The power of saying “yes”

Michele Black had no idea, when she grudgingly agreed to go to Rwanda, how much of an impact she would turn out to make.

Michele Black
Michele Black with one of the little lives she has touched in Rwanda.

Over the course of 100 days from April to July 1994 approximately 800,000 people in Rwanda were slaughtered by Hutu nationalists, an extremist group targeting members of the minority Tutsi community during the civil war.

Almost 15 years later, in 2007, the country was still in a state of recovery. Many of the widows from the 1994 genocide needed to go back to work to support their families, but without childcare facilities they had to rely on houseboys to look after the younger children.

Sadly they discovered that a lot of the houseboys were raping the children.

This moved the Rwandan Government to have a vision that by 2020 every church in every village would have a nursery school attached to it so children could receive proper care.

To do this, they requested help from Australia to prepare teachers, because there were no qualified nursery teachers in Rwanda and nowhere for them to go for training unless they moved to Uganda.

Michele Black was sitting at home one afternoon of March 2007 when a friend called to ask if she would build a team to train these nursery teachers.

"I am not going back to Africa," Michele thought. Months earlier she had returned exhausted from Mozambique having contracted malaria for the second time in her three trips to the continent.

She was done with Africa, but God had other plans as her church offered to fund everything.

Initially Michele only wanted to go once, but now she says, "I have been to Rwanda nine times."

She trained 30 teachers on her first visit in 2007, then continued their training until 2010, when she helped prepare them to become the national trainers.

"Which they did – they went out to every village in every province and trained other nursery teachers," she says.

"When we came back in 2011 we were informed they had in fact trained over 5,000 new nursery teachers."

God has control of the big pictureMichele says there are no laws in Rwanda to restrict the number of students to a class, so she once met a 70-year-old man who taught a class of 194 kids.

He taught them under a tree, she explains, with no equipment, no furniture, and no building. "He just believed so passionately in giving the new generation of Rwandans a chance through education."

As she continued to go back, it began to dawn on Michele how big an impact her half-hearted "yes" was making.

"Let's say the average class size is 110 children and 5000 teachers have been trained; that is 650,000 Rwandan children's lives that have been changed forever through education, just because I reluctantly said, 'Here I am, send me!'"

At a childhood camp, Michele recalls the decision that changed her life: "I realized I needed to make my own decision to follow Jesus, not just rely on the Christian heritage of my family.

"I wanted my life to be fulfilled and have purpose and I could see that the only way to do that was to invite Jesus to take charge of my life and to guide my every footstep."

On August 25 last year, Michele once again found herself with two full suitcases and a passport in hand. The only difference this time was she was flying one way, with no return flight booked.

She is living in Rwanda, working alongside her friend, and together they are writing modules to start the first nursery teacher training college in Rwanda. A few years ago, they bought the land where they are believing they will one day build the Teacher Training College.

Through her experience, Michele has come to realize God's plan for her life was so much greater than her own.

"God has impressed on my heart that even though we sometimes can't see the big picture, if we look at those around us who are being influenced, He has control of the big picture," she says.

"God knows all about you. Life is so short, ask Him into your life today and then tell someone you admire and trust and can lead you in the right direction of a life living with purpose, hope and passion."

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