Friday, 9 March 2012

Africa - Day Seven Tuesday

While it was still dark, I vaguely heard children being organised for the day.  Rukundo and Erika have six children, and in good Christian family manner, the boys are named after strong biblical characters (Samuel, Joshua, Elisha and Benjamin) and the girls, Blessing and Grace, represent strong biblical virtues.  One of the benefits of an eastward time zone change is finding you’re earlier than you calculated.  So, I was sitting on the outside terrace at 7.00am when Claud returned from taking the older children to the school bus.  He has been in the community since it started 14 years ago.  Add another brother, Aimable, and three sisters, and the New Humanity house family is complete.

Over breakfast, Rukundo explained the three ministries that he oversees: community, church and group of churches.  We hadn’t grasped that the “One Heart and Mind” network already includes churches in Burundi and Congo.  Delegates would be arriving today, and Rukundo had arranged for them to stay in church members’ homes.  “I hadn’t fully appreciated these links,” I apologised.  “We’d imagined that you may have been over-optimistic about the likely attendance at the conference.  We’ve probably limited the budget more than we should.”   I'd skipped having a shower, because I wasn't sure how the demand for the bathroom would work out.  Wakey had found the early morning cold water a shock to his system.

Erika’s brother, Bonheur, arrived in Deogracia’s posh  car, and we planned the day.  They were keen to take us all round Kigali.  Almost all the buildings are low-rise and set in small cultivated hillside plots.  So the city has the feel of a series of villages; very human-sized.  The roads are excellent, the footpaths swept, and the shops properly built.  This is very different from Nairobi.  Rwandans can justifiably be proud of their developing modern capital.

The day was hazy, and Rukundo was disappointed that we weren’t getting the best views as we wound round the city’s several hills.  Soon we arrived at the Genocide Memorial site.  It’s tucked away on the edge of a hillside and looks little different from a normal upmarket residential plot.  We declined to hire the kit for a portable audio guide.  I didn’t want a full blow-by-blow hour and a half account.  Anyway, Rukundo and Bonheur could fill in personally. 

Of course, these things defy adequate description.  I went to Dachau concentration camp as a teenager, in 1961, a similar period after the events it commemorates.  “I think we’ll find this a bit grim,” I commented to Wakey.  In the compact Memorial grounds are buried 259,000 victims.  A modest inscribed wall provides their only identification.   The indoor section is a permanent display describing the events before and after the fateful 100 days in 1994.  Persecution, massacre, genocide.   Displacement, mutilation and HIV.   

By midday, as we emerged from the subdued inside lighting, the sunshine was brilliant.   “Did you have any of your family affected?” I quietly asked Rukundo.  “Yes, I lost 78 relatives from my grandfather’s place”.  On the way to lunch he added, “Now you have seen what we are like on the outside, and on the inside.”   Suddenly the prospect of leading the evening bible study, and then the whole day at the conference seemed an impossible task.”  I recalled the words of the baker whose life was spared when Maximillian Kolbe died in his place during World War Two: “I got on with living to the full; it’s what he would have wanted me to do”.  I resolved to give it my best shot taking these meetings.

We drove home via the many government ministerial buildings that sit on top of the city’s central hills.  Wakey had a rest and I caught up with some preparation.  The lack of any phone signal and internet service was beginning to tell.  We’d exchanged no news from home, from Jason and Jonny, and from Stephen regarding Tanzania, and they wouldn’t know why.  Wakey made a quick call to the Farm on a borrowed phone. 

Down at the Disciples of Jesus Church, we enjoyed the spontaneous Rwandan singing.  Voices were only accompanied by a drum, and what looked like a biscuit tin of lead shot that sounded like an oversized maraca.  The universal language here is Kinyarwanda.  Both bibles and songbooks are used in this language, adding to believers' depth of devotion.  Three Congolese brothers introduced themselves (so now we were translating into three languages).  “I had no money and didn’t know how I was going to travel here,” said one.  “But on Sunday night I said goodbye to my wife in faith, and here I am.”  Wakey gulped.  “Hmm, and we’ve come here to tell them how to do it.” I added, assuming he hadn’t walked from Goma.  After the bible study, and many warm greetings, two brothers unpacked a new amp-and-speaker combo from its box.  This would be our PA for the conference – arriving just in time, after the church’s previous equipment was stolen.

Rukundo had to take the Congolese brothers to their accommodation.  So, with Claud and a couple of other brothers, we set off to walk home, intending to be picked up half way.  Somewhere we lost Claud.  As we walked on in the cooling evening, we realised we’d missed the right road.  We retraced our steps, and soon found Claud frantically waving to us across the road.  For once his ever-bright eyes were clouded by concern.  Deogracia’s car arrived, and we joked that we’d be sent to bed without any tea for being naughty.  In his anxiety, Rukundo had informed the Police.  I think we’ll be kept on a tight lead from now on.

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