Tuesday, October 23, 2007

From Kigali

October 21, 2007
Jetlag is still in effect on our bodies as we are all now waking up around 4-4:30am and dozing in and out of sleep from there. For the most part I’ve done well with sleep and feeling rested during the day, but I’m sure I’ll get fully acclimated just as we prepare to go back to the US and start all over again.

I took my first bucket shower of the trip (I had done “wet-wipe showers” in Lwala) and it was probably better than most bucket showers since Norma had warmed water for us to use. I splashed water on my body and soaped up a little before rinsing off. The warm water felt great on my skin, since my other showers on the trip thus far had been lukewarm at best. A nice bath is very appealing right now!

After a brief breakfast of tea, hard boiled eggs and bread we headed to the hotel to pick up the rest of the crew. During the day we visited 3 communities that had received clean water in the past 6 months through the work of GWAKO and funds of BWM. The first village was fairly small, though the well serves about 1500 people in the area. I had seen video footage of what happens when we’ve visited communities in the past, but nothing is like the real thing.

As the matatu bounded from rut to rut a faint singing could be heard. We turned a corner of bushes and suddenly the vehicles were surrounded by villagers singing and dancing. I could barely step out of the back of the matatu before my hands were grabbed and arms raised in the air by some women, pulling me into the celebration. The crowd gradually made its way toward a seating area under some shade trees.

Since most homes are too small, village members will bring chairs and couches to a shaded area and set up an outdoor meeting room. As introductions are made, drinks (typically bottles of Sprite, Coca Cola, and Fanta Orange or Grape) and snack crackers are placed on coffee tables in front of the guests. Its good to be wise with how fast and how much you drink because they are quick to crack open another drink for you if the first bottle gets too low.

Introductions are great because they provide opportunities to not only hear from the community members but to also share something about yourself. In preparation for the trip I had spent some time thinking about what I would say in 60-90 seconds via a translator. I could just give my name and a simple “hello” or I could give some thoughtful words of encouragement and try to connect a little deeper. Its an honor to represent so many people in America and bring greetings from them. Its also a privilege to walk side by side with these friends in Africa and remind them that we are all impoverished in our souls and need each other as well as a reliance on God in order to wake up every day with hope.

Another portion of the program usually involved acting or singing and dancing by village members. Then a few representatives would get up to speak about the difference clean water was making in their lives. They would share about how they used to have so much more sickness that resulted in vomiting and diarrhea and that from the time they received clean water and improved their hygiene habits they had not been sick. They were living longer and feeling stronger. They could care for the widows and orphans more easily.

Jena would take an opportunity to talk with them as well. She has taken great care to learn Luo (the primary language of western Kenya) enough to be genuine and expressive with the village members. She is loved and welcomed with her charisma and ability to treat everyone at a family level. She would encourage the community members to keep up the good work, reminding them that they had the ability and knowledge to keep moving forward and that we were thankful to walk alongside them. She would also encourage the young girls and women to make good decisions with men and to go to school so that they could live out their dreams.

Sometimes meals are provided as well including foods such as rice, chicken or beef, some cooked greens and ugali (like pound cake in density and cream of wheat in taste). Great care and intention would be behind the meal, representing the thanksgiving of the village. We learned that if visiting more than one community that is serving a meal, its wise to not eat too much in order to eat a little at each place and acknowledge their efforts. They take great pride in giving back for what they’ve received.

The second community we visited was a church group. They had a pond that they had used for water during the rainy season, and otherwise they walked 2km each way to a stream of filthy water before they received a well. Another NGO (non-governmental organization) had come several years ago and never finished drilling. The community had been patient but experienced many letdowns along the way. Finally GWAKO was able to come and put in a well with a hand pump to fill the need. They were so thrilled that they requested another well within the 1km area to alleviate the pressure on the one source. I think we were all captivated by the village members’ ownership and pride. They emanated a true excitement from improved health and strength, which only they would know.

