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.