Not nice and real nice

Not nice:
  • I was reading one night in my room. Just sitting there, all comfy, minding my own business, when I heard some terrible sounds coming from the inside of my armoire. I feared the worst; a mouse. After calling our night guard Fidel to the rescue my fear was confirmed. He pulled the thing out by his tail. That was not a nice night. 
  • Speaking of mice, and not so nice, I've had the pleasure of watching Bernie eat two mice. 
  • Oh, I didn't mention Bernie? That's weird. He's our pup. Our first one of three. 
  • Ollie, our second pup, passed away. 
  • Next came George (named after George Bailey. Yes, I love Christmas a little too much). He could not have been more than 2 weeks old. Last night he ran away. Currently we're offering a reward for his safe return. 
  • I think it's safe to say our puppy luck has pretty much run out. 
  • Right before George ran away he threw-up all over me...I also sat in his pee. Though I didn't enjoy either incident I still love and miss George and wish he would come back already. 
  • Having three dogs, not house trained, means I've been having to clean up a lot of their "business" these past few weeks.
  • I feel like I say business a lot. 
  • When I go running I can pretty much guarantee I'll have a group of kids join me for at least a minute or two if not longer. The other day I had a pretty good sized group, which means they were all a little too close for comfort, which resulted my in elbowing a kid in the face. (On accident of course.)
Real nice:
  • Fanny had her baby! And by golly he's the cutest thing. 
  • Bernie is still here
  • We got a new sponge for the kitchen. I may have gotten excited about that. 
  • I got a walking stick and without thinking proceed to swing it around like a pair of nun-chucks. Luckily there weren't too many people around. 
  • Staying in my pjs all day...also going to work in my pjs. 
  • Baking chocolate chip cookies and eating as many as I can.
  • Waking up early (Trust me no ones more surprised by this than me.)
  • Wrapping my hands around a hot mug of tea every morning.
  • My roommates. Nuf said. 
  • The amount of support and encouragement I have been received in just the last 24 hours. You guys are awesome. 
  • Working on getting an official logo. 
  • Figuring out the feed program. 
  • The guys have been getting things done. Wallets, passport holders, luggage tags, and my favorite laptop cases. Next up the messenger bag. 
  • His Imbaraga got a facebook page. You can go "like it" if you want. No judgement here. 
Bernie is on the left, Ollie is on the right

Oh George

Sweet baby 

So proud of those guys

And just because 

Our First Week

I survived!
And so did they!
So, in my unexperienced opinion, I think it's safe to say it was a pretty good first week. 

Some note worthy things from our first week:

On our first day we had a mini photo shoot
Then we had a wallet photo shoot on Wednesday
Then we had a "we made it a week" photo shoot
I think they might like having their picture taken, maybe, just a little.

Time has all the sudden become very important to me
(Who would have thought having a business 
would finally make me realize the importance of being on time.)

I've already had to be a tough cookie

We take attendance morning and afternoon
and it always makes me feel like I'm back in elementary school.

The teacher reminds me of my Grandpa when he wears his glasses.

They successfully made their first product, 
a wallet.

They figured out a cleaning system all on their own
(I didn't even think about cleaning.)

One of our older gentlemen has bad eye sight. 
He told me today this is the work for young men. 
So I hired him as our night guard. 

When I told them people in America were already asking how to buy their things
their faces changed immediately. 
They had the biggest smiles, and started laughing, clapping and cheering. 
I had to make a serious effort not to start crying. 
(I don't think they would look kindly on an emotional girly boss.)

We got a fourth machine. 

The teacher started working on a product 
that will be one of our main ticket items. 
Right now we have five different that we'll be focusing on. 

When I showed them all "the five" on my computer
they wiped out their phones and started taking pictures

I got laughed at for assuming that night guards sleep during the day

We read together, we prayed together, we learned together, we survived together 
And God willing, will continue to do so.
Because really, I love these guys. 

