I loved the adverts and have fond memories watching the Smash Martian’s with my Nana and Grandad. Oh how we laughed – we loved those Martians even more than we loved the mashed potato. This wasn’t that difficult, now I think about it.
When Pot Noodle came along I was in food heaven. That summer, I probably ate Pot Noodle for lunch every day of the holidays. As a young person, the idea of walking into the house, boiling the kettle and eating within five minutes was revolutionary; it meant I didn’t have to stop what I was doing to eat.
A few weeks ago I stood on the side of a hill to celebrate an amazing event. I was in Rwanda and I had the privilege of attending the opening celebration of a Compassion project. The community was so excited that everyone from the village – and a few who weren’t – joined us at this remarkable occasion. They came because they knew that this event was going to impact their community for a long time.
As I stood looking at the crowd, I wondered about my journey that had led me to this hillside in Rwanda to a front row seat at this celebration. My journey, like many of yours, has been more of a winding path than a straight road. I’ve had my share of disappointments and challenges.
But as I looked out at the crowd, I realised that, despite the difficulties, what a privileged life I’ve actually had.
In Rwanda, everyone over the age of 21 has lived through the genocide. The country and her people are quite literally scarred by this horrific event that started on 7 April 1994 and lasted for 100 days. By the end of those 100 days over 1,100,000 people were dead. Millions more were displaced, orphaned, wounded – both physically and emotionally struggling to understand what had just happened to their families, their neighbours, their communities and their country.
My visit to Rwanda coincided with the 21-year commemorations of the genocide. It was a
poignant time to be in there.
Everywhere in Rwanda, every conversation I had contained a reference to the genocide. Everyone I met was defined by this tumultuous event that blighted their life and the history of their country. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has a story of loss, everybody has a story of seeing things that no one should ever see and every person has their own story of the long road of recovery.
But what strikes you about Rwanda is the dignity of the people, of the grace they show, the peace they exude and their joyful kindness which all contributes to the level of stability the country now experiences.
As I met with church and community leaders I was intrigued to know how the country and her people had managed to move forward and thrive after such a devastating event in what is, actually, a relatively short space of time.
As women leaders, we know we can make statements about vision and how we want ‘things to be’ but getting people to own our vision and actually act on our plans is another thing entirely. To do this in our own lives can be enough of a challenge so to see a whole country do this is remarkable.
After a few days in Rwanda, I started to ask the leaders I met; “What do you believe is behind the dramatic turnaround in your country?” Every leader I met answered the question in a similar way. They talked about the world turning its back on Rwanda during the 100 days of the genocide. They spoke of the awareness that the country was, quite literally, tearing itself apart. They spoke of hopelessness and fear. They spoke of feeling
useless. And then they said it was from this place of brokenness that they started to rebuild. Then they said this line which I’ll never forget: “This has happened because of God’s grace and our hard work.”
God’s grace and our hard work. Could that possibly be the formula for changing a nation?
Do you know, I think it could be the formula for every kind of transformation? God’s grace and, a lot, of our hard work.
The trouble is if you’re anything like me, which I suspect you are, life is going at such speed that we have a quick fix mentality and outlook. We want to see transformation, but we’re not so willing to do the work it requires. We’re people who want to see God’s grace at work, but we want it on the cheap.
It just doesn’t work like that. God’s grace is always sufficient for our needs, but we were created for partnership, to work hand in hand with Him not just get carried along for the ride. Sustained change of the type I saw in Rwanda requires extravagant grace, but an equally determined dose of perseverance and sheer hard work. When we’re ready to do the hard work, God’s grace will meet us and give us the strength to carry on.
Wendy Beech-Ward is the Events and
Ambassadors Director at Compassion UK.
She is passionate about justice; equality,
leadership and seeing people fulfill their God
given potential. She always wears Converse.
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