Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rumors of Rwanda as heaven

I once lived in Kampala, the city of seven daily rumors. During a season without a free press Radio Katwe ruled the air. Then a free press developed. Bit by bit the media put rumors to the test. Some passed the test of truth. Some did not. Some played to prejudice and survived even when evidence proved the rumor false. A few times I was a victim of a vicious rumor. They can be destructive. Yet, I found a certain comfort in the rumors. I may not know what was true. However, at least I knew the options.

When I moved to Kigali I came prepared with a list of Rwanda rumors. What was true? In fact, my first weeks in Rwanda felt odd when I did not hear the day’s rumor. However, bit by bit I got to know people. In Kigali we don’t speak in the vernacular of Radio Katwe, but we do tend to know details of our neighbor’s lives. Weddings, births, sickness, death, school accomplishments, jobs, business deals, etc. are our topics of conversation. Sometimes it is shocking what the neighbors know.

Two years ago I almost found Radio Katwe in Kigali. We were preparing to send our kids to school. We spent the day shopping for school supplies. When we reached home we unpacked the supplies. In the process, we noticed we were missing a few items we had purchased. I thought maybe my absentminded professor ways had forgot the items somewhere. Possibly, an opportunistic thief got the best of me. Two days later I received a phone call from a friend in the Rwanda government. The lost items had been found. Yet, I had not reported the loss. My friend in government did not know what I was thinking, but the Radio Katwe rumors of Rwanda ran through my mind.

Was I under constant surveillance? Were all my actions recorded somewhere? Was there someone above watching out for me? When I stumbled would another come to my rescue? Or if I made a colossal error of judgment would my failings become public fodder even with my best attempts at cover up? After all, the admirers of Rwanda are aware of Rwanda’s ability to discreetly gather knowledge.

Radio Katwe told me these rumors were true.

Then my friend in government told me how the lost items had been discovered. I had been with him through his wedding. We had visited family together. In the process we had been seen by many in crowds. One of his neighbors worked in the shop where in a little confusion I had left some items. The neighbor did not know my name or contacts. However, he knew the contacts of my friend. He made a phone call to my friend. Then my friend called me. A few days later the lost items were returned.

Maybe, Radio Katwe does not know Kigali as well as she thinks she does. Maybe, Radio Katwe has underestimated Kigali’s ability to live in community? Maybe, Kigali is just a small town? Maybe, the reason some of us discover small details becoming public knowledge is that in Kigali neighbors know neighbors?

However, what if another rumor is true? What if Rwanda is heaven on earth?

Sometimes I hear the voices who listen to the rumors of Radio Katwe say, “I have nothing to hide.”

Really? I wish I was as good of a person as you. I’ve done many things I regret.

Sometimes I hear the voices who listen to Radio Katwe say, “I can take care of myself.”

Really, I sometimes can barely function.

Sometimes I hear the voices who listen to Radio Katwe say, “I’ll take my chances.”

Really, I want to know there is a plan led by a master.

 Radio Katwe Rwanda rumors remind me of heaven. I have never been there, but I’ve heard rumors. The rumors of heaven tell me that every thought and deed of mine is seen. They tell me that all my actions will be taken into account. They tell me that the standard of performance is so high I will never pass. The rumors of heaven terrify me. I would rather keep some matters hidden.
The rumors of heaven tell me that a day will come when all my failings will be exposed. Yikes. I am a respected pastor, husband, and father. That will be an awful day of embarrassment. All my dignity will be lost. Yet, the rumors of heaven tell me that One will stand in my place. The rumors say He is perfect. However, He will accept responsibility for all my failings. In the process I will meet all the performance expectations simply by showing up.

Wow. Yet the rumors of heaven have an earthy substance. Before that day comes the One who watches me will guide my path. He will put me in places where I can succeed. At times life will be painful, but He will bring good from it. When I am sick, exhausted, and worn out; He will restore me.

Radio Katwe rumors of Rwanda, or rumors of heaven?

I doubt the rumors of Radio Katwe, but I believe the rumors of heaven. Yet whatever is true, Rwanda may the closest place on earth to heaven. In Rwanda neighbors know neighbors. We speak of their successes and struggles. We celebrate each other’s victories. We rally to each one’s struggles. I choose to believe the rumors of heaven and the rumors of Rwanda as heaven on earth.


  1. this is very laughable for you Pastor Dave , i met you in Kampala in 2001 and much of your congregants were refugees for Rwanda, remember your church near Kampala international hospital few meters away from Namirembe road.
    It is very surprising and disturbing in fact to call Rwanda a heaven in your imagination (Radio Katwe). You saw and talk to these refugees displaced by Rwanda and Uganda wars of invasion including myself. The grim faces that were hoping for divine intervention, trying draw inspiration from your teaching that despite their suffering there is a heaven out there. Is Rwanda now the heaven in your imagination really? with its shortfall i beg to differ with your assertion because this a country where state operative do underground cover operations on people's daily lives and if anyone speaks of anything that goes again the authorities narrative then one might never be seen again or imprisoned in illegal cell commonly know as "safe house". For a respected Pastor to call Rwanda where people live in fear of what they say a heaven is misstep of tongue. A country whose leaders have caused deaths of millions in the great Lakes region and still support insurgency (M23) and proxies rebels then your heaven assertion needs a re-thinking otherwise you make me doubt your teachings and the existence of heaven. I would appreciate to know what constitute a Heaven .

  2. Yes, I do remember Congolese refugees who I once had the privilege to pastor. Because of them I each Sunday put on kitenge and pray for enduring peace in Congo

    Yes, I've also heard many conversations about Congo in church receptions. Here's my summary of what I've heard.

    My proposal is to start in prayer, take an honest look at a our shared humanity, and listen to the ideas that are generated in churches instead of political proposals first.

  3. Thanks for the enjoyable conversations. Heaven on earth is when we live in community.