Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quaker values among Rwandan Friends

One of the greatest graces of our time here in Rwanda has been our contact with the Friends Church. Although the main purpose of our trip (and the greatest joy) was to spend time with our kids and grandkids, they live surrounded by all sorts of wonders. These include tropical trees, giraffes, bright clothes, lots of mangos and—Quakers of a unique sort.
We’ve been able to worship in two places: out in the rural community of Mosovu where our son David is working as part of a Discipleship for Development team, and in a large urban congregation here in Kigali. We’ve sensed strong Quaker/Christian values among these sisters and brothers.
--A worshipful focus on the living Word, Jesus: This begins early every day here in the city as the drum beat calls local Quakers to prayer. Indigenous music forms a large part of every worship service, and the name Yesu resounds.
--A clinging to the written Word: Rwandan Quaker songs, teachings and sermons contain liberal references to the Bible. This resembles George Fox’s Journal, as well the numerous sermons and diaries that have been handed down from the early years.
--A determination to make a difference in their communities: In the class time in Mosovu people participated in a lively discussion on how to help the poor who live around them, exploring what the Bible says about responsibility toward the needy and offering stories of their own experiences. These people, whom many in my circle of friends would consider to be the poor, began planning how they could be giving and doing more. In the urban congregation, with about 250 Friends gathered in a large half-circle, one member of the group gave his testimony about being the president of his neighborhood organization. He told how God helped him mobilize people to clean up their whole area, thus winning recognition from the Kigali municipal government for being one of the four cleanest areas of the city. The congregation applauded and cheered.
--A high level of participation in the life of the church, a horizontal leadership style and gender equality: A three person leadership team led the Mosovo class last week: the local pastor (a man) and two amazing women, Godance and Dancila. (David, the other team member, was busy translating for us.) In the urban worship service, a lay woman, Domina, gave the sermon. The fact that women can preach and teach and pastor is very Quaker, but I must admit this fiery preacher didn’t resemble many Quaker preachers I know (with a few Bolivian exceptions).
The urban congregation has a large banner on the wall in front of its meeting house, stating its theme for 2012-2013 and its core values. Their theme comes from Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Following are the 10 values this Quaker community has committed to live out: 1) prayer; 2) good planning; 3) fellowship; 4) truth telling; 5) speaking the good news to their neighbors; 6) letting love motivate their work; 7) cleanliness in everything; 8) forgiveness; 9) self-sacrifice; 10) spreading peace.
We loved being able to bring greetings to these brothers and sisters from their Quaker family in Bolivia, and receiving their blessing to carry back with us to South and North America. I’m again impressed and blessed by the beauty and variety within the family of Friends around the world, by the things that make us different from one another and the values that bind us together.
 Friends in the Mosovu Friends Church sending greetings
Youth choir in the Gatarama Friends Church in Kigali
                                     Two Quaker preachers

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