Kenyans, Rwandans are rich in spirit, community, says TN group

Kenyans, Rwandans are rich in spirit and community, says Tennessee group

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In northern Kenya, where the desert sand finds its way into everything and rain has not fallen in more than year, a small school rejoiced in song during our trip. In northern Kenya, where the desert sand finds its way into everything and rain has not fallen in more than year, a small school rejoiced in song during our trip.
They are thankful for small kindnesses including a water tank built from funds raised in Knoxville. They are thankful for small kindnesses including a water tank built from funds raised in Knoxville.
We had lots of company during a steep hike in Rwanda. We had lots of company during a steep hike in Rwanda.
"We talk about the Holy Spirit, but to be in that church in Rwanda and feel the Holy Sprit was truly eye-opening and memorable. I won't soon forget it," Chris Kittrell said. "We talk about the Holy Spirit, but to be in that church in Rwanda and feel the Holy Sprit was truly eye-opening and memorable. I won't soon forget it," Chris Kittrell said.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

RUHENGERI, Rwanda (WATE) - At the end of a week-long journey to two African nations, members of a Tennessee-based group reflected on the richness of the people's spirit, faith and gratitude.

Blood Water Mission, headquartered in Nashville, does work in several African nations, partnering with local groups to bring clean water to communities and educating and aiding communities with issues regarding HIV/AIDS.

University of Tennessee Athletics Director Mike Hamilton is a Blood Water Mission board member.

He and his wife, Beth, also organized a fundraiser called Hope in the Dark in 2010. It raised money for adoptions of African children and funded several projects in Kenya and Rwanda.

A trip Hamilton and other board members took, along with a 6 News team, to Kenya and Rwanda in late January and early February was, in part, a way for Hamilton to make sure the donated dollars went to the intended projects.

It was also a personal mission for him. The Hamiltons have adopted three children from Ethiopia. 

Hamilton says because of his experience with his children, he's "compelled" to help other children in Africa. He believes God led him to this path.

During his time in Africa, Hamilton and others with Blood Water Mission believe they witnessed God at work, especially in the transformation of communities in Kenya and Rwanda.

In northern Kenya, where the desert sand finds its way into everything and rain has not fallen in more than year, a small school rejoiced in song during our trip.

The students and staff are thankful for small kindnesses including a water tank built from funds raised in Knoxville.

Farther south in the town of Marsabit, a woman widowed by AIDS and now HIV positive along with her daughter, wept in sadness because her family has turned their backs on her. But she also wept in joy because of the help of a clinic built from funds raised in Knoxville.

High on a mountaintop in Rwanda, villagers prayed with Knoxvillians, thankful for the help they provided in building tanks for clean water and for the spiritual lift they helped provide.

"There is life there. There is hope there, and to be a part of that was an incredible experience," Hamilton said.

Jena Nardella, executive director of Blood Water Mission agrees. "I'm so passionate about these communities and I believe everyone should have access to clean water and healthcare. I live in a country full of resources knowing very well that these resources could make a huge difference in the friends and communities I know in Africa."

Board member Rich Hoops also praised the people he met.

"The people I met in Africa have none ow what we have, but all of what we need," Hoop said. "We depend so much on material things in life, but when you walk through the rural villages of Africa, you see they have nothing we would say sustains life, but that's not true. They have everything that sustains life. They have community, strong faith and a sense of responsibility and family."

Hamilton and the others have also felt that sense of community. They've met men, women and children who have changed their notions about Africa and about poverty.

"Poverty is so many times about dollars, but there's also poverty of spirit and of esteem," Hamilton said. "Clearly these people are achieving a level of esteem and pride in community, in what they've accomplished. They're not impoverished. They have great wealth in areas of family and faith."

This experience has also strengthened Hamilton's faith and his belief that God led him and his wife to adopt their Ethiopian children, and is now compelling them to help other orphans in Africa.

"I definitely see God's work here," he said. "There's a love and a community and a faith here. And sometimes when you're at your greatest need, you need your faith most and I see that in these folks."

Knoxvillians Chris Kittrell and Jim Grubbs, who traveled with the group, say they have experienced this same sense of spirituality.

"I've seen the hand of God here more than ever before," Kittrell said. "We talk about the Holy Spirit, but to be in that church in Rwanda and feel the Holy Sprit was truly eye-opening and memorable. I won't soon forget it."

"They're in poverty, but it's a poverty of material things. They aren't poor in spirit. Their joy is amazing," Grubbs said.

All this came from just one seven-day trip to Africa.

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