Mini Update

1. In case you didn't catch it it the last post I finally decided on a name for this business: His Imbaraga (2 Cor 12:9) Imbaraga means power in Kinyarwanda. And in case I haven't already made it obvious, this is all God's doing. He is using my weaknesses so that His power may be known.

2. We haven't even been running a week and have already started making wallets! Now, they are rough, but still, I'm impressed and very proud. 

3. I have received two donation this week. Both donations came out to the exact amount we needed to buy our fourth machine yesterday. You guys, God is awesome. 

4. I have been thinking and praying about what our cause should be and am feeling led to feed the homeless/beggars/poor in Rwanda. I'm still not sure how that will look but I'm excited to start figuring it out. 

5. We start our mornings with prayer and scripture and end our days in prayer. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this. 

*This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. 1 John 3:16-24* 
The passage we read today


This is real...

We have officially been up and running for two days

His Imbaraga 
2 Cor 12:9

My heart if full

*Photo Credit: Alison Holcomb*

Sponsoring Opportunity

You want to sponsor a cute guy?
Awesome, because I have 25 of 'em. 

After much discussion and prayer I have decided to go down the route of sponsorship for my guys. 
For $250 you can sponsor one guy for 6 months, 
or $83 for 3 months, 
or $41 every month. 
The options are endless.  
Which ever guy you choose to sponsor you will be providing him with the tools 
and leather necessary to make the bags. 
But wait it gets better. 
You wont only be providing for him,
 but you will also have the chance to form a relationship with him. 
You can get to know him, get to hear his story, and impact his life in a big way.
 And I don't think it gets better than that. 
I have 25 guys, so this means I need 25 sponsors.
You can look at all their lovely faces 
and learn a little bit about them here, here and here
Once you pick your guy please email me at
with his name, your name, and how you are wanting to pay for his sponsorship.
(Also feel free to email me if you have any questions.)

If sponsorship is not your thing but you are still wanting to donate:
$2,700 - For rent for 9 months (we have already paid 3) 
$500 - For one machine (we need 2 more)
$200 - For 20 chairs ($10 per chair)
$330 - For a teacher to come for one month

Under help someone go click on my name and designate how much you would like to give 
(there's also a link to the right of my blog that can just click on) 
OR You can also give by mailing checks to their office in Vancouver, WA.
 Just make sure that my name is easy to see on any of the gifts, so the bookkeeper knows to credit me. 
Their address is:
Ten Talents International
PO Box 873685
Vancouver, WA 98687

We are in need and would appreciate any and all help you are willing and able to send our way. 
Thank you guys for coming along side of us. 
This cannot and would not be possible without your support and encouragement. 

Did I mention we bought two machines this week?! 

