As many of you know, my church is collecting wedding dresses for Rwandan women. Women in Rwanda rent their dresses, and there simply aren't enough rental companies. Therefore, by us donating dresses to our sister province, women in the Kibungo Diocese will be able to start a business which can help provide living wages to other women and further connects us with those that have given us so much of themselves in many, many ways.
You may wonder, "What have they given us? In what ways?"
Testament like no other I have ever heard. Testament of love, faith, forgiveness, and joy born out of torture, terrorizing agony, loss, gross unfairness - genocide. A thought struck me while driving. The women that will be wearing the dresses we give were children during the 100 day genocide in 1994 that took the lives of almost one million people.
One day = 10,000 deaths : Rwandan genocide = 4 Haitian earthquakes or 4 Indonesian tsunamis : 100 days = 1 year of Hitler's reign
I am estimating these figures, but they help us grab a piece of perspective.
The point is, the women wearing our dresses were little when their country, their province, their village, their homes, their parents, brothers, sisters, and cousins were thrown into chaos, burned, murdered or forced to be murderers. They went into hiding. They witnessed it up close and survived, maybe at the sacrifice of a family member's life. They will never, ever, ever, be the same. Some of these young people are the children of victims. Some are the children of murderers. They live side by side, literally next door to each other. The government, local leaders, and people have made it so. Assassins that have confessed and asked forgiveness are to live in the town they ravaged. Next to the families they ravaged. They are all to learn to live together so that this never, ever, ever happens again. And because of this unprecedented movement of forgiveness among people both Christian and Nonchristian, there is hope. There are weddings to be had. Vows to be taken. Bonds to be created under God's many blessings. And we may learn by the Rwandans' humbling and powerful example.
The other gift we have received from the Rwandans affects those now connected with the Anglican Church of North America, but is a lesson for us all. There have been many issues among Anglicans worldwide, and within the Episcopal branch here in the United States, mediation was sought from the larger communion by those upset with lots of stuff. Leaders wrote a letter back in 1998 to the world leaders of the Anglican communion asking for help in mediation, since the Episcopalians could not resolve issues on their own. The only person in the entire worldwide communion that offered to help was the Rwandan bishop. The reason he answered the call - Four years earlier, in 1994, during the 100 day genocide, he had sent out a call for help to the world. Not one person answered his call. Not one. Not you. Not me. Not anyone. And he never wanted anyone to feel how hopeless he felt. Not one. So despite his country's poverty stricken, grieving, war torn status, he offered to help if he could. He offered his heart so that the priests asking for mediation in the US would not feel ignored and alone. That's all. And it, to them, was everything. Missional churches have been planted in lots of places. The Africans have come to minister to the Americans. And it is a beautiful relationship.
So now y'all know why I am so passionate about this project. I am learning to listen to my heart about balance in my life while still honoring God. I can't help everyone. I'm not supposed to. But this project, it pulls at me. If you also feel called to help, just keep reading.
Ways you can still help:
Donations of wedding, bridesmaids, and flower girl dresses are still being taken for a few more weeks.
Monetary donations are also accepted. We are collecting funds to help cover shipping costs, the purchase of a sewing machine, and start up funds to add a dry cleaning business to the dress rental company.
If you would like information about this project, I would be happy to put you in touch with Cookie Richardson, who's leading up our church's part in it. Just let me know!
Also, if you want to know more about the genocide and the acts of forgiveness, look up As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson, and the movie also titled As We Forgive by Laura Waters Hinson. The book and movie use different stories to tell about the same event. I have read the book, and will someday soon get up the courage to watch the movie.