My Soul Magnifies the Lord

Luke 1:46-55 “And Mary said,My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
I and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

“Vanessa’s already working on plans A, B, through Z. Me? I’m trying to memorize the details of her face like it’s the first time I’m seeing it…..or the last” -Wade Wilson – Deadpool

(I know, Deadpool and the Virgin Mary in one post, but I think it’ll make sense.)

If you were to ask my friends, or family to describe me, I’m certain you’d receive a plethora of both positive and negative words, but I assume the words flexible and adaptable would be two of those words.

These traits have made acclimating to social situations in Rwanda fairly easy. If things start later than expected, oh well, it happens. If I’m at an event an hour later than I wanted to be, oh well, I obviously needed to be there for some reason. If more/fewer people show up to an event than expected, oh well, we’ll find a way to make things work. If someone loses track of time and I’m late for another engagement, it’s normally okay.

I assist in teaching a entry level English course at a local university, which is supposed to start at eight in the morning but doesn’t truly start until eight-thirty. Students continue to trickle into the classroom as late as ten. The teacher doesn’t shame them for being tardy, she doesn’t deduct points from them, or give them any kind of punishment. She simply acknowledges them subtly and continues to teach. Before she dismissed the class for break she told them to meet back in the classroom by ten-forty with Unites States timeliness but she knows the class will not start again until later than that.

Situations like this are fairly common in Rwanda and I’ve noticed that people are very generous with their reactions here. That is not not normally my experience in the United States.

In the states people are so deadline oriented and time sensitive. It is perfectly normal to tell someone you have to stop your conversation with them because you have to go to another appointment, no matter how deep, or good that conversation is. It’s also pretty common to try and cram spending time with people you love somewhere in the crazy schedule that you’ve created for yourself. For some reason, this has become normal, and I know I’ve done it from time to time.

You see, I am guilty of this, but in a way that is a quasi mix of Rwandan culture and the culture of The United States. You may not know it but, I kind of secretly plan things. Maybe not fully plan, but deeply hope for things then begin to plan them. I don’t do this with day to say tasks or events normally. Those pretty much come in the spur of the moment based on my inclinations or on what seems to be a good thing to do, unless there is something I absolutely have to get done. This frustrates most of my family members, and will continue to frustrate them when I get back. My day to day planning seems pretty in keeping with what I’ve experienced in this culture, yet I still do plan. My planning is far in the future for things that may never happen and may not even be worth planning for because they’ll happen naturally.

These plans normally come about because I get excited or nervous of what the future might look like and I want to think I have some control over what it’ll look like, or how it’ll come about, even though I really don’t.

I had to come face to face with the fact that even though I could try to plan my future both the things that excite me and the things that make me nervous, it might be better for me to look at someone, an experience, or a situation and try to memorize the details as if it’s the first time I’m seeing them. I don’t have to have all of the details sorted out for what I’ll do with whomever or how long I’ll be wherever for however long.

I embody both aspects of this quote and I didn’t even realize it until recently. I remember, before I left for Rwanda, I had an experience that I knew I would vividly remember for probably the rest of my life, but I wanted to make sure I never forgot it. This was an experience that came from a spur of the moment request, but I didn’t know that the outcome would impact me so greatly. In that moment, “I was trying to memorize the details of the person’s face like it was my first time seeing them…or the last.” I decided when I got back to my parent’s house to write down every last detail from that moment so it would be something I could hold onto and know I’d never let go of it. I was trying to jot down all of the details because although I might never forget the moment, I also never want to forget the emotions attached to that moment.

In Rwanda I’ve realized I plan more than I probably should. I’ve been accepted to graduate school, which I won’t be attending for eight more months, I’ve had people ask for me to make a list of thing I want to do when I get back in a little over six months, I’ve thought about where I’ll live, different jobs, what life might look like, if I’ll be able to adjust, if people will become frustrated with my confusion around things that have changed since I’ve been gone, and the list could probably go on.

I haven’t planned responses to each of these questions or situations, but they have popped in my mind.

It makes me think of the obedience of Mary. She didn’t know she’d be carrying Jesus, she didn’t know what the pregnancy would look like, and she didn’t know what his life would look like entirely, but she was obedient (graciously so in my opinion). She knew he’d die and that he’d rise again, but the pieces in between his birth, death, and resurrection weren’t things she knew fully. I like to believe that even though she knew the end, she didn’t let that hinder the way she lived her life.

