Trip to Giti

Trip Start Feb 13, 2011
Trip End Mar 14, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of Rwanda  , Kigali City,
Saturday, February 26, 2011

Today was a very full day as was expected. I was ready to leave at 07:15, and Mr. Mundeli arrived with a taxi and driver a few minutes before that time. The taxi had its steering wheel on the left, British style, no doubt because it had been brought here from a former British colony, like Kenya, where they still drive on the left.

We waited a few minutes for a young man named James who is the son of our deacon in Giti, Mr. Sibobugingo. When James arrived we headed out of Giti. On the outskirts of Kigali, we met the van full of members from the Remera congregation who were also on their way to Giti. They had already been on the road for an hour and a half or so. We waved back and for as the vehicle met and then drove on together in a mini-convoy. We stayed together so that we could work our way through any checkpoints we would come too. Mr. Mundeli has an official paper explaining that we're a Sabbath-keeping church, so the members are allowed off the civics works days. But he need to be with the members to have the dispensation applied to them. Even then it doesn’t always work well. I know sometimes he’s been held at a checkpoint with a van full of members until the work time is over. They weren’t made to work, but they were prevented from travelling to a church service. Thus, we took the precaution of leaving early enough to be out of Kigali before the work started at 08:00.

I sat in the front so I could take photos and shoot video. The front passenger seat here is sometimes half-jokingly called "the dead man’s place" because in the event of a head on collision, of which there are a disturbing number, it’s not a particularly good seat for survivability.

As the car moved quickly along the paved road leading out of Kigali. I chatted with Mr. Mundeli and James, turning back to face them as we talked. Suddenly, there was loud thump and sliding noise. I turned back quickly and found we were only half on the road; the right half of the car was off on the non-existent shoulder, running through brush, over large rocks, down through potholes. Just slightly more to the right there were thick trees and a sharp drop-off. The driver struggled for a moment to keep control of the car that swerved back and forth. It only took a few seconds, but it felt longer, for the diver to get the car back on the road, after which things were very quiet in the car. Mr. Mundeli asked the driver what happened. He responded in Kinyarwanda. I asked what he’d said, and the reply was that he had hit a pothole and that it had thrown the car off the road.

It’s possible for a large pothole to throw a car around and even off the road, but this road was in pretty good repair and I hadn’t seen any potholes of that magnitude. It’s more likely the driver got distracted and ran off the road. We won’t be using his services after today, and I’m pretty sure we all said an extra prayer for protection during the day’s trip that we were only beginning.  After about 15 km (10 miles) on the paved road we turned off on the dirt road that leads up in the mountains to Giti. The whole trip from Kigali is only 60 km (45 miles or so) but it takes 2 hours because of how bad the dirt road sections are. It’s a fairly steep climb for much of the way, and passages are very rough and rocky. I was thankful it was dry. During the rains, the roads along here can be impassable.

Along the way we saw lots of people carrying small tree trunks and wooden poles. This, I learned to was rebuild houses that the government had recently condemned. It decided that to modernize the country grass roofs and walls would no longer be allowed. Everyone had to have at least mud-brick walls and tin roofs. People were given a deadline to make the change and if they didn’t, the offending structure would be destroyed by officials. Apparently a Catholic priest who protested the hardship this would cause for some families was arrested. If all that’s true, it sounds a bit ominous. Much progress has been made in Rwanda, more than in surrounding countries. And they’re in a hurry to progress further. It seems to me they’ll have to be careful not to go too far too fast and alienate the people the government is supposed to serve.

Also along the way children screamed with excitement, waved and shouted word in either English or Kinyawanda, when they saw the white guy drive past. One word I kept hearing was faranga, and I didn’t know what it meant. James explained it meant money. They were shouting for me to throw them some money from the large bag of Francs all foreigners are expected to carry around with them….

We finally pulled in at the church hall at 9:30 and fellowshipped for half an hour as we waited to begin the service which began at 10:00. After hymns sung in Kinyarwanda, M. Sibobugingo gave a sermonette about brotherly love and how to practice it. Mr. Mundeli gave some announcements and then I gave everyone greetings from people they knew, and explained my trip. The chorale sang two songs, very nicely sung as always. After another hymn, I gave the sermon on blessings that come to us by participating in the life of the Church.