Stepping Up

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to start a business. I didn't ask to be responsible for 25 men. I didn't ask for the overwhelming burden of finances. I didn't ask for any of it because I didn't want any of it. But, I did ask God for two things. I first asked God to break my heart for what breaks His and than I asked for Him to use me. Two big prayers. Two scary prayers. Two prayers that would change my life. 
God shattered my heart and than began to open doors. I didn't have to walk through those doors. God knows that I sometimes hesitated, that sometimes it took me a little while to walk through, that sometimes I didn't want to walk through at all, that sometimes I would try opening the door myself, and that sometimes I would try walking through my own door, but in the end I choose obedience to my Father. I walked through each and every door He has opened since I've gotten to Rwanda and now here I am; starting a business, responsible for 25 men, burdened with the finances. 
I think the biggest struggle so far has been truly relinquishing all control to God. I know when I first started I said I trusted God. I trusted for Him to make it all possible and to provide, but as the weeks went on, the start date began being pushed further and further back, no money coming in, my trust began to waver.
You see, God broke my heart for these 25 men. Their stories and their circumstances. These men aren't lazy or unable, they want to work, they want to learn, they want to provide but until now have been unable to do so and as a result of suffered. I didn't offer them a handout, rather I offered them an opportunity that is sustainable, will allow them to learn a skill, work hard and provide. I desperately wanted to help them, and I wanted to do so immediately.  That's when I started to try to control and plan. In the end my trying to control and plan only led to my feeling drained physically, emotionally, and mentally. I felt like I had been run into the ground, that I had failed not only myself but the men as well. That's when I relinquished it all. I not only put my complete trust and faith back in God to make this all possible but I also surrendered complete control.
Right now I only have 1,450 dollars. That's not nearly enough to sustain this thing for even a month and yet we are still pushing along and God willing will start work officially on Monday (but I am completely prepared for God to change that as well. All part of relinquishing control). Is that good business sense? Probably not, but this thing has never been about good business sense or being comfortable. This is the moment when trust, faith, and surrendering control come into play. I have no idea where the money is going to come from or even when it will come, but God is opening this door and I am walking through it. 
I will continue to pray hard for that money, whether it comes from fundraising, a donator, or some other act of God that I can't even fathom, because I want to fight for these men, I want to be obedient. The greatest commandment God gives His followers is to love. First to love him, and than to love our neighbors. 
When I was still living in the states I had a very close minded idea of what loving my neighbor looked like, and even who my neighbor was. Every single person walking on this earth is our neighbor. Whether they are in Africa, Japan or your literal next door neighbor God has called us to love them. 
These 25 men I am working with are not only my neighbors, but yours as well. They don't have jobs and are doing everything they can to continue provide not only for themselves, but for some, their families as well. Their providing doesn't look like Americans version. We as Americans live a life of luxury and we actually believe we deserve these things, that without them, we would suffer. The reality is we are privilege and rarely step outside the box we have created to witness and experience true suffering. True suffering is not being able to feed your children a meal because you can't afford any food. True suffering is living a life without ever knowing the love of a mother or father. True suffering is a baby being drowned because the mother can't care for it. True suffering is being without legs, or arms, living life on the streets begging. They don't have spare change to go to Startbucks, eat out, go to a movie, or have a dresser full of clothes. They don't have iphones, digital cameras or laptops. Some of the people I have met don't even have the luxury of a mattress to lay their head on at night. I'm not ok with that. I'm not ok knowing how comfortable my life is in the states, knowing that there are people suffering and in need, knowing that I can help and than not actually doing a thing about it. That is not our calling. Our calling is to love. 
I am not saying having an iphone, and going to Starbucks with your laptop is a bad thing. I myself am typing this on a laptop with my iphone beside me (Starbucks hasn't quite made in to Rwanda). What I am saying is that we as Christians need to step up. We need to stop talking about loving our neighbors and actually do something to show we love them. Feeling guilty or sorry for the people and the stories we hear is not good enough. Being convicted is not enough. When we apply action to those convictions that is when we start to stir things up. 
When Christ walked on the earth he not only met peoples spiritual needs but he also met their physical needs. Christ is our perfect example of how to love our neighbors. We can make a difference, we need only to be obedient. It's time we step up. 

Photo by Alison Holcomb
Photo by Alison Holcomb

Five Months

Five months in a third world country, 
away from your family, friends, 
and everything familiar 
makes your really appreciate all the little things like...

1. Shower curtains
2. Leaving your window open in the middle of the night
3. Being able to drive a car
4. Running on flat surfaces
5. Full length mirrors
6. Ice
7. Microwaves
8. Carpet
9. Clothes right out of the dryer
10. Back scratches 
11. Hot water
12. Powerful light-bulbs
13. Living next to a swing-set
14. Being home alone
15. Marked prices 
16. Singing at the top of my lungs for no one to hear
17. Having a kitchen in the house
18. Drinking clean water out of a cup
19. My mom french braiding my hair
20. Hearing the garage open and guessing who it's going to be
21. Doorbells
22. Unlimited calling
23. Fast wifi
24. Talking my pup for walks around the pond
25. Warming up in front of the fire place
26. Having my best friend live five minutes from my house
(except now she's actually living in my house)
27. Ceiling fans
28. Outlets that fit my plugs
29. Packages and letters being delivered to my door 
30. Cooking/baking
31. Towel racks 
32. A normal size fridge
33. Being able to run at night
(even though my Mom says not to)
34. Going to church every Sunday
35. Trash bags
36. Zip-lock baggies
37. Paper towels/napkins
38. Having a schedule
39. Lampposts
40. Hugging my family 

...just to name a few
These five months have changed me
in more ways than one
But just one of the ways;
I appreciate the little things a lot more

Confessions and Thanks #2

I must confess....

