~ ~ where some see a hopeless end, others see an endless hope ~ ~

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

HOPE. IT CONQUERS: #3 cont: Runner Up Stories

 #3: The Universal Language(s)


If my time at Noel Orphanage in Gisenyi was easy to put into words... I'd have had 283 blogs posted about it by now.  This blog itself would be scaled into a much easier read.  But the truth is, I can't stop thinking about, therefore I can't stop digesting it.. therefore, I can't find the words to explain it.

But "that moment" I'm talking about?  The moment that hits you?  Those moments I told you earlier showed me that Music played a huge part while at Imbabazi.  The other ... well, here are the Runner Up reasons behind why I chose what the other Universal Language really is...

 #3: The Universal Language(s)
- Part B -

"Of Course"
I step off the bus, and like I remembered from my time in Uganda last summer... the 10-12 year old girls just flutter to my side.  Each one looking past, over my shoulder... as if there was someone else, someone better, taller, prettier, happier, or carrying more stuff.  Ha.  I fooled them.  I was the last one off the bus.  "This is all ya got girls, take it or leave it."  ...  And of course.  They swallowed me up as if I was their prize possession.  Of course, they drape their arms around me, grab me like I have 7 hands to spare, and look excitedly into my eyes, ready for the day, ready for some fun.  And of course..... two girls came out of the crowd, holding on the tightest.  Refusing to let go.

Benita & Amanda

Of course.

When I could muster the words, I tell them, "YAY!  Do you know why we’re goin to have such an amazing time?  Because WE were supposed to meet!  Bonita is my MOTHER's name!!  And NITWA (my name is) AMANDA!!” and it began...

"Holding Tight"
No judgments, only admiration for the ladies that can strap a baby to their back, husk corn all day, do dishes, wash laundry, carry water on their heads, all the while raising a family.  I had to learn.  So, after days of me insisting that our guide and translator, (I like to call her MJ--Mama Jane) hook me up with a bebe, she brought me into the nursery.  *Gasp*  WHAT?  Dozens, DOZENS of toddlers and infants just staring at me.  just longing to be held.  Just begging for attention.  Wanting to be loved on.  The nannies were amazing, yes.  But there definitely weren't enough of them I stood there.  Blank stares and crickets.

I knew they were looking at me, waiting for me to do something.  Anything.  Like, "Lady.  You got two hands and a mind.  Quit standing there and put yourself to use."  I could hear them thinking it out loud, really.

My eyes bounced back and forth around the room.  what?  who?  WHERE do I even begin?

MJ knew what was going on.  She knew I was scrambling for words.  For the 1st time the whole trip, she saw I was completely lost.  She grabbed my arm, grabbed some cloth, bent my back downward, ... and.  Well?  Started strappin' me in.  .... and the next thing I knew, there were shrieks of laughter, screams of giggles and claps throughout the room.  They weren't laughing AT me.  I knew it, I felt it.  They were happy because the torture of being so uncomfortable INSTANTLY faded from my face and was replaced with pure and utter joy as that little Boo hugged and cradled around my back.  My eyes were filled with hope again.  My heart burst at the seams.  I was holding tight to that Pure Joy and I didn't let it go all day.

"Me, too"
It didn't matter what I tried.  For the 1st 3 days, little Josephina and I just bumped heads.  In our click of girls around 12 yrs, she'd steal the spotlight, make jokes, poke fun, raise her voice, and give me attitude.  Minute in, day out.  I wanted to talk, she wanted to talk louder.  I wanted to ask a girl a question, she'd want to ask her another.  I tried to dance goofy, she'd step into the circle.  I showed compassion, she flirted with sarcasm.  I smiled at my girls, she'd yell in my face.  A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E....... the wall was built and the barrier was drawn.

Although it hurt at first.  Although it brought me to my knees in the beginning, I actually knew what it felt like to be a parent for the first time. She refused to let me in.  She didn't want to have anything to do with me. But, as I spent more time around her, I realized there wasn't ONE THING I didn't understand about little Josephina.  I read her like every Boxcar Children book I could read at that age.  I saw right through every front and facade she could fake.

But I didn't break.  I think the curtain began to tear when she called me a crazy Mzungu in front of her friends.  And rather than all my girls chiming in, laughing at her little game.... They defended me.  They stood up for me.  They told her I was their guest, their friend...their sister.  I wasn't a foreigner, I was a visitor.  their Friend.

My outreach to Josephina didn't stop for the 4 days.  I let her have her space, but when the time was right, I offered any love I had.  I could see it in her face that she clearly didn't understand why I was sticking around.  But as time passed, I'd catch her looking at me from across the room.  I'd see her sneak into any pictures we were taking as a group.  When I was teaching a dance, she jumped in to learn.  When I was teaching a song, she wanted to know the words.  And as our final chapter came to a close, on that last day I walked into their room to hug them goodbye--she stood there and stared at me.
my mini me.

