Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mission accomplished!

A beautiful early morning looking East over Akagera National Park
Pastor Venuste and John with a promising bunch from ARM's
first preschool.
Today is my last day in Rwanda for a while.  It will have been 27 days since I've seen my kids and my beautiful wife and boy am I ready to be with them!  Staying this long was part of the plan, of course, in order that I could ensure that I would see things as they really are, and meet a ton of people.  We have definitely done that.  During my time here I've visited over 10 different schools, met with top leaders in the Ministry of Education, sat with pastors, local government officials, children, parents, and people who I would now consider friends.  John and I have become professional question-askers and listeners in order to take the pulse of what is really going on and what the needs really are on the ground.  That was our mission, and I feel great looking back knowing that we made it happen.

A couple of "long time friends," John Bosco, and Esther. I
met these students in 2012 in Rwanda, then they visited my
school in CO that same fall.  These kids have the future of
Rwanda in their hands.
There were some pleasant surprises along the way that only God would have for us and I'm grateful for this element of any adventure.  In the West we're so pre-planned, so thought-out, and our expectations are so high for everything--relationships, work, even pleasure and play.  We have what C.S. Lewis describes as "the horror of the same old thing." In other words, our expectation is that every day is a thrill, every relationship with a fairy-tale ending, ever minute a responsibility to exploit for gain or pleasure.  We're addicted to change.

A warm welcome at Jean Pierre's home.  The kids even got to
take the day off from school because of my short visit!

What I've experienced with people here is different.  While they have high hopes, their expectations are realistic.  Regarding work and chores, they are just part of life and contentment is possible within.  Regarding relationships, no-one is perfect and mistakes happen.  As an example, the traffic here is insane, and yet I haven't seen a single person flip-out on someone else.  Regarding pleasure, entertainment, and time off, there is an expectation that these are the exception and not the rule.  I really do think that this is the secret to the quiet joy within even the poorest of the poor.  It's all about expectations.

Kevin drawing with some of ARM's preschoolers.  
For me, I've battled my insides countless times to repel the "selfish Kevin" who so often wants to creep out.  Whether it's the typical 1-hour waiting for food at just about every restaurant, having to take a cold shower in Boneza, or forgotten appointments with people, I've seen how my expectations steal joy and take me out of the moment.  Not to say that everything in Rwanda is slow, unscheduled, or inconvenient, but there is certainly a different expectation on what is necessary and what is just fine.  Rwandans want to improve, they want to grow, they want opportunity and they're ready to "run instead of walking," as their President urges them.  I just hope that in this next era of development for Rwanda they would not have such high expectations that they lose their sense of relationship to one another and the source of their peaceful joy.

A giraffe in the wild, how cool is that?!
The beautiful tea plantations high up on the Congo-Nile Divide
In the Western Province.

To close out the trip, John took me East into Akagera National Park to see some of the more archetypal images of Africa.  It was exciting to drive through the wild places and come close to animals that until now were synonymous with zoo animals for me.  It was an amazing experience I won't forget.

Kevin talking with some students at an O-level school in Boneza.
A huge thank-you goes out to all of my friends and family who have supported me and prayed for me in this research adventure.  To my wife for keeping the family machine running as a single-mom for a month.  To my friend John Gasangwa for hosting me here and taking good care of this Muzungu.  To the BOD of Arise Rwanda Ministries for their dedication and leadership to see ministry in Boneza thrive with wise investment and prayer.  To Jesus Christ for being a God who loves the poor, lost and hopeless; pursuing them relentlessly as a shepherd with his one lost sheep.  As He says himself, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mathew 5:3)
John and Kevin visiting John's old high-school in Kigali.

If all goes well I'll be back in the land of milk and honey known as the USA here in a couple of days.  Please pray that I may carry the memories, stories, and a new set of hopes and expectations with me for many days after that.

Sawa, sawa.  Ngaho murabeho. Tuzasubira!
We "borrowed" this old fisherman's canoe to paddle out to an island in lake Kivu.  Talk about a fish out of water!

My Rwandan futbol team.  Claude, who is John's roommate (in green, second from right) brought me to play with his team
on a Sunday morning before church.  I held my own but was sore for 3 days.

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