Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Looking Back: 2013

In some ways it seems as if 2013 has hardly begun, and yet here we are already at the end of it. This year has been a life-changing one for me in so many ways. It’s been marked by changes, opportunities, trial and error, and many blessings!

Blogging:
In March of this year, I began this adventure called blogging. After a bit of a rocky start, I settled into my stride and have been loving it ever since! For those of you who are wondering what caused me to begin this blog, here’s a link to my first ever blog post: Following the Carpenter


Today’s post is my 50th one! What a milestone!

My Children:



This year will always stand out to me as the year that I became involved with Compassion International. This year, I was blessed with three wonderful correspondents: precious Isimbi, who calls me her parent; beautiful Basomingera, who asks that I always continue writing to her, and my brother Mbula, who said he didn’t mind if I would be the second sister in his family.

I also sponsored my first child, in partnership with my father. Beautiful Uwimana Shakira seemed destined to be mine, since we share a first name. Shakira is sponsored through Shelter Them.

This year, I have sent a total of 35 letters to my children. (I never realized it was this many, especially since I’ve only had one of them for about six months!)

This year, I have received a total of 9 letters from my children. Here is the breakdown on that:

Isimbi: 5 letters
Basomingera: 2 letters
Mbula: 2 letters
Shakira: 0 letters (but one is on its way)

I also celebrated Isimbi’s and Basomingera’s 10th  birthdays! (They were born a month apart)

And, I received photo updates from Basomingera and Shakira.

Driftwood Cross:



This year will also stand out as the year that I officially joined the Open Door worship team, Driftwood Cross. I began the year by filling in on the Cajon, before being asked to stay on as a full-time Cajonist. In June, I performed at an Open Mic night and was asked to become D.C.’s only female vocalist shortly after. Since then, we’ve performed at coffeehouses, jamborees, music cafĂ©’s, a Gideon meeting, and even a restaurant. We’ve also begun work on our first album, to be released in early 2014.

Shelter Them:



You all have heard me talk about Shelter Them, the organization started by Jocelyne and Josephine, twin sisters from Rwanda. For a long time, I’ve had a passion for Rwanda and helping these kids, and I love advocating for them. So I was delighted when the girls asked me to come on board this year as an official Shelter Them volunteer, taking over the social media platform and also helping with some editing. I’m a proud member of the team and I thank God for allowing me to be part of it!


These are just a few of the great things that happened this year, but if I were to write any more, it would be 2014 by the time I finished! I’m looking forward to see what God has in store for the New Year… I can’t wait for the adventure to begin!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

I Won the Sunshine Award!


I was so surprised and excited this week when I found out that Hannah H. over at Because of Shamim nominated me for the Sunshine Award! Hannah blogs about all the wonderful letters she receives from her Compassion children, and also includes stories about her former Sponsored child, Shamim (Sherinah) from Uganda, who has just started a ministry for disabled children in Uganda. I highly recommend you check out her blog!

Anyway, as the requirement goes when you are nominated for a Sunshine Award goes, here are ten facts about me:

#1 I love to write. Finding just the right words to express a thought or convey an emotion gives me a wonderful feeling.

#2 I love music. I agree with Martin Luther, who said, “Music is to be praised as second only to the Word of God, because by it all the emotions are swayed.”

#3 I’m a passionate reader, and some of my favorites besides the Bible are “Whose Child is This?” by Bill Wilson, “There is Always Enough” by Heidi Baker, “No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green”, and anything by Karen Kingsbury.

#4 I am a member of the worship team at Open Door, and we call ourselves Driftwood Cross. There are four of us, three gentlemen and myself. Some people find that an odd combination, but they treat me with utmost respect and deference!

#5 I am passionate about Rwanda and will be travelling there with the organization I work with, Shelter Them, in November of 2014 to meet with three of the children that I sponsor.

#6 Although I’ve never been interested in gardening, I do love trees and have three small potted ones at the moment; two Norfolk Pines and a Lemon Cypress. They’re quite good company!

#7 I’m a transplanted Newfoundlander, which means I’m an Ontarian originally. It’s a personal source of pride that I have a perfect Central Newfoundland accent and most Newfoundlanders take me as one of them.

#8 I’m very introverted, but when I’m around people I know I can be extremely silly and sarcastic, some people would probably call me childish.

#9 Some of my pet peeves are not being able to find something that I’m looking for, people who drive like they own the road, getting sick, people who consistently break promises or cannot be trusted, and not being able to sleep.

#10 It’s my birthday today! (December 28)


Here is a list of blogs I am passing the Sunshine Award to! I couldn’t find ten that hadn’t already been awarded, so I am posting my “Fave Five!” These are awesome blogs y’all; you definitely need to check them out!

#1 Curly-Headed Family. Tyler and Jen blog about their adventures as an American family raising their kids in Uganda!

#2 Desert Violet. Alicia blogs about her life as a missionary kid growing up in Niger!