After services the ladies set up for the “picnic” as they call it. On the menu today, per person: 3 large bread rolls and margarine, half an avocado, hard boiled eggs and a soda. As Spartan as that may sound to some of us, it was a treat for them and everyone was very happy to be able to eat together. This meal was provided out of funds sent over for such a purpose by church members back in the States. You know who you are and thank you again for your thoughtfulness.

After the picnic, the hall was swept and cleaned and the chairs and benches rearranged for the Q&A session. They asked good questions and sometimes followed-up to make sure they understood the answers. They wanted to know about the present situation – the good and the bad, who among those they had met had gone where, what had happened in Ghana, whether there was any hope yet of reconciliation, whether we still had enough ministers to serve in other languages, why they hadn’t known about these problems earlier, whether there were still church members in the dark, whether there was a sharing of church assets when the split occurred and others as well.

They also had a Bible question about whether the children of church members are “called” or “drawn” to God in the sense of John 6:44. We read several scriptures on that topic and I explained our understanding.

The Q&A lasted over two hours. Then we needed to leave fairly quickly since it’s best to avoid driving after dark, and the members from Remera had at least a 3 –hour trip before them. Mr. Mundeli went home with the van this time. James came with me in the car. The taxi driver had Rwandan music playing on a CD. I asked James what the words were. He said they were gospel songs, which people are very partial too here. As we neared Kigali, I suddenly recognized one of the melodies, everyone in America would recognize it. I asked James what the lyrics said. He replied that it said righteous people go to heaven when they die, that the suffering can pray to God for deliverance and it also included the 23rd Psalm. I laughed long and hard. James asked me why, and I had some trouble telling him. How to explain the irony of lyrics of death and heaven and suffering and the 23rd Psalm being sung to the tune of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”?

We arrived back in Kigali right at dark, and James went on to his apartment. I decided to have my last dinner in Rwanda this trip at the Hotel des Milles Collines. This was the actual “Hotel Rwanda” of the movie by that title. The hotel seen in the film is not the actual hotel where those events took place. If you’ve never seen that film it’s quite good; not too graphic or violent, but it does give an understanding of the horror that happened here in 1994. The hotel has a 4th floor restaurant with a plunging view of Kigali, beautiful day or night. I had a pleasant meal surrounded by French-speakers who particularly like this Belgian owned hotel and French-style restaurant with refined cuisine. It costs a little more than the restaurant at Chez Lando, but not much more and certainly much less than such meal would cost anywhere in Europe.

It was an full and encouraging day. Tomorrow I plan to visit the Mundelis in their “new” house and then it will be time to travel on to Bujumbura.
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Judy Dane on

Thank you so much for helping us/me to "meet" our brethren and understanding their situations. It is such a contrast to our everyday lives. Our prayers are for your safety as well as theirs.

Emily S on

Your trip is fascinating to read about.
The African people are a beautiful example of courage and determination to follow God's way of life in the midst of hardship and struggle. We should be so focused on serving and worshipping God.
Continuing to pray for every aspect of your trip.

N.Osorio on

It's wonderful to read about our brethren in other parts of the world. Thank you Mr. Meeker for the inspiring trip, my prayers are with you always.

par2lalemonde on

Bonjour Joël,

Content que vous ayez pu, après quelques péripéties, retrouver nos frères et soeurs rwandais. Et comme d'habitude, il se passe toujours quelque-chose d'inhabituel et d'intéressant. Et tout est intéressant !!! Que les sourires des enfants sont émouvants. Et qu'il est touchant de prendre connaissance de la situation de nos membres là-bas.
Bon voyage pour la prochaine portion de votre périple. Jeremy lit votre blog aussi avec intérêt. Nous suivrons la prochaine étape avec avidité. Bon courage.


thefaiths on

Hi Joel,
Wanted to let you know you have 2 more hitchhikers along with you on this trip. It's an exciting adventure for us to be so close to what you're going thru each day. Thank you so much for your courage and faith in serving the brethren there. Our prayers are for a safe journey for you and may God be with all our brethren scattered around the world. Thank you too for the photos you're including.

Rosie Seltzer on

So thankful to hear you had a wonderful Sabbath with the brethren. Really enjoy the pictures each time. Loved the smiles on the children's faces! Makes me feel more a part of your journey. Just think, only two more weeks to go! Praying for you every day.

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