Happy Birthday Kyle!

Happy Birthday Kyle Patrick Cooper!

On January 31st 1993 Kyle Patrick Cooper entered the world. Since that day he was grown into a quite but outgoing, incredibly smart, gifted, loving, understanding man. I pray that God continues to make Himself present in Kyle's life and Kyle allows Him to work in wondrous ways, changing him into the person God ultimately created him to be. I have loved watching my brother, my friend, grow these last 19 years and I look forward to seeing him continuing to grow both as a person as well as in his walk with Christ. 

I love you with all my heart Kyle and I pray that this next year we can grow even closer. I am always here, not matter what, always remember that. I hope that you had a great birthday and felt loved! 


Day 1

The first thing we did that day; Goat shopping

Meat is only given to the kids of Korah on rare/special occasions. I had to keep reminding myself what a treat it would be for them every time I looked at this goat.

Second; We took a short tour of Project 61's location. There were 4 huts. A small dung hut consisted of a library and first aid room. There was an office in another hut, a hut where the kids ate, and a school room connected to a bedroom filled with bunk beds. There was also a kitchen, but unfortunately I never got to see that. We than went across a dirt road to a different ministry. Here women made necklaces and ornaments from clay and paper and they recently got a loom. Once again the rooms in which these women worked were extremely small and cramped.

Third; Our team of 30 broke up into groups and separated with guides. From there my group when to a woman's hut. Her house was incredibly small. She had one bed and a few other possessions scattered around. The hut itself cost between $8-12 a month, which is nothing here in America, but for her and so many other who reside in Ethiopia, it's a struggle. She and her husband both suffered from leprosy and they have 4 kids. We were able to ask her a few other question while she performed a traditional coffee ceremony. I was continually baffled during this trip at how little these people have but how willing they are to share and give what they do have. That is exactly what God calls us to do.

Matthew 6:19-21
19Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Romans 12:13
13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

2 Corinthians 8:2-5
2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.

1 Timothy 6:18
18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Hebrews 13:16
16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Fourth; The kids had school today but they did come back to have lunch so we were able to spend some time with them. I was able to help serve the kids their lunch today, they had yellow rice with bread. This is one of the two meals that they eat a day, yet they were willing to share. Even at such young ages their selflessness is something to be admired.
After the kids were done eating I had the pleasure of meeting three kids. Teshome, an 11 year old boy, I had actually recognized from when he first arrived. I noticed him 1. Because he's a little cutie and had a smile that caused you to smile 2. Because of the books he was carrying. So after lunch I was pretty excited when he came up to me. He spoke good english and was proud of his notebook and the english he had written. The I met an older girl, Yerrentseur, and her friend, they were both 14 and favorite subjects were math. After only talking to her for 10 minutes she gave me a picture of herself as a gift and than gave me a sticker of a heart and told me she loved me. It's actually upset me how much they give to me and how kind their words are when we were supposed to be the ones blessing them, but like everyone said in our team meeting, they are the ones blessing us and it is so heart breaking, humbling, and one of the closest examples of Christ love I have ever seen.
It also amazes me how these kids choose you. I didn't once choose the kids I interacted with, they choose me. It's a God thing all the way. He knows who needs who and why. It's not random but His plan.

Fifth; After the kids when back to school my team and I went back to the guest house and had a recovery day.

Day 2

Today the kids took off from school so we got to spend several hours with them. We did several organized things today. We did bracelets, a tie dye craft, music and a candy cane illustration. I was originally with Teshome at the start of the day but he had to go to another room for a different craft. That is when I met Aymero who is a 12 year old boy and also best friends with Teshome. These were my boys for the rest of the day. They wrote their names on on my arm and I love you, than they placed stickers all over my face and arms. I looked pretty good. Later in the day other kids would come up to me and try to take the stickers from me, I was more than willing to give them the stickers, however my boys were not. They would slap the boys hands, push them away and told them no. They were very protective. When it was time for me to go to lunch they waited patiently outside, until I finished. When they saw me come out they ran up and both grabbed my hands. Later in the day the both wrote me a note telling me that they love me and want me to be their sponsors (all the kids, my boys included already had sponsors otherwise I would have said yes the second they asked). Than Aymero gave me a bracelet. Not only were these boys incredibly sweet, selfless and protective but they were also hilarious.

                                                                            We had a blast if you couldn't tell. 

I miss these boys so much everyday. I know my heart is at Noel but I also left a piece to these guys. I am praying that I will have the opportunities to travel Ethiopia to see them, even if its just once. But who knows the plans God has for me. One thing I have learned from this trip is that my plans and ideas, well, are nothing compared to the things God has in store for me. He has big plans for me, He has big plans for you. We just have to be willing to surrender it all to Him and say YES when he reveals those plans. 

