Rwanda #7: Wounds are Deep but Reconciliation is Deeper

by Sara DeVries, for the team

A new Outreach Foundation member, Frank, joined our team last night. We met him at breakfast and peppered him with questions, mostly related to his family of 10. He spoke of his wife’s ‘big heart’ and a home of 8 kiddos. His story is beautiful and inspiring and the way he answers God’s call was a real treat to listen to.

We hopped in two cars just a few minutes after our scheduled departure time and headed for Remera, a countryside village. The drive there took us out of Kigali in a way we had yet to travel and we passed through some very busy intersections where a passive driver might find themselves stuck all day. We passed the bus hub and food markets and a million motorcycles and a zillion walkers. There was so much movement.

As we rounded the curve we began to climb one of the thousand hills you find here in Rwanda, and we saw rice patties and a river that leads to the Nile and we saw more hills in the distance. It was green and beautiful. We found ourselves going up and down these hills until we turned onto a dirt road. There were a few signs pointing us to the Presbyterian church and I think we passed 3 churches en route to the Presbyterian hospital, which was our destination. We arrived at the hospital to find a bunch of youth cutting up cabbage outside of a kitchen that consisted of about 5 fires with pots on top. That group of youth is called the Dorcas group. It consists of a lot of young people who come to the hospital about once a month to share the word of God and to share a meal with the patients. At this hospital, they have what is called a guardianship program where the patients have to have someone come along with them to cook for them, with the guardian’s own pots and pans. The hospital does not provide food, nor the utensils for feeding. So maybe you can understand how meaningful it is to have this amazing, mature group of Sunday school kids between the ages of 11-18, serving a meal to these patients. We did our best to jump in to be a part. Tinsley cut the cabbage. Kendall helped with the potatoes. Parish and Ada started making friendship bracelets, and taught many a youth how to make them. Sort of out of nowhere, it began to pour down rain. Go figure the one day I forget my rain jacket and/or long sleeve shirt, the sky opens up. Once the potatoes were finished, we filled the room with friendship bracelets and singing and dancing together with this group of young people. There was for sure a language barrier, but joy and dancing and singing are universal. Eventually, we took part in a chapel service for the patients. One of the boys from the Dorcas group preached the word. It was on the story in the Bible about the storm on the boat while Jesus slept which required the disciples to wake Jesus up to get him to intervene. This young man encouraged us, knowing that we will all have storms in life, by  inviting us to wake Jesus up to intervene in our storms. He was so poised and mature. More dancing and singing followed. Afterwards, we helped serve the meal to the pediatric patients parents; and based on the size of the pot, the portion size was determined, which was a little bit awkward.

We quickly ate a delicious lunch together and then headed to a meeting that was happening at the Presbyterian church in town. We met up with a group of about 30 PCUSA peacemakers and an even larger group of Remera-n locals. The locals were a part of a Light Group which means that with some training and much forgiveness, this group is made up of both perpetrators and survivors of the genocide. They sit next to each other, they eat together, they celebrate the weddings of each other’s kids. One of the survivors spoke of the pain and difficulty involved in forgiving the man who stood in front of her genuinely apologizing for killing her husband and her child. Each of the members of the group had a story like that one, from either the forgiven or the forgiver. I felt speechless. I still sort of feel speechless. It is almost too beautiful and painful for my brain and heart to process. The wounds are deep but the reconciliation is deeper. What an amazing picture of God’s grace.

We visited the Pastors Genocide memorial afterwards where 41 Presbyterian pastors are buried and we heard horror stories about the genocide. The call of both Rwandans and visitors to remember the genocide is a hard call but also they (and we would now too) would argue that it is the only possible way to prevent the ugliest evil ever from happening again. We must remember. Gratefully, Parish, Ada, and Pastor Julius (a really dear human that has accompanied us for much of our time here) engaged the school kiddos outside which gave us a small little decompressor post remembering.

We headed back to Kigali for dinner out and then a sweet family time where we debriefed our surprises and the ways in which we saw God today. Most spoke of all of the laughing that happened today. What a gift it is to be here together, laughing our way through the highs and the lows.