Sunday morning in Rwanda….
Pastor Neal is early to rise, put on his favorite coffee, then quick to continue preparation for teaching this week; 1 John. Few get to see Neal at work, he is very serious and focused – wanting to give everything he can to his students – 61 pastors. Most of these men have become close friends, even though we only share a few Rwandan/American words with most – their smiles are so broad, so much enthusiasm.
In the morning we drove to the Sarepath church, this is the church that Hope Chapel helped build and the place where we will teach during the week. It felt like we were returning home as we left the car. There are trees right in front of the church that were planted in honor of the passing of Neal’s mother, and later his father. It is a reminder to me how long Neal has been coming to Rwanda, and the love that these people have for this team of Americans.
The cloths that the congregation wear are bright and colorful. Three different choirs step up in turn, such enthusiastic sound and incredible dancing (jumping, swinging, every part of their bodies are in motion) – not just a few, but the entire congregation are really rejoicing to the Lord! They are not encumbered by the European or American self-restraint – there is a spirit moving over this place that would be impossible to restrain, and if harnessed, Rwanda would be exporting energy.
After the singing and dancing was done, it was time to introduce the guests – Neal is clearly the superstar – Neal stepped up to the microphone, first giving a greeting from Hope Chapel, then remembered the dedication of this very church we were in, reminding them of the hoe hanging on a back wall, and his message that he gave with this implement: “this church is a tool, it value is found in how it is used…, use it well”. John greeted the congregation, but the church was most interested in when Peggy was coming – next week I told them. Then it was Jerry’s turn to speak to the church. Pastor Neal introduced him – explaining that he married Jerry a few years earlier – and that Lynn was way too pretty for him. Jerry stepped up and spoke as a man that is used to speaking to large groups, full of confidence. He told us the he was married to Lynn for three years ago, and that his leaving home for the week to come to Rwanda was the answer to his wife’s prayer. There was a pregnant pause. Then he went on to explain that Lynn was a missionary in Kosovo, and that she had wanted him to go on a mission trip forever, but Jerry resisted. Now, after coming to Rwanda and meeting the people, he is very happy that he came! [I do like green eggs and ham, Sam I am].
Pastor Neal’s sermon spoke of God’s love, how it is shown, we need to ask feel it, where to find it in our daily lives – the message was just as relevant in Kigali, Rwanda as Sterling, MA, and well received.
After church, many, many people came to great us, hugging, smiling – it is amazing how much can be communicating with only a handful of shared words.
In the afternoon, Jerry and I visited the Genocide Memorial. This is the very sobering portion of the trip. Reading the stories that led to a million people dying literally at the hands of their brother and sisters in a few month period, it is horrific, yet it has happened many times in the past, and frankly may well be happening today in other parts of the world. I had been to this place of remembrance many times, but for Jerry, this was his first exposure. He was very quiet as we walked by the tombs, containing the bodies of more than 250,000 people that were killed locally. There are several more memorials throughout the country – each used as a promise and warning for the future.
As the day ended, we met with several of the pastors arriving for the teaching that starts tomorrow. Warm greetings are shared with and from all. We met with Elijah, the senior statesman of the pastors – also the father to our dear hostess, Miriam. Neal was so excited, he brought a cowboy for Elijah, Elijah loves his broad brim hat – I could see that Neal was bursting to bring out his gift. Tomorrow Neal.