Sweet Dreams

Saturday, October 4, 2014

       I saw this incredible map of the world painted on wood planks at a flea market this summer and figured I could do the exact same thing myself but at a much cheaper cost. I love DYI projects, so I jumped into it without thinking much of it. Many many many hours of painting later, it turned out not too bad. Would I do it again? Probably not; I underestimated the time it would take to paint every single cove and cape this world has to offer, and the paint kept sinking into the wood. Not to mention it wasn't until later that I realized Greenland's proportion are more than a bit off. However, while painting the map with all of it little islands, I gained a new perspective. It registered that there were places I had no idea even existed prior to this project, places I couldn't name, and places I may never get to visit. There were (and still are) people and cultures that I will never know about, they existed to me as much as aliens do. It made me feel small- I think the way God intended us to feel when compared to His creation. I realized that just because I have no knowledge of these place, people, and cultures they are still important, they exist as much as I do, and we share the same spectrum of emotions. There are 7 billion people in the world, each one of us with a dream.
       Lately, I've been thinking about togetherness and what it is that connects us as people. I think about my own life and the friends and strangers who led me to pursue a huge dream of mine- the dream of learning more about the water crisis and learning from the people involved in the field. I was reminded that we have the same opportunity everyday to push someone closer to their dream, to run along side of others and feed them words of encouragement or to open up doors that will launch them forward.

       A few days ago I was on the 10 Days website- 10 Days is a campaign through Living Water International, where college students across the country have an opportunity to shift our neighbor's circumstances by providing clear water in Ruhango, Rwanda. I've seen first hand how clean water facilitates better health and more education, which leads to improved opportunity throughout communities. While working closely with the staff of Living Water Rwanda in Ruhango last semester, I was in awe of the incredibly hard work and dedication each staff member put towards providing clean water to these communities; I wanted the world to know about them! After spending some time with different staff members, I wrote a small story on each of them in hopes to share with my friends and family- and who ever else was willing to read it- back home. Though we come from different backgrounds, cultures, and upbringings our individual story is one of the most powerful things that connect us as human beings. They allow us to bridge the chasm of unconventionality and break down ‘ethnic barriers.’ I've found a great love for gathering and sharing people's stories, allowing others to learn from or be impacted by a person they may never meet. 
   I had a dream of sharing these stories with as may people as possible; and that day I saw the staff stories had been posted on the 10Days website. I am in awe at how loving our God is. How He places people in our lives to push us and enable us to sprint after the dreams and desirers He's given us. Through my journey over the past year I've been so motivated to push others to follow their own dream.


Times Flys

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Abroad: Rwanda from Alexia Ellesse on Vimeo.

During the Spring of 2014 I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Rwanda for 5 months. I met some awesome people, ate interesting food, saw some crazy stars, and had my mind blown a handful of times. Abroad: Rwanda is a mess of a video, made just for fun to celebrate the best five months!
Song "Ends of the Earth"
Lord Huron
Quote inspired by Henry Rollins

No standing.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

No Standing from Alexia Ellesse on Vimeo.

There is life in losing the fear of looking silly.
I love to dance, it's true! The silly kind though, of course.
It's been my experience that dancing makes life a heck of a lot more fun, and I wasn't about to pass that up during my time in Rwanda. During  the last 5 months I've met some of the greatest people, had the opportunity to build some great relationship, and most importantly took every opportunity to dance!
The song might be a little out dated and the editing may be a little amature, but man was there joy in these times!  

Bats, man!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

During my last week in Rwanda, I spent a few days out in Kibuye with the six other girls from the study abroad program. I had never been to Kibuye, but it turned out to be a beautiful little town right on lake Kivu with a breathtaking view of the sunset.

We decided to take a boat out to an island that was known for being home to a ridiculous number of fruit-bats,  I heard somewhere around 3 million. The island looked like a huge hill just floating on the lake, covered with trees

After the boat docked on the island, our guide lead us up a steep trail towards the bats. five minutes into the hike, thousands of bats were flying over our heads. The guide continued up the trail, but I think we were so amazed by the party going on above our head that a few of us stopped for a bit to get some pictures. It was a sight! I really could have ended the journey right there, I saw the bats and they were awesome! But after realizing our guide had continued up the trail without half the group I decided to book it on up the hill. 
As I reached the top of the hill I found the tour guide just kind of standing there in silence.  I figured he was bumped because, by then, all of the bats had retreated back into the trees which were now below us.  I wasn't too upset because I had already seen them.

