“I don’t like chocolate but I like jellybeans.”
Yep, that’s Emmy. One of about a thousand “Emmy-isms” one can get in the course of 24 hours with the guy.
Emmy is the fiancée of one of my dear friends from the Peace Corps. We served together in the same cohort or group, and in doing so, shared some important life experiences, changes, and relationships. I wouldn’t meet Emmy until after our service had fully completed, and when I did, I remember thinking, where did you find this man? Overtly goofy, dramatically kind-hearted, and inquisitive, he was a different kind of man, and I was thrilled that my friend had met someone (even around the world!) that carried such a spirit and heart for life.
They had met in a small village out West in Rwanda. The hills, red clay, and bananas of the East were my typical domain, but the terrain of Western Rwanda is distinctively different. Scattered with terraced tea plantations, gray gravel treks of incline, and capped by rolling mountain tops, I have always been left breathless by the intensity of that kind of landscape. Much like comparing the rolling Tennessee hills of Appalachia with the domineering geography of the Rockies; a special kind of dominance is apparent.
From colleagues to committed relationship, the couple are having their long-awaited wedding ceremony this fall following numerous visa complications and months stacked together with distance between them. Something like 7,511 miles. Talk about some kind of global relationship.
It has been a joy to journey with them – even in the complications – and getting especially to know Emmy.
Eccentric, boisterous, and resilient, Emmy has been in education (a teacher of entrepreneurship) for the last few years. He is an advocate, promoter, and big fan of planning for the future and being open to any kind of possibility.
Perhaps that is my favorite thing that I’ve witnessed and seen in Emmy throughout our conversations and time together: his dreaming heart.
I traveled to Emmy’s hometown a couple of weekends ago. The trip requires around 3-hours in a large bus weaving up and down, in and out of the “thousand hills” as Rwanda is often affectionately called. The journey pulls you towards Lake Kivu, on the border of Congo, and a word of advice: do not sit shotgun on these busses! In a move of what I thought would be undisputed brilliance, I grabbed a seat next to the bus driver immediately upon purchasing my ticket. Nobody else had taken the seat and so I just smiled, thinking I had been endowed with a small, extra, little blessing. Um. Not really.
With no seatbelt, I shifted back and forth, back and forth, falling upon the driver and the window over and over again. Whiplash? Oh, absolutely.
This is just on the main road, y’all.
Hitch a motorcycle taxi upon arrival to the appropriate town and plan for the following during the next hour of your life: a numb butt, gravel in your face, and gasping breaths when you descend below mountaintops with elevations far above 4,000 feet. Seriously. It’s adventurous, but even for a risk-taker like yours truly, it’s kind of terrifying. I saw cassava fields; I took a photo of an abandoned 4-wheel drive car that had fell in the rivers’ valley after falling asleep at the wheel the night before; and I became lost in my thoughts as I witnessed 6 men carrying an old woman with a traditional stretcher to the hospital around 5 miles away. The best part of motorcycles – even in their scary nature – is that you can see the road in ways you might otherwise miss.
The buzz of the engine pulsated heavily as we climbed and I was convinced that Emmy had laid down roots in the most remote corner of Rwanda. Surely….this was just, well, it was just crazy!
I knew I had arrived when I saw an energetic man smiling, shouting, and waving from a grey compound near a football field. Yes. Emmy. I had made it! Engulfed in a large hug, I met his dog, Rama, and we shared the meal he had prepared for my visit (my favorite): cassava, beans, with some banana too.
It seemed ironic, as we ate this humble, delicious meal in such a rural place to know that in the following month he would be America-bound – for the indefinite future. He shared of his life to come over the next couple of days – even as he showed me the place of his past, such as the location he had gone to kindergarten, the church he attends, the neighbors he has known forever, and his favorite place to watch football. It was an honor to see the roots of this man; it was an honor to hear and discuss his hopes for marriage, future, family, and opportunity. His dreams are spiced with a bit of everything: fullness in his relationship with his wife, the possibility of helping his community with a school project one day, and the pursuance of furthering his own education.
This is all the more profound knowing Emmy’s background. His life has not been easy; in fact, he has overcome situations and circumstances that many would deem “impossible.”
Again, that’s where I am most inspired in this friendship with Emmy – he has a dreaming heart because He knows that the Lord provides and he actually believes it. That is the only possible explanation of the inter-workings of a life such as his.
