Posts by Meagan Wood

  • Rwanda Blog 5: Kescha Mason, MCL Student

    August 15, 2017 ~ Meagan Wood

    A Journey toward Equality. . .a Continual Work in Progress

    It’s difficult to write about one experience that stood out most while in Rwanda, because every moment of the entire trip was a memorable experience. There were so many memorable moments and experiences that were impactful; from having the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, to meeting the Governor of the Eastern Provence. From attending an inter-faith peace celebration commemorating Rwanda’s twenty-three years of peace, solidarity and reconciliation after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, to facilitating discussions with community faith leaders using the book of Jeremiah, to being Disciples–going out solo to preach in the villages in the Eastern Province, to contributing as a group to the giving of peace cows for community village members in need. Visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial allowed us to put into a visual context what we had read in course readings about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and understand why such a tragic event in Rwandan history is so important to be remembered.  We then ended our visit by going on a real life African preserve safari.

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    Hippos sunning in the Rwanda National Reserve

    Every moment of every day was filled with once in a life time experiences and opportunities to learn and encounter the unknown and take part in experiences that would surely take us all out of our realms of comfort and require us to lean on faith.

    But for the sake of time and space, because I could go on forever, the one experience that stands out most for me in reflecting on our trip to Rwanda is our meeting with the Ministry and staff of Gender and Family Promotion.

    The Honorable Nyirasafari Espérance serves at the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, she and her staff were very gracious and welcoming; given our sit down meeting was somewhat impromptu. Yet and still even on short notice Hon. Nyirasafari was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to talk with our group about her country’s great efforts and progress toward rebuilding a society based on gender equality.

    ABSW Team with Min of Gender and Family and Bishop Alex from the Eastern Province
    ABSW Team with Min of Gender and Family and Bishop Alex from the Eastern Province

    In our short conversation, Hon. Nyirasafari provided lots of insightful information on Rwanda’s progress toward gender equality with their President, Paul Kagame at the helm of the effort.

    According to Hon. Nyirasafari, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion is charged by the Rwandan government to ensure collaboration, coordination and implementation of appropriate policies on gender equality, women empowerment and family promotion are a success.

    The Rwandan Constitution mandates that women must occupy 30% of positions in policy/decision making processes. To insure policies are kept, goals are achieved and exceeded, as a means of accountability these policies are monitored and overseen by the Republic of Rwanda’s Gender Monitoring Office, which has key responsibilities in advocating for gender equality, being a point of contact/reference for information and documentation on gender equality and monitoring to insure the ratified International Gender Commitments are kept.

    Rwanda’s achievements in the areas of unity, reconciliation, peace, security and prosperity have given way to all citizens equally participating in the development processes. Girls and women acknowledge and cherish the value and empowerment President Paul Kagame and his leadership have given women and girls to fully live up to their potential and contribute to the nation’s development process.  The President’s initiatives to remove all legal and social barriers that keep classism in place and many citizens from fully participating in public life have encouraged women in Rwanda to emerge successfully in the economic and social transformation of the country.

    Due to his commitment to ensure gender equality and justice, President Paul Kagame has been recognized among the Global Champions for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment through his “He for She” campaign.  This initiative aims at encouraging men and boys to support gender equality and women empowerment, President Kagame is committed to bridging the gender divide to attain full equality by the year 2020.

    Paul Kagame President of Rwanda
    Paul Kagame
    President of Rwanda

    Already, efforts by the Head of State have made Rwanda a global leader in political, empowerment of women where 64% of women hold a public office and are in Parliament.  This gives the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion a great opportunity to strengthen policies that promote gender equality, the protection of families and children and gives space for women to be equal in the development processes of the country; as Hon. Nyirasafari stated,  “In Rwanda, the journey toward equality isn’t a new one, rather it is a continuous work in progress”.

    Since our time was short the many more probing questions we had for the Minister couldn’t be asked or answered, however we committed to stay in contact to follow their progress toward gender equality, so that we might be able to learn by their example how we might as a nation implement and to progress toward the same standards of equality among genders here the U.S.

    Kescha Mason
    ABSW Student
    Master’s in Community Leadership

     

  • Rwanda Blog 4: LaDonna Harris, M.Div. Student

    August 13, 2017 ~ Meagan Wood

    Water: A Lesson in Humility

    I’d never been on a mission before.  I don’t know exactly what I was expecting.  Nothing I saw should have been a surprise.  Yet, somehow, the level of poverty and the lack of resources and development were, in a word, shocking.  Let me explain with one example.

