Two days of relaxation

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.

Economic empowerment

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.

An encouraging day – part 2

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.

A day of two halves

Our programme is taking us to every aspect of life down here, exploring how Life in Abundance (LiA) is involved in trying to fulfil its aims in empowering people to lead independent and fruitful lives.

This morning we visited a project on Nkombo island, one of the poorest parts of Rwanda. The pastor there, whilst visiting people’s homes, discovered many people with disabilities, who were totally marginalised. They told us that other villagers described them as ‘broken pots’ and of no use. He has taken the initiative to try and give them confidence to do something to improve their lot. They now meet together regularly, have begun some simple mini-enterprises, and are beginning to feel valued. One of them repaired shoes (see photo). We met about 50 of them, heard some of their stories and bought some of the goods they had made. We visited the homes of two disabled women. One of them had had 11 children but 7 of them had died. Her house had bare walls except the words ‘Praise the Lord’ on one wall (see picture). We had a delicious lunch at the pastor’s house and presented him and his wife with various gifts for the children of that community.

In the afternoon, we visited a Mother’s Union project in Kamembe. Young people are being trained to use sewing machines so that, after training, they can set up their own business. Our friends from Lewes brought them £2000, which they had raised through their local MU. This will enable them to purchase more sewing machines. The joy and surprise on the leaders’ faces is reflected in one of the pictures below.

Training Sunday School teachers

This is the first day of two in which we are training Sunday School teachers. Our aim is to equip them to use a smimilar approach as we use in ‘Open the Book’ to help children know and understand stories from the Bible. It involves acting out the stories. We wrote the materials ourselves and provided some very simple ‘props’, such as headdresses and tabards. After we had modelled two stories for them, they very quickly got the idea. There are 20 of them, divided into 3 groups. Each group took on the task of  acting a story themselves with great enthusiasm and treated us to some accurate but entertaining ‘productions’! A great first day. Tomorrow, they write their own story and act it out.

A wonderful celebration!

What a day we had celebrating the opening of the new Kamembe Cathedarl! The Africans know how to celebrate and it was a joy to share this special time with them. It was so colourful – 3 archbishops and 20 bishops, in their regalia, the women in quite stunningly beautiful dresses, and everyone else in ther ‘Sunday best’.  The local community leaders were there as representatives of other churches. There were 3 choirs including one from Bukavu, over the water in Congo. There was spontaneous dancing to accompany one song! It would be impossible to convey the spirit, joy and meaning of the service ina few words. We felt privileged to be there. Bishop Quigg,from Virginia, gave a vibrant and challenging sermon. It was all so uplifting and encouraging.

Pictures can’t tell the whole story as you really need to hear the sound which go with them but here are a few.