Back to Gasarabwayi - by Vilija

You never forget your first Rwandan village. Mine was Gasarabwayi in August 2016. On this, my third trip, I have come to love Nasho and her people very much, but coming down the hill and seeing the church in Gasarabwayi this morning brought me a special joy! It began before we even saw the church. We were greeted by children lining both sides of the road, and they were holding flowers. They were led in song by Donata, a beautiful young woman we who are familiar with Gasarabwayi have seen grow up. She calls Patrick her father. Her smile for me came with a heartfelt “I missed you!”

I noticed immediately that the church has been painted, there were new outdoor toilets for the school, and some new landscaping in the main area. We were greeted with joy, laughter, and song, and many of the people knew many of us, like Patrick, Heidi, and Patricia, by name. We spent the morning in the church, worshiping, dancing, and praising God. Donata sang in the women’s choir and led the children’s choir in a dance for us. The children came and took our hands to lead us to dance with them.

When Lisa brought in her guitar, the whole congregation cheered! When she, Hanna, and Liz sang, the church hushed. We encouraged the Rwandans to join in on the repeated chorus, and the blending of voices lifted up in worship of our God!

For me, when I saw Kelia, a now-three year old I fell in love with on my first trip, I began to cry. She came right over to me and climbed on my lap, and stayed there for most of our visit. My heart is full of love for her, her mother, Libele, father Bosco, and baby sister, Rayissa. I also got to reunite with Kevine, Diana, and Solange, girls I’ve known from before. After a delicious lunch, some of us met with the women’s cooperative and bought some of their handmade wares, others played games outside with kids (they seemed to remember “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” from last year!), and Patrick and I visited Donata’s home. We spoke with her, her grandmother, and her cousin, Denise. With support from people from MCC, Donata went to school and now her grandmother no longer has to labor in the fields. As we met tonight as a team to share our highs and lows, I am overjoyed to hear how even our first year team members felt welcomed as if into a family today. I can’t wait to come back. When we said goodbye, Bosco told me he really wants to meet my family. Who knows? Maybe I’ll bring someone with me next year. I can’t wait to come back! ~ Vili