Chasing Joy

"I am guiding you on the way of wisdom and I am leading you on the right path." Proverbs 4:11

Telling the truth

The killer in me is the killer in you

Smashing Pumpkins

We’ve spent the past few days listening and learning to grow in understanding as only an in person eyes and ears experience can provide.  

Who are our Rwandan brothers and sisters?  What are their unique experiences, challenges, and needs.  What in our shared humanity is our common ground?  What do they have to teach me?  What do i have to teach them?

And most of all, do i have the courage to look at what this particular country has faced, endured, and overcome?

Courage or not, being here on Rwandan soil affords us the privilege of deepening our understanding through the countries Genocide memorials and it was important to me to not miss the chance to visit.

Oof – such difficult and heartbreaking stuff.  

Pool at the ‘Hotel Rwanda’. It has a different name now, but this is the same hotel.

If you knew me and you really knew yourself you would not have killed me.

Felicien Ntagengwa

Death was made a painful, agonizing, frightening and humiliating end.

Though they were few, [the heroes/those who saved lives] show it is possible, even if genocide, to make choices, however difficult, to save life and not destroy it.

The greatest problem we [the survivors] have is the brokenness of our heart because of the Genocide.

Kigali Genocide Memorial

Unless things are honestly acknowledged, it is impossible to move forward.  This is true for an individual, a family, a neighborhood and a nation.

This country has a long, complex, and storied history. it is important to note that the Genocide of 1994 did not occur in a vacuum.  As is true for all the other horrors of the world, years of choices led up to the horror of those hundred days.  

And whatever your opinion is of smashing pumpkins (the band or the squash)

The killer in me is in fact the killer in you.  None of us is immune to being led down the path that ends with the brutal killing of one’s neighbor. 

Each of us has a choice, when we find ourselves in dark places, to seek to emit Light.  To sacrifice ourselves for the sake of another.  To acknowledge the Creator’s Image in each individual and refuse to take a life.

After the Kigali Genocide Memorial, we visited the Nyamata Memorial.  This one is located in the actual site where the killing took place.  When you enter, you stand in witness of the means of individual deaths as you take in the bullet holes in clothing, pockmarks in the roof from the grenades, bludgeoned indentations in the skulls from clubs and deep gashes in them from machete.  Placed among the coffins packed full of bones from many many bodies are notes written by survivors.  This is a needed and important place for survivors to come and grieve, and process, and heal.  When you exit the building to tour the outdoor graves, the sounds of children playing at the school adjacent are a hope filled contrast.  Life exists next to death.  The country lives on, united as one.  The stories of forgiveness are beyond comprehension.  

Rwanda was a failed country.  After the Genocide the UN determined that, and they decided the next step was to divide it up, forming 2 countries, one for the Tutsi and another for the Hutu.  But that is not what the RPF fought for and that is not what the people wanted.  Today they are Rwandan, united, healing, and I would say thriving.  

It is campaign season over here, and on our drive from Kigali to Boneza we were stuck for a number of hours.  First we waited on a side road for President Paul Kagame (and the entourage that accompanies a president) to drive through.  Once he did, the road re-opened and we continued on our way only to find ourselves in a ‘traffic’ jam like nothing i’ve ever seen before.  We guess there were 300,000 people that we ‘drove’ through, some on busses and some in cars, but the majority walking.  

I don’t know how to describe the joy.  There really are no words.  And also, that many people. It was quite a sight to see and i am thankful we timed our drive as we did, even with the multi-hour delay.

A country divided to a country united.  A country destroyed from within to a country restored from within.  

Rwanda is halfway around the world, a country the size of Maryland.  What difference does their story make to me?  To us?

I guess, i only hope that we Americans don’t have to reach the level of destruction and depravity they did, as divided as we are.  But if we do come to that.

May i be among the few who choose to emit Light.

And may the Lord have mercy on us all.

We could be heroes, just for one day.

David Bowie

Learning new dance steps.

Photo by Ardian Lumi on Unsplash

When i was in Uganda ten+years ago, i remember being perplexed by the very distinct dance moves the children had. One evening as we were gathered in the common area for music and fun, i asked my friend and host about some harsh treatment i’d witnessed earlier in the preschool from one of the teachers towards a couple of students. She shared with me that those students were from a different tribe than the teacher, that they were working on the issues of prejudice but still had a ways to go. “How does she know what tribe those students are from?” I asked, “They came here as infants.” ”

“Look at them dancing – see how some move their shoulders more, others their feet or hips?” she replied, “each tribe has distinct moves among other distinctions. they can tell.”

My daughter shared with me recently something her pastor had mentioned regarding marriage, the joining of two people from two different families.

“it’s like each family has their own dance moves. now that you are together, you are developing your own unique set from the combo of both. when you go back to visit – you remember the moves you were raised with, and can fall in step at times. At other times you find you stick with your new moves cultivated with the new rhythms of your marriage.”

