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BACKGROUND TO OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH RWANDA

For a number of years now the District has had relations with the Free Methodist Church of Rwanda and on many occasions members of the District have been out and worked in Rwanda providing help and support.

A number of visits have taken place over the years and below are reports from two people who took part in the August 2014 trip.

My school, St James Primary in Brownhills, has been twinned with Nyamabuye Primary School in Gicumbi District, Rwanda for just over a year.  When Deacon Annie Trembling suggested that I visited Rwanda to visit the school and share my teaching skills I said yes but was very worried about what to expect.  It turned out to be an extremely rewarding experience, both for me and the teachers and children I had the pleasure of working with.

I spent a morning at Nyamabuye Primary School, with Yvonne Gough. The original school was built in 1967 and it is in a bad state of repair.  The roof leaks and there is no electricity or running water.  The classrooms were very basic with just desks and chalkboards at each end. It was the school holidays but over a 100 children turned up to welcome us.  We split the children into 2 groups and I was able to work with the older children.  I counted 70 children and panicked a little.  I need not have worried.  The children were so well behaved and gave 100% attention which meant they were able to make the booklets and write messages for the children at St James.

I also spent 3 days teaching at the primary school in Shara.  Yvonne and I had already has a basic plan of what we were going to teach (we had to take our own resources) but it was still a real challenge and I enjoyed it immensely.  We taught a range of subjects, including Maths and Literacy, sharing our teaching strategies with the teaching staff.  According to the headteacher, the teachers found it useful to watch us and will be trying some of the techniques themselves.

During the 3 days at Shara, I rediscovered my passion for teaching.  As a headteacher, I spend too much time completing paperwork and not enough time with children.  I remembered working with children, seeing them learn and make progress, was the reason why I became a teacher.  At the end of the 3 days I made the decision to build a small teaching commitment into my weekly timetable when I return to school.

Seeing how determined the children are to do well at school and how they value their chance to receive an education (something which unfortunately is lacking for some children and families in this country) and what a great job the teachers there do with so few resources means I would love to go back and spend more time in a school, helping to teach and also to train teachers.

Since returning home people have asked me about the trip.  I say that I enjoyed it but that doesn’t really express how the experience has made me feel.  Other words I have used include inspired, humbled, grateful and rewarding.  It has definitely had a positive effect on me and made reflect on what is important.  I was also lucky to share the experience with people who I didn’t know before but who I would now consider as good friends.

Helen Pearcey

Moraho (hello) and greetings from our friends in Rwanda! Having recently returned from Rwanda I would like to share some of my experiences with you. Stepping from the aeroplane in Kigali for the third time I was looking forward to those things about Rwanda to which I have become familiar, but also to see what had changed since my last visit. The first change was to the airport itself which has been extended, the warm welcome we received was, however, no different – it is always wonderful to meet the people who have become our friends. As in the past we were based in two locations, firstly in Kigali, the capital, and then in Kibagora, a town in the west of Rwanda on the shores of lake Kivu. However, in contrast to previous years we did not stay together as a group but worked on separate projects. My own involvement included leading a Bible study for pastors from the Kigali region and chaplaincy work at Kibagora hospital.

The Bible study took the form of questions and discussions, rather than the lecture style which the pastors are more accustomed to. I was not sure how the pastors would respond, firstly to having a female leading their study, and also to the style of the study. However, they gladly took part, getting into small groups to discuss the questions and then reporting back to the group. The questions I had prepared provided a starting point from which the pastors raised further points for discussion. One in particular being the place of women in church leadership and whether women are equal to men. Opinion varied greatly at the beginning of the discussion, but by the end almost all were in agreement that women are created equal with men and that they should receive equal treatment in society and the church. Of course it will take time for real change to occur but I’d like to think I’ve done something to help the women of Rwanda! The Bible study was an enjoyable experience for me, and the pastors gave good feedback.

If the first week of the trip can be described as an exercise in using my head, the second week certainly required the use of my heart! Working alongside the chaplains in the mission hospital in Kibagora has been one of the most moving and humbling experiences I have had! The work itself involved visiting the various wards and praying for people. Sometimes we prayed for an entire ward including the patients and staff. At other times we went around and prayed for each person individually. This is not something that could be done in the UK. Everyone with whom we spent time appreciated our prayers. Some of the people were in a very bad situation, but even the worst cases we visited seemed to be lifted by our visit. I believe this is the power of prayer, but whatever you want to call it, nobody could deny that something changed for these people. There are too many examples to be able to recount them all, and there are no words to truly describe what I experienced there in the hospital. What I can say is that I went there with the intention of ministering to others and left feeling blessed myself – an experience I have had on every visit. Leaving Rwanda is always hard – the place has captured my heart. I look forward to returning, and would encourage others to visit if they have the opportunity.

Clara Lewis