Dancing In The Shadows
Here in Kigali a 79-year-old lady sleeps with a small framed picture above her bed of her with a middle-aged white man. She is one of the poorest people in this busy, hot and rapidly developing city and today we visited her home.
Some of you may have had the privilege to meet and love Mama Eric, others of you will have already heard the remarkable stories of her life, and many of you will only encounter her through this blog. Having lived through the 1994 genocide, she escaped death only because the murderers forgot where they had left off the killing the night before when the sun went down quickly as it does it at 6.30 pm every night. The next day they should have started again at her house, yet moved to the next one in error. It saved her life.
As one of the few older people to survive, she embraced as many orphan children as she could, taking them into her house and bringing them up as her own. This is something she continues to this day. In her tiny, mud walled house, where there are now electric sockets but no lightbulbs, where we watched a rat run up the wall and through one of the many holes in the roof, and where seven members of our team could barely fit themselves into a space that was no more than two metres by four, she now lives with seven orphan children, eking out her meagre income to pay their school fees. When she had seated us all, taking the last seat herself on a bag of rice, she prayed for us all. Her prayers somehow always to us to the gateways of heaven. Today was no exception.
We had been slightly hesitant about today’s visit. It was the first time we had ever ventured out to visit her without a translator. We had visited the market to buy our usual gifts for her of rice and beans and in our haste had given little thought to how we might communicate as she speaks no English. But God knew and had gone ahead to prepare what was needed as Janvier arrived soon after we did.
As well as doing an excellent job translating, he shared his story. Now 29 years old, he had been one of those original orphans taken in by this wonderful lady back in 1994. His family all killed in the horror of the genocide, he spoke with tears in eyes and love in his heart for his adopted mother.
Together we chatted, laughed and prayed until a small group of woman and children arrived at her door wanting us to sing and dance with them which we did.
The room was so small that not all of us could see around the door the spectacle of the children enjoying this impromptu music session. We could only join in with our voices, clap along and just make out their shadows through the filthy curtain that covered the upper glass part of the door as they danced as if their lives depended upon it.
So why after ten years of loving and visiting this amazing lady does she still live in such poverty? Simply because whatever is given to her, she gives away. We have heard story after story of her being given many gifts but she always seeks out those whose need is at least as great as her own. Mama Eric lives to give. She understands the truth of the scripture that it is more blessed to give than receive. And it shows in her radiant face that look so much younger than her years.
As we climbed back up the hill, escorted by the villagers to the road as is the Rwandan custom, stepping over the rubbish and watching our footing on such an uneven and steep pathway, it occurred to me that Mama Eric’s life has been all about dancing in the shadows. Despite her abject poverty she has found a peace and prosperity in God’s grace that gives her cause to celebrate each and every day.
And the picture of the white man that sits above her bed? Equip’s own Paul Johnson of course!
Promoting opportunity and excellence in Africa
Registered Charity No: 1184890
Registered Charity No: 1184890