Before starting university Beka and others from Holland Road went to visit church members working with UNICEF in Rwanda. She writes: I have been asked to write an article about my time in Rwanda and I honestly don’t know where to begin. So I shall start where the journey did: Gatwick airport, Monday 26th August 2013. I arrived with Alex, Joel and Issy and collectively about 70kg worth of luggage. As we set off for our African adventure I really didn’t know what to expect. For the following two weeks we had the pleasure of staying with Rachel and Ricardo, who made us all feel so welcome at their home, church and house-group.
Do you have a highlight?
So far, every time I’ve been asked this question, it’s left me struggling for words. I don’t think one highlight could really do this trip justice, so I’ve narrowed it down to three!
Highlight 1: UCF
Visiting the Umubyeyi Community Foundation (UCF). UCF works to “join these children through their hard times and try to make a difference in their lives.” At present it helps give 111 children, aged 2-7 years old, access to basic pre-school education, health care and food. We spent a few days working with UCF; mostly hoeing, gardening and moving rocks, in order to clear a field, which can now be used to grow vegetables to help feed the children. I really enjoyed doing something so practical to help and serve the wonderful work UCF are doing.
Highlight 2: Cyimbili
A week at Cyimbili coffee plantation. Cyimbili is run by Christian charity ALARM. The project manager explained the lengthy coffee process to us and we even spent a morning alongside the workers picking coffee! We helped out teaching English in the secondary school and face painting/jewellery making at the primary school. However my highlight of this time was not part of our routine schedule, but rather an impromptu playtime in the rain with the children, who swarmed around Alex and I as we walked around this beautiful plantation. A few hours later, after a lot of games and laughter, we eventually made it back to the house! It was a really special time as it put a smile on the faces of the little ones and helped open up conversations with the older, secondary school children. Another highlight from Cyimbili was sharing my favourite verse (Zephaniah 3:17) at staff morning devotions – even if it was at 6:30am!
Highlight 3: The Genocide War Museum
My third highlight actually started as a lowlight. We were keen for this trip to expose us to mission work but also to help us experience various aspects of Rwandan life. Therefore, unavoidably, in our first few days we visited the Genocide War Museum and a church memorial site, untouched since 1994.* Horrific doesn’t cover it. One phrase I read in the museum stuck with me: ‘Rwanda stunk all over of death.’ My heart completely broke for what I saw and heard about in that museum, combined with the stories Rwandan friends shared with us. I cried to God a lot in those first few days. I felt really helpless and hopeless. But God taught me something I needed to learn: I can’t change the world…but He can! I’m so glad I took my journal with me because it gave me a forum for quiet reflection with God, so here is a short extract to finish:
“I’ve been thinking about the ‘stench of death’ left in Rwanda by the genocide and God reminded me of 2 Corinthians 2:15, ‘For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.’ I can’t un-do the past or take away the pain left in this land, but this is all God asks of me- to start to ‘smell’ more like Jesus.”
I feel like this trip gave me a renewed sense of purpose. We can’t change the world by our own strength. I believe that God breaks our hearts for what breaks His so that we will start being the sweet smell of Jesus to His broken people. Only through Him will lives be changed and nations healed. He’s the God of the immeasurably more and I’m confident that Rwanda’s struggles aren’t too great for Him.
*(If you don’t know about the Rwandan genocide of 1994, then do take a minute to read this)