I UNDERSTOOD Josephina.  I SAW her.  I heard her, knew her, and loved her.  I understood her because... I WAS her.  I was the exact little girl at that age, and I knew deep down she understood ME by the time we were leaving.

And it was that understanding that finally broke her.  "I will always always remember you, Amanda.  And I love you.  Always."....... "Me, too. Josephina.  Me. Too."

“ ‘Bull’ieve me” 
I’m the first to jump at the chance to sing and dance, believe me.  So, it was strange that when the rest of the team and hundreds of schoolkiddos took off for the music room that I decided to stay back.  Three of the older girls wanted to stay back with me, so we found the nearest tree and just sat.  We talked about everything.  We talked about food, favorite colors, snicker bars, and college.  We talked about love, about disappointments, about hope and futures.  We talked about America.  We talked about Rwanda.

They wanted me to sing.  (Good Lord).  But, I couldn’t disappoint them, so we wrote lyrics down to a song I knew and had them sing it with me.  They recorded it on their phones, and they copied the words into their notebooks.  For hours we just kicked it like we’d known each other for years.

It struck me that everytime I talked about America, their faces would light up.  And everytime I talked about Rwanda, sheepish blushes would grow over their cheeks.  They’d lower their heads in disagreement.  They couldn’t BELIEVE that I told them their country was absolutely beautiful.  They couldn’t believe that I told them the more time I spent there, the more I was falling in love with their city.  They just wanted to know more.  And more.  And more.  They were thirsty for this knowledge they thought I brought to the conversation.

“But!  What’s it REALLY like in America?  Where did you grow up?”  They kept asking.


You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!!!  As a bull cornered us around our tree, I shrieked in terror ! The girls erupted in laughs as I froze in silence!They let the cows just roam around the orphanage.  Oh.

“Girls, you’re not going to believe it,” I said, “but… THIS is where I grew up !  I grew up on a farm with cows and bulls!!  SEE !!  Rwanda is JUST like America !

And in that moment, if even for only a second… I became relatable.  They could believe my story.  They had a glimpse of hope and I knew why God wanted me to stay back.

"when Silence talks"
The last day.  Nothing needed to be said.  They all knew it.  My heart was breaking.  Words weren't coming, so everybody just left me alone.  We opened up the guitars and in the middle of the common ground, just started playing music.  Worship song after worship song.  And it didnt' matter that every one of them was in English.  The kids were magnetized to our laps.

Little Grace sat down on mine and didn't move.  I wasn't talking and she wasn't moving.  She just sat there.  Arms around mine, her little legs stradled as far as they could reach.  And as the immense heat from her fever poured over my chest, I sweat like I was running through a fire and my legs cramped up every two minutes.  But it didn't matter.  We didn't move.

For hours.  We just sat there.  Noella, Norine, Denize, Lillian, Amanda, Grace, Sandrine.. all my girls.  Hand in hand.  Arm in arm.  No words were said, and yet our emotions were screaming.  The mark was made and it was going to last forever.  The silence said it all.


"When you know you know"
I couldn't leave my nanny sistahs without saying Goodbye.  So I sat on the cold concrete floor with them, laughing and 'talking' as if we'd been friends forever.  Of course, none of us knew what any of us were saying....but it didn't matter.

We sat there, in a heap of babies.  No, literally.  There was about 20 babies, all just crawling all over each other in the middle of the floor, in a pile of preciousness.  All in line for their bath.

It was quite amazing, really...

Not wanting to, again... not do anything, I offered up my hands to take a lil one.  She reached into the middle of the pile, like she was reaching into a bucket to pull out a Bingo tile and threw me 'the chosen one.'... Yes, she THREW me a baby.

And I gasped.  Tears instantly sprung.  My heart lurched and a twinging pain ran through my veins.  I froze as I gently held her close to my chest and tried to catch my breath..... and it wasn't because she just launched a baby over a heap of others.

Out of all those little ones.  The ones crying.  The ones hungry.  The ones naked or needing a changing.  Out of about 2 dozen babies, she threw me, Mine.  ....The one I held the first day.  the one that I strapped to my back.  That nanny wasn't there that first day, she had no idea.....

and it was all the confirmation I needed.

~ ~ ~ You see, over the course of the 4 days I spent at Noel, there were hundreds of moments like these that will forever have an imprint on my heart.  I have been changed eternally because of these friendships and bondships I formed while in Rwanda...  And because of this time I spent there, God spoke loud and clear to me what the other universal language really is. . .


  1. Great post! I Love your heart!

  2. I LOVE this. I'm reading it, feeling like I'm there too. So precious!!!