In March 2006, I dropped everything in Nashville (TN) and moved to Kigali, Rwanda to pursue my dream of developing businesses that would foster an image of beauty and excellence for Africa. About two weeks into it, I met Francois Murengerantwari. He was an 11 year old street kid, selling some odds and ends at my office complex in order to have a little food to survive.
I appreciated his entrepreneurialism and we became fast friends. Soon I had him in school, living at my home. It’s been almost six years and he’s as tall as I am now. Through the years, we’ve struggled, laughed and learned together. Now we are family, and he is my son.
Eight months ago, my wife and I moved Mombasa, Kenya, about a 32 hour bus ride from Kigali. Last week, after much preparation, Francois joined us here for a new adventure. He turned 18 last week, so naturally, he’s ready to be a man and take control of his future.
Francois grew up in Ruhengeri, a rural village in the northwestern mountains of Rwanda. His father died before he was two, prompting his mother to send him to live with his grandparents while she found work in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. He lived with them for most of his early childhood, believing they were his mother and father.
Life was difficult with no water, no clothes a small home and food was sparse. At age nine, Francois followed his mother to Kigali in hopes of a better life. She got him a job as a houseboy, making $2.50 per month. However, being that he was just a small boy, the work proved to be much more than he could handle. His stepfather did not want him in the house with them, so he soon ended up out on the streets, alone at age ten. I met him about a year later.
Over the years we’ve talked much about our spiritual beliefs, character traits, relationships, perspective and future. He’s in search of significance and purpose, navigating the excitement and mystery of the unknown much the same as any other 18 year old.
When Francois arrived, he asked me “What will be my life?” I was happy to experience his wonder and desire to do more than merely exist. Whether you’re a street kid from Rwanda or a stockbroker on Wall Street, we’re all essentially searching for the same thing; purpose.
I explained that there is nothing more important than relationships, so we’ll start there. Then we will foster experiences to inspire him, expand his perspective and ultimately fulfill his purpose.
It is most important to discover who you are, and how you are bent. What do you want to contribute to? Who do you want to serve? How will you bring more love into the world? What are you passionate about?
Money and jobs will come and go, but relationships, purpose and vocation are a lifelong journey worth our full attention.
Every night we sit on our rooftop overlooking the Indian Ocean beneath the inspiration and wonder of the night sky. As we discuss Francois’ life, I am reminded again of my core beliefs, priorities and life perspective. I’m grateful for this reminder. The responsibility of leading someone else inevitably causes me to be more diligent about exemplifying my own ethos.
When a person asks, “What will be my life”, it’s necessary to review the priorities and perspective from which you will operate. Francois is discovering those elements now, and will likely be refining them for the rest of his life.
In the mean time, I’ve assured him that his life is happening right now, so he should be sure to enjoy the journey and seize the day.
This morning, Francois said, “I only want to make peace. It is most important”. I think that’s a good place to start.