These are two verses that have been a huge encouragement this week: 

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
-Psalm 118:8

"Now this is the confidence that we have in Him,
that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us."1 John 5:14

One last thing before I go. I have talked about Wynne in a previous post, but just in case you have forgotten:
Wynne and he her husband Stephen are adopting a little boy, Camp, from Ethiopia. You can read more of their story here I don't know Stephen personally but I did have the pleasure of being able to  to talk and get to know Wynee over my trip. She is beautiful, talented and gifted, funny and has the biggest heart. So I can only imagine how equally amazing he is. From their video, that you can watch here you can just see their love for God, their love for one another, their love Ethiopia, and their love for the son Camp. So with all this being said you can help this amazing couple bring home their son! How do you ask? Well, I'm glad you ask. You can click here and donate just $1 and than pass it along to you friends and family! And please keep Camp and them in your prayers!  

That is all for now! 


Warning: I did not read over this post to edit so there may be many mistakes and it is more than likely not well organized, or well written.

I was actually dreading writing this post. Not because amazing things didn’t happen, because they did, but because it hurts not knowing when I will be back at Noel.  Thinking about it, writing about, talking about it only make my heart ache and my longing to be back greater, but ladies and gentlemen, if you read my last post you know the great/exciting/jump-for-joy news! God has been working and I know it is only a matter of time before I am back at Noel. It is a little foolish of me (actually its very foolish of me) actually worrying about following God’s calling. He is calling me back to Rwanda; therefore He will get me to Rwanda. I don’t need to worry; my life is in His all knowing perfect hands. Wynne, a beautiful woman with an amazing heart from my VO team, wrote in her blog (that you can follow here http://elderadventures.blogspot.com/2011/12/to-battlefield.html) (p.s. I need to figure out to put a link in the word here, another task for another day)
My friend Lauren said it well here, when she said.... To be right smack dab in the middle of God’s will is the best place to be. To trust him for everything is the wisest and safest place to be. It’s also the scariest place. It’s that place where we surrender all control and say yes to literally anything God wants to do in our lives. It means that what we thought our lives would look like and the plans we made for ourselves will be replaced by wild adventure. It means that things could get messy and crazy and hard all to glorify the name of Jesus.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
So Noel….where do I even begin? I guess I will tell you about my kids.
Angie- She was not the first person to greet me when I stepped of the bus at Noel but she was one of people that stuck by my side the entire two days I was there. One memory that I go back to; Angie and I were playing Frisbee (along with some other kids) when she looked at me to throw the Frisbee in my direction. I didn’t realize it at first but she had filled the Frisbee with water. She had the biggest smile on her face and was just laughing at the thought of throwing it in my direction. When I realized what she was going to do I told her I was ready, she threw it and everyone laughed. I loved seeing her be silly and just have fun.
Kevin- She joined Angie and I during out tour. She did not say a word to me other than “toilet” (We were holding hands and she was explaining why she had to leave). Despite the non-existent communication we held hands for hours and smiled often. The memory that comes to mind (well there are two); 1. On the second day I hadn’t seen Kevin for a while but when we spotted one another a smile spread across her face she calmly walked over and grabbed my hand. It was so natural and comfortable, like we had known each other for years. 2. When I was saying my goodbyes Kevin came up to the bus and grabbed my arm. (In my haze of emotions I had actually gotten on the bus before saying goodbye to two of my kids!). I immediately ran off the bus, pulled her into a hug and just held her for a little while. When we separated I noticed her eyes filled with tears. I was already crying at this point so when I looked into her eyes I preceded to cry even harder. (And I was trying extremely hard to hold together until we pulled away)
Bosco- He is 16 and my brother. I met him while playing Frisbee after which he and Angie took me back to the baby’s room (they had been napping so I was anxiously awaiting until the woke up). Angie left but Bosco stayed behind with me. At this time I didn’t realize he was 16 and that still baffles me. He was very mature, caring, loving, almost like a father figure to these children. At 16! When we entered the room he introduced me to the women that were working in the room, only one of which spoke English. After a few minutes of listening to them talk in Kinyarwanda Erin, one of the workers, turns to me and tells me Bosco has said I am his sister and she asked if this was true. I of course say yes. I was honored that he would even joke about that. They of course started cracking up. I love Bosco. He is a beautiful person and I can’t wait to see him again.
Terry- I didn’t get to interact with him too much but I still consider him one of mine. He’s my coach for soccer. He taught me a little, we played a little, but not enough. I can’t wait to return and have him turn me into a professional. He had a beautiful smile, actually I don’t think I ever saw him without that smile on his face. I am even more excited to see that smile again.
