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A Rwandan Wedding

A letter from Kay Day serving in Rwanda

March 2017

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Dear Friends and Family,

Lenten greetings from Rwanda. This is a season of reflections on our relationship with Christ and a time for sacrificing for the needs of others. I pray that it is an opportunity for each of us to draw closer to Christ as we anticipate Holy Week and the power of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior.

Lent is not widely practiced in Rwanda, even though a majority of the people are Roman Catholics. The events of daily life seem to take precedence over religious observances. And yet, daily life is wrapped in the religious observances of marriages, baptisms, and funerals. A wise person once told me that if you are involved in these, you are part of the community, whether it is your country of birth or not. I have been immersed in them recently, for which I am grateful.

Blessing the couple

The latest was the wedding of one of my former students. Aaron, a student pastor in a remote area, asked me to preach for his wedding. I was thrilled to accept. The service was held at one of the first mission stations of the Presbyterian Church in the country. It is a 2½-hour drive from Butare, mostly on rough dirt roads. It had rained heavily the night before and the going was rough, but well worth it. I took several students and a young Lutheran volunteer with me. The president of the presbytery officiated and was assisted by four other clergy and my translator. It was a joyful celebration.

The couple escorted to the reception

Weddings here are done in three stages. The first is the civil marriage, done in the local government office, usually performed days or weeks before the church wedding. Then, on the day of the church service, the celebration begins with a dowry ceremony at a location near the bride’s home. That was held early in the morning and we did not attend that because of time and distance. Then comes the church wedding. It is much the same as one in the States but with a few variations. First, the clergy escort the couple down the aisle. Then the couple sits in front of the congregation, in special seats. With five clergy participating, all of us raise hands for blessings. This couple was fully blessed. Photos are welcomed throughout the service by anyone who wishes to take them, so at times of particular interest, like the vows, the blessing and the lifting of the bride’s veil, members of the congregation flock around the couple. The bride and groom and their attendants sign the marriage license in front of the congregation while choirs sing. It makes for a “festive” atmosphere. After the service there are photos outside and then a reception. In this case it was held down the hill from the church. The couple walked, with many escorts, to their reception for a time of toasting (with soda), of speeches, of gift-giving and of the cutting of the cake, complete with sparklers to mark the occasion. The guests sit in rows, as in church, and the cake is served first by the bride to the groom’s family and then by the groom to the bride’s family before it is distributed to the guests. It was a joy to be part of Aaron’s celebration.

For me to stay immersed in the community of faith in Rwanda, I need your support. With the changing landscape of the church, mission co-workers need to receive churches’ and individuals’ direct financial support to our ministries. Many of you are supporting me and for that I am deeply thankful. But the truth is that I am not fully supported and I need your help to share the need and to pass the word of the need. I ask that during this time of Lent you examine your heart and see if God is leading you to support me financially; if you have been supporting with prayers alone, could you possibly increase your support or share the need with others? I thank you for considering this. I can’t be here without you. May God bless you in the season of spiritual reflection.

In Christ’s love,

Kay (Cathie to the family)

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