Follow the Leader (Mama)

Alexa and Amanda with two “Mamas” from an orphanage we serve. Together, they perform a variety of daily tasks to care for around 20 children. The Mama at right lost her husband and eight of her nine children in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Later, her house fell down. She now works to earn money to rebuild.

By Amanda
Prepare Ministries Staff
Gustavus Trip Participant

When the sun has set, dinner has been served, and team conversations have diminished, next comes my bedtime routine. Bed net tucked under the mattress while leaving a small opening to jump into my bed. Check. Bottled water in hand to brush teeth while making sure not to use the faucet water. Check. Wet wipes to wash feet, legs, arms, and face. Check. Jump in bed and seal up the rest of the bug net. Check. Ear plugs in ears to cover the noise of Karen next door smashing cockroaches. Check. Now it’s time for some rest.

The morning comes quickly and before I know it I’m at Pefa (the rural orphanage) and bathing small Rwandan children with a bar of soap and a bucket. I watch 57 year old Mama Announciata, as she teaches me how to complete the daily orphanage tasks. There is little to no verbal communication between us because of the language barrier. I, however, enjoy the adventure of acting everything out for Mama to interpret. She laughs and smiles in return, so I conclude that she enjoys it too.

After washing two children from head to toe, I follow the leader, Mama, to a room and she sits me down on the bed. By this time I have an overflowing amount of joy. I get to love and serve these precious little African girls and work alongside these beautiful African mamas. After sitting down, Mama shows me how to dress the children (the Rwandan style). We take our time.

Mama then motions her hands for me to come with her. We find ourselves in the “kitchen,” which is a room with a bunch of colorful dishes on a large table and porridge smeared across the ground. Mama fills up a bucket of water (without soap) and hands it to me with a rag. Hoping we can use some soap to wash the floor, I point to the bar of soap sitting on the table next to the dishes. She shakes her head and points to the dishes, indicating to me that soap is only for the dishes and not the floor. Then she fills up another bucket and we begin to “wash” the floor.
Next Mama leads me past the water spigot where we bathed the children to a huge bucket that has a terrible stench. It reeks worse than a dead animal on the side of the road. Or okay maybe it has about the same stink intensity. There is leftover food, liquids, and garbage from potentially the past several days in this bucket. I watch as Mama continues to stick her hands in the bucket and pulls out large amounts of this mixture and puts it into another smaller bucket for me to carry. She proceeds to fill her bucket and walk towards the garden where we throw it down the hill. The smell makes me feel like I am going to lose my breakfast but I know it is my job to assist Mama. We continue to do this two or three more times and I notice my bucket was not as full as hers. She gives herself more because she is carrying her bucket on her head and I carry mine in my arms.

Thank the Lord that the next task is to help Mama wash the children’s clothes, which we begin to do after we scrub our hands really well with soap. Today (Wednesday) is day two of washing clothes so I am beginning to get the hang of it. Key word= beginning. From time to time, Mama takes my soap bar and the clothing that I am washing to demonstrate the “correct” way to properly clean the item. We wash a few loads of laundry by hand and Alexa and another mama rinse out the clothes. All four of us then hang the clothes up on the lines and barbed wire fence. Our morning tasks are now finished so the mamas lead us to a bench to sit down in the eating/activity room area. Alexa and I share with each other our love for the mamas. Although we don’t understand much of what they are saying we know their thankfulness and compassion for us is great. It is also very easy to observe their love for the Lord. In the middle of the conversation Mama Announciata comes out of her room with a book of songs and hymns in Kinyarwanda and she and the other mamas begin to sing loudly to us. I deeply treasure the mamas as they sing song after song to us and I record a few of the songs on my camera.  The day continues with lunch on the large floor mat, getting peed on twice, waiting an extra hour and forty-five minutes for our ride home and the day at Pefa is finished and I’m ready to begin my bedtime routine.