When hail destroyed the crops and the storm removed the roof from Rumarangoga church, CHI were delighted to be able to assist this small community. Today was the day we were to see the result of this intervention, it was hoped we would be able to worship in the new church, however it was not finished when we left and there were no guarantees.
We were collected from the guest house by the bishop at 7.30am for a 9.30am service and Joff was advised to change his shoes!!! Trainers on we set off and 20 mins later we stopped at the start of a small track and were issued with sticks, Rumarangoga sits at the top a very high hill, and they do not have a road.
The path is narrow and very steep, the soil and rocks are loose and slide under your feet and the drop off the side is at times almost sheer, not an ideal combination for Carmen, who is not a fan of heights and whose balance is less than perfect. A very gallant Robert assisted and, after a couple of stops to ‘admire the view’ from a bench which had been very strategically place just for us, and magically appeared at 10 minute intervals, we arrived at the top 50 minutes later. We are ashamed to say that we were overtaken on numerous occasions on the way up. The community who live here collect their water from the valley floor, we cannot begin to imagine that climb with a water container on our heads.
We were greeted at the top with song and dance to the most awesome backdrop of hills and valleys.
Then we were swiftly ushered into a small room for our second breakfast of the day, but not before we had marvelled at the astounding view. We managed the boiled egg and banana but had to pass on the cooked banana and chicken stew.
We emerged to an astounding sight, the path to the church was lined with members of the mothers, fathers and youth unions and a full band waited at the top, including Robert on the trumpet, is there anything this young man cannot do?
This was the first time in 20 years the Bishop had visited, and the first time bazungu had ever braved the track. We were processed down the long winding path to the church with the band playing, to find an enormous crowd gathered outside. We expected the church to be empty but as we were ushered inside we found it was already full, except in Rwanda a church is not full until a body is squeezed into every last inch. To be honest it was completely overwhelming, the number of people the band and the realisation of what this day meant to this remote community.
People continued to pour in until every inch of space was filled, and still others were crowded in the doorway and looking through the windows. They had come from neighbouring communities and all had been involved in helping carry materials for the church up the hill. Even the Catholic and Pentecostal congregations had helped out.
The choirs sang, we all danced amidst the clouds of dust, prayers were said, introductions made and speeches heard, the bishop preached and then we started all over again. We were presented with gifts, memory baskets for Pauline and Carmen and a walking stick for Joff, they must have watched him climb the hill!!! Then more speeches, the blessing of a newborn baby and more singing until, after 5 hours of speeches, preaching and joyful worship we were led out by the band. The hillside was full of people, some must have walked miles to be there.
We learned how even the children carried rocks up the hill, getting up at 3am to play their part before school began, at this time it would have been pitch black, there is no water or electricity to this area.
There is still a small amount of work required to complete the church and we were told special permission was required from the government to hold the service as the building was incomplete.
After lunch we headed off to visit some of the homes where goats had been given, and then, as we carried on down the hillside, we saw the bishop’s vehicle on the road below us. Whilst steep enough, this had not been nearly such a challenging decent, and we can’t help but wonder if the bishop had been laughing all day.
Goodbyes were said to the crowd who had followed us from the church and it was back in the car to head home. Just like the community at Rumarangoga, this was a day that will live on in our memories forever. And we wouldn’t have missed that climb for the world.