Part 1 Arrival
Although we’ve been here for less than 72 hours already it is hard to know where to begin. Maybe it is best to start by saying thank you for your prayers for our journey and first couple of days here, and thank you to God for his faithfulness and goodness to us.
Our journey was relatively smooth though a delay in Addis Ababa meant that we didn’t make it to the Solace Guest House until well after 3am. After being in transit for nearly 24 hours it was good to finally arrive to a warm welcome at the airport and look forward to the possibility of rest.
On Friday morning we met our driver for the week - Vérité, who normally works for Scripture Union in Rwanda. His skill in navigating a small bus across unfinished roads is a marvel in itself and he is quickly becoming a good friend. Our first stop was to the Tearfund Rwanda office where we spent time talking with Emmanuel and Peninah about our programme for the week, and also enjoyed some very welcome coffee. It is clear that a lot of work has gone into the preparation for our visit to ensure that there are good outcomes for both Bloomfield and Gilgal. Already we could see John’s brain starting to tick over at the mention of irrigation problems and water issues.
After lunch with Tearfund staff we made our visit to the Genocide Memorial site. It is difficult to put into words the range of emotions that overwhelm during, and after, this visit. An introductory video features people who tell their own stories of the genocide - like the stories of the teacher, the daughter, the parent. Although it is hard to understand all that they have gone through we can relate as we try as best we can to put ourselves and our families in their shoes.
Walking through the exhibition unveils an atrocity that is beyond our comprehension and we wonder how this was tragedy was ever allowed to happen. And yet as we look around at a city that seems more at peace with itself, hear the songs of children going to school in the morning, and as we have met with the people of Gilgal church and its surrounding community we have both seen and heard stories of healing.
Part 2 Saturday
Today [Saturday] we had another early start. One of the government initiatives after the genocide was the introduction of a ‘community morning’. Everyone must stay within their local community and do some work which might involve clearing away litter, making an improvement to a building or in our case making preparations for a gully which the community hope will divert some of the rainwater that flows down from Kigali Mountain during the rainy season. Who would have thought that Rachel and Karen would be wielding an Azada (a sturdy tool for general digging, cultivating, trenching, ridging and ground clearance etc. A bit of extra weight on the blade makes this a good choice for extra hard ground - according to the internet!) with the locals very willing to show us how it was done… but mostly just showing us up!
Reuben, John, Brian and Graham also put their collective noses to the grindstone and by the end of our hour we had cleared land, transported cement without the use of a wheelbarrow and moved stones of varying shapes and sizes which would line the walls of the gully. Michael gallantly took photographs of all our activities - proof that we actually did it! John and Brian are already thinking about how the rainwater can be harvested so that it can be used by the local community, rather than simply washing away.
The rest of the day was slightly more sedate - well for the most part anyway. We received a very warm welcome from Rev Dr Bunini and the people of Gilgal Evangelical Church. And we have learnt that there are no awkward silences in Rwanda - if there’s even a hint of one someone will break into song and the dancing begins.
We had a good session with the church leaders and some of the young people sharing about both our churches and already we can see ways in which we can learn from each other. Reuben and Rachel have identified some training needs with the young leaders, while the rest of us shared about ministries in Bloomfield and our structures. Following our ‘training’ Dr Bunini told us that he felt our partnership was from God.
As we debrief this evening and pray for our participation in church tomorrow (did we mention it’s a 3 hour service?) we are conscious that God has prepared a way for us and is equipping us for our tasks this week.