Pastoral Outreach is one of the programs at Arise Rwanda Ministries. While there, jeremy and i may be called upon to help with a training happening at the time for the Pastor’s and their wives. So we are preparing just in case. The trick is, that we don’t know what their needs are. We don’t know what their questions might be, what unique challenges they face. Most of all, we don’t know the dance of a Rwandan.

In our preparation meetings we have spent a bit of time learning about cultural intelligence along with the differences between Individualism and Collectivism societies. if you hadn’t guessed, we come from an Individualistic society. Rwanda functions as a Collectivism society. Like the dance analogy, it’s not that one is better than the other, just that they are different. Each has good and bad components to them.

This adds another layer to the stretching this preparation has been. There is so much we just don’t know – and so we must depend on the One Whose Understanding is vast, and Whose Wisdom transcends cultures and countries. We will be trusting the Holy Spirit within us in a different way than we are used to.

We are praying that any materials we do prepare are in tune with the right Rhythm, and if not, that we have the wisdom to throw it out and adjust to the need of the moment. How comforting it is to know that as God’s children, we do not go alone. He is with us, He knows the dance. He is a good good teacher. He’ll help us learn.

Preparation and Perspective

Life keeps plugging along while in the margins we do what preparation we can.

On the Resources page is listed books and videos we’ve watched/read in gaining an understanding of both Rwanda and serving others well.

We are walking into the unknown on many levels, but throughout this past month our God who keeps track of the stars has been reminding us of His presence, His attention, His kindness, and His care. We don’t fully know what to expect when our feet touch the red soil of Africa (or even if Rwanda’s soil is red like Uganda’s was when i was there in 2010). These reminders help sustain our Joy through the natural stress and fears that come from the unknown and un navigated before. We know the character of the God of the universe, we know He is near. He is our centre – and the centre will hold.

Our team recently met with Kaylee Gasangwa to learn from her and gained insight into how our perspectives impact our approaches and to hold them loosely, being willing to learn. This was illustrated that evening as we inquired about what types of things we could bring from the US that are difficult to get in country and are needed. Disposable sanitary napkins were requested for the high school. A number of us asked about bringing cloth instead. Wouldn’t that be better? Kaylee graciously explained that they had tried cloth, but found that without the resource of soap and ease of washing, cloth was not beneficial and disposable is actually better for their situation. We thought we knew what would be best, and taking the time to ask and then listen to the answer helped us to see details we didn’t realize.

Pray with us that the supplies we bring will be beneficial, and the things we plan to purchase in country are available as expected….or if not that we have the wisdom we need to pivot appropriately!

Thanks for following along with us on this adventure!

Heading to Rwanda!

Dear Friends and Family,

Sometimes in life, you are trucking along, head down, hand to the plow, when out of the corner of your eye, you catch a glimpse that causes you to pause. To lift your head, take a look around and be drawn into curiosity for what lies outside your field of vision. 

Jeremy and I have been trucking along at life, going to work, fixing the cars, doing our best to support our now adult kids as they endeavor to launch out into the world.  Recently an invitation came along that caused us both to pause and draw into curiosity for what the Lord might be asking us to see.  After weeks of prayer and late night discussion, many questions, many doubts, and tender assurances from our Good Shepherd, we are saying yes to an invitation to travel with a team from our church to Rwanda to serve with Arise Rwanda Ministries

Rwanda is a small country in East Africa. It received national attention in 1994 when the country erupted into a civil war. This conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes left close to a million people dead over the course of three months. This terrible genocide did untold damage to the people of Rwanda. Out of this tragedy came beautiful stories of forgiveness and reconciliation that are hard to fully understand. The country of Rwanda has taken great strides to heal and move forward after the genocide. Now it stands as a strong and beautiful country that has vowed to never allow this level of violence to happen again.

Our team will be working in the town of Boneza. This town of over 24,000 people is located in the western border of Rwanda right next to Lake Kivu. Boneza is one of the most disadvantaged places in Rwanda. We will be working with a Rwandan organization called Arise Rwanda. Arise Rwanda works to bring the love of Jesus Christ to the people of Boneza through education, clean water, and community development. You can see the amazing things that this ministry does on their website

In Jeremy’s and my experience over the years of walking with the Lord, He typically leads us one step at a time, allowing His plan to unfold gradually rather than give us all the details and clear indications of where we are going, what we are doing, and how He is working.  That is how we are being lead still. Knowing that the Lord is working in Rwanda and that He has invited us to join Him in that work for a couple of weeks in June.  We would love to invite you along for the journey – beginning with praying for us now as we seek the Lord in all the details, work on the practicals like shots and travel arrangements, and prepare ourselves for what He will be asking us to do while there. 

If you would like to pray for us, please pray that God would use our team to encourage our brothers and sisters in Rwanda, bring honor to Jesus’ name, and grow in us hearts that reflect our Creator’s. Pray for the people of Boneza and for the Gospel work God has for us to do.

If you would like to partner with us further, you can find all the details about the trip, specific prayer requests and opportunities to give towards our team at the button below:

*My hope is to post updates here on the blog with what we are learning as we prepare and then as I am able in country during our trip. If I have time to re-learn how to have posts e-mailed to you I will add that feature back in :0)

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