Monday, May 19, 2008

I love me some BIG BEN!

Look who is in Rwanda and staying at our hotel...BIG BEN AFFLECK! Next time I see him I am going to give him a big high out BENNY BOY!

We love you all!

I am so sorry it has taken so long to blog, but as you read on we have been very busy and this was our day of rest. Please start from the begining which is down at the bottom. We miss and love everyone and can not wait to be home and shaqre our wonderful experiences. Glacier misses all her friends at school and says hi to all of you. Me, I miss everyone especially my buddy boy. I also can not wait to hug my wonderful husband, to see my sister Eve and Brother EEk and to kiss my little twins, Cedar and Eden(Aunt Cole misses you soooo much). We think of everyone everyday and thank you for allowing us to come to Rwanda. An experience of a lifetime!

Where dreams come true...

Well, after such a long yet empowering day I was very excited for our time we were going to spend at the Dream Center. I knew this may be a highlight of Taylor’s trip and could not wait to share it with her. On Saturday the Kigali sponsor kids come to the Dream Center for activities and praise. We met Robert there and were greeted by all the children in the hall. They were all so sweet and most of them could’nt be any taller that Canyon. They stared at us all in amazement and after we sat down they sang to us as a group. They were so enthusiastic and so proud to share with us. Violet had brought Esther’s father, sister and brother from Butare and so they got a chance to see what ANLM has done and where Esther has come from. They beamed with pride and they all sat quietly as the children greeted us all. At one point my emotions took over and I again teared up. Glacier leaned over to me and whispered “You are just like Opa”. It made me smile as like him I too am over taken many times on this trip and was crying because of the joy I felt from their love and admiration. They performed for us the traditional dance and again got us al out there dancing. I looked over and seen Taylor dancing and the smile on her face will forever be etched in my mind. She was truly having a great tine and I could see that she too was very thankful for the love they were showering upon us. Grandma Bun Bun was sitting behind me and when I turned around I could barely see her as she had a least 12 kids sitting on her lap, stroking her hair and looking at the veins in her hands. She was beaming and I could see that this truly was a day to remember. So simple yet so powerful. We all sat and listened and at the end they asked Esther to tell her testimony. She spoke of her life on the streets and about her father being in prison. She told them how Violet had taken her off the streets and how her life ahs changed since coming to African New Life. She explained to them who I was and that she is waiting for the Minster to approve the adoption. A few minutes later, all the children had bowed their heads and all you could hear was the murmur of prayer for Esther. I could not keep my eyes closed and I was deeply moved by their power of prayer. They prayed for her and the adoption and I looked back to see Esther’s family also bowing their heads to pray. We were all asking God for the same thing and I could see his work in all these children. After prayer it was time for all of us to leave to go back to the hotel. We said our goodbyes and in an instance were mobbed by all 200 children running up to us al to get in their hugs. It was so powerful that we all were caught in a mob and unable to move. It was a mad rush and they had to softly push away the kids so we could get out of the hall. Glacier was lost in the middle, yet I looked over and she had a giant smile on her face. She loves the little ones and they were so anxious to hug her and feel the warmth of a little white girl. There were many blessing in this day and we al went back feeling complete and feeling loved by the Rwanda children. It truly is a place where dreams will come true and we are very proud of the work ANLM is doing for these children.

Never will I forget what I have been blessed with

My new friend...I gave her my Karma bracelet and it only fit on her ankle.

This day we started out very early going to the refugee camp. This was the same camp that Mom and I went to in November and I was excited to go back again with Taylor, Glacier and all the other team members. I also was very happy to be able to bring Esther with us to share in this process of giving to those in need. For so many years Esther was one of those who needed more than she could give. I was proud to be able to bring to her the opportunity to now give back and to see what work God is doing in these people’s lives. She is a very lucky girl and yet I do not want her to ever forget where she came from and to always understand what can happen in your life if you give back to others. It was fun to see her with Glacier giving out candy and balloons to all the children at the camp and to see Esther protecting and helping her sister when the people started coming to the feeding area. Many times I would catch them being silly together and it warmed my heart to see the love and friendship between them. I was very proud of both of them as they too went amongst the team and worked hard scooping the corn meal to each family. They stuck next to each other all day and I will never forget their smiles and laughter they shared together. It was a day in my life that will always bring me happiness when remembered….my two beautiful girls helping those in need and seeing what a wonderful life they have and the blessings that they have been given.