As soon  as the last person reached the top of the hill, our tour guide suddenly broke the silence by turning into a crazy man. Just like that he started clapping his hands and shouting and screeching. Within seconds, we were surrounded by hundreds of thousands of bats, above, below, and in between.   It completely put to shame the sight we had stopped for at the bottom of the trail. 

That day, while standing on top of that hill, I realized something: perspectives can teach us a ton. I think a lot of times we have these awesome experiences, we see what we came to see and we even took a couple of cool photos too. And although our tour guide continues up the path, we pack up and head back towards the boat, satisfied because for me, at times, I am far too easily pleased. 
But what we experience is sometimes just a small taste of what is up the rest of the hill; and as our Guide continues to lead us on our paths He whispers to Himself you think this is great, oh, you just wait! So the decision is ours, will we follow or head back to the boat?


Monday, April 28, 2014

Unlikely things start happening when we are not afraid to get skin in the game and we decide to go big.
Passion leads you to do crazy things. For me that looked like emailing a ton of strangers, flying half way across the world,and asking for an opportunity that didn't exist prior.  

A little bit before getting the opportunity to hangout with LWI I had an itching question,  "What is an advertising and public relations major doing trying to help people access clean water? I really don't have the knowledge or tools to actually do so.
But what God brought to light was very important. while yes, it is true that I do not have the skills to physically provide or improve water access, I do have the skills to help those who are the professionals in this area. Serving those who serve.
I think a lot of times we have this idea in our heads that we can just come over to a country for a week, or two and make these crazy impacts on the lives of a community. And while yes that is completely true and God has no limitations, more often than not it's just not that simple. I think I'm realizing how easily problems in developing countries can be over simplified, and while there are benefits to short term solutions, it is always better to think with the end in mind. Many times solutions to big problems take numerous years to play out. And what good is it to come into a country, quickly better a situation in a week, and then leave? It's not sustainable and eventually these issues can arise again. I'm learning the importance of working with country staff, those who live there long term, some permanently. Those who speak the language or have the time to really learn or know the culture; those who are professionals in the area in which they are working. This is the very reason why I absolutely love Living Water International, and it has been a crazy joy getting to know and learn from their Rwanda staff.
I've learned God can still uses us even when we don't feel equipped. He doesn't put crazy desires in our hearts so that he can laugh at us when we look foolish for perusing them. 
He allows us to use our skills to line up with our desire.

.With a background in journalism I was given the opportunity to work with the field staff of LWI, and together we worked on capturing stories and report writing. 
I have been so blessed to have the opportunity to hangout with the LWI-Rwanda's drilling team and other staff  members over the last few weeks; the work they do daily continues to blow my mind. I am getting to collect stories on the staff, community, individuals, and the difficulties encountered in the field. These stories serve as a way to connect people back home in America to Rwandans; to actually people, not just facts and statistics.

I've got to tell the world 
Earlier this week I was talking to a friend from back home, and during our conversation she said, "wow, what you're doing over there is so great!" And while my heart overflows with appreciation for all of the kind words I've received throughout this journey, I need you to know this: anything that I've done during my time in Rwanda should be considered as nothing in comparison to the hard work of the LWI-Rwanda staff. These people are world chargers! And what they are doing over here is truly great. I've got to tell the world!
It is hard to fully put into words the dedication of the drilling team. I've had the chance to spend the last two weeks out in Ruhango with this team, and I must say I've learned more about determination during this time than I have in my twenty years of life.
These are the guys who dig the deep, deep holes in the ground so that a community can have access to clean and safe water. They spend their weekdays in the villages, far from their families and homes. Their day starts around 6 am and doesn't end until the job is finished, rain or shine. Even when the sun goes down, they pitch their small green tents right where they're at and wake up the next morning to continue drilling. It is not an easy job and there are many challenges that arise during the week. The drilling rig truck is large and extremely heavy; it can easily get stuck on the small man-made dirt road, sometimes taking hours to pull the truck. 
These guys continuously make sacrifices in order to help communities have clean water, in order to share the word of God, in order to give people a better hope from their future.  The hard work of every staff member is truly amazing!

Risking Failure

Monday, March 10, 2014

If we want to continue to grow, especially in Christ, then we must continue to risk failure.

