We arrived in Kigali, Rwanda night before last in the pouring rain - no problem, since all we wanted to do was find our hotel rooms and get to sleep. Yesterday morning we met with World Relief Rwanda staff members to learn about the healing that has taken place in Rwanda since the devastation of the 1994 genocide, when 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. They explained that the current situation in the DR Congo is similar to what Rwanda was like fifteen years ago. The transformation in Rwanda offers hope, they suggest, for the future of the Congo. This afternoon we drove for several hours through the mountainous and breathtakingly beautiful terrain of Rwanda. The soil and rocky cliffs are red and the lush foliage is brilliant spring green. On the hillsides, terraced fields are patchworks of tidy crops. I hadn’t realized that Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, but that becomes obvious even in the "rural" areas, where stands of brick or stucco homes are scattered everywhere, and people walk in clusters along every road. I am captivated by the boldly colored skirts, blouses, and head dresses worn by women and the royal blue school uniforms on girls. I knew if I tried to write while riding along the twisting roads I’d trigger motion sickness, so I just jotted down single words: turquoise, purple, yellow, magenta, palm trees, evergreens, terraced fields, winding roads, lush, vibrant, soul-filling.
It was exhilarating to drive through the beauty of this land. It was magical, the way the mist hung over the mountains and the gray sky provided a subtle backdrop for the brilliance of the earth and the people. It seemed like an idyllic paradise, except that I knew this land had flowed with the blood of innocents not that long ago. I am always stunned by the way nature's beauty can hide the ugliness of man's inhumanity to man. But in beauty of any kind there is the seed of hope for beauty of every kind. Here in Rwanda the ugliness of violence is being transformed into the beauty of healing and reconciliation.
I got up early this morning so I could walk along the shore of Lake Kivu before heading across the border into Congo. We'll meet with World Relief Congo staff to get an overview of the Congo situation. Then we'll visit Heal Africa, a hospital that heals the bodies and souls of women who have been brutalized (http://www.healafrica.org). In the afternoon we'll visit a camp for internally displaced people. God help me to see with your eyes and feel with your heart and understand with your mind.