Here’s Part 2 of Thomas playing catch up with my updates. February was a very special month for me here, and I think you’ll see why by the end of this update.
At the beginning of the month, I had the privilege to stay with Pastor Tertullien and his family for a week in Kayonza, which is in eastern Rwanda. I was grateful again for all the hospitality they showed me, and by how they welcomed me into their lives by talking with me about some of the deep struggles their family has had. I was so honored by how they trusted me with those things. I also learned so much about Rwandan culture with Pastor Tertullien. We had many conversations about differences between American and Rwandan culture, and he would often volunteer things during that week as we went about life. It was such a blessing to get to know him and his family.
And then, in the second half of the month, my mom came to visit me in Rwanda for two weeks. It was such an incredibly special thing! She had the opportunity to meet many people that I know here, and we had the chance to do a number of more touristy things that I had not done here yet. We went kayaking on Lake Kivu, went on a hike to see the golden monkeys, and visited Akagera National Park with Tertullien and his wife where we saw many other wonderful animals. I am also incredibly grateful to the families of Pastor Tertullien and Pastor Simparinka for opening up their homes for us to stay with them during the second half of the trip. They both generously invited us to stay with them when we were in Kayonza and Kigali, respectively.
But I would like to share a specific story with you from my mom’s time in Rwanda although there are many stories I could share. After seeing the golden monkeys, we visited the Ellen Degeneres Campus of the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund. (I know. It’s a mouthful.) It’s a place dedicated to telling Diane Fossey’s story, a woman who fought for the conservation of gorillas in Rwanda and is dedicated to continuing her work.
At the reception desk, we met and talked with two young women, one who was named Epiphanie. I started speaking to them using the Kinyarwanda I know, and they were shocked that a foreigner was using their language and that they were able to understand me. I told them that I was in their country and felt that I should use their language as much as I was able to, and I told them that their people and their language have value. At this point, Epiphanie started tearing up and had to take a moment to collect herself before we continued the conversation.
You see, very few foreigners learn any Kinyarwanda, including many of those who work in Rwanda for many years, and Epiphanie’s probably mostly used to interacting with tourists who wouldn’t learn any since they’re only here for a week or two. But there’s something powerful about learning someone’s language and culture, even if like me, you still have much to learn. By learning someone’s language and about their culture, you communicate love and value to the person you’re talking to, and it puts you in the posture of a learner rather than an expert. (All too often, it’s easy for us as Americans to come with an attitude that we’re the experts, which can sometimes create barriers to getting to know people.) For more about this, Thomas and Elizabeth Brewster wrote an excellent article in the 80s called “Language Learning is Communication is Ministry.” You’ll see the ideas I’ve mentioned above and others in their article.
If you’ve ever wondered why I write so much about learning Kinyarwanda and Rwandan culture, this is why. Sure, I absolutely have the opportunity to pray with people and to do some preaching and teaching, but the bulk of my work is getting to know the Rwandan people better and communicating Jesus’ love through doing that. And friends, in whatever country God sends me to next, it’ll be the same during my first few years there. The relational work of language and culture learning is vital for long term effectiveness in a culture that’s not our home culture, and it’s an important way of communicating love and value to the people I’ll work with.
|But back to Rwanda. Here are some ways you can be praying for me.
As always, friends and family, I’m so thankful for your partnership with me, and I’m looking forward to sharing many more stories when I see you again.