A letter from Nancy Collins serving as Regional Liaison for East Central Africa, based in Zambia
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Dear Family and Friends
“Mzungu. Mzungu.” It was Jan. 21 and I was in northern Rwanda not too far from the Ugandan border. I came to Rwanda for one of my biannual visits to PC(USA) global partner the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda (PCR). Rev. Julie Kandema, vice president of the PCR, asked that I accompany her on visits to two PCR parishes in northern Rwanda. We had visited the 340-member Kidaho Parish in Musanze, Rwanda, where evangelist Jean Damabiene Nagumimana escorted us to the very spacious church building the parish members had managed to complete up to roof level. Iron sheets for the roof, priced at RWF 5 million ($6,500 USD), were beyond the capacity of the parish. I think the evangelist was hoping I would write a check for the required amount; of course that was not possible. I congratulated the evangelist on what the parish had achieved, and I indicated I would lift up to PC(USA) constituencies the need for funds for the roof.
From Musanze we followed the major highway as houses grew smaller and the land less fertile. The road became winding and then the tarmac ended, and we followed a rutted dirt road. We passed land covered with volcanic rock from nearby volcanos. Here the residents had to somehow pry the pumice from the ground and turn it into stone fences in order to plant their kitchen gardens of red flowering pole beans and their small fields of white flowering medicinal pyrethrum.
As we approached the 800-member Kalisimbi Parish the local children spotted me in the car, and shrill cries of “Mzungu, Mzungu” followed us. You may know that, across east and central Africa, mzungu is the word for a white person, a person with power and financial resources, a foreigner. I really have grown to dislike the term. In this context it made me feel like a stranger, an outcast, an object of curiosity. I did not like the feeling, and I ignored the children as they ran behind the car.
In the small town we parked the car and, escorted by parish elders and Evangelist Florien Dusabumuremyi, we wound our way on foot between the homes to the site of the Kalisimbi manse, intended as the home for the evangelist. Here too the manse walls were completed through funds raised by church members, but because of their cost the parish members had not managed to raise the funds necessary to purchase iron sheets for the roof. It was clear the elders of the parish longed to complete the house so their evangelist could move in.
From the manse we walked to the home of one of the elders and found a feast awaited us. After we seated and introduced ourselves, I thanked the group for the hospitality and for the honor they had bestowed upon me and upon Rev. Julie through their welcome and their very generous meal. After the meal and picture taking we walked back to the car, and one of the women took my purse to carry—a sign of respect and hospitality. I felt myself surrounded by new friends—no longer a foreigner. It was a heartwarming feeling. It was good to have this reminder that before God none of us are foreigners, none of us are outcasts, not me, not the Christians of Kidaho and Kalisimbi parishes, not the children crying “Mzungu.” I was happy that in this remote spot in this corner of Africa my “family” of brothers and sisters had expanded and that we welcomed each other. When the children came running again with their “Muzugu” cries, I smiled and took their picture.
If you or your congregation would like to help the Kidaho and Kalisimbi parishes roof their structures, please send contributions marked for ECO E864102, “roofs PCR Kidaho/Kalisimbi structures.”
I hope you have all heard the good news that Presbyterian World Mission managed to raise $1.6 million over their 2015 target for mission co-worker support. Your generous gifts were decisive in this effort. Thank you very much for your generosity. My personal support nearly doubled by the end of 2015 from its 2014 level, although I am still not fully funded.
My position is up for renewal this year, and World Mission will let me know in May if I will be renewed for another term. I am praying that will happen. Please pray with me and, if you are able, please give to support my ministry.
I invite you to continue supporting this ministry we share, through your voice, your daily living, your financial contributions, and your prayers. Together, and by the Grace of God, we will continue to transform this world in which we live. Thank you.
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 154
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