The idea of JustUs emerged at the end of a trip to Rwanda with a bunch of Canadian youth. Andy and Laura were sitting under a tree, listening to the team – both Canadians and Rwandans – enjoying each other’s company and having a great time together. As they had planned the trip, they had a vision of Canadian and Rwandan young people working together to create something beautiful for the children who would attend the camp they were hosting. They knew that there would be tough at times, as the Canadian team members wouldn’t always understand what was going on or being said, and it was the first time the Rwandan team members had coordinated a kids’ camp. But if it worked, it would be worth it. And it was!
It was an amazing few weeks as they watched young people from vastly different cultures come together, sometimes in confusion, chaos, and even frustration, but always in love, laughter, and friendship.
They realized as they sat under that tree, that perhaps the most important of the many lessons that had been learned, is that there is no such thing as the ‘other’ – the way we often view people as somehow fundamentally different from us, making it easier to ignore and turn our eyes away from poverty and injustice. Instead, that trip impressed upon them at a deeper level than before that everyone has a story. Every life is precious. It didn’t matter if they were living on $2 a day or in a big house in Canada; if they could afford to go to the most expensive school, or had to rely on sponsorship for a quality education. It didn’t matter if they were wearing designer clothes, or were just learning how to sew in order to provide the basics for their family. Everyone is joined together by a thread that weaves across continents – the love that our Father has for each and every one of us.
Every person on that team – Canadian and Rwandan – and all those they met, spoke to, passed by, whether in Rwanda, or back in Canada, reinforced the reality that there really is no ‘other,’ there is just us, and that is a truly beautiful thing.
The change in perspective and the restorative power of that Canadian/Rwandan team of ‘us,’ gave a whole group of young people a deeper understanding of God’s heart for brokenness and how joy can be found in the most unlikely places. They realized that there is so much more that God has in store for us and all we have to do is open our ears and listen to His voice as He invites all of us into His Kingdom work of reconciliation and love.
That team experience got Andy and Laura thinking – what if more young people had the opportunity to realize the power of ‘just us’ thinking? How would the world change? What brokenness could be healed? What injustices could be faced? What would be different if a whole generation began to explore God’s story of restoration and realize that we really are all in this together?
And so began the JustUs project!