    I grew up around neighborhoods steeped in poverty.  That mostly meant lack of: food, or certainly healthy food; reasonably accessible non-emergency medical care; adequate shoes and clothing, as a few examples.  It may have meant lack of water, but that was usually because the water was turned off because the bill hadn’t been paid.  It was not because the mechanics of getting water consistently to households, or even businesses, were simply not in place.  It did not mean those poverty-stricken households were accustomed to going someplace else to get “unclean water” to bring home to boil for cooking and drinking, or to use to pour down toilets as the flushing mechanism.

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    But in Rwanda, a country devastated by internal genocidal war, poverty, for me, was redefined; the picture redrawn by a new and humbling experience.  On arrival, the first toilet I used was a hole in the floor.  I experienced a variety of temporary living accommodations; some with running water, some with none, most without hot water on tap.  Nearly everywhere I went, using the toilet meant using a pitcher or bucket to pour water into the toilet to flush it; including in the Governor’s office.

    A classmate and I wondered, “Why is it that no government or corporation has stepped in to provide villages with clean, running water?”  This had been done in other “under-developed” countries; why not Rwanda?  I posed the question to Bishop Alex.  In his understated and politically correct manner of speaking, he said: “We find it is more expedient to partner with private investors.  Others usually come with their own interests and the process takes much longer.”

    Shame on us!  No matter what one believes about the catalyst for the Rwandan genocide, we cannot honestly deny the complicity of government and church.  Now, through tragedy of unimaginable proportions, a country of humble, proud and resilient people has learned that it is safer to do without than to partner with entities that have the greatest ability to expediently provide a healthful creature comfort that we take for granted daily; clean, running, hot and cold water.  So, without complaint or curse, Rwandans patiently partner with private entities that genuinely care about and respect them.

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    No water trucks were visible, no heavy construction machines laying pipes; just people, young and old, carrying and bicycling yellow containers of water.  Water drawn from the river, they buy it to bring home; to cook with, to bathe in, to flush a toilet.  If it were us, we would be appalled.  We should be appalled.

    LaDonna M. Harris
    ABSW Student
    Master of Divinity Program

  • Rwanda Blog 3: Beverly Thompson, Alumna ’17

    August 11, 2017 ~ Meagan Wood

    My experience in Rwanda is life changing.  It was heartbreaking, yet inspiring to listen to stories and testimonies of the people on how their Christian president uses knowledge, gender equality, unity, and forgiveness to heal wounds that could have left many hearts bitter. Instead, they pull together for the better.  Their stories may have started with separation, pain (emotional/physical), and anger, but as they turned each chapter I could see forgiveness and love working together as they (the survivors and the perpetrators) united in rebuilding their country.

    As a minister of the gospel and a registered nurse, my duties and responsibilities were to work in four different communities for two days ministering to their health needs and giving different gifts to the children.  We served 472 adults in screening for high blood pressure and diabetes.  This resulted in the findings of 20 adults with very high blood sugar and fifteen with very high blood pressure, and they were advised to see their physician as soon as possible.  Many were recommended to go immediately.  Two hundred and thirty received reading glasses.  It was incredible to see the brightness in the eyes as the villagers gave their testimonies on how they could read their Bibles immediately.

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    Reading the Bible with New Glasses!

     

    We served two hundred children in the villages, donating toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, and other treats.  We also visited the children unit at the hospital where we gave pens, pencil, pencil erasers, and treats. There were over fifty children in an overcrowded unit with two kids in one single bed.  This was devastating for me, but the children’s smile and their “thank you” brightened the moment. I was so amazed at the love that I experienced and the appreciation that was shown to us (ABSW students Kwee Say, Peter Ngong’s wife and myself).

    You should have been there.  Please plan for the next trip, next year; I will see you there.

    Beverly Thompson
    ABSW Graduate 2017
    Master of Divinity Program

  • Rwanda Blog 2: Kwee Say, M.Div. Student

    August 9, 2017 ~ Meagan Wood

    Forgiveness in Rwanda Like No Other

    Through this amazing mission trip and beautiful people of Rwanda, God reminded me what it means to forgive like no other and the importance of forgiveness with intention and a willing heart. On a beautiful day, July 6th, our mission team walked into the Kigali Genocide Memorial building, a place for remembrance and learning. The Rwanda Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the genocide against the Tutsi and honors the memory of more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994 in Rwanda.

