I’m sorry you didn’t get a blog yesterday but there just wasn’t time! We had a full day anyway with pastor training, house building, another session at the school and, of course, moving out of our rooms. The visit of the Prime Minister caused many alterations to plans and Peace Guest House had to work very hard to accommodate all his needs and those of his retinue. As a result this, our evening meal came late and, after it, we went to bed. The whole episode was very interesting to observe! Jonathan, our organiser, is also the manager of Peace Guest House, and he did really well to handle it all . He was exhausted by the end of the day! By the way, there was a fierce thunderstorm to contend with as well.
Today, we had a most rewarding morning at the house building. The builders had made a huge amount of progress since we were last there! We all made our contributions to the work, using machetes, sawing, banging nails, heaving large balls mud mixed with grass on to the walls. We were very involved. Pictures of the house tomorrow.
This afternoon, we relaxed by taking a trip on a small boat on lake Kivu. Tomorrow we are going to a service at the Cathedral at 8 am, then on to another service in a village church! So, we’re getting an early night . More news tomorrow.
Today, we followed up our work with children and pastors. The Christmas drama has now been shared with 250 children and we visit two more classes tomorrow. Classes rarely have fewer than 50 children. The picture below shows them writing on the Christmas cards to take home. The pastors just love working together. The discussions became ever more animated as they gained in confidence working with the material we gave them. As part of their work, they read articles about refugees, widows and orphans. We asked them how they responded to people like this in their parish communities. We were most moved by the stories we heard. Imagine one pastor housing 8 families on behalf of the government! This has actually happened.
P Children preparing their Christmas cards to take home
You can never anticipate what is going to happen out here! Tomorrow, the Prime Minister, no less, is coming to stay at Peace Guest House, using ‘the Villa’ . He arrives tomorrow and will stay overnight. He is coming to see how the people in this area use the Community Service day on Saturday. (On the last Saturday of each month, everyone is required to engage in community work). The villa is where we spend a lot of our leisure and planning time. It has two bedrooms, a lounge area and a terrace where we have lunch every day. The lounge has been full with boxes of water filters, material for the school work, and a number of large suitcases full of clothes and a host of other materials yet to be distributed. All this has to be moved out to accommodate him and then moved back again. The Hackfords and Scotts have to vacate their bedrooms. Here are pictures of the ‘presidential suite’ which the Prime Minister will use and which the President has used on previous occasions. We are intrigued by the whole episode.
Another busy day. The ladies began the day at the house, helping where their skills were most useful. Their skills in hammering nails varied widely! They found the house well-advanced. When we went yesterday, there was only a large piece of levelled ground and lots of tree lengths on the ground. The picture shows the progress made in one day.
The pastors’ training began today. There were 23 pastors present and they quickly got down to work with the African Bible Commentary. They worked really hard!
The ladies took the Christmas drama to two classes at St Matthews School. Here are pictures of children who took part. Once again, the children loved it!
House after one day’s work on it
Mary and Joseph
What a day! It began with all of us going to a building site a half hour’s drive away from Peace Guest House. This is where a house will be built with money donated by generous people from North Norfolk. When finished, this house will be given to a genicide widow, and was then raped by a soldier. She remarried and now has two children but her second husband has left her. She had HIV and is currently living in someone else’s kitchen. She was there when we arrived and it was good to know that, very soon, she will be able to have her own home. The location is stunning, overlooking hilly tea plantations. We had a most moving little gathering with her which ended with a prayer for the project and especially for her and her family, and also for the ‘builders’. The men in our group (that is, all two of us!) spent a long, hot morning helping to begin the building process. Talk about hard work! But amazingly, by lunchtime, huge progress had been made. No architect’s drawings but building lines of perfection! Pictures will follow.
The ladies of the group went to St Matthews School and did their Bible Christmas story drama to a class of 72 pupils! Some of the children joined in the second rendering. They all loved it! After this, they sang songs in English with actions. Each child had a Christmas card to write on and take home! They wanted to know who was on the cards having nit seen anything like it before! They will treasure those cards. Thanks to you all who provided them. Tomorrow, they will repeat this with two more classes.
Only one photo today – technical hitch! More tomorrow.
Getting ready to board the bus for St Matthews School.
