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.

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