Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 5: Genocide and Imbabazi

We woke up on Day 5 still a little behind on our compressed schedule. The one thing that was at risk of being cut out of the agenda was our visit to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. We all agreed that this was something super important for us to see - so before packing up for the 3 hour bus ride to Gisenyi - we decided to stop for a quicker tour of the memorial.

I think we were all glad we did.

The memorial is located on the spot of a mass grave. Some 250,000 bodies were found and rest here at this location. Rows and rows of concrete bunker-looking things mark the graves. A few have glass windows built in to actually allow you to see the coffins inside.

The genocide is VERY young (1994) and people still visit and place flowers to honor those killed during that time.

The inside was set up like a museum and told the story of the genocide and the events leading up to it. I think this visit was a huge part of this trip for us - it really put in to perspective what the people of Rwanda had experienced and allowed us a glimpse into just how huge of an atrocity they had managed to overcome in such a short time.

One of the rooms just had thousands and thousands of pictures of victims. It was extremely sobering to sit in there and just let the faces cross your mind. Something of this magnitude is almost impossible for your mind and spirit to comprehend. We did the best we could...

The last room I visited inside was dedicated to the children of the genocide. I knew this one would get me - every little face shown, every little picture displayed, every little story shared - they all seemed to make me think of Meron or LH3 and I had a seriously hard time with it. I do feel like God was there with us - knowing we needed to see this and understand this and helping us process it a bit. In the end - He revealed to us - through these resilient people - just how important forgiveness is to Him.

After the last of us wandered out of the memorial - we all piled on the bus for a BEAUTIFUL 3 hour drive through the Rwandan mountains. What a great way to follow up what we had just visited. It was a pretty quiet ride as most of us were still processing what we had just seen and learned.

We made it to Gisenyi with just enough time to check in to our guest house there and pile back on the bus to head to our next ministry stop - the Imbabazi Orphanage.

This was an AMAZING place located on 110 acres in the foothills of the mountains that are home to the endangered mountain gorillas.

The landscape here was gorgeous and consisted of several flower fields where they grew flowers and the kids harvested these to make bouquets for sale in nearby Gisenyi and even Kigali. We were all pretty impressed.

The original orphanage was still on the property and was being restored and turned in to a computer lab for the kids. The incredible folks running this place are seriously dedicated to the continuing education of the kids - and trying to help them create career opportunities for themselves.

I think several of us were pretty surprised to see a basketball court there! Not the normal site where "Futbol" reigns supreme. Some previous Americans who had visited had a son who loved basketball and just couldn't even believe there was a place where basketball wasn't played and had paid for this half court to be put in. There were some pretty good players there too!

It was new years eve when we visited and though we had initially planned on staying to bring in the new years with the kids - our driver had other plans. The road in to the orphanage was a VERY scary drive and he was pretty clear about wanting to be out on it before dark.

No problem - FLEXIBILITY being our rule of thumb - we just celebrated new years eve early witht hem!

So as darkness fell (and it fell quick!) we said our goodbyes and piled back on tot he bus. Though our time was WAY too short with these guys - these kids and this entire operation left a huge impression on us.

Imbabazi Orphanage is a beautiful place that I am 100% sure I will be back to one day.


La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

I am sure we can't come close to imagining the feeling of walking through te genocide memorial. It is heartbreaking though. How is it possible that that was so recent? I had graduated from high school, and had no idea. Living in my little college world thinking about ME.

It sounds and looks as though this orphanage is doing such great things to meet the needs of those children.

Rwanda looks so very beautiful! What an experience.

Diane said...

Wondering if you have read any of the books written by Immaculee Ilibagiza? She is a Rwandan holocaust survivor with quite a Miraculous story to share. I believe her first book written was "Left To Tell". For those who have not heard of her or read her book, I encourage you to do so. What, once again, was my "ahah" moment, was here was another book, that I felt lead to read, where the author has such a heart for the orphan.

Anonymous said...

OK, Tymm, if you buy that book I hope you will let me read it, too!
Leaving for Ethiopia tomorrow - look what you started with your first mission trip to South Africa!
Love you so much,
NC Granny