Looks like I’m not going to get online today, so thought I would write this post anyway, to publish whenever I next get opportunity.
The meeting with Antoine Rutayisire happened today. We drove out to the office of AEE (African Evangelistic Enterprise) via the UGBR office to collect Syldio.
The UGBR office is literally round the corner from the president’s “office” (more like a large compound), which I think is where Charlie and Ewan met him. Lambert explained a little about how Paul Kagame is viewed within Rwanda (mostly very positive), and told me he is now 4 years into a 7 year term. He can be re-elected into office at the end of his term, and 7 years – while longer than you might expect – does seem to be a good idea for a country finding its feet after war. Particularly when the president is universally liked.
While we waited at the AEE office for Antoine to finish in another meeting, I was shown around the buildings by Emmanuel, vice-chair of the UGBR national board. Emmanuel is a graduate of UGBR and is now involved in evangelism training and arranging conferences for pastors. AEE works both to develop and train leaders, but also in areas of social need, such as with street children and those infected with HIV/AIDS. A lorry was being loaded with various equipment for a school of childred orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In another classroom, a group of adults infected with HIV was receiving some training. There was also a guest house on site, dedicated to Israel Havugimana, one of the first UGBR staff who, along with his family, was killed in the genocide. He is buried at this site, and there is a plaque in tribute of him and his work: lived what he preached, died for what he believed – reconciliation.
Talking further with Emmanuel I found out where other UGBR graduates are now working, and was surprised to hear of those working in government and other top levels of leadership who meet once a month to pray together, and to study the Bible concerning their particular contexts. The president, Paul Kagame, who openly supports the work of the Church in Rwanda, is known to attend these meetings at least once a year.
When Antoine finally arrived I was suddenly overcome with the significance of the man I was about to meet, the work he is involved with, and the influence he carries in this country. He is a very visionary man, who spoke passionately about the difficult lessons learned through the genocide, and of the power of God at work here. It was a great meeting, with Antoine answering many of my questions before I had even asked them. I really hope the material gathered will be useful in exciting others about the work here.
After lunch there wasn’t much else planned for the rest of the day, so having caught up on a few things in my room (transferring photos and audio files to the laptop), and spent a good amount of time on the balcony watching the world go by, I decided it was time that I ventured out on my own for a walk. Although a little nervous, I hoped that the walk would provide opportunity to get some good, unplanned photos of Rwanda.
I did feel rather conspicuous walking down the hill, and could tell how much I stood out when three children playing in a gutter across the road called out in a strong accent: ‘Good morning!’ At the bottom of the hill I turned away from the tarmac road into a dusty track which I thought lead down to a school. If I felt conspicuous earlier, it was even worse now.
I slowly walked about half a mile down the road, with various children quietly following behind me short distances. The younger, less fearful ones would try to touch me as I walked past, or reach my hand to shake it with a little ‘bonjour’. At the point I turned around there was a family harvesting maize in a field opposite the school, and I decided it was time to take the camera out. Trying to be as discreet as I could I took a few photos before being spotted by two young boys who wanted to have their photo taken, and were pleased to see themselves as I showed them the picture.
Having been spotted with the camera, an old gentlemen with deep, wrinkled skin and the light smell of alcohol on his breath came to introduce himself in French. He was from Congo, and made traditional crafts, of the sort he thought I would like to take home with me. He pointed to where he lived, and as I hadn’t plucked up *that* much courage just yet, I explained I had to return to where I was staying. Not to be turned away so lightly, he wanted to know when I would be leaving, and to give me his phone number so I could call and arrange to see his handiwork. On discovering that neither of us had pen or paper, he promptly leaned over and began writing his phone number in the dusty road together with his name. I duly photographed his particulars – maybe I can add him to the IFES mailing list now – and after being introduced to his brother (who also didn’t live far away), we parted with a handshake and big smiles.
A little further along I found some nice fencing dividing the road in two, that would provide a nice focal point in a photo of the road as children carrying bottles walked along it. But of course, as soon as I was spotted, the children broke out into a run towards me, and then all jostled for the attention of the camera. Having taken a few photographs and appeased the children by showing them their faces now imprinted on the back of my camera, I began to walk away but was stopped by a woman who wanted her daughter to be photographed. With mother making sure the other kids kept out of the way, I managed to get capture one of my favourite photos of the trip so far. Just what I had hoped for, and now the walk was a complete success.
I can have been back only 30mins when I heard a car arrive. Phocas and his daughter, Jessica, and popped in to see how I was doing. We sat on the balcony and chatted a while. Jessica can only be about 8 or 9, but her English is great. I’m sure this young lady is going to go far. It was lovely to have met Phocas in Oxford, but equally as good to see him here in Rwanda. He has invited me to visit his house – just up the road – and to spend some more time with his family; his wife Jackie and twin sons Eben and Ezer.
As Phocas and Jessica left I discovered that Augustin (IFES regional secretary for francophone africa) had now arrived and was staying here too. I joined him, Josue, Syldio, Pierre and Lambert as they discussed some of the final plans for the conference. I think I understood about 70-80% of what was said, but still found it difficult to find the confidence to say very much in French.
Once the meeting was finished and the others left, Augustin and I had dinner together. It was great to get to know him better, to hear of his dreams for the region, and of some of the steps they are planning to achieve those goals – some of which start tomorrow, as General Secretaries from many of the region’s movements arrive and meet during the afternoon and Saturday morning before the conference starts.
I believe I have a meeting with World Vision tomorrow morning, and possibly a visit to the genocide memorial. After which I may join the preliminary meetings to gather some more information and photographs.
On which note, I really ought to sign off and get some sleep. Breakfast at 7:30, then off at 8:00 to my meeting with World Vision.