I think I could learn from this in the moments when I’m like Vanessa. It could cause me to have more Wade like moments. Even though I do know this experience will end, I don’t have to have all of the answers for what my world will look like when this ends. I also can take time to not focus on the ends, but rather focus on the details of various moments and take the time to find more things that I might hold onto forever.

(This was a note etched in the back of a classroom. It says, “Why I am still alive? For God’s purpose.” I don’t know why this hit me but it kinda made me think about going with the flow and following along even if I don’t know the full plan.)


Only an Ocean Away

Romans 12:4-5 “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

I haven’t posted in a while due to the fact that I was on retreat with my cohort for a week. It was a great time to relax and to refocus, but this post won’t focus on that.

It was Tuesday night when I got off of my over three hour bus ride and finally arrived at my building.

I put all of my items down and began to get ready to go to bed, because I was dead tired. I talked to my parents through exhaustion and scrolled through Facebook briefly before going to bed. This is when something strange hit me. I was looking at pictures of people celebrating thanksgiving and going shopping. I was shocked at what the United States looked like. I had the feeling of, “Is this what my world once looked like?” I saw strip malls, cars on snowy roads, large televisions, full shopping carts and beautiful Christmas decorations. Honestly, I felt a little lost in it all. I felt no judgement or irritation. I was simply aware of how so much my way of life has changed in the past 3-4 months.

Before I had left for retreat, one of my friends had been talking about a hashtag that was big in the states, but I wasn’t familiar with it and I had to ask them to explain it to me.

Last night one of my friends was explaining some memes to me because I hadn’t seen them and didn’t understand why they were funny.

All of these experiences were mind blowing to me because I hadn’t realized how the little things might impact me. At no point had I ever thought that memes, or hashtags would impact me in any way.

This might be hard to believe, but I do forget that I’m in Africa sometimes. I forget that I’m about eight thousand miles away from the United States. For some reason it is easy for me to remember that there are YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission) all around the world experiencing many different things, and seeing how God is active in their lives, but I forget that I’m one of those YAGM.

I try to be as aware of this as possible and to be mindful that so much is happening in the world around me. I also try to realize that life continues on in the United States, even if it’s only an ocean away.

It’s an interesting set of feelings and a cool experience that God is giving me. If these experiences are an indicator of anything, then I’m fairly certain that I will be overwhelmed by many things when I step back into the U.S. That’s seven-ish months in the future, so I’m not too concerned about it right now.I am simply becoming more and more aware of how the world is still moving, just as I am also moving through my life in Rwanda, even if I do forget that I’m here sometimes.

(These are some hippos we saw in Akagera National Park. I also got the chance to swim in a lake where hippos were. I didn’t see any, but it was a pretty cool experience.)

In Pairs

Luke 10:1 “After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.

I’m going to preface this post by saying I absolutely love being international more than almost anything I’ve ever experienced. I truly love it more than anything I’ve ever experienced when I have the opportunity to play games, talk to, or just hang out with youth. Please don’t take this post as anything more than me being a little vulnerable or me simply expressing the importance of community and companionship in my life.

I take some time to think

How will I explain

My life is so amazing

But it might just sound mundane

It’s been three months since I was in my state

So much has happened but this feels the same

I take some mental notes

Sometimes it feels like a big catch up game

Will you want to know about my market trips

About the miles I walk

About the ledges I climb

About the people I hear talk

Your life keeps going on

You’re how many miles away

I hear about what’s new

Sometimes I don’t know what to say

Your life seems so busy

Mine truly is not

You sound like you’re excited

This is when I have a thought

Has it really been three months

I can’t tell you any lies

I wish you had a day here

To see things with your own eyes

To have youth ask to touch your hair

To see the smiles of people as you walk by

To experience washing clothes by hand

To sit on a roof and look at this night sky

These are things you may never know

They’re moments I’ll have to be there to explain

How do I tell of this beauty

It’s anything but plain

One moment I see lush mountains

The next I see a sandstorm

It might sound kinda odd

But for me this is the norm

I know that we’ll be talking

At two, or, five, or maybe nine

Is it your time, or mine

How many hours are you behind

I’m learning to speak five languages

And I’m definitely not through

But there’s one phrase which I’ve learned in all

Tu me manques.

Ishtaqtu ilayka katheeran.

Ninakukosa rohoni.


Delam barat tang shode.

Which each roughly translate to “I miss you”

This feeling doesn’t constrict me

It reminds me of one place I call home

It also helps me realize

In the future I won’t be alone.

So I sit on the ledge

Or maybe my bed

I wait for the call

That some might come to dread

I feel the phone vibrate

And hear a loud sound

I put in my headphones

And see if anyone’s around

I answer the phone

I mean, what else would I do

I say in my exhausted tone

“Hey. How are you?”

