A Rare Glimpse

A few days ago we were privileged to meet a young girl named Flomina and her family. She’s a timid girl with a beautiful smile and though she didn’t say much, her eyes spoke volumes…and so did her smile. Flomina’s mother is blind and her older brother, Oliver, does his best to care for the family. The family welcomed us into their home where sheets of art littered the walls. Drawings of churches, houses and sports cars, hand-drawn and colored were displayed from one clay wall to the other. At first, we’d thought Flomina to be the artist but those pictures had been drawn by her brother, who stood quietly in the corner as we learned more about Flomina.

She is 13 years old and has been to school before but because her family could not afford the school fees, she could not continue, despite having good grades. American kids balk at the idea of going to school everyday but these kids dream of it. We told Flomina and her family that we’d work hard to try to find her a sponsor so that she could grow up and pursue her dream of being a doctor. Each member of the family smiled and neighbors had flocked to the house filled with Muzungu’s (the term used to describe Americans) to see what the commotion was about. We brought large bags of food for the family and some gifts for Flomina, giving her a soccer ball, some pads of paper, pencils and other school supplies for which she’d been happy to receive. Her family expressed much gratitude and then we all held hands and prayed together. Afterwards, we played mash-up game of volleyball and soccer outside where Flomina began to let down her timid walls and laugh and play with us. We took selfies and group photos with her and other neighboring children and watched them fade as we drove away down the road, thinking we’d never see her again.

Well, God, as always had a different plan. That night, we found a sponsor for beautiful Flomina. We were excited! Ali’s sister decided to become her sponsor and it speaks volumes of her heart in Christ because she doesn’t make a lot of money but still she answered the call Jesus put in her heart to give this young girl a better life, beginning with her education. Flomina will also receive a school uniform, shoes, meals, school supplies and medical care, none of which come easy in Rwanda. In a never before opportunity, Africa New Life, allowed us to go back and deliver the news ourselves to let this family know that this girl would get another chance. Without much delay, we told them all that Flomina had been sponsored and presented the girl with her uniform. I can’t remember if the translator had told her yet, but once she saw the uniform no words were needed. She threw her arms around Ali and she held on tight to the clothes and books in her hand and then she made her rounds, giving each of us hug. What a moment!

If you’ve never sponsored a child, now is as good a time as any. Being “on the ground” here in Rwanda has given us all a first person view of the power of sponsorship. It’s given us a rare glimpse into how it works, how the money is spent, and the beautiful children who receive the benefits of your donations. It doesn’t fatten some executive’s pocket, or provide camera equipment so someone can create “sad” pictures of needy children. It really does give these kids a start, a fighting chance against the conditions they were born into. We’ve even met some adults who were sponsored as children and now volunteer and serve within this organization because of how it’s changed their lives. There is much need here and many more children who need you. Please consider sponsorship. It means more than you could ever imagine.

No words

It’s been a mere three days but it feels as if we’ve been here for at least a week. We have seen so much, felt so much, experienced so much. Our hearts are full but there is more yet to come. Today we visited a memorial to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. The reality of such a horrific, merciless slaughter of these people is tough to put into words. Visiting the site of a church where people sought refuge only to be killed by the people who’d promised to protect them was a shocking blow to our hearts. More than 50,000 men, women and children died there, their bodies amassed in a large grave. One of the most unbelievable facts: bodies are still being found, 21 years later. A palpable silence filled our vehicle as we drove away. No words.

Later, we’d get a lift thanks to, what we call, a HOPE visit. We went to the homes of a children who desperately needed to be sponsored, that they might have the opportunity to get an education, health care, counseling and even food. They let us enter their homes, they let us pray for them, bless them with gifts and share smiles and the love of Christ. It’s so hard put words to these experiences, but we’ve taken plenty of pictures to share.

An even better way to cap off our day: both kids we visited were sponsored! Now they will get a chance of lifetime and strive to become what they dream to be, thanks to the kind hearts of those who answered the call to sponsor these precious souls.

Cindy had the privilege of meeting her sponsored child today. We sang “Jesus Loves Me” to him, changing the “me” in the song to “you” so he’ll know that he is loved. The gratefulness of these families have been astounding to see and we are so honored to be a part of these stories and spreading the love of Christ halfway across the world.


Murakaza Neza – The Land of a Thousand Hills
After almost 24 hours of flight (and a few delays), we’ve arrived in Kigali!

In Rwanda, the common language is a Bantu language known as Kinyarwanda. “Murakaza neza” (MooRahKAhZah NAyZa) is a typical daytime greeting, meaning “Hello,” or more specifically, “Welcome.”

That perfectly describes the feeling on arrival. Besides the welcoming culture itself, there’s something deeper. There’s an inexplicable, welcoming connection between people who love Christ, one that transcends culture and language.

We’re staying at a guest house designed and run by Africa New Life specifically for traveling missionaries. It’s at the top of a large hill overlooking the city of Kigali, the busy capital of this beautiful country known as The Land of a Thousand Hills.

