a question of faith.

I suppose I owe it to expand upon the last statement made in my blog.

I tend not to talk about my faith a whole lot. I am of the mind that it is a guideline to live my life in the best most loving way possible, and not an opportunity to convert or condemn people. But I have been feeling a little blindsided since coming to Rwanda, looking for some clarification on things I am not able to wrap my head around. I am not confused by my role here. That is something I find very clear. I am to love, empathize, listen and mourn alongside, whether or not I am actually succeeding in said role is irrelevant.

I just have two questions (or more like 20 million). Kathryn and I have been discussing endlessly, and I have been delving into my bible a lot these past few weeks. But I am still hitting a brick wall. I am not doubting the existence of god, rather his involvement or lack of.

Thus, I figured I may as well attempt to open up a dialogue. I am posting this on my blog and my facebook, because I am feeling entirely at a loss, and looking for any insight I can get.

I will try to make this as concise as possible, albeit a little convoluted even to me.

The first thing is related to, but not, “why do bad things happen to good people.” It is not that simple. For I understand there are terrible things in the world. I believe in creation and evolution, like Galileo, simply viewing scientific fact as reinforcing the other. Anyhow, as I see it, just because god is all-powerful does not mean he is all-controlling, or the ability to choose wouldn’t exist. And if free-will doesn’t exist, then the potential for relationship doesn’t either. So he gives us free choice, even if that means choosing to do the wrong thing, even if that means choosing to something horrific. And because he is not a dictator, and lets us make our own decisions, we have the ability to affect one another positively and negatively. Therefore, I think most bad things exist because of the hateful and violent decisions individuals make on a daily basis. I do not think they are punishment from god, or any other such nonsense.

With that said, the bible shows us countless examples of god stepping in to stop bad things from occurring. So my question is this, if god does not inflict evil in the world, but is capable of divine intervention, where is the dividing line? When does he leave us to the results of others execution of free will and when does he intervene? And if he is merely taking a back seat to free will, what is the purpose of prayer in these situations?

I understand prayer as an open dialogue with god to build relationship, and not as a personal wish list. But we ARE occasionally encouraged to pray for the things we want, specifically including deliverance and protection. Does it matter if twenty people pray as opposed to one? I would argue no. and if god leaves us to the mercy of free will, however terrible, then why pray unless for feeling at peace?

We are told that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, but you cannot tell me that the thousands of people who were mutilated and murdered in the places they went to worship, during the 1994 rwandan genocide, were not praying for deliverance, and had less faith then a mustard seed. Christians have a history of being persecuted (as well as persecuting – although that another whole conversation I have much to say about, and I think those are people who missed the whole point… aaaaaanyay), but this conflict was not based on religion, rather a muddled ethnic divide, resulting more from economic class distinction, and decades of resentment inflated by sheer propaghanda.

I can see god in the aftermath of the genocide. In the reconciliation, the peace movements, the strength of character, the immense examples of forgiveness, the unwavering faith of those involved. I mean I just returned home from three day trauma healing workshop, where genocide survivors and genocide perpetrators, now released prisoners, sat side by side, worked in groups and openly dialogued in an attempt to bring peace and reconciliation to their communities. Genuine forgiveness and genuine regret. I can see god in that, I don’t believe it is possible otherwise. Maybe that’s just me.

but I cannot see god in the genocide itself. And I am having difficulty understanding why not, because I refuse to believe that god is a vengeful, vindictive or removed deity.

where is the dividing line and why didn’t it fall on the other side of this conflict?

thoughts anyone?



a hard day.

I am amazed at how quickly I can switch between feeling entirely capable and content here, to feeling completely overwhelmed. And this has been a weekend of the latter. So I am sorry if this is a little dark. I do not mean for this to be sensationalist. At all. I just need to write a bit, in an attempts to process.

I must preface the following, with the fact that my time in Rwanda has been unbelievably positive thus far. This is a beautiful country full of astounding people. Sadly it is also a country with a tragic past and complicated present. I am thankful that I am now able to associate so many things other than the genocide with this place. However, I think everyone should visit Rwanda, to see how far it has come and learn from its history. The extensive reconciliation occurring here is a humbling experience, and is proving to be an enormous lesson in forgiveness.

We visited one of the larger genocide memorials on the outskirts of Kigali yesterday afternoon.

I have been struggling with whether or not I wanted to go, but I have realized it is not a matter of wanting to go. But needing to go. I needed to face the things that happened here head on, to better understand them, and to pay respect to the people I have come to know as my colleagues and friends.

Yet three things specifically incited my decision this week.

First of all, Kathryn and I have decided to participate in a HROC workshop in a small village outside the city. We leave today. It is a three day seminar, which works to bring together genocide survivors with genocide perpetrators families, or the genocidaires themselves. This is to promote reconciliation and reintegration, as many people have never received any trauma councilling, and multiple prisoners have completed their sentences and are now being released back into their same communities.

Secondly, I rode behiend a dead body strapped to the top of a cattle truck last Sunday. It is the first time I have been confronted with a corpse outside of a coffin. Death has always been altered faces caked with thick layers of make up. Death is Wards Funeral Home in Weston. Death is oversized bouquets above shells of those who no longer resemble the people I love. It has become a formula of sorts. Not a body tied carelessly across three metal bars with no shred of dignity or respect. I am not sure which bothered me more; the fact that I was witnessing a corpse parading through the streets of a major city, or the fact that no one seemed to notice.

Perhaps when death is so a part of your history, you become complacent, or more accurately, numb. I am sure the pedestrians on the side of the rode that morning, have witnessed far worse within their lifetime, then the limp legs of a dead man swaying with the bumps on the road.

