Gustavus Adolphus Trip Participant
Today’s sermon and worship service at the Evangelical Restoration Church in the Remera area of Kigali brought a few things to my mind in connection with our visit to the Kigali Memorial Centre on Friday. Although we spent probably two hours reading and watching videos about the genocide and observing mass graves on the grounds of the memorial, it was hard for me to glean much from the experience as far as new knowledge goes–I’ve watched two documentaries and the Hollywood Hotel Rwanda, read several books and publications,and discussed the genocide with my teammates in the months preceding this trip. Apart from the slight twinges of remorse or regret or sympathy I felt at seeing flowers placed on the actual graves or the bones and skulls in the glass cases (okay, I’d say I felt a bit more than a twinge at that one), and reading the blunt causes of death of children under 12, I found myself upsettingly unmoved by most of the memorial.
I expressed my frustration at this to the group (sufficiently, I hope) that night, and I wondered how, then, was I going to connect with the people here? I’m not so arrogant as to think that I know everything there is to know about the Rwandan genocide, or anything Rwandan for that matter–I don’t. But I couldn’t see how to gain that deeper understanding in such a way that I would be able to properly express the importance of that historic event to other people–friends and family especially–when I return home.
That’s where the church service comes in. During worship, I found that where the spirit of God is, there also is the potential to transcend language and cultural barriers and truly become a universal body of Christ. Most of the time, I had no idea what was being sung, and everything was so loud that I didn’t catch a lot from my translator either, but I didn’t need to. Often we “feel” something before we understand it, I think, and today the same was true, but I felt so connected because I could just tell that we were all worshiping the same God and that is so good. But to see it from people who live in a country with such a dark past is so much more powerful.
And it gets better. One thing I did catch during the sermon (besides what passages we were referencing, Luke 2 and Luke 5:1-11)was a metaphor for “evangelizing”: are you a basket, or a tree? Do you hold fruit, hiding it from everyone else, or do you bear it, share it? That idea that I might be keeping too much to myself–that I might too much resemble a basket–really convicted me, especially since these people are trying so hard to share, and they’re not being heard. Most of the people I saw in the memorial were not tourists, were not white, and now I find that sad. It is my hope that whatever happens here, we will bring news of it back to the States, along with testimonies which will hopefully give our loved ones convictions of their own, so that we all may realize our role in reaching out, in coming when we are called, and in loving on one another.
Ni meza Yesu.
(Jesus is good.)