(This week we are featuring a guest post from Paige Steele. Paige leads the Kugaba Initiative and would love to help you invest in a specific student studying at Hope Haven Rwanda. DM us to learn more.)
On a particularly hot summer day in 2019, a zealous 18-year-old named Jilian set out with her peers to rebuild the home of a family in our village which had been devastated by Rwanda’s notorious April rains. Jilian was spending half of the summer as an intern at Hope Haven Rwanda and I had the pleasure of serving as her intern coordinator.
All of our volunteers that week, including Jilian, were fired up to spend the week off-campus working on a unique construction effort where locals and volunteers build something great and meaningful together. What Jilian didn’t know was that she’d also begun to build an unlikely friendship that would leave an indelible mark on her heart.
As Jilian helped rebuild the mud and plaster home, she caught the eye of a small, shy child who soon enough couldn’t leave her side, oftentimes pulling her away from the task at hand to play and be held. This happened so often, in fact, that I inadvertently managed to take a photo of them together, freezing this budding friendship in time. Soon enough, the home was built, Jilian’s internship ended, and she returned home to the USA. In the years that followed, she often found her mind traveling back to that place, wondering how and where the little girl was, and praying all was well.
Fast forward three years to April 2022. I was creating a welcome slideshow of old photos for our 10-year anniversary event and came across the snapshot of Jilian and the little girl. As I studied it, there was no doubt that I’d recently seen that sweet face and it soon hit me that she’d been the subject of other photos I’d taken just a few months prior – this time as a student in her Hope Haven school uniform.
As God would perfectly plan it, the little girl, Munezero Angel Esther, was entered into the Hope Haven Baby Class lottery later in 2019 after meeting Jilian, and received a ticket allowing her to enroll at Hope Haven. With over 500 three-year olds registered for a spot, and only 90 who are randomly chosen to enroll, Angel’s odds were less than 20%. To create an even wider stretch, there are plenty of families in our village who don’t attempt to register their child for the lottery due to an unfortunate lack of value in education.
Today, Jilian is back at Hope Haven for the summer after spending her spring semester studying in neighboring Uganda. This time, she’s interning with our Family Department and says she’s looking forward to having the chance to pick up where she left off with Angel Esther.
This is just one recent of many God stories that has touched my heart over the years through Hope Haven. How has God been showing His amazing presence in your life lately?