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So long Rwanda!!! You will be missed!

Wow.  I cannot believe the time has come for this amazing journey to end.  I cannot believe that today is our last day as Peace Corps Volunteers.  Sarah and I have been in Rwanda for over 2 years and have completed our service with Peace Corps and now it is time to go home. 

Saying goodbye to our Rwandan family, neighbors, friends and co-workers was not easy and saying goodbye to the kids that we have come to love so much and that we have invested so much into was even harder.  Watching as the truck was packed and all the neighbors we love looked on was a little overwhelming.  Hugging the kids we love so much and telling them we may not see them again was heart-breaking.  One of my best friends who spent everyday visiting me walked off into the bushes to hide his face because crying in public is a cultural taboo.  They keep telling us the village will be “cold” now that we are gone meaning it will be sad and lonely.  So, I tell them Peace Corps may send new volunteers to replace us and then they tell me we can’t be replaced, they won’t be the same, not like us, that we are special and different from other Westerners, that they want us to stay.  This is such a difficult thing to carry…the feeling that we are leaving the people we love so much and that we have lived with hand in hand on a daily basis for the past 2 years.  They have truly changed us.

We have learned so many things over these 2 years.  We have learned that humility in understanding any situation and patience and sensitivity in dealing with cultural differences and/or disagreements.  We have learned that you can’t change a culture in 2 years but you can open minds to new ideas and set the wheels in motion for positive change.  We have learned that a few determined, motivated and upright people can make all the difference, that a small amount of resources in the hands of the right people can do amazing things, that you cannot help everyone but that is not an excuse not to try.  We have also learned that people you love and trust can turn on you, say horrible things about you and truly hurt you and that people are capable of doing horrific things but also are capable of a great amount of good.

We have been blessed with the chance to see the world and do amazing things such as: raft the Nile River, bungee jump over it, walk with lions, sit with mountain gorillas, go on safaris, see Zanzibar, learn a new language, live in a beautiful rain forest and meet so many amazing people from all over the world.  But the best of all was having the chance to be the hands and feet of Christ, to serve and love on these people right where they are.  And somehow, in the end, after all our effort and time, I feel that we are the ones who have come out blessed and with all the benefits…doesn’t seem fair.

Over the past 2 years, we’ve seen and experienced a joy that no amount of money or material possessions can produce…a joy that surpasses all understanding…at least our understanding.  We’ve seen and been a part of a community and group of people that have a love and heart for their neighbors that isn’t defined by status, background or segregated by city streets or blocks.  We’ve seen precious poor children suffer and die from 100% preventable diseases.  We’ve been betrayed, slandered, mocked and persecuted for doing what was right by those most close to us, those we trusted and loved dearly.

Over the past 2 years we have faced corruption head on and at times been a victim of it.  We’ve seen its effects first hand on people, fought hard against it at times and sadly, often, lost the fight.  We have developed relationships with people that are so different from us, learned to love, understand, support and believe in them, prayed with them, laughed with them, cried with them, buried their dead with them, celebrated marriages with them and the birth of children with them. 

Over the past 2 years we have seen poverty on a scale never before known to us. Poverty where many days and nights families don’t eat simply because there is no money for food, no 5 dollars to pay for health insurance that will cover the entire year resulting in most children going un-treated. Poverty where little girls rarely go to school because they are expected to tend to domestic chores and their younger siblings all day. Poverty where little kids run around naked because their parents don’t have the 50 cents for clothes or soap and where childhood is stripped away and replaced with non-stop manual labor.

We have battled cultural norms that often enslave people to lives of hardship, poverty, and malnutrition and probably will not live to see the impact our efforts have made or have not made on their lives.  We’ve often felt beaten down, defeated, discouraged, and always feel completely overwhelmed by the immense disparity between the rich and the poor in the world, by how much work is left to be done, how many lives are yet to be reached or touched, how many orphans, widows and lost people are yet to be cared for both physically and spiritually. 

However, in the end, we have come out encouraged, uplifted and honored that God has chosen us (all of us) to be his ambassadors of love and compassion to the world and to help others less fortunate than us in ways he has gifted us with.

We are trying our best to be the hands and feet of Christ, to love, serve, and care for those he would want us to care for, to forsake our own conveniences and amenities to help others, to allow Christ to glorify himself through our lives.  Though we are truly full and overflowing with inadequacies, inefficiencies and shortcomings, fortunately for us, his love, strength and power are proven most perfect and effective in our weaknesses.

We find ourselves daily challenged by his command and commission to GO!  And we are trying to respond to that command.  There are no doubt more qualified, gifted, talented, experienced, and educated people that us in this world but he has seen something in us worth redeeming, some potential for good and he has seen this quality in all of us, not just some or a select chosen few.  

I want to include here a page or two of the book “Radical” by David Platt that I feel is critical for all Christians to understand.

