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The Rwandan Book of Ruth
Wednesday, 13 July 2011 Written by fra Ivica Perić

The Rwandan Book of RuthEverything we need to run the school, we have to obtain for ourselves. The same goes  for firewood used in the kitchen. When the storage room becomes empty, I know what needs to be done... grab the chainsaw and off you go! Our land has trees that are ‘ripe’ for tearing down, so from time to time I have to play the role of a lumberjack.

So we cut down a couple of trees the other day. Several parishioners helped me do it. In fact, my task was to cut down trees with the chainsaw, and then cut them into smaller pieces which will be used in the kitchen. The parishioners helped me by cutting off the smaller branches with their machetes, so that I wouldn’t waste precious time and chainsaw fuel.

Small branches are of no use to us, so they were left behind, lying on the ground. That didn’t go unnoticed by village women, so they started to gather around us, carrying their children on their backs, and began collecting the branches. It will be very useful to them, because it’s very hard to find firewood needed for their cooking.

The men that were helping me started to chase the women off. I turned to them and told them not to do it. I invited the women to come back freely and collect the so much needed branches. You should have seen the joy! Together with their little ones, they passionately gathered the branches. They were very happy because, when the branches dry out, they will have a supply of firewood that should last at least a couple of weeks.

While I was watching them glean, that is, collect the branches left behind, I remembered the Book of Ruth from the Old Testament. Ruth, a Moab woman, didn’t have any income after her husband had died, so she sustained herself by gleaning the fields. She gathered what was left behind by reapers. That’s how she met the field owner, Boaz, who allowed her to glean. There’s no need to tell the whole story, because it’s better that you find it in the Old Testament and read it yourselves.

But, thinking about the story and observing all those ‘Ruths’ I had allowed to glean after us, I smiled remembering how the Old Testament story ends. In the end, Boaz marries Ruth.

And there were suddenly so many Ruths around me. But, don’t you worry! This story is going to end somewhat differently. Boaz wasn’t a priest, unlike me. There’s no wedding in this Rwandan tale. The story about these Ruths of ours ultimately ended with just permission to glean and nothing else!

Translated by: Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

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