It’s late at night for me normally

I stay awake with all my might

And I’ll tell you it’s worth it

Staying up so late at night

No because of the topics

Or because I’m just so polite

But it’s because I’m talking to someone

And sharing our stories just feels right.

Dear God, thank you for giving all of those who are abroad communities to love and care for us. Thank you for the gift of friendship and for those who seek to understand. Amen

(This is a photo I took of part of Huye (Butare) at night. There was heat lightning as well, but I simply wasn’t quick enough to capture a picture of it.)

Far from the Home I Love

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

About a week ago I was talking to one of my friends back in the states. We were talking about politics, current events, international news, etc. I was explaining how it’s strange to see so many things happening in the world, knowing they might effect me in some way, but not being directly connected to them. If that sentence was confusing, I’m sorry. My explanation of that feeling is very confusing, because the feeling is unlike anything I’ve experienced before.

I rambled on about this for a while, but she summarized it in three words, “you’re receiving history”.

She’s correct. I couldn’t have said it better myself. There are so many historic events happening currently and I do not feel as directly involved in them as I might have been at one point in time. Thinking about this in some cases is amazing and awe inspiring, while in others is heartbreaking and disenchanting.

Let me list some of the recent historic events going on in the world, outside of the U.S and Europe, that may not be known or have been overlooked.

Ethiopia elects its first female president.

Cameroon’s President won his seventh term in office, extending his thirty-six years as president

The Pakistani Supreme Court acquits Christian woman of blasphemy against Mohammed after eight years on death row.

Chile will become the first South American country to ban plastic bags

An intense drought is currently going on in Afghanistan.

Bangladesh will continue to hold their national election on December 23rd despite the imprisonment of the leader of the opposition party.

The DRC experiences it’s largest outbreak of Ebola in history, which is currently the third largest in the world’s history.

These are some of the events I’m referring to when I say amazing, awe inspiring, heartbreaking and disenchanting.

Some of these topics make people feel uncomfortable. They force people to think that they might be part of a world that is larger than their family, friend group, city, state, or country. One of the Resident Directors ay Lenoir-Rhyne coined the statement, “You can’t facilitate caring.” I believe he’s right. I can’t make people desire to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. I can’t force people to take in the orphan. There’s no way I can coax someone into stepping into the uncomfortable and going places others deem as hopeless, or scary. However, I can do these things and live into what I believe it means to be a Christ follower. I can claim that identity and live into what I believe the term missionary to mean.

While in Rwanda I have experienced so many amazing things so far. One of the greatest things I have witnessed is generosity. This generosity extends beyond the giving of belongings. Each day I see people translate for others, walk with people, celebrate with people, carry items for others, help fix cars, join in meals, and the list could go on.

Just this last week, I had a shirt made. The women who was taking my measurements couldn’t speak English well, so a man in the market offered to help us communicate. He didn’t have to do this, but he gave his time in order to help her and to help me.

The women also realized that I only had enough fabric to make a short sleeve shirt and offered me some of her black fabric, so I could have a long sleeve shirt. I had never interacted with this women before this, but she was being so generous with her time and her resources.

What if the international community existed in this way? What if this generosity extended beyond one country and didn’t see borders as a barrier for generosity and care for other people? When I look at these few pieces of news, I am thankful that I have the ability to know what is going on and to see areas where the world is progressing. I am also righteously indignant when I feel that, as a whole, the international community is choosing to not do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

This is a place that I am learning to be in. I am learning to revel in the beauty of events, while also being frustrated with what seems to be the choice to not care. It’s not a fun place and sometimes it becomes taxing, but I know that having access to this information is a privilege and that even when it seems like the world may not know, or not care, I can still care, and go be in those places which make people uncomfortable or scared.

It might not make sense why I would leave the comfort of not knowing, or the place of worrying about the issues that directly impact my home in the United States, but that’s okay. I don’t think we’re just called to be with the people we know or to live only understanding the issues that directly effect us. At least, I know I’m not. In this way, I choose to step out, far from the whom I love.

It reminds me of the quote from Fiddler in the Roof where Tevye and his daughter Hodel are talking at the train station as she is about to leave. Tevye tries to wrap his mind about why she would leave the comfort of her home to go to a deserted wasteland. All he can think is that she is asked to go by a boy. Her response to him is, “He did not ask me to go. I want to go.”

Being in Rwanda has helped me realize that’s its one thing to know what issues are going on in the world and it’s another to truly care about them. It’s one thing to be asked to go and another to want to go.

