DAY 15 – GASABO PARISH

Discussions and evaluation with Chantal at the Diocesan office was the schedule for today, Joff breathed a sigh of relief, he has had enough emotion for one week. He did however have an appointment to speak to one of the sponsored children who is having a few problems, it was thought a one to one with someone outside the usual church contacts might just make a difference. He persevered through a difficult couple of hours and no noticeable progress was made, but we pray that maybe a seed has been planted that will bear fruit. In Him all things are possible.

After 3 hours of frank, honest and, we hope, productive discussions it was time for lunch. A very short walk saw us seated in The Fork, a very nice cafe with an extensive menu. The food lived up to expectations, two consecutive days of good food, we will be getting soft if this goes on.

Then it was off to visit two more of our sponsored children whom we had missed yesterday. The road led us past fancy new houses, but almost in their back gardens we once again found ourselves centre of attention in slums on the edge of the city, these were probably worse than the place we visited yesterday, the overwhelming stench of raw sewage warned us not to slip off the narrow ledges running alongside what was probably intended as a drainage ditch, which it was necessary to negotiate to move between the homes. The alleyways were unbelievably even narrower, and then we reached the home of converted Muslim Hamida and her children, Jeanette and Kevin who are sponsored, and Herisse and Jeannine. It seemed unbelievable that 5 people could even fit in this narrow space, let alone live, and yet we all crammed in along with most of the neighbourhood children who filled the doorway jostling to get a look at the bazungu.

       

The room was so narrow we could not face each other on the benches but had to angle sideways to fit our legs in, this space doubled as the boys bedroom. There was another equally small room behind the curtain, apparently mum and the two girls slept there. It was dark and stuffy, the light socket hung off the wall and there was no light bulb, electricity may have been connected to these places but it does not mean light is available to all.

            

Rent here is relatively cheap, the equivalent of approximately £12 per month, but the land on their doorstep is already being flattened and very soon this area will be cleared to make way for new houses, and Hamida and her family, along with the many others living here, will be forced to find somewhere else to live.

Hamida and her family outside their home

Pauline had shared with Chantal a family tradition to mark the birthday today of her sister who was taken too soon. Her favourite food was chocolate and strawberries and Pauline’s family ensure this is eaten every year on this day. Pauline was going to wait until she got home to mark the occasion, but despite large areas of Kigali being closed for CHOGM, Chantal then whisked us away to a large shopping mall, the road was closed but I guess if the Archbishop’s wife can’t pull strings who can? Having convinced the armed guard to allow us to park the car and walk in we enjoyed a lovely piece of chocolate cake and strawberry ice cream.

We all find it very difficult to witness the inequality here.  It is surreal and very uncomfortable to move between the slums and a high end shopping mall, surrounded by overpriced items that people don’t need and yet have an unquenchable appetite for.  It was lovely to be able to celebrate the memory of Pauline’s sister, but the cake caught in the throat somewhat.  Progress is happening in Rwanda at an astonishing rate but perhaps too slowly for some.  Our fear is that the rich will get richer and the poor poorer.  But there is an acceptance amongst the people that we speak to that the world is unjust and you just have to get on with the hand you have been dealt.  We haven’t met anyone that complains about their lot in life or about the daily hardships, of which there are many (just try cycling up these hills with a sack of potatoes!).  I’ve not met a more humble, hardworking, determined or dignified people. No matter how bad the hand they have been dealt, our friends here still praise God for His provision, knowing that all they need is Jesus. Halleluiah!

Tomorrow we move on to Kibungo and hope to be able to visit the genocide shrine at Nyamata en route. Please pray for journey mercies as we travel and for strength as we visit the shrine.