What a powerful first full day for our team in Rwanda. Since I’m typing with my thumbs, you will get the short version. Maybe others will be able to add to this.
We all went to bed quite late and exhausted from our 20 hours of travel and 8 hours of time difference. But we still got up early for a wonderful breakfast at our hotel in Kigali before heading out on our big adventure.
The first stop was the World Vision National Office where we were able to connect with the national staff, including a reuniting with Charles, who was with our team in 2011 and part of 2013. He has a sweet heart and I was excited to find out that he and his wife just had their second child this summer.
We enjoyed a chapel service complete with acapella hymns and a teaching about grace. We all introduced ourselves and shared about Our Response and our love for the people of Rwanda.
Some of the national staff met with us then to go over national initiatives and the alignment between WV and the government.The collaboration and alignment is unparalleled, with WV coming alongside the top priorities. There were so many cool things going on to continue building unity, reconciliation, and development while educating and reducing the impact of poverty.
After our time with the staff we went to the Kigali genocide memorial. While my fourth trip, this stop is still greatly meaningful to me. Clearly the entire team was impacted by both the atrocities of 1994, but also by the hope that has emerged since then with a strong focus on “one Rwanda” rather than revenge or division. The memorial is an important destination for every trip team and continues to be a great way to make sure we are all grounded in the context in which this radical transformation is happening. You can see one of the mass gravesites in the photo below.
We then had a late lunch at Hotel Des Mille Colline, better known as “Hotel Rwanda.” The meal was great but it was difficult to separate what is happening there now versus how things looked about 20 years ago. With the genocide still fresh in our minds, eating was a bit more difficult.
Since we were still tired and now running late, the plan was to just drive through Kivuruga to Musanze, where we are staying. However, we managed to convince our driver, Jimmy, to stop in one of the Kivuruga villages and walk one of the roads a bit, just to get a feel for the Kivurugan community. It was a great choice. While we didn’t spend a lot of time there, we walked a road where the market used to be and where some shops remain. We talked with people, took pictures and laughed with kids. We also hugged old ladies, looked at the volcanoes, and managed to keep from falling on the steep and slippery mud road. I tried the stick and tire game (fail).
These spontaneous activities usually end up being among my favorite. I asked one guy about World Vision and he just smiled and said, “Yes, World Vision.” I also had a few people recognize me. One of the leaders on the Interfaith Committee spotted me and we shared a few precious moments. Also, as we got back to the vehicle, a younger man ran up, “Stephen! Stephen!” he said in greeting. I couldn’t place him exactly, but I know we had interacted on prior trips. It was personally rewarding and encouraging to be remembered by name years after an encounter. I wish I could have been as gracious!
With that we headed to the hotel and had a wonderful dinner and discussion with Jimmy. We discussed the memorial and the genocide, as we all continue to try to wrap our heads around what not only what happened, but also the unbelievable transformation that has emerged. Jimmy is such a great leader and ambassador for his home country.
And now, off to bed. Tomorrow we will visit the homes of some of our sponsored children and meet with all of them for a lunch party. After spending a lot of time with the kids, we will visit a water project, which is always exciting.
Thank you all for your support and well wishes. I would love to have you all here!