#3 Nothing Left to Paint. Sarah and her husband Jeff are the parents of two, one adopted and one biological, with another adopted child on the way! (I love adoption blogs and this is one of my favorites)

#4 Once Upon a Prayer. The ongoing story of Lily Grace and her sister Mackenzie, adopted from China and currently battling many health issues… but still going strong!

#5 Pure & Lasting. The story of a family with two wonderful children… a teenage boy from Rwanda and a baby girl from Ethiopia!

Thanks so much for nominating me Hannah, I hope you folks enjoyed learning a little bit of randomness about me and some blogs that I love!


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

God With Us


Oh, blogging. No one ever called it easy. There are months that you realize you’ve been posting twice a week, and there are months that you realize you haven’t posted anything in way too long. Then the guilt trip sorta gets to you, you know what I mean? And one of the “pressures” of blogging is that you’re expected to blog about certain things at certain times. Like holidays. November was National Adoption Awareness Month. I’m passionate about adoption, and I was hoping to blog about Adoption month, but it somehow didn’t happen. And then there was the Sunshine Award I got nominated for a week or so ago. I’m still trying to get a post about that pulled together.

And then there’s today. Most bloggers have some sort of great post up about the importance of family traditions, or about helping others during the season of giving, or some moving and commemorate post like that.

And then there’s me. I guess all I can say is that Uwimana Hannah marches to the beat of her own drum and does things her own way. If I’m not inspired to pull an amazing post together, then it ain’t happening.

But yet, today is still an amazing day, inspiring post or not. Oh, it’s not such an extraordinary day… we woke up to a blizzard and about more 20 centimeters of snow to add to what we’d already gotten. Supposedly there hasn’t been this much snow in our area since 1988 or something like that. I’ve spent most of the day holed up in my room, reading two of the books I got for Christmas: Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis, and Fifteen Minutes, by Karen Kingsbury. Both awesome books that I recommend checking out, if you haven’t already.

I’ve gone off topic again.

As I was saying, today isn’t such an extraordinary day, except for the fact that we’re celebrating the world’s biggest miracle. We don’t even know if it happened on December 25th; chances are, it didn’t. Regardless, we still take one day a year to celebrate a tiny Baby Boy being born in a stable to a young girl over two thousand years ago and half a world away. Fully God and fully man. And it’s something that nobody really understands and most people forget about for 364 days out of the year and too many of us take for granted.
And through all the muddle and the carols and the food and the decorations and the gifts and the clatter and clamour and glitz and glamour… if you stand still and listen, you can faintly hear the whisper; “Immanuel. God with us.”

Think about that. God. With us. Not just anybody. God. Lord of creation. God before time. He Who was and is and is to come. With us… that means you and me.

Kinda boggles your mind a bit, doesn’t it.

And today, despite the fact that it’s a quiet day and not much is happening, I can’t help but just breathe a prayer of thanks.


“Thanks… for being with me.”


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Danny

"Nothing you do for children is ever wasted."
~Garrison Keillor

His name was Dan.

I didn’t know his last name or where he was from, or even if he had a family; when you’re five years old, you kind of tend to overlook these insignificant details. I focused on the more important ones: Dan was funny, he was kind, and he made me feel important. And he was my friend.

I first met Dan when our family moved into the “big gray house” across from the train tracks. It was a sturdy one hundred-year-old house built from solid bridge timbers, but after being abandoned for over ten years, it needed a lot of repairs. Dan came to help us with the siding and the plastering; hence our nickname for him – Dan the Plaster-Man.

When he first walked in, I tried to hide behind my mom. My first impression was of Moses… a long gray beard that reached his chest and twinkling eyes. I would soon learn that Dan was like Moses in another way too… he loved to talk about his Jesus. The only difference was that instead of a long robe and a pair of stone tablets, our Moses wore work pants, scuffed boots, a worn green sweater, and carried a plaster knife.

Dan spent almost a month working on our house. He was quick, careful, and a hard worker… but he always found time for a conversation with me. I remember one warm spring day in particular. Dan was standing on a low scaffold, steadily putting siding on the front of the house. I was working hard as well, darting about the yard in pursuit of a flying saucer toy. You know, the kind that whirls and then flies away when you pull the string on the launcher?

“Look at that, Dan!” I’d shout. “See how high that one went?”

Dan would turn and shield his eyes from the sun. “I see! Be careful it doesn’t go near the electrical wires though!” he’d always caution.

Or I would hide behind the shrubbery in the yard. “Dan! Dan! Can you see me?” I’d pester.

He’d turn and look, and then laugh. “Oh yes, I can still see you!” he’d call.

Sometimes Dan would work late into the evenings at his plaster work. I’ll never forget watching him spend hours carefully working an intricate fan design in the wet plaster across the living room ceiling with a brush. He would do a few strokes, get down and move his ladder a couple of feet sideways, then climb up to repeat the process again. On many occasions it was long past my bedtime before he finished work. On those nights, my mother would give me a bedtime snack and say, “Run out and say good night to Dan now!” I would dash out to the living room, stepping over drop cloths and empty plaster buckets, and call, “Good night Dan!” And he would climb down from his ladder to tell me goodnight.

