A very long day (and night)

Trip Start Mar 14, 2013
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16
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Trip End Apr 05, 2013


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Flag of Mauritius  ,
Sunday, March 31, 2013

Yesterday (Saturday) morning I was up, and breakfasted by 7:00 which was when we were supposed to leave. Patrick Mundeli was at the hotel too, we would ride up together since he lives and works in Kigali as does his sister and her family. At 7:15 I called Innocent, who told me he was on the way and almost at the hotel. It wasn't good that he was late. This was the last Saturday of the month and so an official day of "community service." Everyone is supposed to participate on various work projects for their communities from 08:00 to noon. Often it is pretty heavy work: shoveling out drainage ditches, filling potholes in roads etc. Checkpoints are set up on most roads at 08:00 and any and all Rwandans trying to pass can be immediately pressed into service wherever they’re “caught.” I Patrick and Myriam and her daughter would be in the vehicle and though they probably wouldn’t be forced to work when they explain their religious beliefs, they could legally be held until noon before being allowed to continue.

Innocent arrived a few minutes later and not in a 4WD but in a Toyota sedan. Not what we’d agreed upon. “I couldn’t get the quatre quatre” he said brightly, “the owner said he’d already rented it out.” So far the skies were blue, but that could and probably would change, so this was not what I wanted to hear. We started out anyway; it was too late to try to arrange anything else.

On the outskirts of Kigali we picked up Myriam and one of her children and continued on our way north. We drove nearly an hour on blacktopped roads and then turned off onto familiar dirt roads that were pretty heavily rutted due to the recent rains. When we made the left turn to start the climb up to Giti, the road looked very bad. “I think we’re going to regret not having the 4x4” I said. Myriam tried to be encouraging: “the roads have had time to dry; we won’t have any problems unless it rains again.” No doubt true, but that was the concern, it been raining almost every day of late.

The roads were passible, but as bad as I’ve ever seen them. They were very broken up and rocks had been washed out on them. Progress was slow. When we arrived at Rutare, we came to a work party that was blocking the road with their repair work. An official walked over to the car. He appeared to scold Patrick a little in Kinyarwanda. Then he turned to me and said in English “Sorry, this is a day when everyone must work….” I smiled and spoke with a firm voice: “We belong to a seventh-day-Sabbath keeping church, and we are going to a service.” He hesitated only briefly and said “Since you have explained this, you may continue.” We continued.

Finally arriving at 9:15, a quarter hour late, we tried to get everything started as quickly as possible, which in the event was 9:30. We sang hymns and had an opening prayer, then I gave a sermonette on a subject that Mr. Mundeli felt was best explained by me: how to treat members who stop coming to church. Most members felt all bridges should be burned and there should be no further contact. I explained the difference between those who cause division or scandal, those who refuse to cooperate with Church directives, and those who by discouragement or weakness stop coming to services. The Bible explains different courses of action in each case.

There were two pieces of special music and then I gave the sermon, on the same subject I had covered in other areas.

As soon as the service was over, the children were allowed to leave and play outside, but the adults reconvened almost immediately for a Q&A Bible Study. Some of the questions were:

- In Leviticus 23:15-17 the sheaf represents Jesus, but what do the loaves of bread represent?
How could Satan offer all the riches of the world to Jesus in Matthew 4:4-9
Can students study for school on the Sabbath?
  Are there members of the church in different associations and will unity finally be achieved in he place of safety?
What happens when the church-member mate of a member stops coming to church? What to do?
Please explain the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Answering these and other questions took an hour and a half. Then there was time to sign some cards of encouragement that the congregation would send to several people.

I had planned to continue baptismal counseling with three people. Our session was interrupted after 45 minutes by a furious rainstorm. Since the hall has a metal roof, and hard rain makes it virtually impossible to talk without shouting in each other’s ears, we had to stop early. The rain lasted 30 minutes, during which I was thinking of the road down the mountain. Water ran under the door and into the hall, to be pushed back with a local version of a squeegee.

As the rain tapered off and stopped, the ladies served the “picnic” the last event of our collective time. It consisted of a piece of chicken, unleavened bread, potatoes, half an avocado, a boiled egg and a Fanta. Called a picnic because it was all served cold, it was still the best meal most would have for quite a while outside feast days.

Before leaving Mr. Mundeli and I discussed members’ assistance needs and I allotted what I had so he could distribute it. A major storm had ripped corrugated panels off several roofs, one woman’s husband had abandoned the family, they needed roof panels and food, some needed help to keep their children in school. I was thankful to have funds available to help, all of it contributed by members for just such needs.

By this time it was 4:00 pm. It was time to leave to get back to Kigali by dark. Those, like the Mundelis, who were going on to Kayenzi, would not arrive before 7:00 and probably much later since they would have to go slowly in the dark.

On the way back Patrick asked if I would try to bring him some books in English so he could improve his skills. He is a journalist who works in English, French and Kinyarwanda, but English is taking a preeminent place now. I have so many things to bring when I come that I said I couldn’t promise, but would try. As I thought about it I decided I would give him the copy of Unbroken that I still had. I’ll buy another copy when I get home.

