Saturday, September 19, 2015

Friends on a Thousand Hills - Rwanda Part 11

I am Rwandan now. Well, for one day I was. On Thursday we woke early to drive to Azizi Life’s Twivane mu Bukene Cooperative located in Muhungu District. wivane mu Bukene means We Come Out of Poverty. The women of wivane mu Bukene specialize in making jewelry, mats and photo frames. 

Azizi Life has several cooperatives like this in Rwanda. Their vision is: "to participate in local initiatives for the development of Rwandan communities working towards physical and spiritual wholeness for all." 

So we muzungus spent a day in the life of a Rwandan woman. And it was not easy. 

First, they dressed us in traditional Rwandan clothing, skirt and headscarf. Elise helped me, a 42-year-old mother of two grown children. I liked her best. I probably shouldn't say so, but we both have grown children and we found connection in that.
We then received a tour of our host’s home, a mud brick home with packed dirt floor. There were four rooms, including a separate pantry and kitchen. We helped make lunch and by help I mean they let us move the already cut up cassava from a bowl of water into a pot on the fire.

While lunch cooked we went to the field to cultivate. I have done a lot of gardening but never have I used a hoe so gigantic as the one I used that day. It was very effective. On reaching the field, we stood in a row and cultivated all together in one direction. The woman next to me stopped hoeing, took a step back and said, “You are very good at this.” So mom and dad, you can be proud of me!

After cultivating a small amount of the field, they were too kind to us to let us do much, we took empty water jugs and walked down the very, very, very steep hill to the shared well. I am sorry to say to my Congolese friends at home, but they would only allow me to carry the small jug the children use when fetching water. It was embarrassing, but I know they were being kind to me. The climb down wasn’t so bad except for slipping a few times on the dirt trail. The climb back was not so easy. I run nearly every day up Table Rock near my home in Boise. It is a one thousand foot elevation gain in one mile. I do it four times a week, but I could not keep up with the women as they carried the water back up from the well, some with much larger jugs than mine and balanced on their heads.

We then shared a meal together of cassava, beans and avocados. It was delicious. Finally, Annette let me eat real Rwandan food. Some of us gathered around a short table, others sat on mats on the floor. A new baby girl kicked her feet contently on her mat while we ate.

We then went out to cut grass for the cow and carried the bundled grass on our heads. I am very, very proud to say I could balance that bundle on my head and walk at the same time! It made me so happy! It also made the cow happy, as we delivered the grass directly to its pen.
Elise peeling the outer layer off the leaves;
and carrying a friend's baby
Later we made a sad attempt at making bracelets from the leaves of a sisal plant. One should never get on the wrong end of this leaf because it is sharp like a needle. The women scrape the outer part of the leaf away – I was never able to do this without help - revealing what looks like thread. They then dye the thread and weave it into bracelets or earrings or mats. Elise helped me make my bracelet. The weaving pattern was like the macramé we did as children.

That day was like none other in my life. I ate lunch in a mud brick hut. I cultivated a field beside strong Rwandan women, and I carried (a little) water from a far off well. I sat with Rwandan women eating lunch from shared bowls. I carried bundled grass on my head! And I sat beside Elise as together we made my bracelet.
With Elise and wearing the bracelet we
made together
Life in Rwanda is not easy. These are strong women, and I could not keep up with them, but they were kind to let us have a peak into their world. I hope we didn’t make them to get too far behind in their work.

At the days' end they sang for us. A woman nursing her child began singing and the rest joined in. Soon a girl of five or six jumped into the circle and began dancing with joyful energy. Then our host joined her. It was the best of moments.

Afterwards, we all prayed together. This is a nation that prays for one another! Never did we leave a person's home without being asked, "What can I pray for you." Can you imagine being asked this from a woman living in a home made of mud bricks? A home with no electricity or running water? A home with a toilet outside in a three-sided hut? "What can I pray for you?" She said to the rich muzungu. It is a question that brings tears and fills me with humility. And it should.

We are all the same, you see. Some of us live in a house built of mud bricks. Some of us live in an upscale neighbor of Boise, Idaho. But our needs are the same. We must know who we are.

"You will not find your identity in what you have, but in who has you. You will not find your identity in what you do, but in what has been done for you. And you will not find your identity in what you desire, but in who has desired—at infinite cost to Himself—a relationship with you. Christ is your life. He gives you a new identity and will work that new identity out in your life until the day when He appears. On that day you will finally see clearly, as Christ sees you now. You will know as you are known." The Truest Thing about You: Identity, Desire, and Why It All Matters by David Lomas

And please, please considering sponsoring a child. You can change the world. Africa New Life Ministries

Friends on a Thousand Hills - Rwanda Part 12


  1. Hello Shawna. Thanks to our mutual friend, Erin, I found your blog and am so grateful for her pointing her Facebook friends to it, as well as you for the work you do, sharing your story and your travels. Your tag line, "It is in the shelter of each other that we live," fills my heart with comfort and peace.

    I am especially touched at the Rwandan custom of asking, "What can I pray for you?" It recognizes that each of us, whatever our circumstance, has something in our hearts requiring prayer, perhaps witness.

    May you continue to be blessed that you might continue your work, whatever, wherever and however that may be.

    1. Hello Kathryn, I'm so glad you've been blessed by the writing this week. God is good and I am continually shown that. Blessings to you!