Billy Pope: AKA Beelee or BPope: Winker. Foot Model. World-traveling photographer extraordinaire. He goes fishin’ evrrrday.
I met Billy on my first trip to Rwanda. In fact, he and Frank were the first people I met on that trip. We flew in the night before everyone else and got the chance to go to dinner, chat, and get to know each other. Billy and I also had seats next to each other on the very long flight over. (Ahem, Frank was seated elsewhere.) Anyway, for me, it was instant friendship. I admired Billy. (He is going to tell you that I am nuts, but I really just tried to say whatever I could to get him to laugh. He made it so easy.) That admiration has only grown as I have gotten to know Billy and his 3 sweet girls. I am honored to have him telling his Behind the Bag story today…..
Nuts and Fruit
I never dreamed a photo like this would sum up what I consider to be an act of faith only a few have ever had the privilege to witness. Many of you will see this and say “Oh My! They’re nuts!” I see it and say, “Praise the Lord! NOW THAT’S SOME FRUIT!”
On my first trip to Africa, I had the pleasure of meeting and traveling with this redheaded chick that had a great laugh, the biggest bag of trail mix and the oldest iPod ever. Tara Clapper was the first team member I met and from the start I thought she was a nut… in that not so crazy kind of way. I’ve been on mission trips before and met many people from many different walks of life and journeys in their faith. I wasn’t sure how this trip was going to impact me or much less the other nuts I was traveling with. I did know that God had BIG plans. Little did I know that those plans involved Tara Clapper.
While our team traveled from orphanage to orphanage in both Ethiopia and Rwanda, we would come along sights, sounds and smells that would put anyone out of their comfort zone. Then, there was Noel. It was overwhelming to say the least. But in overwhelming moments like these is when God shows up and allows you to see what really breaks His heart. All of us could see clearly what James 1:27 really meant and what it felt like. For Tara, it meant even more and it was obvious by her absence at dinner every evening. The birth of something big was happening right in front of us and it was heart wrenching to watch. We witnessed a transformation that not only impacted one girl from Oklahoma, but also now has impacted us all in some way.
This past November I was able to return to Rwanda with Visiting Orphans and witness the fruit. The fruit of hope, love and impact. After my first trip, Tara and I kept in touch and we talked a couple of times about her plans to return to Rwanda and live at Noel. All I could think was… to do what? How will this make a difference? Does she know what she is doing? Almost two years after my first visit I was able to witness the difference. I found hope in the eyes of the girls from Noel. Hope that only comes from knowing that someone loves them and that they are worth something. I can only imagine what the girls of No.41 felt when they realized the impact the feeding program had on their community this past February. Knowing that all the work they had done was now providing hope and worth to someone else. Isn’t that why we go? Is this why Tara and Alison went? Don’t we want to make an impact on those we go to visit or better yet, go to live with them when we are called? I can answer all of the questions above… YES!
To Tara and Alison: Thank you for stepping out in faith because it speaks to me personally. Your story is one of courage and willingness to GO in the most uncertain circumstances–one that I am proud to share with my daughters and others. You’ve allowed God to multiply through you.