A lesson I’ve learned and been reminded of many times in Rwanda is: Don’t take the simple things for granted. And I got some new reminders of this recently.
Last weekend I taught a final session to 24 pastors in Gisenyi, Rwanda. During that session I showed them a copy of the recently published NIV Study Bible in Kinyarwanda. I spent the morning teaching and demonstrating how to use the study notes, cross-reference system, concordance, indexes, charts, maps, etc.
They. Were. Fascinated.
Most of these pastors had never seen these Bibles before and didn’t even know that such a Bible existed. As we explored the contents together they made many observations, took many notes and asked many questions. (My favorite: “Why are these words written in red?”) We could have continued for many hours, but our time was limited. At the end of the day, it was clear to me that I had taken for granted the access to information and the availability of tools in helping me understand the Word of God. (To everyone who gave toward the purchase of these Bibles, THANK YOU!!! Pray that God will bless, encourage, and challenge these pastors as they seek His truth in His Word.)
On Sunday was the graduation for these students. It was a simple ceremony, tacked on to the end of the Sunday morning worship service. I arrived to find the pastors wearing suits. Most of their suits looked new or at least new to them, which I knew was a big deal because most of these men would only bring/wear one set of clothes when they would come for a week-long pastoral training session. And they were surprised and very happy to see me dressed in a suit when I arrived (I always teach wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt). It was great to see them dressed up that day, but it was also a clear reminder to me of how I take for granted the clothes I have for different occasions and the ability I have to purchase them any time I need them.
As we prepared to call up each pastor to receive their certificate and new Bible, I took a moment and scanned over the faces of these 24 men. I realized that since I had arrived earlier that morning, these men had not stopped smiling, laughing, handshaking, hugging or singing. They were overjoyed in a way that I had not experienced with them in the two years I have spent in the classroom with them. And what I realized was that for the majority of these men, this was the first time they had completed any academic program above primary school. It was the first time they had been recognized publicly in this way. It was the first time they had graduated. As I watched them wait for their name to be called that day, it was clear to me that I had taken for granted the education available to me (and often complained about as a kid), and the opportunities I have had to continue my education as an adult.
Last weekend was one of the best I’ve spent in Rwanda. It was filled with smiles, laughter, encouragement and challenges. And like so many of our experiences here, it has left me thinking. Reconsidering the way in which I see and value both the simple and complex things in this life.