When I lost one of my first teeth, I couldn’t wait to show Dan. When I saw his old blue Chevy van with the ladder on top pull into our driveway, I flew down the stairs and out the door, meeting him halfway down the walk with an ear-to-ear grin. His first words to me were, “Hello, princess! I see you lost a tooth!”

One day, I had a special treasure to show Dan. I scampered outside, calling, “Dan! Dan!” I almost bumped into him as I rounded the corner of the house. “Look what I got!” I opened my hands to show him a jagged rock about the size of my fist. The top was streaked with sparkly yellow.

“Do you think it might be real gold?” I was almost breathless with excitement.

Dan leaned over to examine the stone. “Maybe it is. Maybe it is.”

My father rounded the corner of the house then, and I’ll never forget Dan’s words as he straightened up to look at my dad. “You know, your daughter might have found something pretty valuable there. You never know.”

For some reason, those words have stayed with me all these years later. Dan knew as well as I do now that the rock I’d found couldn’t have been gold; but he listened to me. He didn’t brush me off or laugh. He paid attention and took a few minutes to affirm my discovery. He even spoke of it to my father. I think what really made me feel ten feet tall that day was that Dan treated me like a grown-up; like I was somebody special.

On the day that Dan left, I remember feeling sad that my good friend was going away. The job was finished, and Dan was leaving early the next morning to return to his home in another community. But before he left, he took a few extra minutes to give me a special goodbye.

“You know, I’ll see you again one day,” he told me, pointing towards the ceiling. When I looked back at him, mystified, he explained, “I’ll see you up in Heaven one day, when the Lord comes back.” And then I understood.

The next morning, when I came downstairs for breakfast, I found that Dan had left before I woke. But he left a special letter just for me.

I still have the note in my possession. I’ll never throw it away. On rough beige paper, in penciled block letters, is this message:

Zephaniah 3:17
Dear Hannah; Good morning sister. And He does love us greatly. Your a good friend and helper too. Our Lord loves that. I will see you again soon.
Keep happy. It is the glory of the Lord.
Your brother in Jesus.
Danny.

I wonder sometimes, if Danny ever knew the impact he had on my life by just taking a little time to care. And I wonder where he is; if he’s safe and well. Wherever he is, I do wish him well and hope he has happiness. I pray that his love for Jesus is as strong as it once was, and that perhaps his last words to me might come true. If that happens, I look forward to walking the streets of gold with Dan and reminiscing on good times.




Until then, I'll always remember with fondness the short time I spent with my good friend Danny.


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Waiting Children: Driftwood Cross Edition!


Every so often, I like to browse the Compassion International website and view the children who are available for sponsorship. Even though I can’t take on another child right now, it’s fun to look and to pray for the children listed on the site. Compassion allows you to search for children in a variety of ways: by age, by country, by gender, by birthdate, by special needs, and even by first name. So if you want to sponsor a child in memory of a loved one or with the same name as you or a family member, you can quickly and easily check to see if there’s a child that fits that description!

Today, I was looking through the children and checking to see if any shared names with people I know. It wasn’t long before I found that there are four children currently available that share names with our worship band, Driftwood Cross! (You might have read about them here or here)


Here they all are!

First up is adorable four-year-old Hannah from the Philippines, who shares my name! Hannah makes her home with her father and her mother. Gathering firewood and running errands are her household duties. Her father is sometimes employed as a farmer and her mother maintains the home. There are 3 children in the family. As part of Compassion's ministry, Hannah participates in church activities. She is also in kindergarten where her performance is average. Running is her favorite activity.
http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/child-biography.htm?needKey=PH8780202



Next is serious eight-year-old James from Kenya, who shares a name with Jim (James) Vaughan-Evans. James lives with his mother. He is responsible for running errands. His mother is sometimes employed as a farmer. There are 3 children in the family. Playing group games is James's favorite activity. In primary school his performance is average and he also regularly attends church activities.
http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/child-video-biography.htm?needKey=KE4530100



Then we have smiling twelve year old Robert from Uganda, who shares a name with Bob (Robert) Tetford. Robert makes his home with his father and his mother. Carrying water, gathering firewood and teaching others are his household duties. His father is sometimes employed as a laborer and his mother is sometimes employed as a laborer. There are 3 children in the family. Ping pong, soccer and art are Robert's favorite activities. In primary school his performance is average and he also regularly attends church activities and Bible class.
http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/child-video-biography.htm?needKey=UG5300136



And lastly we have adorable four-year-old Larry from Nicaragua, who shares a name with worship leader Larry Baldwin. Larry lives with his father and his mother. At home, duties include running errands. His father is employed as a laborer and his mother maintains the home. There are 3 children in the family. Playing with cars and running are Larry's favorite activities. In kindergarten his performance is average and he also regularly attends Bible class.
http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/child-biography.htm?needKey=NI2560427


All of these children are in need of loving sponsors. To sponsor one of them, just click on the link above their picture.

A Surprise From Basomingera!