A picnic at the road side
Prisoners working on a road project
Here we are in Kamembe after a most enjoyable journey through the beautiful hilly countryside of Rwanda. This country is called the ‘Land of a thousand hills’ – it most certainly is!
A number of images stand out from today’s journey – hills, hills and more hills; prisoners in orange clothing working on the road and the paddy fields; women carrying heavy loads on their heads (some at the same time carrying babies on their backs); men walking heavily loaded bicycles up steep roads; picnicking at the side of the road on what we thought was a quiet spot only to find ourselves in the company of children who seemed to come from nowhere; sharing our food with them; a monkey on the side of the road; acre after acre of tea plantations; and, above all, the Murambi Genocide Memorial. Here again, we were confronted with the horrors of the genocide – brutally brought to our attention in room after room of victims, their bodies lying as they died but now laid out and covered with lime to protect them. The graves here hold over 50000 bodies, many of them killed when they thought they were in a place of safety.
This evening, we have been very busy unpacking all the things we have brought with us and preparing for ‘Open the Book’ tomorrow at St Matthews School.
Tea picking -taken from a moving bus!
Sundays in Rwanda always offer something special particularly in relation to the morning service! This morning we were the guests at the monthly service held at Solace Ministries held primarily for widows of the genocide and their families. What’s a service! It started at 9 45 and ended at 12 45! A common thread throughout was the most moving worshipful congregational singing led by four able young musicians. Even though we did not know the words, we felt totally at one with them in their witness to the goodness and faithfulness of God. Three personal testimonies were nearly sermons in themselves but revealed how grateful they were for God’s blesing In every aspect of their lives, even though materially they have so little. When I finally got up to preach, it was nearly 12 o’clock! The strongest impression of all, though, was that they wanted us to know how much we were all part of God’s family. We were one with them and they were one with us.
in the afternoon, we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial where 259 000 victims of the genocide are buried. The horrors and atrocity of the killings came home to us as we saw the pictures and read about what happened in 1994.
The rest of the day we spent at leisure. Tomorrow is spent travelling south to Kamembe where we shall spend the rest of our time.
I said it was going to be a very full day and it was!
We began with a visit to a Health Clinic in the outskirts of Kigali. We are staying at Solace Guest House and Jean Gakwandi, founder of Solace Ministries took us to one of their projects – an excellent Health Clinic on the outskirts of Kigali. On the way there we noticed how much Kigali had moved on since we were here two years ago. Other Solace projects we visited included a farm and a group of houses, both developed to support genocide widows. It was lovely to be able to go into one of these homes and meet the family.
We were very moved by a visit to the Ntarana Genocide Memorial which was a church in which more than 5000 people were slaughtered when they thought it was a place of refuge and safety.
The day ended with much laughter as we tried to master the art of traditional Rwandan dancing!
Children following us on our way
It is extraordinary how one day in this country can encompass so many different emotions.
Here we are in Kigali after an excellent journey. No hold-ups, on time and for the first time, no missing pieces of luggage!
We have a very busy day planned for tomorrow!
We’ve done all our packing, made sure we have used every gramme of luggage weight allowed, we’ve checked in online…..all we have to do is to get up early to be picked up at 4am! Our plane leaves Norwich at 6 15 am.
Thank you all for your wonderful support and prayers – we feel uplifted and encouraged!
i shall try and put a daily blog here to keep you informed of our experiences.
We’ve had our final meeting and made sure everything is Ok for the journey. Now, we are all working hard on ‘luggage management’, that is, making sure we get as much as we can in our suitcases, without exceeding the 23 kg limit! Quite apart from money donated for water filters, people have been so generous in giving us lots and lots of goods to take out with us – pens and pencils, knitting needles, sewing kits, wind-up torches, reading glasses, Bibles, clothes (including some beautiful baby clothes)’ loom bands, wool medical supplies, Christmas cards with nativity scenes on, (and probably lots more I can’t remember right now!), plus, of course, water filters. A consignment of 400 family filters will be shipped over to Rwanda separately – far too many for us to take out ourselves. This is enough for half of the population of Nkombo Island! But we are taking 6 boxes with us, most of which are for the Congo. These include 6 ‘community filters’, each of which can provide safe drinking water to 500 people or more, and 12 more family filters.
We have a full two-week programme ahead of us and we shall keep you posted here on what we have been experiencing and what we have been doing.
We leave Blakeney about 4 am on Friday 23 February.