Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blogging is better than calling these places memorials

A note from Jen: This morning, we went to two church memorials (from the genocide) located outside of Kigali. In 1994, when the Rwandan genocide began, Tutsis sought safety in churches. Instead, of finding refuge there, thousands of people were killed there. Though we visited the Genocide Memorial in Kigali last week, in many ways, it’s sanitized. The church memorials are not. They are graphic and, in the words of our teens during tonight’s debriefing, “They made it real.” Despite their graphic nature, they are important - for the questions they raise and the understanding they give us. The posts from today are raw - written before our debriefing with our team. They reflect emotions and questions - good questions - that our teens are actively wrestling with as they seek to grow closer to Christ and better understand forgiveness, something we believe the people of Rwanda can help teach us. 

by Kate Twaddle 

The Nyamata Genocide Graves and Memorial
Most writings need an attention getter, but hopefully the sentences that follow this one will be thought provoking and interesting enough that I do not need one. This morning we attended two church “memorials” that were “preserved” with the purpose of being a reminder to people. 

The first church was brick and had a covering over the top to protect it. There were holes in the walls where grenades were thrown in, blood stains on the walls, and bones stacked on shelves according to their type and NOT their owner. The people’s clothing who died there were also draped over the cross beams. 

The second church was even more crushing than the first. It contained what was left of it’s original doors, which had a hole blown through it by a grenade. The grenade also chipped large chunks out of the cement side walk that leads up to the churches entrance and put holes in the roof that covers the doors. As you walked through the doors you saw more clothing from the deceased draped over the benches where people would have sat during church. At the front of the church the altar was still intact but covered with people’s belongings including: weapons, identification cards, and jewelry. I couldn’t believe these weapons were organized on top of a place where at our church, we would have come together to break bread. 

An addition was added under the church to “display” skulls that clearly showed how that person died - something that in my opinion ripped away people’s dignity. This is when I walked back up the stairs and left the tour. I could not fathom the fact that specific bones were taken from people’s bodies to make a “memorial”. Through what we call “preserving” buildings, it seems like lives and stories were destroyed. Given this, are these churches “memorials” or are they really just depressing tourist attractions? 


  1. Kate ~
    Thank you for sharing this. For sharing what has turned your heart (and I'm sure all the others') inside out. I can't imagine.
    Your description of the discarded belongings and weapons are left on the altar is so disturbing. It is the place that we and people around the world place the body of Christ. The one and only thing that can break through evil. I have a lump in my throat that makes it hard to breathe. I can't imagine how you all are now. I know you are taking care of each other today.

    Thank you Kate.

  2. I read all of these posts multiple times before commenting. Today, that's hard. You've written such difficult words ... because you've seen such horrible things and are wrestling with such intense anger and sadness.

    I probably would have left the memorial along with you, Kate. It sounds so overwhelming and infuriating. Bad things can happen in church buildings. Our refuge is in God (not any building or fortress) ... and yet sometimes God is so hard to see. Where, then, do we turn?

    We have to turn to each other, to prayer, to God's mysterious grace, and to our hope in the risen Christ. That's all I know. That's all I've got.

  3. Kate,
    Your last paragraph shows to me, amazing clarity, sensitivity, and honesty. God bless you.


  4. You are all touching so many people's lives -- the people you meet in Rwanda, your fellow members of the group, and those of us back home in the U.S. reading your thoughtful posts. Thank you for bravely sharing your feelings and questions with us. You have all pushed yourselves way outside your comfort zones. We can all take a lesson from your strength and cheerfulness and faith.

  5. I hear your anger and disbelief. I hope by the time you and the rest of the team read this, you have been able to process this experience a little. I am encouraged though that you have been able to share and express and identify what you are feeling. I think it shows you CARE. And if you care, you are probably more likely to act. I am curious, did doing the physical labor help with processing the feelings, or possibly even help you feel that you were doing some type of relavent action?

  6. Hi Kate,
    I don't know what to write to you tonight. I knew this would be a hard day for you after hearing Ryan tell me what he experienced on his trip in 2011. I pray that you each care for one another and learn from what you experienced today.

  7. Kate,

    I like your perspective on the memorials. It was heart wrenching to see the devastation that the Rwandans faced and I remember hugging Emily as we stood in shock at what we were seeing. It is awesome to hear you take a different perspective than most when viewing the memorials and I hope that you continue looking at Rwanda with "your eyes wide open." Never let your first impression be your only impression and keep up your enthusiasm! I can't wait to read more blog posts!


    P.S.-Don't lose your camera/journal/luggage

  8. Todays blogs were very hard to read without getting emotional. I appreciate such honest feelings and all you shared. These memorials represent a sad & tragic time in the history of Rwanda and its people. They have overcome so much and yet still have far to go. Your presence there is so important and meaningful. I hope you all wake up tomorrow not with heavy hearts but with renewed energy and hope for a new day in Rwanda.