I wonder if we have in some ways intentionally and in other ways unknowingly erected lines of defense against the global purpose God has for our lives.  It’s not uncommon to hear Christians say, “Well, not everyone is called to foreign missions,” or more specifically, “I am not called to foreign missions.”  When we say this, we are usually referring to foreign missions as an optional program in the church for a faithful few who apparently are called to that.  In this mind-set, missions is a compartmentalized program of the church, and select folks are good at missions and passionate about missions.  Meanwhile, the rest of us are willing to watch the missions slide shows when the missionaries come home, but in the end God has just not called most of us to do this missions thing.

But where in the Bible is missions ever identified as an optional program in the church?  We have just seen that we were all created by God, saved from our sins, and blessed by God to make his glory known in all the world.  Indeed, Jesus himself has not merely called us to go to all nations; he has created us and commanded us to go to all nations.  We have taken this command, though, and reduced it to a calling, something that only a few people receive. 

I find it interesting that we don’t do this with other words from Jesus.  We take Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations, and we say, “That means other people.” But we look at Jesus’ command, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” and we say, “Now that means me.”  We take Jesus’ promise that the Spirit will lead us to the ends of the earth, and we say, “That means some people.”  But we take Jesus’ promise that we will have abundant life and we say, “That means me.”

In the process we have unnecessarily (and un-biblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all.  In this way we choose to send off other people to carry out the global purpose of Christianity while the rest of us sit back because we’re “just not called to that.”

In Romans 1:14 - 15, Paul talks about being a debtor to the nations.  He literally says, “I am in debt to Jews and Gentiles.”  The language is profound.  Paul is saying that he owes a debt to every lost person on the face of the planet.  Because he is owned by Christ, he owes Christ to the world.

Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell.  We owe Christ to the world, to the least person and to the greatest person, to the richest person and to the poorest person, to the best person and to the worst person.  We are in debt to the nations.  Encompassed with this debt, though, in our contemporary approach to missions, we have subtly taken ourselves our from under the weight of a lost and dying word, wrung our hands in pious concern, and said, “I’m sorry.  I’m just not called to that.”

The result is tragic.  A majority of individuals supposedly saved from eternal damnation by the gospel are now sitting back and making excuses for not sharing that gospel with the rest of the world.

But what if we don’t need to sit back and wait for a call to foreign missions?  What if the very reason we have breath is because we have been saved for a global mission?  And what if anything less than passionate involvement in the global mission is actually selling God short by frustrating the very purpose for which he created us?  

These are some profound words and should encourage all of us to think about how we perceive missions.  Indeed we all cannot go and live overseas in other nations.  We have to be realistic with the life God has given us.  But we can all respond to his command in different ways.  In the book there is a man named Steve, an accountant.  Steve is constantly asking his pastor, “How can I lead my life, my family, and my accounting firm for God’s glory in Birmingham and around the world?”  He is leading co-workers to Christ; he is mobilizing accountants to serve the poor; and his life is personally influencing individuals and churches in Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe with the gospel.  And, there are so many other people in the world like Steve using their skill sets to glorify Him.

Each and every one of us has the potential to live our life in a way that glorifies God and responds to his command.  We just have to make the effort to figure out what that way is and do it. 

So, this is Jarod and Sarah, signing off from Rwanda for the last time. Thanks to everyone who has followed along with us on this crazy and adventurous journey.  We love you and will be seeing many of you very, very soon and we cannot wait!

Oh…almost forgot.  We will be moving to Malawi in June to work with Esther’s House (a Christian outreach organization… so stay tuned for the next leg of the journey to see what wild, crazy, and amazing things God is going to do there.

Be blessed!


So long...

Oh man. What an interesting couple of weeks/days we've had. It's just been plain nuts. It started off around mid-February. We had a Close of Service (COS) conference in which we were told how this last few weeks should go as far as ending our service and leaving PC. Then, we got home and within a week had to return for our COS medical exams. The day mine ended I rode back to Banda with my supervisor from America and we had them plus the owner and some board members until about the 15th of March.

Jarod relaxing with Zuba on the porch for the last time

After that...its just was pure insanity. We started packing up our home. This is no easy task when you have lived in a place for two years and can only take a couple of suitcases home. In addition, when living in a culture in which everyone thinks you owe them something and should give away all your things and money to them...we faced a dilemma of what to do with all our crap. So we decided to sell it all. Every single thing. From pencils to furniture. We, of course, gave them the cheapest prices ever i mean like 5 cents and such but it was the principal of them investing into something that mattered to them and thus avoiding the "give me mentality". It was a HUGE success. We sold everything we had! And people wanted more but we didn't have anything else to give. It was great. We also showed the kids their first movie. They watched WALL-E. It was such a delight watching their little faces during the movie. They also got a yummy cup of porridge to fill their little bellies!