Kigali is a mesmerizing and beautiful city. Besides being one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever seen (thanks in part to a monthly, government-required public cleaning day), it looks like your typical major city. Western influence is apparent. With a metro population in the millions, the bustling city is just as busy at night as it is during the day. But Kigali is the exception to the rule in Rwanda. Starting Monday, we’ll be traveling outside the city, which is a whole other world.

Today (Sunday) we attended church, and later we’ll visit the genocide memorial. The rest of the day is to visit Hotel Rwanda, to rest from the trip, to meet and speak with ANL’s founder, and to finish our orientation and debriefing. Thanks to everyone for being interested in following this trip, and thanks for your prayers! More updates to come soon! Wi-Fi isn’t working at the guest house right now, but I’ll do my best.

Here’s some pictures of our travels…

First flight…

Finally got the whole team together after flight delays

In Brussels, Belgium

“Motocars” – Motorcycle taxis are a major means of transportation

Posted 2 days ago by Jonathan Moonen


Jesus Trumps Adversity

The Team

DeShawn, Steve, Cindy, Jonathan & Ali


It’s been quite the journey already and our team has been in Rwanda for little less than three hours. Steve, Jonathan and DeShawn (that’s me) began the morning of July 24 having breakfast with Kelli who would then drive us to the airport. However, before we could even do that, the enemy had already started working how NOT to get us to this mission for which God has ordained us all. We received a notification that our flight had been delayed by more than an hour, having something to do with the airline crew. It doesn’t seem like the biggest deal except that we had connecting flights in Washington, DC and Brussels, Germany. Time is essential because there is but one flight to Kigali, Rwanda per day, our final destination.

Four hours ahead of schedule, Steve, Jonathan and myself are hanging out at the Atlanta airport, riding the train through all the concourses just because we had the time. Steve made friends everywhere because he doesn’t believe in strangers. He told anyone who would listen about our mission, about Africa New Life, about Jesus. After a while, we had breakfast again, people watching and wondering about all the places everyone else were traveling to and contemplating the possibility of what their “mission” might be. Jonathan found a fascination with the business men, dressed in pressed shirts and wrinkle-free pants, carrying briefcases and flying off to this place and that. He’d get quite the initiation into the world of travel taking his first ever plane ride, and then his second and third all in one shot.

We finally boarded our already late plane even later, making the window between connections tighter, changing our original two-hour layover in DC to a slim 40 min. While that may sound like “plenty of time,” it isn’t. We had to deplane to an unfamiliar airport, find our two other teammates, our boarding gate and be in our seats to catch the next connection…all in less than an hour. Well, despite departing late, God made it so we arrived early to the DC airport and our next gate was but a few stops down the corridor on the same concourse. Even better, guess who was waiting for us when we got off? Ali! Reducing our teammate search to one. Cindy, hadn’t made it yet. Her plane had also been delayed but while we’d made it to the next gate, she was still in the air. Not good. We tried talking to airport staff about waiting for her but they did not agree. So we did the only two things we could: Pray and Stall. We let one person and then another go ahead of us, dragging our feet as we moseyed to the front of line. We prayed and I put out a few texts asking others to pray she makes it but the chances of that didn’t look good. She was scheduled to arrive a mere 9 minutes before we were to take off and she’d come in on a different concourse.

Semi-reluctantly we found our seats, praying all the while, believing Jesus would come through. Cindy hit the ground running as soon as her plane landed, making a mad dash for the gate despite the fact that we were all boarded and ready for departure. The pilot on our plane made his standard announcements and the flight crew prepared us for departure. Meanwhile, Cindy had left her luggage with a stranger and against the odds ran for a plane she may very well miss. It looked like she’d be left behind to travel another day without us and us without her. Earlier Cindy had to deplane because of a mechanical issue and the crew gave everyone the option to leave and receive comp tickets for another time or day but while she waited for her luggage having been one of the last people off the plane, the was extended the invitation to get back on and head out. Most everyone had already taken option 2. Some would call that luck but we see nothing but God.

Back on our flight to Brussels, the captain voice once again comes over the intercom. As he introduces himself, I close my eyes and pray that he doesn’t give the “cross-check” for take off and God heard us all. Not just my prayer alone. Suddenly, we had a “mechanical issue” with our plane and would need 40 minutes for the engineers to figure it out. I laughed out loud. I’d never been so excited for something to be wrong with a plane in my life. We all knew it was Jesus holding the plane for his precious daughter. The rest of us texted each other like crazy and rejoiced at the news about our faulty aircraft. I talked to one of the crew members, telling him about our mission and we had a bit of Jesus talk and rejoiced with me as we credited Christ for his “mysterious ways.” Cindy made the flight and the kind stranger she’d left her luggage with made it in time for her to have that too. Jesus leaves nothing to chance, nothing to waste, and nothing to coincidence.

