❤️ On This Day, I married my Best Friend ❤️

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope ~Jeremiah 29:11

The love of my life, my husband ❤

It was a beautiful day.  Well, as best as it can be in Rochester, or the rest of the upstate NY, in January. Why Rochester, of all places, and in winter, you may wonder? You see, Rochester holds so many beautiful memories that are close to my heart. Not only that it is the first place where I first arrived and lived here in the US, but also God knew well that He had so many great plans for me there. If you’re new to my blog, my story truly starts in 1994, in Rwanda. During the worst atrocities of the 20th century, I lost my parents and 2 of my siblings. At the age of 13, I survived along my 3 younger siblings who were all under the age of 10. I wrote so many posts about the loss I endured as a young girl, but here is one of my favorites: In a Garden of Fame where their Memories Grow Fonder.

Our Wedding Day

Fast forwarding to 2006, I was very blessed to receive a full scholarship to grad school at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester. Little did I know then, God Had been preparing incredible people who would literally change my life, for good. In April 2008, I met an amazing lady, Darlene, at a church event in Rochester. We bonded immediately; she had been to Kenya, and deeply loves Africa. She later invited me to her house for the 4th of July event the same year. There, I met a good friend of hers, her name is Glori.

Darlene & her husband Ed

In ways that God alone could orchestrate, Glori, and her husband Bob welcomed me into their home very soon after. We bonded right away; they call me daughter and I call them my mom & dad. Them into my life, I had been given another chance to feel the parental love, on earth, at last. It felt like fairytale. My new parents who are very much close in age with my parents in heaven, welcomed me with open arms, and told me that wherever I’d be on this planet, that their house would be my home. God is good! Here is a post I wrote about my mom in heaven, and my mom in Rochester. 

So, it fit so perfectly that we would get married in Rochester. My God brought me there for a reason. It actually was my fiancé’s idea to have our wedding in Rochester, before I could even propose it. I was deeply touched by his caring nature already! Then it was a done deal, no matter how much snow or cold 😀

My parents from God, Bob & Glori 

Words cannot express my gratitude and the amount of love I feel in Rochester. I never doubted God’s grace, but my wedding experience left me in awe of the Lord. My parents who have been no different to me than if they have given birth to me, shocked my fiancé & I with a proposal to pay for our wedding. These aren’t people who did it because they had nothing else to do with their money or because we couldn’t afford it. They are the most generous people I have ever met.

Traditionally in the US, although not officially, the bride & her family assume the responsibility of most of the cost of the wedding, which is the opposite of the custom in Rwanda, where the groom & his family assume the financial burden of the wedding, traditionally. So, the fact that my parents consider me as their daughter, and felt compelled to pay for the wedding still humbles me to this moment and brings tears to my eyes each time I think about it. God alone knows how eternally grateful I am to them both.

I am truly blessed

My New Parents, by Love

On top of this, neither me or my fiancé lived in Rochester to plan for our “destination” wedding. SO, without hesitation, my mom did everything for us: finding the venue, cake caterer, DJ, photographer, florist, everything. I have never been so relaxed in my whole life about something this big. Any planning in the past always fell upon my shoulder, alone. But not this time; I had no worry in the world! Instead, I was busy with my work as usual, as if I didn’t have a wedding coming up. My mom did an amazing job. See for yourself from the pictures.

Mom buttoning my dress 🙂

My fiancé & I wanted a small but cozy wedding celebration. The idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a single day has never been a dream of mine. No offense if you think differently. I guess you could say it’s because of the frugal life I had been forced to live in order to support my younger siblings. I am not sure :).

While I come from a culture where you have to invite the whole world around you to your wedding, and learn about most of your guests from videos and pictures after the wedding, I have long resented that idea. Thanks to the western culture, I didn’t have to deal with the cultural impositions. A potluck wedding in my parents’ backyard in the summer or destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta would have been magic but definitely not practical at the moment.

Ceremony set up

The Rochester’s college town’s Hilton Garden Inn Hotel turned out to be a perfect venue for us. They have a beautiful ballroom that fit our needs. Relatively new, everything looked marvelous. We had an amazing wedding coordinator, Austyn, from Del Monte Weddings and she is the best there is. She worked with my mom on day-to-day planning and coordinating for the event. The decoration was everything I wanted. The Hilton Garden Inn Catering Department & team promised and delivered. The food was absolutely delicious.

