Culture Corner!
You know that awkward moment when you go to hug someone and they actually want to
shake your hand? This was our life in Rwanda! They shake hands but they also greet
others by grasping the upper arms of each other and slightly leaning in. Coming from a
world of full hugging, we were never able execute this well. However, one thing that
Rwandans do that we love is that they use both hands to give and receive things, wave,
etc… The thought behind this is that they are going in with all of themselves, not just
partially. I am greeting you, giving to you, receiving from you, etc, with my whole self.

Love it.

Bekah: “They are ministers of the church through serving the community and land.”
Matthew VonHerbulis’ eyes shown with a passion as he spoke of giving dignity back to
Rwandan farmers. The manual task has been looked down upon; viewed as living in the
past while the technology of the country shoots off into the future. Christian farmers ask
how they can serve God if they do not have the training to be a pastor. Matthew and Karli’s
heart is to use agricultural training to restore the dignity back to these farmers. To remind
them of the important role God has called them to. They don’t teach farming techniques.
They don’t tell farmers what plants they should or should not grow. Instead, they teach the 
importance of a healthy relationship between God, people, and land. They train farmers to study their own land and find what plants grow best. They train the farmers how to share the Gospel through farming and the importance of sharing this information. We got to see an example of this when interviewing one of the farmers from the Gasura Parish, Odette. After completing training with Sowers of Hope, Odette was recognized by the leaders in
their community as an “agricultural promoter.” The community leaders point to Odette for others to ask questions about their gardens. This recognition of leadership has strengthened Odette, and gives her a sense of fulfillment, as she is able to contribute to those around her to have a better life. As she is able to help others in her community by spreading knowledge about farming, Odette is also able to share the Gospel in a unique way.

Sarah: In the rolling hills of the vastly green fields of Rwanda, grows a tree. At first glance,
you might be tempted to think it is just a normal, photosynthesis undergoing tree;
however, if you bother to look just under the surface, you would see this tree is no
ordinary plant. This tree is said to provide many of the nutrients that a human needs. Its
leaves provide seven times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the calcium of milk, four
times the vitamin A of carrots, three times potassium of bananas, three times the iron of
spinach, and two times the protein of milk. Plus, one seed from the tree can purify one
liter of water.

The tree is unsurprisingly called the miracle tree. As I was learning about this tree from Matthew, our host missionary, I couldn’t help
but be amazed by God’s love. Not only are the trees absolutely beautiful, but
God has also provided leaves that can provide so much nutrition and so much healing in a
community that desperately needs it. This tree is the answer to the immense malnutrition
that is so evident in many parts of Africa. As I slept in Matthew and Karli’s house in Kigali,
this magical tree grew right outside my window. All I had to do was reach out and grab it.
But I didn’t, as so often I don’t take God’s gifts because of pride or because I am just too
afraid to ask. But this tree, this magic Moringa tree, this miracle tree has reminded me of God’s powerfulness and God’s vast love for his children. So, maybe the next time I see a
miracle tree I won’t be so afraid to take a bite out of its leaf. And once again, I will be
reminded of God’s ability to provide for me, and also God’s reckless, relentless, eternal love
for me.

Abigail: Of all the countries we are visiting this summer, I was most curious about Rwanda.
Last summer, I was in Berlin with the Journalism team, seeing firsthand how a culture
grieves and moves forward some seventy years after a horrific genocide. But in Rwanda,
the genocide was just a short 24 years ago, when I was still a schoolgirl playing happily in
my safe, small town in Indiana. Hundreds of thousands, quite possibly over a million
people were gruesomely murdered, many by their neighbors and friends, for being from
the “wrong” people group. I didn’t have to wonder about how it has impacted the culture
long, as we went to the genocide memorial on our first day. We grieved and learned how
Rwanda is working to accept the horror of the past and move forward into a world where
something like this will never happen again. It was hard for me to not think about it during
the week, knowing that most people we passed on the street lived through it. That the
streets we travelled were once, for a few short months in 1994, the place where so many
lives were lost. But we met survivors. Survivors with stories we were not privy to in the
short time we were with them – that level of trust takes time – time that Matthew and Karli
have invested, to learn and care and walk alongside. But what I did see was those who had
survived, now serving God in their country, working hard to make a better future for so
many that they impact, a future with hope. And hope is always the glimmer of light after
pain.

Love,

Team Journalism

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