Thursday, April 22, 2010

Land Of A Thousand Hills – Part 4

Easter Sunday was an interesting holiday to spend in Rwanda. We were going to church that morning with another missionary family with WorldVenture. Before church, Kacie had made coffee cake to celebrate the day. I totally wish that I would have taken pictures of us in our Easter dresses (which were really just dresses that could be rolled up easily into our backpacks) but alas, I have no visual proof of our Easter looks. To quell any fears, neither of us wore large white hats or white socks with the lace on top that would be rolled over. The Brubakers picked us up in their van and we sat with their three incredibly adorable children on the way to church. They explain a bit about the church we were going to. Since Tim, the husband, works with local pastors, they often do not have a regular church that they are at every Sunday. When they’re in Kigali, they attend the one we went to. It’s a popular church in Kigali and a place where many government officials, expatriates and lots of white people attend. They’re also one of the only that speaks English, which is a bonus for their kids (and us). There could truly be nothing more opposite with the church that we attend in Kampala where I’d be shocked if a government official showed up and where we’re one of the few white people. The service in Kigali was perhaps the most Western service that we’ve been to since being in Africa. Wait, perhaps? Sorry. Yes, yes it was. There was this white man leading the choir on his keyboard and it was all very Don Moen-esque, if that makes sense. A white man leading worship on a keyboard also made me think of David McKinney and where he’ll be in 30 years. J

Though normally they have a white man who speaks, this Sunday they had one of their Rwandan staff. It was a fascinating day to be there. That Wednesday would be the start of memorial week. That Wednesday, it would be exactly 16 years since the start of the genocide. If we understood correctly, the memorial week was a time of mourning for the country but the mourning would continue for the next 100 days, the length of the genocide. On Easter, we celebrate not only death in the death of Christ but we celebrate life in His resurrection. The message encouraged its listeners to see how death was defeated but also to live a life of forgiveness.

Forgiveness was a theme we heard throughout our days in Rwanda. Stephen, our guide at Nyamata church, had told us how he had forgiven the man that had killed his family. They actually have a good relationship now. In the museum, we learned how those that were killers in the genocide are on parole but living in neighborhoods throughout the city. When they come to live in a neighborhood, the whole group meets together where the person is introduced to their neighbors and admits what they have done. They are paying their sentence still and the neighbors are asked to live in forgiveness with them. It was inspiring to see the theme of forgiveness that was weaved into the culture.

It’s an incredible look into forgiveness which, to be honest, is something that I’ve been working on here. Over the years, seeing what I saw, living where I did and working where I did, cynicism and hurt was built up. I knew I was cynical then but I didn’t understand how deep it went and all that it affected. It became this accepted form of life. Add living in the Bible belt and in the mix of that, my relationship with God became a religion. I added all these to-do’s and not-to-do’s to my relationship with Him. I lived a life of expectations instead of expectancy. To expound on that, I give you one more excerpt from “The Shack”:

(Papa/God) “Let’s use the example of friendship and how removing the element of life from a noun can drastically alter a relationship. Mack, if you and I are friends, there is an expectancy that exists within our relationship. When we see each other or are apart, there is expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that ‘expectancy’ to an ‘expectation’ – spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend”… “I’ve never placed an expectation on you or anyone else. The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior to get the desired result. Humans try to control behavior largely through expectations, I know you and everything about you. Why would I have an expectation other than what I already know? That would be foolish. And beyond that, because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me.” (Young, 205-206)

This whole concept has radically changed my relationship with Christ. Perhaps it’s why “The Shack” was such a needed book for me during this trip. It strips all that excess insanity that we add on to what is a beautiful relationship with the Most High God. I’ve been seeing lately how much has gotten in the way between my Abba and me, mainly because of living with expectations. How beautiful to live in expectancy with my Savior.

All that to say, unforgiveness was one of those things that I was holding onto that slowly by slowly, God’s been healing and working with me on. I had bitterness and anger stored deep inside for people who would never ask for my forgiveness. Is forgiveness reserved only for when someone asks for it?

