The Beauty of Relationships


It is the heart of this advocate to have real relationship with those being served...

This trip was opening a door to meaningful relationships beyond the children and their families. It was building relationship with the church, the school, and in a small way the community. 

What better way to immerse yourself in the culture than to have relationship with its people. To come to understanding their view of not only life, but of the greater world as well. 

Through asking questions and intentionally listening to their responses trust is built which dissolves cultural barriers and helps grow a sense of unity.

Pastor Antoine could not have been a more gracious servant throughout this advocates visit. He gracefully juggled family, his law practice, his responsibilities with the church and school to spend enormous amounts of time sharing himself, the city, countryside and culture of Rwanda.

Through our conversations the connections prospered as did a sense of vision for the ministry and advocacy of the children.

This advocate learned through every place visited, every shared meal, and interaction with others. It was striking how an awareness of surroundings brought about epiphanies. 

One morning we stopped for breakfast. In the parking lot there were men nearby mixing concrete. This advocate thought nothing of this in the moment. We went in, climbed three stories of stairs (no elevator), only to find the place was closed for remodeling. On our way back out to the car, three men were carrying five-gallon pails on their heads, and heading inside. Looking at Antoine this advocate said, “They’re carrying concrete in those pails, aren’t they?”  He affirmed that, and proceeded to say, “And they are going to climb up those same stairs.”

Throughout Kigali and the Rwandan countryside, many people get around by walking or riding a bicycle. It is a frequent and repeated sight to see men, women, and children carrying all sorts of things on their heads. Some use a hand or two to stabilize but for many the load is simply balanced without assistance. Bicycles are not just a means of wheeled transport for people, they are means of wheeled transport for all sorts of things; canisters of fresh water, materials for building, bunches of bananas, furnishings, recyclables, and the list goes on. When the load is too much, they will be pushing the bike, especially up the hills.

The use of motorcycles as taxi’s is common. The “Mottos” as they are called, provide transport of an individual around town. They are not limited by driving lanes, so they fly between cars, and along the shoulder and near sidewalks. They congregate in large numbers at the head the line of cars at a traffic light, only to shoot out like pellets from a gun upon the light turning green. This advocate did not want to experience a moto ride, but maybe another advocate is adventurous enough.

It was clear early on that a tall American male was a curiosity to people on the street. Though their looks bore no prejudicial implications, and while amongst people on the street nothing was ever said. This advocate was enheartened by a young boy who passed by smiled and greeted me in English. Clearly, he was not intimidated by me, or by my culture.

On another occasion, prejudice rose up when asking to use a restroom at a gas station. The woman at the pumps saw this advocate and wanted to charge for the privilege, but recanted when she realized this advocate was a native’s guest, and not the leader. Considering this was the only prejudicial incident, mild as it was, caused this advocate to reflect upon a gaping divide in prejudice in America and that in Rwanda.

Not long before this advocate’s visit was the first graduation of the sewing program. I visited the rental space where the students learn this vocational skill and are given a machine to use to start their seamstress businesses. The long-term value of this effort in the lives of the women and man in this first class is inspiring. Once again for many it is only through advocacy that these students can receive training of a life-long skill. These individuals will be a part of impacting their community in a positive way while benefitting from the services they provide for others. There are no box stores on the corner to buy clothing whether commercially made or made by hand, so the addition of artisans to sew clothing is certainly welcome.

The last day of school at the Vineyard Nursery and Primary school, was made special by the visit of this advocate. Every classroom had a presentation and later we shared in an all-school assembly. It was evident in the eyes of even the youngest students that this visit meant something to them and their hope for a future.

The Sunday before leaving Rwanda this advocate shared a message at church, and while leaving a young boy who this advocate did not know, pulled away from his family and ran around the front of the car, to give me a hug. My heart melted at the sweetness of that gesture, and whatever feelings inspired him to act.

This advocate shared lunch with Pastor Antoine and his family after church that day. In the midst of conversation, I posed the question to his children, “If they’d like me to come again.” Without hesitation the three oldest said “Yes!” The blessings in this response were simply overwhelming, and ones that will not be forgotten.

The beauty of relationship was ever more important, as cannot ignore the violent history of this country. The peace and sense of security which was evident everywhere this advocate visited. What other city the size of Kigali could this advocate miss hearing or seeing either a significant police presence, or emergency vehicles racing down the street. But in Kigali this experience was absent, a testament to the efforts the country has made post genocide.

My eyes have seen what advocacy means to the people it supports. It is a step up and a step out of a life of poverty. It is through advocacy a child gets an education, and an adult learns a trade to provide them an income and hopefully subsistence.

Let us not forget the destitute and impoverished families whose children are afforded an education through the advocacy sent from across the world. Let us not be complacent in our efforts to support them in any way we can, through relationship, encouragement, and through opportunity which cannot be sustained by any other means. This advocate’s visit only affirmed the need, the reality, and the seriousness of the living conditions of the children and families.

Let us not allow the money to speak for us, but let it be only a portion of the love we share with our child or children. They can grow so much more with the richness of a relationship with their advocates visit to Rwanda.


-Tom, advocate since 2017