During the six hour drive from Kampala to Gulu there was a lot of reading and staring out the window. I absolutely love looking out the window while traveling; I am not trying to let Gods incredible creations pass me by while I'm too busy taking a nap. My attention bounced back and forth from Uganda's sweet landscape to a book from the New York Times Bestsellers list; the author just so happens to have started an organization in Uganda a few years back. Some time during the trip I decided that I was going to contact the author, or at least try to, and ask him for some direction. It was a bizarre idea, a little risky asking for something from a stranger, but I had nothing to lose. Only one of two outcomes could result; he would either respond or he could not respond. This little plan could fail completely or it could not. 
Last night, after finding the authors email address I began to type out my message to him. I'm a strong believer in catchy email subject titles, how else are you going to stand out in a list of numerous unread emails? I decided on titling it with a question joke, saving the punch line for email body. Risky move? Yeah probably. But that's me and if this guy had a sense of humor then there was a possibility of this email getting read. My email may have sounded a bit silly but I believed it was worth the risk.

I woke up with a unread reply from the author; I found his quick response time incredibly impressive. Turns out that he couldn't exactly point me in the direction I was looking for but he then proceeded to tell me that him and his team would be and Gulu next weekend and would be happy to meet with me. The dude seriously just one-upped me. I was simply asking for some advice, some thought, some help from a complete stranger and he pretty much said I'll do you one better. This author didn't just want to help me, he wanted to meet me.
It made me think a lot about how God works. I think there are times when we think we are taking a big risk, but in reality we're actually playing it safe. I could have told that author how I loved his book and had a lot of respect for him. I then could have emphasized how cool it would be to get the chance to meet him. But I didn't. I simply asked for some direction without really expecting a reply back. I've seen this play out specifically in my prayer life. If I'm being completely honestly with myself I can admit that in the past there were times when I sought out direction from God without really expecting a reply back, possibly thinking somewhere in the back of my mind  it's okay if God doesn't get back to me on this, He's a busy guy with a long list of emails. I was limiting a completely limitless God. Thankfully over the last few years I've learned that God is a one-upper kind of dude when we have faith, He wants us to risk the human logic of our request, decisions, and even reasoning for His sake; He wants us to ask the crazy, outrageous, unimaginable prayers instead of beating around the bush because God is so able to blow our stinking minds, if we allow Him! It can be seen over and over again through out the bible, Gods power. And like the author, God doesn't just want to help me He wants to meet me where I'm at; He says "I want to give you direction but first come, let's figure this out together." 

2 Kings 4:1-7

God has restored this country

Friday, February 28, 2014

And I've seen it with my own eyes. 20 years ago the genocide against the Tutsis took place all through out Rwanda ending with a death toll of a little over a million. I have learned a lot about the genocide in the last month, more than 9th grader me ever expected to learn in my life time. I've seen the pictures, heard the testimonies, and even seen thousands of full skeletons that were dug up from the mass graves and preserved with chemicals, some even with little pieces of hair still attached to their skull. The thought is horrific, one that I can not and probably will not ever be able to truly fathom. Friends killed friends, family members killed family members and neighbors killed neighbors.  Hundreds of thousands of innocent people's lives were cut too short.

And how does one forgive such a gruesome incident?
Many survivors of the genocide witnessed someone they knew kill their family or loved ones. And yet here they are present day living among one another; perpetrators and victims in the same villages, some even neighbors, but how? 

Forgiveness such as this can only be learned through the cross. Pastors came in and taught both the survivors and perpetrators the gospel and the message of forgiveness. Little by little the both were able to come together and live as a community. No long is this country split between social groups of Hutus and Tutsis, instead the country now consist of Rwandans and the barriers have been destroyed. 
God has restored this country in Love and forgiveness. 

March Prayer Challenge
Since coming in Rwanda I have seen God answer my prayers as well as the prayers of friends over and over again, little and big. After a friend and I chatted about it,  we thought it would be a great idea to keep track of these answers prayers and share them with friends and family. We would love for you to join us and here is how:

1. Write.
For the entire month of March write down your prayers in whatever fashion fits you best.

2. Record.
Every time you have a prayer that is answered record how and when it was answered. Even after March continue recording how He answered your prayers that you have written down.

