It is truly amazing what children can do.
At one of our stops today, we met with a large group who have co-op projects farming corn and rice. They are in their second year of the program, but told us today that they are ready to graduate from Zoe. Later, when our host Gaston explained the Zoe model in more detail, he explained that this does happen from time to time. If the group has good leadership (which they elect), and everyone does well in the beginning, they can be self-supporting in less than 3 years. The group’s chairperson told us he wanted Zoe to help others who needed it more than them. We told them how proud we are of them and that we love them.
Also in this group we heard the story of Theo, who is 13, but looks like he is 8. He has been caring for two younger siblings for a few years. This group recently adopted him into their community. He told us his mother died a long, hard death of AIDS and he was with her when she passed. He began to cry and could not stop. It was breaking all of our hearts to watch him stand across from us crying, so we motioned him to come over by us and we sat with him, hugged him and held his hand. It is hard for these children to accept affection, because they do not trust it or really know what to do with it. But we continue to give it.
Today we also witnessed a group who was quite remarkable. Many of their parents were killed in the genocide — by families of other kids in the group. They began to reconcile and take care of each other immediately after the genocide and continue now in Zoe. The amount of grace this must take is unimaginable to me. But today they were happy teenagers who shared a skit with us demonstrating life before and after Zoe. They shared their gratitude and thankfulness to God.
My heart is full and my eyes are tired. Thank you all for your prayers and support. What a gift it is to be on this trip. More tomorrow…