This is my last post. I have now returned home. From the time I boarded the plane in Kigali until I touched down in Saskatoon it took 28 hours – which included two 3-hour layovers in Amsterdam and Toronto. I am slowly getting re-acclimatized to life at home.
I learned so much during my one-week stay in the “Land of a Thousand Hills and a Million Smiles.” There is so much we can learn from the Rwandan people; I have found that God really can supply all their needs in Christ Jesus. They are not survivors, they are overcomers.
At the beginning of the journey, each of the participants spoke about what they wanted to have happen. These testimonies were posted earlier in this blog. Well, the journey is over and the question must be asked – “Were the expectations met?” Listen to how this question was answered.
Our report on the last day starts from the night before. We were the guests of the Bible Society of Rwanda who took us to a restaurant for an excellent meal and an evening of Rwandan culture. It was interesting going down a buffet line, not knowing what it was that I was about to put on my plate. Sometimes it’s better not to know!
After our meal we were entertained by a group of extremely energetic dancers accompanied by a drummer who must have lost several pounds during his performance! At the end, the dancers brought each of us on stage to dance with them. I am an old, very white Mennonite whose sense of rhythm is nonexistent.
On Thursday morning we took a short ride to the Genocide Memorial in Bugesera. I thought I’d share a little history before I proceed.
It’s hard to believe that so much has happened in such a short time! At the end of each day I feel that I have reached the climax of the journey and everything will be downhill from here. And each time I am proved wrong.
This morning started with a breakfast meeting with Harriet Hill who is one of the founders of the Trauma Healing Institute. She told us about the genesis of the program and how it has been working. Rather than try to summarize her comments, I captured them on video. This video will give you a better understanding of this program and its impact.
Before I start talking about Sunday, let me tell you about a very significant event from Saturday. When we were in Boniflid’s home we gave her a small gift, then Bev gave her son a soccer ball with a pump and an inflation needle. Way to go, Bev! You rock!
On Saturday night, I had a visit with the new General Secretary of the Baptist Churches in Rwanda. Since they are affiliated with Canadian Baptist Ministries, we discovered that we had a lot of mutual acquaintances. We had a very enjoyable conversation as he prepared me to preach the next morning.
The service started at 10:30 a.m. and lasted until about 12:45 p.m. You would not believe the singing and dancing. I couldn’t believe their almost innate sense of rhythm. If you think you detect jealousy on my part, you are probably right because I consider it a major achievement when I can walk and chew gum at the same time!
Today is our first full day in Rwanda and we started it running. David Nkurunziza, the Program Manager of the Bible Society of Rwanda took us to a ministry site for She’s My Sister and the Genocide Memorial. If I were to follow our schedule I would talk about She’s My Sister first, but I feel it is better to reverse the visits.
In 1994 somewhere between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people were slaughtered to rid the country of it Tutsi minority. We spent a couple hours in the Genocide Memorial reading and seeing pictures of this bloody chapter in Rwanda’s history. It is one of the most disturbing experiences I have ever had. We read about how the Tutsi were depersonalized by having them repeatedly referred to as cockroaches in the popular media. We saw horrifying pictures of many of the victims and we went into a room that had four glass cases of human skulls and femurs. One room just had photographs of victims and another of personal items that were recovered from locations where the victims had been slaughtered. We saw mass graves that we were told contained the remains of over 250,000 victims. Could it get worse? The answer is a resounding YES!
We arrived at the Kigali International Airport at approximately 7:00 PM local time, which is 11:00 AM in Saskatoon. You do the math for other parts of the country. We had spent about 19 hours either flying or sitting in an airport. No wonder I’m feeling tired. Tomorrow the Rwanda part of the adventure begins, but before it does I want to talk a little about my first impressions on arrival.
I was in Kigali in 2007 and a lot of changes have taken place in the intervening 6 years. First of all the population has almost doubled from about 750,000 to nearly 1.3 million. Wow! In ’07 there were very few private vehicles on the streets – mainly buses and trucks, today Kigali has similar amounts of traffic as any western city of the same size. In ’07 there were no operating traffic lights; tonight on the way to the hotel we encountered 2 traffic lights but many round-abouts. We are at the Lemigo Hotel and it is very comfortable. I have a mosquito net over my bed. I also start my Malaria pills.
We are sitting at Pearson International Airport waiting for our flight to Amsterdam. This morning we spent some reflecting on what the journey would hold for us. Check the videos to see what our donors are expecting. Pray that God will meet and exceed all our expectations.
In less than 24 hours our team will board a KLM Flight from Toronto to Kigali via Amsterdam. What will we see? What will we experience? What will the food be like? These and a thousand other questions fly through our minds as we prepare for what we hope will be the adventure of a lifetime. We are traveling to the country of 1000 hills and home of mountain gorillas.
We will also visit a country where 1,000,000 people were slaughtered in a short 100-day period. We will visit the Genocide Memorial where it is believed that the remains of 250,000 people have been buried. My hometown, the city of Saskatoon, has a population of almost ¼ million people. That’s how many people are buried there. How do you wrap your mind around numbers such as these?
Lisa Ramer has been cycling with Bike for Bibles for many years but this year, she decided to do a different event to raise funds for Bible distribution work in Rwanda (She’s My Sister). This event called Monkman Madness, which she herself organized, involved another activity that she loves: running. Along with a couple of friends, she trained this summer to prepare herself to run 50 kilometres across the wilderness of Monkman Provincial Park in British Columbia. Lisa successfully completed the run on August 24, 2013.
This month, we're featuring updates and stories about how God is working in and around Canada. We rejoice that through your generosity we continue on in the work of Bible translation, distribution and engagement. Below are the featured items this month.
We recently received a letter from a teacher in Akulivik, QC. Young Marie-Claire Lemieux has a teaching post in this remote Innuit community and as she began her career, she felt an overwhelming sense that she needed to start a Bible Study group with the young teenage girls in her school. She says: “I thank you all for your prayers. I am overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness as thirteen girls gathered in my house on Monday for the second week to study the Bible. Even in this short amount of time, it has been such a blessing to see these teenagers so eager to learn and talk about God. It is difficult to believe that the Inuit population has only recently been able to read the Old Testament in their own language. It was in May 2012, after working on it for 34 years, that the Canadian Bible Society finished translating the Bible to syllabics, the Inuktitut written language. “