by Hannah Umhau
It’s been three days now since we got back. I’ve slept a lot and reminisced. The trip is still fresh in my mind right now, and the memories I have are so full of joy. We really had a wonderful time. Thank you to everyone who prayed for us! It was truly an amazing experience.
As I’ve been processing, attempting to ponder over what we saw and heard, one theme that stands out is the people we met. I remember being struck early on by the beautiful spirit of the Rwandan people. They have such a joy and genuineness and generosity that was evident from our very first night. The staff at Solace in Kigali, and then especially Eric at Seeds of Peace, took such kind care of us. You could tell they really wanted us to know we were welcome. And throughout the trip, Rodney was an incredible translator, guide, and dear friend to all of us. Annette was our bus driver extraordinaire. It was truly remarkable the way she could handle that bus without once getting stuck, all while we were having a grand old time in the back.
Another individual who gave us very warm welcome was the new pastor of Karangazi Church, Archdeacon Stephen. I was honestly blown away by his generosity. Over and over he told us, “This is your home,” and I think anyone from Church of the Redeemer would be given the same warm welcome. We had lunch at his house, where there was an abundance of food. We truly were treated as honored guests throughout the visit to Karangazi, and it was humbling to be the unworthy recipients of such deeply felt gratitude and gladness. It was a profound experience to be made to feel at home as strangers in a small village on the other side of the world and welcomed as brothers and sisters. I had never seen Philippians 2:3 enacted so beautifully. I hope as a Church we continue more and more in our support of Karangazi Church because they truly regard us like family.
The Rwandans we met had a gift for showing honor that was abundantly evident in their welcome of us, but it points also to the communal nature of their culture. Not to idealize anything, but the way we saw things done, pointed to a greater cultural value given to each individual. It is something I want to learn from. For example, the Memorial in Kigali detailed the work of rebuilding since the genocide, and a large part of this has been through community and individual reconciliations. I walked away from the memorial greatly impressed by the sense of powerful wholeness emerging out of tragedy, and the deepened regard for the humanity of every individual now upheld by the Rwandan people. Their lives are far more relational than ours, and perhaps because this has come through a kind of resurrection, their resulting joy and fellowship are more genuine. What I saw through the Rwandan people in that regard was a picture of God’s Kingdom.