I recently attended the Taizé Pilgrimage of Trust on Eart in Kigali, Rwanda. Before the main gathering I also had the privilege of going on the optional “culture plunge”: living with a family outside of Kigali and just experiencing life with them.
Rwanda was, well, it was so many things.
In the two weeks that I was there…
I filled up that blank notebook, and then another.
I felt my soul breathe at the sight of the beautiful landscapes of the country affectionately known as the Land of a Thousand Hills.
I learned about peace, and discovered that I’m not alone in dreaming of it.
I observed lives lived in a country that is developing in leaps and bounds while grappling with a gruesome, traumatic national memory.
I learned about crop cultivation in Eastern/Central Africa and I helped hoe the fields one morning, too!
I came much closer to the brutality that humankind is capable of. I stood in a church where thousands of people had hidden in desperation, only to be slaughtered.
I was blessed to win the confidence of two or three young Rwandans, who shared bits of their drastically varying life stories with me. These conversations I will value forever.
I tasted a bit of Taizé and cried my eyes out at sheer relief that God has provided people who know Him and peace so much better than I do. I want more!
I experienced the joyful, abandoned and expressive worship of Rwandans and other Africans who joined us for the Taizé gathering. (I think it took the Europeans a lot longer to get used to than us South Africans!)
I heard stories of reconciliation… but not enough. Give me more!
I found myself living slower and with more time for reflection. This was awesome and it is something I want to cultivate in my normal life.
Even before departing for Rwanda, I discovered a new generosity in my heart, which I think is a result of trusting God for provision for the trip. It deeply affected the way I look at money and community.
I saw the value of officially acknowledging people’s suffering through justice, truth telling, memorialisation, reparations and restitution, and the inverse, the pain of not getting any acknowledgement for one’s suffering.
I got an idea of how much it sucks not having complete freedom of expression.
I learned about the idea of “Shalom”, which is not just the absence of war but complete well-being in every facet of one’s life which flows over into life-giving relationships with others.
On a lighter note, I ate “fufu” / ubugali which was made the right way, unlike our pathetic efforts at the fundraising dinners that I hosted before my departure J
I gave an impromptu South African history lesson to a bunch of rural Rwandan primary school teachers.
I forgot my shampoo and discovered that cold water and Dove soap works almost as well!
I carried a baby on my back, which I thought was, you know, cool but I wasn’t prepared for the total amazement of the locals!
I spoke massive amounts of broken French to people who not only often spoke equally broken French back, but also switch their ‘R’ and ‘L’ sounds around at will so that “J’aime les fleures” sounds like “J’aime réfrères.”
I took several trips on motorcycle taxis! You haven’t lived until you’ve felt the breeze as you cruised up and down the hills of Kigali.
I drank rosemary tea and “sosoma” – a soya, sorghum and maize drink. I ate cassava roots, cassava leaves, fried green bananas, cooked green bananas, dried fishies, and way, way, way too many beans!
The other South Africans and I showed sang South Africa’s national anthem and explained the significance of the flag to about 2000 young people. Feedback was that almost everyone would have preferred if we showed them a Zulu dance. Turns out Zulus are really famous…
God worked. People were blessed by Taizé. Rwandans felt honoured and affirmed by the presence of so many eager youngsters in their towns and cities.
My prayer for you is that you would feel God’s redemptive power in the world around you. Jesus died so that we can draw near to God.