Hope. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about my upcoming trip to Rwanda and my first trip to the continent of Africa. This summer, I have the opportunity to participate in partnership with Africa New Life in a learning exchange and humanitarian effort called “Woman to Woman Rwanda.” This is the first trip I know of its kind where an all African American team of women are going to partner with, listen to, and learn from Rwandan women.
Like many of you, my first introduction to the daily life of Rwanda was from the atrocities of the 1994 genocide. I read Immaculée Ilibagiza’s story of redemption in her riveting memoir, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. As a part of the Tutsis tribe, she lost most of her family to the genocide where “more than one million people were murdered in roughly 100 days.” Most of this history was told with the 2004 movie release titled “Hotel Rwanda.” However, death and murder is not the entirety of Rwanda’s story. It is only a snapshot of the history of colonization and oppression that crippled the Rwandan people and which nearly destroyed the country.
In the later part of the nineteenth century, Rwanda was colonialized by Germany. During this period of approximately 15 years, Germans elevated the Tutsi tribe (as being more Caucasian) by giving them the best education and jobs, while causing a class-system and rift between the native Tutsi and Hutu people groups. At the end of World War II, the country was given to Belgium, who continued to exploit this division and govern Rwanda for approximately 40 years before the Rwandans kicked them out.
Rwanda became an independent nation in 1962, but the relational damage had already been done among the nation’s first people groups. The uncertainty about the country’s future and the struggle for power is what climaxed in the 1994 genocide. This genocide began with Rwandans, and because of the lack of international involvement, it ended with Rwandans.
Over the past 22 years, Rwandans have led their country, instituted a democracy, charted their path to economic freedom, and have pursued reconciliation and justice. Rwanda is now a country led by Rwandans, and Africa New Life is a ministry led by Rwandans.
About Africa New Life
Africa New Life was founded in 2001 by Rwandans who had a vision to transform lives by caring for the whole child. Their holistic ministry framework includes: healthy body, educational sponsorship, growing faith, and community development. While child sponsorship is the backbone of their ministry, they seek to work and serve where ever there is a community need.
The “Woman to Woman’’ Rwanda trip team will focus our efforts on the ministry projects that are specifically designed for Rwandan women and growing girls. This includes their Vocational Sewing Program, Dream Beauty Academy, engaging the women who participate in their Esther College Scholarship program, and offering encouragement to the women who attend their Africa College of Theology. We will also be partnering with, developing relationships with, and learning from women in the church and community.
The Vision and the Visionary
Poet and author Amena Brown is the visionary behind the “Woman to Woman” Rwanda trip. She had the opportunity to visit Rwanda and support Africa New Life in 2016. She was the only African American woman on a trip of 35 women. She prayed and decided in that moment that the next time she returned to the country she would be with a group of African American women.
“Woman to Woman” is a group of life coaches, teachers, artists, mothers, daughters, engineers, entrepreneurs and more who are coming together to form a team that will inform, uplift, and learn from the women in Rwanda. This is a cross-generational effort, as this team of 11 women includes two mother-daughter pairs. We all need your support.
Rwanda is a country that knows genocide and violence, but the Rwandan people also know healing, reconciliation and rebuilding. To lead in the work of love, healing and justice, African American women and Rwandan women are in the unique position to learn from and equip each other and the universal church. Our hope is this trip will be a learning exchange that leads to our own healing and informs our reconciliation work here in America.
We will spend our time in Rwanda facilitating reciprocal learning workshops about self-esteem with young women from the boarding school, and offer entrepreneurship and practical skills training to the women in the vocational program to ensure that the viability of their businesses can support their families and the entire community.
As many of you know, international short-term mission trips are not often pursued by people from the minority people group. This is an expensive effort, and oftentimes people in the majority group are able to support these initiatives simply because they can afford it. This is a huge financial burden for people of color. Generally, our friends can’t afford it and our churches can’t afford it. Pursuing a vision like this one is a significant faith move for many on the team.
We need your financial support.
We need to see more trips like this one. This is not just about equality, it is also about equity. People of color need the same learning opportunities and experiences as their white counterparts. Furthermore, this trip offers a different perspective than an all-white missionary team can. We are not the ones supporting people of color across the globe while ignoring our neighbors of color across town or down the street. We are not the ones who “go” with a missional attitude that includes a kinder, gentler version of colonialism. We are not trying to save, fix, or help the Rwanda people. The Rwandans have proven that they are resilient. They are capable of taking care of themselves and rebuilding their own country and community.
We know that we are all equal. We know that we are no better than our Rwandan sisters. We know that in addition to sharing, and through mutual learning and edification, we will learn from them. Our learning will inform the ways that we work, minister, and pursue justice and reconciliation at home in our various places of influence. Help African American women from the US learn from Rwandan women this summer! https://www.purecharity.com/woman-to-woman-in-rwanda-trip-fund Click To Tweet
Meet the Team
Amena Brown and her mom, Willa Jeanne Brown. Momma Brown is a mom and nurse, and she is looking to share love and kindness, while encouraging conversations about healthy living among the women. You can connect with her on Twitter or Instagram.
Latasha Morrison, founder of Be the Bridge. This will be Latasha’s fourth time visiting the country of Rwanda, and she is passionate about her partnership, child sponsorship, and the work of Africa New Life.
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a speaker and author of Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship, visionary founder of Leadership LINKS, Inc, and UMII and Urban Faith contributor. Connect at: www.natashaSrobinson.com.
Susan Seay is from Austin, Texas. She is a wife and homeschooling mom of seven. She is a speaker and the author of “The Intentional Parent.” Connect through her official website.
Faitth Brooks is attending with her mother, Francine Pierson. Faitth’s desire is to see women empower and encourage one another, while forming a beautiful sisterhood. You can follow Faitth on Instagram or Twitter.
Latoya Collins-Jones is the founder and creator of I am 1. She is excited about this adventure because participating in missions’ trips is a part of her long-term life goals. Connect with her online or on Twitter, or Facebook.
Caroline Adams is an IT specialist and mom of three. She is looking forward to connecting, learning, and growing from this experience to gain a fresh perspective on life.
Delina McPhaull is a wife and homeschooling mom from Texas. Connect through Instagram.
The trip dates are July 15-23, 2017. You can follow the trip using the hashtag #W2WRwanda on various social media channels. Please prayerfully consider how you, your church, and your network can financially support this effort. Let’s do this together!