1. I once had a cookie eating contest. I ate 17. There was no prize, I simply love cookies and wanted an excuse to eat as many as I could. I think it's safe to say I won. And than felt very sick. 
2. I've never set E.T. and I don't want to. I think he's creepy and the poor mans version of Yoda. 
3. My biggest fear is a tie between public speaking and heights. 
5. I still have trouble spelling definitely, February and Wednesday....among other other words. Thank goodness for spell-check. 
6. I have a Christmas countdown on my desktop year-round. 
7. I like people to sit on my feet when they're cold. 
8. I was once in a homeschool book club….and I never read a single book. It's not that 

9. Before I had a dog of my own I would dog-sit. It was the only way I could pretend. One night some people invited me to the movies while I was dog sitting and I told them no. At the age of 9 I would rather spend time with a dog that a group of humans. Sometimes that's still the case. 
10. I don’t know how to rollar blade. The last time I tried (roughly around 9 years ago) I would only go 5 feet before I rolled into the grass. 

I am thankful for....

1. Guidance. A lot of times I have no idea what I'm doing, especially now with this whole business ordeal. I am so appreciative of all the guidance and advice people are throwing my way. 
2. All four seasons. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter all bring something special. 
3. The book Passion & Purity by Elisabeth Elliot. She is a wise woman who serves God whole heartedly in ever aspect of her life and I am learning a lot. I definitely recommend it. (See what I did there?)
4. Loneliness. It's not necessarily enjoyable, and I am not always thankful for it, but today I am. Before I came to Rwanda I would lean on my family, friends and sometimes, as an after thought God. This separation has forced me to learn to lean on God and God alone.  
5. For a broken heart. "If through a broken heart God can bring His purpose to pass in the world, then thank him for breaking your heart." - Oswald Chambers 

Confessions And Thanks

1. I have played 978 games of Freecell on my phone in the last month (mostly while I'm cooking, on the bus, can't fall asleep, or waiting for the internet to load). I've won 833 of them with a winning streak of 47 games. Yeah....I'm pretty awesome.

2. I have been listening to a lot of podcasts on relationships lately. They're fun stuff.  

3. I fall asleep to Christmas music every night with a fan on full speed pointed at my face.

4. I had a dream last night about donuts. I don't even like donuts. And that is how I know this is getting real serious.

5. I just finished reading all of the New Testament for the first time, yet I've read the Harry Potter serious 9X. This is not something that I'm proud of, actually I'm embarrassed/ashamed to admit that, but I'm working on changing those stats.

6. I played flute for two years, and than one day my teacher called my mom and asked me to quit. I did so with great joy, and slight embarrassment (I mean we were paying the woman, and I only saw her once a week, how bad could I have been?!)

7. One of the biggest adrenaline rushes I've ever gotten was turning in an assignment late when the teacher left the room. I like to live life on the edge. (And yes, that beat skydiving and bungee jumping.)

8. I own over 30 Christmas movies and I brought everyone of them to Rwanda.

9. I have never cried during a movie. I've come close sure, and the older I become to more watery my eyes get, but still, I have yet to cry.

10. I was one of the few in High School that actually read the assigned books. It wasn't until my senior year that I finally figured out what spark notes was. I never looked back after that.

I think that's enough confessing.

I am thankful for....

1. Random emails/messages. They make my day every time.
2. Nutella and candy canes. (Try it.)
3. Working legs that give me the ability to run.
4. Friends that make an effort to stay in touch with me.
5. The chance to be away from the things I have taken for granted, making me open my eyes to the reality, and giving me the chance to be truly thankful for each and every little thing.

