20 May 2015

Can We Stop a Genocide?

On Monday evening I arrived in Kigali, Rwanda for the first time, and over the past two days I have been meeting the staff of ERM and the widows and vulnerable children they serve.  I've been in several homes and met so many widows who lost their husbands during the genocide of 1994 or in the aftermath of that tragedy.  

When I was in high school, I went through the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and when I was in college I toured two memorial sites for the Cambodian genocide carried out by Pol Pot's government.  Today I visited yet another memorial to a genocide, and while I wandered through the Kigali Genocide Museum, fresh in my mind was a blog post from author Ann Voskamp about the experiences of Yazidi and Christian women and girls at the hands of ISIS.  I beg you to click the photo below and go read Ann's incredibly moving testimonies about women and girls who are being tormented, chased, raped, killed, sold, abandoned, widowed, orphaned, and are forced to make terrible decisions along the way.  The woman below had to choose between saving her newborn baby or her other child.  She has no idea where her son is. 


Every time a genocide happens, the world repeats that tired old lie: Never Again, but it is happening right now, and we are letting it happen.

The most infuriating part of the story of the Rwandan genocide is how the international community heard, but chose not to listen.  They looked, but chose not to see.  I have been doing the exact same thing regarding the plight of women and girls in the ISIS zone.  It isn't my mother or my daughter, but now I know that they are my sisters, and I have to do something...but what?  A few weeks ago I posted about this very concept, that not all the world's tragedies are my responsibility, but I cannot tell you the burden I feel over this situation.  At the end of Ann's post, she links to a non-profit called Preemptive Love which is helping women start businesses and putting their children back into school.  Those are both very worthy causes, but it doesn't satisfy me.  It is immediate, sustainable assistance for those who have already been victimized, and it may even prevent them from being further victimized in the future, but, especially as I sit here in Rwanda, I have to ask: How do we stop the genocide?  Will someone tell me how to help?  I want to be challenged to do something more than helping the victims; I want to be asked for a real sacrifice to prevent ISIS from continuing to spread evil.  I can't pick up a gun and join the Kurdish peshawars, but surely, surely there must be something that we average people with voices and passion and resources can do to not only care for widows and orphans, but to protect those women and children from the bereavement caused every day by the ISIS troops.  Let's put a stop to this genocide...somehow.

15 May 2015

Photos from Sindo visit to Install Dani's Water Tank

Two weeks ago I asked for help to buy materials for a new bathroom for Fred's grandmother, Dani.  Within 24 hours, the project, along with repairs to Dorina's house, had been fully funded.  A few days later, Fred and the boys went up to Sindo, his home village, to complete the project.

Here's the new water tank.  You can see the rocky and hilly terrain around the house which caused her to fall and injure her chest a month ago.

This is the new bathing house, right next to the kitchen, at the same level as the house and kitchen, so she doesn't need to climb any more hills.

Dani had been so sick she couldn't leave bed before Fred arrived, but once he arrived and gave her some massage with eucalyptus oil and muscle balm, she slept more soundly than she had for months and rose refreshed.  Here she is modeling the new bathing tap with the boys.  This faucet will make it so that she doesn't have to carry buckets for her bathing water.

Before they could leave Sindo, the car needed some repairs.  That was a perfect chance for Wesley to get out his box of tools and "help" the mechanic, just as he had been "helping" the man who constructed the water tank frame and the bathing house.  Inno was just bored.

07 May 2015

The Appeal of the Ready-Made Solution

First of all, thank you so much to the friends who paid for Dorina's house and Dani's water tank.  There was a contractor at Dorina's house yesterday to come up with a bill of quantity for materials. Today Fred and the boys are going up to Kenya to install Dani's new water tank.  The plan was to wait until the weekend, but Fred got a call yesterday that his grandmother is very ill, so they are rushing up to see her and do the plumbing work for a new toilet and bathing area for her. By next week's blog post, I'll likely have photos of both completed projects!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've been reviewing past partnerships for Lahash, and I realized something as I was analyzing some work we did with a primary school in Kenya.  That partnership was incredibly successful in terms of attracting donors and advocates from around the world, and I was trying to figure out why.  They weren't particularly good at sending pictures or telling stories of the kids, but they had a plan that made sense: they were teachers and they wanted to run a school.  It seems simple, but it's not always that way.

People who represent donors (like me) hear a lot ideas.  We read funding requests for schools and orphanages and guest houses and huge farming projects from people who have never taught or taken care of children or guests or farmed more than a garden.  Often there's a really good case for the need the idea is meant to meet, but the deeper one looks into the project, the less it seems a good idea.  Usually the idea comes from something that was successful somewhere else, and it turns out to be a bad fit for the proposing organization.

I'm realizing that this concept has some personal applications as well.  How often do I look around my life and feel unsatisfied?  I wish I could be a better mother or have a more organized home or make more money or spend more time in prayer and the Scripture.  When I identify a need in my life, I tend to want a ready-made solution.  I want to teach my toddler to pray, so I research all the best ways to make a lifelong disciple of Jesus out of a tiny little boy, but the things that have been successful for other people are not necessarily going to work for my family and my little boy.

So what's the right way to go about making a change or trying something new?

  • Play to your strengths.
    We are not a scheduled family.  Every single day is different for us, so if I try to implement a certain time each day to do X Y or Z, it's not going to happen.  However, we're really good at grabbing spare moments and living life in seasons, so I have to consider that in any plans I make for us.
  • Make a reasonable plan.
    It never works to try to change the world from the first step.  The best long-term plans always seem to have moderate, reasonable, scale-able starting points with middle- and long-term steps toward a large vision.  It's nothing terribly glamorous, but it works.
  • Stick to it.
    This is a reminder I need all the time, because I'm a master procrastinator and I get bored easily with repetitive routine.  Sticking to a plan based on my strengths and goals is the key to making it through the dull or difficult times.
  • Don't recreate the wheel.
    Creativity is great, but so are best practices.  The best ideas are adaptations of what is proven to work.  "There is nothing new under the sun" but there are creative new twists on solid, proven ideas.
Nothing I've written in this post is all that innovative, but writing a post every Thursday is part of a routine that is important, regardless of whether I have something brilliant to say or not.  Anyway, this is what I've been thinking about lately.