Friday, July 25, 2014

Love is an Open Door

Lizzie and GCM member, Henry

by Lizzie Fleming 

It’s so odd to be referencing the movie Frozen in a land that sees no snow.

Kiziba refugee camp has many problems. I can’t deny that, especially after being approached by children asking for everything from water to a bike. But the love present in the camp and shown towards us throughout our time there was so incredibly strong, I don’t have anything else to compare it to. If I had to describe it, I would say it was without boundaries.

We started our day playing the board games we brought with the refugees who participated in a small beginner English class. Kate and I took out one of the Scrabble boards, and I was incredibly nervous to play a game centered around language with a group of people who were just learning English for the first time. While the whole concept of connecting the words seemed a little lost on those we played with, they formed words with relative ease and seemed incredibly eager to participate. When we’d occasionally correct their spelling, they thanked us profusely and seemed happy to know rather than embarrassed by their mistake. One man spelled out the names of countries ranging from Europe to Africa to Asia, and he named countries I couldn’t even point to on a map. We even did a round that was food specific, and it was fun to teach each other foods local to our continent that the other had never even heard of. When the time for games was over, all of them grasped my hands and thanked me for my patience with them. I felt as if they truly appreciated the help I’d given, even if we only sat for about a half hour. 

Lizzie and Kate play scrabble in the library
While the boys played their game of basketball, Gail and I sat surrounded by kids, showing them our photo albums and doing our best to explain the American normalities that were so foreign to them. One girl, a little older than the rest, sat quietly behind us. Her English was phenomenal, and she read words in our pictures quite easily. When the younger and much more grabby younger children took my photo album from my hands, she delicately took it from them and gave it back to me. When Gail passed out silly bands (and by passed out, I mean she passed out one before they were yanked from her hands by waves of children), this girl made the younger kids who took about seven share with those who came up empty-handed. Her quiet love for everyone around her, both me and all the other kids, surprised me in a place filled with the constant sound and chaos.

Walking back to the library where we’d meet with the youth, I had two kids grab my hands to accompany me down the hill. They didn’t say anything, which was typical of the kids there that spoke little English, but the simple gesture of grabbing my hands said enough. I tried to coax conversation out of them as best as I could. However, most of our walk passed in silence. Now this may just seem like kids looking for a little attention, but when they left after their mother called them, two young women even older than me that I played basketball with picked up where the kids left off and helped me down to the bottom of the hill.

I hope it’s not hard to see why I felt such love overflowing from the people of Kiziba. And the message of this blog isn’t that the people of Kiziba are happy despite their troubles. Because people aren’t happy - there are problems that no one’s working to solve, and not everyone has hope for a future outside the camp. But that doesn’t mean these people can’t teach us a thing or two about loving through the usual walls that separate us.


  1. This is how Christ will change the world, not with armies or governments, but the love of children for other children.

  2. Shoot, Lizzie you totally hit the nail on the head in the last paragraph- I love what you said there!! (P.S. Gail I remember brining silly bands to Kiziba- good choice!!). Sending you all my love!

  3. Lizzie, "loving through the usual walls that separate us" was a masterful use of simple words. Maya Angelou said, "...people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Today that went both ways at Kiziba.

  4. I agree with what Ken said!! I really enjoyed reading about your Scrabble game, that's so fun to be able to teach the people in the camp anything from English to food!! You guys are doing amazing things. I'm glad you are feeling the love :)

  5. I agree. Powerful words and insight. Well said!

  6. It's wonderful that you felt such love and that it was felt in return. Sounds like the scrabble game was educational for all involved! It's great to hear how sweet the children are and the eagerness of the people to learn. Lizzie, I loved your last line. It was beautifully said. Keep on sharing your love, kindness and message of hope. Blessings to everyone.

  7. Lizzie's description of the quiet girl leaves a deep impression with me. Such patience and peace. Too often, I let worry and chaos steal my composure. She's a good example.

    Thanks for sharing your stories.