Rwanda: One Grandmother

Her son-in-law giggled, and our translator explained.

"Your hair. She's confused by your hair. It's soft...but...unruly."

I laughed long and loud.

"Yes. Yes, it is," I agreed.

The minute I stepped into the home, I was drawn to the grandmother. She sat quietly in her seat, and, instinctively, I knew that her sight was long gone. Taking my seat beside her, she turned and, with her fingers, began to look at me. She reached for my hands and tenderly traced each finger, then deftly made her way up my arms until her fingertips reached the unruly curls that made their home on my shoulders. She skipped over them at first and explored my face by tracing my jawline, then my lips, nose, eyebrows, and ears. 

After her cursory expedition, her fingers soon returned to my curls. First, she petted them. Next, she wrapped one around her pointer finger. Finally she "scrunched" them...just like I do when I step out of the shower. She had been very quiet up until that point, but, as she scrunched, words exploded from her mouth. Like my hair, the ends of her phrases curled up, and I could tell she was asking questions.

"She says you could wear a scarf," Dariah explained.

I laughed again.

In Northern Rwanda, sitting across from a blind woman, my hair was making its mark.

As our group took their seats around the living room, we began to learn about the family that made their home in this house: a husband and wife, their four children, and her mother. The rest of the extended family was killed in the genocide. To support his family, the husband travels to the city to purchase food and supplies at wholesale cost, then transports his load back to their village and re-sells the goods at retail prices. The commute limits his time with the people he loves, and, when you ask him how you can pray for him, he'll tell you that he hopes they will own their own home one day. If they own their own home, they won't have to pay the high rent, and the father will be able to get a different job closer to home.

The love that fills the three rooms of this home is incredible. When we asked the couple how they met, their smiles forced every trace of shadow out of the room. As his wife giggled and looked away, her husband told us that it was love at first sight. He saw her and knew that she was The One, and he promised himself he would win her love. She told us it didn't take much work...he had won it the moment she saw him. As they told us about their children, they beamed with pride. Their eldest, a son, is a hard worker...good at school. Their second-eldest, a daughter, enjoys music and sings in the choir. Their youngest children, twin girls, have just turned two and both are sponsored through Compassion International.

As a participant in the Child Survival Program, this mother was given prenatal care and education, and her twins were delivered safely at full term. Once the girls were born, Compassion continued to support this family with medical care, parental education, and skills training. Each Saturday, the mom and girls head to the Compassion Project where they attend classes that equip them with the knowledge the need to break the cycle of poverty. On their first birthdays, the girls were enrolled in a pilot program to sponsor children under the age of 5. They each received a sponsor and, because of that sponsorship, they are provided with everything they need to thrive: immunizations, nutrition, medical care, preschool classes, and love. Boundless, beautiful love.

Being in the midst of this family was a complete and total joy...every moment of it. As we left, they extended me an open invitation: return for dinner whenever I'm back in Rwanda. I promised to take them up on the invitation...and to bring dessert when I do!

The people I met in Rwanda were remarkable. Each and every one of them has been affected by the genocide, and, by and large, they have chosen to move forward in forgiveness and love. They are such an inspiration, and I miss them with every fiber of my being.

Every morning, when I step out of the shower and scrunch my curls, I think of this incredible grandmother and her beautiful family. I pray that I'll leave a legacy just half as incredible as hers.

A big part of the legacy I leave will be the way I have chosen to love children by becoming a Compassion sponsor. Want to learn more? Visit Compassion.com or contact me. I'd love to tell you all about it!