An evening at Shyira with the Kings

Imagine you have found your way to the living room of the King’s house in rural Rwanda. It is 7:30 P.M. The sun went down at 6:00 P.M., and after 15 minutes of darkness and flashlights, the electricity came on at 6:15. Dr. Caleb is on the porch chatting with his visitor (though the visit was surprise, having surprise visitors is, actually, a matter of course around here). He is likely needing a signature for some official hospital business. Dr. Louise sits nearby, checking her email at the kitchen table, while two short-termers sit at the school-room table (just adjacent) surfing the web and checking their email. (The King’s have a satallite and therefore the best internet connection on the hill. Graciously, they allow visitors to come and sit in their living room most nights of the week to take advantage of their wireless.) 

“Vrrmm! Vrrrmmm!!” Caleb Jr. runs in with three paper-airplanes and making appropriate airplane noises. “No, mom, I haven’t brushed my teeth yet,” he says. Hannah King, his older sister, sits down beside one of the short-termers, browsing her Facebook account. “Who’s that? How do you know them? What other pictures do you have?” she asks, a better question-asker than most journalists. “Yes, mom, I already brushed my teeth. And flossed.” Dr. Caleb comes in and sits on the couch. The littliest King child, golden-curly-haired Lydia, crawls into his lap for the evening bedtime story. 

“I’ve gotten an email from Sara!” Louise exclaims. “She’s wondering what to pack for her trip home next week.” Sara, the oldest King child, is currently a middle-schooler at a boarding school in Kenya. She will soon be coming home for a much anticipated visit. As the three children snuggle up next to their father on the sofa, you wander over to the packed bookcase and browse a few of the titles:

Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats…
Mountains Beyond Mountains, biography of Paul Farmer…
Pilgrim’s Progress…
Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa…
Looking After a Donkey…
Harrison’s textbook of Internal Medicine…
Biography of Gladys Aylward…
Mere Christianity 

Storytime over, Caleb Jr. begins running around in circles with his paper airplanes and a blimp made out of a balloon. Equally as inquisitive as Hannah, he ignores the ‘BEDTIME!’ announcement and begins peppering you with questions: “Which do you like better? The blimp or the airplanes?…What’s your favorite mythical creature?…If you had a Greek god for your parent, which one would you choose?…Will you play capture the flag tomorrow? Pleeeeeeeease!?” 

Suddenly, the lights fade and the short-termers expel involuntary sighs of disappointment at a last email not quite having finished sending or a Skype-conversation with a sister being cut short. The electricity goes off at 8:30 every night, along with the electricity-powered satellite connection. Laptops are packed up, thank-yous said, fully-charged lanterns gradually illumine in the hands of the King children, and everyone shuffles off to their respective houses, rooms, and beds. A final “Sqawk sqawk!” emerges from the porch-dwelling parrot… 

*   *    *

The above is an example of a typical evening here at Shyira Hospital. Before I arrived, I could hardly imagine what living at a mission hospital in rural Rwanda would look like. One short-termer, arriving a month after me, exclaimed surprisedly, “But where’s the pit latrine?” after he was shown to his personal apartment complete with shower, flush-toilet, and kitchen help. Certainly everyone on “the hill” does not have a flush toilet, but this is one of the many technological advancements (another being the satellite internet connection) that have come to Shyira thanks to Dr.Caleb and his family. 

Even without these modern-day luxuries, however, I suspect that most people would be surprised at the comfort and family-atmosphere of Shyira. I myself, having never met the King family before, was hoping to get to spend maybe a few hours a week with them and perhaps to win the trust of their children gradually. Quite to my surprise, from the first day the King family and their children included me in their daily life, from afternoon games to flute lessons to nightly internet and watching movies cuddled on the couch – Thank you, King family, for your seemingly natural and endless hospitality, joy, and love!

~posted by Mary Buckler, shorttermer at Shyira between September & December, 2008 (Medical School graduate June 2008).

2 thoughts on “An evening at Shyira with the Kings

  1. Marianne Laing

    Dear family,

    What a privilege it was to have you here at our house in Florence. We all commented on how much we love spending time with your entire family. Thanks for being so genuine, humble and transparent. I love sitting around the supper table with you, talking, reminiscing and laughing. I love listening and hearing how God chooses to use you in such an amazing way in that large continent of Africa, and in that needy country of Rwanda. Philip is the man he is today partly because of his amazing and sobering experience he was allowed to have with you and your ministry. Thanks from the very bottom of my heart for allowing God to use you as His very instruments to help direct Philip’s future in the medical field. You have such old, firm roots that are deeply embedded in our hearts forever. You loved and cared for us in the darkest time of our lives. You treated our little Cristina with such dignity and deep care when we did not know if she would live. You gave beyond the medical care. You took care of us as a family and that we will never forget. Thanks for just being YOU.
    I would love more than anything to come visit you and help you in any possible way. How great it will be to be able to read your blog from now on. We love you precious family.
    Marianne for the rest of the Laing family

  2. Steffi

    I felt like coming into your house at an evening like this… except that it is already half past 9 here and the electricity in Shyira is off since an hour!! 😀 I miss being at Shyira and wish I could get on a flight tomorrow!!!

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