A proper good-bye should never be easy; this is something I firmly believe. Tomorrow will indeed be a proper good-bye, as today was and as the day before that was. I suppose this has been a trip of many good-byes, some more difficult than others. Today we spent our last day in Musanze and made the journey home once again through the winding hills. Returning to Musanze from Ntungamo truly felt like we were coming home and I think that made us each feel very happy and like our trip was worth every hour spent (in preparation, in our time here and also in the many hours spent together after we return) and every dollar donated to this journey. It has not simply been an adventure for the sake of adventure. No, it has given us great insight into life halfway across the world, causing voices and stories to jump out of photos when we look at them. Though I might encounter news headlines more often than others related to poverty and disease in the developing world (because I encounter them everyday working at PATH), we will all be looking at those articles through a different lens, knowing that behind every statistic and every face is a life that is fragile and in need of love.
For our last day in Musanze, our team visited some of the pastors working in the district and learned about their everyday life. What they do in a week, what struggles they face, how they shepherd their church communities and what they do to get through each day. If I were to sum up these meetings in one sentence, it would be simple: life for them is not easy. It’s as a plain as that. The pastors work six days a week, sometimes seven, and they are unpaid. This leaves their wives working in the field or selling goods in the local market to feed them and their many children. Pastor Hosea’s daughters do not have a good reputation among their peers because of their social status and he fears for their future. Though the parents desperately want to see their children succeed, the means are simply not there. My heart was broken in one sense and inspired in another. As we listened to both pastors, Hosea and Emmanuel, I saw that the need was deep. I saw that their faith was even deeper.
“Once you realize that you yourself cannot do anything,” Emmanuel said as he looked us in the eyes, “you will learn to rely on God.” As I mentioned after our time in Ntungamo, perhaps we (I can only speak quite honestly for some of us) have never been materially poor enough to need to rely on God. Many of us have likely never been relationally poor enough to rely on God. We are lucky enough to have people to turn to in our times of need, be they unemployment or loneliness or fear or sickness. When I am sitting in a small home in rural Rwanda hearing a pastor explain that it’s difficult to scrape by each day, yet he is looking after the sick, the orphans and the widows…well, who am I to complain about a blessed thing?
It seems like the best thing we can do is encourage and empower the poor to the best of our ability, giving them a place to stand and let their voices be heard. I get very annoyed whenever someone says the phrase, “Be a voice for the poor.” The poor have a voice, they just need the rest of us to be quiet for a minute and hear what they have to say. Once we are quiet, that is when we realize why Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Why he spoke to the woman at the well. Why he told the sinless man to throw the first stone. Why he turned over the tables in the temple courts and washed the feet of his own disciples. God didn’t send Christ to earth just to hang out with the healthy and wealthy and say an even better time was coming. No, that is not it at all. God sent Christ to earth to turn it upside down and to bring those “better times” straight to earth. Christ came to earth to bring hope to the hopeless, light to the darkness, water to the thirsty and food to the hungry.
In Rwanda they have a phrase, “buhoro buhoro,” meaning “slowly, slowly.” To me, that is the rate at which the kingdom of God is hitting this earth, but at least it’s coming. You can see it in the eyes of a widow who has just saved enough money to buy a goat. You can hear it in the laughter of the children as they line up to race a bunch of crazy muzungus down the road. You can taste it in the clean water spilling from a new tap, owned by a community in Uganda desiring to bring health to the next generation. You can see it in a group of pastors from different denominations coming across their differences to work together for the betterment of their neighbors. You can feel it as the pastor’s wife’s cheek brushes your own as you embrace. Hope is alive in Rwanda and Uganda and it has been a true honor to see it in action. Though it pains me to leave this beautiful place, hope will continue to rise here and it is important to watch hope rise at home as well. So, with tears I will say good-bye (for now) to Rwanda (my home) and return to Seattle with eyes wide open ready to see what God might show me next.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)