How is it With Your Soul?

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One of the things that I’ve been able to do a lot more in my new role is be reflective. When I was working in coffee everything had to be done in the moment. Customers wanted their drinks, employees wanted their schedule, things needed to get done in a certain order and time was always in a crunch. This was exciting a lot of the time. I’ve found myself missing a lot of what the coffee industry had to offer but one thing that I’ve been very thankful for at Mt Bethel is the time I’ve had to read, reflect, and plan in greater terms than what’s going to happen in the next hour. I’ve been able to set aside time to dream. Dream of what God might be asking of me and what God is asking of the student ministries. The question that I keep going back to is something that was near to John Wesley: How is it with your soul?

To me this was the guiding principal I see in the small groups in the early Methodist Movement. This also requires a great deal of reflection. Yet I also don’t see a lot of that in this country, people are living moment to moment without a ton of reflection on how their soul is doing. So as I’m asking myself I would encourage you to ask yourself the same thing, how is it with your soul? Have you done all the good you can while avoiding all the evil you can? I’ve discovered that many of these questions make me uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable because I like to think of my life in terms of being easy. And it is easy. I wake up in a house that I own and can afford the mortgage payments, sleeping next to a wife who loves me and 2 incredible pugs who snore a lot. I go to a job that pays me well in a car that’s reliable and if it breaks down I could afford to fix. I live in a city that is booming one that I have the freedom to choose to live in. I have amazing neighbors. I get to live in a neighborhood of diverse interests, ethnicities, sexual orientation, and religious views but we live together in harmony and I am able to work out what it means to love my neighbor like I love myself. Yet the question of how is it with my soul makes me uncomfortable.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never seriously considered it before. There are many functions to a small group. It could be that they are getting together for purely social purposes. It could be a group that studies scripture together but never gets that deep. It could be a small group that holds each other accountable and are truly close enough to get an honest answer when you ask, have you done all the good you can while avoiding all the evil you can? I think it’s uncomfortable for me because I don’t know if I want to be honest with myself about the answer to that question because I’m so used to living this easy and fun life. If I’m honest about my answers maybe life won’t be so easy anymore.

Last night I gave my first message to the high school students at our Wednesday night programing called Inside Out. In it I walked about what humility is supposed to look like and we repeated together the Litany of Humility. One of the lines that stuck out to me was asking Jesus to deliver me from the desire of being approved. Soon after saying these words together I then was wondering if they approved of me and the message I gave. I was searching to be affirmed, since I am new here it makes sense but at the same time, if I was following after Jesus in the way that He wants me to follow then I shouldn’t worry about being approved, or loved in the standards of this world and with that knowledge I can affirm it is well with my soul.

I’m hoping that I can bring this idea to our Life Groups in the fall. These small groups were started and continue with the idea that we’re supposed to “do life together.” Whenever I think about the words life together I immediately think of Bonhoeffer and the intense book that he wrote about doing Life Together. In this he describes reading scripture, praying, working and living together as iron sharpens iron. I wonder if I am capable of asking the tough questions but more than that, am I ready to answer them. This is how people can grow together by asking the hard questions. So often we think that growing spiritually or growing as a person can be easily handled. But I think true growth is done when things are hard. If I wanted to continue doing something that I was comfortable with and was easy then I would have stayed in coffee and that would have been the easy decision for me. But when you are called, you are sent, and God has sent me to the student ministries of Mt Bethel UMC.

To me this means I’m excited to ask the hard questions of how is it with my soul and to be able to answer them as well. I’ve discovered that as we ask the hard questions even in the awkward silence or resistance to answer there can be joy in the freedom to be honest in a  safe environment. To often churches have been places of judgment and dangerous to the people who are honest about their faults. We have an advocate for us when we constantly fall short of being perfect. He is the one who is able to present us to the throne of God without blemish. So as we ask the hard questions and we’re able to be honest with our answers to each other we can sin less and love more. And as we concentrate on loving more we are able to sin less. We are able to do all the good we can, as often as we can, for as long as we possibly can. And that will always make it well with my soul.

