A day of rest in the green hills of Rwanda

Trip Start Apr 02, 2014
Trip End May 07, 2014

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Where I stayed
Hotel Chez Lando Kigali
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Rwanda  , Kigali,
Saturday, April 12, 2014

This morning Daniel and I met for breakfast at 7:00. He told me he hadn't been able to sleep at all during the night because he had slept during the whole flight from Amsterdam to Kigali. That meant by the time we got back from the day’s activities he would have gone about 24 hours without sleep. But he said he felt alert and fine as we began.

Just before 7:30 Patrick Mundeli was waiting at the reception desk as we returned from breakfast. We exchanged greetings then went to our rooms to collect what we needed for the day. Daniel had brought a large bag full of used clothing, eyeglasses and things of that nature to leave with the church members here. These will be very much appreciated. Ndeo was present on time with his Rav4, which was going to come in handy on this day.

The four of us started out toward Giti. Patrick phoned his father and found that the usual road to Giti was in very bad shape due to the recent rains. So an alternate route, that drives beyond the mountain on which Giti stands and approaches it from a back angle; a little longer perhaps but less rutted. It rained lightly as we left Kigali and took the paved road out of town. It gained in intensity as we drove to the point that when we turned off the paved road onto dirt, it was raining steadily.

I showed Ndeo how to use the windshield defroster and defogger. I’ve written about this before: most drivers in sub-Saharan Africa don’t understand how this works. They usually keep the blower turned off and also turned to prevent fresh air from interring from outside. This means when a heavy rain begins the windshield fogs up. The usual combination of a foggy windscreen and used up wiper blades, means there ends up being a lot of guesswork involved in driving. This is not reassuring when going up a wet clay road on the mountainside with no guardrails….

Sometimes when I change the settings on the defogger, the driver will kind of fight with me over it (not physically), they like their settings the way they are and it keeps dust from blowing in during dry times. But Ndeo was accommodating and soon the inside of the glass was clear. I couldn’t do anything about the wiper blades. By the time we got farther up the mountain, and approaching Giti, it was raining hard and the road was running with swift streams of water. In places it seemed we were driving down a river bed. The little Toyota has no trouble navigating any of it, and I never felt unsafe which I cannot say of all my trips up there.

As if on cue, just as we pulled in at the Church hall at 9:30, the rain stopped, so we could disembark and enter the hall without getting soaked. We greeted everyone all around, and waited for the van to arrive from Kayenzi, which it did a few minutes later. We started our service at 10:30. They sang hymns in Kinyarwanda, and we in French. After an opening prayer M. Sibobugingo gave a sermonette about purity.

After another hymn there were announcements by M. Mundeli and I made a few comments about our trip and extended greeting from the office and from others they know. Over the years these members have been blessed to receive the visit of about a dozen members from the west. That may not seem like many, but compared to most other African areas, it’s quite a number.

The Rutamunjyanye family sang special music, and then the Giti chorale sang a piece. After this Daniel gave the sermon in French, translated by James, one of the two younger men who are fluent in French and English. The translation is a collaborative service. If James would get stuck on how to translate a word or phrase, which can easily happen in Kinyarwanda, which is not as rich in vocabulary as French, M. Mundeli or Patrick or M. Sibubugingo would offer a helpful suggestion. Daniel spoke about an hour on the meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The sermon was much appreciated.

After the service ended we took a short break to stretch and then while the children played outside, the adults reconvened for a Q&A Bible Study, which I conducted.

Some of the questions included:

1.      What is the difference between the offerings associated with God’s tithe and the festival tithe? My answer: although offerings are sometimes mentioned at the same time as tithes, they are separate acts. I explained this in some detail and then took some follow-up questions.

2.      Psalm 60:4 talks about God giving a banner to those that fear Him. What is that banner? My answer: It’s a symbol of refuge and protection as in Jeremiah 4:6 ("standard" instead of banner, same meaning).