Last Monday, I was delighted to receive the most amazing letter from my Basomingera Ada! I’ve been Ada’s correspondent for eight months, and in all that time, I’ve only received one impersonal letter written by project staff on her behalf. So when I got this letter, I was thrilled half to death! She answers some of my questions and responds to several things I had said to her in previous letters. And there was also something very special about this letter!

See the Winnie-the-Pooh and Little Pony stickers? Those are stickers that I had sent to her back in June! I still have a hard time believing that Ada took two of her precious stickers and shared them with me! From Canada to Rwanda and back to Canada… these stickers have had quite a journey!

And here’s the adorable letter she wrote:

Dear Hannah,

I greet you in Jesus’ name. May God’s peace and blessings be upon you. I am doing well at school and I am doing the end of year exams now. I will be in grade 4 next year 2014. I have my best friends, we share food and play different games together. My best friend is Sandrine. (I had asked her about her friends) My family is doing well. I miss you, I love you and I keep you in my prayers. May God bless you. Read Philemon 4-7 and Psalm 23.

I thank you for your previous letter you wrote to me and many more other letters you keep sending me and tell me that Jesus is a friend who can never forsake me. (In response to a letter about Jesus being a Friend of children) My greetings to Pastor Jesse who teaches and explains well. (In response to a letter about my pastor, who ran in a triathlon. I said that he tells people about Jesus and explains things so they are easy to understand) I thank you for the nice pictures. Please continue writing to me. (Always, my sweet girl, always!)


I can’t wait to pass on Ada’s greetings to my pastor; I think he will be excited that a little girl halfway around the world sends her greetings to him!

I can just picture her playing with her best friend Sandrine, playing together and maybe eating at each other’s houses! The next time I write to Ada, I’ll be sure to include a little something for Sandrine and ask if she attends the project with Ada.

Of course, my favorite part of the letter is when she mentions Jesus being a friend who cannot forsake her. If I never got another letter besides this one, I would content knowing my sweet girl got my letter about Jesus (I think, the most important letter I sent her) and that she understands that He will never forsake her. The most important thing to me is that all of my children know Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him. That way, I know for sure that I will see them all in Heaven one day!

Of course, the part, “I miss you, I love you and I keep you in my prayers,” is just too beautiful as well. This is the second letter from Ada, and both letters said, “I miss you,” even though I’ve never met her!

Oh, and the two verses she included are Philemon 4-7, which says “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” And of course, the 23rd Psalm (the Shepherd Psalm) which most people are familiar with.

How I love my beautiful girl!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

An Olive Tree In The House Of The Lord


"But I am like a green olive tree in the House of God; I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever."
~Psalm 52:8

When you think of a symbol of peace, what do you think of? A dove, a white poppy, a peace sign, an olive branch?

When I think about a symbol of peace, here’s what I see:

To the casual observer, she’s just an ordinary little girl. And in many ways, she is; she lives with her mother, father, and two younger sisters. Like most little girls, she’s curious, playful, and loves to be the center of attention. She loves affection and hugs. Sometimes she snorts when she giggles. She has a charming smile and an adorable way of looking away and then peeking at you out of the corner of her eye. And she’s brave and tenacious.

She’s also my hero.

Her name is Olivia, which means “olive tree.” And like her namesake, she has had to be tougher and more resilient than most children.

You see, Olivia was born handicapped, to parents living in poverty. In Rwanda, having a handicapped child is not as easy as it is here. There is often a lack of medical care and parental support. Olivia’s mother had to stay at home to care for her daughter, all the while dealing with neighbors who said that Olivia would never be anything and who could not understand this faithful Mama’s dedication to her child. They often told Olivia’s family to just leave their little girl at some rich person’s gate; to get rid of her.

One day, while Olivia’s father was away doing a menial job, Olivia’s mother left the house to try to find some food for her children. As she returned, she noticed that Olivia had crawled too close to the river and was about to fall in. As Olivia’s mama rushed to save her daughter, a neighbor called out, “You should either carry it on your back or leave it somewhere else! Or… just let your hunger kill all of you!” Olivia’s Mama’s heart was broken by those words and she vowed to stay with her daughter and never leave her. But her heart was crying out for a miracle; for God to come and save them from their poverty and hopelessness. Little did she know that her disabled child would become the key to unlock poverty’s door.

"He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry, and will save them."
~Psalm 145:19

In November 2012, a team of Canadians traveled to Rwanda with an organization called Shelter Them, a ministry that cares for orphans and vulnerable children. While on their three week visit, they were able to distribute several wheelchairs to needy families who could not afford one. Olivia was one of the children chosen to receive a chair.

The next day, the mission team decided to visit one of the families who had received a wheelchair. Jules, who helps to run the Shelter Them office in Kigali Rwanda, knew that Olivia lived nearby and offered to guide the team to her home.

What they saw, shocked them.

Five people were living in a tiny mud hut smaller than most Canadian bedrooms. Olivia’s father, an unskilled worker, had taken two jobs to try to feed his family but was still unable to provide for them. Olivia herself was forced to scoot on her backside, her usual method of traveling, through the mud and sewage that flowed around the tiny house.