TMI – More Questions than Answers

 

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I’ve been able to spend more time on twitter lately. Definitely more than I can honestly say I’m proud of. There is something instantly gratifying about this particular form of social media. You have to be concise, you have a tremendous audience, and you can find more resources then you want or need. I find myself scrolling through and clicking on links all day long. Some I try and read right away, others I leave in a browser hoping I’ll have time later. Some of it doesn’t even interest me that much but I just want to stay informed. Karl Barth is credited with saying something to the effect of: “take your bible and take your newspaper and read both. But interpret your newspapers from your bible” (http://www.ptsem.edu/Library/index.aspx?menu1_id=6907&menu2_id=6904&id=8450)

I want to take this to heart especially in youth ministry. Things change a mile a minute. For teenagers what might be considered the cool thing to do right now isn’t cool in about 10 minutes. While it might be hard to keep up with one of the best things I know I can do is continue to be informed about the world around me. I believe that Jesus has called me to be in the world, not to hide from it, while my motivation, my directives come from a source that is not of this world. This might just be me trying to justify being on twitter all the time but I also think it has a point. When we are informed about what is going on in the life of someone we are charged with discipling we know better how to pray for them, we know better how to love them. There is, however, a danger. Information is everywhere. Pastors are preaching to people that are fact checking their statements during the sermon. And they should be, when I am preaching to students I shouldn’t be lying to them in order to make a point, the word of God doesn’t need my help in coming across to students I just need be open to what the Holy Spirit needs to say.

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This information can often lead to some of the coolest rabbit trails. Ask any coffee professional about the coffee industry and most likely they’ll describe a deep rabbit hole that never ends. This happens with youtube videos, you get going on one and then 4 hours later you wonder what happened with the day. When I was in seminary and doing research for papers the world was at my fingertips when all I had to do was access the internet. I’m in awe of how well connected we are in this world. When I was younger I can remember doing a lot of traveling and meeting a bunch of people. there was a sentiment that we always wanted to stay connected. I did my best with phone calls or super old school letter writing but these days with as much struggle as social media and the internet can be for certain things, surface level connection is out there ripe for the plucking. The truth is, I love it. I love being able to send out a photo on instagram and Facebook and receive immediate feedback in the form of a like or a comment. And then there are the articles, so many articles. My news feed is a constant shuffle of blog posts, newspaper articles, inspirational videos, and more new information. It’s gotten to the point that I’ll click on an article, read maybe a paragraph or two, and if it’s too long there’s almost no chance I finish it. Even if it’s something I’m interested I won’t finish it right away. I’ll save it for later when my brain comes back to it. If you’re anything like me you might not even read this far in the post and just skip to the bottom or abandon it all together.

What I think this really comes down to is, with all this information out there, the ability to fact check and read about anything literally in our hands through our phones, are there more answers, or just more questions? I wonder this because I’ve discovered that the more I know, the more I don’t know. So when I’m out there trying to be informed about what’s going on, am I really able to help students understand their role in The Church and God’s Kingdom? In the book You Lost Me by David Kinnaman he explores why so many students are less engaged with the church once they leave high school. There are many reasons for this but I think one of the main reasons is because students are wrestling with deep questions and they feel The Church doesn’t have the answers they’re looking for. So they go elsewhere.

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Part of my job is to wrestle with students and equip parents and other influential adults to answers those questions. One of the goals with this blog is to engage with parents and adult leaders in my church and anywhere really to help students better explore and perhaps answer the hard questions they’re wrestling with. With so much information out there I think it’s incredibly important to be informed. I think it’s also important that we continue to wrestle with the big questions in life. I’m still less than 2 weeks into this new job. I’m not exactly sure what life is going to look like and the thing I keep going back to is that God has called me here. Even when I might be uncomfortable, even when I might not have answers to the questions students have, even when I might feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, God is in control. My hope is that parents, students, other influential adults will allow The Church and the Holy Sprit to try and answer the big questions students are looking for. One of the hardest things I say is: “I don’t know.” I hate not knowing things or being able to look them up in a heart beat through google on my phone or asking Siri. Yet with all the facts and opinions that are out there on the internet there seems to be more questions and fewer answers.