3. Share.
Share, share, share! We want to encourage others and  For every answered prayer share on social media whether it be Facebook, instagram, pinterest or whatever. Please hashtag #MarchPrayerChallenge

4. Thank.
Don't forget to say thank you the One who answered your prayer.

Somethings the Word says about prayer:
He hears you! - Psalm 66:20, 1 Peter 5:7

This is my place

Saturday, February 15, 2014

 I absolutely fell In Love with this place on Wednesday of last week. I can't pin point exactly what finally clicked and I can't say that it was a specific moment, but I do know that every day since then I have been falling more and more in love with the place! The people are beautiful and the scenery is something else. This week we've left Kigali and have been traveling around Rwanda. Driving around this country the last few days has really tugged at my heart a bit.  One mud house after another and Jerry can after Jerry can, it was a much different site then what I've been used to seeing in Kigali. But this country is so full of beauty, and it's everywhere. They say America is Gods country but I'm not so sure how completely true that is anymore.

I love you, I love you, I love you, if I could just say that to every little munchkin I've driven passed in the last few days. We've been driving around Rwanda for probably a total of 6 hours in the last 2 days, passings hundreds, probably thousands of little nuggets playing, men pushing bikes decorated with Jerry cans, and women carrying some much too heavy object on their heads. There have been far too many instances where everything in me had to stop myself from yelling "stop the car" to the driver. I wanted to talk with these strangers that we were passing, logically not all of them, but these people have stories that deserve to be told and man did I want to listen, and if not I wanted to love them or maybe hug them and at the very least I just wanted to meet them. As much as I wanted to, I knew we couldn't stop; we had places to be and a strict schedule to follow.

Having a drum lesson

Meet Halley, she rocks at being a person! 

Moving On In

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Muraho (hello)

I've been here a whole week and boy is there culture shock! After orientation finished up on Friday we all got to meet and move in with our host families! I'd be lying if I told you that the whole transition went smoothly. With most things being very new, It will take me a few days to adjust and adapt. However, I am extremely fortunate to be with my host family and man am I thankful for them! Both the mother and father do not speak English but I am so impressed by their ability to try! There are 7 children in the family, 5 girls and 2 boys and I kid you not one of the boys is named Bill Gates, not Bill, but the full Bill Gates; he is a total sweet heart. And then there is sweet Leslie, although she doesn't speak English, her smile is enough to brighten my entire day. From the moment I arrived they have welcomed me with open arms.  Once at my new home they showed me to my room and gave me a quick tour of the 4 bedroom house. I hung outside with them while they prepared dinner in the outside kitchen and waited for the older kids to get home from school. Then of course came the question of the century, "what do you like to eat?" This question easily catches me off guard because the food here is very very different from the food in America, and if you know me you know I mostly like figure foods, like pizza. (man do I miss pizza) anyways I started to list some of the foods I could think of. Among my list I mention corn on the cob and the next thing I knew I was handed a plate with an uncooked corn stalk on it. I was very thankful and took the plate. I wasn't sure what to do with it so I just held it and continued to talk. I was then told to eat it and I tried to ask if we need to cook it but was unable to communicate it so I ate it or tried too. I've had many many strange and funny things happen since arriving. The lifestyle differences makes everyday task a bit more challenging at first yet it is doable. There is no running water inside of the house, not even a sink nor is there a fridge and still they have survived their entire life without these things. From their perspective I come from a world of "machines" and  I now wouldn't disagree.
Being fearful of bugs isn't really a thing here... There had been a massive and dangerous looking spider hanging from the celling for the last two days and when I pointed to it one of the cousins literally picked it up by its legs, held it in between her fingers for a couple of seconds to show me and then tossed it out the window, never killing it. Fear is obviously not a factor for her. 
Walking anywhere around kigali is always an adventure. It is most certainly gaurenteed that everyone will either stare, shout or sometimes even reach to touch us as we walk by due to the fact that we stick out like a sore thumb.
Even with the newness of the culture I really do love it here! Although, I don't know if I can ever get used to the starring! 

