Monday, June 13, 2011
By Pastor Heidi Johns
It is Monday afternoon and I think we are starting to get our bearings. The water is back on, but we haven't been able to shower yet. Last night we were able to introduce the art of bathing with a huge jug of water and a small plastic basin. Several of the girls put on their swim suits and had a "hair washing party" and found washing each other's hair was easier than washing your own. A new level of community was born.
A little bit about where we are staying...we are at the Moucecore Peace Center Guest House. It is very much like a simple retreat center with rooms for 1-4 person that are sparse, but adequate. We share a couple of bathrooms per floor. Each room has beds, and a dresser or bookcase. The first thing I noticed when I walked in my room was the mosquito netting hanging from the ceiling over each bed. The best feature of most rooms is a little balcony that you can sit on and take in the sights and sounds of the city. Several of us have rooms that face out into a little neighborhood in a valley. Rwanda is the "land of a thousand hills" so there are hills and valleys everywhere. Sitting on our balcony on Sunday morning we saw people carrying their bright yellow jugs walking to get water. Children were playing. In the distance we could hear a church service going on with singing, preaching a several "alleluias". The place was "alive". We are sharing the Guest House with a group that we met in the airport in Toronto. They are from Oregon and are a part of a prison ministry here and have made multiple trips here to work with restorative justice programs as the country still heals from the 1994 genocide.
Our food has been fantastic. On most days we will eat breakfast and supper at the Guest House, with lunch being in the community. We have had eggs and bread for breakfast along with fresh pineapple and small "finger" bananas. The pineapple has been out of this world sweet and juicy. Other meals have had rice and lots of potatoes. So far the potatoes have been serviced like french fries which they call chips. Last night we had kabobs, which we think were goat meat, but that has not been verified.
We are traveling in a little van that holds 15 people. So far our trips have been to places close to where we are staying. The longer trips will come later. Once again, the van provides ample opportunity for community building as we often travel with Jen and/or Serge so we are close to capacity...not much leg room and my legs are short! Much laughter and reflecting happens as we bounce around getting from here to there.
Jen and Serge, the couple from International Teams, who are facilitating our trip have been great. Jen is from Canada originally, and Serge is from Rwanda. They have three children, Prince who is 13, Izzy who is 4 and Benny who is less than two. We've met them all! Jen has lived here for over five years and together they are raising their family and working here. They have made all of our connections for us, are setting and arranging our itinerary, and accompany us for each day's adventure.
This is all just informative stuff to help orient you more to our experience. There is a lot of deeper stuff happening that is more difficult to capture on a blog. I continue to be amazed at our youth. They are intelligent, thoughtful people who are absolutely wringing this experience for every ounce of meaning they can find. Last night we spent nearly two hours debriefing the day, mostly the three hour worship service we attended in the morning. We relived the experience and talked about everything from what we noticed when we first entered the church to how we will talk about the experience with people at home.
For me personally, the morning was filled with tears of joy, just seeing our group sitting in the front row of this church across the globe and knowing it is the same God being praised. One lasting benefit for me will be that if people comment on the length of a sermon I will tell them of the two hour sermon we heard in a sanctuary that was probably about 85 degrees inside! The guest preacher was from Botswana, so he preached in English, which was a delightful surprise. Most of the rest of the service was translated for us as well.
Today we went to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, and I thought I would write about that, but I'm finding my emotions are still too raw, so that will have to wait for another entry.
For now I will close and say that I am so thankful to be here, I can't find words to express how I feel. You all were so generous in supporting this trip and I can't wait for us to be able to share this experience with all of you. Thank you. Keep the prayers coming. God bless!