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.


  1. This is amazing Hannah. You are an inspiration to many people. You are a good writer and a great motivator .May God continue to bless you.

    Jocelyne Alexandre

  2. Hannah,I am deeply moved after experiencing this story; the tears just keep flowing. Hannah,from the day you were born; every day I asked God not for fame and fortune for you but I asked God that you would have a deep love for God and that every moment of every day you would extend His kingdom and here you are doing just that. I cannot pen beautiful words but I have seen/heard you cry over the children in Rwanda and others as well. God sees your desire to be a blessing,He hears your cry ,God weeps with you as you weep for them. God catches [psalms 56;8] your tears in a bottle! You always told me Olivia will walk! God is revealing His secrets to you! keep your hand on the plough and don't look back.You are a vessel filled to the brim with the oil of the Holy Spirit. Be Blessed my Daughter and be a blessing! love Mom.

    1. Thanks Mom, I know you prayed and believed with me that we would see Olivia walking! God is good!

  3. So beautiful. How deeply moving. God's Love portrayed.

  4. What a beautiful post, Hannah. So moving. Such a precious, precious little one is our Olivia with the sparkling eyes. Praying that she will find God's Will for her remarkable life.

  5. I have just shared this with my readers, Hannah.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this with your readers! It is much appreciated!

  6. Olivia is such a precious girl!!! And what a beautiful story of God's goodness!! Thank you so much for sharing Olivia's story with us!!

    1. Thanks for reading Hannah! Olivia is such a blessing to all of us!

  7. I've just come back to view the video... wow! What an improvement from that last video you shared with us, Hannah. Watch out world! Here I come! : )

  8. Hi Hannah, have you heard of the Surgery Ship? I was watching a documentary on it and thought of you - there are too many Olivias out there! :(

    Here is the link:

    1. No, I hadn't heard of it! I will check out the link now, thanks for sharing it!