Welcome home, sisters

Faitth Brooks

Earlier this year, Amena Brown Owen sent out an email asking some of her friends to consider going to Rwanda to visit Africa New Life Ministries. Amena was putting together a team of all black women to travel to Rwanda! I had no idea what the trip would entail but I immediately said “yes!” I waited for 7 years for the right opportunity to return to Rwanda. Months later, there were 11 black women from around the country, most of whom had never met, heading to Rwanda. The excitement and anticipation filled the air. We were all ready for the adventure that awaited us. We all went into this trip with the knowledge that Rwanda is where God wanted us to go and we knew God would move in a powerful way.

The second day of our trip set the tone for the rest of our time in Rwanda. We spent the day with the women from Azizi Life. Azizi Life works to give a fair wage to the artisans and empowers women to financially care for their family. During our time with the women, they allowed us to live a day-in-the life of a Rwandan woman. They taught us their way of life and how they serve their family daily. We spent time learning how they cook, tend to the fields, mow the grass, and fetch water from the spring. The water was located about a half mile away down the hill in the village. We were given small yellow jugs to carry down the hill so we could fetch water for our lunch. Seeing how hard these women work daily, in addition to their work as artisans, inspired us and left many of us speechless. Not only did the women cook us a delicious lunch with beans, avocados, bananas, and sweet potatoes, all from their gardens, but they also taught us how to dye and make bracelets.

As the day was coming to a close, we danced together. There was a sweet familiarity and camaraderie that occurred between black women from America and black women from Rwanda. Women who could not speak the same language, women who came from vastly different walks of life, praising and singing to the same God, who heals, saves, and restores. In the end our team sang the song “Till We Meet Again” by Kirk Franklin to our Azizi Life sisters:

May His peace be with you till we meet again

May His peace be with you till we meet again

Till we reach that distant shore

And we’ll shed a tear no more

May He give you strength to endure

Till we meet again

May His love be with you till we meet again

May His love be with you till we meet again

Till we reach that promised land

And we’ll walk hand in hand

May He give you strength to stand

Till we meet again

After our team sang, the tears were flowing freely amongst all of us. This deep and special connection surpassed any language barriers, we were sad to leave our sisters, and they were sad to see us go.

The rest of our trip was just as miraculous as that special day. Our lively and vibrant team had a song for every occasion. Our bus rides were filled with singing hymns, spirituals, and gospel songs. We also had moments of grief when we attend the Genocide memorial and saw the immense pain the people in Rwanda experienced. We felt the weight of their sadness but we were inspired by their resiliency and hope.

During our time in Rwanda, we shared our stories with young women at the Africa New Life campus in Kayonza, the women in the Cosmetology School, the young women from the Esther program, and we visited the homes of women from the Vocational Sewing Program. We talked to one another about everything from hair care, to owning our own businesses, to living our lives for the Lord.

As the trip went on, the goodbyes became harder and harder. As black women in America, many of us have no idea what country in West Africa our ancestors are from, but our Rwandan sisters continuously said, “Welcome home, sisters.” Each day we spent there, Rwanda felt more like home. We carried joy and songs with us wherever we went. We deeply connected with the staff of Africa New Life and found ourselves amongst many inspiring women doing the work of the Lord in Rwanda. We found ourselves amongst sisters.

It was hard to leave Rwanda and, most of all, our team! We all developed such a strong bond of love and friendship. We spent 10 days laughing, crying, praying, and living life with one another. While many of us did not know one another before the trip, we left as family, as sisters. This trip entailed several stories that I am unable to capture in a simple blog post. All of us left Rwanda filled up and refreshed. To our Rwandan family, may His peace be with you till we meet again.

More info on Woman to Woman Rwanda 2018 is coming soon!

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