Soon she will be ours...

Today was a long but happy day for us…Opa, Esther, Hilary and I were off to Butare to meet Violet and Esther’s father to see if we could get her adopted in the sector of her village. There is now a new Minister of Family and Gender and so we decided to go a different route in the adoption to see if it would help our case. The old Minister denied us because she said “this child according to the law of Rwanda is non adoptable”. So we decided to go through the court and actually prove this statement incorrect. So we were off to get the Act of Adoption. Of course dad and I were very skeptical that this was going to actually happen, but were determined to make sure we did not give up on this process and just rolled with the punches. Too many times we have been disappointed and yet we knew that it was something we still had to try. But we went with the attitude that it will not be a disappointment to us if it does not happen and that God will provide for us when the time is right. Of course like all trips to Butare we did a lot f waiting and time ticked slowly as we waited for Hilary to get everything he needed to get this process facilitated. He himself seemed a little unsure if he was going to be able to pull this off but we finally made it to the Executive Secretaries office in the tiny village where Esther was from. We all waited out front while Hilary and a fellow lawyer friend went in to plead our case. Our nerves were all in a bundle and I sat and talked with Esther’s father while we waited. He is a very kind man and wanted to make sure that this was all going to work out. He loves her very much and only wants the best for her. He feels guilty that he is the reason this is not going smoothly and I tried to reassure him that there will be a way and that it will al work out in the end. Time will tell. He told us about the village coming together to build him a house and that it is almost finished except for the roof. He is working hard at a local market to earn the money to finish this house. He also told us that a woman in the village wants to marry him and so he is trying to finish it soon so he can marry her and so he will not spend the remaining time of his life alone. He was worried that he being married would hinder the adoption and I assured him that we are very happy for him and that had nothing to do with it. He was very happy and you could see that his life was finally coming together and getting better. I was so happy for him and cold not be prouder of his work to provide a better life for himself. About 45 minutes from when we got to the office Hilary called me in. When I got to the Executive Secretaries office I could see the Act of Adoption paperwork on his desk and the emotions swept over me. I was doing all I could to not yell out in joy and sat there as he asked me basic questions about myself and my family. My eyes welled up with tears many times in that hour and a lot of things ran through my head. Hilary proudly sat next to me and kept smiling to me out of the corner of his mouth. We both knew without speaking that this was truly a moment that we have all worked so hard for. After our witnesses; Violet and her sister in law, signed the paperwork it was my turn to sign. I took a deep breath and knew that this moment my life was to change. That after all this time Esther was truly going to be our child. We shook hands with the Secretary and walked out of the office. My emotions immediately swept over me and I cried tears of joy behind my glasses. I knew that before it was truly official we needed to get it notarized in the courts, but as far as the sector went she was ours. I did not know what to tell Esther and so I tried to keep quite. Although I am certain that the courts is just a formality of it all I did not want to get her hopes up in case something does not go well. But in my heart I know it will all be fine and this step in the process is over. I am so close to completing what I wanted to when I came. Get her adopted so she is our child and no one can take that away from her. So it was a great day for us, yet we are not completely celebrating until the courts notarize it. We ended the day traveling back to Kigali and Esther and Opa blew up at least 100 balloons throwing them out the window of the van to the kids on the village roads. It was fun to see them laughing together and at one point Opa was lying in the back seat and Esther had her head on his stomach resting. My emotions swept over me again that time and I was very proud to have such a caring father who not only loves me so much but also ALL my children.

Unconditional Love

Our day was about to end but we still wanted to see our Esther. So we had Robert bring her to the hotel for dinner. I was so excited and anxious to see her and when I did she ran up to me and squeezed me tightly. It felt good to hold her in my arms and I was taken aback on how those feeling of unconditional love was so apparent in this embrace. She still felt like my daughter and I was so happy to share this with Glacier. I had many worries before I came about how Glacier and Esther would react to each other after so long. I talked with Glacier about the time I will be spending with Esther and tried my hardest to bring comfort to her and let her know I love her just as much and although I will be very close to Esther in the next few days, she gets me all the time and will have to share her Mommy with her. But not once was there any sort of jealousy or sadness between them. At first they just sat next to each other and I would catch an occasionally smile between them, and by the end of the night they were the best of friends and did not want to say good bye. As the mother I was very proud and could see God’s work directly in front of me. I went to sleep dreaming of our new family and very happy to see the unconditional love that they shared for each other. It solidified to me that our decision to adopt Esther was in deed the right thing and that we will be fine and one big happy family someday.