Forgiveness is a choice. A hard one, yes, but still a choice. It’s not something that you wake up one day and you “feel” it. What many (clearly, not all) Rwandans have realized is that they have a choice to make. Unforgiveness ruins you. If that were the route that Rwandans chose, they would be the walking dead; still alive physically but ruined inside. Instead, many have chosen forgiveness. Their country was in shambles. They had many choices to make but there had to be forgiveness. Isn’t that insane? When I think of what all they saw and experienced, I can’t imagine getting to the point of not only forgiving but also befriending. To see someone one day hacking your mother to death and then years later, considering that person your friend. The effects of forgiveness run deep and wide as do the effects of unforgiveness. I’ve seen both sides in my life. Living it out is difficult. But, I think, if those Rwandans can forgive their killers, how can I hold things against people for less? And, even more, if God can forgive me, how could I possibly not forgive others?

After church on Sunday, we were dropped back at Audrey’s place. I spent the day finishing up “Redeeming Love”. The book ends with Angel stripping all the layers off that have kept her between her and her Husband. The first few times I’d read the book, I always thought it was the oddest ending. But, how true! In order for me to experience His love, I need to rid myself of what I’ve put between us. It’s so…freeing. Not living by expectations but living in expectancy. Throwing off all that hinders and living in His love. It feels like weights have been lifted off my heart.

My journey to Rwanda was more than a bus ride. It was more than genocide and museums. It became a part of my journey with God in the most unexpected ways. It had me grappling with God and myself in ways that I had avoided before.

On Monday, we rode the bus back to Uganda. I looked at those same streams that were once filled with bodies and marveled. I marveled at how our great God works in the most wretched of circumstances. I was amazed at His forgiveness. I was completely humbled by the depth of His love, by His expectancy in our relationship with Him.

Though I still mourn for Rwanda, I’m filled with hope for their future. With a focus on forgiveness, they’re taking steps forward. I pray that each Rwandan chooses forgiveness and that they discover the freedom in a relationship with Christ.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Land Of A Thousand Hills – Part 3

Sorry for the incredibly long delay in getting this out. I also had little time to edit this so pardon any misspellings, poor grammar, random sentences that make no sense, etc. Part 4 will hopefully follow soon. Enjoy!

We got ready on Saturday bracing for an adventurous day. We didn’t know if the genocide museum would be open but either way, we knew we’d be driving around Kigali. While the road system is absolutely incredible in Rwanda (have I emphasized that enough?), they drive on the right side of the road. As we’ve adjusted to driving on the left side of the road in Uganda, it would be an adventure remembering right instead of left.

Kacie driving on the LEFT side of the car and on the RIGHT side of the road. So weird.

Me in the passenger seat feeling like I was supposed to be driving.

It was also a city that we had never navigated, only having crudely drawn marker maps from Audrey. We looked up Google Maps (praise God for the internet…and Google Maps) and made up our own crudely drawn maps for our route that day. We got to the museum with this:

The Gisozi Genocide Museum

We set off and found the genocide museum easily. After attempting to go in the wrong entrance and having to back up awkwardly into traffic to then get to the right entrance, we were golden. The museum was just that, a museum. In ways, I had heard most of the information before due to all the research I’ve done on the genocide. There were parts that I had not seen and understood. There were pictures of people that I had only heard their names. Knowing that Bagosora was one of the instrumental organizers of the genocide, I anticipated seeing his face for the first time. I looked at the picture, stared at his eyes and wondered how any man could do such horrific things. There were some pictures of the dead. I stared at their cut up bodies and mourned. There was one particular picture that I could not take my eyes from. In ways, it sounds so morbid. However, it was staring at everything I had read. I had seen the words but even through that, could not visualize this horror. The museum put pictures to the words. It put faces to those who were slaughtered and to those who slaughtered.

At the end of the informational part of the museum, they had a room of pictures. The pictures were of those who had died in the genocide, brought by their family and friends. They had five or so sections that had picture after picture lined. Pictures that were full of life. A husband and wife on their wedding day. A large family celebrating over a feast of food. A family picture filled with the smiles of children. The pictures were full of LIFE being lived out. And that life was taken away.

