Wednesday, July 12, 2017


As I reflect on our time in Rwanda, which I will continue to post about for a few more days because there are millions of pictures and even more thoughts, one question continues to haunt me.

Who is my neighbor, and how do I do a better job of loving them?

Before we left on this trip, I prayed for the Lord to work in our family and continue to reveal himself to us as we were on this adventure.  One of the verses that kept coming to my mind was Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (NIV)

To be honest, I'm not a great neighbor in any sense of the word.  I can only tell you the names of a few of my actual neighbors, and when we expand out the parable to all people, I often love myself more than those around me.  One of our hopes for this trip was to give our children a bigger picture of the world and the different ways that people live.  Though John and I have traveled quite a bit, I am always amazed by how much I learn every time that I go someplace.  It's like the blinders fall off, and I can see more clearly, just by getting out of my normal life.


Visiting Lilian and Diane was a perfect opportunity to meet some neighbors (they happen to be actual neighbors!), and I am still so humbled and thankful for that afternoon.  I can speak firsthand and say that child sponsorship matters and makes a real impact in real families.  Being connected to these girls is changing their lives and ours, all for the better, and I'm thankful for this tangible way to love our neighbor.  (If you want to sponsor a child through Africa New Life, go here! Lilian and Diane live in Rubavu, and there are many other families there who could benefit from sponsorship.)


During our time in Rwanda, we spent a lot of time in transit, mostly in our air-conditioned 14 passenger van with our extremely capable driver, Epimaque.  On this day, we were headed from a church plant towards Akagera National Park to spend the night, and we were following the Sengogas truck while our kids and some of their's zoned out on various devices.  We came upon the scene of a rather grisly accident, and the guys all jumped out to see what was going on.

It quickly became clear that there were some serious injuries, and they needed Joel to drive them to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.  Our luggage was whisked into the van while they loaded the injured men into the back of his truck, all while we prayed with the kids and also tried to make sure they didn't see anything they could never unsee.  We then had a rather disconcerting moment where we drove off the road, around the giant charter bus, and we all climbed to one side of our van to try to prevent tipping over.  I'm sure Epimaque thought we were nuts.


Just that morning, we had done a devotional with the kids about loving our neighbor, and we had ended up discussing the story of the Good Samaritan who comes across an injured man and does everything in his power to help.  Even now, I marvel at the way God worked our circumstances to give us such an immediate example and opportunity.  It was also eye-opening, because once we got to the hospital, it became clear that they were not well-equipped to help the man who was most seriously injured.  There was no stretcher to stabilize him and prevent further injury.  There was no x-ray machine.  Adam was one of the most knowledgable people on site due to his medical experience, and he ended up advising the staff.

We don't know the outcome of that situation, but we did see an ambulance head by, and we hope that he was taken someplace with more expertise and equipment.  The truth is, situations like this are happening all the time, both here and there.  People need help and are often in desperate situations.  Our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, need us.

They need me.  I need them.

One thing that has been abundantly clear to me as I've returned home is that my life is full of distraction, much of it being meaningless, consumeristic noise.  I am drawn to pretty things, and my attention is easily captured by the next thing to purchase for my family or the next fun experience.  It took me a full two days to do laundry when we got back, and I was sickened by the sheer amount of clothing that we own.  I have a room for my personal clothing that is larger than some of the homes we visited.  I wrote about the upside down nature of it all when I got back from Rwanda last time, and I'm struck all over again about the millions of ways that I'm missing what really matters.

I need to see my neighbors more clearly.  I need to be filled with God's love for them so that I can love God and others more than myself.  I need it like breathing, because it is so easy for me to suffocate in my stuff and my "blessings."

I am so thankful to live with clean water and plenty of food.  I do not take it for granted or wish it otherwise.  But, I am reminded all over again that the nearness of the Lord is for our good, and the Lord is near to those who are brokenhearted and downcast.  Blessed are the poor, for their's is the kingdom of heaven.  I don't think Jesus is kidding about any of that, which means that I need to continue to move towards the poor and the outcast who are my neighbors and work on loving them more than I love me.  Only by God's grace and for his glory.