It was an eye-opening experience for the team, who had never seen such shocking poverty.

The above picture is of two of the team members after leaving Olivia’s house, too devastated by her family’s condition to do anything but weep. They vowed to get her out, no matter what it took.

When God’s people come together, mighty things happen.

Just one month later, Olivia’s family was given the surprise of their life: a brand-new rental house, paid for by donations from people all across Canada.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Recently, Olivia was taken to the St. Mary of Rilima Pediatric  Orthopedic Center to receive medical attention. No one could have guessed that this little butterfly of a girl with sparkling eyes, forced to crawl on the ground like a caterpillar her entire life, was about to burst out of her cocoon.

What you see here has no other explanation than “God does miracles.” You’re seeing correctly… Olivia is standing, alone and unaided, for the first time in her nine years of life. And she is not just standing, but walking! Oh, she still stumbles and falls on occasion, and she struggles mightily at times to keep her balance, nearly contorting herself in an effort to remain upright, but she is doing it… one wobbly step at a time. Her determination is unbelievable; when she loses her balance, she catches herself, slowly gets to her feet, and forges on. And each time she does, she gets a little stronger.

I wonder, sometimes, if Olivia’s mama knew what a prophetic name she was giving her newborn daughter. The olive tree for which she was named is famous for its ability to grow no matter what the circumstances. Olive trees are virtually indestructible, their gnarled and twisted trunks proving to be one of the strongest types of wood. They remain untouched by storms, wind, and even fire, living for millennia. An olive tree is seen as a symbol of peace, wisdom, glory, strength, and purity. Perhaps it should also be seen as a symbol of hope; the same hope that gives strength to a little brown-eyed girl and keeps her looking ever onwards and upwards.


And I think to myself, if this little child can keep on pressing forward and reaching for her dreams, then what prevents the rest of us from rising above our most impossible circumstances and giving Glory to the very Lord who created the mighty olive tree thousands of years before a little handicapped girl would bear its name?


And if this little girl can keep smiling through situations that no child should have to experience, what prevents us from doing the same?

Each time we look at Olivia’s precious face, may she be a symbol of hope, of resilience, of bravery, and of strength.

Click this link to view a video of Olivia walking! Olivia Can Walk!

May she continue to grow healthy and strong; an olive branch in the House of her Lord.

Monday, 11 November 2013

New Photo of Basomingera Ada!

I promised in my last blog post to share Ada's photo update with you all, so here it is! First, I'll share her previous two photos to compare.

Here's her very first photo, around age 6 or so:




And here's her second photo, age 8:



And here is her brand-new photo update!




It's a change to see her standing in front of a wall instead of out among the trees like she is in her first two photos. I love seeing how she's changed and matured since her last photo update... she's gotten so tall! Such a pretty blouse and skirt she has on too, and good sturdy sandals. Most of all, I love seeing how her head is up and her shoulders are straight... it looks like her confidence has gotten a definite boost! What a change from her first photo. But she still has the same sweet expression and the same beautiful big brown eyes. I love my sweet girl so much!


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Isimbi Got My Package!


I got a letter from Isimbi a few days ago, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to blog about it until now! It’s a bit of an odd letter as it was written by project staff instead of by her, which is unusual. Perhaps she wasn’t feeling well on that day, or she might have just been absent on letter-writing day for some reason. The good news, though, is that it confirms that she received the baggie I sent to her by another OC’er! I’m so glad it got to her safely. Anyway, here’s the letter:

Dear Hannah,

Your child greets you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. She is doing so well and healthy. How are you doing over there with your family? She already started school in the third term of the final year. And she is studying hard to get good grades. She also prays for you always to have God’s peace, blessings. Thank you so much. May you stay healthy.Your child appreciates you for the letter with spects (I think they meant specs, as in sunglasses) pen, notebook, a bangle. (must be referring to the beaded necklace and bracelet. The Kinyarwanda also mentions a headband, which the translator must have missed.) May you be blessed.

Isimbi

Here’s a picture of the package I sent her!

Mini Sharpie marker, necklace/bracelet set, mini notebook, pen, headband, sunglasses,
and smiley ball.

And I also squeezed in a giraffe Beanie-Boo! He’s so cute! Isimbi really treasured the stuffed lion one of our youth group members sent to her, so I hope she enjoys this toy as well!


ALSO: I found out that Basomingera’s photo updated today! I’ll share the high-resolution photo as soon as I get it from Compassion!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

A Cannon's-Eye View

This piece of prose is a result of a two things; a couple of hours spent looking out over Carbonear from the top of a cannon, and a late-night writing fit that struck me at about midnight.


 

When most people think of a comfortable spot to sit, heavy artillery usually isn’t the first thing to come to mind. But that’s where I am now; perched atop the broken, rusty muzzle of an old iron cannon. There’s a story behind it; what, I’m not sure. I’m feeling too peaceful to leave my seat and search out the story written on the informational boards behind me.

I sit astride, as if riding an iron horse. My toes don’t touch the ground, so I swing them a little as I look out over the water. There are actually two cannons, one facing left towards the open ocean, the other facing right into Carbonear Bay.

