I’ve honestly never struggled so much to write these messages before! I have found that with these experiences being such big God moments in my life that it’s hard to describe them with words and do them justice for you to feel as you read. Of course I want you to feel like you were literally right there with me because as much as an encouragement these moments of watching God work changed my life, my only hope is that they can in some way encourage you too! I know I’ll probably say this in the majority of the messages but today’s message is a pretty big one so strap on your seat belts and get ready to go on a journey through the beautiful hills of Rwanda.
It was Friday, the end of the first week of our trip in 2018 (my 2nd trip) visiting, working and spending time with the children and families at the Nbyihu Christian Academy. During my first trip I had heard about how sad Friday is, it’s the day we have to leave all of the smiling little faces that we have built relationships with all week. Leaving families in such a desperate need. Saying goodbye is always hard in any situation but after a week spent playing, getting to know and watching God work in such amazing ways through every life you get the privilege of putting a hand in. They said it would be hard and they were right. Geez man! I remember being in the farthest back seat of the car, watching all the little kids waving and yelling goodbye, I fell apart. I laid my head down covered in my hands and the tears flowed. The first Friday was tough, but here we are at the same school, with the same faces and some new ones sprinkled in, friends on the first trip that became more like family this time around. In my brokenness for these kids and families feeling so hurt at the struggles they go through daily, wishing more than anything that there was more I could do for them. That first Friday was a moment where I saw God showing me the burden He had placed on my heart for children in need, I knew in that moment of hurt that God was giving me a preview to the calling He had on my life. The first Friday was so huge for my personal relationship with the Lord, I knew going into this second trip that FRIDAY was the day where I would do it!
On the first trip, I had to leave behind my beautiful girlfriend Sarah. I stopped to see her the morning I left for two weeks to hop on the plane to Rwanda. It was so hard to leave her, we had never spent that much time apart but going on any mission trip brings on fears to those going and staying behind. I had never seen her cry this much, and I couldn’t help but cry with her because I didn’t want to leave her, not for two whole weeks, and who knows what could happen?
Although leaving was sad, throughout those two weeks in Rwanda, I learned so much about myself, about God and I came back praying that when I go back again, no way can I leave her behind again! I wanted no part of experiencing all that without her by my side seeing the awesomeness of God at work, singing, dancing and playing with the kids. I really really wanted her to go, but I didn’t want to force her, I knew it wouldn’t be the same if she only went because of me. I knew it had to be between her and the Lord. So I asked and I waited. The waiting was tough, mainly because I came back from the first trip seeing everything so clearly that I knew and told her, that within a year, I’d be proposing to her. We both knew early on in our relationship that God had placed us together for more than a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. I knew she was the one, and she knew I was her one. I told her that I would pop the question within a year but I left out how after that first trip, God had already planned the proposal out, in Rwanda, on Friday of the first week. I could see it in my head, the kids and people who had went from friends to family and mean so much to us both, cheering and celebrating with us as we made that big step. But, although I could see it, there was a lot of details and patience that had to be worked out before we got to that moment.
I knew the trip would still be awesome either way but as I waited for Sarah’s decision, the hopes of popping the question swayed along with it. It was so tough not to just constantly tell her all the reasons she should go or why I wanted her to go but I knew it should be organic and God-driven so I did all I could to just keep my mouth shut. Finally, after what felt like forever waiting, she said YES! Just yes to the trip but the other big YES was waiting to be seen! It was like a dream come true having the woman I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, the woman that I am honestly the best version of myself when she’s around, she was coming with me, to Rwanda! Like wow!!! I’m getting excited again!!!
So before the trip I made all the preparations and people kept asking me, when are you going to do it while you’re there?? I tried to keep as much as I could hush hush so I said, “Not completely sure yet but I got a good idea.” (Friday!!!!) All I had in my head was this vision of what it would look like but I honestly had no plan besides that. I was scared to take the real ring because of airport security so thanks to Etsy, I found a little ring like you get out of the gumball machine that had a box of popcorn on it because if you know Sarah, you know how much that girl loves some popcorn!
Sorry, I know this is a lot of build up but sit tight! I’m getting there! So the first week there, I’m still at a loss of words and really don’t even know how to explain how excited I am to show Sarah all of the stories from my first trip in person and make some new ones of our own. Getting to play with the kids all week, singing, dancing and being goofy with them to make them laugh. I found on my first trip this was my specialty but it was so cool seeing Sarah in action. She had the same effect on these kids and served in a very similar fashion. I mean I knew she was the one but watching her love on those kids all week and doing it in a way that I completely related with, WOW God! You really knew what you were doing when you placed us together!
