I'm writing this post from my own bed. There is Christmas music playing and Brunny is curled up in my lap. Ange and Fanny are cooking dinner and Tarison is snuggled up asleep. Alison and I have plans to make pumpkin bread for dessert. It feels good to be home.
These last few days of been a whirlwind of emotions wrapped tightly in love.
If you don't know, there has been a war going on in our neighboring country, Congo, for quite some time, that has had really no effect on us or our daily happenings. On Sunday things became increasing violent as the fighting moved closer to us. We could hear the bombs in the distance as we drank our morning coffee.
On Monday, Alison got an email from the Embassy putting all American citizens on alert. There were no travel advisories at that time, but that's when things started to get real for us. One of our friends went into town that afternoon and heard not just bombs, but gunfire, very near. She said Gisenyi was crowded and chaotic. That evening we sat out on the driveway and served water as we watched 100s of refugees pour in on their way to the nearest refugee camp. At that point, we weren't scared, but prayerful and thankful. We watched as families, walking for hours, carried all they own. Fathers carrying mattresses, mamas with suitcases and boxes, and children with babies on their back. We checked in on all the No.41 girls, and found out that the university in Gisenyi had been evacuated.
Tuesday morning, we woke up as usual, but quickly things began to unravel. We were getting reports from all over and things were not sounding good. We had 2 (awesome) visitors staying at our house, that were supposed to be leaving on Wednesday. We were hearing that no buses were able to get into town, so if there were any available, we would have to catch them at the hospital. All buses going out were full.
We decided to walk up to the orphanage and see what the visiting directors from the Point Foundation (out of the UK) were hearing and what their thoughts were. There was no question in their minds, we all needed to get out of town. I've said it 1,000 times, the Point Foundation are my heros. The decision was tough for everyone. We all did the best we could with the information we had at the time. They went above and beyond to make sure that we were safe and had everything we needed to get us and our girls out.
Just before we left, we heard that the UN had pulled out of the fighting and the M23 (rebels) had taken control of Goma. (Goma is in the Congo, it's about 20 miles from our house.)
Leaving was one of the absolute hardest things to do. Everyone was in a daze. Sad because we couldn't just load up the whole kit and caboodle, mad because I didn't understand, and scared of the unknowns, all of them. All we knew was we were leaving. But when would we come back? And what would we be coming back to? I packed a backpack with 3 outfits.
The one thing we did know is where we were going. Alison, Ange, Fanny, Tarison, Bridgette, Tina, Ben, Kassie, Alysse, and I were all headed to our friends, Jamie and Julie's, house. Maybe you know, Jamie and Julie already house 3 of our No.41 girls (Amelie, Diane, and Passy) attending school in Kigali and that Alison and I stay at their house nearly every weekend when we go to shop for fabrics. Really, they are crazy amazing friends, for so many reasons.
From the beginning, Jamie was constantly calling us with the latest updates. She was asking Alison and I to come, and to Jamie's credit, I don't think she even blinked an eye when I told her that, not only were Alison and I were coming, but we had a total of 9 in our crew. When we arrived, a little worse for the wear, they had called in backup and friends had delivered extra mattresses and sheets, and food for dinner. And, truth be told, we also called in a few pizzas. And we watched The Voice. There were lots of jokes going around about how we picked the best refugee camp.
When we woke up on Wednesday morning, we were hearing all good things (on the Rwanda side). We found out the M23 rebels weren't necessarily the bad guys and that they had brought some peace and order to the city. Many refugees were returning to their homes, and so did a pretty good chunk of our group, but not before a quick stop at Meze Fresh for the best (and only) burritos these girls have ever eaten. Alison and I had already planned on being in Kigali for Thanksgiving lunch the next day, so we stayed behind. It's a dirty job, eating all that turkey and pie, but someone's gotta do it.
So, what does this big, long mess boil down to?
Goodness gracious, we have a ton to be thankful for.
I am thankful for our family that was so hard to leave, thankful for our friends who got us out, and our friend who let us in. I am thankful for all of you who were praying for us and loving us from afar. And I'm am so thankful to be home. This home.