By Rich Lanham - BCA Field Staff, Sale
December last year saw the community of Gahini in Rwanda welcome a group of Year 12 Gippsland Grammar students who travelled to their country as an alternative to ‘schoolies’.
Joined by BCA Field Staff Rich Lanham (as the group Chaplain), these students immersed themselves in community life: painting walls, moving thousands of bricks and teaching English and Maths to school kids. Rich continues the story:
This trip was so significant because many of these young people from Gippsland Grammar do not express a faith, but they do have an openness to the Gospel and the work of Jesus in our lives. This is because of their immersion in Christian values at school and the fact that they often hear the gospel message. They simply need help to ground it in their world and lives.
My role was to walk with these young people and connect faith and the Christian journey to what we were doing. I had to help them make some sense of the anomaly of people who exude joy, happiness and peace in a culture that seems to be poverty, neglect and want. How can these people be so happy when they have nothing by our standards? And the answer is of course – they have faith in God.
The trip to Rwanda was a great experience and there were two things that really stood out during our time there. Firstly, the idea that as a culture our lives are like buckets – in the West we fill them with all things we have and accumulate, leaving no room for God. In contrast, these people in Rwanda fill their buckets up with all they have but there is still tons of room for God. Secondly, the Bishop gave the young people a real challenge. He said “as you go around my country I want you to look at the people and see how they are living and think about it from your point of view. Then I want you to recognise that these people are living and not just surviving. I want you to think: are you living or are you just surviving in your western culture?”
The trip to Rwanda started many of these young people thinking about the Christian faith. They have proposed to get together again and see what can grow and develop. On top of that a number of them want to come and be a part of our 123 outreach in Sale. They can see the connection to a practical faith. It’s not just head knowledge and talk. I said to them that behaviour is not your primary focus. Your behaviour is a symptom of your values and beliefs. We need to start from that point. When I say I believe in God and I value what Jesus did for us my behaviour follows from that.