Singing and Dancing

Sunday afternoon in the guest house in Musanze

The celebration for the opening of the Rwanda Friends Theological College is over and what a time it was!  I heard signing coming from down the road at about 0830 this morning, signaling the call to worship.  When I had left the church building where our in-service program had concluded yesterday evening, some men were setting up a tent on the road-side of the property, but it was the only preparation I actually saw by the time we left.

I walked down the road this morning feeling quite a bit better than I had felt the morning before.  I was not quite sure if I could sit through a four-hour worship service, but I was ready to give it a go.  My friends and colleagues had gone on ahead of me, as I needed a few more minutes of rest after breakfast.  I did have a little breakfast this morning, and the passion fruit was excellent, as was the African tea with ginger.  Ron and Carolyn Stansell joined us for breakfast.  Ron was invited to give the main address today.  He and Carolyn are on their way to Burundi and the Congo for consultation work there with the Friends churches.

As I arrived at the church site, the music continued, upbeat chorale music with dense harmonies.  I noted all the additional preparations that had occurred, with benches set up in the grassy compound, and already many people seated.  There were scores of people milling around the front of the library and the church building.  As I looked under the tent, I spotted some white faces on the far side and so I walked a little further down the road and entered the church compound through an archway festooned with balloons. I saw my colleagues sitting in the front row.  I went to sit down next to Debbi, who was on the left flank of our row.  A man approached me and moved me further toward the center on the row, next to Ron Stansell, with Nicodemous to my left. Carolyn sat on Ron’s other side and to her right were the mayor of Musanze and David Buchura, the yearly meeting superintendent.

Nicodemous had participated in our workshop and it was obvious that he was a well-educated and studious man.  Ron told me that he would translate for Ron when he brought the message.  I sat behind a table that had floral arrangements on it.  I sat on a very comfortable couch and my feet rested on a carpet.  I looked around me and behind me.  The entire tent area was filled with visitors and honored guests.  On the one hand, I was surprised that we had been designated as honored guests, yet, on the other hand, I realized that the typical cultural expectation here required us to be considered as such.singing

The singing continued, interspersed with a greeting from the presiding pastor and some prayers from various people.  The choirs performed to the accompaniment of electronic keyboards and so we got a very nice lilting, rhythmic effect from the music.  Many of the songs, Nicodemous told me, were composed just for this occasion.  Most of the choirs did wonderful dances as they sang.  At one particular moment, I noticed a young girl, probably about 4 or 5 who was dancing enthusiastically along with the choir. The joy of the Lord welled up inside of me and all I could think was, “My soul does magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior”.  I recognized the significant blessing of the Lord in that place, the excitement of a gathered group coming to give thanks and celebrate the goodness of God.

Part way through the celebration, the master of ceremonies called honored guests to stand and walk to the steps of the Bible College building.  We were included in the delegation.  I realized that we would participate at that time in a ribbon cutting ceremony.  As the crowd of honored guests made it down the roadway of volcanic rock, I positioned myself at the bottom of the steps.  Habimana, the Principal of the College, called my name and brought me up to the top of the stairs.  The ribbon was cut and we proceeded into the building, receiving a tour. I am so glad we had taken the time to walk with the entire group of faculty in our workshop through the building on Friday morning, praying for each room.  This brief tour was like icing on the cake, the ceremonial opening.  I feel as if the faculty themselves actually dedicated the space as we did our prayer walk on Friday morning.  The tour ended with a peek at the library and a prayer for it.  We returned to our seats.

The ceremony went on with various prayers, messages and songs.  Remarkably, the program maintained the schedule and I thought I heard a joke from David Buchura referring to them being on Mzungu time for this celebration.  RonRon’s address was taken from Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  He did a nice job of working with his translator and the message was quite stirring and appropriate.  The worship time ended with a speech from the mayor of Muzanse and one from David Buchura.  The mayor was given two bibles as gifts, Ron Stansell was given a plaque in the shape of Rwanda with two hands clasped as a gift to be taken to EFI.  Lon Fendall was given three gifts, a floppy straw hat, a traditional eating bowl and a carved boat.  All were symbolic gifts to reflect the appreciation of the Rwandan Friends to Lon for his years of service in support of them and the RFTC.

At the conclusion of the service, the honored guests were sent back to the steps of the building.  It was to be a time of prayer, I thought.  It was a second ribbon cutting ceremony.  Once again, Habimana called me up to the front, this time, asking me to hold the ribbon as the Mayor cut it.  We entered into the building and there was lunch laid out for us!  I took very small portions.  We sat and visited in the same room we had eaten dinner on Friday evening, this time in a much more formal manner.  I asked Ron to tell me about the roots of the Friends work in Rwanda and he filled me in quite a bit.  Carolyn told me that a book he has written has chapters on this region.

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One Comment on “Singing and Dancing”

  1. Gary Kilburg Says:

    Scot, What a moving ceremony and what a wonderful way to honor our Father and those servants who labor because of their love for Him.

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