Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Tuesday

Heather spent some of Monday night / Tuesday morning up and down with an upset tummy. By the morning, she decided (wisely) it would be best to stay at the centre rather than risk travelling to the two parishes.

So, now there were two! Grace and Andy were picked up by our driver Christian and Archdeacon Fidel and we went off to Rutunga parish, cared for by Pastor Damascene, his wife Claudine and the catechists. There is a school and a pastors’ house, but no church building as yet. Thankfully a dividing wall has been removed to make two classrooms into one larger room which is where the church meets. In another classroom, the children had been joined by their parents as it was the last day before a two-week holiday. The children, aged between 4-6 years, showed off their singing skills and also counted in English. The parents were all very pleased and three children received prizes for outstanding work.

We then had time with the church leaders who introduced themselves and their various responsibilities. Andy wanted to share from Colossians 1:10, but before he did, the church leaders stood and gave an impromptu, but beautiful rendition of the verse as a song! We’ve posted it on Instagram.

Our journey to Gasura parish, took us up a hill and past the city refuse tip. The ‘road’ is very dry and dusty and with lorries going up and down every day, the amount of dust kicked up is almost unbelievable. Everything and everyone is covered with a film of brown dust. As lorries pass, a huge cloud of dust follows them and if you are travelling in the opposite direction, your have to stop as visibility is zero (see Instagram video). The leaves of the banana trees have changed colour and are no longer green but brown. For those living alongside this track, life expectancy must be seriously curtailed by respiratory issues.

Last time we visited Gasura parish, the church building was falling down (literally) and the land around was a bit of a wasteland. Only the pastor’s house had been rebuilt in hope of what was to come.

As we drove along the road, we were met by an amazing transformation. Four new classrooms; two water tanks; three further classrooms being built and a brand new church building that will seat several hundred people. The site is unrecognisable. As you might guess, there is a very positive feel within the leadership team and Pastor Alfred and his wife Claudette have built a strong team over the past five years since we first visited the parish.

After some more food we travelled back past the refuse site and down through clouds of dust to the relative clean main road back to our rooms.

Tomorrow we have to get packed up, then off to PHARP to collect some baskets and bags for Ubushuti before we travel to the airport for our flight back to Birmingham. So a final update will be posted once we are back at the DT office.


Thanks for reading and praying - and goodnight!
Monday

On Monday, once Valerie and Jim had packed up, we all went into Kigali. First we dropped in on a new church building in Kimironko parish. This is a three-storey building with a large main auditorium that is very modern (see pictures on Instagram @damascustrust). On the lower level is Great Hill School which offers nursery and primary education.

Then we went to the Cathedral where they have a sewing business in the back rooms. Jim was picking up three clerical shirts he had commissioned in some African printed fabric. It will be interesting to see the reaction from his parishioners when he gets back to the UK - not to mention the other clergy! Sunglasses may become obligatory.

Then we headed into the city centre and had three hours to relax, drink coffee, shop and eat together in the Bamboo rooftop restaurant. Not to be outdone by her husband, Valerie bought some African-print lightweight trousers. 


Then it was back to the SU centre to be ready for a car to take Valerie and Jim to the airport. As the agreed pick-up time came and went and then another hour passed, a phone call was made, some confusion had occurred and a pastor was despatched to collect them and take then to the airport. We heard they made it in time and should be back home by now.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Saturday and Sunday

On Saturday morning we went off to visit the Kigali Anglican Theological College which is in the process of applying for University status. The college is situated some way out of Kigali on a campus that is being developed. New accommodation blocks have gone up in the last two years and further building work, including housing for teaching staff, is being done on site to bring it up to the level required by the government for a university. 

We were met by Viateur Ndikumana, who has recently taken over as principal and director. He was appointed to help with the changes needed and to raise the level of training and education. It is clear that he is making significant changes. With the recent government condition that all church leaders must be educated to degree level, KATC has a key role in helping this to happen in the Anglican Church. It is hoped that within the next few months, their application process will be complete and they will be granted University status. Please pray for Viateur and his staff, as they work together to move things forward.

