A Day in the Life: Rwanda

8:00 am:            Arise (rather groggy and grumpy - I am not friends with evil Morning.) 8:00 - 9:00:       Snack on some Psalms in my little tent - so tasty!

9:00 - 9:45:       Walk the long, dusty road to pastor’s house for breakfast

9:45 - 10:00:     Eat breakfast (same as every day) … hard-boiled egg, a miniature banana, black ginger tea with goat’s milk, and chapati (like a fluffy tortilla).

We were told that right after breakfast, we would leave for a “short” marriage party. It would be a “slight distance” away, and we were not sure how we would get there.

10:00 - 12:00:    Wait at the pastor’s house in confusion … where we discover it is a graduation party, not a marriage party. And that the pastor had already left. And that he is not sure how we will get there. Make small talk with the pastor’s wife (who speaks limited English) -  try to maintain eye contact as she breastfeeds her toddler, completely topless and very nonchalant about it.

Play “20 questions” with our team to kill time.

Sweat trickles down my back - the heat of the day arrives early here.

12:30 - 1:00:       We walk across town to our translators’ moms’ shop, where we will meet our translator, who will get us bus tickets to the graduation party.

1:00 pm:              Arrive at the shop, where mama wants to know where her daughter (our translator) is. We have no idea. Hands on wide hips, she is not happy.

1:00 - 1:40:          Sit on the steps and watch the cars go by. I daydream about macaroni and cheese. A precious and malnourished child wanders by, so my attention is averted to praying for her.

1:40 pm:               Our translator arrives, and after a short argument with her mom, we head to the bus station.

2:15 pm:               When we arrive at the bus station, we discover that the next bus does not leave until 3 pm. (We were told the party ended around 3). So we walk back to to the shop.

2:30 - 3:30:           Wait for a while longer, while many confusing phone calls fly around. A car arrives to pick us up, then speeds away as our translator explains that “it has two flat tires.”

4:00 pm:                We are picked up by a van. Thrilled and relieved, we stretch out on the seats and head off, bumping along back roads.

4:20 pm:                 In confusion, we are driven back to …. the pastor’s house!

Here, we are greeted by the pastor’s family, dressed to a hilt, AND the entire Voice of Trumpet Victory Choir from the pastor’s church, in their singing attire: shiny brown satin two-tone shirts and crisp pants, and long shoes that turn up at the toes.  All 16 of them pile into our van (how I wish Africans used deodorant!), along with their full arsenal of sound equipment … 2 huge box stereos, a sound board, several cables, etc. Some seats have 3 layers of people stacked high on each others’ laps.

In my little corner of the van, I thank Jesus (literally) that I am by a window, where fresh air can blow through, and that my compact size shows its advantage in this situation. My poor 6 ft+ team leader looks so uncomfortable.

4:25 pm:        After driving exactly 10 meters, the van is stopped. In a flurry of loud voices, the entire choir piles out of the van, shuffles around, and then piles back in. This happens twice more in the next half hour. But … we are finally on our way! Note that we are only 6 hours late.

During the van ride, Voice of Trumpet Victory Choir practices their repertoire, although they don't all sing the same song at the same time. It is loud enough that I hear it all through my headphones.

5:25 pm:       Arrive at the graduation party to many stares.

We visit the “bathroom” - a three-sided shack with a hole dug in the ground. The exciting part is that there is a hornet’s nest … in the hole where you are supposed to do your business.

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to do your business without angering the hornets. This is all made more exciting, since in Romania I discovered a serious allergy to flying, stinging insects. In Africa, even a trip to the bathroom is never routine. Somehow, we miraculously survive unscathed.

At the graduation party, we eat two very large dinners … one complete with animal intestines and soured milk sauce. We choke down what we can and try not to let the constant stares bother us.

We’re given a 2-minute warning that someone from our group will give a graduation speech. This should not be surprising, since at the last graduation we attended (in Tanzania), we were given a 1-minute warning that we would be performing a dance in front of hundreds. Yes, we did it, and no, it was not my proudest moment. At this graduation ceremony, however, my teammate Jake saves the day by giving a speech that is well-received. After that the stares are more kindly.

I am fascinated by a speech given by the family patriarch and his allusions to genocide. Their family was Tutsi, in the targeted group during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. His family fled to Uganda and most of them have known life as refugees. In a quiet, dignified voice, he glorifies God that he has allowed them to return to the homeland of their fathers, that he saved them while many others were slaughtered, and that now as his family - and his country - rebuilds, the graduation of his grandson marks progress for his family and hope for all.

Rwandans are a reserved, proud people that do not quickly open their emotions to outsiders - and they rarely talk of the horror in their recent past. To see a rare glimpse of their true feelings was a gift, and I felt honored to be included in such an intimate family gathering.

Little did I know the day was not even close to over yet …

6:45 pm:        Though the “party” portion of the ceremony is only beginning, we all (Voice of Trumpet Victory Choir included) pile back into the van - we are already late for evening church service. We bounce along the rutted, muddy, rocky, mountainous road to the city.

    Along the way, fields of wheat and corn unfold before me like a patchwork quilt - beautiful.     A storm rolls in, shades of steel in thunderous clouds above, brazen sunlight shining through breaks of gray. Clean, rain-soaked breezes wash through the open window and refresh the sweaty stale air inside the van. A great playlist rings in my ears, and I worship. My heart bobs above me, like a balloon on a string. It doesn’t feel like much holds me to the ground. Just when I think I can’t be more caught up in the rapture of the beauty around me, a lightening storm begins.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

Despite Genocide, God has smiled upon this land. The story of Rwanda is still unfolding, and I can’t help but sense that he is not done in East Africa yet - a feeling that was confirmed when …

7:30 pm:        We arrive at church, late for service, where everyone is singing a cappella and caught up in worship- undeterred that we have the choir and the sound system with us.

7:30 - 8:45:    Church and preaching/worship with our team.

8:45 pm:        We choke down our third dinner.

9:15 pm:         In the middle of a torrential downpour, all seven of us pile into a small four-door ancient car that in every moment feels like its last. We somehow make it home.

10:00 pm:       Collapse into bed and think, “Is this real life?