Today was a joyful but also very trying day. I has asked Mr. Mundeli to arrange for a 4WD for our drive up to Giti, but he hadn’t been able to. Instead we had a small crossover SUV that could hold seven or eight people. Ndio, a driver I know from previous trips, picked us up at 07:30.
I breathed a sigh of relief when two hours later, a little after 10:00, we pulled up in front of the Church hall. The other small vehicle arrived half an hour later. Jack and his family were warmly received, there were hugs from people who remembered him from 20 years ago.
We began the service as quickly as possible, cutting out the sermonette and half the special music. The rain stopped during the whole service. There were hymns, a prayer, announcements, one short piece of special music and the offering. Then I spoke with Patrick translating. He can translate from English or French, but I spoke French because there are those six or eight who can understand the French directly.
I also commented on the new people we had amongst us, that there are church associations of the Church of God with whom we are compatible, who, we believe teach the truth. I explained that we don’t believe our association is the exclusive home of true Christians today, that we believe there are Christians in other groups, though not necessarily all groups claiming to be the Church of God, some are compatible, others are dangerous, I explained. But today we were welcoming brethren among us and I hoped all would make them feel at home.
After the service, we had an official meeting of the Rwanda association. When Sibo died it left a vacancy in the legal representation of the Church. At the same time, the government has passed a law that the president of every church association must have a theology degree (again to keep out superstitious and ignorance-based religion). Up until now I have not been a legal representative of the Church in Rwanda, we used the local men. But with these laws I must now become legally involved. So there was a vote on who the two legal representatives should be, and Mr. Mundeli and I were unanimously elected.
Things were looking rather grim, but we couldn’t help laughing when Ndio got out, opened the umbrella without paying attention to the gusting winds, and had the umbrella immediately destroyed in his hands. He got back in the car and handed me the umbrella, now twice as long as it was before because the ribs were all running the wrong direct. I deadpanned “thank you Ndio” as if nothing were wrong. We all laughed. He felt obliged to try to fix it, in a contrite Stan Laurel sort of way. But I told him not to worry about that, and just concentrate on the engine. One of the young ladies in the back of the car said she would be able to fix it, so I gifted it to her.
While Ndio was back out under the hood, the young lady, Amélie, joked that the breakdown was her fault. She had been in the van in the morning when it broke down and had switched to our vehicle to avoid such things on the way back. “I have become Jonah” she quipped. In the same vein, I asked if we threw her out would the rain would stop and the engine start. We laughed at this, but the situation was not really a laughing matter.
The car overheated again as we approached the black-topped road. Ndio refilled the radiator. We overheated again as we approached Kigali. Ndio called someone, and a few minutes later a young man arrived who helped him do something under the hood, minutes dragged. At the entry to Kigali we hit a huge traffic jam caused by a combination of roadwork, selfish driving techniques, and too many vehicles on the road.
We finally entered Kigali and dropped the members with us near their homes. Then the car overheated one last time. Ndio flagged down a taxi and paid the driver to take us back to our hotel, with his apologies.
We were scheduled to do the whole thing again tomorrow after what would be a very short night for many members (and drivers). I talked it over with Marjolaine and made the decision that it wouldn’t be wise to try this twice in a row. I called Mr. Mundeli and explained my thoughts and concerns. I said we should just have a service in the three locations without having anyone travel. There would be disappointment on one level, but I’m sure relief as well. Everyone here knows someone who has died going up or down mountains during the rains. I regretted having to make the decision, but I’m convinced it’s wise.