Meeting Rwanda Face to Face

Our arrival in Kigali last Thursday feels like an eternity ago.  What an adventure it has been already!  Our first night here, we were welcomed, not only by the ALARM staff, but also by an earthquake that woke us in the middle of the night!  Thankfully, it was just a few good shakes for us and nothing more.

On Friday morning, I woke to birds singing in ways I had never heard before, and a group of young African students singing in worship.  It was beautiful- another reminder that God is just as present here as he is at home in the familiar.  What a treasure it is to witness his faithfulness in both places that are very familiar and in places where we are the foreigner and far away from the familiar.  As I listen to African birds singing in Africa, I image God excitedly saying, "Listen.  Wake up! Do you see and hear the birds I have made here?  Do you see and hear a bit more of me in these things I have made?" 

Avocado trees and banana trees grow here in abundance, along with some of the most colorful flowers and plants.  Seeing the city of Kigali stretch over valleys and upon the hills, is beautiful.  There is so much life and color here, along with the strongest sense of a people who do life side-by-side and know that their strength lies in community.  We have so much to learn from them.

After breakfast, we left to head north and then towards the western side of Rwanda for a brief visit the Cyimbili Coffe plantation (one part of the ministry of ALARM) and the leaders there. I had no idea what to expect as we headed out for our 6 hour drive north of Kigali, but the things I saw on our drive up took by breath away.
I cannot seem to find an adequate version of the word "beautiful" that describes the land here. It is rolling with hills, full of lush trees of every possible shade of green and blue.  There are eucalyptus trees that line the roads and cover the hills.  The land is fragrant with their scent.  One of the ALARM leaders who has been caring for us as if we are his own family, has been sharing so much with us about the land and people here.  He is proud of his land and cares deeply for it's well-being and it's future.

As we drove further north we left the paved road for a road made of dirt and rocks.  This was the bumpiest 2 hour drive I have ever been on!  Our skilled driver rounded corners on the mountains that I am pretty sure we wouldn't have survived on if I had been driving.  We passed village after small village.  Drying Cassava, fields of tea plants, goats and sheep roaming, people washing clothes in streams, little children playing soccer and children helping their families in the day's work are just some of the things we saw on our way and very things that I am still processing in my heart and mind.

Finally, we reached the coffee plantation that sits on the edge of Lake Kivu.  Some Grace teams that have come to Rwanda to partner with ALARM in the past have been able to visit different parts of the ministry here, like the vocational training school, the IWE girls secondary school and the microfinance group.  There are many different parts to this incredible organization.  Cyimbili Coffee is just one more part of ALARM that pursues community transformation by focusing on servant leadership and building peace and reconciliation.

The Cyimbili team is incredible.  They are AMAZING servant leaders and they lead by empowering those they lead.  They are also a strong community, working hard to build each other up in their specific roles while also building up the strength of their entire team, from the Manager and Agronomist to some of the seasonal workers who are there to do things like remove "suckers" from the coffee trees so that they can grow excellent, healthy beans.

I had no idea that making coffee took as many people as is does, or that it had as many steps as it does.  I will never, ever enjoy a cup of coffee in the same way or drink a cup without thinking about the many people involved.

The team at Cymbili takes great pride and ownership in their specific jobs and roles, no matter what they are.  They have a deep understanding of how important their individual roles are, along with how important their collective vision is as a team.

In the last three years since the last visit to the plantation, this team has grown, and they have built new storehouses, added new trees, more washing stations, built wells for irrigation, added more rooms to their guest house and bought more machines for their coffee beans.  They have worked so very hard and I am confident that their excellence in owning their own jobs and roles, along with their gifted ability to work as a team, must be a huge part of this, along with their own prayers of faith and the prayers of those who are interceeding alongside of them.

Before leaving Cyimbili on Sunday monrning, we gathered in a circle with the staff and held hands to pray.  The staff at Cyimbili sang a song of worship in Kinyarwandan and I had tears in my eyes because the gift of their voices and the gift of getting to rub shoulders with such giants of the faith was overwhelming.  God is at work and moving mountains amongst this group.  They dream of making the best coffee in the world, because they know that making coffee at Cyimbili is about more than coffee - they know God can use their work to transform their community, country and even the world.  I am dreaming and praying with them.

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