Meeting My Sponsor Child in Rwanda! :)

by - 12:04 PM

I finally got to meet my Compassion sponsor girl! Her name is Ntawangaheza and her French name is Bonitha. She is 17 years old now and lives in the rural mountain village of Nyakizu, south of Rwanda and near the border of Burundi. Two years ago, I began supporting her and her family of seven through Compassion International. As we exchanged letters and I sent her photos of myself, my family and my country Australia, I also asked God for the chance to meet her and her family one day soon. I remember when I got her first letter and photo in the mail, I framed it up and put it on my shelf – and then I looked at it and prayed.

I remember the moment lucidly even now. I just told God plainly, with the mustard seed of faith within my spirit, “Dear God, I know this sounds impossible. But the more impossible it is, the better. Could you please make it possible for me to visit Ntawangaheza and her family in Rwanda before I turn 25? If I could even be crazier to ask, could I go to Rwanda in maybe two years time? I know nothing is impossible for You. If this is a good thing, please open the doors for me to go.”

At the time, I had just started my first year at the University of Melbourne and I was 19, just out of highschool. Sponsoring a child through an organisation like Compassion was something I had always asked God for the opportunity to do. Once I was earning enough money from part-time teaching piano, and I was out of school, it was the first thing I wanted to do. And I knew from the start that I wanted to support a teenage girl from rural Rwanda. I found Ntawangaheza on the Compassion listing, and she was in need of a sponsor. I read about her situation and her family, and I knew she was the one I had to support.

In all my letters, I also always asked her to pray that I would be able to make it to Rwanda some day soon to meet her family. I can’t believe for the life of me that God has answered our prayers and made this possible. I am in Africa, and I have finally made it all the way to this exotic land of a thousand hills – Rwanda!

So on the 16th of January 2015, I made the four-hour road trip south from Kigali – the capital city of Rwanda – past Butare or Huye, the oldest town in Rwanda, and onward to Nyakizu. The landscape of Rwanda is absolutely breath-taking. It is literally the land of a thousand hills. Every town and city, every house and shack, every school and building, seems to be situated somewhere on a hill or mountainous district. The roads wind up and down the hills and through the valleys, up the mountains, by the cliff-sides. It is simply amazing, and I have never been to a country quite like that.

I made the trip with a man named Jean, who is one of the Compassion Rwanda office staff members and translators. He has travelled all around Rwanda, to the farthest and most remote corners, and has been working with the organisation for the past eight years. It was wonderful to hear about his experiences as a social worker and as a young man who has studied law in Kigali. Over the years he has assisted countless families and children with his background in law. There are certainly many cases of abuse or exploitation of marginalized groups, and Jean’s work is invaluable as it serves to make a stand for the oppressed and the ones who defenceless in society. It is so inspiring to meet people like that because you can really see the passion exude through his words and his countenance. What is more, he truly believes that God has called him to this work and has opened the opportunity for him to be involved in such a dynamic ministry.

Presently in Rwanda, Compassion has 75,000 children who are supported by international sponsors. The children are often sponsored from a young age, and at the moment, 155 of them are successfully studying at university! It is truly a long-term ministry that spans decades. Compassion partners with local churches, pastors, schools, teachers and community leaders in each district to set up Compassion centres. There are more than 250 such centres all around Rwanda. Each centre supports between 250-350 local children who are in various stages of need. Each child has his or her own unique story. Many live with parents who are rural farmers, others have single mothers, some others are orphaned children. They may range from the ages of 4 to 18. The Compassion centre has social workers that look out for and continually assess and update the specific needs of the children. These workers operate in partnership with the children’s families, teachers, village leaders and church pastors. Every Saturday, the Compassion centre runs an all day Bible study and life skills program where the children come together for devotions, leadership training, life skills projects, assistance with school work, a fun time of fellowship and games, music and worship, and a scrumptious lunch. When I was at Nyakizu, I got to meet with four lovely Rwandan ladies who were the Compassion social workers at the centre, as well as the pastor, the project manager, and the program director of the Nyakizu district.

I just love the way that Compassion is running this ministry – to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. They have such a holistic approach to outreach and sponsorship of the child. Its basic foundation is faith, and the empowering of children and young people to discover their God-given destiny and purpose. The way it is carried out is through the process of daily discipleship. The children are equipped mentally, empowered spiritually, nourished physically, supported emotionally, and taught in a way that covers all aspects of their lives. At the same time, the families or caregivers of each child is supported and given guidance in life skills, income-generation projects, family planning and the like. So while the focus is on the individual child, their approach also causes a ripple affect that touches whole families, schools, communities, churches and villages. It is amazing and so, so inspiring to see.

When we drove up the winding pass, over the dusty dirt trails, the village children would stare in astonishment at the unexpected and almost bizarre appearance of this foreign girl. Then they would recover from their surprise and wave smilingly. Others are shy and unsure of what to do, so they continue staring! It is always such a funny sight for me. 

To be continued...  

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