By Abigail Dibadj
A huge pet peeve of mine is when people complain constantly. So when one of my friends continually complains about something we try to make them stop by creating their complaints into a funny game by one-upping them. So if I'm complaining about my leg feeling sore aft
er a run, my friends may say “well at least you have a leg”. This one-upping can continue for a while but it always ends when someone says “well at least you’re not a starving child in Africa” because no one can one-up that. Nothing is worse than that.
Whenever I thought of Africa I pictured ‘the starving children of Africa’ - faceless, nameless, children. I thought of children who did not have personalities. I thought of children who didn’t hold your hand, play games, and braid your hair. Rwanda has made me realize those children don’t exist.
Of course there are starving children in Africa, just as there are starving children throughout the world, but these children have faces. They have names. They have lives and families and stories and love. This trip has changed my perspective on Africa, and specifically on Rwanda. I will never think of Rwanda again as the place of starving children. It has so much more than that. Rwanda is full of love, forgiveness, and life. Rwanda has a culture that takes time for people. They cherish relationships, hold their love ones dear, and truly care for each other. Men walk down the streets holding hands because they are friends and a family welcomes 17 strangers into their home and gives them a luxurious meal while daily sending their children to get water. This part of Rwanda's culture is where I learned the most and this is the part of Rwanda’s culture that I will miss the most.
I always pictured my future as going to college, majoring in political science, going to law school, becoming a lawyer, getting married before I was 27, having or adopting a few kids before I was 30, living in the suburbs, and doing some work with refugees on the side because although I loved it, working with refugees can’t be a job. I could never picture myself working with refugees because that’s what other people do. Other people become missionaries. Other people change the world and expand their horizons. Other people are courageous and take risks while clinging to God’s promise that He will lead them and sustain them. I never imagined that I could be like the others until now.
After the first day at the refugee camp I found myself in Kibuye sitting on the edge of a cliff having a mental breakdown. As I stared out onto beautiful Lake Kivu I thought about the people I had just met in the camp. I thought about the living conditions in the camp, the lack of food, education, jobs, and how their future would look much different then mine.
But when I started to think about my future I couldn’t picture the perfect little family in the perfect little suburb anymore. I couldn’t picture the order and the fluidity. My future now looked messy and passionate. When I look ahead I can't picture my future as simple and orderly while in full knowledge of what happens in a refugee camp. While in full knowledge of the lack of food and education, how can I sit back and do nothing? Now I know I can’t.
Now I know that I can be like the others. I know I can trust God to lead me and sustain me in my future.