in the morning hours of another dawning week the team got another chance to learn more about the genocide. they had received the history lesson at the national genocide memorial; but the church memorials they visited that monday give a glimpse into the actual scenes of violence. torn clothes, weapon marks, stains on the walls.
churches during the genocide were not the places of sanctuary for which people had hoped. in many cases pastors opened their doors to those fleeing…and when the rooms were packed, they then let in the killers.
as with slavery and western expansion and unnumbered oppressions and massacres throughout the last many centuries, some skewed form of christian religiosity has been used to justify grave atrocities. so it was in rwanda with ethnic hatred and violence. which of course makes perfect sense when you read passages like colossians 3.11: ‘ here there is no gentile or jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.’ oh wait. it doesn’t make any sense at all. i think you get my point and if you have any grain of sense you get the idea already, so i’ll stop here as i could rant for a while. but here is another blemish on the history of the church, when we can go to old buildings, called houses of God, in order to see the remains of genocide.
the kids came back to j.lynn’s in a shaken, silent daze. they ate lunch as usual and once the food started arriving most of them came around, started talking again. i asked team leader jen if any sort of debrief was to take place, was told that at this point any probing questions would be met with blanks stares. they needed to process it all by themselves. and what better way to let a mind wander and sift thoughts than manual labor? thus the awkward transition was passed on to me to get them moving again in pouring cement.
that afternoon we extended the main patio seating area to accommodate newly fashioned furniture. leaning on skills learned the previous week the students, greatly motivated by their awesome leaders, jumped right into the task. one crew devised ways to effectively secure the forms and i led the rest in the mindless shoveling of things. despite the emotional shock they received at the memorials they did their jobs well and finished early.
the next morning was spent hanging out with a group of former street youth. itrw has for years been supporting street kids through school in order to get them off the street. once these kids were grouped together in a number of homes, but the move has been made recently to, if possible, provide for their everyday needs so that they might move back in with their families. during the school holidays we hold a camp-ish experience for them, with games, teaching, and bible study. that day the team joined to help lead some games and activities, even providing the means for everyone to make their own tie-dye shirts. the students made some good connections and heard some stories of life on the streets and how things are looking up.
that afternoon, we went to visit mama deborah. this woman has been a friend of jen and serge’s for many years and has worked with them in many different ministries over the years. currently, she is running a co-op called love to help, which gives opportunities and resources to families suffering from hiv/aids. this group has several ladies who come to a small shop every day to sew and make jewelry to sell. the whole group also meets every tuesday to pray and sing together. our group arrived at the beginning of this meeting time and they graciously made room for us in their tiny courtyard. mama deborah shared the story of how she was called by God to work with families struggling with hiv/aids and several other members shared the stories of how they found the group and how God has helped them. one thing i noted was that many of the members spoke with hushed voices. mama deborah explained that hiv/aids still carries stigma in rwandan society – though the number of cases has gone down. we sang some songs together, prayed and shared together, asked questions and shared thoughts. serge also announced that because of the money the students raised, international teams rwanda is able to pay for mutuelle (health insurance) for all the families in love to help for the next year. the sense of relief and joy was evident.
then it was time to shop. many of the students had saved money specifically for mama deborah’s shop, wanting to support her and the group. after some time, some crowded searching, comparing, choosing, we cleared out, having emptied half the shop, and piled into two vehicles to head to our house for a spaghetti feast.
while this was going on i ducked out to help francine prepare for said massive (and i mean massive; we were eating the leftovers for days later) spaghetti feast. much later than expected due to their extended shopping time, we crammed the team into our little living room, bringing in the outdoor furniture to make sure seats were available for all. they ate, they debriefed, they left for an early bedtime.
rising fairly early the following morning, i caught a moto to the guesthouse in the nick of time, hopping on the bus as it began pulling out towards fumbwe. fumbwe is an area east of the city, high on a ridge…and down by the shores of lake muhazi. in years previous jen and serge were involved in pastoral training, one of the pastors, pastor dosantos, now leading a growing congregation. itrw helped lay a foundation upon which a newly constructed church sits; mud bricks neatly stacked, gaping window holes in the sides, wooden beams shouldering the roof high above. it is impressive compared to the tiny one room hut in which the church had been meeting.
but our purposes this day were not to hang out at the church, though the team did provide the money that filled those holes with sturdy windows. we took the team on what we refer to as a water walk. for those living on the ridge (and most rural areas in the country), running water in your home is not a given. in our western society where a seemingly endless supply of water is available at a moment’s notice, walking to get water sounds awful. and it is. in fumbwe, a spring of free water is a decent and steep distance away. while there is a pump not far from the pastor’s house, it will cost you for every liter you fill up. and unless you can pay for someone else to do it for you, the only other option is to walk. from the pastor’s house we took our jerry cans – little ones compared to the twenty liter beasts some of the village men were hauling around – and trekked down a little dirt path past homes and farms and then down a steep and dusty hill, sparsely treed and baking in the morning sun. not descending all the way to the lake, the path wound into a little creek valley where spouts stuck out of a stone wall, offering water drawn from a spring.
we were joined by a crowd of children, attracted, no doubt, by the parade of mzungus, but who needed to fetch their own water as well. while the jugs were being filled by certain helpful kids, we took the team up the valley a little ways to a small cave, fabled to be the seat of an old area ruler, or king. apparently there are many such caves/stories around rwanda. we didn’t stay there long, unfortunately, due to the swarm of children kicking up thick clouds of dust with their excited little feet. as we were exiting, one of the older village kids decided the bushes immediately outside the cave entrance was a good place to urinate. it wasn’t.
the jerry cans full, we started the trek back up the hill, emphasizing the need for care on the path and care for our bodies. the first half is about as steep and dusty as you’d ever want a path to be, and we came up in three groups. i led the first, as my legs, used to climbing hills for fun, get into hiking mode and robotically walk uphill at a great pace, sometimes to my detriment. we waited periodically for more to catch up before pressing on; a group of most of the adult leaders took up the rear of the march, and i figured they were good taking their own time with the walk. some of the students with me were ever antsy and probably could have run up the darn thing, jerry cans in each hand.
once all were at the top we calculated how many liters of water all twenty two of us carried up the hill; and how it would take at least two more trips from each of us just to satisfy the low estimate of how much water the average american uses in a single day. again, in most of the western world having to conserve water is hardly an issue. but even in kigali not having running water for a time is not uncommon, and we are always taking precautions in how much we use. while the students then seemed un-phased by this information, i was told later by the leaders that the showers that night were much, much shorter.
we were served lunch then, not completely to our surprise, as the pastor is always a generous man when guests are around. still, the big pile of food for each of us seemed rather excessive. but pastor dosantos told us that when you are poor you don’t necessarily always want for food, as you can grow it. he said there are weeks where he will walk around with less than one thousand francs in his pocket, but always have enough to eat. and with that we stuffed ourselves on rice and plantains and peanut sauce.