Emmanuel- My camera man as I liked to call him. Emmanuel was originally drawn to me because of my camera. He came over to be a stared at my screen on my camera, I knew he was curious and interested and so I handed it over. He quickly presumed to role of professional photographer. He loved taking everyone’s picture, and not to brag or anything, but he is talented. After the two days I was so excited to look through all the pictures he had taken. Well it turns out he ended up deleting close to 200 pictures. At first I was upset, but I quickly remembered the joy my camera brought him and soon those pictures didn’t matter. On the second day he asked me if I was coming back the next day. I had to tell him no, that I was leaving. He placed his fist under his chin, not looking at me, and said “I’m going to cry.” I had to do everything within my power not to start crying right than and there. When we were all leaving a saw a single tear fall from his eyes. I hated leaving. If I could have, I would have stayed right than and there.
I don’t even know my last boys name. Like Kevin, we didn’t exchange many words. He understood me (sometimes) when I spoke but rarely spoke back, just nodded his head. He didn’t even find my until the second day but him and Emmanuel I cried the hardest over. Though all the kids loved to just be held, or shown affection in some way, I felt like he loved it the most out of all my kids. It was very rare that my arms were not wrapped around him or our hands intertwined that second day. I loved every second of it. I have three very fond memories of him. 1. We were walking when he showed me the bracelet he had made with some of my other team members. He than preceded to take off the bracelet he was so proud of, grabbed my wrist and tied it on while saying “present”. I still have the bracelet on my wrist. 2. He had gotten his picture taken with a Fuji Polaroid by my beautiful, wonderful and talented teammate Allison. These pictures were such a treat for the kids. They loved getting their picture taking and looking at them, so the fact that they got to keep a picture was a big deal. He showed me his picture and I was so proud. It’s a little weird but I felt like a mom looking at my child’s school picture. I had my bag wrapped around me when I noticed him trying to unzip it. I asked what he was doing and that’s when he started laughing and slipped the picture in. Another gift. This boy couldn’t have been more than 8 years old yet he was willing to give me all these special things. I was amazing by his heart. 3. He was the other kid I had missed in the shuffle of saying goodbye. (Seriously, I have no idea how I “missed” saying goodbye to my kids. The only explanation that I have is that I was an emotional wreck and everything was a blur.) He, like Kevin, came up to my window and grabbed my arm. He had a big smile, but when he saw my tears the smile shrank a little. I once again jumped of the bus and ran to him and pulled him into a hug. He was somewhat resistant, which I was surprised by until we separated. He put his hands on top of his head and began making the sucking-in-you-tears noise. Remembering that moment brings tears to my eyes every time. He than left me and my groups of other kids and remained distant until I got back on the bus. I understood him keeping his distance to avoid showing emotion but at the same time I wanted him to be able to cry and for me to hold him tight while he did. I hated leaving him. I hated leaving them all.
Though we spent two days at Noel we returned on day three to pick up Tara and drop a few things off. Even though we parked on the street the kids still came, some out to the street other just pressed against the gate. I immediately saw Bosco when we pulled off to the side. We held hands for a bit before he had to help carry some things. I saw Terry and we waved and smiled. I saw Angie and Kevin behind the gate and waved frantically to them. Finally I saw Emmanuel. In the two days that I spent with him I didn’t see him smile very often. When I spotted him he began waving and had the biggest smile across his face. I had to restrain myself from jumping off the bus. He came over to my window and held my hand for a little while. I was upset that I didn’t get to see my little man, but thrilled that I got to see the others one last time before heading off the Ethiopia.
My kids obviously weren’t the only ones I interacted with at Noel. There are many that I had brief interactions with and even more that I didn’t have the chance to talk with. I am excited to return and begin meeting and interacting with new kids as well as continue to build relationships with the ones I have already be so blessed to meet.
While I was at Noel we did crafts, took pictures, played soccer basketball and Frisbee, walked around, sang, watched their children of Noel perform dances, drums and some pretty awesome acrobatics. We laughed, we talked we held hands and we cried. I will never forget those last moments I spent at Noel or the people I interacted with.
Some words I will never forget, “I love you.” “I will miss you” “I will never forget you” and finally right before I got on the bus for the last time John D’Amour said to me, “You will come back, two weeks is not long enough.”
I am so excited and blessed to be returning to Noel, to my kids, to all the kids. God is so good. 

A Happy Cloud

I have GREAT news! I will be moving much sooner than initially anticipated! I know I know, it has only been a week, but it feels longer than that and with all the emails back in forth I began to worry it would never happen. I broke down, on more than one occasion, asking God to just let me go. To open the doors and let me go. Finally, after the rough first week I felt calm. Despite my urgency to return I had to trust God and His perfect timing. It helped that God kept reminding me that this was going to happen, I just had to be patient, still, and wait.  So after a week of hysterics I was calm and confident and trusting God and His plans. (Did I mention this was the longest week of my life?)
Anyway, back to my exciting news. Well first I have to explain two exciting things that happened, and than my exciting new about why I’ll be moving sooner.

