Expedition to Lake Muhazi

Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
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Trip End Apr 29, 2012


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Where I stayed
Chez Lando

Flag of Rwanda  , Northern Province,
Saturday, April 14, 2012

This morning we had had breakfast and were ready to leave by 8:30. Samuel was present on time and Patrick Mundeli was also there to ride with us. He and I had a long conversation in French in the back seat of the car as drove out to Muhazi. Patrick is a happy talkative man; a department director for a popular radio station. We had the chance to talk about many things, our families (my wife and daughters visited here with me once in 2006), the situation in Africa and Rwanda in particular, and events in our new Church association. I am leaving for the use of members here the copy of Martin Meredith's book that I had finished earlier. Both Patrick and James and perhaps others will be able to read the English and it will fill in many elements of understanding about the recent history of their continent.

I find we often take access to such information for granted in the States: a book about Africa? Understand history or why the world is the way it is? Big deal; boring! But such books are rare and expensive and precious here, and in much of the world. We have access to so much knowledge in the West and people often spurn it; it’s too much trouble to read or to learn. Young people in other less-endowed regions are desperate to understand the world in which we live, a world that is much less hospitable to them than to us.

The sky was bright blue, so it appeared the first part of the day at least would have no rain. Once again we turned off the paved road onto the dirt track that would take us to Muhazi. We drove over several small bridges made simply of thick planks of wood bound in place by heavy wire. Finally about 40 minutes after leaving Kigali, we arrived at our meeting site on Lake Muhazi. It is an idyllic spot, lush and quiet. We have used this place as a fall festival site for many years. It used to improve every year, new out buildings added; a deck built on the lake. But the owner died a couple of years back and his widow is apparently having a hard time keeping it up. The importance of maintenance is not universally understood here, and is in fact a major problem in Africa. Some grand new project will be constructed, a canning factory, a dam, a high rise building, even just a house, and then, once built they are simply left to slowly wear away to crumbling decrepitude. In any event, I hope the owner will keep the site up; it is very useful to us over the years.

Our vehicle was the first to arrive, so we had a look around at the grounds and buildings and I explained to Jim Franks how we organize ourselves here. There were some boys fishing on the banks of the lake; they stared at us and laughingly called out Mzungu! (the Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda word for foreigner especially white foreigners). A few minutes after we arrived the van from Giti pulled up, and disgorged a flood of people. An amazing number of people can fit in one bush-taxi van. I remember once asking here how many people were in a van that had just arrived, and the response was 19! I said "19? how many of those are children?’ to which the response was “oh we don’t count the children." I ask how many they would be if they did count the children. After a moment of calculation the response came back: 29!

We greeted everyone as they arrived. A few minutes after the first van pulled up the second arrived with the Kayenzi congregation (they used to meet in Remera). We were close to 80 people all together. We got everything organized as quickly as possible and began our service about 10:30.

After hymns and an opening prayer, Mr. Sibobugingo gave a sermonette. Mr. Mundeli gave announcements and the chorale sang special music. Mr. Franks gave a sermon about the calling that must come from God to those who will become Christians. Patrick translated for him phrase by phrase. There is a knack to speaking in a way that is easy to translate phrase by phrase; a sort of rhythm of thinking and speaking that breaks thoughts down to complete sentences, or at least clauses, which can easily be remembered and translated. I know from personal experience that this is not easy. But Mr. Franks got into this rhythm very well and Patrick followed smoothly and well, which made the sermon easier to follow and to remember. The sky clouded over and it began to rain, rather hard, but not like the deluge we had yesterday. And it didn’t last very long and then after an hour the sky cleared again.

After services and a short break, there was a presentation in honor of the special guest. The chorale sang three songs of welcome including one in English, and the Burumé children from Kivu sang one in French. Then Mr. Mundeli presented Mr. Franks with a chief’s cane, which he described and a shepherd’s cane to use in guiding the flock. The cane was in the traditional form and covered in beautifully minute blue and white beadwork. I’m sure it will be a gift to remember.

After the welcome ceremony, we set up the chairs and tables for a Q&A session with Bible questions and other questions about plans for our association. Some of the questions included:

-What are the plans in COGWA to preach the gospel to the world?
-Are there plans for an outreach program to do good works?
-How might the “beast” power of Revelation 13:17 prevent people from buying and selling if they don’t have his mark?
-Could the Euro have a connection with the rise of a resurrected empire in Europe?
-The Bible talks about anointing and healing, can Christians also make use of medical professionals? (The answer is yes).

