Day 8 – Contrast

The private bus was waiting for us as we trudged up the hillside at ALARM Rwanda. We loaded our luggage and said goodbye to the ALARM staff already on duty that Saturday morning. Our dear friend and the Alarm Rwanda National Coordinator, Ben Nkusi, was there with a big smile and, if I read them correctly, eyes that were a little sad. There is something that touches the deepest part of our hearts when we see that kind of contrast.

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I tried to say goodbye to Ben, but he waved me off. “I’m coming with you to the airport,” he said. When I tried to tell him that wasn’t necessary, he simply asserted, “You are my responsibility. It is my duty to see you safely out of Rwanda.”

And so we all boarded that bus. The driver, his helper, Ben, and seven tired, but incredibly blessed travelers. We were closing out an incredible chapter of our journey and we were already beginning to fill the ache of leaving friends who had just recently been strangers. We were seeing the contrast between our lives before and after we had experienced this wonderful part of Africa and had come to know the people.

At the airport, we said our goodbyes to Ben at the security checkpoint. We had a little extra time — Betty had to look for her passport. But then, papers in order, we filed in, filled out more forms, and negotiated passport control.

The first bit of business was coffee and souvenirs. Our busy itinerary while in Rwanda had not allowed a time for shopping and we all had lists of people we wanted to include in our travel experience. We were soon on board RwandAir Flight 400 to Nairobi. More coffee, a surprisingly nice breakfast, and air-conditioned comfort.

Through passport control in the capital of Kenya, we claimed our bags and made our way to the front of the airport to await our ride with Jackson to our new destination, the Made In The Streets Ministry in Kamulu, just outside of Nairobi.

Photo: Betty Gilmore

Photo: Betty Gilmore

Jackson came in his family vehicle. With luggage and seven of us, we joked about being overloaded. Jackson remarked, “We have room for 6 more Kenyans.” And, despite the cramped quarters, we came to believe that there probably was. The traffic was even crazier than what we had seen in Rwanda. Including the necessity of dealing with “cows doing what cows do,” as Jackson would say.

Everything on the drive seemed crowded. The clean streets and green hills of Rwanda had given way to the dust, the litter, and the throngs of people and cars. Another contrast.

When we arrived at Kamulu, Jackson unlocked the gate to the housing compound. We were beginning to understand that we were in a far different place. Heavy iron gates. Ten-foot walls with wire netting extending 4 feet beyond. A guest house with bars on the window and steel doors with massive bolts. And Jackson’s admonition to keep the doors locked at all times.

In truth, we were very safe and secure. But we were safe because the routine here demanded vigilance.

Our hosts, Charles and Darlene Coulson, soon dropped by and oriented us to the operation of the guest house. That included a lesson in flushing the toilets. We were all quick studies when it came to the bucket flush.

2014-09-27 08.44.15After we had settled in, the Coulsons took us on a tour of Made In The Streets Ministry. We walked down dusty dirt streets and took in not one, but a number of compounds. We saw the learning center, the girls living area, one of the boys living areas, the

Photo: Aaron Horn

Photo: Aaron Horn

chapel. And dusty roads. As we watched the little clouds of dirt around our feet, we were told how fortunate we were that it wasn’t the rainy season. The dust turned to sticky mud and everyone wore heavy overshoes — gum boots. In fact, just in case, there were boots in the guest house.

We were eager to meet the children and we soon begin that process. But even with that excitement, we were dealing with the contrasts brought on by our short plane ride from Rwanda and Kenya. And those contrasts and these kids would touch the deepest parts of our hearts.

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Day 7 – Common

Friday, September 26, was our last full day in Kigali. We began the day with breakfast prepared by the wonderful kitchen staff at the ALARM Rwanda facility and entered our last day of training with the executive staff of ALARM. As a team, we had begun to see and understand what we truly held in common with these wonderful Rwandans and with each other.

Aaron & ALARM staff

Aaron Horn coordinated most of the training that day. In addition to conflict resolution topics, the staff had asked for assistance in business management skills and planning. Aaron’s service played an important role for ALARM Rwanda as they looked forward to submitting their own strategic plan to their board of directors in the next week.

