Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Where Do You See Yourself in Four Years

The team recovers after another afternoon
of mixing and pouting concrete
by Darby Janss 

Going through orientations and starting new clubs as a freshman, most people are asked “Where do you see yourself in four years?  How do you think your life will be different?  What will stay the same?”.  It’s really hard to predict changes in your life because most times they come from unexpected events.  

Four years ago, I would’ve said that I wanted to make new friends, find out what I want to do after high school and for the rest of my life, and try new things.  Don’t get me wrong, I did all of those…Just not how I would’ve planned them.

As I started to prepare for Rwanda in 2011, Jen constantly told our team that this trip would change our lives. Honestly, whenever she said that I would just think “Yeah, okay, Jen. But I’ll probably never explain this experience to my children, or even think about it when I’m graduating.” 

Boy, was I wrong.  

Rwanda in 2011 changed me in ways that I can hardly explain. To this day, I seek justice. I am aware of how much water I use, and I try my hardest to reduce the amount. I am more involved in the refugee communities, so much so that I’m planning on focusing on refugees as a social worker.  I am more globally aware.  I get frustrated when people don’t understand the parts of the world around them. I get frustrated when I don’t understand. 

In short, Rwanda 2011 changed my life.

I am struggling with even putting into words what it did to me, but my life was flipped upside down.  Everything I do today is a result of me going on that trip.  

Now, I’m seeing everything in Rwanda a second time. And it’s different.  

Because of my first experience, I’m noticing things I missed in 2011. Today, for example, as we visited the church memorials, I felt like I was going to vomit. Not because of the skulls or bones, but because of how I pictured the churches before the genocide in 1994. As I walked in to the first church, I could hear our team singing “Mighty to Save” in the back of my mind. I imagined groups of people worshiping and praising God on Sunday mornings. As we walked through, I saw the bombed out and shattered stained glass. All I could think of was our church and how beautiful this one must’ve been before. 

Having Rwanda be my first mission trip ever definitely forced me to jump right in, head first, onto concrete.  My life was in pieces.  I had so many questions about faith and forgiveness and just the world in general.  I still don’t have answers, but I am slowly being bandaged back up into who I am going to be.  It was like God needed me to change, and fast.  He needed me to have this burning passion in me so I could be who I am TODAY, and not later.  He has great things planned for me and all because of who I am.

Going through four years of high school definitely changes everyone.  I wonder if I would’ve changed in the same ways if I hadn’t been to Rwanda in 2011?  How would I be different? I have no idea, but I thank God everyday for who I am. Today, as I am in Rwanda in 2014, I feel myself changing again.  I see the whole team changing. It may be in different ways, but all of us are being challenged everyday. I’m not sure what this means, but I hope that in another four years, we’ll be able to say we’re overjoyed with where God has taken us because of this trip.


  1. Darby ~
    It has been an honor to witness you grow in faith. To show all of us the grace of asking hard questions and search for true meaning in our lives.

  2. I am crying in my hotel room reading today's posts. I have heard about these memorials, but hearing your raw emotions makes everything more real. We are lucky you are coming home changed; you will make us better.

  3. Wow, Darby, this is incredible to read. I'm so glad the trip challenged you to think and grow and learn. Even shaping you into the person you are today. I really love everything you said in this blog, and I hope that I have a "rite of passage" in the way you did with Rwanda. I'm so proud of you and I can't wait to see you become the amazing social worker you will soon become :)

  4. Kyle, Kate and Darby,
    Thanks for your blogs today. I know they weren't easy to write and much harder to actually see in person. I too was crying at your graphic descriptions of the churches. I would like to hope that we've all learned from it and that the UN or other countries will intervene when something happens again, somewhere else.

    I am sure that this experience in Rwanda will change you in ways you never expected and ways you may not even know. As Darby wondered, would she have changed in the same ways if she hadn't had this experience three years ago? It is molding you into the person you will become in the future and that is awesome!

  5. I just had a feeling that today was the day you were at the church memorials. I know it's impossible to see God among such pain, suffering and death. I hope as you process all of your feelings with each other, you'll know that God is there all along. I had a little God moment of my own today that I'd like to share with you: So, I'm at the doctor's office waiting for a procedure, involving several injections. All I can think of is, "Why did I schedule this appointment when Darby is not here to hold my hand?" Darbs is my go-to in moments of scariness, pain or sorrow. As I'm pacing, the nurse comes in and gets me talking to distract me. Of course, "Rwanda" soon pops out of my mouth. She says, "Get out! I just got back from Rwanda. I've been there many times. The people there are incredible." We then talk about how she volunteers for Operation Smile and I tell her about you all. She asks about our church. Her sister lives in Glen Ellyn and, yep, you guessed it...is a member of Faith. Then, she holds my hand as the doctor does her work. Darby was holding my hand today, through God. I hope you all felt our hands today too, holding you up.

  6. Darby, you have grown so much -- in four years, in eight days, and even in the past 24 hours. You're helping the rest of us grow, too, by sharing your heart with us. Thank you for having the courage to go back to Rwanda and back into those memorial churches.

    I wonder how these experiences will strengthen your witness in the next 24 hours, in the next eight days, in the next four years, and for the rest of your life.

    You are in my prayers.

  7. Darby this post was very hard hitting and emotional to read. It's very true everything you are saying and I see that in you everyday I hang out with you. The trips have changed your life and have made you extremely aware of everything that is going on. It's a great thing to have going for your life and it's amazing that you are so aware and are conscientious about everything. I can feel the emotions you are going through when I read these posts and I am so so so so proud of your commitment, awareness, and thoughtfulness about everything.

  8. Hitting "The Wall?"
    Perhaps some of you are hitting the proverbial wall. It's hard to get up, to think, to put on a smile. You may be getting on each other's nerves and starting to long for home, getting cravings for deep dish pizza and those soft, frosted sugar cookies (the ones from Aldi are the best), or to delight in not having to take malaria medication. But hang in there! You know that your time there is winding down, and there is so much more to do! I pray for you and encourage you to put as much energy into the relationships you form in the last few days as you did in the first. It will be hard! But, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).

    And specifically to Jen Bradbury. I can't imagine how nerve wracking it must be to take a group of kids on a trip, whether to Rwanda, Milwaukee or even Chicago! But thank you for doing so and believing in them. The final push, probably the hardest, and I wish and pray for the best! And thank you thank you to the Kathy, Andy and Doug. I pray for strength and endurance during the last few days for you too, and thank you for taking on this task of guiding our kids!

  9. What an awesome experience! I pray that you continue to see and feel God. Love your blogs! Keep them coming. Sally Stauber

  10. We hope you are all doing well. We have missed the blog the past few days. Safe travels, and we'll see you Saturday evening.

  11. My late night is your early morning. I'm thinking of you all before going to bed (maybe Andy's up and having his coffee, any mini moos left?) and just wanted to tell you how much I have been moved by your posts. The last 3 were pretty tough, but I want to hear more of your stories and about the people you have met. All of your posts made me more aware and I can't stop thinking about what each of you wrote. Your writing has been so full of emotion and experience! Thank you for what you have shared of yourselves. You bless us here and the Rwandans, there. See you soon. Feel all the prayers over these next 2 days!

  12. Made me cry!!! Reminded Serge and I so vividly why we do what we do ... Thank you!! Was such a great blessing for us to have you back with us Darby.