It was there that I broke down. They had little chairs in each section. I sat in one, rocking back and forth, tears filling my eyes, silently asking, “why God why God why God WHY?” Why did You let this happen? Why were these beautiful people so horribly killed? It makes no sense. Though I’m sure I’m sounding like a broken record about this, it was then that I went back to my readings from “The Shack”. I had to rest in my knowledge of God. I had to rest in His purpose. I could not be the judge of God for He is the judge, not me. I worked through a lot in that little room. Though there were thousands, I wanted to look at every single picture. Each picture represented a life. I wanted them to be seen. I wanted to see them.

After that part of the museum, you head upstairs to the children’s section. It makes me want to throw up remembering. There, they would have a picture of a child. There would be a placard below listing their name, their favorite food, their favorite thing to do and finally, how they were killed. It was truly unthinkable. You look into their faces, into their eyes, and wonder, “how could anyone do such a thing to you?”.

At the end of that exhibit, you can walk outside and enter into these beautiful gardens. Also outside is a mass grave of, get this, approximately 258,000. Two hundred fifty eight thousand human beings, all slaughtered to death. For what? For what purpose were they tortured and killed? Because, as we learned in the museum, at one point, their ancestors either had more than ten cows or less than ten cows. When the Germans came to colonize Rwanda, it was they who split the people into two groups. Prior to colonization, there was no distinction. The Germans came and proclaimed that whoever had more than ten cows was a Tutsi and those who had less than ten cows was a Hutu. And that was that. Though the Tutsi’s ruled for awhile, they were the minority and were thrown over by the majority. Ever since the 1960’s, there have been mass killings of Tutsi’s. Genocide was attempted long before April of 1994 and was tried many times. This time, they were almost successful of completely wiping out the Tutsi’s. Almost.

100 days. 1 million people.

Kacie and I talked about this a lot: we were alive. 1994. I mean, where were you? I was in what, 5th grade? I was alive. My grandparents can talk about World War 2 but I have no memories. I was alive during this genocide and knew nothing about it. Even more tragic, the country I lived in knew all about it and did absolutely nothing to help or stop it.

As I mentioned before, if ever I were in trouble in the States, I would call the police. But, if the US were ever in a mass killing scenario controlled by the government, I would think, ‘but surely, other countries will come and help us! They see that we’re all getting killed here, need help and they will come! Surely, Britain! Other countries that we have helped, they will come. We’ll be saved!”

I can’t imagine what it’s like for Rwandans today. The thing is, they know the truth. They know that even if this all happens again, no one will come. How? Because no one came before. No one came to save them. The UN presence was crippled by the lack of world support and was reduced to being attacked and watching the slaughter happen before their eyes (read “Shake Hands With The Devil” by Romeo Dallaire, the UN Commander there at the time. Stunning.). The world watched them be slaughtered and did nothing. Can you imagine the hopelessness they have today? I can’t even begin to imagine it.

After the heaviness of the museum, we could handle no more genocide. We navigated our way to the Union Trade Center, a shopping mall in Kigali using our handy dandy drawn map.

We parked there and walked in the torrential downpour that began to a restaurant that we had heard about. We took a wrong turn (always a plus in the rain) and happened upon the Hotel des Milles Collines, aka THE Hotel Rwanda.

I had a mix of emotions. I forget if I mentioned this before and it’s far too late for me to double check so bear with me if this is a repeat. When we asked about visiting Hotel Rwanda, we were informed by our hostess that all was not as it seemed. The infamous hotel manager, Paul, is currently in America. He couldn’t come back to Rwanda if he wanted to as, if he did, he would be arrested and charged with genocide crimes. Though he did save some people in the hotel, he also allowed others to be killed instead of his family and took place in the killings as well.

I KNOW! I was totally heartbroken. Rwandans apparently can’t stand him, especially as he’s presented himself to be so incredible when, in fact, he wasn’t.

Since it was pouring, we passed the hotel in search of Shokola, a delicious Mediterranean restaurant which would be our retreat in the rain. A block later, we discovered our oasis and relaxed. We read some, discussed and processed the past two days of overwhelming genocide overload, ate delicious food and waited for the rain to pass.