Meet sweet Leslie

The first days

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I'm currently sitting in the Kenya airport waiting to board my final flight of this lengthy trip. I've been traveling well over 24 hours now and I honestly cannot wait to get to kigali! I haven't even reached my final destination and I can already say that I've learned two very important lessons. 1. Paris should not be visited alone. 2. My character sinks when I'm in highly stressful foreign situations... I'm working on it. This was my first time over seas and I was traveling alone with no cell phone and  a 15 minute time limit of free wifi which was the only way to contact anyone. I desperately needed to contact a few people once arriving in Paris to let them know that  I had missed my flight to Amsterdam due to my previous flight being delayed. This issue had now changed the whole course of my trip including the airline, the connection country, and my final arrival time. So maybe it was all of that which lead to my minor breakdown or maybe it was the 2 hours of sleep I had gotten in the last 24 hours. Which ever it was I decided to gather my self just enough to make the 1.5 mile long trek to my new gate. I was beyond lost on how to get all of my new flight information to the right people and pretty nervous that I wouldn't be picked up at the airport once arriving to Rwanda As a sat on a bench in the Paris airport very much alone and waiting for my new flight I had a moment to remembered that we have choices in this life, and that choices are important. I can choose to be upset at my situation, scared and angered at the fact that this wasn't the plan or I can choose to quit crying, realize it is what it is and look at it as a new adventure.  So of course I took the latter. And so here was another reminder that Gods plan is better, and he sometimes has a funny way of doing things. Sometimes we make plans to do things, good plans too. And yet when they don't work out as planned we can choose to get worked up  and even scared or we can choose to look at it as a new adventure. God says trust me I've got you. He wants us to enjoy the journey along the way.

The day started with orientation and eventually we all went into town to buys cell phones and a sketchy Internet USB. Currently we are all staying in a big guest house that almost resembles the dorm/ motel feel but we will be moving in with our host families on Friday. I am still getting use to this place and trying to take it all in. It's lovely and the weather has been amazing so far. I haven't been anywhere where there is air conditioning but it's really not needed; it can get hot at times but it's actually quite nice! Wifi is hard to come by so contact has been difficult but it will most definitely get better.  Haley and I decided to go on a walk before dinner while the remainder of the group hung back to nap and relax. Each house is gated and guarded by at least one guard, so there is a sense of safety. School had just gotten out and there were little munchkins in uniforms playing in the street. Just a few yards down from where we are staying is a huge structure where families collect their water and so of course that is exactly where I ended up. A few little ones where there and ran to us as soon as we waved. We each spoke slow and were impressed by some of their English;  though there was a language barrier it didn't matter much. Eventually there was a group of 10 boys and girls around us patting our hair, touching our skin, and holding our hand. These children are so beautiful and their heart are full of so much joy.

Freedom and Faithfulness

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed
                                                                    John 8:36

God's promises set us free

I've gotten it a handful of times in the past couple of weeks-"Are you nervous about leaving?" For a little while there I wasn't too sure about how to answer that question because, well, for most of us there is always a little bit of fear in the unknown. However, I've heard and believe that living life to the fullest means living beyond the fear of the unknown. Lucky for us my man Jesus, the Son of God, does not want us to live a fearful life.  Not only does He Love us with out measure but He also chooses us meaning that through Him we no longer have to live in fear and instead can live in freedom. I am sure of this because God has promised it.  Over the past couple of years I've found that God is faithful and He keeps his promises, even on the days when I humanly forget how good He truly is. But just because I forget at times doesn't mean that it isn't there, His goodness is always there. God is faithful because I am reminded that His promises have been kept all through out my life. He continues to leave reminders scattered throughout our daily lives whether it be in nature, music, new opportunities, sweet friendships, or good conversations. He's there we just need to have eyes that will see. 

Joshua 23 paints an excellent picture of God and his faithfulness. 
"...You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed." Joshua 23:14
Man, what truth; what a promise! One that I continue see over and over again through out my life and the lives around me. How many times can I look back in my life and point back to Gods faithfulness then, and then, and then. 

I must admit when I found out that I was going to africa I was overcome with an eye-opening realization. It's not a feeling that can easily be put into words but It was as though everything that I had ever gone through in life, any crappy situation or obstacles that I had to overcome was preparing  me and ultimately leading me to this moment, the step of faith of moving to Africa for four almost 5 months. As if I was born for such a time as this, God has trusted and chosen me to be right here in this moment; and I can guess many other future God glorifying moments. We have choices in this life and we can choose to be apart of what God is doing in and through us even if it doesn't make sense right now. We have been set free, indeed, and can trust that his plan for us will one day be made evident because He is faithful.