October 29, 2015
There really is no final word on our Rwanda journey, inasmuch as it was about initiating and sustaining relationships with partners there, but we did have a final day together before heading home, or in the case of Ebralie and Ken (from Laguna Presbyterian Church), before heading to Uganda and Kenya for more partner visits.
Following breakfast we joined the staff from the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda's (EPR) head office for morning devotions. Vice-president Rev. Julie Kandema shared a message based upon the Gospel account of the cleansing of the ten lepers and invited us to each share a theme from the text that we might preach on. The same exercise was part of the examination given to students applying for entry to the seminary program at PIASS this year. Our discussion focused on the themes of faith and gratitude. During the devotions we shared joys and concerns, prayed together and sang in English and Kinyarwanda. Julie even succeededin getting our group of U.S. Presbyterians to raise their hands over their heads in praise to God! (Note to readers: Watch out for these folks when they get home!)
The balance of the morning was taken up with a debriefing of our time in Rwanda, first with EPR leaders, then just with our team. Rev. Julie and Mr. Eustache Musabyimana, Director, Finance and Administration, were very interested to hear our thoughts and to receive our questions about what we had seen and experienced during our time with the church. Our team members shared deep gratitude for the hospitality we had received, how we were inspired by the faith of the believers whom we met along the way, how we were impressed by the quality and character of the church's leaders and how we admired the church's commitment to reconciliation and healing in the church and larger society. In exploring our ongoing partnership with the EPR, we talked a lot about the new church organization plan (decentralization) that shifts authority and responsibility to the Presbyteries and congregations, the important role of the new cell groups in deepening the discipleship of members and reaching out to evangelize others, the EPR priorities and communication. And there were gifts to share in both directions.
With the help of Rev. Rose Marie Ibyishaka who coordinates ministries with women for the EPR, our team member Heidi had arranged to purchase lots and lots of beautiful baskets, cloth and craft items, to provide income to the women who made the items and to bring back to sell in the U.S. with proceeds going back to the EPR to support women's ministries. It is a project that uses beautiful items to connect people in beautiful ways.
Our final afternoon was filled with packing, a bit more shopping and delightful interruptions as church leaders and friends stopped by to say goodbye before our departures. Many leaders were back in Kigali to participate in the 3:00 p.m. service at the home of Pastor Eugene to close the official period of mourning.
Often I describe the ministry of The Outreach Foundation as traveling around the church in the U.S. making friends, traveling around the world making friends and, then, introducing our friends to each other. The time in Rwanda was a rich time of meeting with and making friends, for those who were returning, like Heidi and Ebralie, and for the rest of us who were in Rwanda for the first time.
Thank you for your prayers as we journeyed. Please continue to pray for our partners in Rwanda. And if you would like to travel with The Outreach Foundation on a trip such as this one, I encourage you to visit the Trips section of our website. As we read in Habakkuk 1:15 -- "Look at the nations, and see! Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told."