Friday, November 5, 2010
LIVING, HEALING, AND BUILDING IN A BROKEN COMMUNITY
Thank you to the many from our community who have given Ruth an extra measure of prayer and concern the last day as she broke her arm. God continues to amaze us with the love and labor of both our Kigali community and the community that with tears sent us to Rwanda. I sometimes hesitate to even mention when our children are sick or injured. I notice that the welfare of children is one of those issues that quickly stir emotion. The Lord has created this emotion of love called compassion to be part of our created order. If we live and breathe upon this earth we feel physical pain when our loved ones are in pain. Our guts hurt when our community hurts.
Sometimes in our shaky guts moments we don’t communicate well or others may not listen well. Inaccurate illusions further create wounds in our Kigali community.
Our family serves in Rwanda with a community of called people. My understanding of the Old Testament stories of calling is that they are always painful events. A crisis arises in a community and an individual through a series of previous events is the one God has chosen to lead a community to an answer. The series of events that have prepared one to lead leave one tattered and humble. The called would always prefer for someone else to go, but deep in his spirit he also cries out, “Here I am. Lord, send me.”
My Kigali community is largely made up of two groups. The first are Rwandans who are well educated and trained. Their parents and grandparents lived as refugees. In their refugee living they were placed in a location where they developed professional skill. As adults they made a choice to return to Rwanda and build. They could have chosen to stay in a foreign land and do well, but inside they could not live with themselves if they did not return home. Thus they return with both joy and trembling.
The second community is one like I. We are not Rwandan, but Rwanda courses through our heart. We also have professional skill and education. We could choose an easier life. Yet, something within us ticks and we cannot escape our Rwanda call.
These two called communities wrestle with their children’s present and future. Two questions quickly come to mind. First, if I go to Rwanda where will my kids go to school? The second, is if I go to Rwanda where will I take my kids when they are injured or sick?
The Lord put in my hands the answer to the Kigali calling question of “Where will my kids go to school?” In the process the answer was not just for me, but for our gathered called community.
Yesterday, my daughter Ruth broke her left arm. It was not a complex fracture. She is well. However, it was one of those days that reminded me of how the Lord has guided our community. It had its moments of uncertainty and pain. It had its moments of resilience and compassion. It also had its moments of struggle and even anger and frustration.
In the middle of the morning, Kigali International Community School (KICS) Headmaster, Trevor Maxwell called me with the news that Ruth was injured. I left my office at Christ’s Church Rwanda (CCR) and walked to KICS. I found Ruth in pain from a fall. Trevor thought it was likely just a bruise. Her arm had no distortion. However, she was unable to have a full range of motion. After about 15 minutes of holding Ruth it seemed her pain was not going down.
My memory went back to a day nine years previous when my oldest daughter Sophia was in a similar situation. At my urging she took a risk while playing on the monkey bars and fell upon her arm. She was in pain, but had no distortions in the shape of her arm. For two days I lived in denial while Sophia suffered. Finally, when I woke up from my denial I decided that maybe we should get an x-ray. We went to a family friend, Dr. Abdu Shirazi in Kampala, Uganda. Dr. Shirazi took one look at Sophia’s arm and proclaimed, “Green tree fracture.” He did an x-ray to accurately confirm his suspicions. Then Sophia spent 6 weeks in a cast while I spent 9 years kicking myself for not listening to my daughter’s pain. Repentance bears fruit in changed thinking and behavior.
On Friday, 5 November my Lord gave me an opportunity to display my repentance. Though it was unlikely that we would find a fracture I would not allow days to go by while my daughter suffered and we did not know what the problem was. Thus we went to King Faisal Hospital for an x-ray.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We saw others in much worse shape than Ruth. We waited for the greater wounded to be treated before us. Finally, our turn came.
After the x-ray we were met by a doctor who recognized us from years before. He looked at Ruth’s x-ray and proclaimed, “Green tree fracture.” The bone was not completely broken through, but it was broken and needed to be in a cast for 3 weeks.
The doctor looked familiar. We asked a few questions and a story was disclosed. His name was Fabian. He met us shortly after we arrived in Rwanda in June 2005. We spent 6 months visiting churches to meet pastors and people so that we could labor in community. He was one of those initial people we had met at a Kigali church (Christian Life Assembly – a delightful friend and neighbor in Kigali.) We had forgotten him, but he not us. We had been at King Faisal Hospital for other matters – dog and monkey bites, broken bones, concussions, and malaria. When our son, Caleb had broken his arm, Dr. Fabian had attended him.
Dr. Fabian set Ruth’s arm and we thanked both he and God. As the arm was set we made a few phone calls to family and friends with the news. Trevor Maxwell heard the confirmation of the break and called us. He wisely suggested that we get copies of the x-rays so a few other doctors who are part of our community could double check Dr. Fabian’s findings.
Thus we went to collect copies and wander through hospital bureaucracy. After the wait a technician and a bureaucrat began giving us copies of Ruth’s x-rays. While throughout the day we had been treated with compassion, wisdom, and grace these two fell into the recurring complaint of many. “Rwanda has poor customer service.” It was beyond obvious that these two considered our request for an x-ray copy to be a waste of their time. Then they began their editorials. Most of the editorials were in Kinyarwanda, but on occasion they would insert English. It was one of those passive / aggressive taunts. The English insertions always included the phrase “no fracture.” For a brief moment I did the math. I am 6’1.” I weigh about 195 pounds. At 43 I still am about as strong and fast as I was in my 20’s. These two were short, poochy, and probably as physically weak as they were intellectually deficient. My tolerance for those making fun of my daughter’s pain was below zero. Or maybe, I could do something more sophisticated such as write an editorial in a paper or just visit their boss who is a friend. Then something stirred inside where I realized these two were wounded in need of healing. I was not to be their healer, but I could pray for them to find one. For some reason these two had neither technical nor professional skill. They also had a character deficiency that preferred to judge in jealousy instead of extend compassion to wounded child’s family. Their lives must be full of much more pain than Ruth’s.
I also remembered reading Rwanda hating blogs about men such as these two. The bloggers convince the world that Rwanda is a basket case. They neglect to tell the stories of those in my Kigali community who have lived wounded lives, but who choose to heal and build. They neglect to tell stories of regret, repentance, and redemption. They neglect to tell about life in Rwanda as it is and as it will be. We live with wounded people. A few are pure knuckleheads. However, most seek to heal and build.
I walked away thankful that one of our called communities questions was answered. Yes, in Rwanda when my children are sick or injured we can find help. Childhood illnesses and injuries can be treated.
I also walked away thankful that God had used some in my community to build a school called KICS. Five years ago those of us who desired to someday send our children to a university in the United States were in crisis. Today, we have a school for our kids and their future is good.
Yet, at the close of my day I visited families whose grown children were now planning to marry. Life was good. Refugees had returned and were building. Their extended family had gathered from inside Rwanda, Uganda, and the United States to celebrate this most sacred ritual. Pastoring can be delightful and last night was a treasure. Hope and love abounded. As we planned we visited. A familiar issue came up. New families have children. Those children have educational needs. KICS is the answer for which those families long. Yet, our community needs are greater than the KICS facility capacity. We have hundreds of kids waiting to attend KICS. Some of their parents don’t come to Rwanda to build because they cannot find an adequate school. Some of their parents send their kids to boarding schools outside of Rwanda while they remain.
Compassion moved inside of me again. I left the pre-wedding party, walked to some vacant land near KICS and prayed.
Rwanda has been kind to me. We live, heal, and build with a community that has been broken. Yet, there is more to do. May God give us the resources and strength to return God’s grace to others.