So let’s keep wrestling. Keep bringing up tough questions and expecting tough answers. In the end it might be that we just won’t know the answer until we get to heaven and by then we probably won’t care. But just as Jacob wrestled with God in the book of Genesis we should continue to strive for discerning the hard questions. If that’s through google, through the newspaper, through scripture, through dialogue, or any other means I hope to continue the conversation and wrestle with God with you. Maybe we’ll find a few answers along the way, I’m just excited to be on this journey with you and with the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

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Random Thoughts on Discernment

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I was recently asked if when I first started in the coffee industry if I was running from something or running to something. It makes sense for many that it can be one or the other. I tend to be of the mindset that we live in a both/and world. The Kingdom of God is here and not yet, we can be prideful about how humble we are, coffee can be good hot and cold, I can run away from a job while running to something better. I’m not sure what it was that truly prompted the change to start my life in coffee, I do know my heart will always be in it. But what I’m hoping to do today is explore some of the reasons why I have decided to change directions back to a world of full time ministry in a local church. It’s something that might seem like it was going to be my choice all along. I was waiting in line doing coffee until I was able to find the right way out of it. Coffee might have started as a holding pattern until something better came along but I can’t bring myself to think that’s how I feel about it now. My choice boils down to a few incredibly important things.
What am I supposed to be doing with my time? I don’t know how many of you who are reading this feel like you have a vocation. This is much different than an occupation, a job, a career, or what most might define as the thing that earns them money. Money ultimately has something to do with it because it’s impossible to pay bills without it. A vocation to me is a calling, something that is not only embedded in your bones but a passion that exudes from you. For me interacting with people, trying to develop them, disciple them, that’s been in me since I could recognize it. At the coffee shop I was able to do this everywhere. Strangers walking in looking for an exceptional experience, an awesome drink, a fun time. My staff was hugely influential. They impacted me more than I would admit and much more than they will ever know. I enjoyed knowing that every day there was something very familiar waiting for me. Even if the people who walked in the door were different it was comforting knowing I was going to take orders, make orders, and ensure the shop ran smoothly while increasing stability and a culture of hospitality. Yet I ultimately decided to leave making the move to Mt Bethel UMC in Marietta. This was supremely impacted by a simple question that came from one of my favorite customers. 
He came in late one night as he often does seemingly like he was determined more than usual. Walking up to the counter in the empty shop he questioned me: “Hey, are you doing anything in youth ministry any more, doing anything with kids?” I had to think about it for a minute before responding, “Well yeah I got my staff here, I get to see great people like you around, it’s a pretty good gig.” His response kind of jolted me for a second, “Then tell me, is that your will or His?”
It seems like a question we need to always be asking ourselves. Why are we doing what we’re doing, is it our will to do it or His? Like plenty of people I hadn’t thought about it in a long time. I’ve loved my job, I get to work in an industry that values transparency, works to improve the lives of farmers all over the world. I get to see change because of sheep. Literally sheep come into the lives of farmers and it can change everything. Yet I didn’t have an answer to this question when my customer brought it up to me and it began a sense of wonder. It kind of excited me to begin exploring what truly is the will of God for my life in these moments. And then an opportunity presented itself.
If you are ever interviewed by a church I hope you also at the same time are interviewing them. I think of it being a bit different than most other jobs, it’s so relational that it needs to be a good fit for all involved. Something I’ve taken to heart was what a Seminary Professor told me that if you’re not 100% convinced of your calling to that particular church then don’t go. You don’t have to feel comfortable about it, you don’t have to be 100% certain about everything that might happen but you need to be sure you’re called to be there because there’s going to be a point when you’ll need that assurance to fall back on. I felt like I took notice of everything since this could possibly be where I went to work every day. It took a few weeks but from the beginning there was a sense of calling, a sense that essentially my gut was going to decide. It was never a money thing, it was never running away completely and it was never running towards something completely. It was as most life changing choices often are, motivated by the Holy Spirit. 
After I was offered the job I thought about it for about a week. In reality I could have given my answer right away but I wanted to be sure. Leaving a place where I knew exactly what to do and one that I was really good at it in order to go to a place that I don’t really know that much about seemed, scary. I’ve heard things about what the community thinks of the church, I saw a little of the inside scoop asking as many questions as I could of key volunteers, I wondered constantly as I tried to get some time alone to simply think. I dreamed of what it could be. I contemplated why I thought I was the right person, why was God calling me to this place at this time, and was I hearing Him correctly? These questions were never answered with an audible voice or really much of anything with the exception of: peace. Reminds me of all the Masses I’ve been to and each one begins and ends with the same sentiment. The Peace of our Lord be with you always. That is what I had and what I needed. PEACE.
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I’ve been here 4 days, so many questions still to be answered and a lot more to soak in. Learning the cultural lexicon and mostly just drinking in everything I can. It’s easy to look back on what I was doing last week. Especially since it felt like it ended so suddenly. One minute I’m making coffee for people the next I’m trying to remember the names of the tremendously large, tremendously gracious and hospitable staff I’m now a part of. I’ve tried to navigate through exactly what made me push the button and make this type of life change. It’s interesting, I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing or really what I’ve gotten myself into. Yet that’s the most comforting thing about the whole decision. It’s one of the main reasons why I feel like it was the Holy Spirit driving this choice and that I feel so great about making it. Even though I might not have any idea what I’m doing, He does. And that, is the most peaceful I could ever feel. 
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Settling Back into Life

