Saturday, December 21, 2013

Building Homes of Hope

We are not allowed to take pictures of the children at the Home of Hope Orphanage. Even though that makes my trigger finger itch as a photo addict, I understand and applaud that rule that honors dignity and privacy.

And do I even need to post the pictures anyway? Or tell about the experience. Whether any of us have  been to a place like that or not (and everyone should), we know.

Can't you see the kiss given to a blind crippled boy sitting in a chair in the corner of the blue room with the cement floors - the room designated for "disabled" toddlers? This boy was about 7. He responds to touch - backrubs, head massage and singing. When he was kissed on the cheek, his blank face turned to a joyful smile.

Or the little one with the twisted legs who scooted on his bottom to the one who would hold him - sing him a song and gently rub a finger around his ears, his nose, his lips and hug him and hold him and rock him like a mama would.

There was the little girl who had on a pink Old Navy skirt. Lydia and I had matching skirts just like it many years ago. She held our hands as we walked through the orphanage.

Whether here in Africa, or home, we know. Each story brings us to tears or brings us to shut our minds and hearts to it. The injustices make us pound our fists. We cheer for the ones who get to go home, we ache for those who dont. We call out to God for them to not just survive but thrive and to bless the ones who care for them every day. Some of us adopt, some send money. Some volunteer. Momma T's words should remind us to do something - wherever we are.

In the house I am in tonight, in Kigali, two toddlers are sleeping in their cribs (well, almost sleeping - Glo is still singing). As newborns, one was found in a field and one in the jungle. They didn't go to the orphanage. They came to this family.  The word was out that the "Muzungu" (Western) family would take them - first one, and then a few months later, the other. After all, the missionary family had two sons already from the Home of Hope.

Sure. New to a country. Four kids already. TIGHT tight tight budget without full support from their home congregation. Two more mouths to feed! Did they have a choice? Yes (not really). Could they "afford" it? NO. Did it work in their busy lifestyle of ministry 24/7? NO. But Keli tells me about friends here who send her diapers, and friends at home who send cash, and an extremely loving extended family who sacrificially help. Glo turns two in January!

Before we went to the orphanage this week,  Keli got out the photobooks and had a moment with B and N. It was time for them to visit again. They were both gentlemen at Home of Hope charming the nuns, and taking up with all of the kids on the playground, as kids do.

Building homes of hope.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


For such a blabber mouth, I'm somewhat at a loss for what to write. I know, right?  
 I thought I'd come here and blab blab blab and post post post. 

No. Limited access to wifi is part of the reason. 

But really, I'm processing it. And living it. To the full. 

So here's a picture of a water bottle sized delicious avocado. 

The beauty of unplugged

Electricity. Lights. THE COFFEE MAKER.  Battery chargers for phones, laptops, cameras.  We need the power. We want the power. But when it's off, life MUST go on in Rwanda. So sometimes the coffee doesn't brew and you don't get a morning shower. Or candles get lit and flashlights get brought out at dinner time. It might be dark for ten minutes or four hours or all day. But it happens here. A lot. And no one freaks out. 

Happened our first morning here. A Sunday. 

At Christ's Church Rwanda, the generator was hooked up to power the stage - microphones, a projector to share words to songs and scripture, amps and lights. But when the generator failed right when all the music had been sung and played, everyone leaned in a little closer to hear Bryan's devotion and Brett's sermon. 

Granted, no power is a drag here and it  hampers businesses, restaurants and other ventures. It's a growing pain of a quickly developing nation. 

So if it takes a little unplugged to be flexible and patient ... Isn't that a decent silver lining? 

This is not Luther

To market to market ,,,

I've heard plenty about the extreme amount of consumerism in America. I've nodded when missionaries, expats and international students explain that all of choices of cereal at Wal-Mart are overwhelming and I totally agree. I'm here to say that is nothing compared to fabric shopping at the Kimironko market in Kigali. 


Our last flight from Istanbul to Kigali was uneventful and we made it to Kigali on time with all if our bags. Joy. 

Can't process it all. And I can't sleep. But I am under a mosquito net in Kassidy's room. The beautiful birds are starting to sing. It's just after 5 am. We'd been warned about this cacophony and I'm thrilled to finally hear it. Sigh.  

Church at Christ Church Rwanda in a few hours!

One night in ... Istanbul

Funny thing happened on the way to Kigali ... Our plane from Los Angeles was tardy and we missed our connecting flight in Istanbul. 

Cue two girls who have seen the movie Taken 2. One of us was a little more dramatic about the fact we were in the city where the intense mother-daughter kidnapping plot unfolded and the other one of us is the parent who likes adventure. So we had that going for us. 

