Yesterday, we were trying to avoid the hot sun as we did our last minute shopping in Kigali, before flying home in the evening. It was HOT! This morning, we saw light snow covering the fields as we descended on Norwich airport. When we got out of the plane, it was COLD!
We look back with grateful thanks to God for all the blessings we have received as we have shared, in a small way, the mission and work of Life in Abundance in Rwanda. We have renewed fellowship with pastor friends in the Congo and also with Bishop Nathan and Diocesan colleagues in Cyangugu. It has been a truly memorable and affirming trip.
What a great idea it was to plan some ‘down time’ at the end of our trip! We have so enjoyed these two days.
Sunday began with an 8 am English Communion Service at the Cathedral – possibly the first one there after the opening ceremony. It was a glorious mix of the old and new – modern songs accompanied on a key board alongside a liturgy based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer! The bishop presided and a Dutch pastor, working here, preached. Quite an experience all round.
Our journey north to Musanze took us the whole day, on a winding road following the east coast of Lake Kivu. Very little traffic and absolutely stunning scenery. We couldn’t have asked for more. There must be more than 1000 hills in Rwanda! Musanze is Rwanda’s second city and is close to 4 volcanoes. Tourism brings many visitors, especially to see the gorillas.
Today, we made a special visit to Imbabazi, the home and gardens of the late Ros Carr author of ‘A land of a thousand hills’. This was a most moving experience enhanced by the commentary of Emmanuel who runs the centre now and had worked for Ros for a number of years. Initially intended as a working farm, it became a refuge and home for orphans of the genocide. It still exists to support local children and has a nursery school based there. The gardens are full of a wide range of beautiful flowers and interesting vegetables – it looked almost English! Ros Carr’s home is just as she had it at the time of her death. We had coffee in her lounge! Part of the film ‘Gorillas in the mist’ was made here.
The afternoon was spent in Gisenyi, the border town with Goma in DRC. Some of us had a swim in Lake Kivu – a few white female bodies amongst almost entirely male black ones! There was just one African lady swimming, fully clothed! We were quite a spectacle watched by many bewildered Rwandans.
Please see next blog for the photos.
Two years ago, we presented Zachary, the foreman of the house building team, with a French bible, which he desperately wanted. He was thrilled!
This time, I presented him with a French version of the African Bible Commentary. He was delighted and enjoyed my explaining to him how to use it. ‘I will certainly use it’ he told me.
Saturday was a special day – ‘hand-over’ day when the house would be passed over to Vestine, the lady whom the community had chosen to be given the house. However, it was also Umuganda Saturday, the Saturday of the month when everyone in Rwanda stops what they are doing and does community work from 9 to 11 am. It is a quite extraordinary phenomenon. Anyway, we joined in! At least some of us did. The local leaders had decided to clear a roadway of weeds as their project. I am told that it was hard work (see photo).
After this, we went to the house, which looked quite splendid, with everything complete including gutters ready for water harvesting system to be installed. When ‘hand-over’ time came, it seemed that most of the villagers were there. Lots and lots of inquisitive children had been entertained whilst we waited for the local dignities to arrive. There were a number of speeches, including a very moving acceptance speech by Vestine, followed by the formal handing over of keys. A very special moment. Lunch was provided for us by local women, a real sign of their willingness to accept Vestine into their community.
The day ended with an evening meal shared with Bishop Nathan, his wife and other church leaders. Another very special occasion.
Today we met 7 women who had benefited from the Life in Abundance (LiA) Economic Empowerment programme. Potential beneficiaries must join a group of 20 people who are accountable to each other. Each member contributes to a central fund before LiA provides ‘seed money’. This total fund is shared out as loans and the whole sum is to be repaid by the group after 6 months. We were most impressed at how this initial capital was used to set up small businesses. At the open market, we saw three ‘stalls’, selling fruit, vegetables fish and cooking oil. Each person had repaid her loan and all 3 businesses were doing really well. One stall was already empty – everything had gone!
Later, we met 4 people who had been equally successful working from home. Rearing baby pigs and selling them fully grown was one excellent example of making good use of the initial loan. Everyone was proud that they were now able to feed their family – the very first priority. Here was LiA at its very best.
We visited a nursery school and feeding programme based at a church, followed by a tasty lunch at the pastor’s house.
We visited the homes we had built four years ago and two years ago.
Taciana was all smiles, looking healthy, happy and content. She is growing corn, bananas and has chickens. She is self-sufficient. On Sundays she worships at the Cathedral. This involves walking for 3 hours; one hour downhill and two hours back home uphill. What faith! What commitment!
Denise could not stop talking about how much she appreciated her home and what it meant for her family. She has a cow, 3 sheep, a pig – all obtained by buying and selling animals. All achieved over the two years. A real business woman. She served us all with cooked corn. She told us we had also helped her to have cataracts removed from both eyes. This involved many round trips to Kigali. ‘I can see now!’ she said.
Having a house built for them has been life-changing for both women.
This has been a wonderful day! So much to talk about that I shall write it in two parts.
The morning coach drive to the nutrition clinic took us through beautiful mountain scenery, which opened out showing Lake Kivu from a high vantage point. Just lovely. An hour and a half later, we alighted to hear sounds of singing. This came from a large multi-coloured group of children and adults singing, clapping and jumping up and down. What a welcome! We soon discovered how the values of Life in Abundance had been put into practice so effectively. This clinic serves about 100 malnourished children. Part of their meal, rice, was provided for them but they brought their own vegetables, plates and spoons. Thus they were practically involved in the project.
The feeding programme was backed up by training on how to create a mixed diet. Families would often eat just one food, say avoado, until the supply ran out, then, another, say beans until they ran out. No thought of a mixed diet.
The benefits are already being felt. Already many have moved up to a higher, better category. The aim is to move all of them out of the ‘malnourished’ category.