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Hear Their Hearts, Their Hurts and Their Needs

Alan and I have been honored with the opportunity to see first-hand the precious people of Rwanda. I have never seen smiles so big and so beautiful! If you have never been there, you cannot comprehend how words will never adequately express the value of those smiles. I was able to take pictures of them, trying to capture a small piece of who they are, where they have been, what they have been through. Their lives are so simple, so humble. They are a group of amazing and forgiving people...and I am grateful to have captured what words never will.

My hope is that our story, our passion, will impact hearts in ways that words never could. Isn't that what it is about, after all? We went to Rwanda to serve in a way that we believe God called us to do. To teach, train, bless, and empower them? Yes. But more than that, to listen to them, really listen and hear their hearts, their hurts, their needs and to say it was a blessing is a colossal understatement. The blessing was ours. We were there with the organization ‘World Orphans’ and for those of you that don’t know what we desire to do, I would like to take a moment to share with you. Some people believe we should just adopt the children, bring them to the States, ‘westernize’ them. But you see, the goal is not to take the sweet children from their culture, but to help them provide homes, clothes, education, and food. We went to listen to their hearts, discover their needs. They do not need us stripping them of their babies, as if to say we don't believe they are not capable. On the contrary, they are more capable than I ever dreamed them to be. So I began to ask myself “Why then, wouldn't I desire for their small villages to be the ones that provide homes and families for the sweet orphans”? With our faces set as flint, we are determined to help see the people become prosperous by their standards, self-sufficient, fully capable and secure in their own abilities. And who knows, maybe someone in the States will hear the stories we are telling about their lives, and will have their heart drawn to make a difference. I have no doubt that this is the goal, anyway. I am confident of this, we went and our lives changed for a life-time. Is it about us? No. Is it about bringing an awareness and being obedient to what God has called us to do? Absolutely. We are in this for the long haul. And thank God that it's not just going to be through finances, although that is a part of it. The talent, vision, and heart that we can bring to the table will add a value that is incomparable to any monetary amount. I am so grateful, so humbled, to tell our story to those who care. And every time I get to share what I have seen I will remember again the taste of dust, the sound of innocent laughter, the piercing gazes of hope....and do something about it.

"True evangelical faith cannot lie sleeping. It clothes the naked, it comforts the sorrowful, it feeds the hungry, it shelters the destitute, it cares for the sick, it becomes all things to all people." ~Menno Simons

-Amanda Bracken
Kingsport, TN


I Will Do Something

I have often wondered how I would have responded if I had lived during the slave trade or the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.  “What would I have done in the face of injustice and human tragedy? What side of history would I have been on?”
Now I ask myself what history will say of the world we are living in today?  It could easily record that an entire continent was decimated by war, genocide, poverty, and the pandemic of HIV/AIDS…..that children who survived were orphaned and exploited.  The numbers are staggering.
When my children and grandchildren hear and read of these accounts ….when they ask what I did in the face of such human tragedy and injustice…I am unwilling for my answer to be “Nothing.” 
History that has not yet been written motivates me, and my faith compels me to be a part of the solution.

Psalm 82:3   Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; uphold the rights of the poor and oppressed.

James 1:27  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Micah 6:8   He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Hebrews 13:16   Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to God.

  • I have only one life. I can’t do everything, but I will do something.


This photograph showing a starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture reminds me everyday that my life, however fleeting, MUST do something about the horrifying realities that a large portion of our world faces.

-Rachel Adams
Kingsport, TN

I Only Have 1 Life and 1 Opportunity

I am guilty of cringing when I see images or hear stories about things I don't feel I have the power to change. When other people share their experiences of supporting a child in a third world country or even going there to help, when they talk about AIDS, orphans, widows, poverty, sickness....I shut down and tune it all out.

All of those things are bigger than me. All of those things cause me to move out of my comfort zone. They cause me to think about things that aren't up to my standard of normal. So I turn my head and walk away, hoping that no one notices that I "seem" not to care.

I have practiced this way of thinking for many years and deep down inside, I guess I just expect that someone else will "fix" the issues other countries are faced with. What could "I" possibly do, anyway?

In August of 08, my husband Kevin and I were invited by some very good friends to go on a trip to Rwanda. We went. God perfectly orchestrated the timing of the invitation. At any other time in life, I honestly believe I wouldn't have given it another thought.