1.     Ok so something some you may know and others may not; I love clothes. I could have easily been classified as a shopaholic. I have two dressers and a closet and still use some of my sisters old closest to store clothes. Now to be fair all my summer, spring, fall and winter clothes are in these spaces, I never box them up according to season, because to be frank I’m just too lazy. But even with that being said for the first time ever I am admitting I have too many clothes. During my Africa trip I was slapped in the face with my selfishness and realized I needed to change things drastically. First order of business was getting rid of a lot of my clothes. Surprisingly enough, it was easy. I didn’t need all those clothes, that’s what I kept thinking/reminding myself every time I picked up a shirt or pair of pants. I have enough, I don’t need this. By the end I had a huge pile of clothes and shoes. I was pretty proud of myself but I also knew that was only the first cleanse, I still have more than I need. That thought made it hard, knowing that I was getting rid of more. That night during my devotionals I read Matthew 6:28 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And than in my application part I read; Planning for tomorrow is time well spent, worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. Don’t let worries about tomorrow affect your relationship with God today.”
Not only was I worrying about something as silly as clothes but at the time I was worrying that I wouldn’t get to go back to Africa when I wanted, which is just as silly. God will take care of me and I don’t need to worry. I have given God control and am leaning on Him for everything, which is exactly how it should be. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

2.     On Sunday my parents and I were visiting my sister and her husband and went to their church. The pastor read from Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country.”  Application, “Abraham’s life was filled with faith. At God’s command, he left home and went to another land obeying with question. Do not be surprised if God asks you to give up secure, familiar surroundings in order to carry out his will.” I have two things to say in relation to Hebrews. 1. Wow. 2. God knew exactly what I needed to hear. I worship an awesome, amazing, powerful, all knowing, merciful, just and loving God.

Ok so now for the final exciting news. Yesterday after the church service I was talking to my mom and it went something like this, “Maybe God just wants me to take a leap of faith and move into my own house down in Rwanda. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to stay in the guest house at Noel and it doesn’t seem like things are falling into place, but I know God wants me there. Maybe this is how it’s supposed to happen like this.” Later that night I got a message from Tara. For those of you who don’t know Tara was on a Visiting Orphans trip last year and felt God calling her back to Noel, she said yes, and moved to Rwanda last June. She has graciously agreed to help me in this process. The message pretty much said because of the reunification it is causing some problem but she believed everything would work out. Well I woke up this morning to two emails from some other people who are trying to help me get back to Noel. Pretty much I wouldn’t be able to live in the guesthouse in the orphanage anymore and that I should talk to Tara about a house (Tara has lived in the guest house the last 6 months but was looking for a house to move into). I thought maybe this was confirmation that I was just supposed to take a leap of faith. I messaged Tara and asked her about looking for houses and than began a Google search for house in Rwanda. I didn’t think I would find anything (I didn’t) but I wanted to do something. A couple minutes later Tara messaged me again. She had just rented a house two hours ago and offered me a place to stay!!! God you are so good! I can’t even begin to put into words how amazing it had been to see Gods plans unfold. It’s so exciting! Now all I have to do is begin raising support, get a visa, pack and book my flight! (There might be few other things I need to do but for now that's all the I know that I need to do) 
Ok this is an awfully long post so I’m going to conclude. I know I’ve said this two or three times, but the Noel post is coming. In fact I am going to write it out now (since I’m on a happy cloud) and post it tomorrow.
Until than family and friends! 


This trip changed everything. The way I look at things has changed, the things that I want (or thought I wanted) has changed, my plans have change, I've changed. And I couldn't be more grateful. This trip has opened my eyes in more ways that one. I don't think I will ever fully be able to explain or put in to words what God did, it was that powerful, that big, that life changing. I don't think I can say thank you enough to those that have prayed and supported me before, during, and now that my trip has come to an end. I still have a long road a head of me in returning to Africa so every prayer, thought or encouraging word that are sent my way mean more to me than you will ever know. 
This past week has been extremely difficult. My days are filled with looking at pictures, reading anything and everything I can on Africa, and contacting everyone I can think of the help me go back. It hasn't even been a week but I have already grown impatient, checking my email and facebook every 5 seconds hoping someone will get back to me and tell me the steps I need to take. Today I finally looked away from my computer, closed my eyes and just prayed. Prayed that God would give me patience. When it is His time that all the pieces would fall together and while I wait that He would give me strength. I am going to be honest and say I don't want to be here anymore. I want to be back at Noel, where I left my heart. But I am constantly having to remind myself; I had to wait years to go to Africa the first time. Why? Because I wasn't ready and God knew that. He had to prepare me and my heart for what I was going to see and things that would change as a result. I wasn't ready and so God made me wait. . I don't know what God has in store for me while I wait but I do know that His timing and plans for my life are perfect in every way. That applies now, and always. And so I am waiting. 

