The Walk to Emmaus
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah[e] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
~ Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)
Today, Lean Moynihan—a member of our Oldtown family—tells us about her recent trip to Rwanda and of the wonderful work she does there every year.
As you all know, I traveled to Kigali, Rwanda in January on a medical mission to treat women with a type of childbirth injury. Since I returned in February, I have been thinking a lot about what I want to share.
One of the most exciting parts of our trip this year was the chance to use two new operating rooms that had been built for us. We work out of a small community hospital, and the planning for a new operating room had taken many years of convincing the Rwandan government before construction began. The agreement was that the organization I work with, called IOWD, would help with the architectural design and would provide all of the equipment for the operating rooms, while the Rwandan government would fund and build the addition.
The rooms were gleaming and new, a big improvement over our old rooms. Unfortunately, there were quite a few new problems. As an example, the halls between the operating room and recovery rooms were too narrow and the corners too sharp to transport patients on stretchers. It was clear that the plans we gave the hospital were not the ones they used. But, like other problems we face in Africa, we worked around the problem and made it work.
My role on this trip is to do whatever needs doing. That might mean seeing new patients, or preparing supplies for post-operative rounds, making charts, or comforting patients. No job is too big or small.
As I was running around this year, getting supplies from one place and directing care, I came across a woman I had met on a prior mission named Janviere. She had surgery with our group two years earlier, and while I had met her last year, I did not get to know her story until this year, when she pulled me aside.
Janviere is 24 and lives in Kigali with her mother, Jouyeuse, and 10-year-old brother, Tresor. Her mother left home at age 14 when her parents died. She went to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and worked as a housekeeper. When the genocide began in 1994, her mother was 18 and alone. She was separated from her brothers and sisters, and she does not know to this day if they are alive or dead. It was during this time that Jouyeuse became infected with HIV.
The healthcare system in Rwanda was in chaos during and after the genocide. When Jouyeuse was pregnant with Janviere, she did not take medication to prevent the spread of HIV to her baby. Janviere is now living with HIV. She now takes medication to control her HIV and is doing well.
The reason Janviere pulled me aside was not to tell me about herself, but rather she wanted to tell me about her brother, Tresor, who attends school and had recently lost his sponsor. I have come to learn that many children have sponsors to pay the cost of schooling, which is the equivalent of about $230 USD, per year.
As Janviere told me this story, I did not know what to think or feel. Was she asking me to give her money? Was this a scam? How could I be certain of her intentions? I was uncomfortable with the request and did not know how to respond. But I felt a burning in my heart that I could not explain, but also that I could not ignore. In the end, I told her I would see if I could find a sponsor but made no promises.
Over the next twenty-four hours, I talked to several people on the mission about Janviere’s situation. They told me similar stories about having been asked to help with bills by Rwandan staff that we work with. My colleagues also felt unsure about the honesty of these requests. The consensus was that, if I was going to pay, I needed to pay the school directly.
That night, I went online and found Tresor’s school, which listed the exact tuition amount that Janviere had told me. It also gave their bank account number and an email contact. I sent a message, asking them to confirm Tresor’s enrollment and fees and crossed my fingers. I decided that I wanted to help him and that I would use money that you donated to me to cover his costs for this school year.
The next day, I saw Janviere again and told her that my church would be happy to sponsor Tresor. While the school had not yet emailed me back, I took a leap of faith. I emailed Pastor Kelly to get her thoughts, and she told me that “sometimes the gift that you give is more than just money. It’s also having faith in the person to do the right thing.” When I returned to the US, I sent the money to Janviere directly via Western Union, along with a little prayer.
I’m happy to report that Janviere has sent me copies of every receipt for Tresor’s fees and even sent me a photo of Tresor’s report card. We continue to communicate frequently via text message, and we learn a little more about each other’s lives as the weeks pass. I recently learned that Tresor is struggling at school, at least in part because he was walking thirty-four miles roundtrip to school. I have agreed to pay his bus fees for this term and am hopeful that his grades will improve. His report card said, “You need to triple your effort!” and I told him the same.
So what does it mean for us to sponsor this child? Well, it means that I will continue to pay for Tresor’s schooling, with the help of the church, for as long as I am able. I take this responsibility seriously as he and his family now rely on our support.
I used to wonder if sponsoring a child’s schooling really makes a difference. On last year’s trip, I met a young doctor named Magnifique, who is working towards being an obstetrician. He told me that he had been sponsored by a woman in Michigan and that the only reason he had the opportunity to finish elementary and high school was that his fees were paid. So, while $230 doesn’t seem like much, for a child in Rwanda, it can mean the world.
In our scripture reading today from the Gospel of Luke, we heard of two people journeying together on the road to Emmaus. Along the way, they meet someone new. They don’t know him. They don’t know his background or where he is from. They don’t know if he is trustworthy or kind. They didn’t even know his name. But while they walked a brief moment of life’s journey with him, Scripture says, their hearts burned within them and they somehow knew that something special was happening. That is just what happened when I met Janviere and heard the story about her brother Tresor. I could have turned away out of fear that I would be scammed or thought, how much can I really help? But just like the disciples realized when their eyes were truly opened that they were in the midst of a sacred moment, I now realize that I was too.
Friends, in the world that we live in, we are taught to watch out for ourselves, and to be cautious around people we don’t know. But our faith teaches us something different. It teaches us that when we allow ourselves to trust in God and we let love open our eyes, we can not only experience Jesus in our midst, but our lives can be changed forever by the sacred situations that we find ourselves in.
As Pastor Kelly always says, so, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, let love open your eyes. Be cautious, but don’t be afraid. And if you feel your heart burning within you, know that God just might be calling you to be part of something amazing!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!