Now picture this pair trying to learn the Turkish language real fast, find our way to a gate, a passport line, a visa line, and then figure out how to get to the hotel voucher thingie place, if we even wanted to leave the airport and go out there. We might have stuck it out at the airport but the Starbucks had no vibe and the only duty free shopping I saw was liquor and Legos. Sorry Grant, no sitars. 

Plus, completely unnerving was the lack of wifi or phone service ANYWHERE in the part of the airport we were stuck In. We were anxious about letting the Shrecks know we were NOT on the plane! And I couldn't figure it out. In 2013!

By the way, nothing against the lovely Turkish people, but there is nothing recognizable in their language to me. So much for all of our Latin study! Turkish is not a romance language. 

We eventually navigated our way to the Turkish Air hotel transport and found out our hotel stay would be complimentary with a pinky swear promise they would bring us back in time for our flight 24 hours hence. So we bussed out into Friday night in the big town of Isranbul.   Our hotel was in the Sultanhamet section, old town, complete with narrow brick streets, tiny sidewalks, lots of pedestrians and a fast-driving bus driver. We were very near several historic sites including the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia. But after a nice comp dinner and staying up til 3am, we slept in and I read up on my Istanbul history and tourist industry from our hotel room. We were still Taken-leery and now I was concerned about getting run over by a bus. Oh, I  was awoken by the call to prayer at 5am. So I had some Jesus time. Did it again at Noon. The afternoon drive back to the airport, after lunch and a Turkish coffee, was enchanting along the coast of the Marmara Sea. 

Dreams cone true after being stalled in Instanbul

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Checked. Under weight!

The scales were good to us. All crates underweight with a gracious and encouraging American Airlines ticket professional! Thanks to Stephen and Cathy, Keli's parents, who zip-tied, made custom labels and lugged our cargo. Thanks Kelly O (kellyanna) and Quail members for sending so much love, peanut butter, velveeta and candy canes to our missionary families!!!! Love. Thanks to Jennie, Emma, Rachel, Grace, Abigail and James for the love, gifts and hugs to take with us. Thanks to Stan, Giles and Grant for letting us GO! 

UPDATE: not even left OKC and I lost my passport for about five mins. Agent helped me call tsa, police and was about to retrace steps to the ladies when I found it in my shirt. #calmdown. For real. 

Dreams coming true!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A little back story

Another Rwanda connection occurred at Martin Park Nature Center in Oklahoma City one day. The kids and I had met up with Keli Shreck and her girls, Kassidy and Natalie, for one of our usual adventures of hiking, playing barefoot in the creek, watching Giles catch fish barehanded and writing poetry about the sounds we heard. Home educating at its absolute finest, especially when muddy toes were involved! 

Fab Three. Nat, Lyd and Kass at Martin Park. 2008?

I mentioned that our minister's family was pursuing adopting two children in Rwanda after visiting an orphanage in Kigali when they visited missionaries Dave & Jana Jenkins.

The next thing we knew (well, this post can't go on forever), the Shrecks welcomed two new sons into their lives ... from the orphanage with the blue door. 
N and Lyd at Martin Park.

And then the next thing we knew, the Shrecks announced they were moving there. To Rwanda. In Africa. (Use your imagination here to envision my selfish reaction to this "shocking" news. It's not pleasant so I won't go on about it.)

Keli had been my support system and rock for home educating. When I first tentatively emailed her eight years ago asking, "we're thinking about this (yanking our kinds out of public school to do this weird homeschool thing that I know nothing positive about) ... what do you think?"

BAM! I got instant, positive feedback with how-tos and promises of help. I guess I soon figured out home educating IS weird but we loved it, thoroughly. We would NOT have made it without her (and many others who loved on us and kept me calm-ish). 

So, yes, I was a brat about her leaving me. But God's plans are greater, so I attitude adjusted to a low simmer. BTW, watching a family sell it all, raise the money and splitso to a new country to work as full-time missionaries is not for the queasy. That turned my simmering to swooning.

I'm quick to overcommit, so I told her we would come to Kigali. Just like I had told Alain. 

Dreams come true, eventually.

The "We're Selling it all and moving to Rwanda sale." 2009

"Baby Evey" Linden with Lyd and Nat.

Onawa & Keli. 2009. Rusty & Onawa and their now THREE
girls work with the Shrecks at Christ Church Rwanda.

Giles & Alain in MI, just because I love this pic.

Can't really be any cuter.

THE BIG TRIP to Springfield, IL
to see the Abraham Lincoln Museum.

