Rwanda – Day 3/4 (TOMS Shoe drops)

This is a little boy that was very excited about his new shoes.

This is a little boy that was very excited about his new shoes.

The last couple of days have been some of the most rewarding and life enriching days I’ve had maybe in my entire life.   Today and yesterday we worked with TOMS shoes on what they call “shoes drops”.  TOMS shoe’s business model is based around the idea of  “One for One”.  For every item you buy from TOMS they give a pair of their TOMS shoes to a person (mostly children) in need.  So what we’ve been doing the last couple of days is being the hands and feet that get to carry out this amazing experience of giving children in real need a pair of brand new shoes.   In the US we may have two, five, ten or more pairs of shoes; some of which we may hardly wear.   Heck we may decide we don’t like our current pair of shoes after this season even.   Well, the children here will wear the shoes that they have (that they may have received second or third hand) until they literally disintegrate off of their body.

Our first shoe drop we conducted on Monday 3.29.2010.  We went up into the mountains to a hospital and school called Shyira.   The drive up the mountain was narrow, curvy, and very treacherous.  The roads were muddy and rocky and we were driving awfully close to the edge of the road that had quite the drop off.  Just seeing the people in villages along the way was an experience in itself.  I could’ve gone home after that drive and been impacted plenty from what I saw.   You saw lots of mud houses; people working in the fields, little children (under the age of 2) walking near the streets with tattered clothes.  The site would be enough to bring tears to your eyes.  But as sad and heart wrenching as it was to initially see them like that, the smiles on their faces were enough to bring joy to your heart.  At no point did you see self-pity in their eyes or anger on their face.  These people are in the business of survival, they don’t have time for pity parties.

We got to the hospital after probably a 30 to 45 min bumpy, mud slinging ride and as we pulled into the area where the hospital was everyone of course started to come out to see the Muzungus (means white person in many Bantu languages of east, central and southern Africa).  As we pulled down the road and little way to where the school was, probably 200 or more children began to run out to meet our trucks and they were yelling and laughing and just so excited to see us coming.  I’m not sure if they knew they were getting shoes that day or not.  It was definitely a site to see.   So we carried several big boxes of shoes into a big indoor pavilion type building that was wide open and began unboxing the shoes and  organizing them in preparation for the kids coming.

First shoe drop. Gave 250 pairs of shoes to kids that really needed them.

So what we did was bring in probably 6 kids at a time, fit them and then give them shoes.   It was an amazing experience to be able to give them clean, new shoes and then watch their faces light up as they walk away in them.  NO BETTER FEELING!!  After the kids were given their shoes they went out and played with some of the folks that were there with us working on the shoe drop.  So it was an all around great day of giving and playing and just loving on kids.

This morning (3.30.2010 as I write this) we went to a local boarding school called Sonrise Academy in Musanza.  This school has become one of, if not the premier schools in Rwanda.  Apparently a former President’s children and several other “important” folks in the Country send their children there, but the majority of the kids there are either orphans to kids from very poor villages that have shown some promise and have been sponsored in order to attend the school.  Although this is a great school the majority of the children there are still poor and don’t have the best of things.  So we handed out more shoes today and it was an awesome experience as well.

There’s just not enough good things to say about the experiences I’ve had here.   Tonight after an authentic Rwandan dinner we were treated to some traditional dancing, drumming and singing.  It was flipping amazing and I have the video to prove it.  I’ll post some as I get them uploaded.  The internet here is decent but not great enough to upload a ton of video so I’ll have to do that whenever I get home.

Tomorrow = Gorilla Trekking .   Many good pictures and experiences to come from that I’m sure.

Stay Tuned!!


Rwanda – Day 2

Our group at Cafe Continental (very authentic Rwandan food).

Today we had the opportunity to attend the consecration of the new Archbishop of Rwanda.  We drove from Kigali to Musanze which took approximately two hours through mountainous terrain and poorly maintained roads.   When we arrived in Musanze we realized that the whole town had pretty much shutdown in order to be able to attend this event.  President Paul Kagame even made a surprise visit (we knew he was coming) to the event.  Apparently he pulled up to the hotel that the event was being held at driving his own Range Rover (with security detail in tow).

It rains here quite a bit.  When I say it rains, it pours.  Right now we’re hanging out at the Bridge 2 Rwanda house in Musanze.  We’re hanging on the back patio/breeze way with the two TOMS representatives and just talking about the company culture at TOMS.  Wow what a cool place TOMS shoes is and their people are super super cool.

After talking with the TOMS folks for a good while, Kris Allen and his wife showed up (I’m actually typing this post while Kris is sitting right next to me) and we’ve been hanging out with them all night.  They’ve been gracious enough to answer all of our questions about their life now and are just extremely down to earth folks.

This has been an amazing experience already and we’ve only been here for a day.  This place is beautiful and the people are so nice.  It’s really nothing like most people think of African nations I’m sure.  Of course from what we’ve heard, it’s not really like other African nations, it’s much more progressive at this point.

Well, I’m looking forward to the experiences tomorrow has to offer and I’ll be sure to try and blog about it.