*I lay my plans, future and life at your feet Lord God. May Your will be done in Your perfect timing, not mine* 

Day 3 December 30th

A little background on the Imbabazi Orphange- 
In the aftermath of the genocide, at the age of 82, Roz Carr founded an orphanage on her flower plantation in the foothills of the Virunga volcanoes. The orphanage is called Imbabazi, which means “a place where you will receive all the love and care a mother would give.” Since it opened its doors in December of 1994, Roz and her staff have cared for more than 400 lost or orphaned children. The Imbabazi is currently home to 110 children. 

We started the four hour journey to Imbabazi today. The drive was indescribably beautiful. The green, the mountains, the diversity of tress and the people. Some stared, some didn't notice but most smiled and waved. I have seen a diversity of smiles in my 20 years but never like the ones I saw in Africa. I could feel joy and love every time someone smiled in my direction. It was impossible to look at these people and not feel Gods presence. Gods beautiful creation surrounded us and it was breathtaking in every way. 
When we arrived at the orphanage I will admit I was being shy and nervous. The majority of the kids were older and for some reason I was intimidated by that. It is so easy for me to jump into a group of 5 year olds and spend hours being goofy, but I am completely out of my comfort zone when it comes to teenagers. That is why I am thankful for the time I got to spend at Imbabazi. Everyone has their own comfort zone, but I'm tired of always remaining in mine. I want to pushed out of my comfort zone because when that happens I have nothing else to do but lean on God and allow Him to work in wondrous way through and around me. 
Like every orphanage, I interacted with more than just one person and did more than one thing , but for now I am just going to share with you one person and one thing that happened.
I was outside playing soccer in the rain with a little boy when it was announced it was time for the tour. I told the little boy I would be back and began to follow my team and their children when I noticed a girl walking beside me. I recognized her immediately from the dance party that occurred in the girls living area. Like me she didn't participate in the dancing, instead she stood back and observed. I caught her smiling a couple of times but for the most part she just watched. I was somewhat surprised to see her walking beside me. I was probably being the least interesting/entertaining team member there and yet there she was. From the time the tour started up until the time I got on the bus she was by my side. We didn't have lengthy conversations, we didn't talk about anything deep, and we didn't do anything interesting. We were just there for each other. 
So you may be thinking, well nothing "big" happened, but than you would be wrong. Something big did happen. Maybe not to you and it may not always be clear to me either, but God knows. I didn't choose the girl I came in contact with. She choose me. God knew exactly what she needed and in the moments that we shared with one another she just needed someone to walk by her side, and so that's what I did. 


I was fortunate enough to be at Noel for two full days and than for a couple of minutes on the third day that followed. God broke my heart at Noel and than built it back together with ever touch, smile, face and voice that filled that orphanage. It’s as simple as that. I do have a lot to say about Noel but since I've returned home I have been struggling. So for now I am going to just take some time and be broken once again, allowing my heavenly Father to hold me close and tight. I promise to write more later.

Africa Day 1, 2 and 3

Day 1 and 2 of my African journey consisted of traveling. We had one almost 14 hour plane ride, followed by a layover in Ethiopia, followed by about an hour or so stop in Uganda, followed by another hour and half  plane ride, finally we were in Rwanda. All 30 of us hoped into two buses and drove a little ways to where we were staying the first night. The hotel rooms were extremely nice but what I was most excited about was the shower. After two days of traveling, being clean and putting on fresh clothes never felt so good. We had dinner that night as a team and than lights out. It's actually a little funny, as I was looking through my journal I read, "Well at this point I am starting to feel pretty lonely. Everyones so nice but they all already have friends. But when I see those kids tomorrow it wont matter either way." Well, it is true, that once I was surrounded by those kids nothing seemed to matter BUT the whole feelingsorryformyselfnotconnectingwithmyteam didn't last long at all. By the end of my trip I welcomed 30 more people into my heart and called them family. I know some better than others but every single one of them will always hold a special place in my heart. And yes, I already miss them all.

Day 3
I know I said I would only write one story for each day but this day in particular day deserves two stories (and lets be honest, all the other days I'll probably be writing multiple stories as well).

Story 1: Today, before the Kimisagra Orphanage, we had the opportunity to go to the Genocide Museum. There are few museums that I actually enjoy going to but this was one of those special museums that I could have spent hours in. Every room and word that I read broke my heart but the one that just shattered everything was the Children's Room. In this particular section there were pictures of children on the walls, all donated by the families (some of the pictures were the only ones that remained of these children). Below the pictures were plaques. Each one was a little different. All stated the child's name and how they were killed, but they also added personal things, like who was their best friend, what was their favorite drink or food, favorite thing to do. I found myself covering my mouth, shaking my head, holding back tears, and filled with anger and sadness. How anyone could harm this beautiful faces. I can hardly find the words. As I walked through looking and reading about each child I wrote a few down that really stood out to me.