A blurry picture of Hotel des Milles Collines thanks to Kacie not wanting to deal with the taxi's constantly asking if we wanted a ride.

Once it did, we went back to the hotel where I was determined to take a picture and go inside. A lot happened at that hotel, no matter what truth Paul told or not. The hotel was beautiful inside. I looked around the upscale lobby and wondered how it all went down. By the way, it looks nothing like the movie. They should have filmed it there though since it is truly beautiful. I wonder if they’ve remodeled. Anyway, Kacie was NOT about being a tourist at this place so we headed out quickly. It’s a good thing the guards ignored the two random white girls just walking around.

We headed back towards the Union Trade Center and attempted to find Rwandan crafts, particularly the pottery that they are known for. We searched to no avail. We wandered the Union Trade Center, which was much less exciting than I anticipated. We then headed back home to make dinner, relax and read. Our time in Rwanda was such a great time to just READ. I made my way through “Redeeming Love” each day and saw myself in Angel while overwhelmed by God’s pursuing and faithful love. I needed to grasp His love during this trip…and He knew it.

I also made some of the best white sauce I’ve ever made that night. Mm…

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Land Of A Thousand Hills – Part 2

We awoke on Good Friday morning wondering what our plans would be for the day. Audrey was in town until around noon and was able to draw us some maps and give us a number for a taxi driver. Since it was Good Friday, we weren’t sure what would be open making our plans tentative. Audrey drew some maps for us, Charles, our taxi driver, arrived and we were off.

First stop: the airport…but not to fly away. While Uganda has lots of ATMs in which to retrieve money, Rwanda doesn’t. One of the only places she knew of where to use an ATM was the airport. While Rwanda is way ahead of Uganda in some ways (must I tell you again how incredible the road system is there!?), they are behind in other ways. We got our money and headed to Bourbon Café, this infamous coffee shop in Kigali. It’s the only coffee shop that I’ve heard of in Africa where you can get coffee to go. Sure, if I asked here in Kampala, they would stick it in a small Styrofoam cup with a plastic lid that doesn’t have a drink tab (and would take at least 20 min…but that part is everywhere in Africa) but clearly, not the same. We had lunch there and felt somehow like we were in America with the typical coffee shop décor.

After lunch, we called Charles again. Once we figured out that the genocide museum wasn’t open, we decided to go to Nyamata church, a place of massacre during the genocide. I didn’t realize that we would be going so far out of Kigali. Charles headed towards the countryside and all of those lush green hills. I couldn’t stop staring out the window as we passed shacks, running children and that stunning scenery.

We arrived at the church and walked up, unsure of what to expect. Even writing about this, my heart is just aching at what I heard and saw. I will try to do it justice.

On April 7, 1994, the genocide in Rwanda began. An Italian nun started to protect Tutsi’s at the Catholic church in the rural town of Nyamata. It was discovered that she was protecting Tutsi’s and, as she was about to enter her home one night, she was murdered. With the attention her murder received, the protected Tutsi’s at the church were discovered. At that time, there were 10,000 men, women and children packed in behind the iron gates of the church. Some killers came to “rid the land of the cockroaches”. Some of the Tutsi men came to fight them off. Once the killers realized that there was such opposition, they called in the army.

Wait, did you read that right? Did I just say that the government was involved in the genocide? Yes. Yes, I did. Please put yourself in the shoes of these people. If you felt your life was at risk, what would you do? Who would you call? In America, you call the police. You can trust them. They have your safety in mind. What if it were the police that were trying to kill you? What would you do? Maybe call a close friend? What if that close friend wanted to kill you too? Is there a sense of helplessness that’s invading your mind right now? It did mine when I processed through that at the church. These people had no one fighting for them and nowhere to go. They went to the place where they thought they would be safe: a church.

While the killers only had access to such weapons as hammers and machetes, the army had powerful weapons and grenades. Grenades were thrown in killing some, injuring more. The iron bars of the church were chopped off…and the torturous massacre began.

