Rwanda 2014 Snapshots
• Hearing from pastors and church leaders about how Discipling for Development has impacted their lives and churches was a powerful experience. Years of building relationships has resulted in stories of the shift from dependency on foreign assistance to a healthy dependence on God and interdependence in congregations of the Rwandan Friends Church. Stories of God transforming people from desperation and despair to functionality and moving to wholeness. It was a blessing to see God at work through the D4D program and the years of work of David and Debby Thomas and Brad and Chelsea Carpenter.
• After attending a Rwandan Friends church service—cut short to three hours because the muzungu (white visitors) don’t like long services—we enjoyed a meal provided by the church leaders to honor us as visitors. The meal was delicious, and I particularly enjoyed the fried fish (sardine-like) that were served whole. Crunchy and delicious, a local treat. It was sobering to hear their concern, hoping we would enjoy the meal. It was delicious. A highlight occurred spontaneously as we left the meal and a group of young girls from the church were playing rope-jumping games. Erica joined in and asked them to teach her how to do the routines they were practicing. They were very gracious and patient with Erica as they laughed through her attempts to follow the routine. Laughter transcends language to connect people. I could hear God laughing with us.
• Our team had the blessing of working with MKs (missionary kids) each morning as they enjoyed the beauty and relaxation of Kumbya, a retreat and conference center designated for missionaries in the region to connect and recuperate. Many of us worked with the younger kids, allowing parents to have time in teaching sessions and small-group processing time. Alan Akins and I got to work with the older youth to discuss Bible passages about God’s calling in our lives and how we respond. It was a blessing to work with such amazing youth and children. I am used to working with a variety of youth that have varying levels of motivation and willingness to cooperate. It was a pleasant switch to work with youth who were very interested in collaboration and applying the learning to their own experience.
• Visiting Benimana, our sponsored Compassion International child and his family. After a two-and-a-half-hour drive, we pulled into the school and church grounds to look at the records for our child. We discovered that we were the first sponsors to visit a child at this center. Compassion partners with local churches to help deliver assistance to families in need. We were delighted to discover that Benimana is a part of a Friends church. He attends the church-affiliated school in his community. After looking at his records in the office, we got back in the car and drove a little way until the “road” became an undriveable path. We then had the honor of walking through a beautiful area between a lake and a volcano. People in the area were drying sorghum and working in their fields on various crops. The soil was rich but riddled with volcanic rock that needed to be laboriously removed from the field and stacked to the side. It was easy to see the beauty of God’s creation in the landscape and the families as we walked. After about 20 minutes of walking, we arrived at Benimana’s home. It was such a joy to give gifts to Benimana and his family. In return they honored us with a framed family picture and a giraffe carving. At the conclusion of our visit, many of the neighbors poured into the small front yard of Benimana’s home and sang as three of the women from the community began dancing in celebration of our visit. It is difficult to describe my response to this spontaneous dancing, but I welled up with joy from the celebration. It is such an honor to worship the same God with people from such a different geography and culture.