Let me tell you a story, son, of how I married your Ms. Jess…..

A year ago today, our world changed in a way that will never be undone. Ms. Jess and I were married in the most extraordinary of ways, in the most exotic of places, with the most beautiful people whose hearts welcomed and celebrated new family.

It all started as Ms. Jess prepared to travel to Rwanda and we began to dream of how our family would start. I threw out the idea of getting married in Rwanda and then suggested having an American wedding in the fall. I never thought she would be up for my half joking suggestion but she agreed and was excited about all that we did not know. We didn’t have a clue if it would be the two of us on a mountain or if we could find a church in a city. What we were confident of is that whatever happened would be beyond our wildest dreams.

Ms. Jess visited Knemwe, of the Twa people, with I.U.’s  SPEA program as a videographer and captured their plight but more fascinating, their joy. They are an example of poor community development from a governmental perspective.  They were only five years removed from being hunters and gatherers who had lived in the forests since their beginning.  The government saw them as a risk though as the most least valued of people groups could not be monitored in the forests and the forests were often used for planning during the genocide. So, they removed them from their homes due to “landslides” and put them on a lava rock reservation where the government had built them huts that were completely exposed.  The tragedy though is that they have no education, little access to it as the sole teacher for the whole village actually is one of their own and now has a fifth grade education. They have no way to hunt nor  soil to farm. They have no experience in small businesses or logistics, nor have access to capital. They are equally in urgent need for advocacy as they are seen as the least among the three people groups and have little to offer.  The community of over 500 families lack sufficient access to clean water, are deficient in employability skills, and now they have been exposed to new diseases that are killing them. But through all their grief, when she asked them if they would want to have a wedding for two strangers, they obliged. Humbled by the possibility, we also began to dream as to where this relationship may lead.

I arrived in Kigali at midnight on June 1st which was a Sunday and Ms. Jess waited for me outside the Kigali International Airport with a “Marry Me” sign but was in tears as she thought I missed my plane as I was the last one leaving the airport due to filling out paperwork for my bag that didn’t make the transfer. We rented a Rav 4 the next morning to head to Gesinye which was a small town on Lake Kivu which borders Congo.  It took four hours of dodging donkeys, motos and kids sleeping on the side of the road.  Rwanda is absolutely stunning and some day we will go back. Ms. Jess used an app on her phone to get us around and believe it or not, Google doesn’t know everything as we had to do a little off-roading too. Little did we know the adventure that awaited.