Our Story

Our Story

We are Lacey Klassen and Michelle Maisonville; two Christian mothers privileged to go to Rwanda and Kenya with Home of Hope
from April 30-May 15, 2013. We've had an amazing experience and are happy to share it with all of you! For more information on all of the good Home of Hope is doing, please visit http://www.homeofhope.ca. Thank you so much for all of your support!

Lacey and Michelle

Sunday, 7 July 2013

A Summary

We have been back from Africa now for over a month, but I can honestly say that the goggles that I view life through have changed. I have a new lens. A lens that shows how blessed we really are to live in a country that has so much. There is one main question that people ask me when they inquire about our trip to Africa. So, I figured the best way to answer would be a blog post, because answering that question in only one sentence is near impossible. The question is: "What did you do while you were there?" So, here is a summary of what I did every day that I was gone. Michelle's schedule differed a little because our group went in many different directions, but it is similar. I journal a little while I was there, so some of the details were written while they were still fresh in my mind, and others were written later.

April 30: Left for Africa!!

May 1: Flew to Amsterdam, and then over the Sahara (what a sight from the airplane!) to Rwanda. We met all the team members - bible college students, experienced African travellers, and even an energetic 70 year old woman. The man in the photo is one of our drivers, Pastor Ernest. I love it especially because my dad is a Pastor Ernest too!
May 2: This morning we toured the Rwandan genocide memorial. It was heart breaking. There were so many victims, so many of them children. I was astonished in a room full of pictures of those who died, but broke down completely in the section devoted to children. Children that died in their mothers arms with machetes and others whose last memories were of seeing their parents die. What really got me is when I was looking at a wall of pictures children that had died. There was one of three happy little children - same ages and genders as my children. Our guide, a nice man names Paco, hugged me till I was ok. It was really hard. Paco is my age, but survived the genocide because his family fled to the Congo, and then returned afterwards. 

In the afternoon we went to Jabana. It has been under Home of Hope's care the longest, and it was evident. Many of the children were sponsored - in clean clothes and not starving. We went orphaneering - which is visiting local families that are really struggling and giving small gifts to their children.
(The local toy - a ball made of plastic bags)

May 3: Today we went to Mugomaro.
There we fed 160 kids, but it was fairly unorganized because it was their first time feeding that many children. Lunch was supposed to be at 12, but because we had a massive rain in the morning (and the cooking is done outside) it wasn't ready until 2:30. We prayed for kids and they got to see a nurse. Later I went orphaneering and met a lady named Marie-Chanta. She is HIV positive and so are her two youngest children. Her kids are 2, 4, and 5. There is such heartbreaking stories, but the people are very gentle and willing to hear about Jesus.

May 4: Today we went to buhoro. There we fed a lot of kids. We dished up more than 200 plates but, many kids shared. I LOVE the dancing here. These people are so warm! We have learned a few songs like "iman izee zeeza" and "mambo sawa sawa"

We travelled back in a packed van. (About 20 people in a van about the same size as my own minivan) We sang and one of the eccentric girls behind me yelled with an unmatched enthusiasm for God. It was awesome. As a side note, the driving here is a little crazy, but definitely fun!

We went to Hotel Rwanda for supper. It was amazing just to touch the swimming pool that had been drank dry by people just trying to stay alive a short 19 years earlier.
May 5: Today we went to kibali in the mountains. It was so beautiful and remote. It is most certainly an agricultural community. After doing an impromptu children's program, we took stories from orphan children by he storied were so heartbreaking. Some parents died of HIV, others left them on the street and other parents suffered mental illnesses. It was so hard to hear story after story of these poor children. It felt too deeply personal to ask such questions as " what happened to his/her parents?" But they were very forthcoming with answers. These children's eyes were so sad, and none of them had health cards or mattresses (which means they had to sleep on the ground). A few of the kids had HIV, and one (whose parents died of HIV) had not even been tested. In Rwanda, the government will pay for your HIV medication if you have a health card. They are only $5-10, depending on your region, but these orphans are too poor to even afford that. Some had to go to restaurants to beg for food.
Midday we stopped for some goat on a stick. I must have a iron stomach because I am the only one that did not get sick.
In the afternoon, we had a crusade in a location with no christian church. People gave their life to Jesus, and immediately Brian put them to work praying for other people people. A deaf man was completely healed, and we prayed for another man whose back was in major pain, but the pain was completely gone when we finished. Thank you Jesus!!

May 6:  Safari Day!! We saw monkeys, zebras, water buffalos, wart hogs, and a host of beautiful birds. What wowed me the most was standing in a safari Jeep, driving over the mountains and plains, and seeing the beautiful creation that our God made. He is so good!

