Heidi Birch, a sophomore majoring in educational ministries, shares about her recent trip to Rwanda with a group of MU students.
The adventure of a lifetime
As I started my freshman year of college at Multnomah, I had no idea that by the end of the academic year I would be sharing God’s glory all around The Land of a Thousand Hills — that’s the nickname given to Rwanda, Africa, thanks to its beautiful, mountainous landscape.
This February, after Dr. Garry Friesen had retired from teaching at MU, he moved to Kigali, Rwanda, to teach at the African College of Theology (ACT), a newly formed Bible college. Dr. Friesen has a vision to build a bridge between the students of Multnomah University and the students of ACT, so he invited a team of six students from MU to visit Kigali in May this year.
When I first heard about this trip, I was extremely skeptical. I wasn’t sure if I could get the time off work or where God was guiding me in life. But I felt something tugging on my heart to at least interview for a spot on the team. Two short weeks later, I was signing papers and fundraising to go on the adventure of a lifetime.
And six months later, there I was, standing alongside five others students, breathing in the African air.
First our team visited the African College of Theology. We got to sit in on classes, meet fellow Bible majors, and pray and worship alongside ACT students.
Then for three days of our trip, we got to help out with the Dream Boys, a nonprofit program that helps feed and educate the street boys of Rwanda. Getting to spend time with these boys was one of the main highlights of our trip. We got to play games with them, teach them Bible lessons, act out skits, and teach them how to make bracelets.
Though we taught them a lot, I feel as though they taught us more. Not only did they teach us words in their language, Kinyarwanda, but they also taught us how to smile — even in tough situations. One of the boys, Providence, had lost a finger just two weeks prior, due to an infection from a cut. But he was always one of the first to greet us with a grin on his face and joy in his heart.
After spending time with the Dream Boys, we got to drive out to two schools located in Kageyo, a village close to the border of Rwanda and Tanzania. At the second school, we got to go on our first Hope Visit to see a little girl named Florence. A Hope Visit is where a child who is not yet sponsored gets visited by one of the teams.
From the moment I saw Florence, we became instant friends. Florence is one of four children who live with their widowed mother. When we arrived at her house, her mother looked at me holding her daughter’s hand. With tear filling her eyes, she embraced me tightly. I will never forget her face. It was a face of desperation, a face of hope, and a face filled with love.
When we first went to Florence’s home, she was unsponsored. But by the time we left, I knew that I had to sponsor her. Later the next day, I signed the papers, and she became my lifetime pen pal. I never realized what it meant to a child and their family to be sponsored till I sat in the house of one. A sponsorship can change a child’s life forever. It’s more than just a direct withdrawal and a letter now and then. It’s a uniform, an education, insurance, food, and a chance to thrive in a poor community.
I will never forget the love
This trip has changed my life forever. I will never forget the faces of those I met. I will never forget the love that radiated from their hearts. I will never forget the way that they trust their Savior — even in the most trying times of their lives. I am so grateful that Multnomah gave me the chance to experience a missional lifestyle outside of the U.S., and I’m excited for future opportunities to travel abroad to share the love of our Father with others.