Why visit Rwanda?
We consider it both a privelege and a responsibility to visit a country such as Rwanda. On April 6 twenty years ago there was unleashed a massacre of unimaginable proportions which resulted in close to a million people, one in eight of the population, being slaughtered in 100 days. Since then, the country has made enormous strides in re-establishing itself economically, socially and emotionally. The church has been at the forefront in this regeneration.
So what can a small group of English people from a rural part of Norfolk contribute in a context like this?
Here are some of the factors which contribute to our vision:
- to develop an ongoing relationship with people in Rwanda, in particular with Christians working to support widows and orphans of the genocide
- to learn lessons about forgiveness and reconciliation
- to use our skills and expertise where possible in practical support of existing projects
- to show empathy and solidarity with Rwandans by listening to their stories, praying with them and joining with them in worship of God
- to be willing to step outside our own ‘comfort zones’ and develop a sense of purpose in a very different culture from our own
- by the use of local facilities such as guest houses, contribute financially to ongoing projects and the support of children in education
- by providing practical support eg water filters to improve the quality of life of remote rural communities
What do Rwandans think about our visits?
First and foremost, Rwandans appreciate the fact that we want to visit them, to hear their stories and to engage with them. They tell us that they are encouraged by being listened to, and are, therefore, better understood. They feel that they are respected and that their hope for a better future is being shared by fellow Christians. These are the richest benefits expressed by many Rwandese. They enjoy being part of a wider fellowship on a continuing basis. They welcome opportunities such as these to examine their own attitudes and understand better our Western time-controlled thinking!
What impact do such visits have on us?
Without exception, everyone who goes on such a trip comes back a different person. We get direct evidence of what it is like to live from day to day. Rwanda is still a poor country but we see first hand how committed and industrious the people are in making their way in life and earning enough to support the family. We are uplifted, but also humbled by the way the simple genuine faith of Christians is expressed by joyful, lively services and vibrant music.
We are impressed by the dignity and warmth of a people who have gone through so much pain and suffering. We get a better perspective on life and the world. We enjoy time for our own spiritual reflection in a beautiful environment. We actually get to know each other better and this benefits us as we work together back home. We learn to work outside our comfort zones and discover hidden gifts and abilities which we can share and use with others.
We sometimes feel we have gained far more than we have given!
What about Congo DRC?
We aim to do as much as we can within the limitations which exist in getting into and out of this country. A number of pastor friends Claude made on previous visits live in Bukavu, which is only 2 miles away from Kamembe where we stay in south-west Rwanda. They frequently come to see us and, on our last visit, we were able to give them enough water filters to give safe drinking water for 5000 people. Additionally, the Safe Water Trust have pledged to send them 500 filters – a massive undertaking.
We hope to be able to cross into DRC on our next visit. But it is less easy to plan with any certainty what we might be able to do. We are beginning to explore options.