Wait where am i going? Those were my thoughts as the plane left the runway of Dulles Airport, Virginia. I couldn’t believe that I, Alyssa Girkins, would be traveling to Kigali, Rwanda with my church mission team. Sure, I have traveled to many places, like Germany, Paris, Italy, and Sweden, but never to none tourist areas. I had always played it safe, but the summer of 2008 was my time to expand and start searching for myself.
After a 24 hour plane ride we finally landed at the Kigali National Airport. I didn’t know what to expect, but this sure wasn’t it. I pictured African plains like from the Lion King, nope, I saw rolling hills covered in green plants of all sorts. Roads were covered in dirt so red it looked almost stained from blood. The air was so thick and hazy from dusty roads and the dry season that we had to cover our mouth with handkerchiefs. The smell, one can never forget the smell. It was like sticking the armpit of a sweaty man in your face, all from the fact that since they have no place to put their trash, they burn it. Never have I ever been welcomed to a country like that, it was so foreign, so new to me. Now the thing is, I found that surprising, but I was still in for a shock.
As we arrived at the house we would be staying in, I thought how will this work? What kind of living conditions will we be in? Well, as the officer who guards the home opened the gate to our new home for the next two weeks, I held my breath. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a gorgeous two story home with a yard and a gazebo. The staff were all so nice and welcoming. I couldn’t help but ask myself again where I was. In the drive over I had all ready seen a lot of poverty and wasn’t expecting such nice accommodations. There was one little thing though. In Rwanda you have a limited water supply and once you have used your supply up, well you better be ready to hike it to the wells with huge banana colored jugs. There was also no hot water and when you brush your teeth and have to rinse, you use a water bottle. The water isn’t purified so who knows what kind of bacteria was in there. Oh, and by the way there were no shower heads, it was all done with two buckets. One filled with water to stand in and the other to pour the water on with. So, not only did I have to get used to the environment, I had to get used to taking cold, short showers with unknown water in buckets. YEAH!
All of the changes in my lifestyle though meant nothing once I met the people of Kigali, Rwanda. I can tell you that you will never meet such caring and forgiving people in the entire world, but right there in Kigali. They were so thankful for all the little things we did that back at home would have been thought of as “whatever”. For example, they loved bubbles. As soon as you bring the bubbles out their reaction is like that of an American being given a red Corvette. Such little things brought them so much joy. I couldn’t believe it. I live such a good life in America with so much that they don’t have, and yet I am such a selfish person who is always asking for more. On top of that these people have been through a genocide where their trusted neighbors had turned on them and killed their whole family. I heard stories of children, some only babies, being murdered in the most brutal ways, raped, and then tossed into the streets. How? I could not understand their warm smiles and loving demeanors, but they would always tell me they were thankful. They praised the Lord for their home and friends, they forgave those neighbors that did them wrong. They showed compassion. That is something you cannot experience in tourist areas. That is something that you will never know about in the confines of your home.
I can’t tell you that I am no longer a selfish person because then that would be a lie, but I can tell you that I am aware of it now. I can stop myself and ask, “What am I doing? Have I learned nothing?” Objects, presents, money are all good, but only if you have the right mind set, to be on the ready to give it all away at a moment’s notice to those who really need it and deserve it. If I could send every person I cared for to Rwanda, then I would. Everyone needs this experience of being loved because you want to love, to give because you want to give, and to forgive because everyone should be forgiven. That beginning question of, “Wait where am I going?” became “Wait why am I leaving?”
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