You are going to leave your husband and SONS for Christmas?

Yes. So thanks for your shock that feeds my mom guilt! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Packing and saying TTFN

It's possible I've made my last trip to the store! More Christmas lights and other supplies are ready to hunker down, suck in their guts in each crate, and NOT weigh more than a collective 50 pounds.  

I could never share enough about how God has moved to make this trip possible. While some are avid travelers, most of us are not. In fact, I'd lost hope of ever getting it done. The money. The paperwork. The hassle. But from the moment Lydia and I spoke the words out loud more than a year ago that we would, indeed, for realsyreals, go to Rwanda for Christmas 2013, God has affirmed the journey.

He sent encouragement, unexpected (and shocking) checks in the mail from friends to cover expenses of passports and shots and other junk for just the right amount without prior knowledge! He sent more friends who opened their lives to host garage sales, others who dropped cash at the sale, parents who paid my daughter extravagantly to babysit, and a dear friend who had the resources to say GO, your ticket is covered. "Go and tell the stories for us." Thank you. 

Our congregation, Quail Springs Church of Christ, helped us so much. With resources and funding these precious members helped us.  But also, Q showed us that, YUP, a mother and daughter can take a mission trip at Christmastime. You GO girls! Nothing odd about it. 

One more day to pack, tie up semester ends with our homeschooling, fret about who will set the timer on the coffee pot for Stan each night and whether the fam is taken care of for Christmas gifts (boo consumerism). I'll also beg Giles and Grant to snuggle with me just for a minute while we read an advent story. Yes, I'm a dreamer!

And dreams come true. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dreams Come True

It was more than 25 years ago. I went to one of those college meetings about going to Africa. It was to Zimbabwe, and Kent Allen was leading the group. I so wanted to go but I was timid. I had just returned from the Vienna Studies Program at Oklahoma Christian University, where I had met that handsome feller, Stan Shelton. I was tapped out financially on adventure. It wasn't the right time, I guess. And I was ABSOLUTELY certain that I would be a world traveler.

Then there was college graduation, a career to start, that Stan to marry and his return to school, then more career, AND THEN BABIES ... and then homeschooling and then moving to the country to garden and raise chickens and children ...  and then, and then, and then ...
Aug. 2006, our first Sunday with Alain. Look at my tiny kids!

In 2006, God gave us a new son. Alain Shema! He was among the first ten Presidential Scholars to come to OC from Rwanda. And we "adopted" him as a local family who would look after him. He spent Christmases and breaks with us - including a couple of trips to Michigan. We had chats about Jesus, X-Men and how to cook cassava. We navigated WalMart together to find lotion for his skin and hair products - and milk and bananas. We got him some eye glasses thanks to the love at Cross & Crown Mission. 

I fretted about whether he had a warm coat and whether he had friends. So we got him a coat, and I joined Facebook to stalk him (it was 2006!). 

And we talked about 1994. Hesitantly.

I wanted to know everything and I was at home reading every book I could find and crying about it: 
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda,
Left to Tell and Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda. 

We were sort of advised not to badger him with questions (or that's what we thought was communicated to us). Later, Alain told me that he didn't think we cared much about the genocide. Sigh. But the deep conversations happened eventually.  

first time to ice-skate. Alain in green hat.
Stan tried to teach him to drive, but after Alain told him that the red octagon signs were optional, we left that job to the professionals. However, I do recall, when college had barely begun and his English was adorable, that we drove him from our home at the time in Gatewood, back to campus. A fellow motorist at NW 23rd and Classen was stranded, so Stan and Alain pushed the guy off the busy street and out of danger. The man was 
Asian and didn't speak English. So we had Stan, Alain and the gentleman working together and then nodding heads at each other and shaking hands. It was beautiful.
The graduates: Alain and Placide, and top,
Rwandan Pres Kagame shaking Philibert's hand.

My children LOVED and LOVE him. And he worked SO hard at OC as an electrical engineering major. He graduated with TOP (the toppest!) honors. And, he was accepted to Purdue to pursue graduate studies. A rockstar!

That's enough about this Rwanda connection story because there are more. Alain is working in Livonia, MI and won't be in Kigali for this visit. BUT I GET TO MEET HIS FAMILY. At long last. Two mothers who love a boy with all of their hearts. I can't wait to look into her eyes and thank her for raising such a strong man who loves the Lord. 

We moved out to the Back Forty right after graduation.

Dreams Come True

This girl ... Is going to Rwanda this week!

Isn't she a genius? She came up with this watering method in below freezing temps, all by herself! Farm Girl! Tell her she's cute so I won't get in trouble for posting this.