We then went to the Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali. Most of the team has been before, but it is important to remind ourselves of what happened in 1994 and the history leading up to the genocide. Significant changes have happened over the last 25 years to help bring stability and economic improvements to Rwanda, and new buildings (office blocks, housing) are going up all over Kigali. But challenges remain. There are still many people, some of whom we have met, who are living in poverty and struggle to make ends meet day to day.

On Sunday, Valerie and Jim went to Bumbogo parish and Heather, Grace and Andy went to Rubungo parish. Valerie and Jim had a relatively short service, but then had the treat of staying on for a diocesan-wide choir competition! Church choirs, drama groups and readings filled the next few hours as they competed to be crowned ‘Choir of the Year’! Earlier heats had eliminated some choirs, but there were still plenty left in the competition and the standard was very impressive. At the end, the winning choir wanted photos taken with the ‘muzungu’, so Jim and Valerie duly obliged.

At Rubungo, things were more normal with a traditionally long service including five choirs (none of which presumably, had made it to the finals). Congregational singing was energetic and many came to the front to join in dancing, leaping and clapping. High heels did not stop some of the younger women joining in along with some of the robed clergy / servers. It is good to be with such groups of God’s people and to experience their way of praising him. It encourages us to be a little more expressive in our English services!

On Monday we have a day to be out and about in Kigali, do some sightseeing (?) and shopping as well as relax over a coffee or two. Jim and Valerie fly back to the UK in the evening.


Thanks for reading and goodnight.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Friday.

Today we had a slow start but by mid-morning we were on our way to the Peace-building Healing And Reconciliation Programme (PHARP). This is an organisation set up in 1998 to help with bringing about the restoration of society in Rwanda that had been devastated by the genocide. PHARP offers opportunity for those traumatised by the war to come together to have training for sewing/dressmaking, basket-making, crafts and cards that can provide them with a means of making some money and giving hope for the future. As they meet together, so they talk and share experiences and emotions. This becomes a great help in bringing about healing and reconciliation between individuals and groups. It follows a Biblical pattern and there is daily prayer and Bible reading at the start of each day.

Damascus Trust has been selling bags, baskets and cards from both PHARP and Hannah Ministry in Byumba, on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis under the name of Ubushuti (Friendship). But now we are trying to establish a more regular pattern of receiving goods to sell and raise funds for our different projects here in Rwanda. The main difficulty is transport, which can cost as much as the goods are worth. We are praying that, whilst we are here, the Lord will lead us to the right person / people who can help us and show us the right way forward. Please pray with us for this.

After our time at PHARP we met up with Pastor Philbert who oversees the parish of Gacuriro. This is a parish with one congregation that had its immediate neighbourhood decimated by developers who left just their small old building isolated and vulnerable. Christians continued to meet there until the recent new building regs were introduced which meant the building had to close. Many of the congregation had moved out already when the developers moved in, although they had continued to travel in to meet in the building, but now they had to meet some way away in a room of the Cathedral. This is not suitable for many in the congregation, so numbers at Sunday services are low, but they have set up three house groups at which around 50-55 people attend during the week. It is these groups that are keeping the fellowship goinc for the time being. Meanwhile there is no decision from the local authorities about where a new church building can be put. This has left this particular small parish in limbo, which is very unsettling for all concerned. Please pray for a favourable decision to be made that is in line with the Lord’s will, and for the believers to have listening ears and willing hearts to obey him.

Tomorrow we are visiting the Theological University and the Genocide Memorial Centre.


Thanks for reading and goodnight.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Thursday

We were off to visit the parishes of Kinyinya and Bumbogo, both in the Gasabo diocese and both part of the SAP programme. Fidel’s car had been repaired by the garage (quick work) so he was able to help us again with transport.

You can see plenty of photos of our visits on Instagram - @damascustrust - but the main church building of Kinyinya parish is waiting for planning permission to be rebuilt. It is an old building and needs the regulatory upgrades, but rather than doing up the old building, it would be better to start again and build something more appropriate. The problem is that the government has plans for the redevelopment of the whole area and is not willing to give planning permission until all other building work has been confirmed. Despite this the church continues to grow. We heard about home groups that have recently been set up which are becoming an excellent means of evangelism. Home groups are something that the new Archbishop is encouraging.