DSC_9022It’s been almost a week since I left the airport in Kigali for America. It was most definitely an interesting trip home. The good part being that everyone made it home safe and all of the luggage did too, eventually. Life hasn’t stopped back home. The shop continued to make drinks, customers continued to buy coffee. Yet, life can’t be the same. Everyone has asked me about the trip obviously and it’s changed me for many reasons. One of them being that this trip was the best combination I’ve known of my experience in Church leadership, my love of coffee, and my passion for community development. Stories come in bits and pieces as people ask questions and situations trigger memories I wish to ensure never leave my brain.

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I’ve been able to make a lot more coffee lately. Measuring out each bean no longer feels  like only a necessary step to grinding and brewing. Each roasted coffee bean now has a face of a farmer. Chuma picking cherries from one of his 1500 trees along with his kids, 20 years of experience under his belt. Laurent wearing a Drink coffee Do Good shirt and a sport coat. Joy overtakes possible customer frustrations and smiling doesn’t seem to be so difficult in the face of tough situations. What becomes difficult is quantifying in words a trip that changes your disposition. Soon after arriving home I received an e-mail from a friend I met in Kigali. Our night security guard named Lucien at Altis, the hotel we stayed at in Kigali, wanted to make sure we didn’t forget about him. One way of ensuring that reality was leaving behind one of my hats for his use. The Detroit Tigers logo was surprisingly present in Rwanda. Walking around seeing a few t-shirts made me wonder. I noticed they all said “2013 American League Champions.” The only problem was that the Boston Red Sox were the American League Champions in 2013. This explains the mystery of where those t-shirts went.

