In late July and early August, a team from East Central Minnesota will travel to Kivuruga, Rwanda. This team will be the third group of individuals representing Our Response to travel to Kivuruga. I had the opportunity to travel to Kivuruga as part of the first team in 2009, which resulted in the founding of Our Response, and I travelled there again as part of the second team in 2011. The single word that best summarizes Our Response’s impact between 2009 and 2011 is staggering. At least ten water collection and filtration systems were constructed; a nutrition center was remodeled and equipped to serve meals and milk to children; educational programs in nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, and disease prevention were launched; schools were constructed and remodeled; agricultural cooperatives were founded; and the residents of Kivuruga were gripped with the extreme power of hope.
Since that trip in the fall of 2011, the residents of East Central Minnesota have rallied with even greater intensity to financially support the efforts of World Vision in transforming the community of Kivuruga. We receive regular reports about the progress of the individual children and the entire community, but I am anxious to return this summer for a number of reasons: (1) to continue building relationships with the friends and compassionate partners I met on the first two trips; (2) to see firsthand the impact of Our Response and World Vision; (3) to hear residents describe how their lives continue to be improved and how hope keeps building; (4) to have others on the trip confronted with the problem of extreme poverty and exposed to the solution of community transformation; (5) to share experiences and build relationships with other members of the trip team that we will value forever; (6) to represent all of East Central Minnesota to these beautiful people; (7) to bring the compassion of an entire community from the other side of the planet; (8) to once again spend time with my family’s three sponsored children—Gerome, Jean de la Croix, and Claudine, who are growing up (like my own children) so quickly; and (9) to capture stories (both hard and beautiful) to bring back and share with as many people as will listen.
Another thing that I am excited about is the opportunity to bring gifts from the people of East Central Minnesota. In coming blog posts, you will learn about several of these opportunities, but here is a summary of the duffle bags of items we will bring to Kivuruga, along with the individuals who are coordinating the efforts to fill the bags:
• Medical supplies (Kris Johnson in North Branch)
• Raincoats (Joel Preston in Pine City)
• Eyeglasses (Chad Christenson in Cambridge)
• Boys shorts and shirts (Ellen Lance in Rock Creek is coordinating several sewing groups)
• Soccer balls (Mark Coughlin in Forest Lake)
If you have an idea and want to fill a duffle bag, please let me know!
I could go on for hours about the first two trips and my excitement for the upcoming trip, but I will save some of that for future blog posts. (Plus, Janie might edit me!)
I am thrilled that we have relaunched our website and increased our efforts on Facebook and Twitter. These avenues will be the primary ways that you can follow us on our journey in Rwanda. We would love to hear from you if there are questions we should ask or things we should find out, we would love to have you engage in the conversation as we post pictures and stories during the trip, and we would love to connect with you after the trip to share our experiences. Thank you for joining us on this united journey of compassion.