Well, I keep referencing Rwanda, so I better give you a taste of what I experienced and learned. In the fall of 2007, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Rwanda on a mission trip for about 3 weeks. Now, you wouldn’t ordinarily expect a 3 week period to be completely life-changing, but it was!
For the first time in my life, I saw with my own eyes the living conditions of the majority of our world, and the joy that overflowed from the poorest people that I met. The simplicity of their happiness in a country wracked with grief following the genocide of 1994, a country that had to piece itself back together and somehow have two acrimonious people groups blend to become a Rwandese nation was astounding.
A few genocide victims we were privileged to see at memorials.
I toured the genocide memorials with the rest of my group, and the graphic presentation of the reality that existed in 1994 was shocking. My family is of German heritage, so as a young teen, I read a lot on the world wars and when we visited family, toured some holocaust memorials – but in Germany these experiences are sanitized – pictures of dying/dead people, bare quarters, and many religious memorials.
In Rwanda, there is a genocide museum with exhibits showing all the historical genocides, clothing and machetes and guns, and mass graves that visitors walk through. The reality of the genocide is hammered home as you walk between twelve-foot shelving units that are piled full of bones. Rwandans are determined to never forget that the genocide occurred, and beyond that, want to work to prevent any future genocides by teaching others about their experiences. Another memorial we visited was a church in which villagers had taken refuge. It was attacked and all the people who died inside remained as they died – fallen over benches, by their children and cooking pots. This was changed a few short months before we visited, and the bones were moved to shelves – but for more than a decade, visitors walked the aisles of the church surrounded by the reality of those deaths.
And yet, the gacaca tribal court system has the perpetrators of the genocide returning to their homes and working for the living families of their victims. As strange and difficult as it may seem to have the killer of your family working your garden and living as your neighbour, this reparative justice system is working.
As I have continued to learn and grow from that experience and the past few years of university, I have learned that while that may be a good aim, to often we resort to feeling sorry for these poor, poor people, or feeling guilty because we have so much and they have so little. The people I met do not consider themselves to be weak, lost causes, etc., but rather, are ingenious, entrepreneurial, and able to make do on very little. They are grateful for what they have, and thankful if they receive some help, but are more concerned with building relationships that last. I have learned to take action by choosing deliberately to budget and spend money wisely, to live joyously with less and remember their simple lives and the joy that they shared, and to contribute to causes that help to equip and build communities.
Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.