At Chez Lando, Innocent turned out to be not so much. He wanted 50,000 francs (about $90), for a trip that normally costs 30,000or 35,000 at the most. I scolded him mildly which I can get away with, as a white pastor and gave him 40,000. I won’t use his services again; bad calculation on his part.

I had dinner at the hotel restaurant then settled my bill. I had to be at the airport at 01:00 for a 02:50 departure, so I wanted to try to sleep a little before leaving. I set my alarm and went to bed at 9:00 pm and managed to sleep about two and half hours before catching the shuttle to the airport. I had access to the lounge since I was flying Kenya Airways (they're partnered will Delta and Air France), so I was able to get online for a few minutes before embarking. The flight to Nairobi lasted a little more than an hour.

In Nairobi, I had a three hour layover. I found a comfortable chair in the Kenya Airways lounge and dozed off and on for a couple of hours. As usual in Nairobi, the boarding process was barely-organized chaos. They really need a new and larger terminal for the amount of traffic they have coming through. I was happy to see that they are well along in the process of building one.

The flight to Antananarivo, Madagascar was three hours long. I watched 90 minutes worth of courses on my iPad. I occasionally buy a lecture series from the Learning Company, and bought a video serious recently on the history of Asia Minor, the area covered by modern Turkey. I’ve been working my way through it when I have down time on planes or in my hotel rooms. It’s been quite interesting and given some useful background that will serve in sermons and articles. 

I looked out the window as we descended into Antananarivo. "Tana" as it is locally called (try pronouncing the long version a few times and it's easy to see why they shortened it!) is a beautiful city, surrounded by rice paddies and lakes and marshes. It's always fascinating to see from the air.

On arrival, I waited in the usual place for transit passengers. An official asked me to wait until we could see if there were any others in my situation. After 20 minutes he unlocked a door and allowed me to pass directly from the arrival area to the departure lounge. I waited until an agent came to collect my itinerary, passport and baggage tag. He returned a few minutes later with my boarding pass for Mauritius.

I spent the several hours working on my laptop.

When the Air Mauritius plane finally boarded I could see it was an Airbus 320, a nice big plane so there were lots of empty seats, which is an uncommon luxury now.

The flight was uneventful, though we flew into pretty heavy rain around Mauritius. Since I know the drill at the airport, I am usually able to get through formalities quickly and tonight it was so. I picked up the tiny rental car and the agent walked me out to the parking lot under a large umbrella. He told me that there have been very heavy rains lately and yesterday there was a terrible tragedy right in the capital city of Port Louis. Sixteen people drown in some sort of flash flood that happened in the city. Tomorrow has been declared a national day of mourning.

It rained steadily as I drove to Quatre Bornes. Traffic was moving pretty slowly and cautiously; there was quite a bit of water washing over the motorway in places. I finally arrived at the hotel around 9:00 pm and checked in. I had a quick bowl of soup for dinner and will wrap up this blog entry and get it posted before going to bed.
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Comments

jpvernaud
jpvernaud on

Nous sommes heureux que tout se passe bien pour vous, nous vous souhaitons à tous un très bon Dernier Jour des Pains sans Levains, en Suisse nous serons 7 personnes pour le Dernier Jour

Emily Stoner on

As we read this blog, it is Sunday early evening and there it is the wee hours of the morning on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. We are thinking of you and your dedication to the work that you are doing. Enjoy your rest in Mauritius. It is well deserved. God bless you and we are praying for you. The Stoner Family.

Mary Hendren on

Hi Joel,
It must be stressful on the required Saturday workdays, but thankfully the brethren have so far been able to keep the Sabbath. We appreciate the photos and the great questions you shared. What a blessing to be able to help with some of the needs there and to see the brethren writing cards of encouragement to one another. We hope you have a restful stay in Mauritius. How sad for the nation to lose 16 in the drowning. It will be better someday.

Mary

Tommie Briley on

Disappointing that Innocent "turned out to be not so" innocent and can't imagine driving my Toyota sedan down that same route, but happy to read that the objective of arriving and returning safely was accomplished! May you be able to catch up on some sleep and get your needed rest; prayers continue for your safe and successful travels.

Susan Scott Smith on

Mr. Meeker . . . we are thankful to be able to keep in touch through your informative blog. Yesterday we were also blessed to find out that after you return to the states you will be visiting your daughters in Texas . . . Tatiana is in Houston South, the church I attend. She is a blessing to our congregation . . . helping out with hymns and all the other things. We look forward to your visit. I believe Emmanuel friended me on FB a few days ago and was explaining to me his desire to finish his studies. It is incredible to be able to stay in contact with people around the world in such a short time. You are in our prayers!

Lenna Slaughter on

Mr. Meeker, it is wonderful to hear how you have had God's blessings to get through situations that could be very problematic. I know the brethren there are so thankful to have you visit them. It's heart wrenching to hear how little they have on a daily basis. Please give them our greetings. I pray that you will have safe travels and that your trip will be very successful.

Tess Washington on

Hi Mr. Meeker, as usual, happy to read your blog. To know your ok and accomplishing what you came there for. Good to know about our Rwandan brethrens' thirst and hunger for God's knowledge and ways! Take care and we look forward to your visit in Mauritius!

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