His vision and desires encouraged me to think of my own dreams I have kept inside of my heart. Some “feasible” and some not so much. But what do I know? What may not be feasible to me is nothing in comparison to what God can do. He really can do anything.
If I could do anything, I would write a book and it would be based on stories demonstrating how God moves across cultures, experiences, and provisions: I also hope one day to ride in a hot-air balloon, get a dog, volunteer in a nursing home, and of course, continue my passions for travel (Italy, Greece, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa, Madagascar….the list goes on..)!
I dream to be married, have a family, and perhaps even adopt – if God so wills it.
I’d like to visit all 50 states in the USA; I think it would be cool to open a specialty macaroni & cheese restaurant; pay off all of my debt; and help people plan trips in and around Rwanda in my free time. I hope one day to run a marathon, too. I’d also love to pet a baby elephant. Just to be brutally honest, here.
I dream for a cute, humble home – wherever God places my feet. Porch swing is a must.
Sigh. Man. It’s fun dreaming, isn’t it?
It’s people like Emmy that encourage this kind of thinking; I find that to a really beautiful, inspiring quality.
Hearing Emmy’s dreams and considering my own, I’ve also been able to see this played out in the ways God is revealing Himself to me lately.
In a crazy work by God, He has pointed me back to Matthew 25: 14-28 about 10 times explicitly in the last couple of months. We studied this passage closely in a lesson this summer during The Experience and when I asked a question about it, the speaker almost prophetically said, “You will likely need to keep turning back to what Jesus is trying to say in this parable; keep digging, keep exploring.”
I didn’t think much of it – until my church back home in the US AND a church I have been attending in Rwanda are simultaneously dissecting and working through this passage. It was a pretty incredible coincidence – if you believe in that kind of thing. I know it’s purposeful.
In these verses of Matthew 25, you can read about The Parable of the Talents.
Essentially, a man brings together three of his servants, and before going on some kind of journey, entrusts them with an apportioned amount of “talents” (worth more than a thousand dollars in today’s conversions). To the first servant, he provided 5; to the second, 2; and to the final servant, 1 – each according to their abilities.
The parable continues to explain that the first servant (with 5 talents) put his resources to work and was able to gain 5 additional talents. The one with 2 talents had the same kind of experience, gathering 2 more talents. However, the man who only had 1 went ahead, dug a hole, and in fear, hid his master’s money. When the master returned and followed up on the actions of his servants, he was incredibly pleased with the first two, acknowledging their faithfulness of both of them:
“Well done, god and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt 25: 23).
The last servant explained his actions by excusing himself in the following way,
“’Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was AFRAID and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” (Matt 25: 24).
The master was furious. Not simply because his offering wasn’t multiplied, but because his investment was wasted.
In reading this and being consistently placed back in this story, I have realized the need to live daily with God and trust the “initial investment” first, trusting that the return will be God’s desire in the first place.
So, in seeking ways to be a good steward little by little, my prayers have been for a fearless, mindful, and committed offering of four primary areas in my life:
Sleep. Money. Food. Time.
Like the first two servants, if God’s given me enough time to sleep, enough money to live into many blessings, enough food to enjoy the beautiful experience of eating fully, and enough time to use, then certainly, I can be discerning in how those play out in my life each and every day. If I invest these initial talents in the way the Lord desires, then those crazy goals above? They might happen. They might not. But, it’s truly important to do the first things first.
Emmy spoke about this quite a bit in his own dreaming – and I think it’s an incredibly life-changing truth as we think critically about the lives we are leading. The human experience is a beautiful balance of hopes and practicalities. I know the Lord will lead us in that – if we so let Him, and surrender our ways to His.
I used to be a kind of girl who would prefer to stay up till 12am, pumping out work, or “obligations” and then waking at 5am so I could do all the other things I needed to “do”. I didn’t used to tithe, and I would never pray or give thanks before meals (not even considering the miracle of food on the table!). This isn’t because I was a “bad” person – goodness, no. But, I wasn’t stewarding daily life well. I liked to be in control; I liked the driver seat. This will and always be a struggle for me.
As I have pressed and asked God what to do about this, it’s been the four words above (sleep, money, food, time) that have presented themselves.
All I did was ask.
Also, as I have committed to this, it’s kind of crazy – the dreams, hopes, and visions I think for the future actually seem possible.
God is no genie, that’s for sure, but He does love us and He does know our hearts. Walk in that, surrendering on a daily basis, asking questions, and it can really change your life.