Thursday, June 16, 2011


Heidi at lunch

by Heidi Janss

Yesterday, when we spent the afternoon with the people at Ubuzima, most of us forgot that they are living with HIV/AIDS.  As we sat side by side, learning to make beads, conversing in different languages, and sharing laughter, it was easy to forget that these people are sick.  They do not live like they are sick.  They live in hope for the future and thankfulness to be alive.  This joy was contagious.
Today was a different story.  We got in our team van and drove to different parts of the city to meet with three women from Ubuzima who are suffering from complications of their disease.  On our visits, we took them rice, grains, beans, fresh fruit, oil and soap.  The first woman lived at the top of a hill (read "mountain" here).  The first third of our journey up was manageable.  We travelled over roots, rocks, gullies, and discarded shoes, weaving our way back and forth up the side of the hill.  With every turn in the path, we said a silent prayer that we were there.  That prayer wasn't answered for 20 minutes, we when arrived at the top with our hearts about to burst out of our chests (and I'm not just saying that as the middle-aged mom of the group).

The team climbing down a "hill"
As we waited for our resting heart rate to return, we took in the scenery far below us and made friends with the children that had gathered.  It seems wherever we find ourselves, there are lots of children.  We then were told by the women's children that their mom had left and they didn't know where she was or when she was coming back.  We squeezed our team of 12, Jen Kamari, David (from the street kids camp) and Alice (from Ubuzima) into the house, where Emily and Lindsey led us in prayer for the woman, her family and her home.  Then back down the hill we went, easier than going up but still challenging (remember the rocks, roots and gullies).  On our way down, we learned from other women in the village that the woman we were going to visit had gone to the hospital.  I'm sure I'm not the only one that prayed that she would be able to return home soon.

Our second visit was to a woman named Nancy who also lived at the top of a hill, but thankfully this one was not as daunting as the first.  Nancy is bed-ridden, suffering from secondary infections of her HIV/AIDS.  Her house, even though twice the size of the first house, could probably fit into your living room.  And, like the first house, it was dark, very dark, since the house had no windows.  We took turns going into her bedroom in groups of three (one adult and two teens) to meet her.  Nancy said that her faith in God was strong.  She described the sickness she is feeling as "the enemies inside her" and said that God's love would defeat those enemies. She told us that when she heard we were coming, she felt the enemies breaking apart.  Nancy also blessed us and called us family.  We then gathered in her living room and met three of her children, boys ages 13, 12 and 11.  Nancy has two girls, ages 9 and 7, who were at school.  (The kids here split their time in school with everyone spending half a day there.)  We asked the boys questions, like what they liked to do, and they did the same to us.  We then went outside to play with the soccer ball we brought for them.

The team at Denise's house.  Denise is in the back in the
purple shirt.  Her mother stands in front of her.  David our
translator for the day kneels in front of Alysa who served
as our guide.  The young man in front is Denise's son.
Our third and final visit was with Denise, an HIV/AIDS victim who is having issues with her heart.  Her home was still simple and small compared to what we have in America, but it was grand compared to what Nancy had.  Denise was a business woman, who knows partial English.  Denise and her family survived the horrors of the genocide and relocated to Burundi, where her husband had a job as a long-distance truck driver.  After moving to Burundi, her husband was shot and killed while driving.  Denise and her five children moved back to Rwanda to live with her mother in Kigali.  From the moment we walked into the house, we could tell God was firmly rooted in their home.  Denise praised him and thanked us for coming and then prayed with us in Kinyarwandan.  You could tell Denise was struggling to breathe as a result of her heart problems.  She shared her experiences in coming to know Jesus, how Jesus saved her when she was a young adult and had an internal problem that the doctors could not help her with.  She turned to prayer and got better.  Since then she tells everyone about Jesus's love for them.  Denise then told us all about her family, even pulling out photo albums to share with us.  What a treat.  Denise's oldest child is at university and, while we were there, her youngest child, age 11, came home.  Jen Kamari commented to him as he walked in the room, "I bet you didn't expect to come home and find your house full of Mazungus, did you?"  Mazungu is the word for white people, and we've been hearing it a lot!  He laughed and then shook all of our hands, bursting into a smile when he saw the soccer ball we brought.  Emily led us in prayer before we left to head back to Moucecore.

What did we see today?  We saw women and families living with disease and living in poverty.  We also saw the same families living with faith and in relationship with Christ.  In a way, today's story wasn't much different than our story from yesterday.  Yes, the disease in these women was definitely evident.  But, they also live in hope for the future and thankfulness to be alive.
The view from our guest house (Moucecore) at night.


  1. These posts are so well written and incredibly touching. Thank you for sharing the experiences so eloquently. Emily I am so proud of you!

  2. That story about the mom in the hospital and the children on the hill/mountain was so sad!You guys must've made the mom's children feel better, though.Keep up the good work!hope your having a good time, Emily.

  3. You may never fully realize the positive impact you have on these people. You are truly being Jesus with skin on and I know God is smiling when He sees the love and care you are sharing. I am so proud of all of you. God continue to bless you as you share His love.

    Grandma Freudenburg

  4. Good to read your post, prayer buddy!I love your thoughtful photo and your thoughtful words.

    May you continue to bless and be blessed!

  5. You are all SOOO BEAUTIFUL!!!! Inside and out, and all I can say is that just to keep up the good work and keep spreading THE LOVE!!! love you all so much and hope that you guys are doing AMAZING! =)

  6. You are each certainly doing God's work. Bless you for that. I am sure I share with all of your families in saying how proud we are of you. Our prayers continue for you on this unbelievable journey which last a lifetime. God Bless. (Carlo)