 

From my vantage point, I look out towards Carbonear Island and take a deep breath of the salt air. It’s easy to lose myself in time and space here. Stiff breezes and wheeling seagulls overhead mix with the dazzling glint of sun on water and spin themselves into a dozen pretty fancies.

 

Tossing my copper-colored hair out of my face, it’s easy to imagine that I’m an Irish maiden, perhaps a lighthouse-keeper’s daughter, watching the harbour mouth for the sight of her loved one’s ship returning home.

As quickly as it appears, my daydream vanishes, only to be replaced by another one. If I was a wildflower, I’d like to grow mixed in with the wild sprays that cover the hillside below me, nodding to me and to each other with cheerful greetings. If I was a butterfly, I’d curl up inside that nice big bloom over yonder. I wonder do butterflies dream? If they do, what do they dream of?

My gaze roves down past the flowery hillside to the sun-warmed rocks below, being washed by the swirling, sudsy foam. The ocean glints green where it touches the shore, and the colors gradually fade from turquoise, to teal, and finally to deep cerulean. The sun makes interesting patterns on the waves; rather like snakeskin… flashy diamond shapes flash and change with every blink.

I hear a faint roar and see a white speedboat cutting through the water, too far below me to make out her passengers. She cuts a wobbly V-shape through the water. From up here the water looks flat and calm, but from the way the boat’s engine roars and sputters and the way her prow dips into the sea before rearing up to point at the sky, I can tell there’s a heavy swell on.

Lost in thought, I shift my seat from one cannon to the other. I’m facing inwards toward the town of Carbonear now, squinting my eyes to try to make out the pinprick-sized houses and buildings. There; that red tower jutting up from the trees farthest to my right. That’s the clock tower of the Princess Sheila NaGeira Theatre, where John Schlitt once performed. Behind it, hidden from sight, is the Knights of Columbus building where a group of ordinary radicals who call themselves Open Door hold church every Sunday morning.

Swinging my gaze a touch to the left, I see the promenade around the pond that I often stroll on fine days. It’s amusing to watch the ducks marching out of the pond like soldiers on parade whenever they see someone promising who might give them crumbs.

 I can see both the school and the college from here as well; I have friends in both places.

Turning my gaze upwards a bit, I see TC Square. I’ve worked, eaten, and played music in this mall and am familiar with many of its storekeepers and employees. Even from here, the parking lot fairly sparkles with a sea of vehicles.

Swinging my gaze further to the right, I try to spot the U-turn Center, where our youth group meets every Wednesday night. I’ve attending many functions at this bustling center, and I squint in that general direction now, but the building is too well camouflaged among the trees.

Still further to the right; now I see the general hospital. I’ve visited friends here, and even sat in its emergency room. It, too, is a familiar sight to me.

My gaze wanders on, along the street where a friend of mine lives, but the houses are too tiny to make out which one is his.

Finally the sea of houses ends, and my observing eye briefly touches the dark green treetops covering the side of the hill before returning to the rocks that point out towards Carbonear Island once more.

No doubt about it, I feel more at home here than I do in my own community, which isn’t that far away. I believe that while your place of residence might be in one town, your true home can be in another; thus, I consider this cannon’s eye view to be my domain.  Because here is the stuff of memories… the cobwebs that cling, the fingers that grasp, the faint chuckles of laughter that dance in the wind. Good and bad, those memories make up who I am, and they play a very large part in my place in the world. Because they drive me and inspire me to reach for more memorable experiences, which will then be tucked away into my mind like their predecessors.

 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Self-Talk: Destruction vs. Development


Lately, it seems I’ve been struggling with negativity a lot. It’s difficult to focus on the positives when so many things seem to be going wrong… and even when nothing’s going wrong, our minds can still find something to be negative about!

With that in mind, I’m going to share an article that I wrote about two years ago about Self-Talk. I need to remind myself of this every day, and I’d like to share it with you all today.
 
 
    “If you're anything like me, you know that your mind is always talking to itself. Making decisions, remembering stuff you have to do, thinking, planning, daydreaming, going full throttle. I want..., I need..., it seems..., how come..., when..., I have to..., did I...? Unfortunately, if you're anything like me, a lot of your self-talk is negative. Most times we don't realize it, but did you know that negative self-talk has the same effect as someone saying something negative to you? In other words, if you tell yourself, "I'm so dumb. I'll never get this right," your mind takes it as seriously as if someone said the actual words to you. Sounds pretty serious, doesn't it?! With that in mind, maybe we all need to pinpoint some of the destructive, discouraging self-talk in our lives and exchange it for positive, encouraging self-talk!

"I'll never be like..." Why do you want to be? Imitating good traits from a positive role model can be a good thing, but God made you with your own unique personality...don't try to change!

"I can't..." Why can't you? Are you trying hard enough? Do you even need to? If it's an area of development, resolve to work harder at it. If it's something you physically cannot do, or an area you don't excel in, tell yourself, "I may not be good at this, but I have strengths in other areas!"