When I think of mass killing, I think of a quick death that kills many. I think of people being shot in mass groups. It was not so for those at the church. Armed with machetes, the men entered the church. They killed some but their goal was to instill fear. I’ve been unsure of what to share since these stories are horrific. I want to share their stories not to be grotesque but praying that your heart will break for people that may be thousands of miles away from you, but are still people. They are humans, just like you and me...and they are no less human and no less important than you or me. So, here are some of the stories of such God-created and loved humans...

There was a pregnant Hutu woman who was married to a Tutsi man. When asked why she married a “cockroach”, she answered that she was in love with him. They then gave her two options: kill him or you will both be killed. Sobbing, she informed them that she could not kill the man she loved. They then told her that they wanted to see what a Tutsi baby looked like and preceded to drag her to the front of the church towards the altar. They laid her on the altar, cut her stomach open and took the baby out. After seeing what they wanted, they killed the baby. She was then killed along with her husband. The above picture is the altar in which she was tortured and killed on.

In the process of their killings, they cut one man’s head off. After this, they threw his head to a group of Tutsi’s, forcing them play soccer with the dead man’s head as the “ball”.

Killing 10,000 people by machete and hammers is exhausting work. Their first blow would not be lethal. They would often cut off the arms and feet first so that the person could not escape. They were slowly hacking the people to death. With the men tiring in their killing, they recruited the help of their wives to kill the women and children. The children had been cordoned off in an area of the church to keep them safe. There was no safe place in this church. The women would pick up the children by their legs and swing their heads towards the brick wall. If a male killer wanted to test the sharpness of his machete, fearing it would have become dull with all the killing, they would bring a child for him to cut their head off. The above picture shows the section where the children had been kept. I touched the walls tearing over the weapon they had become.

It’s the children that make me want to sob. I can’t imagine looking at these young innocent faces and doing this to them.

Our guide at the church told us that people who had money were actually paying the killers to shoot them with a gun instead of a torturous death by machete. Can you imagine?

It took two days to kill so many. The ones that were still alive at the end of the first day were injured to the point where they would not be able to move. The killers returned the next day to finish off the rest.

There were seven people who survived the massacre at Nyamata church. One of these was our guide. My heart breaks for him. Every single day, he relives the worst day of his life. Every day, he returns to the place that he experienced hell on earth. Please pray for him. I’m not sure where he is at in the forgiveness process but I can’t imagine how it is for him.

Today, the benches of the church are filled with the clothes of those who died in the genocide. Some of the clothes are the ones that were on those who died in the church that day. Some are from others who died in the genocide elsewhere but their remaining loved ones have brought a piece of clothing to the church to remember them. It’s eerie. You walk around seeing shoes, hats, shirts, pants, jewelry, rosaries and more. Personal items of those who died for no reason.

Also at the church is a mass grave of 48,000 of those who died in the genocide. We walked through these underground graves filled with skulls with machete marks and many bones. For every skull, I thought of the person that it had belonged to. I almost broke down in sobs while standing there. Why did these people have to die? And in this way? It was all just so nonsensical. Only a few of the bodies in the mass graves have been identified. The rest are in a pile of bones; their personalities, talents and life wiped away from the earth. We will never know their smiles. We will never know what they loved to do or what they were good at. We will never know how they could have bettered the world we live in. I couldn’t take any pictures of the bones. Though they had died in the most disrespectful way, I wanted to at least give them that respect in their grave.

The ride back to Kigali was filled with a somber silence. I stared out the windows again at the beautiful countryside wondering how it had been full of such tragedy. I watched the children running by and wondered how anyone could hurt them. I saw men and women going about their work wondering what they experienced and what nightmares they have at night. Were they survivors or killers?

There was another Rwandan, Stephen, who also led us around the church. He wasn’t at the church during the genocide but he survived the genocide and has lost all of his family besides his sister and grandmother because of it. As we walked around the church outside, he stated, “there are some things that I wish I could ask God someday like, “where were you during this time? Did you know this was going on?”.

