Arts Team - Final Day with Shalom Choir
This morning we arrived early at Hermon Church. Dan had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Erast and Gideon, the president of the choir. The purpose here was to get a start on developing the pastor and worship leader relationship. Dan can speak more to this neat conversation (which lasted almost two hours). Meanwhile, the rest of
the team visited with anyone around the church. Matt played the world’s longest game of volleyball-with-a-golf-ball with a herd of smiling children.
During our time with the choir, we worked together (drums, guitars, vocals) on How Great is our God (in Kinyarwanda and English) and For One. They worked so hard on learning the lyrics and tempo. It was
very difficult for us to say goodbye, tears were present as we dealt with parting with these brothers and sisters who have taught us much.
It’s hard to put into words the emotion behind this morning. Please, please, talk to us in person when we come home. We have so much to share! We can’t wait to tell you more about how we have seen God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love on this trip!
Tonight, the church met as One. Worship leaders gathered from across Kigali to connect, learn, and meet their counterparts. From the largest church in Rwanda (Zion Temple- 10,000 Sunday attendees across multiple services), to the tiny Hermon Church (30) that we had the privilege to worship with yesterday; from Anglican to Pentecostal to
non-denominational—tonight, differences lost their meaning as we focused together on building a unified Church.
The PEACE office had offered to host the event, and Moses and JP were there to take part in the conversation.
We spoke about the importance of the pastor-to-worship leader relationship, and the way that that relationship is the foundation of an effective and Jesus-centered worship team. We listened as leaders whom we had never met shared their experiences in ministry, their struggles, their challenges, the things they wish they could do
better. It’s a strange experience to sit across a table from a worship leader from a church halfway around the world and listen as they describe the same challenges that you’ve faced back home. We couldn’t help but chuckle as example after example was provided proving the symmetry of our experiences and how little our physical surroundings and situations mattered.
As the conversation continued, the leaders started to interact with each other, and one after another described how much this gathering had meant to them, and how important they thought it was that they continue to do so in the future. There was a definite spirit of cooperation and general bon homie as contact info was exchanged.
We closed with a time of worship and prayer, as Dan, Matt, myself and the worship leader of Zion Temple “led” the group in a few songs. It was awesome to be able to lift our voices with these strong-hearted leaders, and we certainly drew as much encouragement and inspiration from the evening as they did, if not more.
It’s been said over and over on this blog, but it can’t be overstated. The way in which God has moved on this trip continues to blow us away. Two months ago, when we were dreaming what this trip might look like, the idea of hosting a gathering of worship leaders that included the largest church in the country and a tiny church that meets high up on a hill somewhere in this vast city would have been truly inconceivable. Yet, with only a few short days of warning, 10 worship leaders gathered, and it was awesome.
The timing of this trip could not have been more perfect. The Shalom Choir would never have expected this, but the history of our church over the past year would become extremely relevant in our morning discussions. We met with the choir committee – a subset of leaders in choir. Long story short, for 2.5 hours we discussed a vision of Oneness, including the Mark 12 text, the FOR ONE song, and praying for someone to share God’s love with. We then spoke about the unity and friendship of the Sr Pastor and the Worship Pastor, the role of the Worship Pastor to the team, the more. Our morning concluded with Colleen and Lisa discussing how to craft an order of service, and how to include purposeful, creative moments within a service. They even demonstrated the underscoring music of a prayer and a simple Cardboard testimony (where individuals turn over pieces of paper that have a single word on it that describes God’s work in their life, as it relates to the message. Ex: Forgiven, Changed, Free, etc…)
You may wonder if the way we plan and program a service in our culture works in the culture of Rwandan church. The answer is, Yes. They loved it because they have been craving unity, clarity, a more effective service, and how to lead people in a response to the Sunday theme.
To date, the choir uses only a keyboard for music. All instruments were basically created from sounds from the keyboard. We talked about the importance of creating the need for more people joining the choir to use their gifts. So, we taught them more on the drum and gave them a gift of an acoustic guitar and cables for outputting through their speakers. We prayed for their ability to learn how to play and for someone to come along side them to help them learn. We also prayed for the new people that God would bring to the choir to play the instrument. They we very excited. In fact, a nearby friend came to visit shortly after we dedicated the instrument to them. He agreed to teach them how to play the guitar. Are you surprised that God did this??? P.S.: The guy’s name is Fabulous. How cool is that?
Our afternoon was spent with the whole choir learning music and instruments. So far we have learned 3 songs with more to come, tomorrow.
Just to remind you, we started the day without a clue of what it would bring. Just goes to show that when you trust God and are simply ready for Him to work, great things happen. Can’t wait for tomorrow.