Each delay had it’s purpose. Each term of wait and each action complete or incomplete had it’s place in God’s plan. The attendant at the gate to our flight to Brussels should’ve closed the gate before Cindy had even landed but she’d felt lazy and didn’t. Cindy had formed a quick friendship with the woman who’d rushed her luggage over in the span of a plane ride. Steve had gotten the chance to share Christ with a man who didn’t believe on our very late flight to Kigali. Jeremiah got to share stories with J.J., our host, while they waited for us for three hours in the parking lot. I got to have a praise party with a flight attendant and help a mother who’d almost slipped down the stairs as we’d deplaned in Kigali and carry her stroller down the steep stairs. Ali got to exercise her faith and helpful nature in trying to get the staff to hold the plane for Cindy and Jonathan got to take his first, very eventful plane ride.

We all got to shine the light of Christ in these airports to people who may have never seen him before. There was a divine appointment in all of it whether we see it or not and the proof is in the outcome. Jesus trumps adversity.

Open Hearts

Team open heart

With open hearts we came before Christ, asking what can we do for him. He has answered each of us a different way. For some of us: We’d always known we would travel to Africa. For others: We’ve dreamed of meeting the child we’ve sponsored. For others still: We had no idea that God would call into such a mission. No matter how we got here, it all started with an open heart…followed by: Yes! A resounding yes. Because you say so, I will.

Christ has said yes to each of us and we have all, in turn, said yes to him. No matter how different our “yeses” look, we are all here for the sole purpose of glorifying the name of Jesus. However, we aren’t the only ones who’ve heard that yes. That profession of faith, that answer to the call, that open hearted surrender of our lives.

The enemy heard it too. He heard it when we said yes to Christ, the first time, the second time, the hundredth time…this time. So as God drew up plans for our success and his victory, the enemy drew up plans of his own. One by one, two by two, ten by ten, he placed one obstacle, hardship, loss, pain, dashed hope, doctor’s order, roadblock, disappointment, shamed past, lack of, in each of our paths. We’ve each had to contend with something.

Lord, lead me in your righteousness because of those who wait to ambush me, remove the obstacles in the way in which you are guiding me! Psalms 5:8 NET

As we continue to follow Christ, say yes to his instructions, the enemy finds old ways to make his tactics look new. Except that they’re not. The problem is, he knows what buttons will evoke the most sensitive reactions in each of us and that can mean trouble if we not hanging tight to the promises of God. We may not have all been in the same room at the same time but we abide in the same God, under the same love, given the same mercy, the same grace and the same provision. We have prayed for each other, held hands (and computer screens), made each other laugh and told stories to make you cry. We have blessed each other with gifts, words, gifts, service, hugs, phone calls, text messages and emails. We have gathered around a computer, a boardroom table, a fireplace, a hospital bed, a living room floor, a picnic table, a grill, a volleyball court and soon we will gather around a dinner table and share a meal together. All this and we haven’t even gone to Rwanda yet!

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Maybe the whole point of this was for this small team to effect big change in the lives of each other. Maybe it’s so we could be such a light to one another that it’ll make our beacon shine that much brighter in Africa. Maybe it’s just so we’ll have these stories of support and love that will exhibit the love of Christ even to those who already know him. No one knows the plan apart from Christ but we already feel so fortunate to have one another and share such a time as this.

We shall carry on with our open hearts and extend them to one another, to strangers, to children, to the people of Rwanda and all we meet along the way. We shall open our hearts to you as we continue to say yes to Christ over and over and over again no matter what the enemy might try to put in the road to stop us! We shall keep our hearts, hands and lives open to the one who can save us from all our troubles and bless us for our obedience.


The Open Hearts

One Month!

We’re officially just ONE MONTH AWAY from departing for Rwandan soil! Our team is small, but mighty! I can’t even begin to express how proud I am of this team already. The way they’ve encouraged each other and lifted each other up is beautiful. And I LOVE the simple fact that each of them have chosen to step out in faith to follow God’s call to do this. It’s a new experience. A new culture. Perhaps a bit uncomfortable. And for most, a HUGE financial commitment. That can be really scary. But there’s nothing more rewarding than doing something that will fail if God is not behind it. Some of our team has experienced this already, and it has been a joy to watch!

Here’s how you can be praying:

  • Each team member (Jonathan Moonen, Steve Carruth, DeShawn Raindust, Ali Berkeyheiser, Cindy Smith, Jeremiah Smith)
  • Potential team member, Kelly Simmons, who may be donating a kidney. Pray for direction.
  • James & Elizabeth Gadsby. The Gadsby’s were signed up and ready to go with us when Elizabeth was in a serious car accident. She is going to be okay, but her injuries and recovery prevent them from attending…this time. We still very much consider them a part of our team! Please pray for quick healing and for timing for a future trip.
  • 2 more potential team members who are considering joining us.
  • For God to wreck our hearts and use us however He sees fit.
  • For 2 team members who are still in great need of financial support. If you are able to help them in any way, you can donate HERE – just scroll down to “Team Trip Donation” and open the “more info” link to see how it works. The would love you FOREVER!