Caring about the world beyond our contexts is hard. It isn’t always full of happiness and beauty, but I fully believe it’s worth it. Who knows, you might end up caring for people you don’t even know. It’s definitely happened to me.

Dear God, only You know what the implications for these events and all events in the world are. Help us to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly all the days of our lives. Amen

Link for the song Far From the Home I Love:

I don’t have a photo that super relates to this blog, but last week I was able to visit the traditional palace of the king of Rwanda in a city called Nyanza. Now, this is part of a museum, where people can learn, and experience history. Traditionally, a person wishing to see the king would have to be able to trace their lineage back five generations. Luckily that has changed or else I might never have been able to experience this huge piece of Rwandan culture and history.

The Least of These

Matthew 25: 31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

I walk about two miles to school every day. I’m not over exaggerating. This walk takes me through town, up some hills, down some hills, and down a few cobblestone paths. I’ve grown familiar with this walk. Sometimes I make it two, three, maybe even four times a day. It’s become part of my routine.

I normally try to be as alert as possible when making this walk. I greet people, smile, wave, and take in all that I can. This is a pretty normal routine for me, but one time I changed it up.

On Sunday I was walking back from a birthday party at night and decided I wanted to listen to music. The party was held behind the school, so I knew I’d have a two mile walk ahead of me and thought some music would be nice. I put in my headphones once I got to a well lit area and continued on my way. Before anyone becomes concerned for my safety, I’m just going to say that I feel extremely safe in this community and know that even though I may stand out, that doesn’t mean something bad is going to happen to me.

Now, back to the story. I was walking with my headphones in and a song came on that I hadn’t heard in a while. The song is “One of Us” by Joan Osborne. If you don’t know her, it’s because I think she was a one hit wonder. If you don’t know the song, I’d say give it a listen.

So, I’m listening to this song and begin to think about the lyrics, “just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.” I pondered this for a while and I grew irritated.

Why is it so easy for many people to read articles about war, acts of terror, displacement, diseases, natural disasters, etc? At what point did people see numbers and not people? When did money determine whether we help the sick, the homeless, the widow, the marginalized, those who we would see as the least of these.

I had just left a party where children and adults were welcomed. There was plenty of food, drinks, and all seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was laughter, story telling, jokes, and happiness. This was so amazing for me to experience and it enforce many things I already get.

This seems like what we’re supposed to do. We should give lavishly, invite all, see the faces not the numbers, and value the story over what the person could do for us. Why would we not care for the stranger, the outcast, the discriminated against, and choose to look foolish?

Where I come from saying these things might earn you a label. You might be called a loser, a hippie, an idealist, a dreamer, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s okay to have a party and open the doors to all who might show up, maybe it’s okay to give recklessly, and maybe we should be more willing to support the least of these in whatever ways we can.

God, maybe the easy road isn’t the one you call us to take and maybe one culture doesn’t have it all right. Thank you bringing us beyond nationalities and cultures to be with the least of these, even on the days when we know we too are the least of these. Amen

(This is one of the roads I walk on going home. I have a flashlight, so I’m fine. Also, the sky has beautiful shades of purple, blue and grey at night. This makes not having the constant light really nice.)


Philippians 4:5 “Let your gentleness be evident to everyone. The Lord is near.”

Be gentile with yourself.” These are the words said by a YAGM Rwanda alum. In the moment I didn’t really get what this meant, but throughout my time in Rwanda these words have stuck with me.

I think about this statement in multiple way. First, I should be gentile with myself when I struggle or am confronted with something that takes the wind out of my sails. Second, I should be gentle with myself when I struggle to share what I’m experiencing with my community in the states. Finally, and this one I just recently thought about, my community in the states should be gentle with me and all of the other YAGMs around the world as we struggle to figure this out for ourselves.

This week has been weird for me. Normally I have an idea of what I’m going to post about a day or two before I post, but this week was different. My mind has been buzzing with ideas, I wrote two of them out, but I couldn’t bring myself to publish them. It hit me earlier today, a voice saying, “Be gentle with yourself. Maybe your community in the states is figuring out what it means to be gentle with you too.”

Now before I continue, I feel extremely supported by friends, family, and various other members of my community. This post is more to show you some of the frustrations, beauty, and experiences that might be difficult to express.

