27 August, 2012
Yesterday was church and travel. Today was museum and memorial day…an interesting mix of culture exposure and heavy emotion. The group was split into five parishes. Each group of six or seven students plus two staff had to come up with a couple worship songs and a few testimonies to be shared. Our group arrive early at the Anglican parrish after many minutes of bumpy, rural road on the bus. The parrish was in the midst of a village. You might think these Rwandans, especially the children, had never seen a white person in their life. We took a slow walk through the village and to the pastor’s house alongside our two translators. Children followed us and a turn of our heads and a smile was enough to send them a few steps backward, giggling. They didn’t even say, “Muzungu!”…the traditional African word meaning, “white person” or “foreigner”. Pointing and shouting of this word is quite common from the children in town.
We finally returned to the parrish for service was about to begin. To say we were the guests of honor would be an understatement. We had songs sung to us, poems written and read to us in English, we were drawn by the hand to dance in the center area with everyone else, we were kneeled before and greeted by the hand…the whole nine yards.
Something I found very interesting was the mix between their liturgical style of reading passages togethere and traditional standings and sittings and then how often a dance party was started in kahootz with a praise song. Sometimes what seemed to be a random woman would burst out in solo, then everyone else would follow. Everything was spoken in Rwundi and our translator only did so mcuh, so I couldn’t decide if the soloists were planned or just stepped out randomly.
Our group sung “Days of Elijah” with hand motions to the chorus, as well as “Dessert Song”. We sung acapella. It’s too bad though, they had three keyboards!! If I had known, we could have totally been jamming with some real music to sing to. I got to share a short testimony with the congregation in relation to a verse. It was 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, speaking of how we are not competent in ourselves, but only in God. The pastor read the verse in Rwundi and then I shared what it meant to me, sentence by sentence through our translator. It was really a realization moment…a time when the Lord stepped in and spoke through me. I realized that my heart is still struggling with being here and that even more dependence upon the Lord is very needed….very.
After the service, we exited and were swarmed by children…all touching my skin wondering what the big secret was. It felt like the paparazzi. In fact, it was. Many Rwandans demmanded a picture with us…a “snap” as they call it. I felt slightly photo exploited, to be honest…having to pose with any young man who pointed at me and told our translator he wanted a picture with me…What could I do, though? Nothing, really. I was in culture shock and simultaneously representing American culture to all these villagers watching. Refusal was not an option.
I did my best to love on all the smelly people around me (Africans don’t do deodorant)…embracing when being embraced, touching my right arm with my left hand when shaking hands (a sign of respect) and greeting as many as I could with either hello, sounding like “mor-aw-ho”, my name is Emily (Neat-twa Emily) or “mua-rrar-muzi” meaning goodmorning. These, of course, are not proper spellings, just how I wrote them down phonetically to recall them.
The repeating of my name by any Rwandan was intersting, even by our translator. There are no “L’s” in Rwundi, so my name here in Rwanda is “Emery”. Cute, yes? Apparently the Rwandan langauage is much more difficult to learn than Luganda. It’s funny, but I’m pretty sure I will have Rwundi down much better than Luganda by the time we return to Mukono. How confusing.
As for the remainder of the day, we moved on in our travels to Kigali, staying in a Catholic guest house. Kigali is the main area for many genocide massacres that occurred.
My group is truly great, but I feel quite separated from life as I knew it in America. For now, no contacts or pictures, just Emily and a backpack in Rwanda. These feelings sort of accompany my prior fears of leaving my identity in America and having to pick up a new one here. Something I will be talking to the Lord about often, I’m sure.
For now, though, peace is with me. May it also be with you. “Yes-aw-shim-wae” and “Mor-aw-vae-ho” (Praise God and Goodbye).