When I meet her for the first time on a humid Sunday afternoon, she wears a black blouse with black lace short sleeves and a white peter pan collar, like she is from never-never-stop-working-for-dreams land.
She is a girl and she is made to be a star: brilliant.
I can tell the moment I meet her: She is a girl and she is made to rise, she is made to blaze, she is made to be a refrain that breaks chains, she is made to be a wind at her sister’s back, and she is made to be a light that lingers as long as it takes, a morning star that can’t put out the fire flaming in her bones.
She is a girl and she is a galaxy of dreams.
Her name is Claudette, and she is the first born in her Rwandan family, and her youngest brother is Claude, the last born.
These are stories that bookend dreams coming true and there are sworn testimonies: Africa’s heavy with the scent of miracles.
I fly to Africa with one of my boys to witness how the Father of stars ignites His daughters.
Claudette’s voice sounds like a dark, slow river when she talks, liquid, deep, gentle.
Every time she braves words, I have to lean in to hear them.
Our daughter Hope would later text me: “Three years ago, it took me being with Claudette three afternoons before she warmed up. She’s stunning — and listen for it: she has the very best laugh.”
There are women who laugh at the days to come because they simply keep coming to Jesus.
Hope is right. Claudette laughs when I am slack jawed that she is studying English, French, Swahili, Kinyarwanda: “You are genius!”
Her laugh sounds like a night song rising through rocks: “I just work hard.” And I grin with her, because girl’s right: Genius is a patient determination.
Genius are the girls who see every day as the genesis of new hope.
Genius are the girls who are generous.
Genius are the girls who never give up but always live given.
I show Claudette a photo of her and Hope jumping skip rope from that afternoon when they first met three years ago, like they are girls made for the skies. Claudette leans over the photo — then covers her mouth, laughing shy, but I can still hear that deep song of hers.
Three years ago, Hope came home from her summer of interning with Africa New Life, and she threw in with Africa New Life’s second-to-none, sold-out-to-Jesus schools, some of the absolute best in the country, to sponsor Claudette’s education.
Today Claudette sits beside me and tells me biology is her favorite subject and she’s bound and determined to become a doctor.
Claudette tells me that her little brother, Claude, is sick and there is no doctor, no funds, no medicine, no care for him and she stays awake night praying that he will live.
Claudette says she stays awake late at night studying. I watch how Claudette keeps folding her hands in her lap.
Sometimes God makes us who pray, the brave answers to our own prayers.Sometimes the story we want written in the world — begins with allowing ourselves be written more into the world’s story.
Sometimes the key to things changing — is to let ourselves be made into the key.
Claudette straightens the hem of her shirt and tells me that 4 times a year, she must write all her exams, across all subjects, in English, and she must be able to answer any question on anything ever learned in that subject over the last 3 years.
And I nod, witnessing: Claudette is a girl, made to be a star: brilliant.
Claudette is one of the world’s future women, the devoted who is determined to make a difference by being different.
Claudette is Africa.
Claudette is Africa, like each of these 500 hundred brilliant girls who need educational sponsorship is the glory that is Africa. Only 500 of us will get the chance to partner with these girls and Africa New Life for their stellar education at one of the most respected schools in the country, with extraordinarily committed teachers, for their school uniform, supplies and textbooks, medical assistance, and a living hope in Jesus.
I watch Claudette’s eyes, the way she looks up and looks straight into mine, and it’s what her eyes say in that moment that explode something in me: The story told about parts of the world will profoundly change, when we let parts of the world profoundly change us.
Claudette smiles and reaches across the table, takes my pen and she writes it in my Bible laying on the table. She writes her name beside the verse she carries on the tip of her tongue, in the forefront of her mind, in the chambers of her brave heart:
“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” (Isa. 41:10)
Her name’s right there in ink beside the verse — claiming His Truth as her only Truth.
And she grabs my hand, flashes this smile, and it can feel like a supernova in the lungs, the epiphany of it:
We can be women who lift each other, love each other, belong to each other, women who fully receive each other, and deeply believe each other and always perceive dreams in each other.
We can believe our God is the WayMaker, the DreamMaker, and the RiskTaker and that’s exactly who He calls us to be for our sisters.
He gives us strength to be a strength, and He helps us to be a help, and because He has a firm grip on us, we can grip someone else’s hand and help them hold on to hope.
I look up at Claudette — she can’t stop smiling. I run my hands across her name written right there in His Word. And I nod and grin back.
When we trust His Word, we can write the story we’ve been waiting for.
Claudette’s eyes look like a constellation of sisters all saying yes.
Claudette is Africa, like each of these 500 hundred brilliant girls who need educational sponsorship is the glory that is Africa.
And only 500 of us will get the chance to partner with these girls and Africa New Life for their stellar education at one of the most respected schools in the country, with extraordinarily committed teachers, for their school uniform, supplies and textbooks, medical assistance, and a living hope in Jesus.
Be one of the ones who get to be a DreamMaker: Dreams ignite in us when we fuel a dream in someone else’s heart. Meet me right over here to be a DreamMaker.