Reception Setup

Our wedding theme was a shade of green and white (flowers & decor). The Rochester’s Wegmans Floral Department made me a beautiful bouquet that lasted for 3+ weeks. I wanted a natural, earthy look; lots of green leaves surrounding white roses. They did exactly what I had in mind and I was very pleased. Our ceremony arch was top notch. Thanks to my mom’s friend, Anne, who designed it for us, on a very short notice. One thing I realized with my family and friends in Rochester is, don’t ask them for help :D. Here is why: they will not only do it, but also pay for it. The same happened when we asked my dad’s sister Linda to pick up flowers for us. True story. I know the best of people.

My Bouquet; just the way I wanted it

Love love it

I like to say I feel accomplished about these place cards 😀

My dad walked me down the aisle; what a moment that I’ll forever cherish with humility & gratitude. I have never seen my dad in a suit; he doesn’t like to wear one. But he did it, for me, for my wedding. I teared when I first saw him, he looked amazing. My mom cried the whole time, of course, that’s what moms do :D. I glanced at her, during the ceremony, and I could see her eyes filled with pride.

With my Dad

I know it’s my wedding and I am of course supposed to think everything was top of the line 😀 But my dress was. For my friends who know me well will tell you that this is exactly the kind of wedding dress I had imagined wearing since I was a lot younger envisioning my wedding day. And the most amazing part was, that I bought it online, because I don’t like shopping & trying on so many dresses. My mom and I paid a visit to a David’s Bridal Shop but I wasn’t amused by the experience of trying on 3+ dresses and not liking any of them.

Plus, I was looking for a simple but elegant dress, which I personally didn’t find there. So, I did like I always do, online browsing. While I bought the dress and veil separately from the same place, they surprised me by using the same fabric & patterns for both the veil and dress. I was thrilled and still love my cathedral veil. Of course my parents paid for both the dress and veil as well 😍🙏

My Cathedral Veil

Feeling like a million bucks 😀

Our dark chocolate (yes, dark!) & vanilla with almond frosting cake was the best cake I have ever tasted. I am not really exaggerating or because it was my wedding. I didn’t get a chance to eat it at the wedding, but my beautiful mother saved a piece for my husband and I. It was so delicious. Thanks to my mom for picking it for us, the Italian Savoia Pastry Shoppe for making exactly what we wanted, and for my aunt Arleen for paying for it. I love her. She is very special to me!!

The Cake by Savoia Pastry Shoppe

My brother Dillon & cousin Nathan rolled the carpet for me. How special is that! I was deeply touched by my dad’s speech; he started by honoring my parents in heaven, who would have been absolutely proud to witness their little girl tying the knot. His speech, for someone who’s never emotional, reminded me how much I am loved, by God, and His people. The best man & matron of honor’s toasts were touching!

Rolling the carpet

My uncle Steve (mom’s brother in-law) who was our officiant performed a moving ceremony for us. And him being family meant the world to us. Our DJ Mr. Bookhart & our photographer Will of William D’Ovidio Photography made our day special. Thanks to Linda at Bridal Biz Beauty for my makeup & making me feel beautiful, Ines of the Casa de Hair, Rochester for doing my hair so beautifully and exactly the way I wanted, and on short notice.

This was the hard part to find good beauty shops while being remote. The Knot website is fantastic for recommendations on credible vendors. Also, our dance instructor out in Minneapolis, MN. Erika at the Flying Pig Dance Studio turned us into real dancers. Well, at least we didn’t fall ;). Why MN? Because we are world travelers 🙂

My mom making sure my makeup is done right 🙂

I loved seeing our friends from close and afar. There is nothing like feeling loved. While there are a few special and important people who couldn’t make it to our wedding, thankfully we had a live stream going for them which was very meaningful to us. My matron of honor, the most amazing friend a girl could ever ask for, Ginger, has been with me through thick and thin. She and her husband did as if it was their own wedding. My family and friends, they made my dream come true. I cannot thank them enough.

While everything was beautiful & elegantly cozy, my husband’s wedding vows to me were the top highlight of our wedding day. I was convinced that I wrote the best ones and that I was going to finally make him cry (note to self: don’t brag too fast :D). I meant it, because truthfully, it was all about this incredible man God had been preparing for me!

While I still love what I wrote about and for him, he absolutely amazed me, and everyone in attendance. This is a caliber of a man I get to call mine, someone I asked of the Lord. He’s been someone who would never let me go from the very first time we met, and I too silently praised God for bringing such an amazing guy into my life. He is the man whose rib I was made into (Genesis 2:21-23)

The Love of my Life

The Reception

His love for God, his witty personality, knowledge and open mindedness, world travel experience, exposure to other cultures, living in other countries for years, speaking a second language beyond English (yes, bi-lingual, and so un-American :D), his understanding of my personal life & loss I endured at the young age, my siblings I call my kids, his love & support of my ambitions, dreams and hopes, work ethic, not to mention handsome :), mature and so many other things.

