What Do You Tell our Children?

imageTragedy is impossible to measure. It's the same for beauty. I sit in my backyard and hear above the graceful soar of the olive ibis. This bird, with a curved pointed beak and rasping call, has a dark beauty. When it speaks it can be heard for miles, Cahaw, Cahaw, Cahaw. The memory of Rwanda's horror is in this call, just as it is soaked into the brick-like soil-- it is etched on the back of my throat. Machetes worse than swords. A baby's blood running down the mother's arms. Legs that run, that hide, that run, that collapse in the hush of tall grass. It was 23 years ago. It was just yesterday. It was genocide.
The genocide memorials in Rwanda have an momument with the place for an eternal flame. Ntidigasubire- Never again. Is that a hope: is it a promise?
imageThe memorials are many; in Bisesiro, Gisenyi, Nyarubuye,... They host mass graves—here 35,000, there 12,000, over there 300,000. The sites are, for the most part, desolate. The guides are survivors with subdued voices. Standing at the edge is a sentinel with a big cap, rubbing his boot on the soil, blotting out something unspoken. The heinous acts at these memorials hang in the acrid air. The birds fly overhead--who will remember?Read more

The Dark Night of Trauma: Finding Light

imageRwanda and the USA have one thing in common—violence at home has erupted wildly in the last 30 years. Both countries need immense healing from trauma. You may think of healing as a soft, fuzzy kind of work. Trauma healing can be tender, but even more, it's tough work. This healing has a real impact on whether within our countries we stop murdering each other. Killings usually lead to trauma, and unhealed trauma leads to insecurity and often more violence. It's a huge deal which deserves our attention.

A research scientist, John Gottman, found that when our pulse rises 10 beats above normal, the rational part of our brain begins slipping out of gear. We start reacting from our reptilian brain. We literally start to 'loose it.' This happens if we're arguing about who uses the shovel, who cleans the dishes, who wins the presidential candidacy, struggles around disputed territory or fear from a terrorist attack.Read more

Umuganda Sustains Life

imageOn Saturday I took the 15-cent bus (moomoogee) down to Kigali center. I wanted to buy African fabric, but to my dismay, I found many stores closed--those local stores with hand-made items. Do you want to know why? Soon after President Kagame came to power, he instituted community meetings on the last Saturday of the month. The monthly Umuganda meetings are obligatory for all Rwandan adults. These meetings start at 9, include announcements, and then all do public work project.

Umuganda can be for building schools, digging ditches, or rebuilding widows' houses from mud huts to cement hygienic abodes happened. Umuganda has helped in the physical rebuilding and also the knitting together socially differing groups. Rwandans never refer to former ethnic groups. In recent years Umuganda focuses often on environmental projects: protecting erosion or the planting trees.

imageIn 2014, President Kagame called upon all Rwandans to join hands in eliminating the root causes of stunted growth in children through a program, Kitchen Gardens, supported by Umugandas. The proliferation of kitchen gardens across the country could see steady gains against nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition.Read more

Rwanda—Stand Up and Walk

imageRwanda is amazing. It rains every other day, mostly the sun beams on the papaya and jacaranda trees. We have power outages many days sometimes for an hour but usually shorter. Birdsong loudly blooms overhead or whenever a clutch of trees clings to the hillside. Flowers bloom all year round‚ lavender, red, yellow and magenta.

By 6am it's dawn in Kigali and you see people on the move. Besides language and smells, the roads, and city transport are challenging. I get up, tie my mosquito netting overhead, take a shower (sometimes even a hot shower). I go onto the back terrace for 20 minutes of yoga. Some mornings I'm out for a brisk walk, accompanied by birds whistles. I can understand the Rwandan bird chatter about as well as I understand Rwandans speech.

imageOn Sundays, Jonathan and I hurry through breakfast. We plan what songs we can sing. This takes discernment since Jonathan and I have different tastes in music. We can't just sing our Cuban Quaker songs. Songs that we have success with have lots of Aleluja choruses. Rwandans like Give me Oil in my Lamp; Day by Day (Godspell); some songs for grace. Once we were asked to give the message, or to pray aloud. Maybe next Sunday I will share this favorite Jesus story.Read more

Here We Are in Rwanda

imageRwanda spilled its greeting on us when we arrived at dusk in Kigale. We watched the vibrant shades of green turn to undulating shadows. The sun bowed below one of the many hills with its checkerboard of houses, corn fields and thickets of papaya/avocado/banana groves. Kigali had a rapacious beauty, a touch of wildness on the roads.

I am traveling this year with Jonathan—my beloved helpmeet, my conspirator (laughing at our many mishaps), and my traveling in the ministry companion. Eden Grace, working from Richmond Indiana calls this ministry of ours, those who visit as 'living letters' (2 Cor. 3:2) bearing testimony of truth and divine news of G-d at work.Read more

The Pregnant World

A child at Ramallah Friends MeetingIt has arrived. For thousands of years people look forward to this dawn. For the people in darkness have seen a great light. The moon has grown this week from a cupped hand to a dangling half circle—and now, on this longest night, is a protruding a belly, proudly sailing pregnant in the sky. This shortest day has passed, and the promise of more light is upon us.

We in Palestine are waiting—when will the baby be born? Our hearts dare to hope. This child appears to authorities as illegitimate, it doesn't have a passport or even a green card.

Dead SeaIn Jesus' time as well as in our present time, forces of darkness proliferate. Ramallah Friends call Mary, the Lady of Palestine. She lived all her life under the harsh rule of the Roman Empire. She lived among armed soldiers, laws that discriminated against her people, in a foreign language that dictated her life. She couldn't give birth at home in Nazareth, due to the heavy taxation of Caesar Augustus. Yet we are told that even while denied her basic human rights, Mary witnessed to the goodness alive for her in 'this world of woe.'Read more

Tree of Trust — AVP in Hebron

imageWe had 14 women in an AVP (Alternatives to Violence) workshop on healing from trauma in Hebron, Palestine. The facilitators were Lubna, Manar, Narjah, Miriam and Minga. Eman and Lubna were my translators. This workshop is popular and very much needed. One woman was taking it for the second time. At the end, most of the women wanted to continue learning from AVP.

We had obstacles the first day. Women trickled in, so we started 30 minutes late. Three women left early commenting that their husband needed them (or expected/demanded them) home. These women, not in control of their time, didn't continue. One woman complained loudly saying that the brainstorm we did about self-care doesn't work, and several women could not access a 'safe place' (an exercise) . We ended on an upbeat, matching the women with a listening companion, someone to be emotionally supportive.Read more