July 7, 2014 (day 3 for GTRI students)
The purpose today was to begin immersing in life and ministry in Rwanda after genocide. Today, we began with a brisk walk to the offices of International Justice Mission for their morning devotions. After singing a couple of songs we listened to a brief meditation on Psalm 77 led by Dr. Barbara Shaffer, one of our team leaders. We closed with praying together for the personal and work prayer requests from IJM staffers. I look forward to meeting at IJM each time we are here. It is good to hear about the work they are doing in bringing justice and aftercare recovery to child sex abuse victims.
After devotions, we left for the national genocide memorial. On the way, I needed to get some US dollars exchanged to pay the various bills that could only be paid in Rwandan Francs. 10 one hundred dollar bills became a 4 inch wad of Franc bills (1 dollar equals 690 Francs). Glad many places take US dollars!
Though the group has read much about the 1994 genocide, it is important for the group to go through the memorial and museum to see the roots, progression, and aftermath of the genocide. Walking around mass graves for several hundred thousand Rwandans will sober a person! The final room of museum puts together beautiful pictures of children with text beneath pictures detailing their interests, qualities, and also how they were killed. Very chilling. Though I have been through this room before, I chose to speed through rather than become overwhelmed.
A couple of our team members spoke with a young Rwandan man who had come to the memorial for his birthday. Why? Because it wanted to spend it with his family–family interred in the mass graves. Things like this encourage silence as the right response.
Before leaving the memorial our team had a few minutes with a guide who told us a bit of his story, which included the ugly reality that priests and pastors actively worked for genocide. Miraculously, this young man’s faith is still intact.
After a lunch at Afrika Bite, a buffet restaurant for the usual foods (multiple starches, cooked vegetables, and some meat), we visited a sewing co-op that provides women counseling and skills in making things from greeting cards to blankets, purses, ipad covers and the like. We met with the leaders to talk about how they were helping children of rape connect with their mothers. After the meeting, we saw a number of the women hard at work.
From here, our team split, one group attending a counseling center for women and the other group meeting with a group of HIV positive men and women who are part of a ministry of a church. In both groups, it was helpful to see ministry at the ground level. Unlike many US counseling centers, these ministries must consider both mental, physical, spiritual, and financial health at the same time.
Our day ended back at Solace Ministries debriefing what we saw, heard, and felt. Words fail to capture the weight of the hurt and pain post-genocide but also the resilience and recovery that we see. One of the nice things about debriefing each night with the team is that we are able to learn from each other and see/hear things we might not have experienced even as we were in the same spaces. For example, one of our team had a front row seat to US congressional concerns and activities during the beginnings of the genocide. Hearing from her provided context to the two dimensional understanding most of us have of the story.
One fun note. I finally got my first moto (called bodas in Uganda) ride. I needed to go to a market and the easiest way to get there was by moto. The driver I flagged had almost no English and very little French. With his broken English and my broken French, I was able to get him to understand. Though the ride was short, it was fun and pretty inexpensive.