On Friday, July 5, a team of six from various locations in the United States joined ranks in Kigali, Rwanda to visit, enjoy fellowship with Rwandan Presbyterians, and encourage, learn and, embrace the cultural diversity. The team will also have an opportunity to work alongside Rwandans to feed the hungry, visit the sick, and help build churches. It is an opportunity to witness the reconciliation and healing that has taken root in the nation and to hear live testimonies. Here is the team's first report:
With our group members arriving in Kigali throughout Friday evening, we were all together by 10pm and grateful to have arrived at the cozy Presbyterian Guest House. After dragging our heavy bags to our rooms, team leader Ebralie Mwizerwa, gathered us all in the dining room, where she had sweet- talked the kitchen staff into rustling up some soup and bread for us! She gave us the good news that we could sleep in on Saturday, since we had no early plans, and we all shuffled happily off to bed after our halfway-around- the-world journeys.
On Saturday, refreshed from a good night's rest, we met for orientation and devotions. Marilyn Borst shared some thoughts inspired by Romans 5: 1-5 where Paul reminds us to rejoice in our suffering because "suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope....and hope does nor disappoint us." In this place where the 1994 genocide violently ended the lives of over a million people, she reminded us that suffering is the "back story" of the Church here. As we meet with pastors and elders and ministry leaders, we should expect to see the hope that is now seen in the growth of congregations and the outreach they undertake to widows and orphans ---born from a renewed hope that Christ continues to call the Church to be salt and light, and, importantly, agents of reconciliation.
We made a powerful visit to one of several genocide memorials here in the capital city. A museum tells the story of the events which led to the slaughter and the efforts of justice and healing which followed (both of which continue almost 20 years later, given the scope of this national tragedy which affected everyone in the country in some way). Outside, you can reverentially stroll the arbors and gardens which provide the resting place of an almost incomprehensible 250,000 souls.... For all of us, this solemn and sacred place was a necessary beginning point for our time in Rwanda, as we touched, every so briefly, on an event which has scarred the past here, while also shaping the future, as this beautiful "Land of a a Thousand Hills" both recovers and renews itself.