Peter and Paul visit rugendabari- Rwanda
Arrived at Kigali after overnight flight. Spent most of the day finalising our programme. Heavy rain this afternoon, but lots of people out in the fields planting crops ahead of the rainy season just starting. Very full days starting tomorrow with breakfast at 7:00.
Early night tonight!
Very heavy rain overnight, dried up during the day. Off early to hill village of Gasoro, met 2 young pastors recently ordained. The diocese has 25 in training, amazing! Met pre-school group and did a song with them. Then met Mothers' Union group and handed over quantities of babies' wooly hats and jackets. Went on to Hanika where a new church is being built, not sure anyone has done a risk assessment! Visited a health centre and maternity unit and also a single mothers' group of young women with babies who were victims of rape and sexual violence. The church here is doing a fantastic job with groups like these, rebuilding lives and removing social stigma. Exhausting day, need a shower, but we have no water tonight! Welcome to Africa!
Long day, again and a varied one. Forgot to mention about yesterday, that at the end of the day, we stopped for a short visit to the King's Palace museum. Learned a lot more about Rwandan history. Some pictures of a replica of the King's House and of the sacred cattle!
Our day today started at an advanced technical centre where girls learn tailoring and boys learn bricklaying, metal work and carpentry. From there we went to visit new studios where the church is getting into the digital age, using YouTube for communications, teaching and evangelism. We were joined for lunch by our old friend Jean Pierre (now a Bishop!) and his wife Jeanne D'arc. This first part of the afternoon was really interesting and moving. We visited Shyogwe, where the official Cathedral is, but which now functions as a parish church, but it is not big enough (see the picture!).
We went from there to a peace and reconciliation group made up of genocide survivors, genocide perpetrators recently out of prison, working together for reconciliation in the community, check out the video in the link. The Church is doing amazing work in this area. Moved us all to tears. Then we went to see where they make water filters to purify water for drinking and eco friendly cookers that use more than 50% less fuel than others used in homes. Fantastic eco friendly, low cost solutions using local clay.
Final visit was to a health centre serving a wide area of population. Then back for dinner and collapse.
Off to Rugendabari tomorrow to join the Church there. Both Paul and I are speaking and I will be doing some activities with the kids! So should be an interesting day!
Sunday. Off early this morning to Rugendabari for morning service. Long drive into the wilds. Good road to start, turned off on to a bad road and finally onto a really bad road up and struggled up to the village despite 4 wheel drive! When we got there, they were waiting for us and already singing in the church.
Service lasted about 4 hours, with singing from different choirs, testimonies (one from Paul), preaching (from me). Very lively! We exchanged gifts and greetings. Over 300 there and everyone wanted to shake our hands afterwards! I've included an audio of some singing to give you an idea. Really warmly and affectionately welcomed. The pastor said to me "Thank you for coming back".
Entertained to lunch by their new pastor, Archdeacon Matthias and his wife. Left gifts for the school we collected for at SPSJ and woolen garments for babies. We then managed to link up with a young man Yvens (whom Grassroots are helping to fund for teacher training) and his little family and his 98 year old grandmother!
Went out for supper with Jonas, headmaster of the school near Muhanga we collected for, and his wife Solange and their two young children.
Long day, because of travelling but an amazing day and very worthwhile to see old friends.
Monday. Not quite so early start today. Away at 8.30.
Meant to mention that before we left yesterday, the Bishop popped in to say hello before going of to do a confirmation for over 100 candidates! Apparently quite normal here.
Different day today, off way up into the hills and wilds to see some church planting plans. They want to build a chapel in a place where there are 8 Christian families who currently spend 2 hours walking to church, a 3 or 4 hour service and 3 hours back (it's uphill all the way). It is right on the top of the hill as the pictures show. They see lots of potential here. From there we went on to a small community where they are using a house for worship. The audio is someone their worship singing. Just a small group, but a big noise. The man who started it is called Vieteur and he started it up after moving to the area. He simply said, his words "I cannot help to tell people about Jesus". The people who come tell their friends and neighbours. From nothing, they have a congregation of 33 with more potential. They put us to shame sometimes with their zeal. We were given lunch in a family home. Their hospitality was humbling.
Finally, we went to see a health post (which offers primary care). We saw the skeleton of the building when we came 3 years ago and it was good to see it up and running. It serves 120 patients a day!
While the rest of us were up in the hills, Paul was leading the first day of a 2 day seminar for prison pastors and chaplains. A wonderful opportunity to share his experience and knowledge. We understand that the prisons here are grim places!
4 visits today, long drive starting on a reasonable tarmac road, then on to a bad dirt road, then on a really bad road and then a really, really bad road. I couldn't take pictures of the really bad tracks because we were being thrown around too much!
The first visit was to a parish where they need to build a new church, close by the large school and existing church, because the current one cannot seat all regular 900 members. The young pastor Fabian has only been married a few months and was ordained last October, and still completing his training. A massive responsibility for one so young and inexperienced. There is a short audio of the welcome from the school children
The second visit was to a parish with 1300 where Grassroots had contributed to a church extension, and we wanted to see it. We were each given a gift of a box of 2 large pineapples! We will not be able to take these home, so will need to give them away.
