A Feast Day in rural 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,
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today we started out a little after 7:30 as planned. The weather road was dry all the way up to Giti, so I took the opportunity to shoot some video. We arrived at 9:30 and found the van from Kayenzi as well as most of the members from Giti has not yet arrived.

However the "caterers" were already at work. To make this Holy Day a special treat, I had asked Mr. Mundeli to make arrangements to have fresh goat brochettes for lunch. This is about as nice a meal as most of our church brethren here can imagine, and a great favorite. I also wanted to give a break to the few ladies who usually prepare our meals in advance. So I had given some cash that was sent along by several members in the US who wanted to make a contribution for such purposes. This would make the day a true physical feast. Mr. Mundeli and Mr. Sobugingo had hired three men who are experienced with such jobs (for the exorbitant price of 15 dollars for the three of them) and had purchased two goats.

As I arrived the goats were already hanging in the kitchen and being carved up. The first thing I noticed was that the head was still attached to one of them. I was told later this is done on purpose. Leaving the head attached as long as possible in the butchering process is proof that the animal is what was ordered, and that the cooks are not trying to substitute, er, some other animal like say, Fido….   Some of the ladies were giving a hand to quickly peel some potatoes so they could go in the pot. And one pot of potatoes was already on the fire, frying in oil. One of the cooks was putting pieces of meat on brochettes to be braised. It was quite a colorful operation.

The van from Kayenzi arrived quite late. One member had trouble getting a permission slip to take off work, and this made them quite late. Daniel took the opportunity to ask to visit the Sibobugingos home about 10 minutes' walk away. The van finally arrived at 10:30 and by the time we could start the service it was 11:00 more than an hour later than we had planned.

After the hymns and a prayer, Daniel Harper gave a very good offertory sermonette, and then we gave our offering. Offertory music was provided by ancient cassette tapes, at least 20 years-old, of the Geneva Switzerland congregation singing hymns. This is always used for offertory music and I suspect the cassettes may have somehow been blessed. I could never get my old cassettes to last that long (and I don’t miss that technology)!

I gave the sermon on how and why the Days of Unleavened Bread are truly a Christian observance, following the teaching and example of the early NT Church. I condensed the sermon somewhat so that we could get back closer to our planned timeline. The service ended and we took a 10-minute break at which time the children exploded joyfully out of the hall and began noisily burning the energy they had so quietly stored during the service.

The adults reconvened for the Q&A Bible study. Here were some of the questions:

1.      Fasting on the Day of Atonement is from sunset to sunset, but when we fast at other times, can we start and end at different times. My answer: the Bible generally portrays fasting as a 24-hour act, though there are examples of longer periods, the Church suggests that 24 hours is usually sufficient and we can begin and end such a fast at any time that works best for us.

2.      In Rwanda after the mourning period following a death, some people invite their friends to a feast after prayers for the deceased. What should we do if we’re invited to such a feast? My answer: It’s good to comfort the bereaved. Prayers for the dead don’t accomplish anything; they’re in the grave awaiting the resurrection not in hell-fire or purgatory, and no prayers will change that. We don’t want to participate in anything which contradicts the teaching of the Bible. Applying these principles will depend on various circumstances. This question generated a good deal of discussion and some follow-up questions.

3.      Daniel Harper answered a question about the meaning of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man starting in Luke 16:20. His answer: It’s a parable to teach certain lessons not a doctrinal explanation of what happens after death. The context shows Jesus was correcting Pharisees for loving money more than God and His law and for thinking they could take liberties with both without any negative results. This parable shows that the way things appear on the outside is not a good representation of how God sees us; and everyone gives account for his life and deeds.

4.      If you have a sick gourd plant and someone tells you to plant another plant next to it, and then the gourd recovers, is that science or sorcery? My answer: I’m no expert on gourds; however, some plants do help each other as they grow. If the advice is for any plant of a particular variety, there is no problem. If someone offers you a particular plant with “special powers”, then it should be avoided.  This discussion led to more questions about herbal remedies for maladies; are they acceptable or sorcery, and how can we tell them apart?

