It has been hard to describe the last three days, filled with awe and wonder but also filled with great pain and grave injustice.
In Rwanda, our time centered around the word “ubumuntu” meaning humanity rooted in goodness, generosity, and kindness. We went to the Rwandan genocide memorial which was filled with stories that paint the destruction of ubumuntu and then a commission to honor ubumuntu as sacred. We learned this in the senseless and evil nature of the Rwandan genocide that was bred by colonialism and perpetuated by indifference. And then we met this in the men, women, and children that were killed and traumatized as a result. We now bear witness to their stories.
We also saw portraits of ubumuntu in the stories of men and women who have gone through leadership training intensives with ALARM. Because of the healing and freedom they have received, they demonstrate the beauty of ubumuntu in their servant leadership both within the church and in their larger communities. We learned of their ingenuity in economic empowerment and their commitment to being wounded healers in hosting trainings about trauma and conflict resolution. It was incredible to hear of their resilience and steadfast love for ubumuntu.
Soon after, we jumped on two vans: one headed toward the airport and the other to Goma; half our team was heading home while the remainder headed toward Goma to serve alongside ALARM staff in hosting a marriage conference.
Our first full day in Goma was… well full. We visited various ALARM programs to get a taste for the work here. We started off the day visiting BRENDA school, which is a women’s empowerment program that teaches women how to sew so as to help provide sustainable incomes for families. The women shared with us their hopes for supporting their families, training others in their communities, and getting a further education. The hopes were filled with color.
Afterwards, we visited a well project outside of Goma in partnership with Water is Basic. We saw men and women walk 15-30 km to get unsafe water and then saw the life changing impact that water tanks are having within that same community. What a difference clean and safe water makes!
Finally, we finished off our day by heading to the prisons in Goma where many are tried and presumed guilty until proven otherwise. We visited women, men, and then the children, and the prison leaders shared with us how meaningful it was that they have visitors, reminding us of the words of Jesus – “when I was in prison, you visited me.” We learned that many of the children and women stole food due to extreme poverty and could not afford legal counsel to get out. We brought them food, soap, detergent, oil, and wood since they do not eat unless family members bring a meal.
Their joy was palpable. They danced and sang “we will praise God because he sees us.” In my heart, I could not understand their praise, but I stood in awe at their deep grief and vibrant joy. We then learned about ALARM’s continued presence in the prison, supporting the leaders needs and providing counsel to those unjustly held. In fact, 21 children had been released this year due to ALARM’s faithful work.
Overall, we sit in the tension of beauty and sorrow. Though all is yet to be made right, we are leaning into God to believe that he is at work and he will restore all things one day. And until then, we join in what he is doing to bring healing and hope to our broken world.