Muraho, friends and family of MCC. As we finished up our Lord’s day this evening, our minds were on you as you gathered for worship today. We’re hopeful that you met God in a special way today, as we did here in Rwanda. We apologize for not blogging yesterday. I will try to fill you in on what we have been doing the last two days, and then close with a strong take-away I have from this trip.
Yesterday ended up being a well-needed restful evening for the team. We had a chance to meet with the Shalom Choir again and work specifically on skills early in the day. Picture a small room with drum lessons going on in one corner and guitar and vocal lessons going on in another. It was quite the sight. We eventually moved the drums into the next room to make things a little saner. I had the joy of bopping between rooms with the video camera attempting to capture these priceless moments, and of course entertaining the children outside by showing them live video of themselves. It was an utter joy to see worshippers connect together and learning new things.
Today, we worshipped God with the people of the Hermon Church. This is the church that the Shalom Choir attends and also a church we met for the first time in August of 2008. The service was a mixture of singing, praying, welcoming, dancing, and teaching. During one of the meetings with the choir leaders this week, we discussed this idea of planning songs around the pastor’s message. This is a challenge for them as they don’t usually know what the pastor will speak about. However, for today, they asked OUR TEAM to bring the message this week- so we were able to plan the message to accompany the songs we had been working on with the choir. Nathan taught the first part of the message (Sundberg fam, you would have been soooo proud—don’t worry I got it on video) and Dan taught the second half. Dan’s conclusion led directly into the song we had taught this week in English and Kinyarwanda. So, as Dan wrapped up, the choir joined him to sing the simple lyrics “To worship you I live” or “Ndiho kukramya.” I don’t have words to express the beauty of that moment.
Later in the day, we had the blessing to be apart of a brick laying foundation for the Hermon Church, as they currently own land but do not have a building on it. Pastor Theophile wanted us to be present for this very special occasion. It was quite an honor very each of us to lay a brick in the cement alongside some courageous Rwandan pastors and church leaders.
In the evening, we were invited to attend a very large worship gathering as the biggest church in Kigali, Zion Temple. I’d estimate that there were about 10,000 Africans there from Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. It was the closing ceremonies for their conference. After the singing and worshipping, we were amazed to watch a group from Burundi that I can only describe as drum-dance-musician-gymnasts. It was incredible. (Johnny, we were sure that if you were there you would have either simply fell down from shock or sold all of your belongings and moved to Burundi).
Today, I stood five feet away from mass graves filled with the remains of two hundred and fifty thousand people. I stood camera in hand, shooting pictures of freshly blooming flowers, feeling the incongruity deepen with each shot. Around me, somber tourists and Rwandans moved slowly along the cobblestoned paths, each lost in their own thoughts. Behind us, the Genocide Memorial Museum sat nested into the hillside, commanding a view over the deep, tree-filled valley that stretched to either side. Earth-toned structures crowd the hillsides all around, some so close to one another that one seems to be just an addition to the other. The sounds of the city, of honking ipikipikis, of the taxi vans and of the deeply conversational people, fade here- replaced by audible tranquility.
Seventeen years and four months ago, that same valley and those hillsides resounded with the screams and pleas of the Tutsis as unchecked and unchallenged genocide cascaded over the country with the force of an impassable typhoon. Instead of children eagerly calling “mizungu! mizungu!” as white people pass them in vans, they watched as their families were torn apart, one by one, until it was their time.
It is easy to get lost in the depth of the pain of that time. Many have tried to capture the emotion, tried to convey to us who live far away and in a different time what it was like to know that your best friend might suddenly appear in your doorway with a machete. Many have tried. I don’t claim to be able to understand, or even to sympathize with those whose lives are irrevocably scarred by the genocide. Enough words have been said in well-intentioned efforts to explain and expound and examine the causes and symptoms of the brutality; I do not intend to add to them.
Inside the main memorial halls, videos from survivors play in a constant loop. Their voices break as they recall for our instruction and benefit the hell (even that is an insufficient word) that they survived. Their stories were different, marked by actions that I cannot comprehend, nor can I even attempt to. But they all ended the same way.
“I cannot forgive anyone. I am only human. It is for God to forgive them- I can only tell them.” Those words from one of the survivors echoed in my mind, and for those of you who have been to the memorial, I’m sure they echo in your minds as well. Books and movies have been created on the incredible recovery that Rwanda has made in the wake of April 1994, a recovery marked indelibly by the conviction of the victims to forgive their enemies, if only they were given the chance.
God’s hand has been all over this trip. Time after time, we are unsure of what to do next, what we are supposed to be doing or saying, then someone will arrive or say something that shows us so clearly what our purpose is that we often just laugh. We’ve seen Him work in exposing the path to identify the deeper needs of the Rwandan worship and arts community, and in missing our flights and losing our luggage. But few things can illustrate the love that He bears for us as simply and effectively as the reconciliation of the Tutsis and their Hutu murderers.
