Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fasting and Grieving

Today has been a day of grieving and fasting. The fasting merely because it was hysterically busy. (If it were a spiritual boast, I certainly would not be mentioning it.) Up early for my (many times postponed) first of many to-be regular runs (o.k., power walks – it is very hilly here) with Maggie Ritchie. Then late for an appointment at the Bank. Then late to meet the owners of the new house and Chantal (cook and housekeeper) at the new house (but where there is still no food or stove).Then 3 different banks to fully accomplish the required advance payment of 6 months rent. Then meet with painters, repairman, and a decorator back at the new house ( yes, that is correct, a decorator to measure for sofas and chairs). A major shopping trip,… but still no food; setting up the house ,… and then Chantal and I drove to the airport to say our "goodbyes" to the Brogdons for the 5th and last time. And here we come to the grieving part:

Todd, Jessica, Rebecca, and Ben Brogdon flew out tonight to return to Little Rock, Arkansas. (The Grandparents could no longer be controlled.) Because of their two years of service here, Rwanda is a different place, both on a macro level (as a result of Todd’s contribution to microfinance for the poorest of the poor) and on a micro level, that is the scores, perhaps hundreds of lives that they blessed and greatly impacted, mine among them. Grown men teared up and voices cracked at the mere mention of their impending departure. Todd and Jessica seem to both hold PhD’s in “Friendship” and “Hospitality”. (A person is fortunate to have one genuine “Best Friend”. Both Todd and Jessica are claimed by at least 10 people each as “my best friend”,…which totally ruins the odds for other folks in their community.)

I realized how much I desire to be like Todd when some of the employees at the Bank testified to how Todd had impacted their lives. One spoke of his prior bitterness and contempt for mzungus, but Todd’s kindness changed his heart. Another spoke of how struck he was that Todd, the Bank President, not only attended the employees’ morning devotions, but he also stayed to help clean up and stack chairs. This is true servant leadership, as demonstrated by Jesus washing feet.

On the way home from the airport, Chantal, the Brogdons’ beloved cook/housekeeper (and now mine!), spoke as I have never heard her speak. As a child of the Genocide (her family returned from Uganda to Rwanda in 1994 before the fires were hardly out, when she was 14) , wonderful Chantal is a bit “flatlined” emotionally. You can know her well and not be able to imagine an expression of emotion. (This is quite common among Rwandans impacted by the Genocide, perhaps a type of PTSD.) But on the way home from the airport, Chantal started sharing with me - with eyes welled up with tears - how Jessica had “completely changed my life”. “She brought miracles to my life”. “When she heard that my children were sick, she would not have me work and she come over and took my children to the doctor,… and she paid the doctor. And when I was sick (false diagnosis of pregnancy), Jessica told the doctors to take care of me” (cysts, if I understood her correctly). “And she gave so much, but not out of surplus (unwanted stuff) like other people, but out of love.” “And her children became like my own. So I had my children at home, and then I go to work, and I get to have my other children at work.” “Usually I would be tired of a family after two years, but everyday was new and fresh.”

I asked Chantal if she had spoken these words to Jessica, and she replied “No, I don’t think so.” I am sorry that it was I, and not Jessica, who was so blessed by Chantal’s moving testimony. But maybe this was God’s mercy, because I could hardly bear to witness Jessica’s pain as she embraced Chantal “goodbye” at the airport. Sweet Jessica may not have been equipped to hear such words from Chantal’s own lips.

One more Brogdon story: A few weeks ago I overheard little Ben (4 years old) talking to their guard, Elias, a Rwandan who has been to hell and back (a few times). He too has some of that Rwandan “flatline”. And Ben tells him: “I will be going back to America soon. It is very far away. I am going to miss you a lot.” Now I cannot say with certainty, but I don’t think that Elias hears such words from anybody,… not until his life was touched by the Brogdons.

No,... Rwanda will never be the same. I will never be the same.

Enough! I can’t think about it any more. But I will close with this reminder to the Arkansans that may be reading this – and I am waaaay out of line here, and this is totally unauthorized, and if I am committing a great offense, “Please forgive me”:

The Bogdons were over here with the benefit of a container shipment (I don’t remember if it was their own or the Cavin’s). They are returning with a few suitcases. So if anyone has any “surplus - unwanted stuff” (oops),... you know, that unused bicycle in the garage that is just the right size for Rebecca or Ben, or whatever, ... keep them in mind.

Please "WELCOME!" the Brogdons home with a "Comment" to this post,... and Grandparents, in your "Comment", you can plead for forgiveness from those of us who have suffered this enormous loss (but who actually thank you for your sacrifice and patience).