Kacie and I talked later about how, in a really twisted way, the genocide was an act of God’s love. God hasn’t made us puppets but has given us a free will to make choices. God cares so much about giving us this free will that things like this happen. Reading “The Shack” was a big part of me being able to process this day. Allow me to insert an excerpt of the book to show you what I mean:

(Mack)“But, if I understand what you’re saying, the consequences of our selfishness are part of the process that brings but to the end of our delusions, and help us find you. Is that why you don’t stop every evil?...

(Papa/God) “If only it were that simple, Mackenzie. Nobody knows what horrors I have saved the world from ‘cuz people can’t see what never happened. All evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice. If I were to simply revoke all the choices of independence, the world as you know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning. This world is not a playground where I keep all my children free from evil. Evil is the chaos of this age that you brought to me, but it will not have the final say. Now it touches everyone that I love, those who follow me and those who don’t. If I take away the consequences of people’s choices, I destroy the possibility of love. Love that is forced is no love at all.” (Young, 190, emphasis added)

Do you see what I mean?

The evil that was chosen on that fateful day in April is indescribable, unbelievable and heart wrenching. The stories are etched in my heart and mind and still make my stomach curl in disgust. In the next 100 days, one million people would be slaughtered in this way. Some by strangers. Some by husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, neighbors, pastors and more. I’m still processing this. I can’t understand the “why” because there’s not an excusable answer that would suffice. I have a choice to either shake my fist and, like Stephen, ask God, “where were You!? Did You know what was going on and did nothing!?”.

Or, I can praise Him that His love extends to depths that I will never fully comprehend.

It is my choice.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Land Of A Thousand Hills, Part 1

Allow me to give some background to these next few entries. I have wanted to go to Rwanda since before I even moved to Uganda; intrigued, curious and saddened by the genocide so many years ago. When I landed in Uganda, it became an obsession. I had so desperately wanted fully understand this despicable time in history. I wanted to feel it, see it, touch it, smell it. I’ve read numerous books that detailed the before, during and after of the genocide as well as personal survivor stories. I finished one a few weeks ago and determined that I was done. I could read no more of these horrible atrocities. My heart had been completely broken. When the opportunity came up to go to Rwanda, I was nervous. I didn’t know if I could take it. I didn’t know if emotionally, I would be able to handle it. I had read all the words, felt the emotions but had yet to see, touch and smell. I was about to do just that.

It was Tuesday night. Kacie and I were both sitting at the table bemoaning the fact that Kate was leaving the next day for the States to be gone for three weeks and that we would be all alone without her and falling apart. Maybe that was just me. It was then that we realized that we had a four day weekend coming up. It was decided that we should DO something. We’d both wanted to go to Rwanda and since Kate has already gone, it was decided. Within minutes, the planning began. 24 hours later, I was packing for Rwanda ready to head on a bus down on Thursday morning.

5 days. 26 hours on a bus. 1 backpack.

I’m a girl. Do you even know how hard this was to pack for!?

We (um, I) were running late on Thursday morning. We planned on taking boda’s down to where the bus left. Traffic was insane getting into town. The day before when I had bought the tickets, my friend had informed me that these buses “kept time”. Here, most everything is African time, which translates into whenever it happens, it happens. But, when they say that something or someone “keeps time”, it means that it is on time. I started getting worried as I continued to check my watch. The bus was taking off at 8:30am and we were cutting it close. At one point, I told my boda that we needed to get there FAST (something I never tell them for fear of them doing something crazy to get me somewhere) as the bus was about to leave. In that process, I got hit (not hard) by a taxi (totally the taxi’s fault, not my boda’s) but it added to my frustration of the morning. At that point, it was 8:30. We weren’t there.

Oh. My. Word.

We literally pulled up as the bus was backing up. We busted our tails on the bus, sat in our seats and breathed a sigh of relief…knowing also that we wouldn’t be moving from these positions for the next 13 hours. There were some hilarious moments that could only happen here…and to me. We stopped about five or so hours into the trip so people could get off the bus, get food from the local vendors around, etc. Last minute, I decided I want a chapatti. The guy was taking forever and won’t go down in his price. The bus started honking and pulling away. I literally RAN back to the bus and boarded to a chorus of “sorry”’s as I walked back to my seat. Almost left twice in one day. I was apparently more on African time than the Africans themselves.