Lunch was at a parish I have been to twice before. They lost their roof in a storm, but the building has been renewed and restored and the real church is thriving.
Our last visit was amazing! To a parish with a church on top of a hill they call Mount Horeb. The young pastor is called Innocent and has been more or less living outside, because the pastor's house was falling down. Now mainly restored with a new roof, but quite a lot of work still to do inside. The sacrifices some of these pastors and their wives make is astonishing. We were taken up to the church to be welcomed, only to find about 100 people, including choirs, for a worship service. I've put some audio and if you feel you need cheering up have a listen. There is one as we came in, one from a youth choir and one as we were leaving We have received the warmest of welcomes everywhere, but this was mind blowing, exceptional and very moving.
Out to dinner tonight with old friend Archdeacon Edouard's wife. He is in Amsterdam doing a Phd. Lovely to see her and catch up with their family news
Wednesday. Had a long drive up to a hill top village to meet Archdeacon Joseph who is also pastor of a very isolated village way up in the hills. Saw how they were getting on building the a church to serve this scattered community. Some people walk for an hour to get to church. Loads of kids everywhere. Went into the building they are currently using for introductions and update. I first met pastor Joseph in 2015. I remember him well as he is the only Rwandan I know who plays the piano accordion! We took a whole load of knitted goods and toys for the women and they fell on them! Apparently, the are ladies busy knitting hats, tops and knitted toys all over the country. We brought over 2 suitcase and loads, so we still have more to give away. Pastor Joseph asked if we ha brought any footballs. I had one back at the guest house that they will get to him. On our way back we called in on a small village to look at their church and meet their pastor Alice, only ordained 6 months, but getting stuck in to the job.
After lunch, Peter Muir and I went up to the school with the various gifts I bought with the money given by our churches. Pens, pencils, colouring crayons, Sharpies and a Basketball! All enthusiastically received! We were only expecting to pop in, but we we greeted by about half the school singing " Jesus love is very wonderful" which ha become their school anthem since I taught it to them in 2015. We also did some modern Rwandan songs which also involves dancing ( of course!) and they thought it hilarious that I was joining in. They sing and dance every morning in assembly.
Also met the staff including the pastor of the big church on the hill and the eldest son of pastor Manasseh, who was at Rugendabari on our first visit.
Back to the guest house for an evaluation meeting with Bishop Jered which was a useful time.
Paul did the second of his 2 day seminar for prison pastors and chaplains yesterday. He felt it went well, and wants to go on encouraging them to develop prison work. There are about 10,000 in prison in the 2 prisons in the diocese.
Last day tomorrow!
Thursday. Last full day in Rwanda. Morning visit with packing and relax this afternoon.
Brilliant visit to a place called Munazi up in the hills on roads that make you feel like you've been in a washing machine! Janet and I visited there in 2015 where a church had been started by 2 lay catechists. We were met then by a small group in a skeleton of a building. Now they have a new church and a pastor's house and a membership of 300, but aiming for 500! 0 to 300 in 10 years and during a 2 year pandemic is impressive to say the least!
The church runs a nursery school and the children get fed every day. They use the kitchen of the pastor's house for this to feed 40+ children. Picture follows. Eat your heart out St. James, you could have a kitchen like this in the reordering!
There is a group of mothers who have joined together to pray and work making craft items for sale to produce an income. But there is still much poverty and children in rags.
We took another load of woolen goods, which they fell on. It was holy mayhem!
It was wonderfully to see and very moving
On the way back visited another recently completed chapel in a remote area with a growing church.
A few final reflections.
It will take weeks to process what we have seen and done over this last 9 days. A country of amazing contrasts. Staggeringly beautiful, friendly, vibrant people, but great needs too. A Church that is growing fast and their zeal puts us to shame. They have enormous joy and enthusiasm in their worship and literally do pray without ceasing. They have much to teach us about evangelism and witness.
But there is great poverty too and hunger is a real problem. Cassava flour was 100 RFrancs a kilo, now 1,000! Red beans (like our kidney beans, but a bit smaller) were 300 RFrancs a kilo, now 1,500. Just over 1,000 RFrancs to the £. Not so bad in the country if you can grow your own food. Jonas, the head teacher and his wife, also a teacher can barley make ends meet an have to keep rabbits for food and grow their own. Inflation is running at over 20%. Puts some of our problems into context. Still many children in rags, but others doing better with families making huge sacrifices to get their children educated.
And there are frustrations. Some lack attention to detail and maintenance issues not attended to on the health centres and health posts and the same with some church buildings. Power cuts and loss of water a problem. Terrible roads once off the tarmac.
Amazing technology. Drone delivery of blood and drugs to hospitals, while others walk, use push bikes for transport for haulage. And nobody uses credit cards, because they just pay everything on their phones. They have leap frogged contactless!
That will do for now. Looking forward to getting home.