What a joy to be part of the recent Embrace Rwanda Trip to Rwanda. We have read so much about Rwanda over the years, but it is another thing to actually be there. Thank you so much for your faithful thoughts and prayers during our African visit.
After air flights covering 14,000 kilometres, we took a taxi to the Kigali Cathedral where we were greeted by Bishop Louis Muvunyi, Pastor Samuel, Dean of St Etienne’s Anglican Cathedral and his staff. Kigali Cathedral is the place where so many remarkable gatherings have taken place with Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini and the new Rwandan Primate, Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje. As well as the seats in the Cathedral, they have an outside speaker system for overflow crowds.
Coming to Rwanda was a dream come true. We had the chance to tour the Milles Collines Hotel, made famous by the significantly inaccurate ‘Hotel Rwanda’ movie. We learned that one of the ways that the people survived in that hotel during the100 days of genocide in 1994 was by drinking the water from the swimming pool.
On the first night in Rwanda, we stayed at the Kigali Cathedral Guest House where we met Bishop Mpango, a retired Tanzanian bishop staying at the Kigeme Cathedral guest house. He is very interested in helping launch people in businesses that can then invest in helping others. Being deeply jetlagged, our time clock was way out of whack, waking up at all times of the day/night. Even with DEET and a mosquito net, I had to kill six buzzing mosquitoes that first night just to sleep. The meals provided were very tasty. We were very careful to not eat any uncooked vegetables, and thankfully never became sick during or after the trip.
I had a very strong sense from God that we were to purchase a guitar, then use it in the music workshops that Janice would teach, before donating it to the Kigali Cathedral. The problem was that we already had way too much luggage, including a massive duffle bag of baby clothes. The solution was to purchase it in Kigali just before we went on a ‘sardine-packed’ bus to Kigeme. A man working at the Kigali Station agreed to take me five blocks so that I could purchase this guitar for 70,000 Francs (around $105 Canadian/US). Unfortunately I forgot to purchase extra strings which I did later in Kikongoro many days later, after breaking a string on my first day in Kigeme! I was also pleased to see the Cathedral’s other guitar which had been donated on the ACiC Mission Trip six years ago. Sadly the E-string was totally dead. But after new strings, the original guitar was in fine form. In the workshop, we taught the participants how to tune a guitar. It is amazing the difference between a guitar in tune or almost in tune. The Cathedral had a third guitar but it was literally in three pieces. All in all, this felt as if we had obeyed the promptings of God’s still small voice. It is sometimes hard to tell whether it is God or just us.
Having spent the first day at Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, we took a sardine-packed bus to the southwestern town of Kigeme. As the Canadian wing of the Anglican Mission in the Americas, we have been asked to have a special relationship with the Anglican diocese of Kigeme, led by Bishop Augustin Mvunabandi. As my wife Janice Hird is a UBC Music grad & our St. Simon’s NV Music Director, she was invited to lead four music workshops that week at the Kigeme Cathedral. The Rwandan people are such remarkably gifted singers, dancers and worshippers.
Education, health, and church planting were core values of the original Anglican missionary who came to Kigeme in 1932. The Kigeme Anglican Hospital was birthed from the original 1932 vision for medical care and healing through prayer. The compassion of Jesus has been wired into the very DNA of this hospital. The staff even starts every day with a half hour of worship. While we were at the hospital, a mission team from the Anglican congregation in Maidenhead, UK, came to do many tasks, including rewiring the Kigeme Anglican Hospital. Thank God for people with electrical skills who can use them to help others in need. We particularly enjoyed meeting Pastor Samuel, the Chaplain for the Kigeme Anglican Hospital, whom I found to be very godly and Spirit-filled. It is clear that the Anglican investment in health has made a significant difference for local Rwandans in the Kigeme area. The goal of the Rwandan Anglicans in Kigeme is that everyone plays their part in extending God’s Kingdom and rebuilding their nation. Our Embrace Rwanda* team, led by our local Deep Cover Hilary King, makes it possible for Canadians to share in this rebuilding in practical ways involving the Healthy Mums Project, purchasing goats for mothers in need, and building multi-use chapels which assist in educational needs.
Given the tragic genocide in Rwanda 17 years ago, it was wonderful to see how peaceful the country has become, how it is being rebuilt, and how much reconciliation has happened among people who have suffered so deeply and lost so many family and friends. It inspires me to keep short accounts with others, as we are so easily offended as Canadians, and not always that good at forgiving even petty offences. “…as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector
St Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada/TheAM