The next day, we go back to the church to check on the progress. An older gentleman comes over, talking to me in Kinyarwanda, smiling, and pumping my hand up and down. Arthur translates. Pastor Innocent KABAGEMA is the head pastor at the Eglise Vivante, the Living Church. He is a character -jovial, friendly, and deeply grateful for the new water supply. I ask about the current water source and video tape as he gestures far down the valley and shares how much the rainwater tank will help the church.
He invites me to his house, just up the hill from the church, to meet his wife, Jacline.
Their living room has cushioned chairs and a small dining table with one chair. We sit and talk.Pastor Innocent is 61 years old. His parents fled to Bujumbura, Burundi in 1959 to escape an earlierRwandan genocide. His mother gave birth to a baby on the long walk. Innocent was 2 years old and walked the rest of the way, giving the new baby his place on the mother’s back. In Burundi the family stole food to survive. He grew up robbing houses. Then he had a born again conversion experience (jail may have been part of the process…) and began making an honest living teaching school. God changed him and he wanted to change others. He preached life change to the students and everyone else he met. Church leaders noticed his passion and asked him to minister to the many elderly Rwandan refugees in town. He impressed them again with his passion and hard work so they paid for him to go to seminary. He “married the prettiest girl in town, Jacline.” They returned to Rwanda in 1994, right after the Genocide, to pastor this Egilse Vivante church and to help Rwandans heal from the wounds of the war.
They have six children, two girls and four boys. When I ask where the family sleeps, Jacline takes me into a back room of the house. She pulls a piece of old cloth nailed over the window to one side and in the bright sunlight I see a dirty foam mattress on the floor. The two daughters share this bed. One daughter is sick and has stayed home from school. The girl sits up groggily and rubs her eyes as if she might be dreaming that a foreigner, mzungu, has appeared in her room. Pieces of worn cloth cover doorframes to two other rooms, probably one for the parents and one for the boys.
Jacline takes me out back to show me where she cooks. It is a small outdoor alcove next to a door marked WC. She stirs a pot of eggplant cooking on a charcoal burner. She lifts the top of a pot sitting on the ground to show me the rice. A basket holds tomatoes.
The family needs eight jerrycans of water for daily use, more when it is time to wash clothes. When they can fetch water at the church tank, it will make the family’s life much easier. The children are in charge of getting water before and after their 3km walk to school.
As I say my goodbyes, Pastor Innocent invites me to visit again. “Next time, please come for dinner.” We hold hands and take turns praying for each other. Despite all their hardships, they are grateful, happy, and generous people. I would have never met or appreciated them before. Now, I admire their faith and courage.
Spending time with Rwandans like Pastor Innocent and Jacline has helped me become a nicer person and a better Christian. Thank you for blessing me with the opportunity to be here and share the gift of clean water. Your support is improving life for many people, including me.