[robbie – written some time last night]
after several failed attempts to get these final thoughts out i will try again. and i’ll try to make it quick because we’ve spent the majority of the day packing and running around town and i am tired. we have a pile of stories, but only so many words. i have lots of thoughts and rants brewing, but those for another time.
so come, chirstmas songs – still the only music to which i can write now – and you, pumpkin spice candle – faithful writing companion these many months, as you slowly burn the last of yourself out of existence – let us write of the end of the matter.
at kiziba last week we used the new solar power to meet long-standing goals, and we showed a movie: munyurangabo, being a story of two friends, but covering a wide array of rwandan life, and with a powerful message. henry, much moved by the film, led a discussion with the thirty-some viewers as the rain began, the noise eventually drowning him out. they broke up into groups and continued discussing, which went well from what i understand. but as it was my last night in kiziba, i just hung out and laughed with grodya, henry, and mapenzi. it was good to be with friends.
the rain died down and the people left. grodya laughed that the library closing up these days at 8.30pm was early. having lights in the evening has extended the daily life of the library to 10pm or beyond. grodya’s wife sent over some food and he, johnson, and i cleared off the small librarians’ table and shared a meal together. it was one of the best meals i’ve ever had, for a number of reasons.
the next day was my final day in kiziba and i dodged rainstorms hiking back down to kibuye. i looked back to snap one last picture of the camp.
on saturday i met with grodya one last time in a small café in a small hotel in kibuye and talked over coffee and blaring celine dion songs. i am glad that at our last meeting we had as much to talk about as in our first meeting over two years ago. neither of us has stopped dreaming about what good things could happen next in kiziba. which is a little sad for me, but great for grodya. i leave, but grodya’s hands and mind and heart are all still as capable as ever. and as always when talking with him i wrote down a number of brilliant quotes. one of my favorites: ‘if it is true that the spirit of God is in our churches, then we can’t teach a barren gospel. we have to change our communities.’
grodya will of course continue to lead a group of incredible people, friends, with a vision and a purpose that i have seen in few other humans. working with grodya these two plus years has been a blessing and a humbling joy that i can never fully put into words. pray for him as he continues to lead jcm and see real impact and transformation in kiziba. pray also that he leaves kiziba someday. it would be a loss for that community, but a blessing to him and his family, and a greater blessing to any community of which they then becomes a part. i will miss our conversations.
friends in kigali hosted a little going away/baby shower shindig for us on sunday. many more goodbyes were said. we’ve made some great friends and connections in rwanda and they will be missed. we know that with many the physical distance will not destroy the friendship.
likewise i think back on kiziba. i have a strange sense that i will see many of those friends again. and there is more than proximity that connects us now. i will still be involved with voices of kiziba and will continue writing a book based on several of their lives. but beyond those things there were intellectual, ideological, spiritual, and emotional connections made. those continue, too.
in a break from packing yesterday i met with and said goodbye to henry, who was in kigali sending some things to his brother in south africa. we had a simple lunch and then i drove him down to the bus park. and at a gas station there we embraced, reiterated our hope to see each other again soon in the states (he being hopefully near the end of the resettlement process), i handed him the small keyboard we mildly used as a gift to jcm, and of he strode into the swallowing crowds.
i think i’m surprised i haven’t cried yet, oh i who feel things very deeply. maybe there will be time for that when the stress of details and packing has been left behind. it all still feels too unreal.
as with leaving any home of years, there are some lingering regrets of not doing this or that. but missed opportunities do not define the the last two years, and certainly do not overshadow the good things that did happen. we are sad to leave rwanda, but we welcome what comes next.
after some travels, we will return to the chicago area at the end of april, plan to spend much of june in washington, and be back in illinois for the birth of our first child.
i said earlier that i would write of the end of the matter, but really it is not so much an end as another beginning.