Be gentle with yourself

On the days when you say the wrong word or turn down the wrong road, but see how beautiful your new home is

Be gentle with yourself

When you feel like you stick out or you have no idea what you might have agreed to yet you persist

Be gentle with yourself

Through the nights where you can’t seem to go to sleep and the nights when you realize it’s nine-thirty and you feel dead tired

Be gentle with yourself

In the moments when two of your anklets get tangled and while fixing the problem you cry because there’s something oddly poetic about it

Be gentle with yourself

During the times when all you want is to see a familiar face or to feel a familiar touch, yet resist the urge to hideaway

Be gentle with yourself

On the days when you feel like you know nothing and the days you feel you’re finally getting the hang of this YAGM thing

Be gentle with yourself

When people ask you about issues going on back home, or about issues going on around/in the county you’re serving in

Be gentle with yourself

And know that through this whole beautiful, frustrating, eye opening, amazing experience, there is a cloud of witnesses ready to be there through it all.

Dear God, thank You for loving us throughout all of our experiences. No matter where we go, or what we do, you are there with us. Please be with all figuring out what being gentle looks like. Thank You for the beauty of these moments and for reminding us that from the west to the east, you are gathering us. Amen

(This is a photo I took one of those days when I took a wrong turn. I thought it was a short cut back to where I live from the primary scho. It began to rain really hard and the tree fell. I continued to walk and waved/greeted those I passed by who were under cover. Everyone laughed. It sounds like a bad situation, but it was one of my favorite moments in Huye.)

Jesus is on the Wire

Psalm 82:3 “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed.”

As I walk down dusty, clay roads to and from school, the library, and church, I notice there are gates attached to large walls around houses. This isn’t anything I’m unaccustomed to. In the United States people live in gated communities, or they have fences intentionally put up around their homes to secure their privacy. It wasn’t until this week that I noticed something unique about these gates/walls. Most of these gates and walls have interesting features on them. Some of them have wire, others have spikes, and still others have bits of glass.

I’m not entirely certain why they are this way. Maybe it’s for safety, maybe for privacy, maybe it’s for aesthetic reasons. I honestly may never know, but I do know that frequently when I walk by these places, I think of the song Jesus is on the Wire performed by Peter, Paul and Mary. (If you do not know this song, I strongly recommend listening to it and reading the story behind why it was written.)

In thinking of this song as I walk by these gates, I think of how often people leave topics on the preverbal fences never to be discussed. These topics that are often seen as too taboo or uncomfortable for those with privilege to want to approach. We often don’t realize that these topics represent aspects of people’s lives. As I walk by I think of my YAGM year and who I will advocate for internationally. I think of those who bear a story they can never tell. I think of people who are victims of violence. I think of those who are victims of circumstances beyond their control. I think of children taken from families, and vice versa.

I feel a deep passion in my gut. It’s unshakable.

I keep walking, greeting people as we cross paths. I realize they don’t know what is buzzing in my head. They may not know where I’m going, or who I am. They just know that I greeted them and that we shared a smile.

It’s hard to think sometimes that this is life. My life is fairly simple here. I don’t have to think about homecoming, Halloween costumes, making plans for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Spring Break adventures. I cook one to two meals a day, I read, sometimes tutor, watch a movie here, or there, and volunteer at a school five days a week. It’s a life I could get used to, but I know in this space of routine and comfort it is easy to become complacent.

It’s like a ship safety kept in a harbor. It could be made with amazing craftsmanship, catch the eyes of all the passersby, have all the potential in the world, and stay docked in that harbor forever. This is a nice idea, but this is not what ships are meant for. Ships are meant to cast off. Staying docked is a waste of their purpose and their potential.

I’m not completely certain what my life looks like after YAGM. Actually, I’m not even entirely certain what my life looks like after October. I don’t even know how I’ll advocate for others in the United States, but this is okay. I do know a few things.

I know that I’m in the country of Rwanda. A country that I’m beginning to see as a second home. I know that I miss working with youth like crazy. I know that at times I grieve the loss of big things in my life. (Weddings, birthdays, graduations, etc.) I know that I’ve learned so much from people here and cant wait to share my experiences more fully with loved ones around the world. I also know that these next few months will pass by quicker than I expect.

I think I’m finally understanding why when I tell people how long I’ll be here, they tell me it is a short time. This is an eye opening revelation for me and yet, tomorrow will still come. I’ll get up at 6:45, take my malaria pill, get dressed, fill up my water bottle, eat something, brush my teeth, and walk to school. I’ll walk by the walls/gates that call me to go, and constantly remind me that Jesus is on the Wire.

These are some of the sites I see as I stroll to various locations. There are many more with gorgeous designs, and intricate details. These images simply give you an understanding of the diversity in design I mention in this blog.