What I learned in this short 10 day trip rocked my world and shook up everything I ever knew about who I thought God was and how other people were going to take care of business that I am perfectly capable to jump in and help with. I've always heard that God is big and believed it. But I didn't have a clue He is THAT BIG. To travel across the world and meet face to face with a nation that has been jacked up by hatred and evil just a few short years ago, and to see first hand how they can FORGIVE after what they've been through is inconceivable. We're talking about a man that lost his wife and all of his children to brutal murder...a woman that lost her husband, children, neighbors, brothers, sisters....story after story after story after story....and all they can talk about is forgiving the men that did it? What is that? I didn't know that kind of forgiveness existed!

They understand that to move forward, and they ARE moving forward, they have to forgive or they will be completely bound up with resentment and hatred for the rest of their lives. There IS no forgiveness like that available to anyone, anywhere, except through Christ. It's amazing. I mean simply, complexly, blow your mind amazing. Only the blood of Jesus can warrant that type of love.

The aftermath of the Genocide has left countless cases of orphans and much, much, much more devastation. It's nothing to drive down the road and see groups of children walking down a busy road, playing alone or working to gather tree limbs right where big tanker trucks are flying adults in sight of these small children, children that are my kids age (5) and younger. There are children raising children there. What? How can that.....?

Children would just come out of the brush from every direction when they heard us near. Huge smiles on their faces. They didn't ask us for anything. Nothing. They just wanted to see us and hold our hands. So sweet. Such beautiful smiles. Dirty clothes, one shoe on, one shoe off, teeth so dirty you wonder how they haven't fallen out, yellow eyes, deep coughs, dirty faces, some children we saw consecutively day after day, had on the same clothing everyday.

It was amazing to me how simple their lives are. People walk everywhere they go. Bicycles are a luxury. There are taxis, but we're talking about people who find their daily food, daily. They don't have running water in their homes, no toilets, they sweep the patted down dirt in front of their mud house, they can't wash their hands before they eat, if they get to eat that day, they don't have their own bedrooms, or cars, or kitchens, or place to go to work everyday, or a hospital within 10 minutes if they are hurt. They don't have clean clothes, an assortment of shoes, convenient clean water to drink or fluffy pillows to lay their head on every night. Alot of them, alot of them....don't have mommies and daddies to hold them and tuck them in at night and love them and tell them everything is going to be alright. They just don't. And they are okay anyway. They're happy. Smiley. Thankful for today. Looking forward to tomorrow. Wow. Like who's life wouldn't that touch?

I love the starfish story. The one that talks about not being able to save them all... but we can save 1.

It's never been more clear to me than right now... I only have 1 life. I only have 1 opportunity to live the life and be the person that I want my children to be. I seek for my life to be filled with things that are emptied of me and filled with things that are of God, things that are good, things that make a difference. I will do something.

-Tina Wilson
Kingsport, TN


Expanding View

People have asked me if Rwanda was “enlightening”. For me, our experience in Rwanda was expanding. By that, I mean that my view of the world has expanded. I no longer see the world through the narrow lens of my immediate surroundings.

When we left for Rwanda, the vision for our mission was very narrow; one project to support orphans in the village of Cygera. After only a few days, our vision expanded to include medical outreach, leadership training, education, micro loans and it continues to expand daily.

Another area of expansion has been the expansion of my view of the Church body. I have always been taught, and knew, that I am a part of the Body. However, my “Body” has been a small one; limited to my surrounding church and community. I realized that we are all a part of the Body (some a hand, others an eye, etc.), but I had never really recognized the entire body. I was only looking at a small piece. During our first full day in Rwanda, we experienced a baptism service and went to the Sunday morning church service in Cygera. It was during this worship service, (with no stage, no lights, no instruments, no video screens) that I realized that we are all a part of the same BIG body.
Most importantly, my relationship with Jesus has expanded. It is very easy to say “I trust in Jesus”. For me, to actually step out on the ledge (of fear, uncertainty, the unknown, out of my comfort zone) and jump was HUGE.

Even bigger is the knowledge that Jesus was there for me the entire time. He protected me, my wife, my children, our team; and, through this experience, stretched me and shaped me.

-Kevin Wilson
Kingsport, TN