Thirdly, this week it really hit me the extent to which I am living in history. I discovered that my neighbourhood was home to the UN Belgium base in 1994. I pass by the building itself multiple times each day as it is adjacent to our market in kicukiro centre. A large white building with a promenade lined in palm trees. During the genocide thousands of tutsis and hutu-moderates sought refuge there under UN protection. So when Belgium lost ten soilders and decided to pull all of their troops, thousands of people were left vulnerable to be slaughtered. After the attack there, the interhamwe rounded up any survivors in Kicukiro and the surrounding areas. They were forced to march north to Sonotubes, a round-about approximately ten minutes down the road from us. But deciding it was too public a place for a mass execution, these people were turned back around and began a death march back through kicukiro. They walked directly past the compound we live behind, and were all killed on the top of the hill we live on.

And so yesterday we went to the memorial.

To be honest, I don’t really have the emotional stamina to re-write and re-hash, so I will simply include what I scrawled in my journal upon arriving home last night:

“I sat in a room of faded photographs and cried this afternoon. Hundreds and hundreds stung along metal wires. Faces frozen in emulsion. Weddings and birthdays. Studio portraits and candid snapshots.

I walked the paths of mass graves.

258,000 people beneath concrete slabs.

I browsed cases of skulls and femurs.

Only 2000 names known.

I knew the history, the stories, the statistics coming in. but it is entirely different being here, living here. Putting visuals to words.

It is nothing short of horrifying.

The seond floor was a memorial for children. Floor to ceiling photographs, each accompanied with a small write up. Name. age. Favourite: drink, toy, song. Best friend. Demeanor. Last words. Cause of death.

Hacked with machetes.

Bludgeoned with a club.

Shot in mothers arms.

Stabbed in the eyes, then in the head.

I have just sat here for the past few moments with my pen hovering above the paper.

I am at a complete loss for words.

I don’t know what to say.

This isn’t just information I am able to file away. I cannot imagine having lived through this. And the fact of the matter is everyone I see, everyday, were and currently are affected by the events of thirteen years ago.

A dark and swiftly flowing undercurrent.”

Yesterday afternoon was difficult.

I am wrestling with God a lot these days.



thanksgiving africa styles.

I dedicate this entry to sammi smith.

1. because I have now vanquished the pests you always feared, first hand and in abundance. And…
2. because I have also become the cook extraordinaire, you and the food network, always hoped I might be for the past two years we lived together.

A few Saturdays ago, it was becoming increasingly clear that we had a cockroach problem. After a june-bug-thought-cockroach incident at 383 queen west two summers ago, (which caused hours of google-image-searching to ensue), I have become quite the expert on distinguishing what is and what is not this dreaded insect. And we most definitely had roaches.

One day there was one. The next day there were twenty. However, the last straw was the day Kathryn woke up to a roach nearly two inches in length beside her pillow. So the war was on. My pacifist ideals set aside for a day.

The first item on the agenda was to gut the kitchen; a dimly lit closet of a room, with wooden shelves running the length of one wall, two petrol burners on cinderblocks and a sink that drains onto the floor (this was before the glorious addition of a bar fridge and toaster oven last Wednesday). They scattered with every object removed. Black streams pouring over edges. Encampments within precarious stacks of dishes. Families in paper bags. Six or more under each egg. Cinder blocks the equivilent of an apartment complex.

Equipt with cans of BOP (the African version of Raid), bandanas, fly swatters and a giant bottle of bleach, we won the war – after hours of washing everything on the lawn.

Now... we suspect that rats are living (and fighting?) in the ceiling.

In other news, to everyone's suprise (specifically ours) we had a thanksgiving dinner! Granted it took place in shorts on a humid monday evening, but thanksgiving none the less! Using our joke of a kitchen - now cockroach free - Kathryn and I managed to cook up a dinner for seven; including a honey glazed ham, stuffing, brown sugar carrots, curried green beans, apple & japanese plum chutney, mashed potatoes, french rolls, hot apple cider, and our crowning achievement of not one, but two, PUMPKIN PIES from scratch. Who knew pumpkins even exist in africa? Although, I think we may have found the only one.

We were regular 1950's housewives. Although, I doubt those women had a sing-a-long to the weakerthans while they cooked.

In conclusion we have established that we are a cooking powerhouse, and upon returning to canada, will be the ultimate canoe-tripping, camping duo.

It was hard being away from home, when my entire family was at the cottage together for the first time in six years. There was definitely more then one moment where all I wanted was to be bundled in a sweater and toque, lying on the dock. A crisp fall day, the forest the colour of fire. But I chose to be here, and it was still a good weekend. There are just times when i wish i could transport myself home for one afternoon, one evening. At least being here reminds me I how much i really do have to be thankful for.

happy (slightly belated) thanksgiving!



i'm not as technologically inept as i initially thought!

well i finally figured out how to post some photos! lucky you! it has taken me any hours with a bad connection, over many days.

me & a four seater bike in amsterdam.

catching my flight in nairobi!

the "road" by our house (after it was fixed with large rocks)

kathryn and our first pineapple! This is ourside our house and our dog bogie is in the background. we love him.


residents of kigali have been complaining that everyones getting malaria, so they are spraying everyone's house. Therefore, in our second week, we had less less than 24 hours notice to gut our entire house so that it could be sprayed by this man with poison. yay!

We met this woman in Kibuye. She is part of the Friends Peace House Femme En dialogue program, bring together Hutu & Tutsi women after the genocide for community building projects. and this is kibuye.... i'm getting kicked out of the internet cafe. more later!

i love rwanda.