My Soul Magnifies the Lord: Now & Always!

For He Who is Mighty Has done great things for me, and Holy is His name.” Luke 1:49

Is it just me or 2014 flew by? I cannot believe that in just few hours 2014 will be in the past! Reflecting back, this year has been an amazing year for me personally for several reasons that I cannot be able to mention here all. I got to celebrate a lot of life achievements for my siblings that I call my children, among other things. I will share a few of them; as you read it, would you please praise God with me?

It has been indeed twenty years since we lost our parents and two of my siblings during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide but God Has been everything for us. He is our Father, Provider, Comforter, and everything we ever need! Overwhelmed by His love and Mercy, I can humbly quote what Hannah prayed to God after her barren womb was healed and she bore a son, Samuel:

My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord.                                                                                 He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.” 1 Sam 8: 1, 8

In 2014

  • My children and I managed to take a rare vacation for just 4 of us. Flying in from different corners of the world, we were able to enjoy our time together. Saying that it was the best week of my life would be an understatement!
Alphonsine, Alice, Mireille  & Eric. March 2014

Me, Alice, Mireille & Eric. March 2014

  • My little sister Alice who has been studying in India for two years graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a second Master’s Degree in International Relations. When I sent her to school there, she was required to get just one degree, but she surprised me with taking a second program in parallel. This is just her character: she is a hard worker. I am very proud of her accomplishment and I praise God for being with her all the way.
Alice on her Graduation Day!

Alice on her Graduation Day! May 2014

  • My brother’s fiancee, Redempta Ingabire, graduated with a Master’s Degree in Information Technology from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Kigali Campus. I’m a very proud sister in law!
My brother and his fiancee on her Graduation Day

My brother and his fiancee on her Graduation Day! July 2014

  • My adopted son, Gilbert Shyaka, graduated from the University of Rwanda with a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology. Words cannot express my gratitude to God for everything He has done for this young man. To read his story, follow this link: A Story of Hope.
Gilbert on his graduation day.

Gilbert on his graduation day! August 2014

  • In November, my brother Eric completed his Master’s Degree in Information Science from Mount Kenya University. He’s currently waiting for the graduation day that will take place sometime next year.
  • My baby Mireille Noella (Miette), the youngest child of our family graduated from Kigali Independent University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. Privileged to have witnessed the ceremony, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and pride as she walked the stage.
Mireille on her Graduation Day!

Mireille on her Graduation Day! December 2014

  • My brother is now a grown up man. Him and his best friend Redempta tied the knot 11 days ago. I am privileged to have been there along with my Mom whom God placed in my life to be exactly a replacement of my Mother Colette I lost twenty years ago. I will never be able to thank God enough for His wonders.
My bro gets married!

My bro and his wife on their wedding day! December 2014

Mireille, Eric, Redempta, Alice, me and my Mom Glori

Mireille, Eric, Redempta, Alice, me and my Mom Glori. Dec 2014

I truly praise God for everything He has done for my family this year. The rest of my life is not enough to share about the work of His hands and live for His Glory! I look forward to 2015 with anticipation.

Happy New Year to you and all your loved ones.
God bless you,
Alphonsine

“You Are All Invited”

This is probably not a phrase you hear or see often, at at least not in America, especially on a wedding invitation! However, this sounds all too familiar to anyone who has been invited to a wedding in Rwanda.

Before you are pronounced “husband and wife”, or more specifically say “I do”, it is customarily to go through THREE different types of wedding ceremonies in the Rwandan culture: the engagement party (dowry distribution), the town hall (before the mayor), and finally the church wedding. The engagement party is in normal circumstances a 2-3 hour ceremony where the groom’s family & friends metaphorically bring a dowry to the bride’s parents’ house, to ask her hand in marriage.

My best friend during her engagement party (2009). Probably the most beautiful bride I've ever seen!

My best friend during her engagement party (2009). Probably the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen!

