It’s been almost a week since I left the airport in Kigali for America. It was most definitely an interesting trip home. The good part being that everyone made it home safe and all of the luggage did too, eventually. Life hasn’t stopped back home. The shop continued to make drinks, customers continued to buy coffee. Yet, life can’t be the same. Everyone has asked me about the trip obviously and it’s changed me for many reasons. One of them being that this trip was the best combination I’ve known of my experience in Church leadership, my love of coffee, and my passion for community development. Stories come in bits and pieces as people ask questions and situations trigger memories I wish to ensure never leave my brain.
I’ve been able to make a lot more coffee lately. Measuring out each bean no longer feels like only a necessary step to grinding and brewing. Each roasted coffee bean now has a face of a farmer. Chuma picking cherries from one of his 1500 trees along with his kids, 20 years of experience under his belt. Laurent wearing a Drink coffee Do Good shirt and a sport coat. Joy overtakes possible customer frustrations and smiling doesn’t seem to be so difficult in the face of tough situations. What becomes difficult is quantifying in words a trip that changes your disposition. Soon after arriving home I received an e-mail from a friend I met in Kigali. Our night security guard named Lucien at Altis, the hotel we stayed at in Kigali, wanted to make sure we didn’t forget about him. One way of ensuring that reality was leaving behind one of my hats for his use. The Detroit Tigers logo was surprisingly present in Rwanda. Walking around seeing a few t-shirts made me wonder. I noticed they all said “2013 American League Champions.” The only problem was that the Boston Red Sox were the American League Champions in 2013. This explains the mystery of where those t-shirts went.
Looking through pictures and memories, handing out the little trinkets I bought, small things that keep me holding onto the trip in my memory. Before we left Lake Kivu I told the group that now that they have experienced the people of Rwanda we now have the responsibility of telling their story, to explain to others who weren’t there the reality of the country. Last night was a great example of that. About 15 minutes before we closed a couple ordered a few drinks. As they were waiting for their tea to brew I told them about my recent trip in which they were incredibly surprised by the peace, joy, and love I described. They had been in other African countries and expected the turmoil of the past to forever affect the people. I refuse to allow others who are bent of negativity to miss the reality of what I experienced. The story of Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co. is one of engaging the reality in Rwanda. That people have been forgiven, love has been offered, peace and unity are the only options they seem to entertain as possibilities.
LOTH has given me the opportunity to take this trip and make it a reality for those who are engaging in the same story through their coffee and cafe selection. By coming to our shop, even if they buy tea they are saying to us that they believe in our decisions to make possible opportunities in Rwanda that didn’t exist before. I have made it a goal to make sure that I never pass up an opportunity to express my thanks to the people that frequent my shop. Not necessarily because my job depends on their patronage. It is because the farmers and other people I met in Rwanda asked me to. In this mutually beneficial coffee relationship the farmers didn’t stop thanking me for making possible their livelihood and it is my job to pass that on to you. Coffee is a beautiful thing, it creates some of the best sensory experiences I have ever had, but it is also a living thing. And with it’s life from the tree it creates more life in the hearts of people who experience the beauty of the real land of a thousand hills. It creates life in the smiles of Rwandan people thanking me for experiencing who they are. As much as I try to explain these things to you, it can only be experienced best first hand. Communities are formed from this life giving tree as we all can engage in the redemption of Rwanda. One cherry, one bean, one cup at a time.