Sunday – Day 1 of our trip to Rwanda. Today would be a day of worship. One of the things that I have been looking forward to was worshiping with brothers and sisters in Christ in a different culture. We had the opportunity to be there for the singing in English, the preaching in English, and the singing in English. I tried to do a short video of an English song. I wanted to give you about a minute of the experience that was so exciting, uplifting and inspirational. When I listened to the audio part of the video, though, I heard too much of my own voice, and I wouldn’t want to subject you to that. But, I should point out, many of the songs were familiar. One of the great things worshiping with another culture is that there is usually so much that we share. Music is one of those things that we have in common.
One of the most inspirational parts of service was when Robina spoke. Robina’s husband, Gerald, who was the head of the African College of Theology, died tragically about a month ago. Sunday would have been her 12th anniversary. Only God could have given her the strength to speak like she did. She began by sharing the promise from Philippians 1:6 – “…He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” She spoke about the strength that God gives and has given her. She finished reading to the end of the first chapter of Philippians. Her strength and courage was amazing to me.
The sermon was about God giving strength and began with one of my favorite Old Testament verses: Zechariah 4:6 “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.” It was a message talking about how and when God gives us strength. It was a powerful message that was directed to his people in their culture, but the timeless truths he spoke were encouraging and powerful. The Pastor, Pastor Charles, is the man who had the dream and the vision to begin Africa New Life Ministries. One of the exciting things to me about this ministry is that it is run by Rwandans for Rwandans. They keep finding ways to expand their work to meet the needs of the people in the area.
We were privileged to see different kind of presentation after the sermon. The pastor called down another pastor of the church. He walked down the aisle, across the front, up the other aisle, across the back and down the original aisle until he came to a young woman. It was then I was informed that this pastor was announcing his engagement and they were doing this in front of the church. I thought it was an amazing way to announce the engagement and begin a life together showing their commitment to God. We could learn a lot from that type of commitment.
We stayed for the KinyiRwanda music service. During the break between the services and the music service, sponsored kids started coming in. It was exciting to see the faces on the kids and the sponsors as they saw each other. It was exciting to see on first time visitor to Rwanda connect with his brothers and sisters as they crawled all over him and clung to him throughout the service. As the music began, even though I didn’t know the songs I knew the Spirit that was inspiring them. When the words were posted, and they were simple enough for me to pronounce, I enjoyed singing with them.
We left when the music was finished to go to lunch with the sponsored kids. We had our lunch at the Hotel Des Mille Collines. This was the hotel featured in the movie Hotel Rwanda. The sense of history, the sense of strength was amazing as I walked through the lobby. It was here that greatness was shown during the worst that man could do. We had lunch on a covered pavillion that was quite an elegant setting. It was wonderful to see the staff show such respect to these kids. They got a chance to have a dining experience that was completely out of the ordinary. For that moment in time, they feel recognized and accepted. It’s a feeling that has a lasting effect on their lives. That special time also is an inspiration that causes kids to see a future that’s greater than they might otherwise have imagined. One of our teammates shared a story of taking her child out to eat. He looked at her and told her that n the past he had eaten out of that establishment’s garbage cans in the past, and that now he was eating off of their plates.
While some of the sponsors stayed with their kids, the rest of us went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. One of the things I learned is that the genocide that we recognize happening in 1994 began a long time before that. Hatred and division began because of outside influences and problems were happening long before 1994. Hatred doesn’t grow overnight, it usually festers over a long period of time. In this case, the colonial settlers imposed some differences that ultimately led to the genocide. The buildup to the hatred finally boiled over in 1994. When it boiled over the perpetrators of the genocide killed men women and children. Reading all the information was sad and moving. It didn’t get to me emotionally, though, until we went to a memorial section where family members provided pictures of loved ones who died. Picture after picture of someone who had been murdered in the genocidal attacks lined the walls. The tears started flowing. Then, we went to a room where they had skulls and bones recovered from the countryside. Seeing skulls with crushed bones after reading about people killing others with clubs drove the message home even more. Then, the next hall was a memorial that contained pictures only of children who had been killed. One of the more moving comments was the memorial that included a child’s last words which were something like, “Don’t worry. The UN soldiers will come to protect us.” We also so some of the mass graves from Kigali. The guide told us that there were 250,000 bodies buried in that small area. She also reminded us that as hopeless as the situation seemed then, it was put there to remind people and bring them hope for the future. I am wondering if the people of Rwanda might be able to help bring healing to other parts of the world when they go through similar problems.
Debriefing that night was quite interesting as we talked about all that we had seen and experienced. Interestingly enough Suzette, who is our leader and the royal cockroach killer, actually opened a doorway to the past of my wife and my relationship. When we laughed, our daughter noticed and corralled us afterward. She now knows one of our deep dark relationship secrets. Ok, so it’s not so dark. I’m only a day behind, but I may catch up….