Heartache often turns into hardened hearts. In the US news of school shootings or other acts of mass violence have started to make people desensitized to the tragedy. This is a dangerous path. Today we took the group to the genocide memorial in Kigali. With the 20th anniversary of Liberation day coming in 2 days there were many people there. Flowers covering the mass graves and groups of people walked around learning of murderous acts that took place. In an effort of to make sure that the world is never desensitized to mass killings, like genocide, Rwanda has become a beacon in the international community. Beyond the rawness of the memorial with actual skulls and weapons used, Rwanda aims to make sure we do more than never forget but that we are educated enough about the past that we are not doomed to repeat it. The forgiveness experienced is real, hurtful, and has resulted in a renewal of spirit.
“There will be no humanity without forgiveness. There will be no forgiveness without justice. But justice will be impossible without humanity.” – Yolande Mukagasana
Before dinner we discussed the most significant part of the day and the discussion focussed mainly on these 2 hours spent walking in the memory of 20 years ago and the graveyard of victims. This was while we were amongst the people that live with the reality of what happened. An interesting comment was that it seems like we never really remember. From the Holocaust to The Killing Fields the signs of genocide are never hidden to the world. In many ways this tragedy could have been prevented and I wouldn’t have been staring at an open grave unable to do anything but mourn. Yet this place of hope realizes that the tragic event of the past needs to be known and prevented for other area’s of the world. This is why each memorial also has with it a section for education and prevention. The next generation of Rwandans will be able to not only to remember and honor the past but protect the future of the world beyond their small country. This is ultimately a story of love not of sadness, the memorial made us cry but also desire to live more like we should. To give and receive grace, mercy, to love justice and walk humbly.
We soon went to NAEB and saw their national cupping lab getting to taste some of our coffee processed at Ruli Mountain as well as a sample crop that we might purchase from a different cooperative in Rwanda. This was an exciting moment for the coffee lover in me. The lab was mostly empty. Currently Rwanda is having the Cup of Excellence in the Eastern Province so most of NAEB’s professional cupers (coffee tasters and graders) were away. The samples were prepared and Mike and I led the group through the process. I couldn’t get over the fact that I was standing where I was. I didn’t want to stop slurping the coffee trying to discern the differences and the tasting notes. The Ruli had a medium body and a slightly tart sweetness. Not like a passion fruit but more like a tangerine mixed with a little brown sugar. The Ingaboka (the crop we were testing to see if we should buy) was slightly less sweet with a brightness that almost covered up the hints of chocolate.
I kept slurping cherishing this moment of being able to cup with the two most experienced coffee professionals in our company.
Soon after the slurping was over we took a walk to see the women sorting each and every coffee bean as delicately and methodically as you can imagine. We then took a quick tour of the coffee warehouse seeing the difference between ordinary processed coffee and fully washed coffee. Ordinary coffee was darker with a less desirable visual appearance. We saw a container of coffee being loaded by some workers and we just couldn’t resist trying it ourselves. The men made it look so easy throwing a 132lbs sack on their back running to the truck walking up stairs and then throwing it in a pile. Nikki, a college volleyball player, Josh, a tremendous coffee enthusiast along with myself helped out this crew be each loading a sack on the truck. They cheered us on and as we left I said thank you hoping they truly understood I meant it. Each step along this coffee process could degrade the quality of coffee which would in turn degrade the quality of life for our farmers along with degrading our taste buds in America.
Coffee has been a way of regeneration in this culture of farming. Tonight we were blessed by some missionaries that have lived in Rwanda for almost the last 3 years. A group member knew them and invited them to dinner. They told of their passion for this area and what they have been doing. Their attitude was that of humbleness and joy explaining that Rwanda wants to be self sufficient and if you are interested in helping that to happen the government is all about it. This is the same attitude we have taken with our coffee farmers. We are not here to save their lives with our greatness. They are already amazing, we are here to join with them in their sacred work of coffee and community. It is an honor to be able to know I am a tiny part of the Rwandan story. And the best part is, you should feel the same way. All of us can partner with these farmers providing a link from America to Africa in the form of a beverage, a prayer, a bag of coffee. We are a part of their story and they will forever be apart of mine.