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An Awesome Witness

A letter from Kay Day serving in Rwanda

May 1, 2017

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Greetings from Rwanda. April is the month of remembrance of the Genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. It is commemorated each year in many ways in worship services, in village meetings, and in government recognitions. This year it took on a special meaning for me as I helped to host the PC(USA) Africa mission co-workers’ gathering here in Rwanda, which focused on the theme of Reconciliation. This gathering happens every four years and this is the first time it has been held in Rwanda. It is a time for reuniting with longtime friends and colleagues and meeting new mission staff from both Africa and the States. It was a blessing to introduce my adopted country and some of my partners in ministry here to my fellow co-workers. The seven- day gathering of 70 included Africa mission co-workers and some Louisville staff. It began in Kigali the day after Easter with a visit to the Genocide Memorial, home of a powerful historical display and the burial ground of over 250,000 victims. The President of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda (EPR), Dr. Pascal Bataringaya, the Interim Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Tony De La Rosa, and the new Director of World Mission, Rev. Jose Luis Casal, honored the experience by laying a wreath at the burial site. This visit set the stage for a move to Lake Kivu and presentations each morning after devotions by leaders of EPR who have been instrumental in reconciliation in the church and the country. Devotions on a biblical understanding of reconciliation, led by Rev. Dave Dawson of Shanengo Presbytery, set a framework for the presentations.

Tony De la Rosa, Rev. Jose Lui Casal, Dr. Pasdcal Bataringaya lay a wreath at th Genocide Memorial

Dr. Pascal Bataringaya, Tony De La Rosa and Rev. Jose Luis Casal lay a wreath at the Genocide Memorial as Bob Rice and Rose Marie Ipoyishaka look on

Possibly the most moving time for me came when one of our EPR pastors came with three members of the reconciliation group he leads in his community. The three reconciliation group members, two survivors and a former perpetrator gave testimonies of their experiences of being part of reconciliation and healing. The former perpetrator told of his fear of going back into the community after serving time in prison. He had repented but thought it would be best for him to live in the forest with the animals rather than to go back to his community. He did not feel worthy of forgiveness but has received it and is again becoming a part of the community. As one of the survivors cried when she shared that April and remembrance is difficult for her, I was aware again that healing is a process that takes time. The evidence that forgiveness is working came when the former perpetrator moved to comfort her and she accepted his gentle touch. They are forgiving and being forgiven each day as they live together in their community. This was an awesome witness to the hope of reconciliation.

All of this opened discussions among mission co-workers serving in places that are experiencing violence today, such as the Congo and South Sudan. While their situations differ from Rwanda’s, Rwanda’s recovery can provide hope for these neighbors. This hope was witnessed in the conversations that followed the presentations each day, formally and informally. Some of the conversations even veered to the U.S. and the divisions happening to a lesser degree there. I had the sense that this gathering was God’s time and place for such hope, on the heels of Easter and the hope that comes with the Resurrection. I was humbled to be a part of it.

Mission co-workers with members of the community reconciliation group

Mission co-workers with members of the community reconciliation group

Dave Dawson, in shared reflections from scripture on reconciliation, reminded us that Christ is reconciling us to himself through the cross and it is because of the cross and through the cross that we are called to be ambassadors of Christ’s reconciliation. As we move forward from Easter to Pentecost, I think of the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit to bring healing and victory in the face of sin and death. I invite you to support us in Rwanda with prayers for God’s continuing reconciliation in our Genocide remembrances, some of which will continue until July 4, when we celebrate Rwandan Liberation Day. Please join me in prayer for the power of healing and reconciliation in the States and around the world where the unity in Christ is broken by our focus on our differences. May God make you and me instruments of his reconciling grace.

Yours in Christ,

Kay (Cathie to the family)

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