I’ve never been fearful of goodbyes because a see-you-later was always closely linked behind. But now see-you-later seems deceitful, and goodbye seems permanent, and thank you seems hollow and empty and not nearly enough. Today was the dreaded day…the day I had to say goodbye to the ubuzima women, the group of women who I visit multiple times each week. To be honest I wasn’t actually dreading the visit at all. I figured it would be easy. Pop in, give each woman the normal cheek kiss/cheek kiss/cheek kiss/handshake greeting, stay for awhile and pop out.
Well oh my word, was I ever wrong.
I brought my nail polish so I could paint their nails for the last time, and I truly cherished each moment of holding their withered, rough hands and feet in my fingers. We smiled and laughed and they began their Bible study as I continued to paint, and it felt completely normal. Just like our usual Tuesdays.
Mama Deborah is the one who began ubuzima as a way of making sure the women know that they are loved and treasured by Jesus. She is a beautiful lady. I know I use that word to describe people a lot, but I don’t know how else to sum her up quickly. She’s beautiful - one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met in my entire life. She was talking to the women about thanking God, and they went around and talked about what they were thankful to God for. I told them that I am thankful to God for them. I told them that they have shown me what faith looks like.
This is the truest thing I have learned from my time in Rwanda. I have learned so much, (I am trying to write down everything that I have learned and perhaps someday I’ll share those things with you) but the truest thing I know that I have learned time and time again, is to have BIG faith.
I tried to explain to the women that in Canada it’s very easy for me to make God small. I have this tendency of thinking that I can do everything by myself and only when something really bad happens that is humanly impossible for me to take care of, do I allow God to take over. And I have another issue. I love praying for others - it gives me great joy! But for some weird reason I never would pray for myself. I felt as though my problems were very little in comparison to others and it would be wrong for me to pray for myself when people in Africa were dying. Well those people in Africa taught me that that way of thinking transforms the Lord of heaven and earth into a very teeny tiny God.
Great faith, big faith, bold faith, mountain moving faith is what I’m striving for. And it’s what these women have! I told them how thankful I am that they have taught me to long and yearn for that kind of faith.
They asked me to pray for them. They told me their requests and I did my best to pray for them, but I’m afraid words will never be enough to describe to Jesus how I feel and what I want for these women. Thankfully Jesus sees past my words and looks into my heart.
And then they prayed for me. They gathered me into a circle and each placed their hands on my body. And then they whispered foreign, rich, beautiful prayers to God about me. I’ve never had that happen before and it was entirely overwhelming and when Mama Deborah breathed an Amen I fell into her arms with tears in my eyes.
“Thank you.” I whispered to her. I kissed her cheek. And I went around to each woman and thanked her and kissed her and embraced her. I got to Malita, Judith and Francine. My friends. I cried very hard as Malita held me in her sweet arms. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” She told me. I told her it was going to be okay. Francine cried when I hugged her. She is the one with very sore feet, and I would occasionally massage them for her. Judith brought us all napkins to wipe the tears and the three of us hugged.
I said goodbye. I said thank you. I did not say see-you-later.
Looking back on my day, I regret not saying see-you-later. I decided it’s not actually a lie. Yes, on this earth I may not see them again. But let me tell you, I cannot wait to run and embrace my friends in Heaven. My holy, holy friends..