They have been waiting for us. We sit in the shade, sipping sodas, getting to know each other. Going around the table, giving each person time to share about family, work, and water as we do at every meeting, taking time to build relationships.
It has taken a long time for us to return to Huye, three hours south of Kigali. The place that we traveled to in Rwanda on our first mission trip the summer of 2007. We only intended to come one time. But, the Rwandans we met on that trip evoked a desire to be better, to seek more than our personal comfort, to do more with the life we were living.
Now, PEACEwater has completed over 300 projects in the Western, Eastern, and Northern Districts. Working our way around the country as directed by the P.E.A.C.E. Plan until we come full circle, back to the Southern District.
“Your works precede you.” Pastor Zebron, the ICC President from the Nazarene Church says, “We have heard much from others about you. We have a big, big need for water in this area. We have been waiting for you, waiting on God’s timing.”
“Every church in this District needs water,” Bishop Bosco from the Restoration Church adds. “Water is too expensive for churches to buy. Your program means so much. It will build God’s Kingdom.”
Pastor Lambert from the Anglican Church says, “This work is God inspired.”
Larry and I share our story. PEACEwater started from a small meeting in our home and was clearly inspired and led by God. “Our partnership with pastors like you is a big part of PEACEwater’s success. It has been a blessing for us to work with Inter Church Councils (ICCs) all over Rwanda.”
We clarify roles. “You, the ICC, select the churches where PEACEwater installs the rain water harvesting systems and explain to the churches that they are required to build the foundation for the tanks and host W.A.S.H. training. PEACEwater will install gutters, provide the tanks, build a ladder for each church to keep the gutters clean, put Tippy Taps up outside the latrine for hand washing, and provide water filters for each church and each pastor’s home.”
Bishop Bosco asks, “Can we select churches in the rural area first, before churches in the city? The need for water is so great in the countryside.”
“Yes, we will build the rainwater systems at whichever churches you tell us,” we say. “It is completely up to you, the ICC, to select the churches. Our only request is that you select a minimum of three in the same sector. If you select one here and another far away, then it drives up transportation costs.”
Pastor Zebron asks, “Can the Catholics and Adventists be part of this program? They have heard about it from churches in other Districts and asked us if their churches here can be part of this program.”
“The P.E.A.C.E. Plan is about breaking down barriers between denominations,” we say. “The Plan encourages churches to work together to tackle community problems. In other Districts, the ICC has selected Catholic and Adventist churches and used the water to build bridges of cooperation. But, it is up to you. You decide.”
Larry and I are on task, going over details about the next steps. We mention that two tanks will have special names on them. “My Aunt Mary and her family donated the funds in honor of her 8oth birthday. Her grandchildren named the projects…”
The pastors interrupt, bursting into spontaneous applause. They shake their heads in disbelief, smiling at each other, amazed that someone would be so generous and kind.
We clarify that we rely on the goodwill of donors. “We do not receive any funds from Saddleback’s budget. People hear about the need for water in Rwanda and want to help. God has been faithful and the funds have always come in, most from Saddleback Church members and some from other donors. Please pray that we will receive enough money for all the churches that need water.”
They nod with certainty. They will be praying.
We stand and hold hands for today’s closing prayers in English and Kinyarwanda. After the amens, I teach them the Holy Spirit “wave,” raising our clasped hands, two by two, racing around the circle twice to recognize that God has been among us as we met. The wave never fails to evoke laughter. We are now friends working together to improve life for God’s people in Rwanda.