Rwanda Lesson #4: Relationality

I realized while in Africa what an incredibly task-oriented person I am.  I have pastoral duties to attend to every week, which starts on Monday afternoon with administrative work.  Then I work on preparing my sermon for Sunday, get my Wednesday night class ready, and make time for class prep and grading for Southwestern College and Phoenix Seminary classes.  I have kenpo classes to prepare for and teach, and leaders to train and all that at church. 

Blah blah blah, I am busy, blah blah blah.  You get the drill, but that is emphatically NOT what this post is about.  It is about getting a little LESS busy, and getting busier with more important stuff.

100_0894 In Rwanda God taught me a lesson about being relational.  I have seen the importance of sowing into people for quite awhile as a pastor, but God really shook me up with the relationships we built in a short time in Rwanda.  He began that while we were in Kigali and continued in Gacundezi.   In Kigali we were treated like royalty by the couple in the picture; Jonas and Dorcas brought us to their church and then afterward made us a huge and delicious meal.  They welcomed us into their home and spent the day with us.  That was a big deal because Jonas had other plans that day.  He is wearing his campaigning shirt and hat in this picture, because he was supposed to be spending the afternoon campaigning for his candidate for president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame.  Nevertheless, he took the better part of his afternoon to have lunch with us and encourage us in our work in Gacundezi.  He was a gracious and wonderful host.

The same happened in Gacundezi, again and again.  One in particular stood out to me that involved a leader in the area.  Chris and I went one afternoon to the neighboring “town” by Gacundezi to visit with a man who Chris knew when he lived there the year prior.  His name is Kazim, and he is prominent in the milk co-op in town and a leader in the community.  He is also Muslim.  We went to the small restaurant that Kazim runs with his wife, but he wasn’t there.  He was working of course!  However, he heard we were in town and put everything down to come visit with Chris.  He told me (through Paul, our translator) how much he appreciated Chris because of how much Chris loved his kids—the first pic on this link is Kazim’s son Kevin—and his honesty.  Kazim took an hour out of his busy day and the myriad tasks he had to accomplish to welcome us and spend time with us.

This is the Rwandan way.  Deadlines are not as important as people.  Relationships trump timeliness every time.  We saw that in every activity we did, as people showed up when they showed up but always stayed later than you were expecting just to spend time together and get to know one another.

This is the part of the blog post that I am supposed to lament America and our fast pace, and pine for the old days of Mayberry.  I won’t.  I recognize that I get great joy out of doing what God has in my life, and that means focusing on my teaching and preaching ministry.  I like my life, busyness and all!  What this lesson reminded me of, though, is that being relational is important.  Spending time with people is important, be that hospital visits as a pastor (a shortcoming of mine for sure), phone calls, or spending time with my kids. 

The people of Rwanda showed me that in God’s eyes, a shepherd must be involved in the lives of people.  There is no way to know what people are going through without spending time with them.  There is no way to know people other than spending time with them.  That includes my wife and my kids. 🙂  So I have been trying to spend more time with them.  James and I went dove hunting last Tuesday (he got 4 doves on his first hunt!), and we went as a family last week to Wet and Wild.  I have tried to make meeting people a priority, and spend time with family and friends to build them up in Christ. 

That means less time to blog and less time for other electronics.  That’s okay by me, because my kids need me and they need to know that they are more important than my technology. 🙂 That’s why I haven’t posted much since I have been home, and this will likely be my new pace.  Hopefully that will mean that my posts will be more interesting and thoughtful as well!

Perhaps you can use this lesson too.  Consider all of the tasks, the technology, and the tools you have in your life.  If they draw you closer to God, then great!  If not, perhaps this reminder can help you re-prioritize to put first things first in your life as well.  The blogs and emails and tasks will still be there after the date with your spouse, or the kids are tucked in bed, or your friend is encouraged.

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