5.      Where did Cain and Abel find their wives? My answer: They found their wives in Genesis 5:4 (this brief answer elicited some laughter…) I then explained that Adam and Eve had both sons and daughters, as the human family began brothers and sisters married to propagate the race. Later on God said this was no longer permissible.

I was also asked a question concerning the identity of the “beast” in Revelation, but we were out of time at this point, and it would take some time to answer that one, so we’ll have to save that one for my next visit.

It was clear these members were very earnest and concerned about conducting themselves in accordance with the scriptures. It was very encouraging to see their faith and their deep commitment.

The brochettes were to have been ready at noon, but it was nearly 3:00 pm by the time we could begin the meal. I walked out to check on the progress of the cooking. Mr. Mundeli and Mr. Sibobugingo were having a discussion in Kinyarwanda. I asked what they were discussing. They were trying to decide what to do with the goat heads. I asked what would be done with them. They would be eaten. But since there were only two, they couldn’t be fairly divided among all the church members. They decided to give them to the cooks as a tip.

I asked how the heads would be prepared. They would be skinned and the brains removed, then the meat taken off the bone, and the rest could be boiled as the base of a spicy soup. I asked if the brains were eaten. Mr. Mundeli and Mr. Sibobugingo said not usually, but a cook overhearing our conversation broke in to say that brains made a very tasty dish, and he always ate them. Nothing goes to waste….

Faces were very happy and bright as the smell of freshly roasted meat wafted through the church hall. There was palpable excitement as plates were finally filled with potatoes, both French fries and whole fried potatoes, fried plantain, avocado, bananas; sweet unleavened bread was served as desert. This was accompanied by the inevitable Fanta or other Coke product.

The conversations grew very animated and loud, there was obvious joy in the air. As the brochettes came around I decided to try a goat-intestine brochette, which I had been assured was very tasty. When I was nineteen and living in rural Thailand, I received some good advice which I have never forgotten: once you have established that it is a clean animal, don’t ask or worry about what part of the animal is being served. I noticed these brochettes seemed popular with the members; nothing goes to waste. It was in fact tasty, though a little chewier than I like, so it didn’t make my top-ten list of feast treats…. There were two brochettes for every adults and one for each child. Everyone ate his fill, which is rarely a given in this part of the world.

It was encouraging to see how happy everyone was with this special meal. It will be a memorable Feast day in many ways.

Just before 5:00 as clean-up was about done, we gathered everyone together for our usual group photo. I took the photos, counting to three in French before each one. Then Mr. Burume from eastern Congo ran up to ask me to take a photo with his camera. Their normal language is Swahili, so I stated counting in Swahili before each photo:  moja, mbili, yatu…. That brought a laugh, especially from the children (imagine a mzungu speaking Swahili!).

We shook hands all around, and waved goodbye to everyone, and I suggested Daniel ride in the front seat of the Rav4 so he could take better photos on the way down (I had taken mine on the way up). Then as we were loading, Patrick and James asked if they could ride with us, since they were going to Kigali also. We said yes and the three of us squeezed into the back seat. Being a 4WD, the Rav4 floorboards are high, so one cannot stretch his legs very far forward. Daniel is tall so he couldn’t move his seat forward, and with three of us side by side there was no way to stretch laterally. By the time the two our drive back to Kigali was done, I was cramping and quite ready to get out of the vehicle.

I paid Ndeo for the last few days of services, and we said goodbye for this time. Daniel and I headed to the barbecue pit for a salad and a beer to finish off a very full day.

Tomorrow will be a catch-up day, accounting with Mr. Mundeli and one meeting to talk about baptism with a young adult.
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mary on

Thanks for the joyful commentary and all the pictures. It's evident that the special meal added to the excitement. The Q&A is interesting, especially as some questions touch on customs that are new to us: planting healthy plants near sick ones, prayers for the deceased. It must have been a wonderful day for everyone.


Hi Mr. Meeker, it sounds like everything turned up well on the day's plans and activities! Wonderful sounds, sights and smells of the food being prepared and being eaten afterwards! The mention of FIDO made me laugh! Good to see the brethren enjoying the day! The Qs&As are much appreciated...they show that they want to know and follow God's ways!

Elisa Botta on

Would love to know which items comprise Mr. Meeker's "top-ten list of feast treats." That must be some list!

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