Imagine that your family were slaughtered in front of your eyes. Imagine the laughter of the perpetrators. Now imagine forgiving them. Now imagine that you are the doer, the person responsible. Now imagine your victim saying “Not only do I forgive you, but I mete out the punishment you deserve on my son, instead of you.”
That’s the God I’ve read about my whole life.
That’s the God I’ve come face to face with on the other side of the world.
Imana ni zeza cyane! This is the phrase that one of our team members has used to describe our adventure today. It means, “God is very good”. It is so simple and familiar as we’ve all used it to describe the work of God in our lives. It got me thinking - We often try to get creative in how we spin the phrase to explain the unique nature of our circumstances, and though being in Rwanda is indeed unique, God is universal and His work is so very good no matter where we are. It continues to be all about Him. Let me explain what God did today:
We started the morning in team devotion and then looked at some pictures and videos we took from the day before. Having heard everyone’s testimony the day before, I realized that relationships were really forming and that we were getting to know each other, personally. Claude was now a friend – one that loves to worship God just like I do. Yvonne is one who desires to represent Christ in the community. Gideon is the teacher that travels 2hrs to lead the choir and loves sharing scripture. That joy stirred in us a desire to start doing so much with them and for them, but none of us had clarity on where it should start and where it should end. We committed ourselves and the day to God. We prayed for everyone and every conversation we would have, today. We prayed that He would show up in a mighty way. We approached the day in faith that God’s purpose would be our guide.
We headed to the PEACE house where the ministry in Rwanda is headquartered. We met with several leaders there and learned more about the thousands of leaders that have been raised up in the country to lead local churches into being the hope of their communities. Worship leadership development is not an active initiative in the PEACE Plan throughout the world, let alone in Rwanda. Ears perked up as the MCC team shared about the partnership we are developing with the Shalom Choir. It became obvious that everyone was starting to sense a much bigger picture.
Moses was one of the leaders at the table. In fact, he was also at our lunch table the day before when we ran into each other, unexpectedly, at the restaurant. But something that was said that lunch table about our purpose with the Shalom choir got his ‘wheels’ spinning…
During our meeting, we started talking about worship in Rwanda, in general. We heard from the PEACE team that many churches throughout the provinces of Rwanda were in need of similar development. Though our work this week is focused on building partnership with the Shalom Choir, we all agreed that it would be very beneficial to bring some other worship leaders together for an evening of fellowship. So check this out: On Tues night, the PEACE team, the MCC team, and approximately 8 worship leaders throughout greater Kigali (including 2 from Shalom Choir) will join together for a night of food, worship, dance, and networking. It is important to understand this type of gathering does not happen in Rwanda. We are praying that by bringing these worship leaders together an ecosystem of worshippers will be conceived – where leaders are open to learning and helping each other become beacons in their communities.
That afternoon, we returned to the Shalom Choir, where we spent time listening to the team describe their history, their vision, and their needs. We prayed, they sang, and then our teams engaged in discussions about Sunday morning worship, team leadership, structure, etc. We shared many of our experiences at MCC, and many of them were inspirational to the team, but my favorite moment was sharing with them the way that Bo and I work together. How we pray together, read the Word together, talk through a message together, start to plan songs and creative moments together, and so on. This was quite revolutionary to them and they loved envisioning the unity between pastor and worship pastor.
Dinner at the restaurant, Heaven, was amazing. The food was awesome and so was meeting with Pastor Theophile. He echoed the importance of the pastor/worship pastor relationship and his work to promote that unity with the pastors in his churches. He was excited to hear about progress with the choir and the work we planned to do together tomorrow. But you’ll hear more about that tomorrowJ For now we end our day saying “Imana ni zeza cyane.”
Wow~ Today was amazing day…Started off with an awesome breakfast on the deck at then Iris Restaurant with Lisa, Dan, Nate and Colleen. Perfect day…perfect weather. And they have good breakfast there too which was cool. The bagels from Rachel Carter’s “African Bagel Co.” definitely enhanced the event also!
After that we spent the morning in amazing worship with the Shalom Choir. Singing with them was absolutely incredible. Their voices sounded amazing! I stood there in awe at how majestic they sounded. We later joined in and sang some songs with them both in English and Kinyarwanda….wow…so great. Had lunch at Karibu which was full of traditional Rwandan fare…fantastic. Love that food! Spent the afternoon with the team and the Shalom Choir getting to really know each other. We each spent around 5 minutes or so giving our story, our testimony, our life experiences. It was a time where we truly bonded and really felt like we knew these people so much more after hearing these stories. Looking forward to dinner here at the Iris right now, then another great day meeting the crew at the P.E.A.C.E. office and going to the genocide memorial. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers!!
p.s. Our luggage came in tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!-Matt