Bumbogo parish has changed a lot since we were last there in 2017. Six classrooms have been built, four water tanks are installed and a new toilet block is on site. The church building is still the same and needs some attention so again, the parish is considering a rebuilding programme. It seems that the new building regulations, imposed by the government, are giving parishes the opportunity to consider rebuilds rather than upgrades. It’s not clear how viable or economic this option is.

Before we returned to our SU guest house we visited Love In Action, a group set up two years ago to help families with disabled children. Women are taught to make bags, baskets and clothes which are then sold both in Rwanda and overseas. The programme also includes physiotherapy for the children and a nutritional meal. It was great to see the work being done and to meet the women and children who are being helped.
Tomorrow we are visiting more parishes as well as our partners at PHARP (Peace-building Healing And Reconciliation Programme) who also make bags, baskets, clothes and cards. 


Thanks for reading and goodnight.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Wednesday.

Gasabo conference day. Breakfast at 07.30 and then ready for off at 08.30. Archdeacon Fidel came to take two of us to the conference followed by Eric who was taking the other three. Jim and Andy went with Fidel in the advanced group so that they could get there in good time for the start of the conference. All went well until we came across one speed bump somewhat more suddenly than we might have liked. The brakes were applied, we all strained at our seat belts and as we went over the bump, the front right track rod snapped. The front of the car listed to the right, the wheel hit the top of the wheel arch and we ground to a halt.

After an inspection of the front track rod, it was clear that the car would take us no further. Out came Fidel’s mobile phone, calls were made and after a short delay, Jim and Andy were picked up by another car and taken to the conference. Fidel stayed with the car as a mechanic was on his way. Meanwhile the three ladies of the team had been picked up and safely delivered to the conference centre.

The teaching sessions went well, though having started late, we were always going to be pushed for time. Jim and Andy shared the same teaching on the Holy Spirit as had been given at Byumba. The delegates were attentive, the food was very good and we enjoyed our time of learning together.

In the evening we all went for a walk along the main road, past some impressive government and NGO buildings as well as the new Kigali Digital Library. On our way back, we decided to cross the road, using a legal pedestrian crossing, and walk back on the opposite side of the road - just for a change. Bad move. As we passed one building we heard a noise. 'Psssssst!!' And again. 'Psssssst!!!' It was coming from the top of a wall to our right. Valerie turned and waved. Heather called out a greeting. We all looked to see a man, in a uniform, with a gun, gesticulating. Was it a wave? Was it at us? He seemed to be pointing across the road, and it soon became clear that he was shooing us away. Across the road another man was now beaconing us over. It was not clear why, but we did now notice that we were the only ones walking on that side of the road and it became obvious that we shouldn’t be on that pavement.

Once we were safely on the other side of the road, we asked what it was all about and were told that the other pavement was only for the police. We had to walk on this side of the road. Somewhat confused we continued on our way, but began to see that most of the gates on the other side were manned by armed guards. Obviously we had ventured too close to a highly sensitive government or military building.

The rest of the evening passed off without incident and a good sleep beacons.


Thanks for reading and goodnight.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Tuesday

Transfer day. The morning was spent tying up loose ends in Byumba and settling our accounts with the diocesan centre. Then, after lunch, a car arrived from Gasabo diocese to take us down to Kigali. Whilst the car had enough seats for all of us, it did not have enough room for all our bags as well. After a bit of re-organisation and with bags and people sharing the same seat, we managed to squash in and were on our way. Placide, who had hoped to travel with us, had to take a bus to Kigali instead.

The journey to Gasabo diocese was uneventful and we arrived at the SU Guest House mid-afternoon. We were met by Eric (first time), Daniel (again) and Edmund (first time) - all young men with energy and enthusiasm.

Our accommodation is very good and even better for Jim and Valerie who got an upgrade to a huge room with an emperor-sized bed to match. 

After a walk we came across a pizza parlour with charcoal oven and enjoyed sharing some pizzas and drinks.

Tomorrow we have the church leaders’ conference with around 90 delegates attending.


Thanks for reading and goodnight.