Knowing that I would have ample time to read, I brought two books along. I had read “The Shack” (William Paul Young) on my way home to the States. After hearing a variety of opinions on it, I was intrigued enough to read it. There are three books that I could say that have revolutionized my life and view of God: the Bible, Redeeming Love (Francine Rivers) and now, The Shack. I rarely desire to reread a book numerous times but I know that no matter how many times I reread those three, I will never stop learning. All that to say, I was excited to reread “The Shack”. God had a purpose in the timing of that reading as if I hadn’t, I would not have been able to handle all that I saw, heard, felt, smelt and more during my time in Rwanda.

There were many times during my days in Rwanda that I wanted to scream towards Heaven and ask “WHY?”. Why did You let this happen? Why didn’t You stop this insanity? Why, God, WHY? It was my readings on the way that helped me process, grapple and understand how He works through the most difficult times of life (this may or may not be a shameless promotion of this book. However, if you haven’t read this book, I literally BEG you to read it. It will change your life and your view of God). I’m not done processing, as I’m sure these entries will showcase.

Though Rwanda is a different country, I didn’t expect it to be THAT different. I mean, we’re neighbors. However, they don’t speak English but instead French and Kinyarwanda. I had never wished that I had taken French in high school more than at the time we were crossing the border and trying to figure out what in the world was going on. The bus stopped and everyone got off. We assumed it was a bathroom break and since neither of us needed that, we stayed on the bus…until a man said something like, “Hurry! Hurry!” It was then that we looked across the street to see a sign that said “Immigration” and realized we were at the border and needed to get off the bus to go through all the paperwork. When we walked across the bridge to Rwanda, we did our paperwork on that end and watched all of our bags on the bus get tossed out. Plastic bags aren’t allowed in Rwanda (like your typical Wal-mart bag, not Ziploc) so bags were gone through and plastic bags (called “cavarras” here) were torn and thrown out. We stood for awhile trying to figure out what the heck was going on with no one around us speaking a bit of English. They also drive on the right side of the road in Rwanda which is just CRAZY after getting used to driving on the left side in Uganda. It was fascinating to note the architectural differences as well as the organization of Kigali. There was an order and neatness to everything that was just astounding.

When we crossed the border, it seemed as though everything became more beautiful. There’s a reason that Rwanda is known as the Land of A Thousand Hills. It is truly stunning. The hills were lush and green flowing into valleys filled with crops. The streams flowing by the road made everything picturesque. So often, I wish my eyes were cameras that could capture the beauty surrounding me. This was one of those times. Though beautiful, there was a sadness to it all. With all of my readings on the genocide, each stream made me remember that every stream, lake and river was filled with bodies during the genocide. A particular story that the UN General during the genocide, Romeo Dallaire (his book, “Shake Hands With The Devil”, is an overwhelming and excellent book on all that happened), told about driving through a body filled stream came to mind. Though boards had been put down to cross the stream, it was the bodies that became the “bridge” for the vehicle.

We arrived in Kigali that night, making it in 10 hours instead of the expected 13. My body fully appreciated that. Audrey, a WorldVenture midtermer in Kigali, picked us up and brought us to her place that was to be our home for the next few days. Her parents are WorldVenture missionaries in Uganda (we love them!) and she was leaving the next day to spend Easter with them. We would have the house to ourselves but also have to navigate Kigali on our own. That whole driving on the right side of the road deal came into play while we attempted to navigate our way around the capital city with our crudely hand drawn maps. But, more on that later. That night, Audrey had meetings and plans, which fit well for us since that drive had exhausted us completely. We both perused her book collection which, to my happy surprise, she had “Redeeming Love”. After giving my (extremely worn and used) copy away prior to moving here, I meant to buy another but had yet to. These past few months I had especially wanted to reread it, as I knew I needed it. God answered my prayer and I delved into it. God knew just what I needed.

I needed to have a better understanding of His love and purpose before I headed into the aftermath of genocide; the wretched depravity of the human heart contrasting the depth of His love.