There were several questions having to do with Paul’s admonition for women to keep silent in church:

-Can women answer questions that a speaker might ask during Church?
-Can a mother say something to a child who needs help during services?
-Can women talk or ask questions during Bible Studies?

We took questions for about an hour; they were good questions that showed study and reflection. They were also asked in a very positive frame of mind, which was encouraging to see.

While the ladies began setting up for the light meal that was to be served I met with three people who wanted to begin preparing for baptism. One lady, I was pleased to learn, was very new to the Church. She had become curious about the good example of another member she knew in her village. She started asking him questions about his beliefs, and then asked if she could attend services with his family. That was in December; now she is preparing to be baptized. I had about an hour with them to get them started and told them we could meet again on my next visit, hopefully in September.

The late lunch was bread, margarine and cheese, avocado, boiled egg, chicken, potato, yam and a soft drink – a very copious and memorable meal here.

By the time we finished the meal it was time to start preparing for the trip back, some to Giti, some to Kayenzi, some to Kigali.

The Burumés asked me to anoint their son to ask for his healing for his chicken pox, and also asked for a blessing on their children since they hadn’t had the chance previously. Most of their children are now in their teens and some are almost as tall as me. I explained that the biblical example is for little children, of an age and size to be held by an adult. So I anointed five-year-old Honneur (Honor), and also asked God’s blessing on him, following Jesus’ example with little children.

Then we shook hands all around and said our goodbyes. I took some extra time with the Burumés since, due to their distant location (it’s a two day expedition from Kigali to get there and back), it will be a while before I can see them again. Jim Franks and I got into our taxi, and just as we were about to leave the door opened and a young man suddenly piled in next to me in the back seat. “I’m taking advantage of your taxi to go to Kigali where I study” he announced with a smile. He hadn’t been invited to ride with us, but in this part of Africa where people have so little, an empty seat isn’t supposed to go to waste and especially with family members it’s understood that every space can be filled. Se we were being treated as family. I smiled and moved over. Patrick took the last remaining seat and we drove off toward Kigali.

Along the way we talked about Africa, and education, and scholarships in America, and Patrick’s job in journalism which puts him in periodic personal contact with President Kagame, who he said is a jovial man and kind with subordinates.

We stopped at the bus station in Kigali to let our student friend go on his way, and then drove back to Chez Lando. Since Mr. Mundeli would come by later to go over some accounting with me, (which he did) we decided to eat at the hotel instead of going out this night.

After two days of rough roads and full schedules of speaking and other activities, we’re both tired and believe we’ll sleep well tonight. Tomorrow we plan to drive up to visit Mr. Mrs. Mundeli in their house in Kayenzi.
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Comments

Tess Washington on

We're learning much from your travel blogs Mr. Meeker about this part of Africa...about the people, its culture, practices, language...it is good to know that God is also working with the African people in the continent as vast and diverse as the African continent! With that, I am most certainly will look for the book about Africa by Meredith...to give me more understanding about this part of the world which is also a part of my and everybody's world! Thank you very much and please extend our greetings and also thanks to Mr. Franks!

Sally on

As always, it is an uplifting pleasure to read of your travels & our brethren in Africa. Which of Meredith's books are you leaving with the members there? I see he has written many books about Africa, none of which I have read. Which one would you recommend to read first?

Thanks again for taking the time to post your comments & photos on this blog.

Tommie Briley on

Mr. Meeker, your comment on book-reading in our country is so very true. History is replete w/examples of how an uneducated people can be easily manipulated and controlled and how many have struggled to overcome lack of knowledge in order to gain some control over their own lives and situations. Generations that follow can quickly forget the benefits or become consumed with enjoying the end product of other’s intense effort and self-application. Or just simply take the abundance of riches for granted. I have often thought that my impoverished childhood did benefit me in many ways – including thinking every book, especially of world’s outside my own – were my among my greatest teachers and treasured them more than any toy. I am especially hopeful we will be able to give the people God is calling in the far-flung areas of the world access to God’s written truth in abundance. You and Mr. Franks, as well as our brethren there, remain in my heartfelt prayers.

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