"I never..." Really? Or does it just feel that way right now?

"I'm so stupid." God gave you a host of talents in all sorts of different areas. Just because you struggle in one or two areas, does not mean you are lacking in intelligence.

"I'm going to fail." How do you know? Just because you've failed in the past does not mean you're going to do it again. You have at least a 50% chance of success if you try... and a 0% chance if you don't try.

"Nobody cares about me." That's an easy one to believe, but trust me, it isn't true! Lots of people care about you, even if you can't see them. For one thing, God definitely cares about you. For that matter, so do I!

"I always mess up." No, you don't. You do a lot of things right. Even if you do mess up on occasion (and trust me, we all do!) tell yourself, "What can I learn from this? How can this make me a better person?" 

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

Sunday, 13 October 2013

SPONSORSHIP SUNDAY: Meet Philbert Mukunzi!


Hi everyone! Welcome to the fourteenth post in my “Sponsorship Sunday” series. I love showing off our beautiful children to you, and giving you a glimpse into their lives in Rwanda.


This serious fellow is Philbert Mukunzi. Philbert is seven years old, and his birthday is June 5.

Philbert and his older brother Zephilin were living with their parents until the death of their mother. Their father soon remarried, but his new wife refused to accept the two boys are her sons. Sadly, this story is all too common among our children. Philbert and his brother were taken in by a relative, but she lived in such extreme poverty that she found herself unable to care for the two boys.

One day, this relative heard of an organization called “Shelter Them,” a place with a reputation for rescuing children. She brought both boys to the Shelter Them office and asked if someone would take them. Philbert and his brother Zephilin now live in “Bryan’s Home,” (named after baby Bryan) with a loving caretaker and three other boys, where they are fitting in and finding a sense of belonging. And you should just see them play marbles!

Here Philbert shows off his new school uniform that he received through Shelter Them.

Well, what do you know… behind that serious little face hides a great smile! This is Philbert shortly after arriving at Shelter Them.


And here’s one more photo of our quiet little fellow.

Would you consider bringing a smile to Philbert’s face by sponsoring him? Imagine how excited he’d be to receive a letter from someone halfway around the world that loves him and cares for him. Sponsorship is just $40 a month (we welcome U.S. sponsors as well) and you will receive regular letters and photos from your child. You are also welcome to visit them in Rwanda!

If you’d like to sponsor Philbert Mukunzi, or if you would like to view the rest of our children available for sponsorship, you can visit us here: Shelter Them Child Sponsorship.

Feel free to share this page with your family and friends so we can find him a sponsor!

And don’t forget to visit the Path of the Carpenter on Facebook!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

My First Letter From Mbula!


Today I was so excited to receive my first letter from 18-year-old Mbula, who lives in Kenya. Mbula was assigned to me when I requested a correspondence child aged 14 or up from either Africa or Asia. He was assigned to me on May 31st. Four months and one week later, I received his first letter. I was excited to see that he responds to several things I mentioned in my first letter. It was also my first letter in English, which I was thrilled about; no worries about translation errors! Although a translator did look at the letter to check for errors, of which there were none. Mbula writes English very well!


Here’s the letter:

“Dear Hannah,

Hallo my friend! It’s my hope that you are fine with your family members. On my side, I’m fine too. I thank you for being my sponsor. I thank you for the letter you send to me.

In our family, we have three brother and one sister. I would not mind anymore if you would like to be my second sister in our family. (in my first letter, I told him I had no brothers or sisters and asked if I could call him my brother. I’m glad he said yes!)

In our school, I am doing well in my studies. I would request you to pray for me in order to go on well in my studies. In my school activities, I like participating in volleyball as well as football. (the translator added, “soccer.”)

In our church, I like participating in singing and dancing. (me too!) I would like also to share the same verse from Joshua 1:9. It says, “Be strong and of good courage, don’t be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (This is the same verse I sent him in my first letter. I’m glad he liked it enough to share it again!) I would also request for you to pray for our Kenyan athletes who are participating in athletic competition in Moscow. (I asked him to tell me more about Kenya, so this is interesting! I’ll have to look it up online and see what else I can find out.) May God bless you and honour you.

This letter was really exciting in so many ways: my first letter from Kenya, my first letter in English, and the first letter that responds to questions I’ve asked in the first letter. I’m glad to see how much room is on the Kenyan stationery for writing… Mbula sounds like he will be a chatty and interesting young man to get to know!

I love my Kenyan brother!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Hurry Up and Wait


Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m not the most patient person in the world. When things are going to happen, I want them to happen now. If I get word that a letter from one of my kids is coming, I’ll make the drive to the post office every day for two weeks until it arrives. When someone is coming over, I’m pacing the floor, looking out the window every two minutes. If something is taking longer than usual to download, I’m growling at the computer and restarting the process a dozen times. Like I said… impatient.

It just seems to me that the longer you wait for something to happen, the more chances there are that something could go terribly wrong. I’ve experienced this on a number of occasions. For instance, my upcoming trip to Rwanda. My trip has been cancelled twice for various reasons, and now that the date is set (again) I’m getting more and more anxious to just get going!