His Vows

My Vows

I gave him my heart & a ring 😀

Our First Dance

Father-Daughter Dance. Dad made me laugh so hard!

Because it’s Rochester 😀

God Has been great to us, and we are in awe of Him. As we embark in this new journey together, we pray and ask the Lord that He will go before us and be the center of our marriage, now and always. Blessed be His Holy Name!

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.” Psalm 9: 1

Rising Above the Storms: a Name and a Personal Story!

With some of our kids at the center in Rwanda. Jan 2017

Never in a million years have I ever thought that I would start a nonprofit, leave alone sharing personal, painful wounds of my past with strangers on the cyberspace, or in person for that matter. It has always been a challenge for me to comfortably talk to people I just met, and it still is the case today unfortunately. The idea of starting a nonprofit first came to mind in 2012. I felt urgency and a desire in my heart; I could sense something bigger than I had ever imagined was about to unfold. Soon, it became clear to me that this was what God Has been preparing me for all along.

Losing parents at 13, surviving a genocide with younger siblings who were all under 10, juggling life, pain, loss, poverty, betrayal, disappointment; it has been a long journey to recovery! However, from the very beginning, I perhaps understood that the idea of starting a nonprofit that is centered around my personal journey may possibly mean opening up about my past and personal experiences, something that is extremely difficult for me to do.

You see, I come from a culture that is famous for keeping things to themselves. In Rwanda, you don’t talk about your personal life to people who aren’t your close friends or family members. When you make a casual conversation with a Rwandan around their personal life, they’ll become suspicious of your motives in asking. It is still true today.

Kids in our program during the celebration of International Day of the African Child, July 2017

In fact, more than a decade here, the thought of learning about a stranger’s marital issue or not getting along with a boss during an hour plane ride is still appalling to me today. Don’t get me wrong, I really love listening to others and learning more about their personal stories. My challenge is the other way around; talking to strangers, especially in a group setting, about anything, especially sensitive topics such as 1994 in Rwanda. It doesn’t matter if those people seem harmless. So, when God laid this idea of starting a nonprofit on my heart, I felt equally scared and excited!

RAS Facilities in Rwanda

Summing up my life story and what God has done for me and my siblings, I couldn’t imagine a better name to call my nonprofit: Rising Above the Storms. I chose “Rising” instead of “Rise” as many tend to think of R, to emphasize on a continuing journey, a work in progress. The journey began when the most devastating atrocities of the 20th century hit my beautiful home country on April 6, 1994. By the end of 90 days, my parents and 2 of my siblings have been killed. You can read more on my recollection of their final moments that I wrote on the 20th anniversary of their death: In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder: Two Decades Later.

I like how some people think S means Stars. I will take it 🙂

It’s been a wild ride since the official launch of RAS, in 2014. Combining the expectations of what it takes to get a startup off the ground with my busy engineering career has been close to impossibility to say the least. I now understand why every person I have met who is an executive director of a nonprofit is their full time job. It’s impossible to do anything else.

Earlier this year, we launched our first partnership with a local organization in Rwanda to start a mobile based classroom for street children. We currently have 17 kids in our program, 11 of them back in school. It’s been an incredible journey to get to know these kids, through our team on the ground. The kids who visit the center on weekly basis receive care through therapy sessions after a meal. This allows them to express their challenges and struggles as we walk with them through life.

Group Photo after Launching Treasured Learning Center

There are multiple ways you can become part of this amazing experience: you can sponsor a child for $50 a month. This amount covers their school material, tuition, school uniform, therapy sessions, meals and clean cloths they receive when they come to the center on a weekly basis. Click here to pick one of the 9 children we have remaining that need sponsorship on our website: Sponsor a Child. Or you can simply donate on our website: Donate to Rising Above the Storms.

Rising Above the Storms is my personal story, my non profit and my life’s calling and God’s mission for my life. I can’t imagine doing anything else. This is without a doubt what I am meant to do for the rest of my life. Caring and loving vulnerable children & youth is something that moves me to tears and keeps me up at night. I weep just looking at hungry, abandoned children that I don’t even know; it could be on TV or newspaper. I could have easily become one of those children; it’s not because of anything I did to be very fortunate.

As the Bible quotes in Isaiah 61, I hope to spend the rest of my life striving to be their voice!

