My name is Lion.

Hello beautiful people! I just wanted to send a quick update on an amazing week! In the following post, I will recap some of what my days look like, my new name, some serious football, and some beautiful worship.

I can’t believe I am nearing three weeks in country. It flew by, but it also feels like I have been here for six months already. Time flies when you have no time. Training is very structured. Most days looks the same:

The Routine

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Casually trying to become fluent in a new language.

6am: Wake up and run or do insanity and feel like you’re dying. Ironically this is the part of the day that maintains my sanity. I have run and worked out every day since arriving in Rwanda. I was so glad that I had worked on fitness that much after today’s events. But I will get into that a bit later in this post. 

7am: Koga (Ice bucket shower) and breakfast.

8am: Language class. There are only three of us per class, and we work closely one-on-one as we immerse ourselves in the language and begin to embrace Rwanda as a true home.

9am: Language class

10am: Cinnamon buns, banana cakes, and boiled eggs from Mama Benjamin at the local bakery.

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Heaven (The Bakery)

10:30am: Any guesses? Language class.

I think you get the picture. In the afternoons, I head to the market and bargain my way to a couple avocados and some chapati. I have a very serious fear of getting tired of this delicious meal. My first new Peace Corps Rwanda recipe so far has been the peanut butter, banana, avocado sandwich. Trust me, it is life changing. 

In the afternoons, we have sessions on how to teach, as well as safety and security briefings.

Last Thursday, after our day of training, we gathered around and jammed, playing some annoyingly sentimental music. It was perfect–a much needed break from the constant strain of training.

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Most evenings, I head back to my Rwandan family and tutor my little brother in guitar. We are still working on our book “The Marvelous Journey.” The story is coming along really well! We have started the first draft, and Pachele gets more and more excited about it every day. I can’t wait to share it with you all.

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He already knows four chords!

Two more things specifically stood out to me this week: Football and Worship. I may biased, but I think they go hand in hand.

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Restoration Church and our Peace Corps Vs. Students Match

Learning the language of Football/Soccer

Two weeks in, we are starting to play more and more football. It started on a small field across from the church I have been going to. It has developed into so much more.

A group of us Peace Corps Trainees teamed up together, and we have been playing the students from the district every Saturday. It has been an absolute blast, though I do have a few small imprints on my face from getting kicked in the head this weekend. Bibaho! 

Dreams Do Come True.

After our last game yesterday, I got approached by a man named Kristof who had been watching on the sidelines. He asked me what my name was.

“Nitwa Ryan!”

“Ah, Lion? Your name is Lion? Very good.”

I decided to just go with it. Kristoff invited me to his district team’s practice/scrimmage at 7am the next morning. I felt like I had just been scouted. I agreed to come.

7am the next morning I strolled onto a beautiful dirt field with two regulation sized, nettless, wooden goals. This was my dream. This was the stage I have always wanted. Soccer/football is a language. It has one I have barely learned to speak in the U.S. But here. Here football is a way to communicate, a way of life. 

We started with some warm up drills. One of the men smiled as we began to converse a little in Kinyarwanda.

“Nkunda umupira wamaguru cyane,” I said. (I love soccer.)

The man smiled. “Ah, Lion we will show you real football.”

The scrimmage was very official, and it was something straight out of my dreams. They put me in as a forward, and I started playing better than I have in years. I have always been better at futsal than turf soccer, and this was the perfect combination of futsal and full field play.

Every touch, I scuffed up Rwandan dirt that painted my shoes a new color. Give and go. Pass and move. And run!

I could see the players smile as I held my own. Their skills were advanced. Not because of training. More likely because football was, and has always been, their first love.

And then I had it. Top of the box ball in from the midfield. I controlled the ball on my thigh, and hit the volley. Laces.

It skipped through the bottom left corner. GOAL.

Everyone lost their minds. Shouts of “umuzungu!” rang through the air as a few of us lined up and did a celebration dance.

I would rather score here than the world cup.

AND THEN. Again. Top of the box. One touch low shot, and I had two goals. I heard shouts of “Lion! Lion! Allen! Allen!” (It is hard for them to pronounce Ryan. I should have mentioned that.)

I walked away from the scrimmage with two goals after playing some very skilled players. I knew that we had bonded from the experience. And another life dream was complete. I’ll be back with them again next Sunday.

“See you next week, Lion!”

I ran back from the field, grabbed some water, poured some ice cold water over my head, changed clothes and headed to church. I decided to go to the Kinyarwanda service this time, and it was amazing.

I sat in the back and listened as a choir of beautiful voices spoke truth and love in a different language. They jumped, they danced, they laughed, they clapped their hands.

They weren’t there to impress anyone. Jesus was the only thing on their minds. Their joy was this child-like joy coupled with a deeper level of love–much deeper than emotion.

I found myself writing in my Bible, and declaring the truth of Jesus for myself. I can’t sit in that church and not believe the peace and grace and understanding I have found isn’t real. These joyful people spoke a different language. But they didn’t. The same God was present in that room.

A man approached me and asked if I wanted a translator. I awkwardly was put in the front of the service, and a man explained what was happening, as well as what was being said. At one point the worship was deafening in the most beautiful way.

It sounded like a thousand voices in the room.

I shouted to the man,”What are the words??” He laughed and said, “They are saying God is unstoppable. That when you put your trust in God, you have no fear.”

These people have no fear. I strive to have the same level of courage in my own faith.

At one point, the power went out and the keyboard and guitars and mics stopped working. But then one person started to clap. And then another. And soon there was a rhythm (and a complex rhythm at that) resounding through the room, and people danced even more. I almost forgot there had been other instruments in the first place. I can’t stand in that building and worship without tearing up. What a beautiful experience. I hope I can worship with the same abandon and same unfeigned delight. I pray that I find that courage and level of joy. 

They also sang about worshipping Jesus in the dry season and the rainy season. So much truth to that. It is definitely the rainy season right now.

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#rainyseason

The service was beautiful, and I don’t have time to recap much more of it. This whole week has been amazing, and I hope that I continue to use football as a language and worship as a  language between me and Jesus.

Well, my hotspot has been on too long already. Love you all!

Your Friend,

Lion.

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One of the awesome students who daily greets me when I get out of language class.
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3 thoughts on “My name is Lion.

  1. Ryan,
    I am enthralled by your journey and living a bit vicariously through you. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing, beautiful adventure.

    Peace

    Like

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