This is the second installment of a two-part series. You can read Part 1 here: PART ONE
On Sunday morning, I again arrived as early as possible at the venue, not wanting to miss one moment of the excitement. As our band, Driftwood Cross, ran through our song list, I watched my friends and family trickle in. I noticed that Mama gave me a special smile and wave when she came in, and I glowed.
When you spend any amount of time with Jo and Jo (and now Mama too) you’ll quickly discover that they are amazing singers and worshippers. Their voices blend and weave together with such exquisite harmony that you’ll feel like you’ve been lifted into Heaven by angels. So when the girls requested that we add “How Great Thou Art” to our morning song line-up and offered to sing it in Kinyarwanda, we quickly agreed.
Isaiah 56:7 says, “My House will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” As the band sang in English and Jocelyne, Josephine, and Mama Jo accompanied us in Kinyarwanda, it felt like a small piece of Heaven had come down to earth. I believe we were given a glimpse of the day when every nation, tribe, and tongue will gather together in praise to our Father.
After our time of worship, Mama Jo began to speak. Josephine stood close by and acted as translator as Mama expounded on the Scriptures and told stories from her life. One thing that Mama said really stood out to me. “We are like a glass that the Lord fills with water. But in order for the Lord to keep filling us, we need to pour some out. Otherwise we will just sit, full of blessings but never giving any away and never receiving anything new. When we pour out of our time, resources, money, or whatever He has blessed us with; then He will continue to fill us.”
As Mama talked, I delighted in listening and watching her. Wearing a flowing, traditional African dress and shawl, she stood as erect as a queen. Listening to her low, slightly husky voice, I smiled whenever she said a word that I knew. Imana (God), imbabazi (mercy), amazi (water) and even amafaranga (money)! I marveled that this saint of God had come all the way across the ocean to teach us. It was kind of like having Mother Teresa in our midst.
Even after Mama finished her message, her words kept playing over and over again in my mind. They were so simple, yet profound. In order to receive, we must give… But then again, serving God is like that. The first shall be last, and the last, first. In order to find your life, you must lose it. We cannot be made whole until we become broken. It’s the opposite of the world’s system… which is why it works. Man could never invent something that sounds so illogical… giving to get. Dying to live. Losing to find. It sounds crazy, but it’s so simple. And it’s so beautiful.
That’s one of the reasons why I can hardly wait for my trip to Rwanda… I can’t wait to be broken. So I can finally become whole.
That evening, after the hustle and bustle of the day, a small group of us gathered at the home of friends Sherry and David, to enjoy a time of fellowship with Jocelyne, Josephine, and Mama Jo. I love to sit and listen to a group of friends talking together… you learn so much by just observing the way people interact with each other.
During the course of the night, as friends continued to arrive, we started to run out of space for chairs. David solved that problem by taking a seat on the floor next to Mama. It reminded me of one of the wishes I’d made my blog post Hurry Up and Wait; to sit at the feet of some of these precious Rwandan women and learn from them. At first I wrestled with the notion; it’s one thing to think something but quite another to do it, especially in front of a roomful of people. But it didn’t take me long to decide, “If David gets up and moves, I’m sitting next to Mama.”
My chance came soon enough when David excused himself from the room for a minute. At the moment I didn’t care how foolish I looked; I quickly got down on the floor and scooted next to Mama’s knee. When David returned, he gave me a surprised look; I just grinned and said, “You find your own place, I’m sitting with Mama.” A round of laughter greeted that remark.
Mama squeezed my shoulders gently and then began playing with my hair. As the night wore on there were stories told, laughter shared, and even a few tears cried; but not for the world would I leave my spot on the floor. Even though I began to get stiff after a while, I scarcely dared move as Mama moved her fingers in small circles across my shoulders and gently slid her hands in and out of my hair.
At one point Josephine, who was sitting next to us, leaned over and told me, “She loves your hair. You know that, right?” She also remarked that Mama had never seen a muzungu (white person) with red hair like mine.
Finally, quite a while into the evening, after most of the stories had been shared, I gathered up my nerve and leaned over to Jocelyne, who was sitting on the other side of Mama. “Can I say something?” I asked.
Immediately Jocelyne called out, “Everybody listen, Hannah has something to share!”
I was flustered at the sudden attention, but explained, “You all know that when I first moved to Newfoundland over three years ago…has it really been that long?! Anyway, I’d hardly heard of Rwanda before… it was just a country to me. Then I moved here and Sherry and Dave were always talking about Rwanda, and then I began to get involved with it all, and then it became my passion. But I have to say…” Here I choked up, but struggled to keep going as Jocelyne translated, “…that one of my dreams was always, from the beginning, to meet Mama Jo and sit at her feet like I’m doing now. Because she is such a godly woman, and to me she is a saint… so one of my dreams is coming true, here and now.”
By this time my tears were streaming, and Mama leaned over and wrapped her arms around me and held me as I cried into the crook of her arm. She began to murmur in Kinyarwanda, and Jocelyne translated for me; “She says you are one of her daughters too now. She can’t wait for you to come to Rwanda and visit her, and she says her house will always be open to you. You may have to sleep on the floor, but she wants you to come.”
It was such a precious and holy moment. It was like this had been ordained from the beginning; that on this night, I would be “grafted in” to a precious family in my heart country of Rwanda.
As Mama continued to stroke my hair, she began to speak to all of us. Josephine jumped in to translate. “She says that her passport is now good for the next four years, and she says if God wills, she will be back again. She says that all of you are her family, and that Open Door is now her church. She also says that the next time she visits, she won’t visit her daughters in Ontario but will fly straight to Newfoundland…” A roar of laughter greeted that remark.
So, as we hugged goodbye at the end of the evening, there was no sadness even though our Rwandan family would be flying back to Ontario the next morning. There were only joyful exclamations of “See you in Rwanda in ten months!” Usually “goodbye” means the end… but in this case, “goodbye” is really only the beginning of a whole new adventure, and a big step along the Path that was laid out for me by the Carpenter from Galilee.