Will you join me? Add your name here!

God bless you

Reblog: In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder: 23 years later!

Resharing a blogpost I wrote 3 years ago:

Source: In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder: Two Decades Later!

Lighting candles in memory of our Loved Ones who were taken away from us so soon!

An Important Reminder for Stressful Moments: “Be still, and know that I am GOD” ~ Psalm 46:10

 

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Posing for a photo shortly before our gala. Sept 2016

It has been a busy few months, or year for that matter. What a journey! Since January of this year, I have traveled to more than 20 US states (many of them first time), dozens of cities, and three European countries (mostly for business), as well as working 50-80 hours a week on average for my full-time job. If that was not enough, add planning, thinking, worrying, coordinating, and struggling to keep up with what it takes to coordinate our very first annual gala, on top of being the founder of a startup nonprofit.

Let me first start telling you a little bit about me: I am a female engineer; I speak English as a third language. I am terrified by asking people for money, even if its sole purpose is to help orphans out of hopelessness and enable them to dream.

I am not eloquent by any means; I am a nervous wreck before speaking to a large audience. I don’t know how to talk to people I just met. A group of strangers terrifies me, even if they are all friendly. I grew up in a third world country and moved here later in life, but certain aspects of the American culture still puzzle me a decade later!

I dislike conflicts; I don’t like it when someone is mad at me! I can’t keep up when humor revolves around the art of slangs, cursing or sarcasm. I have never met anyone in the same situation as me: running a nonprofit with another full time, technical job. Oh, and I have zero talent!

Well by this time, if you are still reading this, you are wondering, “Why is she saying all this?” I have a point, I promise! Now, if you can tie it back to everything I lack or my busy life, you may wonder why anyone like this would want to start a nonprofit. Well, that makes two of us. I have a secret though! This one may make you think over everything that makes you doubt yourself.

My friends and I performing a traditional Rwandan dance at our gala. Sept 2016.

I lost my parents at the age 13. Though I was absolutely alone and left to fend off myself at that young age, I encountered someone who became my hope in trials, my refuge in time of trouble, my comfort in sorrow, my counselor in hopelessness, my provision when no one cared, a father to the orphan, a friend in need. That is Jesus, my Savior and King, my God!

You see, all these things I lack, and many more I didn’t want to bore you with, He’s taken upon Himself. Before God, I am warrior, victorious, loved, a daughter of the Most High. I am able to do everything through Jesus who strengthens me. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what keeps me pressing on in spite of my lack of experience in nonprofit management and many other things in life.

So, circling back to my nonprofit: YES, it was very stressful to combine my schedule and responsibilities as I got pulled in many directions. It still is and I often wonder what I got myself into. However, a constant reminder as I navigated a busy schedule this year has been a reassuring voice telling me to be still and know that God will be glorified as David quoted in Psalm 46:10 NKJV.

This is what kept me calm even when people and promises fell through and schedules didn’t align with our planning needs and requirements. After all, this vision is God’s work; I don’t really need to worry, as long as He is on my side. Obviously, He doesn’t need my skills or experience. All He wants is my obedience!

I have been fortunate enough to understand my life calling, the reason God spared my life from the machetes and bullets of 1994 in Rwanda. I may not accomplish much in this life, but as God has been to me, so I will be to others. Today, I can afford anything I need, and my siblings feel the same way. God has been everything we ever need, up to this very minute as I type this. My prayer and hope is to be God’s hands and feet through loving and being a blessing for those who have not been as fortunate.

Matthew 25:34-36 (NKJV) gives me a glimpse of how things will look on the judgement day, when God will impartially judge all the nations. This long chapter is wrapped in the true meaning of LOVE. Also, Paul said it well: although all these three are excellent: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of them is LOVE.

rasgala214

Sharing my story and our vision at our gala. Sept 2016!

Through God’s LOVE that spoke the earth into existence, I hope to spend the rest of my life striving to learn and practice what it means to love everyone unconditionally regardless of who they are or their life choices: race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry etc.

I am really thankful that our first annual gala was a success, and we are currently almost halfway to our final goal in terms of raising funds for our first learning center in Rwanda to benefit street children and at-risk-youth. God has been great to me, and blessed me with a great team of volunteers who are very passionate about my vision and cause.

Will you join forces with me to share this hope, advocate for orphans, and empower the most vulnerable children through education? I am eternally thankful that the Lord would entrust me with this great mission! I still cannot believe that He picked ME!! Rising Above the Storms (RAS) is not a work I feel burdened to do, it is simply my life story, and a soul that has been truly satisfied & touched by God’s Mercy!

