Personal testimonies are powerful. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus called Philip to follow Him. Then, Philip told Nathanael they found a man who was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Naturally, Nathanael was incredulous. Philip had a simple request: “Come and see.” It was a day that changed Nathanael’s life and perspective forever.
As I walked into the home of Billy and Ali Williams, in Boulder, Colorado, I quickly sensed that this family was special. I was visiting their home on the one-year anniversary of their first trip to Rwanda, and looked forward to reflecting on their experience.
As the founders of Urban Mattress, the Williams family has lived in Colorado for decades, building a strong business throughout the state. Billy started his first store when he was 19 years old, with $5,000 in his pocket. Urban Mattress’ selection as a 2020 ”Best of Boulder” award-winner is a testament to their family’s strong work ethic and integrity.
The Williams’ home, The Bluebird House, was built in 1911. It lies in the shadows of Flatirons and was previously a women’s retreat center. They are continuing that community-orientated heritage by donating to local charities and creating a welcoming space in the neighborhood. The frequent family dinners they share at the picnic table on their front porch, steps away from tourists and “Boulderites” visiting Chautauqua, is another example of their welcoming vibe.
Billy and Ali have seven children and have worked to instill deep Christian values in them. This Christmas, their present to each one of their kids was the sponsorship of a Hope Haven Rwanda student. Now, nine Williams family members are praying for, and standing with, nine Rwandan students half a world away!
When I asked Billy about his first trip to Rwanda, he immediately noted how the country exceeded his expectations. “It was so clean and developed. And, I really appreciated the kindness of our host,” Billy said. Ali added, “I immediately noticed the lush landscape, the beauty of the people—the country just felt good to me.”
Shortly after they arrived in the village, they were able to participate in a hands-on project that immediately opened their eyes to a new world. The home they were working in was typical for many Hope Haven Rwanda students. According to Billy, “It had one piece of furniture—a stool.”
They were both shaken by the needs they saw. As they worked, one little boy was excitedly playing in the home with his older brother. Billy asked Liz, Hope Haven’s Managing Director, about the boy. When discovered that this tiny boy was unable to attend school, he asked Liz, “If we could help him, when could he start school?”
“He could start tomorrow,” Liz replied. Our team had been watching this broken family for years, frequently helping the father and older son. Now that their mother had returned to care for them, the younger boy had been added to the mix. Because of Billy and Ali’s intervention, little Kevin was in school the very next day!
Ali was blown away. She said, “I saw the efficiency of the system and how these kids are going to succeed.” Then she added, “You guys chose the perfect name for this place—Hope Haven!”
Billy continued, “I was very impressed by the staff—they were so professional, well-spoken and dedicated. The whole school was well run and intentional. In fact, if you opened a Hope Haven in Boulder it would be very successful!”
The Williams family has been forever changed—both here and in eternity—because of their willingness to “come and see” what is happening in Rwanda and to invest in the futures of nine young Rwandans!
(There are many more inspirational stories like this in our upcoming magazine. Watch your mailboxes or join us at the Fabric of Hope—Barn Edition for your copy!)