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 ūüôā

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, ‚ÄúWhy is she saying all this?‚ÄĚ 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!

‚ôę Hear me God, God of Rwanda ‚ôę: 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!

‚ô™‚ôęHear 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 ‚ô™‚ôę

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

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‚Äôt work, reboot it again. The worst moment in my technological existence comes when I‚Äôve rebooted four or fives times and the problem is still there‚ÄĒbecause then I know it‚Äôs going to be a long, painful process on the phone‚Ķ

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

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

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.‚ÄĚ~ Revelations 21:4

It’s almost February and April is around the corner. Oh how I anxiously wait for this month all year around! Why is April a big deal? Because it will be the 22nd anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, in¬†which¬†I lost my beloved parents and 2 of my siblings. Unfortunately, although a lot has happened since then, it ¬†still feels like it was yesterday to me!

Though I still grieve for them with a deep sorrow and always will, however, I have encountered someone who has deeply touched my shattered heart with a mighty healing power and gave me a reason to rejoice forever: my Lord and King Jesus! He has turned my mourning into dancing! Therefore, I grieve with hope!

That’s my prayer for anyone who has lost someone close, especially tragically. I¬†know how you feel!

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who¬†weep” ~ Romans 12:15

My Dearly Beloved Parents

My Dearly Beloved Parents

Today, I am again reminded that life is extremely short and that tomorrow is NOT guaranteed! I knew that already, but my weary heart needs a constant reminder. This evening, I learned of a death of someone so young and full of life. This young man was a newlywed to an extremely beautiful young woman who is a close friend to my family in Rwanda.

He died of a motorcycle accident, the most popular means of public transportation in Rwanda, besides buses. Quite frankly, a cruel fact may be that those commercial motorcycles probably claim more lives than any other cause of death in Rwanda.

I weep so deep with this very young widow. My heart breaks¬†for her, her family¬†and many¬†whose loved ones have been taken away so suddenly. This life begs more questions than answers unfortunately. You may have many examples. My prayer is that the whole world will come to know how much God loves us despite¬†our circumstances. That’s very important.

You see, the Bible tells me that one day, God will make everything new, and wipe away all our tears. Our mourning will be no more. This gives me hope! And that we will see again all those who died in the Lord, in the new life that knows no sorrow.

There, hatred, discrimination, accidents, killings, injustice, tragedies, natural disasters, diseases, illness, hunger, wars, all will lose battle. Love & peace will be victorious and eternal life will be our song forever!

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me,‚ÄúWrite: ‚ÄėBlessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.‚ÄúYes,‚ÄĚ says the Spirit, ‚Äúthat they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” ~¬†Revelations 14:13

Father God, I pray that You’ll¬†comfort all those who are grieving & hurting. You alone are their Strength, Shield and Salvation. You are capable of consoling them even when the outpouring sympathy & support is¬†not enough. Will You send them Peace, surround them with Your unfailing Love and Kindness! Will You be their only Joy, Hope and Refuge! Now and always!

In Jesus name! Amen!

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.‚ÄĚ~ Revelations 21:4

The Covenant of Love!

For the mountains may depart¬†and the hills be removed,¬†but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,¬†and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,‚Ä̬†says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54: 10

I absolutely adore¬†these words and forever thank God for His unending love and amazing grace. In fact, the whole chapter 54 of the book of Isaiah is filled with God’s outstanding promises to His people. As some may think, God¬†is not a burning fire or an angry dictator who records our wrongdoing that we have to work hard to gain his trust, mercy and approval!! In contrary,¬†He is absolutely a tender Father, a matchless friend, Redeemer, Healer, Defender, Lord Almighty, the God of Love.

It’s no secret that I deeply love my three siblings that I call my children. ¬†If you have visited this¬†page more than once, I am sure you have met them through the pages of my articles. I often write about just their amazing lives that have changed mine forever, but today specifically I wanted to share what my little sister¬†told me a while back when I shared with her yet another healing miracle in my life.

Sharing God's Wonders

Sharing about God’s Wonders to His people. June 2014

After being diagnosed with an illness that puzzled my doctors a while back, I surrendered my life to God and believed that everything happens for a reason. Because I was devastated beyond imagination, I shared this with only one friend who prayed unceasingly with me, and left it to God. Three years later, the final test results showed that doctors have been somehow wrong all along, that I have been misdiagnosed.

To say that I rejoiced to the news is simply an understatement! The rest of my life is not just long enough to live for and praise God Who has not only redeemed my heart and soul, but also cares about every detail of my body and well being.

After the test results, I could no longer keep it to myself. As I shared the best news ever with my little sister who knew nothing about this along with the rest of my siblings, she broke into tears and said to me:

“As I pray everyday, I call out to the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus and Alphonsine”.

Then it¬†was my turn to weep,¬†that someone, especially my little sister would look up to the God she has seen manifesting in my life, and put my name on an¬†incredible list like this. THERE IS NO GREATER HONOR in this life!¬†I often ponder on that ever since, especially when I feel down. She may have forgotten this, but it’s eternally knitted to my heart.

If you know me personally and don’t know that I have been¬†obsessed with the song God I look to you¬†for couple of years now, you still don’t know me well :). ¬†If you see me with headsets listening to music, feel free to joke about it. Who listens to the same song over and over again for years??

So, as¬†Jenn Johnson sings: “Hallelujah OUR¬†God reigns, ….”, I tag along, ignoring¬†my vocal cords that cannot simply put¬†notes together even if my life depended on it and echo: “Hallelujah MY¬†GOD (or Father or DAD)¬†reigns, forever all my days Hallelujah”.

As I lift my hands¬†up high in worship, I don’t care what people around me may think, if they do. I give the highest¬†praises not just to¬†the God in the Bible or a Pastor or someone else told me about. I humble myself and bow¬†to the King of kings who calls me an oak of righteousness, a¬†planting for His glory, He who bestows¬†the crown of beauty for ashes, MY GOD and KING!

Re-posting one of my articles below:

Many many years apart. It looks like I haven't changed much!

1996 & 2013. Have I changed much?

I hope that you learn:¬†to trust God on your own, enough to not doubt Him when someone who led you to Christ messes up or lets you down. To know¬†God on your own that your happiness doesn’t revolve around¬†what other people say or think about you. To completely depend on Him¬†that when your church or fellow believers don’t turn out to be what they claim to be, you don’t become a victim.¬†
To trust God enough to know that when everything else falls apart, that His covenant of love and peace shall remain. To comprehend that there is a High Priest in Heaven whose name is love and has made an end to our shame, and that your name is engraved on his heart.
The song of every heart, the hope of every nation: God Who created the heavens and earth and everything in it, is My God, Father and Friend, all my days!

May you learn to trust Him on your own and be confident enough to call Him YOUR God and Father. Without further ado, head over to This Is Hope: God Is REAL. I hope and pray that you will be encouraged by the God who has simply captured my heart and won my attention, all my life!