Hand over of the house

This blog is two days late and is being written from Blakeney! We’re safely back after an excellent journey. Thursday, our last ‘working day’ in Kamembe was so busy , I just didn’t have the time to write anything. Friday we were travelling up to Kihgali to catch an overnight flight to Amsterdam and onto Norwich.  And here we are!

On Thursday, as we approached Denise’s house, it started to rain. The red soil got muddy and then it poured  –  really poured. Our shoes got clogged with mud and our clothes got splattered with red splashes. We couldn’t perfotm the ceremony outside and so 50 people crammed themselves into the brand new house. The mud walls were very damp – it will take some time to dry out. The noise of the rain on the tin roof was deafening. But it eventually abated and we had various speeches – the Rwandans love their speeches! They began with a short homily from the local pastor followed by other contributions from representatives of the Mothers Union including the Bishop’s wife who is their President,  Avega, the Genocide Widows organisation, and myself.

We then went outside for the formal handing over of the keys from Zachary the foreman – fortunately, the rain had stopped by now! It is a simple but very moving little ceremony. Then the formal opening of the front door to present Denise with the keys to her own house (see photo). Denise then made her speech. In a very dignified way, she told us her story and said how much this house meant to her and her family. All 5 of them were there and the eldest made a speech in English which he had learned off by heart, to thank us. He presented us with a gift – see photo.

But we hadn’t finished. We had 60 pairs of shoes to present to the local children! This took some time to manage. Some put them on straightaway, but others clearly didn’t want to dirty them with the muddy soil! Here’s a photo of a little one just pondering over his gift!

That’s just the morning! In the afternoon, after a quick turn-around lunch, we went to St Matthews School and ‘performed’ our Easter Story drama. About 300 children were there. We repeated it with children taking our parts – they loved it! See photos.

In evening we had our farewell dinner, with Bishop Nathan and his wife Esther as our principal guests (but there were others, too). More speeches, of course! The bishop made an excellent speech putting into context the significance of our visit to them. Our physical presence there clearly means as much to them as the gifts and the other contributions we had made. He used the phrase ‘Sacramental Presence’ to sum itup. We think this ‘says it all’.

He also told us that the Diocese had 22 new catechists (trainee pastors) and, (looking at me) that they would need training……’you must come back next year, and the year after that….’

This has been a most memorable visit. Thank you all for your support, interest and prayers. We return humbled and uplifted.

Home visits

This blog is about Wednesday.

This morning, whilst Jill, Edward and I completed the Pastores training, the rest of the group visited 4 homes. The first one was the home of Taciana which we built for her 2 years ago. It was lovely to see her again well established in the local community. Here is a photo imageof Debbie approaching her front door. Unfortunately, her cow has been stolen which is a big setback for her. But she has bought a piglet in place of it. The amazing thing about her is that a church group was started in her house by a trainee pastor who lives in that area. This  began in a small way but now there is a church congregation of 35 people and they hire a room in the village to hold their meetings. But it is too small. The Diocese is hoping to build a church there! What a story!

The group visited three other homes and were warmly welcomed. These are poor people and their houses are small and dark – it was a job to get us all in. But we found their joyful commitment to their faith deeply moving. The women we met were usually very modest and quietly spoken, but when they began to pray they did so with a strong voice and with an obvious confidence  in their Lord. A very humbling experience.

In the afternoon some went into town to buy tools for the workmen plus 60 pairs of shoes and stationery for the needy children living around Denise’s house. We have come to know them and feel part of this community.  It will be lovely to give these out when the house is formally handed over.

Back to housebuilding

This blog is about Tuesday.

Whist Pastor training carried on at Peace Guest House, the rest of the group went back to the house. Their main job was to do some painting. They opted out of painting the walls using rags and used engine oil! But they were able to paint the doors and windows using brushes. Here are some photos to show what the house is now looking and also some of the team at work.


imageIn the afternoon, a number of us took the opportunity to do some shopping, but Ethne was given other responsibilities – like looking after this gorgeous child!

We managed to buy much needed tools for Zachary and his team. It took a visit to 6 or 7 shops to find what we wanted – 3 different screwdrivers, a chisel, a pair of pliers and a sharpening stone. Zachary’s team will now be better equipped for ther next task.

Start of Pastor training

Most of the group took Monday off after a busy Sunday – they needed a break.  Jill, Edward and I though, spent the whole day, 9 to 5, training 15 local Anglican pastors using the African Bible Comentaries which we brought here on previous trips. I was very reassured to see one of pastors using a well-used  commentary, with the cover completely  worn. The pastors really worked hard and so did we! A very rewarding day.


Not your normal Sunday (2)

We expected a contrast from our last Sunday  in Kigali and we were not disappointed. The experiences were very different reflecting the area we see in.  We were ‘in church’ three times. The first service was at the Cathedral – 8 am, a semi-formal English speaking Morning Prayer with liturgy but modern songs accompanied by a guitar. I was provided with robes and preached the sermon (see photo). imageThe Dean and Bishop were there. We attended the next service at 10 am in a village outside Kamembe, this one in Kinyarwandan. Lots of children – possibly 100 – plus adults; two choirs, one a children’s choir and a drum. Wonderful singing and dancing which our group loved joining in. Wait for the Movie when we get hone! Service only two hours long. I preached again, same sermon but simpler and shorter for this congregation which was translated. The reading I used was the one set at home for that Sunday – Jesus on the shores of lake Galilee calling his future disciples to follow him. Fishing is important here on Lake Kivu.


After a quick lunch, we were back in the same church in the afternoon for a special event which we put on for them. We did a dramatised version of the Easter story based on the script used by the children at Blakeney School. It was translated and was well received. We repeated it with some of the children acting. They were brilliant! We also used hand puppets to tell the Good Samaritan story. The children were intrigued by the puppets. We finished with some action songs accompanied by Heather and her ukelele.

An exhausting day!

Filters to Congo

This blog is about Saturday.

In the morning, a group of us went to work on the house again. There was a bit less  nail banging and mud throwing, as the work centred more on technical things like fixing a lock on the main door. The ingenuity of the men with very limited tools was quite amazing. Imagine tightening a screw with the blade of a small machete! We had bought shoes for each of the workers and these were gratefully received. We  entertained the children with games and activities which they really enjoyed.

The main part of the day was Congo based. We welcomed four pastors from Bukavu, the town in the Congo which we can see across Lake Kivu. These are men whom Claude has known and worked with since his first visit to Congo in 2010.


They had lunch with us; then we presented them with a total of 14 boxes of filters – enough to provide safe drinking water to 7000 people plus 14 African Bible Commentaries each, 2 suitcases containing sheets, towels, toothpaste and brushes, reading glasses and men’s shirts.

They were thrilled with all these things  but their greatest delight came when we gave them a laptop each. They whooped with joy! (Se photo) The generosity of people back home has been such that we found we could afford to buy these bargain laptops and they are clearly going to meet a need and be treasured. They were last lminute purchases, but inspired choices.

The transfer of all these things to their waiting cars at the border was something to behold. Here’s a picture of Debbie at the front leading the transfer of boxes from the coach.


One of the pastors had travelled 800 miles to come here, such was his determination to meet us! He will have a lot to take home! He is pictured above with Heather, Ethne and me. He really wanted this photo taken, the moment was so important to him. We shall email it to him!