Traditionally, a dowry used to be mainly a cow (a symbol of wealth in Rwanda, and still applicable in some areas); but nowadays, it’s mostly money in cash. Depending on the arrangement between the groom and the bride’s family, this amount of money is most of the time handed to the bride-to-be in advance for the wedding shopping spree. Even so, there still has to be a gift exchange during the ceremony(if not a cow), as a symbol of a dowry. The second part to the engagement party is that it’s the day the bride actually receives her engagement ring (in the western term: the proposal), in front of all guests.

Engagement Party Decoration Example

Engagement Party (Traditional) Decoration Example

Few days or weeks later, the groom & the bride, along with their witnesses have to show up before the district mayor in order to become legally married, since churches don’t have a power to legally marry people in Rwanda as of this writing. The process lasts about an hour or so, and is followed by a small reception.

Finally, few or several days later, it is the final day in the process where, in a church, the priest or a pastor officiates the wedding and the couple exchanges vows, rings & I do’s. This is followed by a reception (it can last up to 5 hours), and everyone, I mean “everyone“, attends. You purposely have to rent a gigantic reception hall, unless you can’t afford it or don’t know a lot of people.

The wedding invitation cards are distributed a month or two before the wedding, and not only it reminds guests that it would be the couple’s pleasure if everyone could be there to celebrate with them, but it also specifically stresses: “you are all invited“. In other words, you have to hand out an invitation card to everyone you know: co-workers, classmates, neighbors, church members, acquaintances, friends, relatives etc. Even better, now with the use of social media, people either post the entire wedding invitation on Facebook visible to the whole world, and/or create a Facebook event where they invite you without even knowing if you are in the country or not.

Therefore, if you have a cousin/friend who’s in town visiting and other friends you were supposed to hang out with that day, you all simply make a trip to this wedding reception. In the end, the total number of guests may range anywhere from 300-1,000 people, sometime more, depending on how famous you are, not to mention that since the invitation card isn’t required at the door, anyone can show up as they please. For that reason, most of the time you cannot feed them all, and you may never know that they were at your wedding.

Rwandan Traditional Dance

Rwandan Traditional Dance

Needless to say, the Rwandan wedding ceremonies are amazing and I still believe they are the best out there: the music, songs, outfits, cultural dances, beautiful people, extremely eye satisfying! And like they say “the more the merrier,” you do not need to hire a wedding coordinator: your friends do everything for you at no cost. Besides professional tasks such as photography, video shooting, hall decoration, food preparation, etc, friends are likely and eager to help out as if it’s their own, as well as contributing some cash.

With this in my head, I was extremely sad when a co-worker at my first job in the United States got married and I wasn’t invited. I wondered what wrong I had done, to not be included. And I was even surprised to hear her sharing the wedding details and excitement; in Rwanda, if you aren’t planning on inviting someone, you simply don’t say anything to them. Only later I learned that around here, people invite a specific number of people, just family and close friends. And the ceremonies are much more smaller, private! It makes sense.

While the newlyweds in Rwanda will definitely not know every single person who made it to their special day, at least not until they watch their wedding DVD and see pictures, in the United States, the bride and the groom specifically walk around to say hi to their guests and thank them for coming. They also make sure everyone who attended feels welcome, gets food, and a seat!! Back home, if you arrive late to a wedding (not to mention that the “Rwandan time” runs a couple of hours  behind the “real time”), you may risk to stand in the back, since seats are first come first serve, unless you are a family member, a close friend or an important person in the wedding.

Church Wedding Day Convoy

Church Wedding Day Convoy, it may consist of a large number of cars

So this week, I received a wedding invitation from a friend I had known a little bit over a year. I was deeply touched because I am not that “very close” to her. Now that I learned that to be invited to someone’s wedding is an honor, I treasured her invitation and couldn’t wait to tell her how excited and special I feel by her invite. I am honored!