Next Saturday (May 5th) I leave for Africa. I'm traveling there as part of a delegation from the U.S. that will be attending a conference for emerging Christian leaders in Africa, put on by Amahoro-Africa. I'll be gone about 12 days. I've been preparing for this trip for the past four months (the reading list took me that long!) and haven't felt particularly anxious about it until last week. It's not the conference in Kampala, Uganda that has unnerved me. It's the "home visit" in Rwanda.
When I first heard about this trip, the home visit was one of the parts that appealed to me the most. Here's how I understood it: we would participate in a five day conference in Uganda, and then return home with one of the African participants and spend the weekend with them, seeing their context for ministry first-hand, attending church with them, etc. I liked the rhythmn of this--large group time followed by more intimate time, big picture discussions followed by immersion in one particular setting.
When we received an email with some options for our home visit, I picked a ministry in Rwanda as my top choice. My main reason for picking this was that it was one of the few that was led by a woman, and as one of the few ordained women on the trip, I thought I might be able to make a connection with the pastor.
Well, this trip has turned out to be much more than a home visit with a Christian leader like myself. It turns out a whole busload of us are going to Rwanda, and we're going to be visiting several ministries--one in the "red light district", one with orphans and widows, one with street children. In addition, we're also going to visit two genocide memorial sites, including, on our last day, one that the trip organizer described this way: "Take the bus to the Catholic Church genocide site (45 min drive) - this is the one with the bones and skulls still in the church."
I'm not proud to admit it, but there is something in me that recoils at the thought of visiting a church filled with bones and skulls. I know that the genocide in Rwanda happened--I don't need to deny it or ignore it. But this is a much, much closer confrontation with the evil of that event than I had really bargained for.
I've got one more week to prepare myself spiritually for this trip. Any and all advice (and support!) would be welcome.