My Testimony

I never wanted to share my testimony. 1. I am terrified of public speaking. 2. I always thought it was "boring". Having a blog kind of knocks out excuse #1 and excuse #2, lets be honest, is just a cowardly excuse. So, I sort of shared with this video, but I'll go into a little more detail today.
I was raised in a Christian home and accepted Christ at the age of 9. I can still remember the night clearly; I was in my room (which just happened to be under the stairs. Harry Potter style. And yes, it was my choice) with my friend just chatting away about whatever 9 years old chat about, when the subject changed to a more serious matter. Where you go when you die. My friend began to tell me if I didn’t accept Jesus into my heart I would be going to hell. Some pretty heavy stuff for a sleepover. But after I heard that I jumped up and went straight to my mom to figure out if this whole thing was actually true. We talked a little and that night I prayed and accepted Jesus into my heart.
Is that the moment that I truly became a follower of Christ? No. That was the moment that I allowed fear to make my decision. I couldn’t wrap my 9-year-old brain around the expectation that God has for His followers. Which means I didn’t fully understand or comprehend the decision I was making. And because I didn’t fully understand, life went on pretty much the same. I didn’t change, I was just more comfortable.
Fast forward a couple of year to when I moved to Maryland. Now, my Dad is in the military, which means we would move every couple of years. Moving so often meant never really connecting with a church. Maryland was where that all changed.
My family and I, after about a year of searching, finally settled in at Grace Community Church. In away, Grace is really where I grew up. At Grace I attended church, went to Sunday school and youth group, was baptized, went on retreats and to Christian youth conferences, volunteered in the nursery, was a student leader, attended two Christian colleges. I didn’t cuss, I never went to a party, I never drank, I never smoked or did drugs, I didn’t dress provocatively. I was a “good person” by all accounts. I knew who God was, I believed in Him, and I did everything right on paper, but my heart was still not right. Through it all I still wasn’t living for God.
I used to watch other kids my age on fire for God and I didn’t get. I didn’t get why they were on fire when I wasn’t. I mean we were doing the same exact things, so shouldn't I be on their level? I would complain that I couldn’t feel God’s presence in my life, and I blamed that feeling on God. I thought He was the one not wanting to be closer to me, when in reality I didn’t put in any effort. I didn’t truly seek after Him, I was just a surface Christian that allowed myself to find my identity in other things; the way I looked, boys, running, friends etc. Basically I sought after things that I thought would make me feel better about who I was. But in the end nothing filled that hole, that feeling of emptiness was still there. 

After I transfered from Liberty to online, I was able to focus a bit more on my relationship with God, but it wasn't until Africa the I fully committed myself to Christ and all that that entails. Africa was the slap across the face that was a long time coming. I went in December of my first mission’s trip to Rwanda and Ethiopia. On this missions trip I saw and experienced God in a completely different way. I went to a country that suffered genocide just 20 years ago. Millions died and suffered and there are still repercussions of that genocide today. Despite that, the people of Rwanda still had faith and trust in God. In Ethiopia I went to a leapers town and interacted with people that had a genuine overflowing obvious love for God. These people, some that have literally have nothing, are still worshiping God. Whereas, here I am, a privilege girl living in America choosing myself rather than all that God has to offer. This trip opened my eyes to the reality that I was living and than I broke. This trip broke and ripped me apart and I am so thankful. Than and there I chose to stop choosing me, I chose to stop chasing after the things of this world, and instead traded it all in for a real honest relationship with God.
I was 20, old enough to know exactly what God was asking of me; to trust, have faith, be obedient and in turn be hated and persecuted, for my love for Him to look like hate for others in comparison, to pick up my cross daily, to set aside my own desires, my dreams, my hopes, to give up everything and follow Him.
What God is asking of me, of everyone that wants to calls themselves His followers, is not easy, He never said it was going to be an easy, fun filled time with butterflies and rainbows.. Everyday is a struggle, everyday I have to fight, and sometimes I fail. I am not perfect. Far from it. I have secrets, am ashamed of some of the things I’ve chosen to do, made mistakes that still hurt, and I’m going to continue to make mistakes. I am an imperfect sinner BUT I serve a perfect loving, forgiving and merciful God. So even when I fail, He is right beside me, ready to pick me back up. In Him I find the strength, comfort and security I need to live this life.
I wouldn’t trade a second of my journey, the good and the bad. I have never been happier than I am in this moment and that is because God has filled and consumed me in everyway.  He has given me something to live for, and something to look forward to after I die. I chose to live for Him everyday and will continue to do so with great joy, no matter the hardships that I am bound to face in this lifetime, because He is worth it. 