♫ Hear me God, God of Rwanda ♫: By A Grieving Rwandan Singer!

Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills

When I was growing up, just like most of Rwandans then, for some reasons, I thought that Rwanda was the biggest country ever. It goes way back in history.  “Rwanda” comes from “Kwanda“, which means “getting larger or expanding“. After I moved to the United States, I of course abandoned the idea. Rwanda is nearly the size of the state of Massachusetts.

Also, I am still convinced that everyone in Rwanda believed in God when I was growing up. Many songs and expressions in Kinyarwanda simply reflected “the God of Rwanda” that spent the day in other countries but definitely came home to Rwanda every night. In fact, most last names in Rwanda carried “God” or “Imana” in it. For instance, my maiden name Imaniraguha, means, “God gives you”, and many many others.

Unfortunately, Rwandan artists also later wrote that God didn’t come to Rwanda on April 7th, 1994. That Thursday morning (ironically this year 2016 exactly matches days of 1994) marked the beginning of an ethnic cleansing, the 1994 genocide against the minority Tutsi group (15% of the population of about 7 millions then).

Personally, as I have written in many posts, although the genocide lasted about 100 days, April is a unique month in mine and my 3 surviving siblings’ lives. By Sunday April 24th, 1994, I had already lost my parents and two of my siblings. One mourning song especially conveys the degree of my grief, my prayer, my hope. It’s called “Hear Me God, please Hear Me, God of Rwanda“. Click here to take a listen: Nyumva Mana (Hear me God) by Suzanne Nyiranyamibwa.

Unfortunately it’s in Kinyarwanda; however, below is my attempt to transcript the lyrics in English. Although the song is possibly nearly 2 decades old, it has been my favorite for so many reasons!

♪♫Hear me God, Hear me God, Please Hear me, God of Rwanda.

Keep me from having rancor and rid me of a heart of vengeance. Let Justice roll, and please end oppression in our country.

Hear me God (x2)!

Although many years come to pass, my heart is still stricken with grief! I look everywhere and my sight has no end. And when I call out for someone, echoes answer me, instead!

Hear me God (x2)!

My father! I didn’t bury him! My Mother! I didn’t see her on a deathbed! Many relatives, children and true friends, were killed without a crime and I was left all alone!

Hear me God!

One who could be on my side was taken away in this tsunami, too. They robbed me of love and wrapped me in sorrow. I escaped without hope as the enemy watched!

Hear me God!

Your chosen ones were murdered because of how you created them. Please seat them near you in Your Palace of Life, relieve them of pain and rest them in peace!

Hear me God!

Lord of Mercy, hear me I am begging You. Please come quickly, win over the enemy and protect me with Your Shield. Bless Rwanda with great things and get rid of all bitterness among us!

Hear me God, Please Hear me, God of Rwanda.

Keep me from having rancor and rid me of a heart of vengeance. Let Justice roll, and please end oppression in our country!

Hear me God (x4). Please Hear me, God of Rwanda ♪♫

Descent into the Kigali International Airport, Kanombe

Aerial View of Kanombe, near the International Airport in Kigali

“But those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

In Loving Memory: 22 Years Later ♥♥♥♥

My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

♥If tears could build a stairway,
and memories a lane.
I would walk right up to Heaven
and bring you back again.♥

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” ~ Matthew 5: 4

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My Family. Before April 1994

Jean Eric, Alice, Alphonsine, Mireille Noella

My Family, after April 1994: Jean Eric, Alice, Alphonsine, Mireille Noella

Grief is NOT Cowardice, Forgiveness is NOT Being Defeated: Rwanda, APRIL 1994

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”~ Revelations 21:4

Re-Blog: [When God Re-Booted Creation]

” Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

I wanted to re-blog this article {and I hope Pastor J.D Greear & his team don’t mind) that points out what the Kingdom of God is about and shows important facts that most of us often miss out. In the end, it’s not how eloquent one is at quoting Biblical verses or religiously righteous as much as it is for how our love and actions should put the LOVE of Jesus on display! This is my opinion but Matthew says it so well too: Matthew 25: 34-40

47115-ExcellentQuotations.com-Mother-Teresa

© Mother Teresa Quotes

Enjoy the reading..

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I have one solution for every computer problem I encounter. Reboot it. And if that doesn’t work, reboot it again. The worst moment in my technological existence comes when I’ve rebooted four or fives times and the problem is still there—because then I know it’s going to be a long, painful process on the phone…

http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2016/03/when-god-re-booted-creation.html