The truth is, God has placed Rwanda in my heart in a very special, irreplaceable way. Why, I don’t know. I didn’t choose Rwanda… Rwanda chose me. It grabbed ahold of my heart like a baby grabs your finger, and it’s not letting go. In truth, waiting for this trip to happen reminds me of an adoptive parent waiting for a referral. It’s scary. It’s exciting. It’s overwhelming. It’s nerve-wracking. And you know it’s going to be life-changing, but how, you just can’t fathom yet; not until it actually happens.

And I can’t wait.

I can’t wait to gaze out over the green, sun-dappled hills, embroidered with terraces and quilted with patches of farmland.



I can’t wait to taste rice and beans cooked African-style over a smoky open fire.



I can’t wait to be surrounded by throngs of curious, chattering children, reaching out with innocent curiosity to touch the girl with pale skin and hair like chili peppers, as I reach out and touch them back.


I can’t wait to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of a busy Rwandan marketplace.


I can’t wait to see my three precious girls, hold them in my arms, look into their eyes, and tell them how much I love them. “Ndagukunda cyane,” I will tell them.

I can’t wait to dance outside in a Rwandan rainstorm. I can’t wait to smell the air, to travel the dirt roads, to walk barefoot in the Rwandan soil. I don’t just want to visit Rwanda. I want to smell it, feel it, taste it, breathe it, and absorb it so completely that it becomes as much a part of me as my own soul.

I look at pictures of hard-working women who struggle daily to heal from the wounds of the past while providing a daily existence and a hopeful future for themselves and their families, and I think, “They could teach me so much about life… about giving… and about loving.” And I long for the day that I might sit at their feet and learn from them. They know what it means to be real women.


I can't wait, I said? But I can. Because right now, I have to. It isn’t my choice to make. But in the waiting, something else happens. I heard someone say once, “Man does not really appreciate what he gets too easily.” In the waiting, we learn to really value what we’re waiting for. Similar to the nine-month waiting period before a new baby enters the world, I believe that this waiting time is a gestation period of sorts, a prelude to the birthing of something new and glorious in Rwanda. What that may be, I don’t know yet, but I can’t will wait to find out!


For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
    it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
    it will surely come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3

Sunday, 6 October 2013

SPONSORSHIP SUNDAY: Meet Kevine Mutoni!


Welcome to the thirteenth post of my “Sponsorship Sunday” series! We currently have 22 children in Rwanda, ranging in age from 1 to 19, available for sponsorship through our organization, Shelter Them. (You can read more about Shelter Them and its founders, Jocelyne and Josephine, by clicking the “Shelter Them” tab at the top of this page.) Sponsorship is just $40 a month, and 100% of your funding goes directly to your child. We also welcome sponsors from the U.S.

 
Now, I may be a bit biased, but six-year-old Kevine has to be one of the most adorable kids I’ve ever seen. Kevine is the youngest sister of Florence and Olivia (click on their names to read more about them), and her birthday is April 24.

But the first time our team ever saw Kevine, that dimpled smile was nowhere to be seen. Kevine lived with her mother, father, and two older sisters, one who is handicapped, in a tiny mud hut barely big enough for the five of them to squeeze into.


Here you can see Kevine sitting on the thin piece of dirty sponge that all five family members slept on at night. They had no blankets and covered themselves with the clothes that you see lying around. Kevine’s father is an unskilled labourer who was unable to make ends meet and provide the basics of life for his family. Her mother had to stay home to look after Olivia, Kevine’s older sister, who has what we believe is cerebral palsy.


Kevine’s eyes are heartbreaking in this photo. She was so shy and overwhelmed when the Shelter Them missions team first visited in November 2012. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a sadder looking child, and no wonder; the family had no food, no proper clothing, and no hope for a better future since there was no money for education or for medical care. The Shelter Them team knew they had to do something. And thanks to generous donations from people all across Canada, we were able to move the family into a rented house with a bedroom for Mama and Papa, one for Olivia, and one with bunk beds for Kevine and her oldest sister, Florence.


And here’s our sweet baby-doll girl now, in her new dress and shoes provided by Shelter Them. Isn’t she the cutest little thing? I just want to scoop her up and hug her! That impish little grin says there could be a little mischief in this next-to-youngest of all our kids. And she has hope for her future now; she can run and play in a clean, spacious environment instead of that crowded hut, and she has good, healthy food to eat and clean water to drink. She is also able to go to school now, and reach for her dreams.

Will you continue the cycle of giving, and make sure that Kevine and her family never have to go back to the slums? Your sponsorship will provide all the care this precious little angel needs, and your letters will be a blessing in her life. You are also welcome to visit your sponsored children in Rwanda.

If you’d like to sponsor Kevine Mutoni, or if you would like to view the rest of our children available for sponsorship, you can visit us here: Shelter Them Child Sponsorship.

Feel free to share this page with your family and friends so we can find her a sponsor!

And don’t forget to visit the Path of the Carpenter on Facebook!