The Last Of My Peeps

*All photo credit goes to the very talented Alison Holcomb*

This is Samuel. He is 27 years old. I have had the pleasure of seeing Samuel practically everyday for the last couple of months as he finishes the No.41 house behind us. (He also happens to be our landlords brother.) This job will help him prepare for his future. He dreams of studying computer science at University and will do so with the money earned from this job. His favorite artist is William and he enjoys writing. He said, "Thanks and I pray God blesses you." 

Adrien is 22 and lives with is wife and baby boy. This job will help him promote his own life and help his family. He dreams of getting his own house one day. His favorite artist is King Stone and he enjoys studying constructions. He said, "I am to pray for them for this love." 

Jilbert is 30 and living with his father. This job will help him prepare for his future. Before Jilbert had a job making shoes, belts, and bags from leather and it is his dream to have a machine and continue this work. He doesn't like music....yeah I don't know. I told him I would change his mind in the months to come. He also claimed he didn't have a talent but enjoys karate. Anyone that can do karate is talented in my opinion. He said, "Thank them and to pray for them." 

Vincent is 35, married, and has five children; three girls and two boys. This job will help achieve his dream of building and finishing his own house. He likes listening to Michael Jackson and has a talent for construction. He said, "I am praying for God to bless them and I dream of helping them in return." 

Emmanuel is 28 with a wife and baby girl. This job will help him find a house for his family. He dreams of a future life and the possibility of supporting his family. He likes gospel music and construction. He said, "I am to pray for them to continue this good heart for helping." 

Damascene is 32 and currently helps out at the orphanage. He has a wife and son and this job will help him achieve his dreams of supporting his family and preparing for the future. He listens to West Life and likes to sell. He said, "The American was a good idea to help me and God bless him." 

John is 52 and originally from Congo. He has a wife and four children; two girls and two boys. He dreams of helping and supporting his family, which is what this job will give him the opportunity to do. He likes listening to Bob Marly and playing volleyball and said, "Thanks and I am praying for God to continue to give others a good heart and help."

*I am missing one picture.* Apparently Viateer is a little camera shy. He is 45 years old, married, and has four children; two boys and two girls. This job will help him support his family and send his children so school. He dreams of getting his own house for his family. He likes gospel music and has a talent for construction. He told me he is praying for you to continue this good heart. 

And than there's me. My name is Elise and I am 21 years old. My family seems to expand everyday, but I’m not complaining. This job means opportunity for me. Opportunity to be obedient. Opportunity to help support others. Opportunity to teach others. Opportunity to share with others. Opportunity to help dreams become a reality. I have many dreams; I dream that this business will be successful in providing for these men, their cause and bringing honor to God. I dream of getting my degree. I dream of moving to New York and working with inner city kids. I dream of seeing the world. I dream of owning a house that looks like a Christmas cottage. I dream of completing my bucket list. I dream of being married and having a large family that adopts. I dream of making a difference. I find great joy in running, writing, and working with kids. I don’t really have a favorite artist but right now this guy is on my repeat: And to you I say thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for reading, thank you for supporting, thank you for loving. Your kind words of encouragement, financial support and pray are what make this all a reality. You are apart of my journey and I would not be here in this place, with these opportunities, and dreams, without a single one of you. You make this all possible and for that I will be forever grateful.

We are in the process of trying to raise $15,000 
So far we have only raised $620
We have a long ways to go but are trusting God to provide
 And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus Phil 4:19
*If you are interested in donating click here to find out how*