What could be good about the Coronavirus? It is certainly not good for those that have contracted the disease, not good for the economies that will be impacted by closures and not good because of the general fear that the unknown brings. My daughter Rebecca supplied masks for Neal and I to wear on the planes, and Christina insisted that we use disinfecting wipes to clean anywhere on the planes that we might tough. We boarded our plane well prepared. What we found – is that all the concerns about the virus have led to many travel cancellations. Neal and I have two seats each to ourselves on each leg of the flight. When we landed, we were perhaps more refreshed than for any trip to Rwanda. That was our silver lining, thank you God!
The Capital of Rwanda has changed rapidly, when we first came to Rwanda, the moment we walked off the plane there was the heavy smell of charcoal in the air from all the cooking stoves in the area. It was a unique greeting that welcomed us. About 4 years ago, people in Kigali started converting to propane for cooking. When we left the airplane this time, there was no smell of charcoal. This is just one of many ways this world is changing, but you sense that this country is moving faster and faster, never quite sure if all this fanatic change is in the best direction.
Some of you donated funds to Alexi our driver a few years ago. His young wife died suddenly, leaving four young children. Imagine, working full time with four little kids – I know that some of you have actually done this – but it is amazing to me how much support is needed when this happens. I am pleased to report that Alexi has remarried, and his dear wife Joseyanne is now helping to cook for our team . She is a very nice young lady.
The name Good Rain came from a request from the Africans that Neal return as a “Good Rain”, one that nourished the people and crops on time, leading to grand harvests. This is the rainy season, and they have not had a “good rain” from above this year. On Monday, 10 people died in the flooding that occurs when the torrential rains came. The lives were lost with many houses in the valleys. It is hard to convey a picture of this country. It is known as the land of a thousand hills, it is more like a thousand mountains. Today we drove to one of the churches that hosts a Compassion school. It was a 3.5-hour ride both ways on switchback roads, up and down mountains. The scenery is breathtaking. On the mountains are terraced and not terraced farms, it is hard to imagine people walking up these slops (hundreds of feet elevation) every day to cultivate their lands. And at the bottom of the mountains is a rapidly moving brown river cutting thought the valley. When it rains – all of the water from the sloes of the mountains ends in the narrow bottom land – the creek rises and those houses built on the sand get washed away (some also built on rock!)
The roads to Ginsenyi are always interesting, it always amazes me how many people are walking – the population seems always on the move. Today I counted the different cargos that were being carried by bikes – one driver, typically walking the bike, sometimes riding – remember, when you drive your bike up hill, this may be a 20 mile, 10 degree elevation trec. For produce, we have 6 ft tall bags of potatoes, cabbages, corn, we have goats and sheep and chickens, we have entire kitchenette sets on one bike. This time I saw women carrying their hoes on their head – the blade was against the back of their heads, with the post sticking out before them. It is a colorful land – a great deal to see and contemplate.
The mission to Ginsenyi was to see the school and for the Pastor and his team to convey a concern. This compound has a high school and church. The same church where Neal was first asked to be a Good Rain. We were given a tour of the classes. Neal enjoys telling the students that we have snow this deep – always deeper than we are actually experiencing in Boston. And that that last week he walked across a 2-mile-wide lake. The students were amazed – actually, I don’t think they could really imagine the possibility of a car driving on a lake. After the tour, they walked us to back of the property and through the back gate – there in front of us was a football (Soccer) stadium. And just to the left, their local airport. Both have been beautified, so when the players from all nations come to play – with their dignitaries – the Rwanda leaders can be proud of their facilities. Then you turn around – and look at the school, mostly you see 200’ of rusty roof that appears to have had giants jumping and denting the structure at some point in time.
The entire church and school has been notified that they are an eye sore, not consistent with the new Rwanda. And there will need to be an upgrade for the facility or move. And we have seen entire mountains in Kigali of poor home disappear within one year, replaced with the fancy new mansions – so we know the threat is real. The Ginsenyi team explained their need. We will pray about what might be done to help. It was a long day, but a good day in Rwanda.