Colourful equality – Rwanda visit final

What made The Salvation Army come to Rwanda at all? On Sunday we went to the birthplace of it all, the town of Kayenzi. On our way there we, as usual before a meeting, passed Salvationists walking to the corps. Our car passed them at least 5 km from the venue.

The reason behind it all was that International Headquarters emergency team were asked to come and help after the genocide in 1994. The team came to Kayenzi to help with registration of people returning home and giving counselling in their traumas. We also build some houses since many had been destroyed. People asked why a church did this and so we began sharing our faith and gathered people to worship.

The rest is history and here I come with a project coordinator from Sweden. We continue to serve the community by an equal share of development projects and conveying the living word from God. That is, of course, done in equal partnership with the Rwandan leaders. I would have no message at all without the equally inspired translator Francois.

This Sunday the meeting is in some senses very un-African. We begin 10am sharp and end two hours later. They evidently can make exceptions and have short meetings when busy Europeans visit.

In this town the corps also runs a preschool in cooperation with the local community leaders. It is a pilot program to raise the standards of the coming generation. 37 children attend. In order to help the families to raise their standards, and pay school fees, the Salvation Army also runs an animal bank and sewing classes.

Back in Kigali we stop to look at the new corps building in Batsinda that is under construction. It will take around 300 people and will be the new location for Kigali corps. Next to the hall a new preschool will be built. That project will be co-funded by Sweden and Japan.

As our visit come to an end I naturally reflect on the many impressions from the week. I am impressed by the leadership team in the Command. God gave a clear vision to Colonel Nyambala to build capacity, to equip and develop officers and local leaders. A stable foundation is crucial to growth.

I am impressed by how women’s groups are organised and developed. There are meetings for the girls, the young women and adult women. Each section has their team of leaders. Command Headquarters prepare a program book that the women can buy. Getting cash for that is a sacrifice – but then no development comes without a cost. That goes for the rich world too. It sometimes looks like we are more reluctant to make personal sacrifices for the church to grow.

No visit here is complete without going to the local market. I got myself a colourful African dress. Colourful can be the word for the people, the countries of Rwanda and Burundi and for the way they worship and serve the Lord. I got a bit of more colour into my life. Thank you Rwanda.

Pictures below: Building for the pre-scool./Sewing classes for future income generation./Sharing bookmarks from India South West with women ministry leaders./The local market in Kigali.

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Learning a lot in Burundi – Rwanda 3

South of Rwanda is Burundi. The two countries make out a Salvation Army Command. We travelled from Kigali to Bujumbura by car. A journey that took us about seven hours and we were not bored a bit. The Rwandan mountains turned into Burundians while the slopes were filled with tea and coffee bushes, banana palm trees, maize etc. There is a constant traffic on the road and an amazing amount of bicycles. They carry incredible high, heavy and wide loads and go down the hills at a terrible speed – with no feet on the pedals. Or, there are cyclists hanging on to the back of trucks, mile after mile.

The capital is situated by Lake Tanganyika. We were warmly received at the house and office of the Burundi section officers, majors Moureen and Japheth Agusiomah. The corps meetings are also held here. The “hall” is under a roof in the garden.

Soon after our arrival the meeting started. And what a meeting. Salvationists and friends had arrived from the two corps and some outposts. Singing, greetings, more singing, testimonies. And before I shared the Bible message the women’s choir sang. And that song to the Lord opened the Highway of the Holy Spirit to Heaven, as we know it happens sometimes. We got a holy moment with God.

The next day in Bujumbura we had time to find out more through a well prepared brief and conversation with the majors. Who, by the way, are officers from Kenya West and arrived here last August.

The Salvation Army started only five years ago. There is now 296 soldiers, 151 junior soldiers, 100 recruits and 315 adherents. All belonging to two corps and four outposts. There are a total of four officers.

We also learned that 80% of the population in Burundi lives in poverty, i.e. has less than 1$/day to live on. Unemployment is high and many are HIV/AIDS infected. Actually most of the soldiers have HIV/AIDS. They do not come to the Salvation Army because we can help them with basic needs. There are no social programs. They come because Jesus gives them hope and a new life.