Glacier and Norah-the third grade sponsors this girl for school
We all started this day rested and ready to go an experience Rwanda. I am never disappointed when it comes to seeing the children at the New Life Junior Academy. They are all so happy to see us and I was excited to have my cousin Taylor experience this for the first time. It is a great introduction to both the need and love that Rwanda holds and I knew the children would be fascinated by her and very curious. I could sense that Glacier was a little nervous as last time she was here they bombarded her all at once and she anticipated this again. But with some strong reassurance she too became excited. It was a beautiful day and the hour long trip again showed me what a beautiful country Rwanda truly is. The hills were glowing in the sunshine and everything was plush and green. I watched as Taylor was quite and just took it all in. I was so happy to see it all again but even more happy to share it with her. With so much devastation that Rwanda has had, the beauty of its country goes unnoticed by those who have not seen it. The land around them is just as beautiful as the people who live on it.

When we pulled up in the van slowly you could see the children coming from their classrooms. Our friends Mike and Lisa McColm were also there with their team and I was very excited to also see them. As we got out of the van the children started to cautiously came up to each and everyone of us to say hello and to hug us with greetings. I could see their smiles and the joy they all felt because we had come to visit with them. Glacier stood very close to me and the children just stood by her and stared at her. A few came up to greet her and many whispered to me in their best English how beautiful she was. Once in a while a child would be brave enough to walk up to her and touch her hair or try and rub her white skin to see if it will come off and expose the blackness in her, with no luck of course but lots of curiosity. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a large group gathered around Taylor and she was hugging each and every child within her reach. She is a very tall girl and she stood way above them but they managed. I myself could not get enough hugs in. They were all so sweet and I was taken back by their love for us all. It is those times when you forget all about the things in your life that may have been hard and challenging and just focus on the moment. It is always an experience I go back to in those times of sorrow. These children love us as much as we do them. I of course asked about Esther first and was told she was in the city and was not there. I was disappointed and especially was Glacier but I knew that night we would coordinate to see her so I was not worried. After many special moments interacting with the kids we all filed into the feeding hall to give the YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL presentation and give out the 1000 buttons that Fran, one of the team members, put together.
We explained to them the concept of being beautiful not only on the outside but in your mind, your soul and your heart. We also told them about the program that Glacier’s class did in giving each student at St Agatha a button. They all stood up ad tried to get a peek of Glacier while Oma was explaining that the third graders in Oregon also would like to spread the message to them and that they love them all too. At this point they all clapped in excitement as they formed into a line to receive the buttons from our team. We also had our friends on Mike and Lisa’s team help in handing them out. One of the head girls taught Taylor and I the way to say YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL in Kinya-rwanda and so for each child we did our best to tell them that they Are beautiful. Taylor was better at it than me, but each time we said it the children would smile and laugh. I am sure they thought we were crazy and that our accent made the words seem very foreign to them. But they were very appreciative and smiled with great pride when receiving the buttons. We knew we had more than enough buttons, but we could see that there were many more children in line and our surplus was running low. Fran was very upset as she did not want to leave anyone out and so as we ran out we let Rebeka, the leader of the kids, know and she had them all sit down. She then proceeded to speak in a “guilty tone” to them in their language and it was so sweet to see them slowly coming forward with more than one button. Some had taken two and their conscience got the best of them. As sweet as they are they are still children and do the same things our own children do. It was wonderful to see that with such hardship they still had the innocence of little kids about them. What kid do we know that does not try to push the envelope a little? But they all love each other so much and they did not want their fellow friends to go without. Those who did not get one came up afterwards and we were able to make sure every child had received a token of our love. They then did a wonderful performance of dancing and singing for us and even got most of us on the dance floor for some traditional dancing. It was quite a sight I must say, but we all enjoyed each and every bit of it.
The day was getting late and we had just enough time to go to some of the sponsor families’ houses to visit with them. As we were on our way to visit these families it was such a great sight to see little children walking home from school proudly sporting their YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL buttons. This day was a special day for all of us and I think we truly spread the word from so far away that in deed YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!