January 20, 2012


Noel is a very special place for everyone on the team. This is probably the one orphanage that every person on the team made a friend. We were only there for two days but it seemed more like a week. The children were so friendly and we immediately connected with so many of them. It felt like home.
Some of our team preparing for the first day at Noel
Noel is the oldest and largest orphanage in Rwanda. They have over 600 children ranging from infants to early twenties. The orphanage sits on lots of land with pigs, cows, and goats. It is made up of dormitories, a library, clinic and two kitchens. It is huge! It is also a special place because there were over 40 infants, rooms full of toddlers, a special needs building, countless grade school aged kids and lots of teenagers. Everyone on the team found their 'niche'. 
They love their big pig. 
There were fields with animals everywhere!
There are 87 nannies that work at Noel and they spend most of their day washing clothes and feeding all the children. 
One thing that was cool about our team, was that with 30 people there were those who played basketball and soccer, some of us were holding babies, others were singing with toddlers, and there were some talking with the older kids. I loved being part of such a diverse team. 
Rwandans love their music. We had an amazing drum line performance. 
Sid from our team was singing with John (in the green shirt). Michael really connected with John because of his genuine kindness and purity of heart.  He also spoke very good English.  Because he is almost totally blind, he goes to a special school for the visually impaired that is nearly 4 hours away from Noel.  We were lucky that he was there for the holiday break.  John is also an amazing singer, and we had the pleasure of hearing him sing with the musicians in our team.
John represents for us the future of Rwanda--the leadership that will bring change in the country will be from people like him.
So many PRECIOUS toddlers. They had so much energy and joy. And lots of giggles. At one point there were three of us sitting on the ground and we were mobbed by 10 toddlers. They loved touching our hair and by the end of it we had some awesome hair dos. They were so entertained and we sat back and enjoyed the head massage. 
For those of you that have touch as a love language, no worries, you will have your share of piggy back rides, hand holding, kids in your lap, babies in your arms, and lots of hugs. It was wonderful! 
Me and Frans, she picked me from the moment I got off the bus. When time had gone by where I hadn't seen her I knew I would have a little hand in mine in no time, and without fail she always found me. 
I loved sharing this trip and all these memories with my friend Karlie!
Michael was nicknamed Drogba, a soccer player from Cote d'Ivoire who plays for a European team--he has a pony tail, too.  
The boys decided to take part in the bracelet making. They picked it up so fast!
Michael and Benouet
Me and sweet baby Mfutu. He looks like a little man. He was laying in his crib and looked up at me and smiled. My heart melted!

He was strapped to my back for hours while he napped. No, Michael and I did not take him back with us. But if adoptions were open in Rwanda, we may have ;)
Little baby feet..
If you have not experienced anything like this, I would really challenge you to go on a trip. Go to an orphanage with no agenda, except to love selflessly, and watch as God brings children into your lives that will change you forever. 
On the last night in Gisineyi we went to Lake Kivu for dinner. It is a beautiful lake that sits between the Congo and Rwanda. 
Rwanda will always have a special place in my heart!

**If you want to read more about Noel, follow Tara on her blog. She went on a Visiting Orphans trip last December (2010) and fell in love. She is now living at Noel for a year. She has amazing stories of these special kids!**


  1. love this post Merrill! a great recap :) it was so fun that we all found our niche! I got home & Stephen harassed me on why I didn't have any pictures with babies...oops. hahah

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