butterfly loose to fly away if the wise man said the butterfly was dead. Instead, the wise man responded with a clever response that outwitted the child in the end. He said, “The power is in your hands to kill the butterfly or to let it live.” With this response the boy knew that the wise man was indeed wise.
Rev. Samuel used this story to explain to the young children that they have the power to choose life so they should take care of their bodies so that they may live. After Rev. Samuel I spoke to the children and continued this theme about protecting the lives that are in their young ands. I elaborated that with a butterfly, many people are often amazed with its beauty but do not realize that in order for the butterfly to reach that stage they have to go through a process. I said to the children that just like that beautiful butterfly they are also beautiful and in order to grow up to be adults they have to be healthy and strong in their temple which God has given to them. Going from young to older is a process that they have to cherish. As I spoke to them about protecting the precious lives from God that they have, which is in their hands, I asked them to put their fists (protecting their lives inside) in the air and say in their native Kinyarwanda language "Mfite Agachiro" which translates to "I Am Important!" They really responded well to the challenge. Afterward, Chantale spoke to the children, they sang the Rwanda national anthem, and I closed with prayer over the children.
I also visited with a group of women served by AMU’s micro-enterprise program. The women (many of whom are HIV/AIDS affected) make various items, baskets, bags, earrings, dolls, etc. to sell and provide for their families. The group that I visited with was busy making baskets, pocketbooks and earrings.
The ladies were very interested in knowing where I was from since I looked Rwandan. They asked why do I look Rwandan but do not speak Kinyarwanda? They then asked how many Kinyarwandan words I knew and they were gracious in teaching me even more words. One of the ladies taught me how to make an earring with the palm. Rev. Samuel and Chantale were there who helped with translation. It was a nice relaxed time of bonding with other women who seemed filled with purpose despite their diagnoses of HIV and/or AIDS. After spending some time, which I will do each Friday morning with a different group, I then concluded our time together with prayer as we held hands.
What a powerful journey this has been so far. The stories, really the testimonies of God's Grace and the people's resilience have been so inspiring.
Peace, Love, and Blessings,