After an early start at the football Pascal drove us a hour and a half into the countryside of Rwanda through the beautiful lush rolling hills – Rwanda has definitely earned its nickname of the country of a thousand hills!
We went to the church of Pastor Donat, who is one of the community paralegals in Lawyers of Hope. In some villages people look to their pastors for answers to all aspects of life, including legal questions! Enter Pastor Donat, who has become one of the community paralegals so he is able to give his parishioners the appropriate advice.
We arrived and were warmly welcome to sit up the front to listen to Pastor Donat give a talk on the importance of family, marriage, birth registration, a child’s paternity and the legal consequences in succession if you are not married or your children have not been registered. (The legal consequences of which are dire if not in place leaving children and mothers homeless with no legal right to the home they were living in or inheritance from their husband/father.) Pastor Donat took questions from the congregation and was able to provide guidance to his parishioners with his answers.
We then heard from two couples who had been previously in a bad place with their relationships and God, but had worked hard with each other and now made a better life for themselves. It was clear they were so thankful for the help of Lawyers of Hope and Pastor Donat for the work they have done to help educate them in how to maintain a better family life. Mark then brought a powerful word of encouragement reiterating the importance of family. Pastor Donat closed the session in wonderful praise! We were sad to leave the beautiful community but it was so encouraging to see the amazing work of the community paralegals projects and how it is improving peoples lives and helping to provide much needed legal education!
In the afternoon the team was welcomed into the home of one of Lawyers of Hope’s recent clients. A family of ten (mother, father, seven girls and one boy!) told of how hopeless they were when their land and home were sold without their permission or knowledge. With eviction imminent, the family approached many organisations for help, but none were able to assist.
The mother was recommended Lawyers of Hope and decided to visit, even though she felt defeated already. She was welcomed warmly by the team and assigned a lawyer that day. After much hard work, the case was decided in their favour and the family regained their land.
When we visited them in the very house they thought would be lost, they spoke of the goodness and faithfulness of God throughout their journey. The children sang us a song about how nothing would stop them praising Jesus, and their hospitality and joy as a family was extremely moving. The family are a living example of how Lawyers of Hope give dignity and a voice to the voiceless, and also a testimony of the goodness of God.
The team left feeling humbled and inspired by the message of this joyful family.
In the evening, we were invited to attend a Lawyers of Hope Fellowship Meeting with the paralegals, students, staff and board members we had met earlier in the week.
We were welcomed warmly and enjoyed songs from the choir, including Alpha and Omega and a lot of jumping! We then led some worship singing Amazing Grace and Bless the Lord. Emile encouraged us that whether we stand or jump around, all our worship glorifies God.
Mark brought the word and lead a devotion about how we are not just to imitate Christ, but also to think like him. We are to have that same humility as Christ did when he came to earth as a man and died on a cross.
After a challenging word, we were treated to some traditional Rwandan dancing and it wasn’t long before we were invited up to join. Belinda definitely won the prize for the most enthusiastic team member, whilst Mark couldn’t escape and hide behind the camera quickly enough!
The team were presented with gifts as a thank you for our time in Rwanda, and enjoyed a meal with LoH members cooked by the brilliant Solace Guesthouse chef, Jean-Marie. It was an amazing last evening in Rwanda and brought our time there to a close well. We left to pack feeling inspired, loved and eager to come back to our new family.