A day on Lake Muhazi

Trip Start Sep 08, 2013
Trip End Oct 04, 2013

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Flag of Rwanda  , Kigali Province,
Saturday, September 14, 2013

This morning started a bit mysteriously. I didn't know who was coming to pick me up or when. So I was ready at 08:00 and just waited to find out. Right at 8:00 my phone rang and the receptionist told me James had arrived. I gathered my things and went down to meet him and we chatted for half an hour until the same vehicle as yesterday arrived. Mr. Mundeli had sent his apologies but he’d had a bad night and still wasn’t well enough to leave home. I was very sorry to hear this.

Patrick arrived at the same time as the vehicle, so the four of us set out toward Muhazi which is about an hour away, most of the drive on good blacktopped roads. As we talked, the language change happening in Rwanda became very apparent. This used to be a French-speaking nation (as far the European languages go – of course Kinyarwanda is the first language), but as of a few years ago the government decreed they were going to switch to English. Rwanda (and Burundi) joined the East African Community in 2007, the other members of which are English-speaking: Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. When I first met Patrick and James they spoke French, now they are equally at ease, perhaps more so in English. Increasingly I find educated Rwandans who speak little or no French, but English instead. This is quite a cultural shift.

So as we talked, we wandered back and forth from English to French depending on the subject and the vocabulary they wished to use. We talked about learning new languages, and the challenges of keeping them separate. We discussed the relative value of European languages, and which ones would be most useful to Africans. They were curious about which languages are most widely spoken, and how useful Spanish might be, as opposed to other languages.

They asked what Texas was like (where my wife and I have just moved), and were shocked when I told them it is often over 40 C (104 F) during the summer. They told me the hottest temperatures in Rwanda are only around 28 C (83 F). They wanted to know about snow. Patrick did an internship with BBC in London a year or so ago and was very disappointed when it did not snow in the winter; he still wants to experience it some time.

They ask about the political situation in the US and if I thought the US would somehow attack Syria. Patrick said he thought Rwandan opinion was not favorable to a strike. He also said that public opinion has soured on President Obama in spite of their related origins.

The time passed quickly with these fellows who I’ve had the privilege to watch grow up into very fine young men.

We arrived at Lake Muhazi around 9:30. Mrs. Mundeli was there with the small congregation from Kayenzi. It was a joy to catch up with their family news, although we were all sad that Mr. Mundeli was sick at home.

The group from Giti arrived about 10:15, much later than scheduled. We got organized and started our service at 10:30. Mr. Sobobugingo gave a sermonette about why Christians fast, following which there were two pieces of vocal special music. Then I spoke on the New Testament meaning of the symbolic observances described in Leviticus 16.

Following the service we had a short break and then reconvened for the blessing of the little children. There were six to be blessed from four families. Their names are Dorcas, Acsa, Laetitia, Japheth (an interesting name for Africa…), Eric and Alexis. They ranged in age from one to eight years of age. Eight is a little older than usual for this service since the example of Jesus is to take the children in one’s arms to ask the blessing, but Alexis’ father picked him up easily, so everything went well.

Following this ceremony, I changed into my water clothes and had the privilege of baptizing Matthias and Grace in Lake Muhazi. They speak no French or English so everything had to be translated, including directions on how the baptism itself would be conducted. This isn’t always as simple as it might seem since the Greek word translated baptism means immersion, being completely covered by the water. So we don’t want an arm or a leg breaking the surface, which can happen quite easily, especially for people who are not at ease in the water and who might flail a bit. I like to get it right it on the first go…. Mr. Sibobugingo translated for me for the whole ceremony and the prayer after the baptisms themselves, and everything went very well.

This was a very joyous occasion and as is there custom here, the congregation sang a special song about the meaning of baptism after the event, and many members congratulated our new brother and sister in the faith.

We fellowshipped for another hour or so, then the sky darkened and the rumble of thunder approached more and more loudly. So we shook hands all around and I wished everyone a fine festival season. Patrick rode back to town with his sister Myriam who has a car now, which is quite an amazing step up materially; this would have seemed impossible even a few years ago.

James and I rode back together talking all the way about many and varied things: the challenges of being a single Christian when the prospects of finding a Christian bride seem remote, faith, what is our part to play and what is God’s part in such situations, how baptism enters the equation, and so on. James has thought deeply about these things and we had a very interesting discussion.

Back at the hotel I said goodbye to James, paid the driver and had a refreshing siesta after the days’ exertions.  I called my wife just before I headed down for dinner at 6:00 pm; it was only 11:00 am in Dallas, her day had barely started. I teased her about the wonderful dinner I was going to have in just a few minutes.

As I walked down to Chez Lando’s famous barbecue pit, I saw probably 50 westerners, dressed for some occasion, coming to the restaurant. I never used to see so many white people at the same time in Rwanda; this is becoming much more of a tourist destination now, and one sees ever larger tour andr volunteer groups. There is much more change and progress apparent in Rwanda than in any other African country I visit.

Tomorrow will be my last day in Rwanda, and in the middle of tomorrow night I’ll start the long journey to Togo via Ethiopia.
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mary hendren on

Hi Joel,
Thanks so much for the news of the Day of Atonement, the blessing of the little children, the baptisms, and the interesting conversations. It all seems very encouraging. What a lovely custom for the congregation to sing a song at the baptism of new members, welcoming them into the family. Please convey to Mr. Mundeli that we are sorry to hear he is sick. Thanks also for the number of pictures you included helping us feel in touch with the brethren there.


Andrea West on

Hello Joel,

Thank you for your love and service to our brothers and sisters there. I looked at the pictures, almost side-by-side, of the little children who were blessed and of our two new family members about to go through the ceremony of baptism. Tears came to my eyes as I considered that, hopefully, each of the little children who were blessed will some day make the commitment to walk into a body of water to be baptized--with great desire to begin their journey as a begotten child of God. Roger & I pray for God's richest blessings on you as you finish this part of your trip and the Feast of Tabernacles to come shortly!

jpvernaud on

Nous vous souhaitons un très bon voyage, un très bon début de Fête des Tabernacles et nous nous réjouissons de vous revoir pour une partie de la Fête des Tabernacles à Saint-Jean-La-Vêtre
Salutations fraternelles à tous nos frères et soeurs que vous rencontrerez

Tess Washington on

Thank you for the inspiring news about your visit & short stay in Rwanda. Good to hear about Patrick, James, the baptism of Mathias and Grace and the blessing of the children. We'll be thinking about Mr. Mundeli's full recovery from his ailment. Good to hear also about the English language being a part of their society and the economic growth. It seems that your visits in these African nations are becoming easier. We'll be looking forward to your visit to Togo.

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