Always Stretch Before Rwandan Church
The day started off at church. We were SO EXCITED about going to church here because last year in Africa we didn’t get a chance to go due to travel schedules. We had heard that it’s crazy energetic, but that was our only expectation. On Saturday, a few of us had gone to the church to speak to the pastor about how he wanted us to be involved in the service. He basically said he wanted us to be a big part. He
asked told us that one of us would preach, and our team member Ben stepped up to the call. He also asked if we could prepare some songs to lead in worship. They said “Church starts at 9, please be there at 8:30.”
One thing that is SO different about African culture than American, is their judge of time. (Remember when Jean Claude said it would take 15 minutes to climb 2 miles up a very steep mountain? yeah.) If they say they’ll be somewhere at 9, then don’t expect them until 10:30. It’s just the way it is here.
So we got to church at 8:30, and there are a few other adults and about 25 little kids there. Soon after we arrive, the kids get on stage and start singing to some INCREDIBLY LOUD music coming out of busted speakers. Since there’s literally no one in the church we thought it was rehearsal or something. Well, after a few minutes, the kids all just started running in place in time to the music. Then they motioned for us to join. I kid you not, we jogged in place to the music (which was just a beat that plays on the electronic keyboard like techno) for about 30 minutes. Then there were maybe 10 more adults that had shown up. They all start singing, and I’m still wondering if this is still a rehearsal of some sort. But after we sang for whole ‘nother hour, I figured that this was actually the church service. This is the best way I can describe to you the singing and worship time at this church:
1. VERY VERY LOUD
2. Singing in the correct key is optional, as long as you are VERY LOUD
3. Here in Rwanda, blowing a whistle repeatedly with all the air in your lungs is worship
4. It’s totally fine if halfway through a song, they decide to stop, have a huddle, and then choose another song
5. Hype guys are definitely an improvement to church worship. If you don’t know what a hype guy is, they run around jumping up and down, waving rags, singing, shouting, and just generally being super intense. They were awesome.
6. At times, there are more people singing on stage than there are in the audience.
7. Each song will be at least 9 minutes long
8. All songs will eventually degenerate into simply running in place to the music for an additional 5 minutes
9. It’s a good idea to stretch before church, because cramping and calf aches are a likely side effect to worship
It was crazy, y’all! But we loved it! Well, I didn’t really love the permanent hearing damage. I also didn’t love when the whistle blower guy spit the whistle out of his mouth and his spit got all over my cheek. But everything else I really did love!!
After about 2 hours of worship, they called us up to the front to sing. We had prepared a few songs, even a couple in Kinyarwandan. About 80% of our team is made up of musicians and singers so we actually had a pretty good muzungu choir! Then they had testimony time, and a few of our team members got up and shared. And then Ben gave a great message from The Word. And of course we sang for another 30 minutes or so.
After church, we went to lunch with all the Best Family kids again. Then we returned to the school that BFR uses for activities. We said goodbye to some of the older kids who had to return to boarding school. Since this was the last time all of BFR would be together with us, Jean Claude gave a big speech (of course, cuz that’s what he does). He presented each of us with a carved giraffe statue, and it was really beautiful to see how much the kids love their big brothers and sisters and how much they miss them at boarding school. Several team members had some tears flowing at this point, by the way.
Afterwards, we thought this would be the best time to give our donations. Our team brought lots of donations that BFR had specifically requested. They said they needed shoes, backpacks, clothes, some sports equipment, jerseys for their sports team. Our group brought TONS of stuff. Especially our awesome friends April and Joe who brought like 100 pairs of shoes, and Rachael who brought the jerseys and backpacks. We presented BFR with all of the gifts, and the kids were SO HAPPY! They danced and sang and then danced and sang some more (cuz that’s what BFR does). They loved it, and Jean Claude did too. They were so very thankful.
Blake and I spent much of the remaining afternoon getting pictures and videos for Best Family’s website and upcoming programs. Belize had spent the whole day with me (as she had every minute since I stepped off the bus on Friday), but after a while of sitting there while we took pictures, she was getting a little antsy. She asked permission to go play a game with some other people, and of course I told her that was fine. But deep down I was a little sad cuz I knew this was my last afternoon with her.
After a while, we had the “goodbye ceremony.” They sang many songs, but one was about being apart physically but staying in each other’s hearts. It was really beautiful, even though it had such a mournful sound. We also sang Oh Happy Day to lighten the mood. Then they had some more share time from the kids about how much they loved having us. Lastly, there was a prayer time, as we all prayed for each other. At some point, we heard “Amazing Grace” being hummed and many others joined in. Y’all…that got to me. Being prayed over by these children who have so little, hearing one of the most beautiful and spiritual songs ever written, and holding Belize tightly, I got so overwhelmed. I really felt like crying (as many of my teammates were), but I wanted to keep it together for the kids.
You should know, I am seriously not a cryer. Anyone who knows me, knows that. I never ever cry. But Africa pulls on my heart strings like nothing else. After our prayer time, we made the terrible walk to the bus to say goodbye. I have made many friends at BFR in just a few days, but none like Belize. I held her hand on the walk but just looked ahead. I was telling myself to just choke down the tears until later. When I finally turned to look at her, she lifted her head up and her lip started trembling. Y’all I lost it. I said “Don’t cry!” and immediately we were both in each other’s arms bawling. I’m even crying as I type this. I have never in my life made a connection like that in such a short time (much less with someone who doesn’t speak my language). I had lots and lots of other kids coming up to me to say goodbye, and that just made it worse. I wanted our goodbyes to be joyful and full of hope, not miserable. I tried to pull myself together as we took some final pictures (where I look puffy and surprisingly like I’m trying to smile through tears). It took forever for everyone to finally get on the bus because we had so many kids we had fallen in love with. In addition to Belize, kids like Jado, Antoine, Florence, Maurice, Emmanuel, Jephte, and many more had taken a large chunk of my heart.
We finally loaded up the bus with our team and with the eldest kids of the Best Family. We were taking them to dinner at a burrito place downtown. As much as my heart ached, those burritos were AMAZING. Way better than any burrito I’ve ever had anywhere else. It did wonders for my mood, and I even got a MOUNTAIN DEW. I enjoyed spending some extra time with the eldest BFR kids. Shakour (#1), Shakur (#2), Grace, and Pascal just to name a few. It definitely eased the ache.
Days like that and feelings like that are what make me so certain that I’ll return. How could I not ever see Belize again? What does it mean for me to spend about 3 days with her and then leave? It’s not just her but all of the BFR. They really do love like family, and I am so blessed to be a sister to them.
I feel like I have so much more to say, so many more emotions rolling around. But I’m just too drained and exhausted to try to type them out (fyi, it’s 12:45 am, and I have to get up at 5:00). Maybe some other time, after I’ve processed this crazy emotional roller coaster I can write more about it. I love you all and please keep praying for us!