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The Thanksgiving of Summer

A letter from Kay Day, serving in Rwanda

August 2017

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Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings from Rwanda. While you are in the midst of summer activities, our theology students are just finishing their academic term. This is the last week of finals. As is common in most African countries, and especially in Rwanda, there must be formal farewells. This includes all the organizations of the school and the church. That means that I have been to five farewell parties this month, many for the same people but in different organizations, including two choirs, the student leadership organization, and the English chapel. I also attended the seniors’ party for themselves.

Me with Presbyterian seniors.

While the emphasis of the parties has been different, the format has been much the same. There is a charming mixture of the casual and the formal. The casual usually includes the starting time. With each invitation, there is a clear beginning and ending time, but these are really “suggestions.” Not one of the events has begun when announced. There are always good reasons. In the event of the church farewell, the worship service scheduled for noon began at 2:30 because President Kagame was speaking in Huye that day and we could not begin until he was finished with his rally. The ending time is anyone’s guess, since there is usually music and dancing—not couple dancing, but jumping and praising God.

The formal involves protocols that must be observed: seating arrangements, welcoming speeches that identify each person present and the guest of honor, who is not one of the students being recognized; a scriptural meditation; and speeches by key guests. Prayer begins and ends every event.

Food preparation over the fire.

Just as in the States, no party is complete without food. In these cases, that means an entire meal, usually prepared by some of the same people who are being honored. When cooking for a group, it is done over an open fire and in large pots. Quantity is important; everyone should be able to eat his fill, so some of the plates are stacked high with food, as one of my friends observed, “to match Kilimanjaro.” That is part of the joy of the event.

But the core of all of this is the appreciation that is expressed. Each of these events was marked with sentiments of thanksgiving for the contributions of those who are leaving, a recognition of their individual gifts and an offering of blessing for the future. The sincerity of this breaks through all the protocol and tradition to the hearts of those involved, making each celebration unique and important.

As I reflect on this, I wish I could give a party for you, one to celebrate your partnership with me in this ministry, not as a farewell, but as an appreciation. I wish there were a way, beyond words, to thank you for your prayers and your financial support, a way of letting you know how precious you are to me and how significant you are to the ministry that is happening here. Just as these parties celebrate the people and their contributions, I want to celebrate you. I could not be here, experiencing all of this, were it not for you. “Thank you” is too small. I want to offer you a “Kilimanjaro” portion of gratitude for partnering with me and my students. Please continue with me on this adventure of faith.

Instead of a party, I offer prayer and deep gratitude for each of you. I pray that the ending of summer brings you joy and refreshment as you prepare for the autumn busyness. I pray for your churches and your families. You bless me. May you be blessed and strengthened in all you are doing.

Yours in Christ,

Kay (Cathie to the family)

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