The Friday inched closer and closer and by Thursday night, I could hardly hold my excitement any more! The whole team knew it was coming and I finally let them in on the day so it was tough to hear Sarah say certain things about us or make jokes about the future while we were all holding this ginormous surprise!!! I even started playing love songs Thursday night in front of Sarah, dancing around the house we were staying in and pacing some too! I couldn’t sit still!
Friday is here. I wish I could say I had it planned out to the t but I didn’t, I still just had this vision that God had been building ever since the first trip. While doing some last second home visits, me and the boys began planning out exactly how we could make it happen. Pastor Joel offered to pray over the ring and our life together which meant so much coming from him and brought such a sense of comfort and thankfulness in this moment. It was happening and I’ll be honest, it was the most surreal moment of my life. My main man Kenny, who was our translator and helper in every single area imaginable. He came through big time for me in making it happen. I mean without Kenny I doubt I would be writing this, at least without all these details because he really brought the vision all together. After serving the kids up a big lunch, our plan was to get all of the kids in a circle so we could “pray over them” before they left. Kenny began gathering the older kids and brought them in a classroom to inform them of what was going down so they could tell the younger kids. We walked out, Kenny and the teachers gathered all of the kids in a circle for the “prayer” and then we were going to try and get Sarah in the middle of the circle somehow but we totally left out the “how” behind how we would do that.
Thank God once again for the awesome team I had around me because I was too nervous to even think straight. Pastor Joel yelled back at Sarah, “hey Sarah would you like to pray for all the kids?” First off, Sarah had just told me how she had felt sick which already had me sweating, but also, I remember her hearing of possibly being called on to pray at some point during the trip then after hearing that she told me how praying in front of people was one of her biggest fears. Oh boy! I had so much doubt running through my mind and I looked over at Sarah after Pastor Joel asked again, watching her shake her head no, I had no idea how this would work. I’m extremely thankful for Joel here because he knew the objective to get her in the circle so he kept encouraging her and gave her just enough push to get up there. The funny thing is, Kenny had been speaking in the Rwandan language the whole time to the teachers and kids explaining exactly what was going down but Sarah was clueless. Which by the way, thank God she never picked up on all this going on and she walked to the middle of the circle to pray.
Sarah began praying, my cousin Paige and her husband Cory were videoing the whole thing, and now it was time to make my way through the crowd to get the ring ready! I knew Sarah wasn’t a big fan of praying in front of people but after watching the video, her prayer was one of the most beautiful prayers I’ve heard. She blessed those kids well and I was in the midst of losing my mind. The kids had their heads bowed praying so I had to gently move a couple of them to the side to make my way to the center. I got to the center and just waited on her to get finished praying. And you can see easily how nervous I was by watching me. Sarah got done praying and there I was, standing right in front of her. As I hopped down on one knee to ask her the big question, the kids began to cheer!!! I thought it would be easy to get the words out but gosh, it took all I had to break through my nervousness and ask the question that would change the rest of our lives, “Sarah, will you marry me?” With her face in complete shock and awe, she said YESSS!!!!!! And the kids, teachers and our team broke out in celebration!!!!
It was exactly how God had showed me but in that moment it felt much different than anything I’ve ever felt before! I had went through so many self-afflicted bumpy roads, choosing to try all this world had to offer and living to please me over anyone else, especially God. I can’t describes God’s grace any better than this. A life that is so undeserving of even knowing Him, I would have never imagined I would have went to Rwanda on a mission trip, much less two, or getting to propose to the woman of my dreams to cap the second one off after God completely changing my life already through them both. What an amazing grace that is! And I don’t want you to read this and just congratulate me or think, “good for him.” This is the same God who gives the same grace to us all!!!! He works His grace in our lives like this every single day, allowing us to be and live more in His likeness! Allows us to do things in this life that we are completely undeserving of and would never imagine that we could do! It doesn’t matter what your past says or who you are, it’s all God and His amazing beautiful grace that He gives so freely to you and me! Your big grace moments may look totally different than mine, but embrace His grace, sit under it, live in it, and never forget it!!! God is working in such mighty ways in your life, forget your past or your weaknesses because God is going to show you what He is working in the present, giving you glimpses of what’s to come, allowing you to live in His strength, in His love and His victory! Wow!!!! What an awesome God we serve!!!!!
video of the engagement:
I apologize about it being so blurry! If I can figure out how to fix it I will re-post!