I was meant to write this article when I got back from Rwanda. I thought it was going to be a pretty easy thing to write; after all, I had been to Rwanda before and I had written about it before too!
It is easy to write about what we did, but the part that is hard to talk about is how the trip affects you.
I wrote about how, through my first trip to Rwanda in 2013, God changed me over a long period of time and I wasn’t sure it was happening until I looked back. This time, I know God is changing me. I still don’t know how, but I can feel it.
In Rwanda, I could feel God really challenging me to be patient and to love everyone. Showing love to everyone was something that as a team we had set as a challenge for all of us.
I really struggled with this, and found it hard with some members of the team (we spent so much time together it was bound to be hard). I have always been someone who likes their own space, and being with 16 other people all the time for 3 weeks really began to get to me.
But I prayed about it, wrote in my journal and spoke to my roommate about it. I don’t think I was ever surprised that God helped me maintain my patience and allow me to take time out for myself to recover and calm down, because in situations like Rwanda, you expect God to answer prayers — and, as He does, you ask Him for more.
Before going to Rwanda, my life was finally beginning to look like I had it together. I was going to church, I was in a relationship, I had a job, and actual plans for what I wanted to do with my life.
But since coming home from Rwanda, I have really struggled. My boyfriend and I broke up, I decided to move churches and my job situation became less stable. Similarly to coming home in 2013, I now don’t have much in the way of future plans. I have begun to feel the pressure of people around me as my friends are graduating and getting ‘grown-up jobs’. I know that God has plans for my life, and I can feel Him testing my patience as I wait for Him to reveal them to me.
I got annoyed with God when He turned my life upside down when I got home, but I understand that although I might not have felt challenged as a person while in Rwanda, He is using the experiences I had there to help me now.
I remember the amazing people we met and the memories we made. I look at some of my closest friends who I've been able to rely on, that I wouldn't have if it hadn’t been for Rwanda. I look at all the incredible opportunities being part of Respond trips has given me, from speaking in front of churches to sharing my faith with strangers.
It is the memories and joy this brings that makes me realise how much God is at work in my life, and how he allows me to rely on Him fully. In Rwanda, the verse from Nehemiah ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’ is something I found great comfort in and, to this day, it still does.