|Dave and Sophia in 1993 at the Source of the Nile River in Uganda|
As our family prepared to leave Africa’s Great Lakes for the Great Lakes of North America many memories filled our minds. Old values of our region resonated. Two captured our attention. Those two are dignity and generosity. Yet, in a world where our human nature wrestles with her dark side contradictory values also raised their head. The contradictory values are prejudice and opportunism. My bzee (elders) called me to a better way. Our dignity and generosity are not for sale.
My first interactions with Rwanda happened in Uganda, the nation to Her east. In those early days I heard “Rwandan” used as an adjective. In the best use of “Rwandan” as an adjective it spoke of “Rwandan dignity,” and “Rwandan generosity.” In my early months of learning Uganda I once traveled with my university friend, Charles Guma to spend the weekend with his family in the village. His home village was in southwestern Uganda with a contingent of Rwandan refugees. I’ll never forget watching an old Rwandan woman walk through the village with every eye following her movement. Guma noticed me watching the old woman, and whispered, “She is a Rwandan refugee.” Whatever her predicament she would never surrender her dignity. Her approach to adversity made her unforgettable.
|Lydia Bagira and her sons, Emmy and Joel|
We marveled at Rwandan dignity and generosity.
Yet in certain situations humanity enters circumstances where our dignity meets opportunism, and our generosity is bombarded by prejudice. Kigali yard sales seem to bring out our community’s demons and angels. (For prior writing on Kigali Yard Sales as a tool to understanding see http://www.jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2011/01/all-i-needed-to-know-about-rwanda-i.html.) Kigali is rapidly becoming the place to be for expatriates in Africa. Rwanda has limited supply of goods. Many of those goods are expensive. An expatriate leaving sale brings out the desire to both bless the departed and loot his property.
|Marguerite Nyagahura and Eron Asimwe Nsenga blessing our departure|
Thankfully, the vast majority of our possessions sold rapidly and for prices that we considered reasonable. Most respected our dignity and came with a generous spirit. Yet as our sale wound down we had some large unsold items and an increasing number of visitors who came seeking an opportunity. They may have seen the color of our skin or the financial resources of our faith mission, and with prejudice concluded we were the wealthy from whom to steal. These opportunists were not defined by ethnicity, race, or nationality. They had been overcome by humanity’s demons. In fact, the worst opportunists shared my skin color and some shared my passport’s origin. To spend my final days in Rwanda haggling with opportunists would strip my family of our dignity.
|Ruth, Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs at CCR Christmas 2011 with Hixson girls|
A few days after the delivery we spent our final Saturday packing our unsellable memories for an air shipment to Cyikago (Chicago), USA. In the process we ran out of packing material. We spent a few hours with a Rwandan friend trying to find more, but Kigali’s supply of good packing material was limited. Exhausted we stared at one another. Then we had a memory. Many of us in Rwanda have come from abroad with shipments. We sent phone texts (sms) to our fellow returnees asking if any had stored packing material. Many wrote, “Yes.” We asked them to bring it to Christ’s Church of Rwanda (CCR) during our final Sunday for packing. Our Kigali community brought more packing material than we could use. As we sought to return to the generous they just instructed CCR to keep it for the next sojourner. We stood amazed. In Rwanda our dignity and our generosity are not for sale.