Today I also learned how to say 'I Love You" in a few more languages: 
Ndagukunda (Kinyarwanda) 
Nkwagala (Ugandan )
Nalingiyo (Lingala from Congo) 
Nalikutemwa (Zambian)
Je t'aime (French)
Nakupenda (Swahili)

May 7: Up until now, we had been visiting areas within 2 hours driving distance of Rwanda's capital, Kigali. Today, however, we flew to Kamembe. It is located on the western side of Rwanda, bordering Lake Kivu. It is an area rich in coffee and tea, but it also borders the Congo, which is very dangerous. We arrived in the local Home of Hope church and were welcomed amazingly with singing and dancing. Me and two of the students went to a local secular vocational school. One of the students, Jesse, mistakenly thought it was a bible college and began preaching. When the students began asking some very good and intelligent questions. (ie. If I give my life to Jesus and I sin again, does he have to die again?) Jesse realized that it was not in fact a bible college, but he answered their questions expertly. He did an alter call at the end, and 80 people aged 15-25 gave their lives to Jesus. 
In the afternoon we did a feeding program and I wound up at the church with no other Canadian around. It was really nice just to communicate (through gestures and some broken english) with some local moms.

May 8: I delivered pigs today! The concept is that a pig is given to the poorest of families. It will be used as an income source, and they can bless someone else by tithing the first piglet back to the church (a standard litter is 8, leaving enough to support the family). I hiked a mountain with my pig because the motorcycles did not show up on time, but it was a lot of fun!

May 9: I got to deliver pigs all day on motorbikes! What fun! It was sure amazing to whip across the Rwandan countryside on a motorcycle with a squirming pig between me and the driver. I would do it again any day, poop and all.
We had to say goodbye to our great friends. We will miss you pastors Jane, Olivier and Fidel!
May 10: We left for Kenya today. When we arrived at the Dream Center (the orphanage for the babies rescued from the dump) we were able to just cuddle and snuggle babies until supper time.
What a sight those babies are after supper! All the babies (4.5 months to 3 years old) get a little potty time so they learn to use a potty, and the caregivers have time to clean up.
May 11: Today I got the privilege of helping do a feeding program in an area where they have never done a feeding program before. There were so many children that we had to wash the plates that we could serve more, but getting clean water to wash dishes in a slum is a process. Since there had been no program done before, it took awhile to set up. So, an awesome team member (Liz) and I did an impromptu childrens program. We sang songs with them (some they already knew, like "Father Abraham") because most of the children learn english in primary school, which is paid for by the government. I also read the story of creation out of Genesis while Liz acted it out. She is very talented! We ended the day cuddling the Dream Center babies.
The photo below is a small demonstration of both the crazy driving in Nairobi and how some parts of the city can resemble garbage dumps. (In this case, the garbage helps traffic, by pointing out exactly where the traffic circle goes). And yes, that blue truck is completely submerged in mud.
May 12: Today we went to church in the slum of Tassia and cuddles babies again.
May 13: Today we visited the Dump early in the morning. I cannot begin to explain how nasty would be to live there. We visited where one of the children from the Dream Centre was rescued. He was 4 years old, and felt safer living in the dump alone than with the abusive grandfather he had been living with. As a parent of a 4 year old, it is really hard to imagine my own 4 year old doing that. In the afternoon, Michelle and I took the place of a few of the caregivers so that they could attend a training session. Those babies are just so precious!
Pastor George interviewed this lady, and she has been earning her very small living from the dump for 30 years. She has now been living at the dump for 6 years.
May 14: Today I was able to help paint and do repairs in the Dream Centre. I also got to go visit the shop of a young girl, whose mother has been given a micro-loan. We got to brainstorm with her for ways to expand her business.

 This is an entrance to a typical slum home. You must duck down to get in, and the space is very small and not ventilated. However, rent must still be paid, and the cooking is done over a fire inside the home.
May 15: Our last day in Africa! At least is was a full day.
 (The church is on the fourth and top level.)
We went to Kariobangi, where we talked to women about microloans and basics of business. Michelle got to speak with the Beautiful Women (prostitutes), and was able to help a woman who was 8 months pregnant a safe place to stay.

To end this post, I will conclude with some special photos of the Dream Centre children.

(Carter fell asleep with two cuties resting on him)

Thank you to my mom, Corrine Marti, for sending along some gifts! They were much appreciated!

Me and Evelyn (one of the house moms). She is awesome!!

Lastly, a big shout out to our dear friend Packos! God Bless you!

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