Murambi and Nyungwe

By Emily Ford
Gustavus Trip Participant

AKA the longest blog ever

The past few days have been busy as usual; we have been going about our business at the different areas that we have been placed and attempting to live the life of the Rwandans. We can see the Lord working in so many ways. Most of our daily American distractions have been taken away from us, so Jesus looks bigger and better every day, simply because our day is focused in Him.

All of our days here are begging to become comfortable in a reasonable sense. We all have our specific places where we volunteer and time flies by without our notice. For me, I work at PEFA everyday with Alexa and Amanda. I spend my mornings in the field with Innocence and Emmanuel. Even though neither of them speaks an ounce of English, the hard labour is always efficiently finished by 11 AM through me following them around and pointing to mounds of dirt to water, weed or hoe. After working in the African heat I am able to go inside the orphanage to help the others with the children. But before I can even get past the second door, one of the Mamas always finds me and giggles because my hands and shoes are always covered in red, muddy clay. They grab my arm and bring me to the spigot to give me a good washing. They motion me to wash off my arms in a bucket of water with the infamous bar of blue soap, and just when I think I am clean enough, a new bucket of water appears and they motion me to take off my shoes so that they can wash my feet and shoes. I can barely handle this happening every day because I feel like I should be serving them instead of the opposite. Then the Lord reminds me that this is their culture, this is how things are. But no matter how many times I am reminded this, I still wish that one day I could wash their feet and show them how much I appreciate them. I spend the rest of the time with the Mamas of PEFA and taking care of the little children with Alexa and Amanda. I love the way that their eyes light up when the three of us walk towards the gate and greet them. I am reminded everyday what it looks like to love like a child with and open heart and no judgment.

Yesterday (Saturday) we had a full day of adventure. The adventure began promptly at 5:30 AM… of course we all woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed and excited to ride for a total of about 9 hours. Our beginning 4 hour trip we were able to see amazing views of Rwanda’s hills and farmlands, along with an abandoned detached semi truck petrol tank on the side of the road… oops.

We started out at another memorial site called the Murambi Memorial. We viewed more pictures and read more stories of the history that cannot fully be understood. As I read more stories of horrific events, my brain begged me not to read any further and to just move on. However, I stayed and read and read and read. I want to know, I want to understand, I want to feel the fullness of the Rwandan Genocide. A lot more of this memorial became more real to me due to the fact I am now friends with people that survived and lost family in the mass slaughter. I am able to visit memorials every time I meet up with many people. I am able to hear the real stories and see the real scars. And yet, I will never be able to understand. As we moved on through the memorial, we were brought out to the old classrooms where many bodies were left after the genocide in 1994. Out there the rooms were presented with mummified bodies that were either left in the rooms or buried in the mass graves (yes, real bodies). As I went through, I saw, men, women, children and babies corpses that had been left after the war. There were about 12 rooms full of bodies. There was one room that I felt very sad in, also strangely connected to the bodies that were placed in the room and I knew that I did not want to leave. I examined over the bodies and our tour guide said “this room is very special, this room is women and children only.” After that I knew that many of these women were mothers and my heart shattered into many pieces. We moved on past the body filled rooms and continued the land to see where mass graves were and they kept an empty mass grave open that was about 36000 cubic feet.

The stories of these people will never be fully exhausted, but the past memorials that we have been to express a great deal of what happened; from horror stories to victory stories of survival. I encourage you to go to this website in order to learn more information about the most recent memorial that we visited.

On a lighter note:
We also visited the Nyungwe National Forest on Saturday. The weather was perfect and our view of the many mountains of Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo were even better. Our guide took us through the peaceful rain forest as he told us about different species of plants and birds. We were all amazed at how much he knew about everything! Many plants that are very well known in domestic gardens in the states (that one can buy from a greenhouse) grow prosperously and generously in the wet warm soil, such as the impatient plant and the orchid. We were able to see many species of trees, birds and the white and black monkey. Some of the slopes that we traveled on were quite slippery, but thankfully we made it through quite safely. We were all astounded by the Lords mighty creation! Who knew that there were so many shades of green and different types of everything?! The Lord is truly a great artist. Our day began to wind down as we made our way to a tea factory nearby to taste fresh tea leaf and ended with our 4 hour drive home and a 10:00 PM dinner.

Everyone is well as of this time. We love to hang out with each other as much as possible and chat, play card games or play music. We know that our time here is short, but God is moving in every direction possible. Our week ahead looks busy as usual, but that allows for even more fellowship and opening of our eyes to see the Lord do what He does best.

Be blessed.