*In memory of our beautiful and beloved children who should have been our future*

Mami Mpiqanzima. Age 12. Last words, Mum, where can I run to? Shot to death.

Fabrice Mulinzi Mirega. Age 8. Best friend his Mum. Bludgeoned to death with a club.

Ariane Umuton. Age 4. Stabbed in her eyes and head.

Irene Umuton and Uwamwezi. Age 6 and 7. They were sisters and Daddy's girls. Killed by a grenade thrown in their shower.

Aulore Kireizi. Age 2. Burnt alive at the Gleondo Chapel.

Fillette Uwase. Age 2. Smashed against the wall.

Thierry Isimive. 9 months. Killed by a machete in his mothers arms.

"When I am in the midst of a large crowd I always think I might just find my brothers." - Rose age 10

"I didn't make myself an orphan"

Story 2: Kimisagra Orphanage was the first orphanage that I visited. There were so many faces, so many smiles, so many tiny voices, so many hands reaching out hoping that you grab on. Even in the short time that we were there I still walked away with so many things to say about Kimisagra. Some that will make you smile and laugh, others that would make you cry. That was every orphanage that I visited. So for now I will just tell you one story from Kimisagra.
Towards the end of our visit I had the pleasure of meeting Cloud, a 15 year old boy. He approached me and began to ask me questions. He had great english. We manly talked about Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, M&M, Lil Wayne and other "superstars" as Cloud liked to call them. Because this was the first orphanage everything was a little bit chaotic so as I was leaving Cloud asked me for my email address and I was unable to give it to him. I think about him everyday and wish more than anything I could rewind time and give him my email. But just because I was unable to give it to him than doesn't mean I am not going to do everything I can to give it to him someway, somehow.


There are so many stories, so many beautiful faces that filled the orphanage of Kimisagra. This was just one of them.