A Lesson in Faith : Don’t let your faith be Timid

The NLC group at the airport early for the long trip to Rwanda

At this very moment I’m on a plane flying to Newark, NJ. Once I get there I have a seven hour layover before hopping a plane to Brussels, Belgium, and from there I’ll grab a flight to Kigali, Rwanda. Right now I feel so blessed and fortunate to be on this trip because it almost didn’t happen. It almost didn’t happen for me because my faith was timid.
Let me first say that the Lord knows that I love to travel. I love most everything about it (except staying overnight in airports). I love the airport, I love being on a plane, I love navigating different city’s and going from here to there. God has put an adventurers spirit in me that requires fulfillment and over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling and I’m so thankful for that. If you’re not sure that God knows your desires, and wants to see them fulfilled as much as you do, let me tell you that he DOES!
Many of you know that Trina and I are going to Rwanda this summer on a mission’s trip with our church ( It’s something we’ve been dreaming and praying about for a year or so now and it’s finally coming to fruition this year. Well, about a month or so ago I was asked if I’d be interested in going with a small leadership team that would go to Rwanda in order to train and determine the areas that we could serve in when returning with a larger group later in the summer. Before I tell you about my initial answer to this opportunity and the lesson I learned let me tell you about the amazing relationships that have been formed leading up to this trip and the opportunities those relationship have afforded us.
We’ve been blessed to be able to partner up with two amazing organizations; the first being Bridge2Rwanda ( and TOMS shoes ( Bridge2rwanda is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the “resurrection” of Rwanda after the devastating genocide that the country experienced in 1994. B2R has people living and working within Rwanda to help educate the people of Rwanda so that they will have the skills necessary to bring their economy back to life.
During this genocide there were approximately 1.17 million people massacred. Due to that devastating event Rwanda’s economy and social infrastructure was devastated. Fast-forward 16 years and the country has experienced a mending and forgiveness that can only be described as a God breathed miracle. There is no other way to explain the forgiveness and reconciliation seen between victim and perpetrator than the fact that God has moved on this country. When you read and learn about the unimaginable things that were done to the people in Rwanda at the hands of their own neighbors and countrymen, it’s unthinkable that there could be any capacity for human forgiveness. The only way to label it is supernatural.
We’ve also had the awesome opportunity to work with TOMS shoes. They’re slogan “One for One” describes their mission to assure that every child/person in need has a pair of shoes. So we’ll be helping with a TOMS “Shoe Drop”, where we’ll be handing out anywhere from 1000 to 1500 pairs of shoes. When we bring the larger group in the summer I’ve heard we’ll be handing out somewhere close to 30,000 pairs of shoes.

Ok, so let’s get back to the lesson I learned through the events leading up to going on this trip. Like I said earlier, I was given the opportunity initially to accompany some leaders from our church on this trip and my initial response was that, sure I wanted to go but I thought the cost associated with going, in addition to the funds we were working on raising for our summer trip were just too much to ask. So I told them no, that I didn’t think I’d be able to go. It didn’t take too long for me to regret that decision but the spots for the trip filled quickly. I resolved that it must not have been God’s plan for me to go, but I still wanted to go. So I started believing for another opportunity to come up for me to go. Now, remember at this point, I don’t have the money to go, I haven’t applied for my passport yet, and all the spots for the trip have been filled.
One day I was talking to my mom and I was telling her about the opportunity and all that was involved. She said to me, “Well, are you going!” ? I told her that I didn’t have the money and all the spaces had been filled so I wasn’t going. She said, “I’d give you the money.” At that moment I couldn’t believe that I’d had so little faith in God’s ability to provide the way. So at this point, I’ve got a commitment for the money to go to Rwanda but there’s not a spot available and I’d just applied for my passport on 3/3/10 and they were leaving on 3/26/10. It still didn’t appear that I was going to be able to go still but I knew that God could provide a way and so I continued to believe for it. I’ll spare you all the details because this post has already gotten much longer than I intended. Through a series of conversations (unknown to me) there was another spot that was made available for me and it just so happened to come about the day that the plane tickets HAD to be purchased. So I told Jared (the pastor leading our team) that I was IN!! I couldn’t believe how this all had come about. I mean it was literally THE day that the tickets had to be ordered and I was getting a call telling me that I could go. What an awesome example of faith at work and God coming through.
I was amazed at what God had put together in such a short amount of time and under such unusual circumstances. The piece of the puzzle but the most important was that I didn’t have a passport yet. THAT’S KINDA IMPORTANT. So I called the State Department and they said they’d just received my application (3/10/10). I asked them if I could expedite the application and have it overnighted and thankfully they said yes, I could. So after a couple of hounding calls to them by me asking to make sure it was going to make it by the 3/26 departure date I got my passport on 3/18, just 8 days before we were to leave. All the pieces were in place and I was going to Rwanda. All this happened within a matter of two weeks.
I wrote all of this (and sorry it’s so long) to let those that are reading it know that God can do huge things but you first have to BELIEVE. I wonder how many opportunities and amazing things I’ve missed out on in my life because I’ve had timid faith. I’ve never really thought that I had a problem with faith but I realized that depending on the situation and whether it’s something I think is too big that I have lacked the faith necessary to see things happen. Well, I’ve learned my lesson. No more selling God short. No more having weak faith. All I have to do is Believe It and Claim It…… God HAS done the rest.