The final community we visited included some widows and orphans. During the program a dance troupe of many of the orphans performed a beautiful choreographed dance. Though orphans were likely present at any other point of the day, I was struck with the realization of how vital the community members were to each other and how helpful clean water was to them.

We dashed to the Kisumu Airport to catch our flight back to Nairobi. The airport is small, and after checking in we wandered to the outdoor eating/relaxing to get some fresh air. About 20 minutes before we were to board our plane, a representative came out and told us the flight had been cancelled, and if we hurried they would get us on the other flight that was about to leave. What a relief that they told us, as we would have had to wait until morning to try to fly out again!

We flew to Nairobi and joined some friends at a mzungu hang aptly named “The Carnivore.” It is what it sounds like: meat, meat, and more meat. As you walk in you pass a huge pit with various meats spinning over flames. The waiters bring skewers of meat to each person, and you simply tell them if you want it or not…typical meat like chicken, pork, beef, turkey, as well as exotic meat like ostrich meatballs and crocodile. I tried everything except the chicken liver and particularly liked the ostrich meatballs. I also celebrated a return to sweets with a chocolate chip brownie topped with vanilla ice cream!

October 22, 2007
We stayed again at the Gracia Gardens and flew the next morning to Kigali, Rwanda. My anticipation had been building for this portion of the trip. A few weeks ago we rented Beyond the Gates, a lesser known movie about the Rwandan genocide released by the BBC and a UK film company around the same time as Hotel Rwanda. It retold the true story of a Catholic school in Kigali that became a refuge for Tutsi’s as the genocide erupted throughout the city and countryside in April 1994. I was struck by the more humanistic/less Hollywood approach that opened eyes a little more to the raw brutality of the events before and during the genocide. It really twisted deep in Cari and me as we considered God and the Gospel in the midst of pure evil.

Landing in Kigali brought the movie to life visually; it was as if I had just been here as I looked across the rolling landscape and city. Except the city was filled with life and hope now. Every turn as we drove toward our hotel brought images from the movie and horrors that took place throughout the streets and homes. Though Rwandans can’t erase history, they have done a lot in recent years to create a new chapter and positive response to show what hope looks like in the depths of despair.

We visited with out partners at Geneva Global and heard some firsthand accounts of our projects in beginning stages and the villagers they will impact. Though Rwanda brings its own set of strengths and difficulties, a lot of the factors remain the same including the need for clean water as a good starting place in community development and health improvements.

Rich and I then went to Kigali Genocide Museum and Memorial. Words can’t adequately express a lot of the emotions and thoughts, but I don’t think you have to be here to be affected; Perhaps it implicates deeper than words on paper or scenes from a movie but being there only reignited and refueled the anger and the sadness in me over the genocide. This kind of evil pierces any beating heart.

Yet I was also struck by the love and mercy that were heroically displayed by normal humans. The dense darkness could not prevail against these things. At some point evil would run out and defeat itself, coming to its end once again. Its hard to answer the questions “Where was God during the genocide?” or How could God let this happen?”

I remember the story of Jesus and the man born blind. The disciples wanted to know why the man was born blind, looking for someone to blame to quell their uncertainty and lack of explanation. In their minds someone was responsible and needed to pay. Jesus responded by saying that the man was born blind not because of his own sin or his father’s sin, but in order for God’s hand of mercy to be displayed for all to see and believe. The fact that we’re not all born blind is mercy from God. The fact that there are survivors from the genocide and everyday heroes spread throughout Rwanda is the mercy of God on display. While we join some of the disciples in replying, “these are very hard sayings” Jesus sits next to us and with his hand on shoulder and head nestled close reminds us of His promises that never fail and the provision He always gives, particularly in sacrificing His own life in order to bring life through death. We should instead ask, “Where was God during the death of Christ”—the most unjust event in history—and remember that God was right there in his promises and fullness.


At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing such beautiful, hopeful thoughts.



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