(un)Stable Stories: Advent Narratives from the YAGM Community
Hannah Sackett
Rwanda 2017-2018

“Is not this the fast that I choose: To loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6

During my time in Rwanda, my 16-year old host brother, Delman, and I would often sing together. Some of his favorites included “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran, “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, and especially “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton. I’ll never not grin remembering how deeply Rwandan teen boys adored Dolly Parton.

But one particular memory of music making stands out from the year – singing “O Holy Night” in our small church in Kibungo on Christmas Eve, with Delman playing the guitar alongside me. The words of the last verse, “Truly They taught us to love one another, God’s law is love and the Gospel is peace… Chains shall They break, for the slave is our brother, and in God’s name all oppression shall cease” have been stuck in my brain this season, as we live through such a momentous uprising and collective breaking of chains in this country.

I recall proclaiming those words in the small Kibungo Lutheran parish, shaky-kneed and vulnerable, and remember what it felt like to have my brother standing beside and strengthening me, literally accompanying us with his guitar, in it together. When I think about it from this vantage point, it seems so clear that his presence in my life that year, and in that particular moment, was Christ embodied; empowering the liberating lyrics of that hymn to be made tangible, and the Word of God to be made real in the community. He brought me to life again and again, and in doing so taught me that the law is indeed love and the Gospel peace… And also that Dolly Parton really loved her coat of many colors.

Hannah lives in Minneapolis and is following in the footsteps of her Rwandan companions: working on her MDiv (thanks, Pastor Evangeline), singing in the National Lutheran Choir (Delman would be proud!), and supporting birthing people as a doula.