I honestly don’t know how to adequately put into words the last 10 days. I have laughed until I cried, cried until I thought my heart would break from the heaviness, and everything in between. Rwanda was an eye-opening, life changing journey. It exposed me to the true ugliness of humankind, as well as the true beauty, such beauty as I have never experienced. Since I can’t write a book about it, I will keep this a very brief overview of the highlights of what we did and experienced. If you would like to know more, I will write another, more detailed blog post for that purpose. So here are the highlights.
Saturday: We participated in Umuganda, which is the community service that happens once a month in Rwanda. The whole community gets together and works on a project that benefits all of them. For us, that project was working on a school house, cementing the walls and carrying out dirt. It was a really hands on, fun way to interact with the Rwandans in the community.
Sunday: We were told Saturday night that we would be broken into small groups and would lead services at the churches that we were going to, so Sunday morning my small group of people pulled up the church and spent about 3 hours worshiping with about 150 Rwandan people. Of those 3 hours, about 2 of them were just singing and dancing. At first, it may have seemed like a normal, East African church service, but if you thought about it, you realized that it was very different in one, significant way: the people that were singing praises together had gone through genocide separately, and yet had somehow come through together. Victims and perpetrators of the genocide were worshipping together, praising the same God that I was. There was no separation of the church. In that church, it didn’t matter if you had killed whole families or if your whole family had been killed; you were a believer, and you were there for worship. This really was just a glimpse, I later realized, of what is happening all over Rwanda.
Monday: This was the heaviest, emotionally draining day that I had. We visited both the Nyamata Church Memorial and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. Nyamata was a church where over 10,000 people were killed, and the Kigali Memorial is Rwanda’s largest mass grave site – also where the memorial museum is. On this day, I saw mass graves, holding hundreds of thousands of people. I cried at the injustice of the stories we were hearing. I was in wonder by this country had survived such a brutal event and less than 25 years after were thriving and surpassing their neighboring countries in advancements. I was angry at the West, wondering how we could have just let this happen. By the end, I just felt numb. In the evening, however, we visited an art center that took in orphans and taught them how to express themselves through dance and art. This is where I started to feel that there was hope. (This is a day that is going to take way too much explanation for space in this post, so if you would like to know more about this experience, I will have another post dedicated just to this day).
Tuesday: We visited the Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance, or CARSA. Their main purpose was the reconciliation of victims with the people that had tried to kill them or who had killed their families. We watched a film about this process and saw two different cases where this had happened. It was an incredible thing to watch; these two victims not only forgiving but RECONCILING with the men who had tried to kill them. After a short break, we sat back down to have a panel discussion, and realized that the people on the panel were from the film! We were able to ask questions of both the victims and the perpetrators and hear perspectives we would never have gotten before. Again, this day is hard to put into a short paragraph, so if you would like to know more, let me know and I will be sure to give you the rundown!
On Wednesday we left for debriefing, and we said goodbye to Rwanda. So that’s it! I have a lot of mixed feelings and emotions about this whole experience, and it is way too much to put into words here. Thus, if you have any questions about the trip, feel free to ask me and I will give you a more in depth run down of the trip.
Thank you for all of your prayers and continued support! I love all of you dearly J