By Cynthia Gill
My life has been immeasurably enriched, by a week spent with extraordinarily humble people in the heart of Africa. Rwandans have suffered more than most, as the specter of the genocide 18 years ago still haunts the land. Every story we heard is divided into “before” and “after” the genocide. The people we met at Restoration Church and Faith Victory Association (FVA) are very tender-hearted, they have responded to their hardships with amazing grace. If gratefulness is a sign of humility, then they are some of the most gentle, humble people I’ve ever met.
Gail gave Claire, one of the FVA staff, a plastic raincoat, and to our delight she exclaimed “I feel like a rich woman!” Moments like this, one never forgets. Karsteni, who is a caretaker of the building, lives in a three sided shack next to the church. His house resembles our kids’ forts that they make with old boards, and he cooks on a little fire. One afternoon when it poured rain, he gave us his umbrella, then ran after us to be sure we had a second one to keep us dry! How rich they are in love & generosity.
We did what we came to do: I taught on parenting, and counseled in the afternoons. Jan ministered to a group of sex workers as well as several staff called to reach out to them. Gail did what she does best, bringing much help and counsel to a group of precious people who suffer from trauma. My heart was especially touched by the young people in their twenties who had been orphaned and now are anticipating families of their own, for they struggle with their own deep emotional wounds. After connecting with several of them, I expect to keep in touch with these budding young leaders via email. From things we heard, it seems that God did answer our prayers, encouraging and touching lives. One lady (with HIV) said “We have never been told there is hope for us, only discouraging things!” Their faces radiated joy whenever we complimented them on their strengths, such as the women carrying their babies on their backs. When I told them they should come and teach this to us Americans, as it is so good for babies’ development, their smiles lit up the whole sanctuary.
We admired the beautiful scenery, green hills, banana trees, tropical flowers, and women’s brightly colored clothing. We wept at the genocide memorial, especially in the children’s room. We laughed with each other, and on the last evening with Sandrali, Willy, Immaculee, Pastor Lydia, and their families at jokes and entertaining anecdotes. We marveled at the resilience of those whose stories we heard, one of most courageous being Victor’s. Appropriately named, he has overcome tremendous physical handicaps to emerge as a leader and godly example of a servant of FVA, loving husband, and father of three. His shrunken legs hang useless, and he moves around with flip flops on his hands, serving others with a deep joy that reveals his victory over unbelievably difficult circumstances.
It will take months to fully process all that I experienced this week. They exemplify the Scripture about the widow’s mite so well. “Did not God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith…?” (James 2:5) I am definitely putting aside my remaining Rwandan francs as seed money for the next opportunity to return.