Monday, August 06, 2012

The most amazing trip to Kibeho yet.

Today was a very special day for me. Awaking at the Cana Center in Kibeho we were surrounded by raw beauty of nature. Kayitesi was my roommake and gently awoke when my alarm went off at 7:30.

WARNING…this is a bit of a faith based entry,so if it’s not your cup of tea, pass and look for tomorrows. There. I warned you.

Cana Center is beautiful retreat center. The rooms a simple, but sparkling clean and have bathrooms in each one. The yard is lush green and sits on the top of the hill that provides spectacular views. I often look into those hills and imagine the sights and sounds during the genocide. The echoes would have gone on for miles.

In the center of the grounds is a statue I have named Big Jesus for the kids. When driving to Kibeho, they always ask if we have time to see big Jesus. When I say, BIG, I mean B-I-G. He is made of some type of cast iron and must stand 50 ft tall. Some day I will ask….but you get the this idea he is HUGE. It is the Divine Heart of Jesus so he has a red and blue ray coming out of his chest and features the words In Jesus I trust at his feet.

Often when we visit, there a people sitting on the simple benches praying or singing. Today I got some solo time with the big guy and got some work done on my heart and life. It was time well spent.

The boys were up early so I had to tell them to keep it down, as I knew Abby hadn’t slept much since Grace had been throwing up during the night. But, by morning, everyone seemed ready to play. I headed off to spend some time on the ground of the grounds of the church and chapel that are home to the miracles that happened between 1981 and 1989. Mary – yes THAT Mary. Appeared to 3 schoolgirls to warn them about the upcoming genocide, to encourage them to repent and turn their lives around AND to pray a special rosary called the Seven Sorrows Rosary.

One of the girls – Nathalie – has stayed there since she was 17 when she had her first visions of Mary. Everyday she greets people and tells her story. She patiently answers questions and prays for each of them. I have gotten to know her quite well over the past few years in visits and texts (yes! Texting with a visionary!) and we planned that on this trip I was going to get some quality time to help her with her English. We scheduled time starting at 9:30am. I got there at 8 to pray, to walk around and to simply soak I the place that was so special to be deemed worthy of this miracle.

It was quality time. Every other time I have gone, I have been constantly worried about getting back to the kids, or if I am taking to long praying in the chapel etc…but today I got some zero pressure time for me. It was beautiful to just breathe it in.

I saw Nathalie early on but we both just kept doing our thing knowing we would be seeing each other in a bit.

As it goes in Rwanda, nothing is ever as planned so you go with the flow. After walking the grounds and chatting with some young people who were working the nearby field I arrived at Nathalie’s home right at 9:30 sharp. As I rounded the corner I saw Father Ulbald ( I met him in NY about a month ago on retreat with Immaculee. He is very special man.

Imagine if there were you life experience thus far: Fr. Ubald has been a Roman Catholic priest for 25 years in the Cyangugu Diocese of southeastern Rwanda. Cyangugu is situated very closely to the Congo and Burundi borders on the picturesque Lake Kivu. During the 1994 genocide Fr. Ubald lost over 80 members of his family and over 45,000 of his parishioners were exterminated.
This humble, wonderful man has the gift of healing and is quite a vessel.
Imagine both of our surprises to see each other at Nathalie’s door at the same time!

We greeted each other. I explained I was there to teach her English lessons. He has about 15 people from Australia and Germany with him. They of course deserved 1st position. ☺. Nathalie explained that it wouldn’t be long, but over an hour later, I was concerned that our 2 hour English lesion was shrinking quickly. Earlier I had asked her for her notebook that we used in April. I write in English, she translated to Kinyarwanda. This time I handed the notebook to Sande, Grace and Kayitesi who came over to help me teach. I wrote out the sign of the cross, the our father, hail Mary and each of the 7 sorrows. The kids transcribed on the steps outside of Nathalie’s small room where she greets people.

The guests thoroughly enjoyed the time with Nathalie although I did not understand a word that was uttered! After the guests left we all pulled up chairs to her small table and began to teach. The kids were terrific helping her with translation and pronunciation challenges.

We worked our way through all the parts of the Seven Sorrows Rosary, but I had forgotten a few sections. She kept trying to tell the kids that I had missed something but it kept getting lost in the translation. Eventually – like a thump on the head – I got it.

The time was so sweet. She really enjoyed the kids and at one point suddenly got up from the table asking the kids if there were thirsty or wanted a sweet? They didn’t ask for anything as you an see what a simple life she leads. Yet, moments later she returns with some hard candy pieces for them. It was so sweet. I know I keep saying that, but it was, just simple honest connections and love.

As we wrapped our time together, Abby, the driver and other kids arrived. Nathalie was going to show us where the holy water stream is. She first said a prayer for us and walked us through the main church for another blessing.

As we rounded the corner to start heading down the hill to find the water, another group of visitors arrived…and so goes her life. All are unannounced and all have likely flown and then driven a long distance to meet her and enter this holy place. She of course needed to spend time with them. She walked us part way down the hill and then pointed out the series of turns to the kids. Abby and I looked at the clock which was now 1;20. We had planned to leave no later than 12:30 to get out of the mountains by dark. Sande suggested the walk was about 10 mins. each way. This over course means it would be 20 each way and put us into an unsafe situation. As I walked away, I yearned to stay to reach this new holy place. Looks like it would need to on the Christmas agenda when I return.

The first part of the ride was filled with high energy giggles, then sleeping, then awake. Our rickety rackety old rental van, is do load and the dust pours in from all side on the parts of the journey that are dirt roads that it made conversation a bit more challenging that usual as you had to yell from the front to the back to be heard.

No the less, the adventure was perfect.

We dropped Abby off just outside of Kigali so we could continue on while we still had light. Abby is such a gift to these kids and me. She is a constant presence of love, faith and fun. We are all blessed to call her our sister.

After Abby left, the van suddenly turned into the vomit mobile. Innocent filled a gallon Ziploc bag more than ½ full an then started another. I was doing everything to not vomit on Grace that I couldn’t even help him.

Grace then lept from my lap looking for a bag and voila. Puke.

Kayitesi was already lying down.

I think it was just the end of the long twisty turny roads and backed up behind some highly pollutant trucks that billow the dark black smoke unceasingly. Rwanda is such a “green “ environmentally sound country, these trucks always come as a surprise to me.

Back at New Hope Homes the kids cheered our arrival. We were one big dust cloud of love. Our bags where covered, but the hugs were clean!

When I went to greet everyone Alice hid under one of the boys bed. She told me “I do NOT remember you!” “What?” “What did I do Alice?” She then gave me a lickin’ for not saying goodbye when we left. She was apparently reaching out to hug me goodbye when I close the van door on the kids that were staying. Yikes! 29 kids in need of lots of love and attention can make for an occasional oversight. I asked her for “forgiveness”. She appears to be thinking about it! ☺

My head is spinning from the road, but my heart full.


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