How Africa Changed Everything

Africa has always been on my heart but there was never any explanation as to why. I had never personally known someone from there, someone who went there or even someone who felt the same way about Africa (over the years this would change). The only explanation was that God had placed Africa on my heart a long time ago for a reason.
Not only did God give me a heart for Africa but He also gave me a heart for His children. From a very young age I knew that I wanted to work with kids. When I was younger I was under the delusion that my dolls were real and I was their mother. When I didn’t have a doll with me I would pretend to either be a mom or a teacher to my friends that were actually alive. And that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up, a teacher and a mom. I can remember that I couldn’t wait until I turned twelve so I could officially begin babysitting. As I grew older my love for kids only grew. I would babysit as must as possible but even that wasn’t enough. So once I reached High School I signed up for Child Development. Child Development consisted of three classes in which there was a preschool within each class. Each student was assigned to a preschooler to watch during free time and than we would be separated into three groups. Each group would teach, lesson plan or observe depending on the day. If you completed all three classes you would have a portfolio and a 90-hour teaching certificate at the end. I did take all three classes because I just loved those kids but from taking the classes I realized teaching was not for me.
After my teaching experience I read a book called A Child Called It. This book broke my heart and infuriated me all at the same time. From reading that book and the sequel I realized my desire to help kids in need. And so my next job interest became social work. Specifically I wanted to move to a city and help children that were in abusive homes.
High School was also the awkward/funny time when it came to my future as a mom. I still had that same desire of one day becoming a mom, but how that was going to happened changed a little. When I was younger I didn’t know much about the baby making process but as I grew older so did my knowledge and that is when I announced my future husband and I would be adopting. But I didn’t want to adopt just any baby, I wanted a little African baby and that desire still holds today.
After High School I did what everyone else was doing, I went to college. My freshmen year I began to study criminal justice and counseling with the hopes of still becoming a social worker and helping children in need. After my first year at Grace College I decided to transfer. Grace just wasn’t a good fit for me. And if I’m being perfectly honest I never felt that school was a good fit for me but I sucked it up because I believed that it was just a part of life. Go to school, get a job and be happy. Yes, I was very unhappy and couldn’t figure out why. It seemed like everyone else was having that typical dream school fun college life that you hear about and I was just left behind. I felt like an outcast, like something was wrong with me, because I wasn’t having the same experiences or feelings. I thought transferring would fix this and so I transferred to Liberty University with my best friend Christina. I loved spending time with Christian but I still wasn’t happy. Actually I hit a low at Liberty. Everything seemed forced and I was struggling with that. After one semester I transferred again, this time back home to take classes online.
While I was at home taking classes online I got two part time nanny jobs and a couple of night time babysitting jobs. I love all the kids I have had the privilege of watching. I wrote on VO’s (Visiting Orphans) facebook page, “There have been so many times when I am with these kids that I just get an overwhelming feeling that this is exactly why I was created. To love, cherish and nurture God’s beautiful children. I truly believe God placed a desire in my heart a long time ago for His children and to serve them.”
So where does that feeling put my future job planning? I went from wanting to be a teacher, to social work, to detective, to a day care owner and than out of nowhere was playing with the idea of missions. Becoming a missionary had crossed my mind. Actually my pastor was the one that put the idea in my head. In High School some people from my church and I traveled down to Washington D.C. in order to assist another church reach out to the community. The church was located in a run down neighborhood that needed to be shown God’s love. We went door-to-door delivering flowers and inviting people to the local church. While doing this, I noticed a little boy alone on the sidewalk.  I felt God tugging at my heart and started playing and talking with him. Soon, two mentally challenged children joined us. After Pastor R told me told me that God had blessed me with a heart for children. Than a few years later after he and some others from our church returned from Haiti he came up to me and told me I would be perfect working with those kids in Haiti and should try and come on the next trip. I had never really considered Haiti, or any other place for that matter, because Africa was always just it, but around that time I was feeling a desperate need to go on a missions trip and was willing to go on any trip that God presented. That’s when Grace announced an Africa trip. My heart was filled with joy and excitement. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to be able to go! Well that excitement didn’t last long. The trip had to change the dates and I was no longer able to go. Also around that time my sister boyfriend, now husband, went to South Africa. Once again I was upset I didn’t know about it and jealous. I didn’t understand why Africa was on my heart but I kept missing all these opportunities to go or feeling as though they were taken away from me.
Jump a few years ahead to the June of 2011. My life was beginning to feel like such a routine. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a routine but when that routine does nothing to further the kingdom of heaven it begins to become a problem. At this time I began to consider transferring back to Liberty and joining the track team. In high school I loved it but after my senior year I was just worn out and gave up a possible scholarship and running all together. I knew this was a mistake after only a few months into my freshmen year but I didn’t do anything about it. I knew God had blessed me with a gift of running and I was just wasting it. So after figuring everything out, planning everything, I just had to cross my T’s and dot my I’s and than I would be set. But God had a different plan for me. Last minute one of the people I nanny for announced to me that if I wasn’t working for them they wouldn’t have been able to accept a job offer. Quitting was the only thing I felt uneasy about and once I heard that information I realized I could just quite. So I dropped my plans with Liberty, and just decided to compete in community races, and so my blog was born.
Jump ahead again, specifically to August 2011. I was at work, my little girl asleep, so I surfing the Internet. That’s when I began looking for mission’s trips to Africa. On my bucket list, (yes I have a bucket list at the age of 20) I specifically had work at an orphanage in Africa but at this point the desire to just go out weighed what I wanted to do while I was there. God is so good. After an hour of searching I found Visiting Orphans. I looked through the trips to Africa and found one over winter break that was going to Rwanda and Ethiopia. My sponsor child is from Rwanda so I thought that would be perfect. I applied immediately and after roughly a month was an official team member.
The fact that I didn’t know a soul on my team or even the fact that I had never heard of visiting orphans didn’t seem to phase. This trip was perfect. In my last post before I left for Africa I said, “I know God has big plans for this trip and I can't wait to see those plans unfold and be used for His glory.” At the time I fully believed that, I just didn’t realize how big God’s plans were.
