Thursday, February 25, 2010

Death and Life

Yesterday we visited two of the hundreds of genocide memorials that dot the Rwandan countryside. It was a necessary part of our visit here to help us understand and remember what people went through, what people did to strangers and neighbors.

Both sites we visited were Catholic churches. In the years leading up to the events of 1994, there was a series of attacks. At that time, people would flee for refuge in churches and find haven there. In April of '94, the strategy was to wait for people to gather in churches and slaughter them there. The first site we visited was a grave for 6000, the second for 5000. I found myself taking pictures of the horror, using the camera as a buffer between myself and the pain.

NEVER AGAIN read the sign outside one of the buildings. That is our hope, but it already happening again... in the Sudan and in other places around the world.

On our return to Kigali, we were greeted with happy news. On this same day that we chose to remember so many deaths, a new life was just beginning. Cy Shelby, 6 lbs even, is the newest member of the team of missionaries working in Kigali.

Like a phoenix from the ashes, new life springs up in the place of death. And hope for a better future is born.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Love in Any Language

We sat next to John on Sunday morning and he passed us notes throughout the sermon to interpret what was being said. His translations were well-worded and thought provoking.

The preacher spoke at an impossible pace in Kinyarwandan. Every millionth word, John wrote a short note. The preacher's not a full-time church worker. He spends his weeks working for a Christian organization training people to pray intercessory prayers for Rwanda.

His message, in a nutshell, was this:

Jesus did not wait until he was on the cross to pray. He gathered his disciples with him and prayed before the time of trouble arrived. We must not wait until we are desperate for help before we start talking to God. Now is the time to begin.
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Heart of the City

The center of African life is the marketplace. Whether an outdoor market with piles of beans and vegetables and fruit, like this one, or the big new supermarkets like Naccumat, people meet and interact where commerce takes place.

At the market, I was once again surprised by the difference between the people of Rwanda and those of Togo. For the most part, I was allowed to wander through the market, looking, smelling, even taking pictures without being disturbed.

Down in the tourist end of the market, vendors beckoned, but didn't press. No one shoved carvings in my face or begged me not to steal food from their children's mouths by refusing to buy from them.

Long tables stacked with food, piles of banana stalks, floor-to-ceiling booths of household goods - the market scene can't be too different from what Jesus encountered in the temple courtyard. He lashed out in anger for he saw the hearts of men and the ways they had turned away from true worship. I wonder what he sees when he looks into the hearts of people here... or (for that matter) into my heart.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

By the Bootstraps

One of the most remarkable things about Rwanda is how much progress it is making toward taking care of itself. Granted, there are a lot (I mean a LOT) of NGOs and foreign aid programs here. Many of them focus on vulnerable women, others on orphans of the genocide. World Vision, Unicef, Save the Children - if you can name an aid organization, they are probably here.

These ladies are making the baskets that are sold at Macy's all across the U.S. They do beautiful handiwork and are learning a skill that will serve them well. Others are learning sewing skills, others English, and a huge population is working on mastering computer programming, hoping to make Rwanda the technology center of the continent.

The streets are spotless here and the appearance of things seems to be of utmost importance. It is impossible to see in only a few days whether the facade is hiding another reality, but I see in the eyes of the people a great reserve, even sadness.

At this basket shop, I met a woman from near my hometown. She has been building schools here for several years and she had this to say: "Don't plan things that are too easy. You need to dream up impossible dreams, for the people of Rwanda have proved time and time again that they can pull off the impossible."
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

First Impressions

The city of Kigali is set on a series of hills which divert both traffic and rainclouds in confusing patterns from here to there. Main roads are wide and nice, cobbled roads are serviceable and neighborhood roads remind me that this is still Africa. Rutted red dirt paths wreak havoc on shock absorbers, if you’re lucky enough to have any.

Rain fell yesterday, a light lazy day rain in early afternoon that pattered against the corrugated tin roof next door… a heavier cloudburst in the later afternoon that sent us racing for the car and made the school kids smell like a tumbling litter of wet puppies. Today's rain didn't waste time on sprinkling. We had to shout to make ourselves heard under the metal roof of the ATN (Africa Transformation Network).

We spent the morning at the ATN office where Louise co-teaches a quilting class. They are in the beginning stages of imagining and planning how to best transfer skills to the ladies who come that will add value to the skills they already have. In other words, the class is supposed to give them a new, more readily marketable skill. In this case, they’re teaching quilting in the hopes that the ladies will be able to make a sell quilts. The ideal would be to create a market among Rwandans and not depend on tourist money, but they’re not there yet.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Between Two Worlds

Amsterdam's snow is left behind and the African sky stretches ahead. Even suspended at 35,000 feet above Ethiopia, with the dry landscape shrouded under a blanket of clouds, I wonder at the sunset, a thin strip of orange that deepens to red then blue then black. The first stars appear and then, the Southern Cross.

Waves of emotion wash over me as I realize this trip is real. My sandals will soon tread through the red soil of a continent that is as much a part of me as the blood in my veins.

When I step off the plane into the jetway at the Nairobi airport, I am greeted by the faint smells of human sweat and duty free liquor. I pull my roller bag through the narrow arced corridor, purposely slowing my steps to match those around me. No one is in a hurry here.

I wait for my flight, letting the sounds of a dozen languages wash past me. My ears perk up at the music of language that could be English, but isn't. It's not important for me to understand, though. They're not speaking to me.

No one knows me here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

Excited? Yes.

Nervous? A little.

Ready? You betcha.

The hardest part about leaving? I'll miss my kids.

But I'll be back, full of stories and hope and experiences and dreams for God's people around the world.

Check back every few days for updates and photos.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

In Business

It's official! I'm up and running on my new nook, thanks to my family who gave it to me for Christmas and my dad (who shall remain nameless) who gave me an ebook gift card to get me started.

First official downloads?

Anne of Green Gables
The Holy Bible (NIV)
Notre Dame de Paris
Food Rules
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I'm nothing if not eclectic.