Its the time of year when Rwandans remember the genocide that happened here 21 years ago.  The entire 100 days from April 7- July 4 (Liberation Day) are considered a time of memorial, but the first week is particularly intense, with community meetings every day, (only a half day of work)  and large gatherings on the 7th & 14th.

As a team, we offered our services to the community leaders and said we wanted to help in whatever way we could.  Our team members with vehicles transpored sound equipment and chairs to the large meetings.

I went on several home visits, taking a little food and my presence, to hopefully bring a little comfort.

The area we are in is populated mostly by people who were in Uganda during the genocide, and returned when this area was opened up for resettlement of refugees.  However, there is a population of people, mostly women who were widowed in the genocide, who have decided they don’t feel comfortable living among their neighbors who carried out the genocide, and thought this area would be better.  These women come with nothing except their trauma, and rely on people to help them scrape up $10 a month for rent, or land for growing food, or small jobs they can do to earn money.

I always imagine these visits will be awkward:  I’m obviously there because of their suffering, but I don’t want to make them talk about it.  I can’t ask about their kids or families without reference to their loss.  What else do we chat about?  Do I talk about myself?   And there’s only so much you can say about the rain…  My concern about how awkward it could be, or that I could just cause more pain, sometimes makes me not want to go.  It would be easier for me to just stay home.  But I’m prodded on by a few bible verses:  what Jesus said about welcoming strangers and visiting those in prison in Matthew 25, and what James said: that true religion is to visit widows in their distress.

However, once I get there, I usually find that the visits are not so awkward.  There are others there, so I am not solely responsible for the conversation.  One of the visits we made was actually quite amusing; it seemed that the woman had a sense of humour and was genuinely enjoying the company of others.  I am amazed, encouraged, and humbled to see the way that people work to take care of those suffering in their midst: having one of their kids help gather firewood, offering free rent for a month, or even giving them a small job in the midst of their own poverty.  And I am thankful that these women are willing to open their homes and their lives on these occasions for a little bit of connection.



Teaching Time!

Last week I got to travel to Kigali to spend the week teaching in the Discipleship Training School.  The topic for the week was Outreach Prep.  The week includes around 15 hours of teaching.  It is centred around doing various teambuilding activities, and discussion or teaching that arises out of that.  (For example, looking at how our actions affect other people: In most of the activities, if one person makes a mistake, the entire team has a more diffficult time completiing the challenge.  After, we discuss how this plays out in real life.)  The topic also includes some teaching on public speaking, primarily focussed around sharing our own stories and sharing the gospel.  Each student gets an opportunity to practice preparing and speaking, after which I usually give a short evaluation.

In December when the school leader asked me to teach, I felt a little nervous about accepting.  I was hoping I would be feeling better by this time, but I wasn’t sure.  I was also afraid that I might be waddling around and unable to stand and teach for 3 hours at a time.

But I am so glad that I agreed.  Both the students and the staff made sure I was well taken care of.  (They did things like make sure I had lots of fruit and carrying water so I didn’t have to!)  I’m certainly not waddling yet, and although it was definitely more tiring than it usually is, it wasn’t too much to handle.  (Going to bed at 7:30 helped.)

Beyond those things, it was a lot of fun.  Each group has its own characteristics and personality.   Some of the last few groups have really needed to focus on simple things, like trusting each other (and being worthy of that trust), basic communication, and even motivation.  This group worked well together, despite having to communicate using more than one language.  They treated each other with respect.  They spoke up when they had ideas, listened to each other and were willing to try different solutions to problems they encountered.  They had a sense of humour.  They are committed to and passionate about learning to work in missions.

In short, they were the kind of group I always hope to work with!  It was an encouraging and satisfying week for me, and I look forward to hearing their reports when they return from outreach.