By Peace Sinyigaya
I always wondered what it would be like to have a family; family beyond having my parents and my young brother. Since my parents are refugees from Rwanda, we don't have that. When the war tore Rwanda apart, it also tore apart my family. Of the small portion of my family that survived the war, everyone was forced to separate. People fled over the continent of Africa, some to Europe and Canada, and just us to the United States.
Both of my parents grew up in households with over ten immediate family members, with aunts, uncles,and cousins also very close to them. Culturally, family is very important. My brother and I never had a chance to have that growing up. We didn’t get to go to our grandmother’s house on a Saturday afternoon or to travel with our cousins. We didn’t have the opportunity to get to a point where we would hate spending time with our relatives over the holidays (like I hear many people say). We made due without that. My brother once called our life group and Bethel our “big family” because that’s what we had and knew. The idea of even meeting our blood relatives was an absurd idea until December of 2016.
Last November, it became clear to me that my mother needed to go back home. Her mother was very sick and we feared that she may not have much time left. My mom had not seen her mother in 23 years and the idea of her not even having a chance to see her again broke my heart. Amid this, as a way to draw family together again, my mom’s brother, who lives in Canada, was planning his wedding, and he decided to get married back home so that everyone could be together.
Financially, there was no way that my family could afford to send mom back home. It didn’t sit right with me that she would be the only sibling alive that would have been missing from the wedding, especially sinceit was mainly an attempt to bring everyone together again in the wake of my grandmother’ illness. In addition to this, in early December, we learned that my Grandma on my father’s side was also very ill. (This is the grandmother that later passed away in mid-January.)
Unwilling to accept that money was going to prevent her from going, I started praying, saving up, and asking others for help so that we could try and cover some of the costs of my mom’s travel expenses. God answered my prayers in ways I didn’t even know were possible. Not only did we get funding for my mom, but God presented the rest of our family with the means to also go. It was truly a blessing.
We had about a week to make arrangements with the schools and work, to get visas, and to obtain other necessary travel supplies. My parents and I were able to take off work, my brother got permission from his school, and I was able to arrange my semester finals so that I could complete all of them just a few hours before it was time to board the plane. The visas were scheduled to get to us a few days before. Everything was miraculously going very well.
My mother and brother were scheduled to leave a day before my dad and me because I had one more final to take. While I was studying for my remaining final that day, I got a call from my mom. She was sobbing. The visas had yet to arrive because there were storms that prevented the Embassy from sending them on time. The estimated costs of changing their flights to the
following day were well in the thousands and there was no way we could afford them. I wanted to give up my ticket so that at least my parents could go, but it wasn’t that simple. I remember thinking to myself “Why, God?” It wasn’t making any sense to me that we could come so far and overcome so many obstacles to be stopped by something so small. My mom told me to keep studying and that they would figure everything out. She also told me that everyone back home was praying for us. My uncle reminded my mom to never lose faith, for God doesn’t have deadlines for His blessings. This gave her more strength to remain calm, pray, and listen to God’s voice.
I spent the remainder of that day studying, praying, and packing. That night I got word that my dad had overnight-shipped the visas to our home and he was going to intercept them on the way to the airport. At the same time, my mom was working with the airlines, trying to reschedule for the new flights. Without having to pay thousands, it didn’t seem like it was going to work out.
The next morning, after my last final and only ninety minutes before we needed to be at the airport, I learned that the airline had waived some of the fees and rescheduled my brother and mom’s flights so that we could all fly together!
We still were waiting on the visas. My mom had been on the phone talking to her brother (who had already arrived), saying we had not received them. During this conversation, my father handed her the passports with the visas and it didn’t register to my mom right away. Once she realized what she had, she called me to let me know everything was set and that they were on the way to pick me up.
We had ninety minutes to: pack up the car, pick up Mr. Holmgren so he would be able to take our car back home, stop by the store for medications for my grandmother that my uncle requested, pick me up from St. Kate’s, and get to the airport. Time was most definitely not on our side. God was, though, and we made it on time to the airport! We were all set to catch our flight.
We went to check-in and the person at the counter requested proof of payment. As the tickets were a gift to us, we could not provide that proof and the buyer was not around. For about an hour, I tried many ways to convince them that the tickets were a gift and the buyer also tried various methods from their end. At this point, I was close to tears and praying out loud in the airport because the plane was going to leave without us. Nothing seemed to be working. Eventually, they allowed the buyer to send in pictures of their ID and credit card by phone text message. God pulled the last piece together for us to travel. I finally was able to meet my extended family!
Pastor Jim preached in February of 2016, about the concept of moving from being stuck to stepping forward. Hebrews 10:39 says “But we do not belong
to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” We had many opportunities to remain in a place of being stuck during all of our struggles. Fear and discouragement were trying hard to take hold of our hearts. I, along with my family, had to see what was substantial ahead, and choose to walk by faith, trusting in God. God never planned to bring us half way and abandon us.
We needed to trust in Him and trust that He was consistently there, even when the path we were following was not smooth or clear.