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Looking through pictures and memories, handing out the little trinkets I bought, small things that keep me holding onto the trip in my memory. Before we left Lake Kivu I told the group that now that they have experienced the people of Rwanda we now have the responsibility of telling their story, to explain to others who weren’t there the reality of the country. Last night was a great example of that. About 15 minutes before we closed a couple ordered a few drinks. As they were waiting for their tea to brew I told them about my recent trip in which they were incredibly surprised by the peace, joy, and love I described. They had been in other African countries and expected the turmoil of the past to forever affect the people. I refuse to allow others who are bent of negativity to miss the reality of what I experienced. The story of Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co. is one of engaging the reality in Rwanda. That people have been forgiven, love has been offered, peace and unity are the only options they seem to entertain as possibilities.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALOTH has given me the opportunity to take this trip and make it a reality for those who are engaging in the same story through their coffee and cafe selection. By coming to our shop, even if they buy tea they are saying to us that they believe in our decisions to make possible opportunities in Rwanda that didn’t exist before. I have made it a goal to make sure that I never pass up an opportunity to express my thanks to the people that frequent my shop. Not necessarily because my job depends on their patronage. It is because the farmers and other people I met in Rwanda asked me to. In this mutually beneficial coffee relationship the farmers didn’t stop thanking me for making possible their livelihood and it is my job to pass that on to you. Coffee is a beautiful thing, it creates some of the best sensory experiences I have ever had, but it is also a living thing. And with it’s life from the tree it creates more life in the hearts of people who experience the beauty of the real land of a thousand hills. It creates life in the smiles of Rwandan people thanking me for experiencing who they are. As much as I try to explain these things to you, it can only be experienced best first hand. Communities are formed from this life giving tree as we all can engage in the redemption of Rwanda. One cherry, one bean, one cup at a time.

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And Just Like That… It’s Over

photoWe have less than 24 hours until we are on a plane headed back eventually to US soil and back into my loving wife’s arms. While I do have very sad feelings about this today was a day of rejoicing on the things we have experienced and can’t forget. The morning started before my alarm. Which has been interesting, it’s like my body wants to get started before the rest of me each day. Taking my breakfast by the lake I was entirely amazed and what has transpired for more than 2 weeks. Soon I was joined by Eric. Eric is a citizen of 3 countries. Born in Uganda, with family from Rwanda he came over after the genocides before living in the US for the last 6 years and became a citizen. He worked in some capacity with the Rwandan Government so I began to ask him about the transition of a violent Rwanda to the peaceful, joyful one we see today.

Once the war was over Eric came to Rwanda and was able to see the transition within government first hand. From the very beginning of the non-genocide regime, unity was desired. They knew they needed to be one country from the top to the bottom.

This was a relaxing day. Manu reserved us a boat to go to coffee island but we had a minor detour to another washing station first. We went to Ingoboka, which is where we tasted coffee from at the beginning of the trip. We walked around and saw some parchment drying. Some of it nearing the end of it’s drying was significantly lighter in weight than the coffee near by that still had some drying to do. We walked around the coffee plantation and I could visibly see the difference in expected quality in the trees producing on this lake. Being at a lower elevation they matured quicker and had less time to develop flavors. This means that the harvest starts earlier and they had more green cherries for their second harvest coming in a few months.

After exploring the washing station we headed nearby with our boat to coffee island. Manu told us that they story behind this island is that people were living there in very bad conditions leaving their children with little security and a very dangerous working commute. So the government helped to move the people from the island and planted more coffee trees while helping to relocate them to safer territory. The policies to help the people seem so simple here. In the US we make things so complicated, so much red tape and people to jump through that many have not seen congress do much lately. Yet in Rwanda they see an issue and solve it the best way they can even helping the people relocate homes in order to be safe and give them more economic improvement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe played a lot of games when we got back to our resort. Card games have a way of bringing a group together. Once the games were over, well, suspended. We spent some time in reflection over this last week. It’s been emotional, so many things have happened and it’s been my experience that when a significant trip like this occurs a person needs to begin to process what has happened to avoid hardship when reintegrating to “normal” life in the US. The time spent reflecting on the genocide memorial, cupping lab, Ruli, Mbilima, Liberation celebration, Akagera, Church, Forgiveness school, Vocational School, Traditional Village, Kivu, it was a ton of things to do. I wish I had words, maybe on the plane ride home I’ll be able to write a poem or somehow put into words what this trip has meant. A significant question I asked the group at the end of our discussion is “ now that you know what you know, now that you’ve experienced what you have, what are you going to do about it?” My answer comes down to 2 main things. One is that the people work here so incredibly hard and we can have a tremendous impact on their lives by simply creating great experiences for our customers. So the frustrations that might come with being a barista don’t seem so significant when you have seen the children and farmers I am affecting by making sure those frustrations don’t get the best of me. Next is telling this story. I told the group that now they are our ambassadors and they are Rwanda’s ambassadors. It is up to us to go back to the states and explain that the stereotypes aren’t true. Rwanda is a place of peace,forgiveness and love. Rwanda has taken my heart and reshaped it into more of a complete being.

