It’s Kathryn here!!
I’m bringing y’all the most words.
This story is so near and dear to my heart, I pray that I can give God glory in my jumble and inability to put words to His goodness.
In 2014, I had the opportunity to go on my first trip to Rwanda.
We visited Nkombo Island, to open a church, so a sponsorship program could be started on the island. There were children running around everywhere, with distended bellies, and white bacteria growing on their heads, leaving them unable to grow hair. They flocked us in a way that seemed like they had never seen Americans. Everywhere we went, groups of children surrounded us, always hoping to get close enough to hold our hands. They would pet my arm hair with such curiosity, almost as if I were an alien, and to them, I am sure I was.
There was one little girl, Florence, who stuck to me in a way the others didn’t. Everyday, she would be the first to greet me as I got off the boat and the last to let go of my hand before leaving.
At the conclusion of my time on the island, I had the opportunity to go to her house and meet her mother. I told them I would continually pray for them and be back to see them again. We said our farewells but Florence did not want to let go of me. I handed her to her mother and I started walking towards the boat. All of the sudden, I heard screaming and crying behind me, and I turned around to see that it was Florence, longing to follow me home. The man who was translating for me said, “How beautiful it is to be a mother without ever giving birth”.
Upon my arrival back to the states, I knew I wanted to sponsor Florence, but was told only one child, from the 200 poorest families in the area, would be chosen. I received a call that the children’s packets had arrived and could sift through them to see if she was one of the lucky ones. I picked up a stack and began my hunt. Within the first ten packets, I saw her face. I knew it was her. People were shocked that I could pick her out so quickly and that she had even been chosen to be a part of the program.
God had planned it. Normally, someone would show up to church to pick a random cute kid to sponsor, but that wasn’t His plan. Florence got to pick me, all on her own, on her island.
Fast forward to summer of 2018.
My husband and I jumped on to a trip to Rwanda with a local church, to visit our soon to be home, without knowing we would be visiting Cyangugu and the island again. When we got the itinerary, I was thrilled, knowing that I had the opportunity to potentially see Florence again.
I did not contact the sponsor program to set up a meeting with her because I just knew I would see her.
We arrived on the island but kids were not there to greet us. The children were in school. Their distended bellies now looked normal and they no longer had have the bacteria growing on their heads anymore. They looked healthy. The sponsorship program was helping.
We went to the school to see the feeding program and I knew I would be able to search for her. Classroom after classroom, every kid in the same uniform, every kid with the same haircut, I became concerned that I would not recognize her. We were running low on time so the team split up and went into different classrooms, all while the fear of not finding her was building up in my heart.
I walked into the next class room and there she was. I pointed her out to Jake and he asked if I was sure. I was. I told our translator that she was my sponsor child so she went to ask for her name, and indeed, it was her.
She looked terrified. It had been 4 years. She definitely did not remember me the way I had remembered her.
We went to her house and her mother greeted me with the biggest smile and hug I had ever received. Our friend, Odel, was there to translate for us. I had not yet told him the story of my last visit.
Her mom began telling Odel the story of meeting me, four years prior.
I did not know what she was saying until she wrapped her arms around herself and that’s when I knew, she remembered too. She went into another room and brought their only photo album, of all of their family photos. She turned a few pages, and there was the picture of me and Florence from the first time we met.
Her father came into the house, barefoot and covered in dirt, he had been working, as a latrine digger. He digs holes a meter wide, dozens of feet deep, where light cannot reach the bottom and oxygen is low, and creates stairs up the side that are just small enough for his toes to hang on to while stepping up onto the next step.
He began to tell the same story, the story his wife had told him four years ago, from when she had met me. He wrapped his arms around himself in the same way, and I knew that he remembered also.
Odel said it was a true miracle. It was a miracle that Florence had bonded with me so much the first trip, that I had the opportunity to meet her mother, that she was chosen for the program, that her mother remembered me, and that I could find her in a crowd after not seeing her for several years.
It indeed was a miracle.
Orchestrated since before time began.
All for His glory, and our good.
We spent time with Florence for the rest of the day, and I think maybe, just maybe, she started to remember me too.
But here’s the the sweetest thing.
In the near future, I will be learning her language, living in her culture, learning how to love her better, and I will only live a short boat ride away from her.
Y’all, that makes my heart soar.
I know that was a mouthful, but I also know that I needed to share, share of His kindness, His depth in knowledge of my heart, of her heart, and His immense care for each and every detail in our lives.
He is so so good.
Love you sweet peeps deeply,