He has traded his Toyota sedan for a Toyota 4WD which I was happy to see. It means things are going well for him and that our travels will be a bit more certain on the questionable roads. We drove two hours north through Cibitoke, Rugombo, and Mugina where we picked up Nathan, then continued to Nyeshenza where we left the blacktop such as it and took a rough mountain track. We finally arrived in Ruziba at 11:00 where a group of church members had been waiting for an hour or more.
We parked on a mountain side, as far as the vehicle, even a 4x4, could go. From there we walked up 15 minutes or so to the hall. I’m not sure what the altitude is here, but I was huffing a bit by the time we reached the church building. The congregation sang a hymn in Kirundi as we arrived and got settled in at the front of their church building. I noticed that photos our of our previous years’ church calendar decorated the walls along with the current year’s intact calendar.
A modified church service was planned. They sang one of our church hymns translated into Kirundi. As they sang, I noticed that the young song-leader was wearing a Larry the Cable Guy t-shirt; a little ironic I thought. A man gave an opening prayer. Then the local leader formally welcomed me and I was given the chance to say a few words in response. Nathan made a few comments and the choir, composed mostly of teens sang. Then it was time for me to speak. I gave a Bible Study using the analogy of Christianity as a high hurdles race, which includes four spiritual hurdles we must clear to finish and win: repentance, faith, learning and growing, and perseverance. It was very fundamental, but a good and useful fit for the occasion and the congregation. Including the obligatory translation, I spoke about two hours.
Then we had lunch: a piece of baguette, peanuts, finger-sized bananas, and a Fanta. Perhaps not a balanced diet, but much appreciated, especially the Fanta which is a pretty rare treat. The fellow distributing the Fanta was not experienced in removing bottle caps. He cut his hand opening a bottle and either didn’t notice or paid no mind. As it happened when our bottles were served to us they were smeared in blood. This is a region where hepatitis and AIDS are prevalent, and not far from Congolese areas where several hemorrhagic diseases like Ebola appear in periodic outbreaks. I’ve read enough about them to not want to catch one; it’s usually one’s last. If you’d like to know more, I suggest reading the book The Hot Zone
by Richard Preston, the true story of several such outbreaks, which Steven King said was the scariest thing he’d ever read…. In other words I asked for a different bottle, just to be on the safe side. Moïse understood since he runs several medical clinics. We got fresh bottles and wiped them down well before drinking out of them.
After the snack we took questions for another hour:
What does the church say about the use of alcohol?
Is it permissible to dance (in the context of a night club)?
Does Peter’s vision in Acts 10 mean all meats are clean to eat?
I had just been asked whether Colossians 2:16-17 meant there were no more holy days, when a heavy rainstorm unleashed itself on the metal roof. Meaningful communication, other than sign language, became for all intents, impossible. I shouted "tomorrow" which was translated with a shout and he understood, since we’ll be back for another Bible study tomorrow.
The whole room sat without attempting to talk for a quarter of an hour, in the roar of the rain beating on the roof. When it finally lessened, the choir sang once again to end the meeting and there was a closing prayer.
Nathan, Moïse and I made our way back down the mountain side to the vehicle, where Moïse paid the 10 year old boy who had kept an eye on it while we were gone. We drove down to Mugina, giving a ride to a few members who were delighted to cram into the back of the vehicle.
I was happy to see the walls up on the good sized building. The roof rafters are also up and the roof will go on this week so it will be usable if not entirely finished before the upcoming festival. I estimate it will hold up to 300, people probably more if African standards are used. This is very encouraging progress, made possible by generous donations of members in the States.
Then we drove on to Rugombo, where we dropped Nathan who had arrangements to make for to the construction project. Moïse and I drove back south, over good resurfaced roads in Cibitoke province, and then did the slow pothole slalom the last twenty miles or so. We were further slowed by the heavy rain that caught us and filled the potholes to the point where their depth could not be discerned. Great caution is required at that point since some are deep enough to blow a tire or even flip a vehicle. At 5:00 pm, an hour before sunset, the sky was already as dark as dusk, and in Bujumbura we encountered a motorcycle accident where it appeared the driver had lost control and gone into a light pole. If he was going very fast, his injuries would be quite serious.
There was some sort of conference finishing at the hotel; there were a dozen soldiers armed with AK-47s standing around the entrance, so it must have been a government sponsored event.
I had an avocado and onion salad followed by sangala (local fish) meunière, with ratatouille on the side. It was very delicious. I would have really enjoyed a glass of wine with that, but since this is a Christian establishment they serve no alcohol.
It’s been a long day after a short night after a long day after a short night, so I’ll turn in in early and hope jet lag lets me sleep through.
A dire alarm went off at 8:00 this morning. I dragged myself out and stood under a cold shower for a few minutes. That wasn't a voluntary choice. The hot water wasn’t working because I had forgotten last night to turn on the heater which is located outside the room next to the front door. I didn’t have time to wait for it to heat up. Just as I finished a quick breakfast and a cup of coffee, Moïse arrived ready to go. He hadn’t slept too much either, but many Africans are used to irregular schedules and long nights since things are organized (more accurately: unorganized) very differently from the western way, and the individual pays a price.