For the World, Peacemaking

‘There and Back Again’

We’ve made it, home.   After 28 hours of travel from Kigali to Entebbe to Addis to Rome to Dulles to Corhaven, home.

I’m deeply aware and grateful for the prayers of so many folks for us, they were all answered, in more abundance and gentility that we would have expected.  If you prayed for us, thank you.  God did much for us through your prayers.  There was not a day when weren’t kept safe and healthy.

We ended our trip in Rwanda, land of a thousand hills, land of almost a million people killed in one hundred days in the 1994 genocide.  To visit the genocide memorial here, and keep a reverent silence at the concrete graves holding the bones of 250,000 of the victims, is as painful as is it needful.  I have a lot more understanding of the genocide now, which is better to know, and harder to bear, that people could do this to others.  That people would be forced to endure not only the killing but the decades of inflicted psychological and even physical violence leading up to the killings is too much to bear.  I have to throw it at the foot of Jesus’ cross, his own feet dripping blood to cover the sins of the world, and say “O Jesus, please, please, have mercy.  Make this stop.  Heal the wounds.  Make it right.  Please, Christ, have mercy.”

There were of course many inspiring stories during the genocide.  We ate lunch at the Hotel Mille Colline, the real “Hotel Rwanda”, where 1268 Rwandan Tutsis were sheltered and saved.  And we met with the Anglican Archbishop of Rwanda, Bishop Rwaje, who stayed, and did what he could do to minister when the killing broke out, with one other bishop.  The other six fled.

Ah, Africa, as complex as you are broad!

I’m reminded on this side of the trip that when you think you’ve got the solutions for Africa, it just means you haven’t been back in a while or seen enough of it.   The war/s in Congo and who’s responsible reminds me of that.  It was good, though it introduced far less clarity of course, to hear the Rwandan side of the story to balance the Congolese side of things.  Strong opinions are easier to hold and wield when you only consider one perspective.  Easy solutions tend to be offered by those who have the luxury of not living there.

Ah, Africa, as beautiful as you are broken!

The vast natural beauty and vast wealth of Africa’s resources is overwhelming.  It just doesn’t stop, nor does the beauty of many of Africa’s citizens stop, and we saw only a small slice of the continent.   But it’s the same for brokenness too.  We saw only a small slice of Africa, and those things that need to be very different are a never-ending list.  Sudan’s poverty and its impact is hard to fathom, Congo’s trauma is hard to wrap one’s head around, and the horror of 1994 in Rwanda is hard to believe, except that bones are very terribly there.  Every day it seems that one’s heart vacillates between praises and petitions.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite lyrics of all time, not surprisingly offered by Bruce Cockburn:
Little round planet in a big universe,
sometimes it looks blessed, sometimes it looks cursed  //
Depends on what you look at, obviously, 
even more it depends on the way that you see

Indeed, how you view Africa depends on what you see you, but more importantly,  how you see.  Seeing as a Christian, hope will always be deeper than the horror, love always deeper than the hate, God’s provision will always be more profound than the human deprivation, beauty always overcoming brokenness, light eventually but always piercing the darkness.

And of course, light is always brighter when it burns against a contrast.

Yes, there’s a lot of darkness on this continent.  I won’t forget it soon.  But I will also keep with me for a long time the example of God’s people here, by whose very presence and courageous and compassionate deeds, the light of Christ shines with hope. When it comes to remembering the light or the darkness of Africa after this trip, I choose to remember both, and let that inform how I’ll continue to live in America after having returned from Africa, again.

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