The past two days we have been working in the refugee camp, which is 45 minutes away from Kibuye and about 3 hours outside of Kigali. The camp is mostly made up of refugees from the Congo. The last time I was here, (yes - that was the time I fainted and caused lots of fun drama and attention!) I met a woman named Nathalie. She’s impossible to miss - she’s the one with the unbelievable joy that seems to seep out from every pore in her body, the one with the musical laugh that sounds like wind chimes and the one with the stunning eyes.One glance at her and I was struck by how her eyes held years of wisdom, such deep, warmhearted kindness, a love for life and for people that was beyond belief, and a spirit that was calm and peaceful - one that exuded serenity to anyone who had the privilege of surrounding her. One glance at her and it hit me that those beautiful set of eyes could only belong to one other: Jesus. I felt connected to Nathalie from the beginning. I can’t and don’t want to go into the details of Nathalie’s story, but this is what I do know… when Nathalie was young, her mother and father were killed by some rebels who came into her village. Then, in the early 2000’s, another set of rebels came into the village again. At this point Nathalie was grown up and beautiful, and had 5 babies and a husband. Nathalie took her babies and ran, and her husband made sure she was able to escape with the children. In the chaos, Nathalie and the children ran one way, and her husband ran the other. To this day, Nathalie does not know where her husband is, or if he is even still alive. She is by far, one of the strongest, most amazing people I have ever encountered in my entire life. She is an incredible mother to five children. She has also started a small sewing business in the camp in order to be able to make some money for her family to survive. I bought many things from her, including a pair of awesome African earrings. They’re my Nathalie earrings. Every time I wear them, I can remember this woman and how she changed my life. Nathalie had every reason to give up. And yet, somehow she still managed to find hope to make it through another day. She says her hope and strength can only come from Jesus. Life in the camp is not easy, and still each day she chooses to keep going, to keep loving her children, and to keep loving her Lord. Nathalie’s eyes are very sore. They hurt her often, particularly after long hours at the sewing machine. I gave her my sunglasses because it felt like the least I could do. She gave me the biggest grin and plopped them on to her gorgeous face. I wouldn’t consider myself an overly touchy person, and yet with Nathalie I constantly want to be stroking her back, or touching her hand. I need to show her that she means the world to me. Today as we were walking to her shop, her arm looped around mine and our fingers entwined together. I looked at her, touched my shoulder, then hers and said, “Nshuti.” She laughed, touched her shoulder then mine and with a smile replied, “Nshuti.” Nshuti means friend. I was serious - she is my friend. She feels like a sister to me. I feel like I’ve known her forever, and feel as though I’d like to know her for the rest of my life. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to see her again before Heaven, but I do know that the brief time I’ve had with her seems like a miracle to me. I can’t believe I’ve had the privilege and opportunity for my life and hands to be touched by Nathalie.
Precious, beautiful Nathalie, If you ever read this please know that I love you dearly. You have quickly become an inspiration to me, and I feel honoured and gratified to be able to call you my friend. You are beautiful, Nathalie. That’s the only word I can really think of to describe you and yet I know it will never do your humble spirit and magnificent face justice. You will forever be my friend, and I look forward to the day we meet again in Jesus’ presence. All my love, Aliza
“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” (Hebrews 13:2).