And, the change of pace allowed the rest of us to begin organizing our belongings for our short move over to Nairobi the next day. As is traditional in these settings, the ALARM staff had planned a closing ceremony at the end of the day. We gathered together for one last moment. Our African friends sang for us and we prayed with them — to the One we have in common.

We weren’t quite done. Raymond, the executive director of the Kinyinya District, invited us out to dinner. So we made our way to a nearby hotel where Raymond proudly showed us a pilot project — a beautiful housing subdivision and a model for the rest of Kigali.

Allison in BedWe were blessed. We had so much in common.

We returned to our rooms at ALARM Rwanda and prepared for bed and our next adventure — KENYA!!!

Day 6 – Bigger

After one night away from our homebase at the ALARM Rwanda Center in Kigali, I noticed a strange feeling surfacing. Despite the fact that I was 8,500 miles from actual home and my immediate family, I felt a calming effect as we returned to our rooms and our comfortable routine with the local staff. I couldn’t escape the feeling that my presence on this trip was, indeed, providential and part of something much bigger than I had anticipated.

Dan and Malcolm with ALARM staff

For one thing, our training with the ALARM staff was scheduled for days 6 and 7. The entire team was looking forward to that event. Working with a small group of 10 who have a focused agenda would be far less stressful than our work with the security forces from the Kinyinya District and our trying time with the refugee camp. We had become well-acquainted with about half of the staff and were eager to be with the whole group. Benjamin Nkusi, the national coordinator for ALARM Rwanda, had also been expressing his anticipation and hopes for our time together.

I was also more aware than ever that our little team of Texans was taking on family characteristics of its own. Each member had a spot and we had come to depend on the strengths — and the humor — of each individual. We also had concerns for each other that were much deeper than we had seen before. From a physical standpoint, we were all mindful that international travel, medications, local food, and possibly unbottled water had taken its toll. Three of our team were moving forward valiantly despite illness. We were to learn that illness in this sort of environment was a rolling curtain — as some revive, others fall victim.

There was this feeling that our alliance of trainers, students, professors, and, now, friends, was taking on a bigger identity. (Indeed, since I’m continuing to write these day-by-day reports following our return, I can see the growing language and connections of our “Africa family.”)

Primarily, though, I believe that our group was beginning to recognize and accept their bigger role — both as individuals and as a team — in a broader picture of peacemaking and peacebuilding. And when that begins to happen, wonderful things fall in place.

It’s a blessing from God to join Him in something bigger.

 

 

Day 5.4 – Respite

Respite: a short period of relief from something difficult or unpleasant.

The Eastland Motel

With the emotionally draining events of the past 24 hours . . .

. . . completion of 2 days of training via interpreter with the security forces . . .

. . . a long drive to the remote Seeds of Peace Conference Center . . .

. . . awaking to illness among our team members . . .

. . . the confrontation of our feelings and the realities of the plight of refugees . . .

. . . and the disappointment of not immediately fulfilling our dream of leaving gifts for the refugees and the children . . .

. . . our team desperately needed a time to regroup.

And what could be a better venue for that moment than a nice leisurely lunch on our way back to Kigali?

We retrieved Allison from the Seeds of Peace Center. We were relieved to find her feeling better, but still concerned as she courageously boarded the bus.

At Ben’s suggestion, we set our course for the Eastland Motel Kayonza. Upon arrival, we found that the location was the venue for a business conference. But, since we didn’t arrive until after 1 p.m., the staff located a vacant dining room and escorted us in.

Within minutes, our orders were taken. Almost 2 hours later, our food was ready. That’s right. Two hours later.

And out of 9 orders, seven were wrong. Most involved the inclusion of vegetables on hamburgers. And since vegetables found on hamburgers are generally rinsed in water that may or may not be filtered for American intestinal tracts, we placed a premium on having the order right. But fearing another lengthy wait, we adjusted.

And Allison, out of an abundance of caution, ordered a fruit plate — oranges. And then she learned that locally, oranges are more like limes. Eventually adjustments were made. Had she not, she’d be puckered still.

The Eastland Motel also features a guest restroom that requires the women to walk through the men’s restroom. If that doesn’t bring you pause, I don’t know what will.

Sometimes respite is comprised of just enough hassle to help you forget what you needed respite from.