It was June 2018 and the boys and I got our own rows on the flight to Ethiopia, where our plane stopped in Togo to refuel. After the cleaning crew finished we sat…and sat. Something was clearly wrong because this process normally takes less than an hour. They asked us to deplane and once we got into the terminal, they announced our plane was grounded due to a mechanical issue and that the part would have to be flown in from Ethiopia.
They bussed us all to a hotel and then we returned to the airport the next day where we spent hours in line with the airlines, trying to rebook connecting flights. Our problem was that we were supposed to catch a connecting flight to Rwanda but by the time we made it to Ethiopia, it was too late…our missions team was arriving the next day.
Once in Ethiopia I figured out that we could tack Rwanda on to the end of our trip so I borrowed a local phone and called Ethiopian Airlines practically every day to try to reschedule our flight. I would be put on endless holds and often when I would make a little progress, the call would get disconnected and I would literally have to start over.
Jake would frequently come into my room while I was either talking to someone or on hold. “Mom,” he would say, “you tried. It’s okay.” And I would respond telling him that this is one of those times where you never, ever give up. And I would keep on going.
At one point I realized that I had spent seven hours total trying to secure this flight. The problem was this: the airline had no record that our flight had been delayed. Nothing, nada. There were no notes in the system so to them it looked like we had simply missed our flight.
Finally, I made enough progress on the African side to at least have them acknowledge they were willing to change our tickets as long as the credit card company would get involved. I called my dad to ask for his help; we had purchased the flight with airline miles and I needed him to work on this stateside. He jumped into action and over the course of several days, he ended up spending another seven hours on the phone with Chase and Ethiopian Airlines. He called me and let me know that he thought we had new tickets but we wouldn’t know for sure until we arrived at the airport.
Lo and behold, they had tickets waiting for us. We jumped on our flight to Rwanda and arrived late that night. Our Airbnb host graciously took us in although our three rooms had whittled down to one due to other bookings. We got a short night’s sleep and then hopped in a car to make the five-hour drive to Rubavu. When we arrived, we could see our Compassion Child all dressed up to meet us and I was overtaken by emotion when we finally had a chance to meet him. We visited with him at the Compassion Center where we learned more about his daily routine. As we drove through the mountains to his home, our interpreter told us that he made that walk every day to go to school. It was literally miles and miles. When we arrived in his village, he lead us down a narrow path to his hut where we met his grandma and his two sisters. His grandma gave us the biggest hug and invited us in to their home.
We sat on a couple of benches, the only furniture in their living room area. They kept the door open for lighting and the village kids gathered there to see what was going on. We all took turns sharing what this moment meant to us and I struggled to hold back the tears.
My FH (former husband) was working at compassion when we started sponsoring Nsabimana. He was six at the time, same age as Luke, and ten years had passed. It had always been a dream of ours to meet him and now we were sitting with him and his family in the hills of western Rwanda. It was surreal.
The boys and I were blown away by the gratitude and hospitality of this small family. We all got an opportunity to share what this time meant for us and then at the end we prayed together. It was powerful. After the prayer, Luke offered Nsabimana his shoes as he slipped them off and handed them to him and Nsabimana put them on. I full on lost it at this point. We had given them some small gifts and had also stopped for some basic groceries on the way, including a large bag of rice. As we toured their hut I noticed they didn’t have any food anywhere that I could see. When I asked what they would be eating for dinner, his grandma answered, “rice.”
Nsabimana took us to his room where he had some pictures up on the wall. We had to use a phone flashlight to see them and he shared that his mother and father had abandoned him and his sisters when they were young and his grandparents had decided to raise them. Sadly, his grandpa passed away several years earlier and now their grandma cares for them with no job and no income, just her faith and trust in God. They live in the house his grandpa built, it’s old and falling apart…no electricity, no running water.
Over the years we had sent money for a goat and a sheep, thinking they had perhaps been purchased as food. Nsabimana took us outside to a tiny shed-like building and introduced us to a little pig and a sheep/goat duo and that shared space together. They provide manure for the family garden. We noticed an empty stall and when we asked about it, we were told they were believing God for a cow so last Christmas we sent money for them to buy a cow and guess what? They ended up with two, a mother and her steer. I don’t know how that happened but it did, and this little family now has five animals and the addition of fresh milk.
God promises that He will care for us. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6:34). In this season of thanks, let us not only be grateful but let us intentionally be a part of someone else’s story of gratitude. As we receive God’s blessings, let’s pass them along to others who are in need. Let us continue this attitude of gratitude and give generously out of what has been given to us.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.