By Bryn Rademaker
As my teammate Eric exits the beautiful chapel overlooking the breathtaking hills of Kibeho, Rwanda, I bombard him with the question: “What was that SONG?!”
Minutes earlier, my FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missions team and I were enjoying praying a holy hour of adoration in the small-yet-gorgeous chapel of St. Stanislaus when Eric began playing a song I had never heard before. As he strummed away at the melodious chords and sang the poetic lyrics of “Simplicity” by Rend Collective, I fell into a deep prayer as the Lord stole my heart with this beautiful song.
Last summer, I had the blessed opportunity to live out my life-long dream by traveling to Africa on a mission trip. It was here alongside my team of 11 other college students or missionaries from across the US, a few Marian priests, and the joyful people of Rwanda that I experienced love not in a radical or dramatic way, but rather in the most simple ways each day. Going into this month of missions, I set a lot of unrealistic expectations for how my experience was going to be: I thought my prayer life would be profoundly different, that I would see God in all of these crazy and emotional ways, and that I would come back to the US as a completely different “Bryn.” Little did I know that God had other plans…
Our main mission in the small village of Kibeho was to teach a group of roughly 60 Rwandan children the English language—sounds pretty overwhelming, right? Well that’s the mindset I had on our first day, only because I tried to overcomplicate the communication between me and these amazing children. I realized over time that the Lord wasn’t calling me to change their lives; he was asking me to simply love them without overcomplicating my intentions. Some of these acts of love looked as small as saying “Mwiriwe!” (“Hello!”) with a smile to passersby on our way to the village’s Mass, holding a student’s hand during the transition to our next teaching lesson, or simply inviting a shy child standing on the sidelines to join our game of volleyball. I’ll never forget the most simple act of charity that we had the opportunity to participate in every day: handing two small pieces of baked warm bread to each student after our morning lesson for lunch. Even though this act seemed nothing compared to an act of service such as building homes for the homeless, it was in this simple deed that I witnessed God’s mercy and love the most.
Often times we try to over complicate our relationship with God and with others by depending on profound, emotional experiences. My friends, it is within the small acts of kindness that we can most profoundly see God: we don’t have to have a mountaintop experience in order to encounter Christ. In the same way as I was called to interact with these Rwandan children through their everyday life, all of us can live side-by-side with our brothers and sisters in minor-yet-charitable ways. When Jesus walked this earth, he didn’t avoid the daily lives of his people. Instead, he lived life with his people, alongside his disciples in beautifully simple ways to teach them how to love through small, day-to-day interactions.
So how can we faithfully live out this simple mission that the Lord has called us to encounter him in? My favorite phrase in the final verse of “Simplicity” offers us an answer:
“Give me a childlike heart
Lead me to where You are
‘Cause I’m coming back to my first love
The greatest way that we can possibly love Christ is by imitating our youth by practicing childlike dependency! Imagine a child who completely depends on his guardian for protection, for comfort, for guidance, and for love… We have the chance to come before God as simply as children approach their elders.
Let us approach our Father and his people with genuine, simple love as we sing, “How I love you.”
~”Simplicity” is found on Rend Collective’s album Good News and was ranked in the top Christian charts for a few weeks in 2016. Other songs to check out on this album by Rend Collective include “Life is Beautiful,” “Rescuer (Good News),” “Counting Every Blessing,” “Weep With Me,” and “Christ Lives in Me.”
~The photo shown in this article was photographed by my close friend and roommate on our FOCUS mission trip, Annie Torgerson, featuring a Rwandan child below the Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho in Kibeho, Rwanda.
~Also check out the following YouTube clip featuring my teammate Eric Hueselman performing “Simplicity” at the fire on our final evening in Kibeho. At the very beginning of the video, you’ll hear him dedicate this song to me “since [I] was the first one who came up to [him] and said, ‘What was that SONG?’”