Well after becoming an official team member so began the process of raising support. I hate asking for help, but knew I could not do this alone and so I began sending out support letters. I did get a lot of financial support and was so blessed by that, but I also had to pay for some of the trip myself. At the time I didn’t know why. I remember one day I just broke down crying to my mom asking why I wasn’t receiving more. I felt as though everyone else from my team wasn’t struggling raising support and it was just me. I felt not enough people cared. That was not true at all but that was how I was feeling (being a dramatic girl). My mom sat my down comforting me and said, “Maybe it’s Gods intention for you to use your own money. You have enough in your savings. You’ll still be able to go.” I didn’t really want to hear it at the time and kind of blew it off.
A couple of days before the trip I knew we had to have “crisp” spending money. Because I forgot to tell my parents this and didn’t have time to go to the bank I just put what money I did have in my Bible to flatten it. I just found a random spot slipped it in there and didn’t think twice about it.
Well I went on my trip to Africa and visited and loved on so many of God’s beautiful children but one place in particular captured my heart. Noel. Noel was the second orphanage we visited in Rwanda and has roughly 600 children. The second I stepped off the bus I was met with hand holding and hugs and questions. The second day I went and found Tara. Tara had gone on a previous VO trip and returned to Noel shortly after and plans of remaining there for a year. Frank, my leader, helped me find her and that’s when I said it out loud for the first time. I want to return to Noel and live there for at least a year, exactly what Tara’s doing. She told me a little of her story and how she got started. We really only talked for 15 minutes, maybe not even that long, but I walked away from the conversation feeling peace. I can honestly say I had never felt such an overwhelming peace. Not only did I feel peace at Noel but I also felt whole. After two days Noel felt like home to me. The day that we had to leave a broke down. I tried to hold back the tears through out the day but when we were loading the bus to leave I couldn’t help but let a few tears fall and when I was on the bus I lost it. I knew there was no way I could leave these kids, this place. I knew I had to come back.
The day we left Rwanda I stared out the window and listened to my iPod. I choose God of This City. Now before, I strongly disliked this song but for some reason I just wanted to listen to it. The lyrics say “For greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this City.” Once again I started to cry. Now let me clarify, I am not a crier, especially in front of people. It is just not something I enjoy doing so that fact that Noel broke me speaks volumes.
Since I left Noel and I kept praying that God would give me confirmation that I was in fact supposed to go back to Noel. God delivered. 
1.     Being broken by Noel
2.     Felling peace and whole while I was at Noel.
3.     Suddenly everything that I thought I wanted or needed means nothing. For example my bucket list. I created the list obviously with the desire to do everything on it. Now all I want is to be at Noel. (Not saying I wont miss certain things, because I know I will. I just feel that my desire to return to Noel out weighs any other desire.) 
4.     God of This City lyrics. Very powerful. 
5.     The name Noel. It is called that because the first orphans were welcomed on Christmas day. Anyone that knows me, or has read previous post knows how much I love Christmas.
6.     The money. I previously told you about my melt down over not receiving enough support. After visiting Noel I realized God was preparing me to give away my things. When I move to Africa I wont be able to take everything with me and will have to sacrifice a lot. At the time the idea of sacrifice was hard to grasp but now I am ready to make those kind of sacrifices. God knew what he was doing, I just didn't realize it at the time. And now I am so grateful that I actually had to pay for some of my trip. It was a gift.
7.     Before this trip I didn’t feel strongly towards Rwanda or Ethiopia. Yes, my sponsor child is from Rwanda but I didn’t know much about either and was just looking forward to going. Every child I connected with at each orphanage I loved. Every child deserves to be loved and cared for, one doesn’t deserve it more than another. But after Noel it was different for me. I can’t really describe it other than I could tell a noticeable difference in the way I felt and acted after Noel. It was actually kind of frustrating because I loved all the kids I met, but it was different after those two days at Noel.
8.     One night I feel asleep while listening to my iPod and when I woke up God of This City was playing and the words, greater things are still to be done was blaring through my headphones.
9.     I was talking to one of my very good friends from my team about my plans. Everyone else from my team knew my plans and kept asking, “Have you told your parents yet?” I knew how hard it was going to be to tell my family and best friend but I also knew that God was already preparing their hearts. (Refer to 11 and 12)
10. In that same conversation I remembered when Jesus told his Disciples to drop everything and come follow him. They didn’t even get to say goodbye to their families. I at least had the chance to tell my family goodbye and was grateful for that.
The next night I opened my bible to where I had been putting my money. Matthew Chapter 4. I decided to read that chapter.  "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
1.      Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
11. At this point I had gotten so many confirmations. Noel is where God wanted me to be. For some reason I began to feel scared. Not to leave but that I was taking all these things and just turning them into confirmations so I prayed for one more. I got home and though I had not received another I still knew where God wanted me to be so I was not going to question it. I had received so many confirmations and believed if I asked for anymore I might just be questioning God (that's why I wasn't receiving another). Well once again God is so good and did give me another confirmation, in fact He gave me two. After returning home I told my parents. That’s when my Mom informed that on the days I was at Noel she was specifically praying for protection from Spiritual Warfare and that God would show me the way I supposed to go. 
12. Than came Christina. I was actually most nervous to tell her. We have been attached at the hip our whole friendship and wasn’t sure how she would react when I told her I was moving to Africa. Well Christina’s reaction was the most surprising. The first thing she said, or really screamed, “I CALLED IT!” Than she informed me that her devotionals had been preparing her for future changes and what God has in store for both herself and her loved ones. She had actually thought about me staying in Africa before I even returned and had begun to prepare herself.
All I can say over and over again is God is so good! After everything I have clarity and my life makes sense. Everything that happened in my life happened for a reason and was leading me to the moment I stepped off that bus at Noel. One of my friends from my team described it as having all these pieces to the puzzle and finally being able to see the full picture, Gods picture and let me tell you it feels amazing. God has called me to go to Noel. God has confirmed that is where He wants me to be. So for now I am anxiously awaiting for when God allows me to return to where I left me heart. 

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy... It's not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.”

“We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. Daniel 4:2

Judges 6

The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
-Frederick Buechner

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who see and do nothing"

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed… Nothing will be impossible for you,” Matt 17:20