Rain has hit Rwanda and it is beautiful. The leaves are a little bit greener and the air smells a little bit sweeter. When I woke up at 5:30 this morning to go up to Musanze, I was not planning on rain. It’s been sunny nearly every day since I arrived, so I did not expect today to be any different. When I sat in Bwende’s church and listened to the translator share about the story of the mustard seed, I began to hear that perfect noise. The heavy rain and the tin roof make for a perfect melody that turns me into a very emotional, happy, nostalgic person. If you had asked me for a recipe of the perfect day in Rwanda, I discovered it today.
It began with a terrifyingly fast bus ride up to Musanze with the sunrise streaming through any break in the clouds it could find. When the bus arrived, I sat on a bench outside the bus stop and a little girl approached me. She was wearing a fluffy white dress and sat down next to me staring as I turned the pages of East of Eden. Then I heard my name called by Pastor Bwende, mixing up the “l” sound with that of an “r” in typical Rwandan fashion. We went into a restaurant and drank some African tea as he explained to me the schedule of the day. Soon enough, I was on the back of his motorbike and we were riding up the mountain on a ride that was significantly bumpier, and far more dangerous, than the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.
Hopping off the bike, I didn’t hear any of the children yell “Mzungu!” and I somehow felt at home. I never thought that sitting in the middle of a rural African church would be a place that I felt comfortable, but I was so comfortable and beyond thrilled to be there. The service began with a reading in Matthew and one verse in particular stuck out to me:
“But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.” Matthew 13:16
I’m not entirely sure what stuck out to me as I read that verse, but I think it had something to do with the fact that it was so simple. It doesn’t say you are blessed because you are smart or rich, it says you are blessed because you look with your eyes. You use what you have. For the people in this church, they don’t have much, but they are so generous with what little they do have and they further proved that to me today.
When the service ended, everyone from the church was going to one of the member’s homes because the son had just been baptized. There was going to be a celebration and I was invited. I walked with one of the pastors to the home, stumbling on volcanic rocks as I tried to walk and talk to the parade of kids following me at the same time. The rain started to come down about five minutes into our walk and a few seconds later I saw someone running towards me with a hot pink umbrella, vibrant against the grey skies. “Sorry! Sorry!” they yelled and I think my smile was pretty huge at that point. Mostly I was laughing at the sight of it. There I was once again standing out, made all the more obvious the farther you get from the city, and there was a hot pink umbrella rushing towards me to keep me dry.
When we arrived in the house, tears started to well up in my eyes. As the rain started to pound on the tin roof and dozens of church members and neighbors squished into the house, I was reminded of a similar moment four years ago in Costa Rica. Our whole team was crowded into one woman’s small house as we heard someone’s testimony. The rain was pounding on the roof and you could look into each other’s eyes and see a kind of peace and sincerity that was not always there. The same thing happened today in this mud wall home. The rain was pounding and the eyes were looking deep into each others’ and my heart was filled with peace. It’s difficult for me to capture in pictures or words how perfect this moment was, but I desperately hope that I will be able to carry that feeling of peace in my heart and pull it out in the moments when life screams at me.
This was a celebration of a young boy being baptized. There were no decorations or invitations or fancy clothes, just the entire village and some rice and Fanta. There is a certain simplicity in the village life that I desperately wish I practiced more in my own life. The “poor” people in Rwanda have been teaching me that I too am poor. Though they don’t have as much money as me, there is a relational dependency on one another that makes them so much richer than me. I have heard several times since coming to Rwanda that Americans strive to be individuals and community living is significantly more difficult for us. As my host mother Becca told me last night, “I never knew what it meant to be dependent on God until we moved to Rwanda. In America, if you need a car seat, you go to Target and buy one. Here, you don’t have that option, you can only pray.” It’s true, prayer is fervent here and prayers are seen answered.
I put my camera away yesterday about five minutes into the church service. “Not today,” I told myself. “Today, I am not a tourist. I am living in Rwanda and this is my church.” It was nice to be treated like a normal person and not a complete stranger. I wish that I could have more days like today. More days where I can visit the same people more than once to show that I do care and I’m not just here to observe Rwanda from afar. I’m here to experience Rwanda in all its glory. I’m here not to ride a motorcycle, but to walk down the rocky path. Not to stay dry, but to feel the rain on my face. Rwanda is feeling like home just in time to leave, but perhaps that’s for the best.
As my days get closer and closer to the end, I thank God that I am leaving Rwanda with a more accurate depiction of all this country holds. Between past and present, the country holds many opposites. Terror and joy, war and peace, fear and love, bitterness and beauty. But as I leave, there are images and moments in my mind and my heart that I will never be able to forget. This day certainly held a few of those moments and I will forever try to remember the peace in my heart as I sat in the mud floor, mud wall hut while the rain pounded down on the old tin roof.