We learned that women with low education had been through a successful vocational training program. They were taught to do professional cleaning work in hotels. All of them were employed. Some got curious that a church did this and also, eventually, became soldiers. To develop vocational training was high on the list when the leaders talked to the project people. Quite urgent was to get money for a car, since the motorbike had been stolen and there was now difficulties visiting the outposts.

On Saturday morning, after the roads had opened after compulsory community work, we went to Gatumba outpost. They meet in the school building. All ages were present both inside and outside the schoolroom. They come her although neighbours mock them for not going to a proper church.

On our way back to Rwanda we stopped at Kamenge corps at the outskirts of Bujumbura. The home for the officers is a newly built house and the first one the Salvation Army own in Burundi. Some of the corps people had come, with their newly appointed lieutenants, and we prayed for them. Also here the “hall” is just a roof in the garden and they look forward to build a proper meeting place.

Travelling back with my Swedish colleagues, majors Robert and Anna-Maria Tuftström, presently serving in Rwanda, I also learned that we from North Europe have a lot of learning to do from our Burundian colleagues about relevant Salvation Army ministry.

Photos below: A Groups singing in the meeting in Bujumbura corps./ The new building in Kamenge with some corps people/ At the border crossing. The diligent Swedish Project coordinator Hanna Brandvik and Project Administrator Francois Nsengimana

 

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Visiting Rwanda 1 – This was not a week’s scout camp

The dominating impression when making my first trip to Rwanda is that it is all hills. And it is so green. Now is the rainy season so all the small fields in the valleys (small because of the square pattern of drainage) are lush with growing rice, potatoes and other crops. And the terraced plots on the hillsides are surrounded by banana palm trees.

As we travel out of the capital Kigali there is a constant flow of lorries, bicycles, minibuses, some cars and people walking as well as running. Everything that moves goes up the hill and down the hill. On the top there is often a village with rows of small shops and brick houses. With blue tin roofs if they can afford it.

I’m here accompanying project coordinator Hanna Brandvik. She works for the Salvation Army in Sweden with development projects and Rwanda-Burundi Command is part of her areas of responsibility.

Our first day was spent in Kigali, meeting the leaders of the Command and staff at headquarters. Hanna cleared some of her business and we got ready for the week’s program here.

In the blog I will share some of what is happening by posting some pictures and telling my story. The photos I add while in Rwanda-Burundi will just be from the phone and quality accordingly.

On our second day, Wednesday December 5th, we left early to visit a refugee camp in Kigeme. People here come from Congo and one reason why they are forced to leave is that they speak the kinyaruanda language. I will not go further into that complex situation.

This camp is one of four. First they arrived at a camp just by the border and then they were transported here by bus. It was opened in June this year and here lives almost 15.000 people. 80% of then are women and children. Between June and September 126 children has been born in the camp.

The land (mainly two hills) has been allotted by the Rwandan government and the Anglican Church who owns the land. The camp is organised by UNHCR along with other organisations. The contribution from the Salvation Army has been to supply mattresses and blankets (kikoyo) and medicines to people when they first arrive. They are bought locally and are paid for from Sweden, from the Salvation Army Emergency fund. This support is in a concluding phase and the visit was also a way of starting the process for possible future projects that will be identified.

It is impressive to see that there is experience and leadership in place to organise all practical matters well. The disturbing fact is that these things happen. That rebel groups force people away from their homes and land and there is no solution to that basic problem in sight. It is likely that most people will stay here for 10-15 years.

Even if this society gets organised on the surface – men building homes with brick walls instead of plastic sheets, women starting to grow vegetables and children starting school, there is no easy remedy to traumatised people and the loss of hope. I could easily identify the primitive life to a scout camp – but this will not end after a week.

From the refugee camp we went to the Salvation Army corps (church) in Muhanga. They had organised a meeting on a Wednesday afternoon just because we were visiting from Sweden. It was a new experience for me to be the attraction. Being white, woman and a Commissioner of the Salvation Army it was an honouring and exotic experience to the soldiers and friends of the corps. Of the 100+ soldiers a good crowed turned up on this afternoon.

Preaching for the first time in Africa I was truly blessed to realise that the same message from God’s word that is relevant in Sweden is life and hope to village people in Rwanda too.

Here is a link to short video in Swedish with Hanna Brandvik from the camp.)

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Above: Arriving at camp, meeting our guide.

Below: Huts for a family. Three families Cook meals together. Water is pumped into the camp.

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