Rwanda #8: All Creatures of our God and King
by Erika Shapiro, for the team
Friday, Day Seven.
Our alarms went off before the sun came up this morning, and we eagerly greeted our driver for an absolutely incredible experience in God’s creation. We picked up Ebralie’s sister Mary and Pastor Julius as we headed for Akegera National Park. Our bus, which became our home for the day, was well-equipped for our journey with big window seats for everyone, plenty of seat belts, and even room to stand up for a better view in the park. Driving to the park gave us a great picture of daily life in Rwanda, as we traveled through the busy city of Kigali and then into the countryside. We witnessed the hustle and bustle of the city as we drove through town, and then as the topography changed to accommodate Rwanda’s rich agricultural backbone, we saw workers of all ages in the fields, tending to their growing crops. The rural area is so beautiful, and the people work so hard to yield fertile crops in this land of 1000 hills.
After a three hour drive, we arrived at Akegera National Park, where we added our wonderful tour guide, Sam, to our adventure. We were amazed at what we saw! It is such a unique, humbling, and rich experience to see animals, both big and small, thriving in their natural habitat. Our six hour drive through the park was incredible. We saw many beautiful species of birds, impalas, zebras, and baboons. Many of the baboons had babies with them and it was a treat to see them caring for their young. We were excited about a picnic lunch at Hippo Beach, but as we arrived and were enjoying watching the hippos and crocodiles in the lake, we got word that we might experience a rare elephant sighting if we headed out quickly. We hopped back in the bus for peanut butter sandwiches on the road and much to our delight were soon in position to see a big group of elephants, old and young! We were so close to them we could hear them eating the grass! It was delightful to watch them. At one point, another elephant walked out from the bushes to greet the rest of them, and the elephants locked trunks as a welcoming gesture. They are such intelligent, magnificent creatures. From there we saw animals that live on the plains...many Cape buffalo, warthogs, giraffes, and water bucks. Sam was very helpful and taught us many fun facts about the animals and how their special characteristics help them to hunt or to hide. God is so creative! Though our list of sightings was long, it was not inclusive of all of the animals that live in the park. What a gift to have shared this experience together! Not only did we get a front row seat to God’s handiwork, we also got to spend concentrated time together in a uniquely beautiful setting. Ada and Parish even learned some new Kinyarwandan words from Pastor Julius while we drove!
After our journey, we had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant. The President of the EPR, Reverend Doctor Pascal Bataringaya and the Vice President, Reverend Julie Kandema, made time in their busy schedules to invite us to enjoy a meal with them. They are so very gracious, and we are very thankful for the time we had with them around the table. They truly love the Lord and press on faithfully in His Kingdom work here in Rwanda. Even as they work hard to grow and sustain the church and its calling here in their beautiful Africa, they consistently express deep gratitude for our prayers and partnership from the United States. Their beautiful hospitality has spoken powerfully to us this week, and their commitment to hearing God’s call and taking action in their communities has inspired us. We are so grateful for their willingness to share ideas with us and to hear ours. The Lord has, is, and will continue to be faithful. What a treasure it was today to see his fingerprints in His wild creation and on His beautiful people.