Dr. Noel G.L. Hutchinson Jr. frames this memory with Rwandan pastors. (Photo: Dr. Noel G.L. Hutchinson Jr.)

(The Rev. Noel G. L. Hutchinson Jr., mission director for the Progressive National Baptist Convention), visited Rwanda from December 3-8 for a leadership conference with 200-plus pastors from throughout the African country. The Memphis-based organizer of Greater Works Fellowship taught, preached, blogged and vlogged along the way. This installment reflects his final thoughts upon leaving Rwanda and returning home.)

It rained on the day I was to leave Rwanda but by 4 p.m. the sun had conquered the clouds.

I arrived at the airport about 6 p.m. with a group of ministers for an 8 p.m. flight. Checkpoints here don’t begin in the terminal, but rather as you pull up outside the airport.

You pass through two checkpoints before you show your boarding pass and leave your guests at the foot of the parking lot. One of my cousins, who travels more than me, said this also happens in other parts of the world, citing India as an example.

As I said in a previous blog post, all of this must be viewed in the context of a nation left for dead 24 years ago. Rwanda now is on the cusp of being one of the major economies in Africa; so they major in many things.

I’ve never seen a country so uniformly clean. This is the reality everywhere in Rwanda. It’s also one of the safest countries in the world. I felt safer there than in Memphis. And, the people were extremely friendly.

The return trip – 38 hours including layovers – wound through Entebbe, Uganda (45 minutes from Kigali, Rwanda), then Amsterdam, Minneapolis and finally Memphis.

I slept in shifts. Every time I landed, I touched base with my wife and two of my cousins through WhatsApp. I also contacted my Rwandan host when I got to Minneapolis, then Memphis.

I looked at my fellow travelers on each flight. From Rwanda, mountain gorilla trekkers combined with those connected to multinational aid organizations, and a smaller number of Africans headed to countries attached to their colonial past. Black people from America – except for me – weren’t present.

In Amsterdam, a few black people like me were a part of the retinue, along with those connecting regionally through Minneapolis.

I sat next to a college student returning to the states after a 6-month study abroad. She used the last week traveling through Europe, and was going home through Amsterdam.

Back home in Memphis, I now need to report to PNBC my findings and the possibility of future ministry opportunities in Rwanda. This is in addition to our current national thrusts.

I also thought about the gratitude I have to be able to travel. Travel changes your life in awesome ways. It gives you fresh perspectives of others as a result of being in cultures other than your own and through personal connections.

I’ve been both honored and blessed to share this trip with all of you. I’m especially glad to be able to share from a country in the Motherland in a way that lets you see it with fresh eyes and perspective.

Thanks to Karanja Ajanaku and The New Tri-State Defender for the opportunity of this platform. Many of you reached out all during this trip, letting me know you enjoyed the journey. I hope this may be the catalyst for your own travels, especially to Africa.

Peace.

The Journey: 

An unexpected opportunity in Rwanda

RWANDA JOURNEY: Wheels up!

RWANDA JOURNEY: Visit to Kigali Genocide Memorial makes for sobering first day

RWANDA JOURNEY: An African Graduation  

RWANDA JOURNEY: Africa — what you’ve heard vs. what you experience 

RWANDA JOURNEY: Worship and church life