    A receptionist warmly greeted us at the front desk. Before we entered into the exhibitions, we had to watch a short video clip in the front room. We could hear the stories of genocide survivors in the short video clip. The voices of survivors touched me like no other. I had to control my tears while watching the testimonies of the survivors. I kept asking myself how could a human being do such horrible killings; and to other human beings? What struck me most about the testimonies of the survivors and the victims of the genocide was their conversation about forgiveness. Their family members and loved ones were killed in such horrible ways; I did not even have the courage to picture it in my mind.

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    An Exhibit from the Rwandan Genocide Memorial

    Most of the survivors in the video clips suffered from physical torture and were emotionally traumatized by the 1994 genocide. However, they now speak about forgiveness, peace, unity and reconciliation with the people who committed the horrific acts in 1994.

    After watching the video clip, we walked to the exhibitions. There were three different exhibitions in the memorial center. Exhibition 1 documents the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The first part of exhibition 1 gives an outline of Rwandan society before colonization; the second part of exhibition 1 gives the horror of the Genocide against the Tutsi as well as the stories of survival. The last part of exhibition 1 details the post-genocide reconstruction and reconciliation. The second exhibition documents the massacres of Namibia, Cambodia and the Balkans as well as the Holocaust.

    The third exhibition is the Children’s room, which is dedicated to the memory of children killed in the Genocide against the Tutsi. This exhibition shows how a generation’s dreams were stolen by the horrible genocide and honors tens of thousands of children and infants, who were slaughtered by aggressors. I vividly remember a picture and a very short biography of a 2 year old little girl, Uwase Fillette. Fillette’s favorite toy was a doll, her favorite food was rice and chips, her best friend was her dad, and she was remembered as a good girl. I broke down when I read the cause of her death – she was smashed against a wall. There were no words for me to describe how I was feeling at that moment. I stood in front of Fillette’s picture for a while and thought to myself “How could someone take the life of an innocent little girl in such a brutal and unimaginable way; and is it really possible to forgive Fillette’s killer or killers?” I did not have the answers to my own questions at that moment.

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    Children’s Exhibit Genocide Memorial

    I dragged myself away from Children’s room and went in to the next room. There I saw many powerful statements from Genocide survivors regarding forgiveness. One of the statements said, “I was ten when the genocide began. The day we heard that my father had been killed we all started crying. My mother told us to pray. I asked God to help me to take revenge. My mother told me to remove the part about revenge from my prayer. She said, ‘Even if I die, do not take revenge. It is not good.’” In the midst of the persecution and suffering, this mother reminded her son not to take revenge.

    I sat there for a while and remembered the story of a Rwandan woman who forgave her family’s killer. A friend of ours from Rwanda told us the story of this Rwandan woman on the night of our arrival in Rwanda. This particular man killed about 50 family members of hers. She went to the man who killed her family members and said she forgave him. What she said next was remarkable. She said to this man that since he killed all her sons she could no longer have her own children that she wanted the killer of her family members to be her son. To my surprise, this man became her son and his children have become her grandchildren; to this day. I was truly amazed by this Rwandan woman’s a willing heart and courage to forgive a person who wiped out her entire family.

    What I found most amazing was that those affected by this horrible tragedy were able to forgive and move on. I have no doubt that faith plays a big role and indeed matters after the genocide. I felt that the Genocide survivors’ messages were not only filled with sad and unimaginable stories but also peace and unity for the betterment of their country and humanity overall.

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    The experience of visiting the memorial center is unforgettable. I was humbled by the testimonies of the Genocide victims and survivors and reflective on my own faith journey. I believe the key to forgiving our enemies or the persons who persecute us lies in loving God. The Rwandans’ forgiving attitude reminded me of how I should be living in my own faith journey. I believe it is really important to develop and cultivate the capacity to forgive. It is definitely something that Jesus wants us to do; our Savior proved it by his own example on the cross. Jesus Christ, the innocent Son of God prayed for his persecutors in painful agony, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus showed his love in action. I believe it is important to see the cross as the magnificent symbol of forgiveness.

    Kwee Say
    ABSW Student
    Master of Divinity Program