This year pretty much everything was new and different for us during the holidays. We all experienced some firsts: some wonderful and some painful. It was my mom and sister’s first time to Africa as my whole family ventured over the ocean to spend a few weeks with us. It was also our first time in another country, away from home and family and friends for the Christmas season. We felt joy and excitement to be loved on by my family and their time here, but we also desperately missed others still far away. We cooked all day and had a feast with our whole home, but missed the tastes of Christmas in the States. This is when the juxtapositions found through life in Rwanda really began to set it.
Christmas Eve morning we were driving back from the most magical lakefront tent lodge after having gone on safari (in a car AND a boat!) when it really hit me. We are living and witnessing two very different extremes. On one hand, we had a lovely time with my family, experiencing all the beauty the landscape Rwanda has to behold. On the other we were driving past an entire village of people, just beyond the gates, who were selling anything they could to the passerbys on the road in order to, I would assume, feed their families for Christmas. And so is life here in this beautiful country. We live in a house where we are blessed to feel safe and comfortable: something we consider a necessity to make life here sustainable. Our house sits on a street where we often see local life flourishing. There are women working hard, carrying anything and everything on their heads, as they walk to provide for their families. We see kids playing soccer in the streets with no shoes and make shift goals made out of rocks and homemade balls made out of dried banana leaves. Life goes on and life is good, but life is hard for many.
We took my family to see the most beautiful hotels and delicious restaurants and magnificent views and peaceful beaches. We also took them to experience a day in the life of a village woman; gathering grass to feed the cows, fetching water, cultivating the land, cooking for many. The comparisons are difficult, but in the midst we all have our purpose. I learned long ago not to feel guilty about poverty just because “we have more” or “they have less.” I know the measure of a life is not in the material blessings. Just have a conversation with our house manager Eric and see how he devoutly loves the Lord and laughs ALL the time—joy is not measured in dollars and francs. But still, how do we reconcile this sweet juxtaposition—do we allow it to cripple us or does it move us to action? THIS is the beauty of living in Rwanda. We get to taste the kingdom in such a unique way by witnessing first hand the already, not yet position of life in our world. Already we have and can spread life and hope because our Savior has come, but he has not yet restored our world to Himself in finality and therefore brokenness still abounds.
We all face challenges. We all have good days and bad ones. This is the nature of the brokenness of our souls. We have heard stories of heartbreak from both our Rwandan friends and our expat ones. Life is not as it was meant to be, but this Christmas we got to remember the “already” of the promise for Creation. We have been given the gift of Jesus, who has ALREADY saved us, redeemed us, brought hope to the brokenness. But we live in this place of knowing that not yet has God come to restore the world entirely to himself. A new earth is coming, heaven is coming. But we still live in this sweet juxtaposition of being broken but made whole by the Father. Having heartbreak but being comforted by a Savior. I’m reading a book called The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp and it allows me to put so many words to the conflict I’ve been feeling. “Brokenness happens in a soul so the power of God can happen in a soul.” HE is being revealed in and through the brokenness.
“In the shattered places, with broken people, we are most near the broken heart of Christ, and find our whole selves through the mystery of death and resurrection, through the mystery of brokenness and abundance.” Out of HIS brokenness came abundant Grace for the world. In the midst of the world’s brokenness, we are closest to Him.
Everyone and everything in this world is broken. That is why we spent the Advent season in expectant waiting of our Only Hope. We all know and feel the brokenness of our context, whether that is felt in our own homes, in hospitals, in classrooms, in offices, we feel it everyday. But He has Already come. And in that we place our hope, and our own broken souls, as we wait for the Not Yet.
Here in Rwanda, this is Chase and my broken context. Maybe yours is in your home, in a hospital, in your classroom, in your office. Where do you face the sweet juxtaposition of the already, not yet? We have an opportunity to lean in, to absorb, and to share light in the brokenness—we all do. In whatever context we are in, we have our own broken souls and Jesus. And He is enough to use us in the broken places in our world to bring the promise of a better tomorrow—already and not yet. Having my family here was a wonderful time of love and reconnection. But they did have to go home to their own world. And still everyday as we build and continue our lives here, we work and volunteer and use our skills in the places we’ve been blessed to serve. But we also see hard things in our work and even as we drive home…but we will sit and be thankful and lean in to the brokenness because we know where our Hope is put—in this sweet juxtaposition found in Christ.