When I return home I will better be able to write a reflection on the whole trip but for now, let me assure you that this is a place that must be experienced. It must be known to the world. My joy will be to share that with you. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Reflecting on Change

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s kind of weird, the time with our coffee and community partners is basically over and yet we don’t leave for two days. Currently I am sitting at our hotel that backs up to Lake Kivu. I was thinking myself why would we even go to the lake let alone stay there for a day and a half. It didn’t take me long to see why however. One of the newest partnerships taking shape within the company is with a vocational school in Musanze. Rwanda has seen what many Americans are beginning to, that paying a bunch of money for schooling that doesn’t get you a job doesn’t help. Yet if we can teach the skills of the workforce they will be able to obtain a job that will provide and not spend time learning things they either won’t use or lose money in the process. One of the first things we see a need for are desks at the school we helped to build/visited yesterday. What better place to build these desks than a school that is teaching carpentry. There have also been other discussions of a coffee track teaching them agronomy, processing, roasting, and barista skills (that I definitely volunteer to teach).

As we toured it seemed like we were getting to know more of the issues facing Rwanda. Yes they are still working towards total liberation from genocide ideology, but 20 years later and many strides taken people are asking tough questions like where does education play a role in our future? How can I make sure that Rwanda is seen as a place of peace? I get the sense that every citizen feels an obligation for foreigners to have a good experience here. Some might have the idea that we bring with us access to money and can spend some on hand crafts and other things but I get the sense that people here feel as if they have a personal responsibility to make sure Americans return to their country and advocate for their others to come and see. That’s what we do as a company, we have experienced this great joy and now invite others to come, see, and know the story they are a part of is not only real but essential to the human condition.

We soon got to the hospitality school where they were preparing a snack for us. The call it chapapi and it was like a potato pancake with onions, salt, and butter. They were the talk of the day. This was what hospitality is all about. If we were giving out grades I don’t think we had a single person that would give them less than 100%. It was savory, a little sweet and melted as we chewed. As we were leaving a group of Australians came in for a snack as well. They were from Sydney and were there teaching and exploring Rwanda. When we stepped outside we noticed sprouts of green onion right next to the sidewalk. The student cooking casually walked out, plucked a few from the ground and walked back in to make more of the food. It just added to my theory that nothing is wasted here.

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We changed gears about after learning our next excursion was a bit more expensive than originally intended and wanted to get a better look at the nearby volcano’s made famous mostly for their gorilla expeditions. When we got there a few people from a near by “traditional village” came out to great us an invited us to experience what life was like in Rwanda many years ago. We wanted to continue to experience the culture so we walked on in. Soon there was more dancing, more singing, and even a few members of our group were made King and Queen.

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On the way back to Musanze before making our final destination at Kivu we made another market stop. I’ve discovered this group likes to shop and I like to explore a little bit so it’s worked out nicely. There’s something different about knickknacks and crafts in Rwanda. Not only are they pretty darn cool but they are also able to help boost the economy and tourism as an industry here. We also get to hear amazing stories like that of a vendor who takes women from prostitution or other life threatening area’s of life and teaches them skills as he sells their items.

I can’t stop being amazed at this place, I know am I at this lake to reflect, but to also renew my spirit before heading back home after being gone about 2.5 weeks. I don’t know how transitioning back to american life will be, it could be rough for a bit. But I imagine my life will have new purpose. It will have a renewed sense of love for the coffee I make and people I serve. It can sometimes be easy to be frustrated and stressed with a situation I find myself in, but while I’ve been here minor instances of long to-do lists seem to be that, minor. The hard working people of Rwanda have given me a new heart, again. I hope to take this knowledge and experience and invite them to come and see. Maybe not in the country, but I would argue some things can only be learned here and not in the US. I would also invite them to come and see the difference in my life and taste and see their coffee is good. Coffee can go away, it can be destroyed by disease or fire but the bonds of brotherhood formed here are not going away.

