What does hope look like? Maybe it looks like the straight rows of a newly planted garden in rich topsoil. Or maybe it’s the smell of hamburgers on the grill. Or maybe it’s packing a suitcase for a dream vacation, or to just get away for a few days. Or maybe it’s being 6 years old with a wiggly worm on a hook.
Hope. For some it might be a call back for a job interview. Or it might be small progress this day in physical therapy. Or it could be the first conversation in a relationship that has been broken for years. Or hope might be the kind word from a friend in a difficult time.
What does hope look like?
In Kigal, Rwanda, hope looks like a gourmet restaurant. Almost 20 years ago a wave of brutal genocide swept across the country. As many as 800,000 people were killed. Anger, grief, poverty and racism are deep scars that run across the land. Recovery has been slow.
In 2005 Josh and Alissa Ruxin moved from their Manhattan apartment to Rwanda to pursue work in international development and global health. They were there to created health facilities that addressed AIDs, malaria, tuberculosis and malnourishment. They were there with many other workers from non-governmental organizatinos to address the overwhelming needs.
But a strange thing happened along the way. In addition to their aid work, Alissa gathered a few plastic tables and chairs and opened a coffee shop. Hutu and Tutsi people came, drank coffee, and talked. More plastic tables and chairs were purchased. A kitchen was added.
And then Josh and Alissa Ruxin had a crazy idea: What if they developed the coffee shop into a gourmet restaurant? There would be a greater market for farm produce. There would be more jobs. There would be an environment for Hutus and Tutsis to serve each other and talk with each other and gather around tables and eat together, all surrounded by beauty.
And so the gourmet restaurant in Kigali, Rwanda, was started. People came, worked and ate together. And the gourmet restaurant became part of the development plan. It was a bright sign of hope in Kigali. The story is told in the book “A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope and a Restaurant in Rwanda,” written by Josh Ruxin. Hope is an interesting thing.
What does hope look like?
Fore more than 2,500 years some people might mention the words of Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” It is the great promise of God. It is a time when the weapons of war become the tools of productivity. It is a time of justice, when what is wrong is made right. It is a time of forgiveness, when the fears and hatreds of different people come to an end.
Those first followers of Jesus, the early church, knew this great hope of Isaiah, and wante dto be part of it (Act. 2:43-47). And so they lived that way together. There were signs and wonders. There was great generosity, sharing and care. They worshipped, prayed and ate together. And there was something of communion in their meals together. They weren’t perfect, but with “plows, shearers, peace and justice” they lived differently than people around them. And people noticed. And people came. And more people came. It was a type of “goourmet community” in the bread and water of their day.
So, what does hope look like? Perhaps in this church season of Pentecost, Christians might again consider the hope of Isaiah. Instead of “drawing lines” we might join hands. Instead of small words of condemnation we might share big acts of hospitality. And instead of red or blue, conservative or progressive, gay or straight, we might better be defined by love. People will notice “plows, shearers, peace and justice.” And people will come. Hope; one day, someday, why not this day?
And that gourmet restaurant in Kigali, Rwanda, admidst the scars of genocide from 20 years ago, it is a place of art, beauty and community. It is a light, communion, justice and peace. And appropriately, the restaurant is named “Heaven.” It is the hope of God’s new creation here, in one place, today.
Rev. Dr. Glenn Hink is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Sharon.