Annie and Matt and the rest of the Church Youth Team have arrived safely back home from their three weeks in Rwanda. They’ve brought with them some interesting souvenirs, a lot of photographs, and a great many memories.
I haven’t had the full debrief yet, but I’m getting the general picture! It was a very busy time. During their three weeks they painted rooms for a church-funded project. They visited hospitals, talked to patients and helped serve food. They did holiday clubs for a hundred children at a time (and five hundred turned up!), they took part in worship and shared in fellowship.
Rwanda is a country with a lot of natural beauty, but with a sad past. The whole world knows about the terrible genocide that took place in 1994. Though that was nearly twenty years ago, it has left a wounded nation. Part of the trip included visits to memorials that remind people of those events, and the opportunity to meet with people who experienced them. But the team also saw the work of PHARP – Peacebuilding, Healing And Reconciliation Programme – an organisation working in several countries to build bridges between divided communities.
For many of the team, this trip was an exposure to a whole new world, a different culture – an alternate reality, in a way. (Even a different cuisine – the diet was heavy on goat meat!) Something very far from their normal life in the UK. They’ve come back full of experiences and memories.
When I asked Matt what the most significant part of the trip had been for him, he couldn’t give me an answer. It was still too soon to say.
I understand that. I’ve been in that situation myself. But from experience, the truly significant events are not always those that stand out at that time. The most important things are the ones that stay with us in the long term, and that influence our thinking and our actions for years to come. And sometimes we ourselves do not even realise what those things are until long afterwards.
It’s my hope and prayer that the things that the team saw and did and experienced in Rwanda will be the seeds that grow in them to shape their future selves in positive ways, through a deeper understanding of the other realities that make up our world.