To some of us it is a song written by the Byrds, but to others it is a reflection on life written in the days of the Old Testament. Either way, the sentiment is the same. There is a time for all seasons and never in my life have I seen it so clearly as when I walk down the streets of Rwanda:
A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to break down and a time to build up; A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance; A time to cast a way stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain and a time to lose; A time to keep and a time to throw away; A time to tear and a time to sew; A time to keep silence and a time to speak; A time to love and a time to hate; A time of war and a time of peace.
After nearly eight weeks in Rwanda, I firmly believe that the people of Rwanda are in a time of healing, of building up, of dancing and of peace. Granted, I am working for a Christian development agency, so I need not look far to see the times of building up and of healing. Though I often share with you the joy that I see in the smiles of the people, that is not to say that everything is good. There are still children without shoes, mothers living with AIDS, fathers without jobs, homes without doors and churches without floors.
I was asked to share at devotions this morning and I wondered what I possibly had to share. It feels like everything I know about God is something that they already know, if not much more clearly than I. A God who provides? They know. Letting Christ share your sorrow? They know, better than anyone. What is it that I have learned and held onto? Trust. I would not be in front of the staff sharing with them today if I had not trusted in God. Below is a little bit of what I shared with them:
“If you had told me two years ago that I would be here talking to you right now, I would have told you that you are crazy. I don’t want to go to Rwanda, I don’t care about Africa, and I don’t even know what development means. Clearly, though, something changed because here I am and I couldn’t be happier to be here. For me it was the realization that trusting in God means I don’t need to have it all together. It requires taking leaps of faith once in a while, but it is also the assurance that each step I take is guided by God. I don’t need to walk through this life by myself or find the way on my own. Though I will not see the whole picture of my life laid out before me, I personally find it more exciting that way. It’s not scary, it’s an adventure and it’s not an adventure you are on alone.” I spoke for a few minutes, but if I were to sum it all up in one phrase, it would be this:
Living a life of uncertainty with God by your side will be infinitely better than living a life of certainty alone.
That is what faith is and that is what I see in Rwanda. In the children’s care group meetings, the children are trusting their leaders when they hear messages about how to take care of themselves and stay healthy. In savings group meetings, the people are trusting that enough will be provided each week to make sure they can save their dollar. In meetings with pastors, there is trust that all of their effort to bring AIDS awareness and prevention training to their congregations will be worth it. There is a look towards the future as they realize that the work they are doing now will be beneficial in the long run.
Though my transition to Rwanda has been relatively simple, I would hate to give you the impression that everything here is perfect. Though the main streets of Kigali are clean and paved, the dusty roads still lead to immense poverty where many people are living on less than a dollar a day. A few days ago I had the opportunity to go down to a river where many people get their water and I saw up close how hard the people work. Hours a day are spent gathering this dirty water and carrying it on their heads back to their tiny homes. Over and over again I think to myself, “It’s not fair.” The people of Rwanda have done nothing to deserve this life and though I see joy, I also believe that this is not the life they would choose.
The people here will tell you that when God finishes his work for the day, he comes to rest in Rwanda. To many, God seemed entirely absent during the genocide and to others God was lying beside them as they waited in fear for the terror to end. Many still worship the God they could not find in 1994 and it is encouraging for me to see the immense trust they still hold in Him. Each day, people rise with the sun and trust that the Lord will provide for them that day. Trust is about believing God will provide for your life, but even more it is about believing that day by day God will provide just enough. In days of poverty and in days of wealth, God will still be standing by your side. In days of sorrow and in days of joy, do you believe God during both? Each day, it is important to wake up and hear what God has to say. Today, if you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 4:7). If God is standing beside you when you wake, put that day in the Lord’s hands and do not fear. You never know where God may take you, but chances are it will be somewhere you never imagined.
As I near the end of my time in Rwanda, I am seeing every more clearly that through love and hate, tears and laughter, God is truly a God of all seasons. There have been times when I beg God for reason, but never times when I dare to say that God is not here. He is alive and at work here as Rwanda becomes more beautiful and more full of hope day by day by day.