Rebuilding, overcoming, blessing, and changing

At the end of last week, we had the huge honour to be part of the consecration and official opening of a new church building.

As the choirs sang, we joined a procession with the Bishop, Archdeacon, local pastors, catechists, and the ever-wonderful mother’s union.

A large white bow was tied across the new doorway. Together, local and international representatives cut the ribbon.

Then the Bishop knocked three times on the door with his crozier, the door opened, and we processed in.

The service was filled with much joy, singing, and dancing – the new church’s choir singing their hearts out!

But there was also a more challenging thread running through it. An awareness of the difficult times they have already lived through. The difficult times to come.

But with the absolute confidence that God is with us.

How God’s Kingdom is already breaking in

While there have been many challenges, on this day of celebration we really could join together to praise God for what he has made possible; for the signs of his Kingdom breaking in.

This parish suffered greatly in the genocide. It was humbling to hear them speak of this. And to be in the presence of Archdeacon Etienne, a prominent figure in peace and reconciliation.

After the genocide, they have had to rebuild as a community, prayerfully learning to be reconciled and come together as Rwandans, not seperate tribes. Moreover, they have had to face up to the trauma of what they lived through.

There was also the considerable challenge, for such a poor area, of raising the funds to build a church building that meets the size and facilities required by the 2018 legislation. (At least 0.5 hectares of land is required – contrast that with the maximum provision of 0.25 hectares available for a faith group to bid for in Northstowe!)

First, they regrouped as a small chapel community, ensuring prayer underpinned all that followed.

In recent years, they have worked together, with their own hands, to build a house for their pastor; to build the church building, to build a loo (squatting only for now, but they have plans!); to build a house for a struggling family; and are working on a school building. They have established a choir, and a local government official, as a sign of support, has gifted a drum kit. The Mother’s Union are there too, and the church clearly care about social justice and prayerful pastoral support.

This has come out of their prayers, through which God has drawn them together and achieved perhaps more than they could have imagined.

The Bishop’s sermon was on the end of Matthew 6, but we almost didn’t need the sermon. Their testimony and trust in God said it all!

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too So do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today

Pass it on!

Helping to cut the ribbon on their church doors was a tangible reminder of what God has made possible

Afterwards. they gifted the bow to us in Northstowe, as they committed to pray for us as we establish and dream of a chapel, loo, and community facilities too.

And they pass on their testimony too! My takeaway is this: ground it in prayer, and dare get your hands dirty!

They have gifted us their story and their prayers. What can we pray for and do in return?

First, we can pray for the completion of their projects – the school and loos.

But, more than that, they need our prayers as they negotiate two significant challenges. One, we are already familiar with. The second, heartbreakingly, is hitting them first.

Prayers for Kingdom-life on a building site

This new church building is part of a strategic response by Kigali Diocese to the new international airport.

Where, on this visit, we reached the village down bumpy red-dirt tracks, lined with banana trees. Soon, tarmac will be laid. Banana trees uprooted. New houses and businesses established.

Living as we do in a part-built town, we know well the anxiety of insufficient community provision. Of many new people all arriving at once, without the social structures that normally support them. We know about the noise and disruption.

But we don’t know what it is like to loose our fields; our livelihoods. To have our long established way of life suddenly changed.

So we will pray, with a small amount of understanding, and a great deal of love, as the good and bad of new developments arrive.

We pray they would encounter God in the people who move in. That there would be an exchange of blessings.

And that they would remember their own testimony. And so not be anxious, but involved.

At the forefront of climate change

Far harsher, however, is the growing reality that these communities are experiencing of climate change.

It didn’t rain while we were in that Parish. But the rainy season should have been getting going.

Not all the banana crops are doing as well as they should. Some of the cows are failing to produce as much milk. The people are, understandably, concerned!!

How should we respond to climate change, from where we are? What does it mean to not be anxious? Is this an invitation to bury our heads in the sand, and leave that for the next generation – the children of tomorrow?

I believe that to ignore this crisis would not be to “seek the kingdom of God”. It would be a spiritual failure as much a practical one.

When we visited the Genocide Memorial, the final display board turned from the horrors of 1994, to today. And made a harsh link between climate change, and the potential for future genocides in other parts of the world.

If we do not make the changes that will slow climate change, our siblings in more vulnerable climates will feel the consequences before we do. Their crops will fail before ours. As resource scarcity grows. So too will political unease. And then, so often, particular tribes, taxes, or grouos start to be targeted.

And the story from there has been lived many times, tragically, around the world before. The lessons of Rwanda must be heard: the seeds of genocide must be stopped!

Practical steps

Here too, Rwanda is leading the way. Already, they have banned plastic bags. It is the cleanest country I’ve ever been in!

Back at home, we recently signed the plastic free pledge

But how else can we help?

Where else can we, without anxiety, prayerfully and faithfully make the changes today that will reduce the damage tomorrow?

Climate change, social justice, safe loos and church buildings… these too are Kingdom issues. Grounded in prayer.

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