By Katie Prudek
Although I am in East Africa, I sometimes feel like I’m back in the Czech Republic, where I lived from 1st through 12th grade. The shape of the door handles and light switches here, the way the narrow bathtub in my room at the guesthouse rises out of the floor at a perfect right angle, the texture of the toilet paper, the shape of the sinks and faucets, the hand-held shower spout, Nutella at breakfast. This unlooked-for familiarity surprised me during my visit last August, and Dan Hanlon pointed out to me that Rwanda gets most of its building materials from Europe – hence the feeling of dejavu. There are other similarities below the surface. Rwandans tend to be quiet and reserved, similar to Czechs (we were taught in my Czech grade school, “The nail that sticks up highest is the first to be hammered down”). Kinyarwanda is called the Queen of the Bantu languages, which is another way of saying it’s the most complex and difficult to learn of its language group (Swahili being perhaps the easiest). Linguists consider Czech harder for native English speakers to learn than Chinese. It’s strange to be in a place so different from anywhere I’ve lived, and yet feel these subterranean connections.
This morning I got to have coffee with Jocelyn Jelsma. She and her husband Richard run the Iranzi Clinic, a health and wellness clinic in the Nyabisindu slum of Kigali. She is also the midwife who delivered Josiah Hanlon and Francisco Abraham. We sat on the breakfast terrace of the guesthouse and talked about baby Norah, and the blessings and struggles of growing up overseas (she as a parent of four missionary kids, and I as an adult MK). Even though we’ve lived on separate continents, there is deep comfort in sharing the same longings, privileges and fears of ex-pat life.
We also met with Pastor Deo Gashagaza. He is one of the people I had been most looking forward to seeing on this trip. In addition to running a street kids ministry in Kigali and working with Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Pastor Deo also operates the five reconciliation villages throughout the country. He took us to one of these villages last August. For those of you who heard my story in COR@9, you may remember that, after we returned to the States, God used the memory of that visit to bring about deep healing in my heart and transform an important relationship in my life. On our way to the village last year, I had shared my story with Deo, but until this morning he hadn’t yet heard the “second half.” I told him about the impact that our visit ultimately had on me. He also shared about the challenges of his work and ministry. It was an emotionally powerful meeting, and a gift to me.
Another gift was getting to have dinner once again with the Abrahams (Turkish food tonight). Frank stole the show, making us melt with his wide grin and enthusiastic 9-month-old dance moves.
We leave tomorrow morning for Musanze and the Shyira Diocese, where we’ll spend the remainder of our trip. Pray for us to have listening ears and open hearts. Pray that we may have both the wisdom to be silent and the courage to speak.