watching WALL-E 

Our days leading up to the goodbye was tense and stressful. Telling everyone when we were leaving and then constantly following up their questions of "yes but you'll return quickly" was overwhelming. The night before we left we hosted a going away party for all of our closest friends that had been important to us over the past 2 years. It was so sweet. We fed them this food called "akabenzi" which is basically pork and plantains but cooked in the most amazing way. They were so excited as many of them can not afford meat and this was their first time eating this dish that is so common in their country. We all then proceeded to tell awesome stories and memories about one another. They did a traditional dance for us and we joined in as best as possible. It was hilarious.

me trying to do the "cow dance" with my friends

All of our precious people...its so hard to believe 2 years have passed

The next morning was bitter sweet. Levi, our Supervisor showed up at our house at 6:20 am. We started packing all of our things and everyone came to help. There were so many people trying to get our things arranged that it was overwhelming. Naturally, this is the part where my "This is Africa" saying starts coming in to the equation. I climbed into the bed of the truck to arrange the suitcases and my arm just starts burning! I look down and some insect is stinging the mess out of me. Before I could get it off, it got me twice.  Then, Jarod hands me the bike and we realize it's too long. So we have to remove the back wheel from it. Then, of course we had to remove the back wheel of the other bike as well. But, we finally get it all packed. I'm doing a walk through of the house and walk outside and I'm just not paying attention so I kicked a rock and my toe starts bleeding. AHH!

Finally the moment has come...we say our goodbyes. This is the part where we lose it. My little babies, all present and accounted for on my legs. I couldn't take it! I just started crying. And then naturally because they don't cry a woman says "Jesus Christ look at Sarah, she's crying." So everyone starts staring. Then, I realize Jarod's crying and I lose it more. Finally and thankfully, we drive away. But those emotions couldn't stay long because less than 2 minutes later the car gets stuck and we have to all get out and push. Well...we as in me, Jeremiah and Jean Pierre push while Jarod just laughs at all of us and watches. Then, about 5 minutes later we get stuck again. But this time, when the truck takes off...he keeps going so we had to walk the shortcut up the mountain to catch up with him! Finally we get back in and literally 30 seconds later we get stuck again. He of course takes off again and we walked another 15 minutes to catch up for the 2nd time. I was thinking to myself how I just couldn't wait to never do this again! Thankfully, that was the last time we had to push.

Once we got to the main road, we were off! Within an hour and a half we were pulled over (in Rwanda, the police stand on the side of the road all day and pull over almost every other vehicle that goes by just because they can and want to see the paperwork etc.). This cop of course sees that we are white and assumes Levi is just a driver so he makes up this bogus law that we absolutely know to be wrong and writes Levi a ticket and takes his driver's license (also how they operate in Rwanda...takes the license and to get it back you have to pay the ticket). I am livid at this point! I'm screaming and Levi is laughing at me saying "This is Rwanda, you have to just be patient" blah blah blah. No. So we get pulled over about an hour later again and she sees the ticket and asks what happened. We explain to her the situation and we can tell by the look on her face it's a bogus ticket. She asked us to go speak with her boss and tell him what happened. So we do...probably because I was so furious that I couldn't see any reason not too. We arrive and they quickly direct us to the supervisor. Jarod and I explain what happens and he is surprised. He's the person in charge of the entire Southern province....meaning he's that dudes boss. He immediately calls and scolds the person on the phone and gets the ticket dropped. So Levi can now go get his license the next time he passes through. woo hoo!!

We continue on our way. After being stopped a 3rd time...we arrive! We head to Peace corps and naturally none of the people we needed were there (during business hours) and the people who were there didn't have one clue what to do with all our stuff we're required to turn in. Eventually the man in charge of taking PCVs stuff shows and takes care of it all in 25 seconds. We then went to our friend Emily's and we unpacked and it was such a wonderful feeling.

Since it's our goodbye moment with Jeremiah and Levi we all decided to go to dinner. Now, I may just be hateful at this point but I believe the waitress deserved to be straight up punched in her face. She forgot to bring Jeremiah's drink for more than 30 minutes...then got mad when Jarod got up and asked the bar for it. When our food comes out it looks great...burgers and fries. But we got our bill, she had added fries to all of our food. We told her we didn't add extra fries. She said they don't come with it but apparently the menu doesn't say that...they just bring you the food and then charge you. I said well you should say that on your menu and she says "well everyone knows". I quickly replied well I don't live here so I don't know! Jeremiah was mad but quickly decided to add thank you to her and she made a huffing sound and said "you people are making me tired" and walked off. It was not as nice as it sounds being typed. It was totally rude and Jeremiah was like "excuse me??" So that was my cue to leave before I got hateful! So we left the table a mess and I stormed out of there. Honestly, lady you have a job because I was hungry. Learn the words...customer service.What a day.

I keep thinking this place has made me an abnormally patient person with so many things and then a day like this happens and I wonder if I'm 12 again....thankfully we'll be home soon and then we can just remember the good things and spend time with our amazing families and friends.

5 days! I can't believe it.