Educating While Being Educated

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADriving back to the forgiveness school today there was a lot of excitement in the car. We call it the Forgiveness School because of the way in which reconciliation has been promoted and achieved in the area. We helped to build this new school along with some other things on the property. Several of the girls on this trip really wanted to play with the kids here. This was definitely going to be there chance. The drive was as interesting as I remember but soon we arrived and were greeted by one of the finest welcomes I’ve ever experienced. Children sang and danced while we were able to watch and even participate a little bit. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter, the children ran back into their classrooms and waited for us to come and teach. Yes we were teaching the kids and we decided on a subject that we know a lot about (at least comparatively) geography of the US. For the younger kids in first and second grade we would teach them english songs and play some random games.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEducation is incredibly important in Rwanda. Each time we talk to a farmer about what they will do with their income they speak about making sure they can pay for their school fees. Land of a Thousand Hills through our Do Good Initiative helped to build the school and an orphan dorm housing 7 kids. We also take care of those orphans with their school fees and other expenses. This is something I can definitely say the people in the US take for granted. Primary and Secondary school are free and a lot of the time people are trying to get out of going to school or at least not doing any homework. Yet the kids here understand that education is essential to a bright future they are working towards. Rwandan’s are incredibly hard working, they work until it’s done. I’ve seen Manu manage to juggle trying to guide us around while working to get our latest shipment of parchment milled and ready to be exported. Even as we finished with our lessons in the afternoon the children continued to work on their studies as well as go and fetch water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we did finish in the classroom we took to the outside to have a little fun. We busted out soccer balls and since we have a college volleyball player we got one of those too. A few days ago Manu explained to us one of the reason it’s important we visit the school is because it will help the students to understand that “Mzungu’s (white people)” are not so different. He explained how they would shake our hands and touch us and be able to see that differences in skin color don’t matter in the heart. When he explained this I had no idea I would be experiencing what I did. Once we were released to play there was a group of students who took an interest in my tattoo I have on my right arm. One person began rubbing it so I lifted up my sleeve and the onslaught began. They grabbed and rubbed both arms smiling as they did it. I wasn’t the only one experiencing such things. Soon we learned that they will basically imitate anything that we do. This includes jumping up and down, giving baseball signs, and if you hold up your fingers they will add the number and tell you in english how many you are showing.

One of my favorite moments of the day was teaching them what a high five was. I consider high fives to be a love language of mine. I feel like the excitement of a good high five can get me excited for the rest of the day. I didn’t think it would be possible to give too many high fives, today I might have reached my limit. They never wanted it to stop. It’s the joy that they had that matched mine. The pure joy of learning wasn’t lost on them. The fact that this was important to receive visitors wasn’t lost on them. It seems to feel like each Rwandan feels an obligation of making sure that visitors have a good time while they are here. Walking the streets people tell us welcome and that they are happy we’re here just for the mere fact that we’re not Rwandans but want to experience their culture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore I left I went to the alter in the empty church. They take out all of the furniture during the week since there are no doors or locks, yet the small stone steps where the alter is placed on during a service made for a holy moment of silence. Praying for this church, people back home, and for the people I have met so far. This has obviously been a special place for me. Making new friends and cherishing the people is the purpose of our being there. We have found that coffee can produce more than just a delicious cherry. Coffee has made us available to the people of Rwanda to see how we can love them. Being able to share these holy moments with the group has been incredibly meaningful for me. There are people and places parts of me want to hold to myself, to have it all and not let others steal it away. Yet it is also the most significant moments like these that must be shared in order to expand the joy associated with them. For me it is in the country of Rwanda, going back home in a few days and having the courage to take these stories and not hold them in. To take the opportunity to share with my customers the story of these great people. To serve these people by serving others with great joy. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA