Rwanda Day 5: Baskets and Blessings

"Baskets and blessings" might be a short summary of this long day spent on the road south from Kigali. A two hour drive brought us to Nyanza where we visited a national historic site, the Rikali Palace Museum. The modest, veranda-fronted, white washed residence was built for King Mutara III in 1932 and occupied by his family until 1959.  They also recreated the traditional grass hut complex of the late 19th century Rwandan rulers which included both a milk hut and a beer hut and a herd of stunning long-horn cattle, which the kings kept for show.

At the nearby Presbyterian church, we were greeted warmly by Rev Zacharias and a group of 10 women who make baskets to earn a bit of income. Our team eagerly made selections of these beautiful crafts and told the women that these treasures will have honored places in our homes while reminding us of our Presbyterian sisters here in Rwanda.

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Another hours' drive brought us to Remera, which was one of the first mission stations. The Presbyterian Church here is over 100 years old with 5,000 members!  After lunch with Pastor Jerome, we made an emotional visit to a genocide memorial on the grounds of the church, which honors Presbyterian pastors who died in the genocide. Six of those are actually buried here.  We laid flowers on the graves while offering tear-filled prayers for the continued healing of this nation.  Back at the church, about 20 members gathered to talk with us.  They are part of two important ministries of this congregation, one of which is trained in peace and reconciliation and works to mediate conflicts within the church and with families. The other group, known as "The Light," is a support group composed of both victims of the genocide as well as those who had perpetrated the genocide.  Looking into the benign faces of the men and women who were with us, it was not possible to tell WHO had done or suffered WHAT. And then there was that divine mystery of forgiveness that allowed those who had lost family members to exist in community and worship alongside those who may have killed them.  Holy ground here....

Our last stop of the day was at a "church plant" congregation of the Remera Parish, about 30 minutes down a bumpy dirt road and through several small villages where sheets of sorghum and kasava lie drying in front of tiny windowless mud brick houses.  With few cars passing this way, everyone greeted us with waves and smiles.  As the road turned and widened into a clearing, we came upon the Karangara Parish, where a new, larger church is being built next to a smaller one, which the congregation has outgrown!  A tall, young, beaming Rev Dany met us, along with leaders from the church.  The mud brick walls are in place along with the sheet metal roof provided by funds through The Outreach Foundation.  Windows and doors and furnishings are still needed.  Inside, the last segments of the cement floor were being smoothed into place by members of the church.  All were eager to have us photograph them taking part in the construction of their own precious place of worship.   We met with elders and deacons in the one room which has been finished, where a white clothed table held sodas and water for our refreshment in the midst of this constriction site.  We shared greetings and prayers and expressions of our oneness in Christ before departing with full hearts, overwhelmed by the grace and warmth we had experienced in this out of the way place.

Blessings from the Rwanda Mission Team