A few weeks ago I returned from a short-term mission trip to Rwanda. As I prepared to leave, I studied the heritage, culture, and history of Rwanda. In order to understand their story, I had get to know the land and the people I was called to serve.
Context helped me understand their history, their current circumstances and their potential as a nation.
Rwanda’s Landscape and Climate:
Rwanda is a small land locked country in the heart of Africa bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A few degrees south of the equator, Rwanda experiences a moderate climate ranging from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit most of the year.
Rwanda has four seasons- 2 rainy, 2 dry.
Known as The Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda’s lowest point sits a little over 3,000 feet above sea level. Although it is a debated fact, the Nyaborongo River, Rwanda’s longest river which drains in Lake Victoria, is considered by some to be the source of the Nile River.
Predominately a subsistent agrarian society, coffee and tea are Rwanda’s largest cash crops.
Unlike most of Africa, Rwanda has few natural resources. However, cassiterate and wolframite are growing in demand as they are used in the development of electronic and mobile devices Rwanda is leveraging this by mining them and selling these resources to the world .
Due to this, Rwanda’s government has invested heavily in setting up Rwanda’s future as a information-telecommunication-technology hub. Recently, Rwanda’s Information Technology Authority had fiber optic cable pulled from India across the entire country. Rwanda is quickly becoming known as the Singapore of Africa.
Rwanda has a republican form of government, run by a President and Parliament. Unlike the United States which values free speech, Rwanda allows only what is considered civil speech. Several human rights watch groups claim this inhibits basic human rights and liberties. Rwanda, on the other hand, believes this level of control keeps travesties such as the genocide from taking place.
Rwanda is considered to be one of the least corrupt countries in Africa and values transparency in governing.
Another interesting fact about Rwanda is her high standards of cleanliness and care for the environment. No littering laws which are obeyed as well as making plastic bags illegal make Rwanda incredibly clean.
Rwanda’s Population and Language:
Rwanda’s population is young. Her 12 million citizens are densely populated across a country about half the size of Maryland.
As a result of the genocide, Rwandans do not differentiations between ethnicities. Rwandans are simply Rwandan.
Likewise, all Rwandans speak one language: Kinyarwandan. English is taught as a secondary language for business.
Rwanda’s Culture and Biodiversity:
Culturally, Rwandan’s value art. The most popular styles of music are hip hop and reggae. While basketball and cricket are popular, football (soccer) is by far the most popular sport.
Staple foods include potatoes, beans, plantains or bananas, and maize. Most Rwandans do not eat meat more than a few times a month. Fish, beef, and goat are popular.
Rwanda is home to a diverse animal population, most of which live in the vast national parks. Rwanda is most popular though for being home to her famous mountain gorillas.
Rwanda’s Education and Health System:
Education is king in Rwanda. Public schooling is free for nine years. The government is pushing to make the remaining three years of secondary education free as well. However, due to the inability to afford uniforms, books, and the need to work, many children do not attend school.
Most Rwandans are covered by health insurance and pay minimal fees for doctor visits and prescription medicines.
Clean water and effective sanitation are getting better. Clean water is being piped to even the most rural and impoverished communities.
Rwanda is a country on the rise, but she is not without her problems.
Rwandans admit this as they quote the words Pope John Paul II stated upon landing in Kigali shortly after the genocide. He kissed the ground and said Rwanda, Land of a Thousand Hills and Land of a Thousand Problems.
Abject poverty, HIV, illiteracy, and mental health issues ranging from depression to PTSD are among Rwanda’s most pressing problems. Fortunately, the government, the people, and ministries like Africa New Life are working to overcome these problems. They are leveraging their natural and innate resources to create a better society.
Rwanda’s Hope is Our Hope:
Despite her sordid past and the resulting challenges, Rwanda is setting herself apart as a shining example of how to correct course and overcome extreme obstacles.
This is what I love about Rwanda, and why I believe the story of her people is worthy of our time.
Rwanda began by understanding who she was and accepting it.
That is also where we must begin.
Understanding your identity is key to beginning the process of rewriting your story. You can’t and shouldn’t erase who you are. You were wonderfully and marvelously made by a loving Creator.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Psalm 139: 13-16 The Message
Do you know who you are? Can you state the things that make you uniquely you? If not, why not take some time today and write your basic bio. State the qualities that make you you.
Leave a comment today and tell me one fun fact about yourself. Here’s mine:
I LOVE Brussel Sprouts. Weird and Gross, I know.
Until we meet again.