Needy People Helping Needy People

It is Sunday morning in Kigali. I am reflecting on my day yesterday, and on the words of John Punshon, in Reasons for Hope; “Knowing God is like knowing a person, not like knowing a theory. Divine knowledge comes to those who know they are not self-sufficient, that they are in need, and that there is nothing they can do to help themselves” (p. 126).

My day was quite eventful yesterday, and was capped off by Debbie and Paul’s return from the north, where they spent three days touring the countryside and visiting gorillas. I woke on Saturday morning feeling refreshed and no longer feeling the ill effects of whatever malady had befallen me. Aryn and I had a good conversation about experience, theology and faith over breakfast. She shared with me some thoughts on students making adjustments in their lives and thinking upon coming to Rwanda and some of the beliefs that they bring with them when they come. The students that she will be working with this semester will be arriving shortly after our departure later this week.

After breakfast, I prepared to leave the house. I was to meet David Bucura at two o’clock, outside the national stadium. I wondered if I would remember him, or if he would remember me. I met David months ago while he was attending an FWCC meeting in Canby, Oregon, earlier this year. I had traveled to Canby, from our home in Newberg to pick up David and three colleagues who were attending an international gathering of Friends at a conference center there. David was reunited in Newberg with Verna and Hector Munn, who had lived and worked in Kigali at the George Fox Secondary School a number of years ago.

I left the house about 11:30 with a bottle of water and nothing else. I struck off on a walk through the neighborhood in Remera, where the Food for the Hungry guest house is located. The neighborhood is an interesting mixture of large, newer homes, all walled and gated; set side by side with older, simpler abodes, some of block, some of pieced together materials, all placed along heavily-rutted dirt streets along fairly steep hillsides. The area in which I walked was somewhat of a bowl. I walked from close to the top of the bowl around the sides, gradually descending as I found roads that wound there way back around and down. My descent was quiet, with no cars and virtually no people passing me. At the bottom of the bowl was a green space. This grassy space had trees and shrubs planted in it and also contained storm sewers for runoff. As I made my way back up the bowl on the other side, I began to encounter more and more people. I greeted many, and often people returned my greetings, usually not in English.

The large banks of lights of the national stadium served as my landmark for the journey. At the beginning of my walk, I had oriented my position with the stadium lights, and with the Sportsview Hotel, which was set at the top of the hill, right in front of the stadium. No matter where I walked within this bowl, I was generally able to find the lights or the hotel, and therefore keep track of where I wanted to go. I also kept a close eye on my back trail, just in case I needed to retrace my steps. I came upon a group of about a dozen young boys playing football in the street. When I greeted them, they stopped what they were doing and chatted with me. One boy spoke English fairly well and served as the spokesperson for the group. We talked of sport and fun and I admired their play and their laughter as I went on my way.

While I made my way gradually back up the side of the bowl, I realized that the people I met were quite interested in me. I tried to continue with my cheerful attitude and greeted those who maintained eye contact with me. I obviously was somewhat of a novelty here. The area I was in now had no large new homes, but was made up of a dense warren of smaller block structures. Small businesses were interspersed with homes. These included salons, bars, restaurants, and small shops. The closer I got to the top of the bowl, the more commercial establishments there were. As I came out on the top of the hill, I discovered that I had actually made my way directly adjacent to the Sportsview Hotel and right in front of a main entrance to the stadium. Many people milled around at the entrance and on the street that ran around the stadium grounds.

I had about one hour before David was to pick me up, so I set off on a walk down the street, with the intent of completely circling the stadium and arriving back to this main entrance in time to be picked up. Many people walked on the side walks on both sides of this street and many motorcycle taxis and cars passed by. People often returned my greetings, but virtually none initiated contact. I ran out of energy to say hello to everyone. In forty five minutes, I made my complete circle. I passed by KIE, where I had visited previously. I passed a number of other educational institutions, and various other government and NGO offices. With about fifteen minutes to spare, I found a place to sit down and wait. There were many more people milling around now, with many lined up to go into the stadium. A number of people walking were carrying bibles, and I suspected that they were Adventists returning from church.

Two teenage boys stopped to greet me. I knew that there was some big event occurring. In addition to the people, there was loud music coming from the stadium. Ally and Thierry were students at a local secondary school. Their English was quite good and I could tell they were enthusiastic about meeting me. They told me that the big event at the stadium was a concert and party to honor the fiftieth birthday of the Rwandan brewery which produces the brand Primus. We spoke of the US and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who they had high regard for as an actor. I told them that Arnold was no longer an actor, but a politician. I gave each my card and they asked if I would correspond with them via email. I agreed to this and each of them shared his email address with me. Last evening I sent them an email. I have sent several emails to Rwandans since being here, each at their request, but as of yet, I have not received a reply. After my two young friends left. I was joined by a young man who appeared to be a little shifty. He spoke no English and tried to converse with me in French. I made out that he was asking me for money to go to the concert. I told him no and he left. However, for the remaining time I waited, this fellow stood near me and watched me. I wonder if there were fewer folks around if we may have attempted to use force to take something from me.

David arrived at the stadium with his colleague, Bonheur. We drove to the George Fox Secondary School, which was situated on a compound which also included the yearly meeting headquarters, a church building, a primary school, David’s theological education office, a children’s peace library and housing for missionaries. Afterwards, we drove to another location where I saw another Friends church building, a school and housing. I was told that this was the place that Professor Dawn Todd had brought George Fox University students earlier this year. Bonheur told me that David was like a father to him. He also said that Hector Munn had been at George Fox Secondary School while Bonheur studied there.

David and Bonheur brought me back to the guest house and they had a chance to meet Debbie. We ate late, when Aryn got back from the airport to pick up her colleague, Dwight Jackson. Music and even fireworks continued into the night, which I assume was coming from the stadium for the birthday party.

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