Visiting the geranium distillery and the Village of Hope with Nicholas Hitimana, was the last event planned for the Vision 2014 Team. I had known of this village being built for the widows who had survived the genocide, since 2005.
But there are really three incredible stories here. The story of Nicholas and Elsie Hitimana is told in the documentary put together by Wellspring Foundation for Education, called "Hope Rising" in 2005. It tells the story of a couple who escaped Rwanda during the genocide to protect Elsie's life. After an education in Scotland, they both decided to come back to Rwanda and help rebuild their country. With his training in botanical sciences, Nicholas designed a project to give the widows who survived the genocide an occupation. As they tended the fields, and collected the full flowers at just the right time, all went into the distillery where Nicholas had designed a system to collect the precious oils from the geraniums to be sold internationally. We were taken to the distillery first, where Nicholas explained the detailed process. Then we were driven to the Village of Hope.
That is the second story to be told, for after 10 years of the women walking hours each way from their homes to the fields, The Worship Team of Hillsong from Australia, came to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the genocide with songs of hope. They saw firsthand the cost to these women of living so far away and decided to begin fundraising for a village being built for these women so they could live closer to the fields. Having this village built for the ladies and their children, meant they could tend the fields easily. There are now 35 homes built in the Village of Hope with more still being developed.
The third story is about our dear Friends; Mark and Katherine Fitz who met Nicholas in 2005 when Wellspring Foundation aired the first viewing of "Hope Rising". Then Mark came with a team from our church and met the Hitimana family. So, with the call of God on their lives, Mark and Katherine Fitz and their daughter Rachel, came to Rwanda to work with the women of the village of Hope in the Fall of 2010. They came home from Africa in the spring of 2013. I knew that Katherine (and of course Mark too!) loved these women and had prayed with many of them.
So, after the Ladies were all gathered into a room after we toured through one of the homes, we were introduced. Among our party were Allen and Bernice Hedburg from Fresno California who many years earlier had donated $10 Thousand towards the Village. They were introduced to the Ladies. Gerry gave greetings, then I gave them greetings from Mark and Katherine. All of this was being translated as they did not speak english. I was allowed to pray over them. By then, the joy of meeting these ladies in person was quiet overwhelming. With praise to God for these women, their courage and strength and for Gods provision for their journey being reduced, and for the beauty of the homes, I prayed. After prayer, the team left to shop... and I stayed to hug and greet each of the ladies and take photos of each one for Katherine to enjoy.
There was such a flurry of women laughing and chatting as I passed through each row, that I asked a younger gal (who I suspected spoke english) what they were saying! She said; "they are surprised and happy to see someone coming to see them with such emotion." Yes, it was hard to contain. I was excited and so honored to meet them. So, yes, this Westerner was weeping for joy. What a gift it was to be with them that day. This is one of the many photos taken.