A letter to my January 2014 self

Joanne

by Joanne Lu, Field Communications Fellow in Rwanda

Dear Joanne,

By the time I write this, you’ll have received a new name, Ineza, which means goodness/kindness/gentleness. You’ll have learned the winding streets of Kigali and find comfort in their familiarity. You’ll have embedded yourself in a community of support and built friendships you refuse to think about leaving.

That’s what awaits you in 2014. It’s a year of incredible growth, extraordinary challenges, and immeasurable reward. You cannot imagine it. And what you try to imagine—it will far surpass.

Right now, your heart is churning; your mind is torn. You have an opportunity, one you’ve waited and worked toward for years. You can gather and tell stories of remarkable change in the developing world. This field communications fellowship—it’s the open door you’ve been praying for.

But is it? You’re confused. You’re being asked to choose between placement in Asia or Rwanda. Neither of them is your first choice, and in fact, you know nothing about Rwanda besides what you learned from the movie Hotel Rwanda that you just watched. And for a whole year? You’re wondering if you’re being selfish, if it really is worth dropping everything for a year, if it’s all just a big mistake.

You’ll continue to wonder that as you get on the plane. You’ll even wonder that as you cry yourself to sleep on your first night in Africa in a room the size of a closet. You’re afraid of the gaping unknown, your toes curled over the edge.

And that’s okay. Because soon, you’ll find that those heights that used to scare you now thrill you. This place you currently know nothing about will be home. These random syllables that form a language you’ve dismissed as impossible? Well, it’ll still be difficult, but at least some words and phrases will become second nature. What you have accepted as personal limitations will be blown to nothingness as you discover and seek to discover more.

But besides learning and adapting, you will be challenged. Things like money and personal valuables will be stripped from you time and time again. Promises will be broken and expectations repeatedly disappointed. Even the friends you grow to rely on will have to say goodbye. The Thanksgiving evening when you’re rained in alone in an empty house will be the loneliest moment you can recall. Physically, emotionally, spiritually you will be tried and tested. No, this year will not be easy.

Yet as I look back, those challenges fade into a beauty of their own—because this is a year of triumph. This is a year of celebrating what HOPE’s clients have accomplished in the name of Jesus Christ. This is a year of gratifying work, lasting friendships, and spiritual fulfillment. This is a year of witnessing God’s good work in you, through you, around you, despite you. When you stand on this side of 2014, you will smile and laugh, because that is what you’ll see.

As I peer over the edge to 2015, I’m tempted to give in to the fear you are so familiar with. Three more months with HOPE in Rwanda, and I have no idea what awaits me on the other side. But sharing with you the unfolding, the trials, and the successes of 2014 reassures me. God led me into the thick of a mysterious adventure—one that I will remember and treasure until senility robs me. Why should we doubt Him now?

Happy New Year, friend.

Sincerely,

Joanne Ineza
December 31, 2014

Joanne

Joanne brings her passion for international development and background in journalism and marketing to help share our mission and client stories with a wider audience. If she’s not furiously typing on her Mac, you’ll likely find her playing violin or piano; photographing her travels; studying a language (Spanish, Chinese, French, or Kinyarwanda); or missing her cats, Gunnar and Moonshine.

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As Christ’s followers responding to His great love, HOPE International seeks physical, social, spiritual, and personal restoration in places of brokenness. Through Christ-centered microenterprise development, we empower men and women to strengthen their families, build their businesses, and unleash their dreams.

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