3.      Mark 1:6 says John the Baptiste drank no alcohol, was he a Nazarite? Are there any Nazarites in the Church today? My answer: Actually it’s Luke 1:15 that say he was to drink no alcohol. Numbers 6:1-12 talks about the Nazarite vow, which includes not cutting one’s hair and not touching dead bodies. John’s parents were told only that he was to drink no alcohol; the other restrictions are not enjoined. So it’s possible John was a Nazarite but we can’t be sure. There are no Nazarites in the Church today; we believe the New Testament says we should not make vows: Jesus said we should not swear at all, and taking a vow was a kind of swearing an oath before God (Matthew 5:34; Numbers 30:2-3).

4.      Science tells us the earth orbits around the sun. But Psalm 19:6-7 says the sun rises and moves and sets. Is there a contradiction between the Bible and science? My answer: The Bible is always true but it is not intended to be a science textbook. It sometimes uses poetic language and common expressions. Today we still say "the sun rises", we don’t say “the earth has rotated enough that the sun has again become visible on the horizon.” We know what we mean.

5.      What is the meaning of the “morning star” that God will give those who overcome, in Revelation 2:28? My answer: Jesus is called the morning star in Revelation 22:16. Peter seems to refer to the resurrection as the “morning star” rising in our hearts, in 2 Peter 1:19. So the morning star is probably a reference to a both these things at the return of Christ to earth and the first resurrection.

These questions and several follow-ups took about an hour to answer. We will have another Q&A on the first day of Unleavened Bread.

After this the ladies finished their preparations for the meal: beef, avocado, rolls and bananas and a Fanta. This was served to the whole congregation. According to Rwandan tradition the guests were served and ate separately, these included Daniel and me and Mr. Mrs. Burume who have made the trip from Bukavu in the Congo to attend the services here over the next days. We were joined by the members who could speak French well enough to carry on a conversation. We were also offered a piece of chicken and some Rwandan cheese if we wanted.

Since we won’t be able to meet all together for dinner Monday night, I asked each person to describe how he came to an understanding of the Bible that led them to the Church. The stories were fascinating: coming across a French Plain Truth magazine, hearing a radio broadcast of the World Tomorrow in French on the radio while studying in Belgium, being struck by the good example of a Church member in Rwanda. There are many ways that people are drawn to the truth in the Bible. It was a most encouraging conversation.

During all this, the rain came and went intermittently, so we decided we’d wait until Tuesday to take our group photo. We began our preparations to head back. I took of photo of a group of children who had borrowed an adult’s smart phone that had a camera in it. So they conspiratorially took my photo while I took theirs.

Finally we shook hands and waved and then started out down the mountain side once again. On the way down the rain stopped completely and the clouds parted and shrunk. We had some of the breathtakingly beautiful views that come in rain-cleared mountain air: the lush earth tones of green and brown, the bright blue of the sky, the brilliant white of the clouds. There is something particular about the light on the equator; it is exceptionally vibrant and bold.

Daniel was understandably exhausted by this time having been awake for nearly 24 hours. We dropped Patrick in central Kigali, and drove on, arriving back at the hotel around 5:45. I had intended to walk down to Sol e Luna for pizza, but its doors were still closed. We decided just to eat in the barbecue pit so Daniel could finally get some sleep.

We didn’t order brochettes because we didn’t want to wait an hour; our meals finally arrived after 30 minutes. We’d have been complaining in the States about the slow service, but here we were excited that it only took half an hour!

I think both of us will sleep well tonight.
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Janel Johnson on

Thank you for this glimpse into Sabbath services with our African brethren. How large is the Giti chorale and what did they sing? It's wonderful to sense the common thread (similar stories) of our calling. The picture of the children was DELIGHTFUL!

Tess Washington on

Good to read about your Kigali trip! So inspiring to read about the Q&A by you and the brethrens! God is the one that calls people and it shows here the spiritual work being done in the lives of these African people...Have a wonderful rest and sleep for you and Mr. Harper!

Bernard on

Thanks for those updates. And welcome, Daniel !

Mary on

Thanks, Joel, for the wonderful commentary. What a challenge it must be to drive in the rain on the unpaved roads, but everyone arrived safely. Thanks, also. for including the questions and the answers because it's a mini-study for us. How encouraging to see pictures of our brethren and to know that Daniel is there to share the Holydays with them, too.

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