Rebirth and New Life for the Church in Rwanda
By Shelly Clasen, Missions Ministry Director, Church at the Crossing, Indianapolis
Editor’s Note: In late August and early September, a team of individuals from Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Central Community Church in Wichita, Kansas, joined Mike Webb, Global Strategy regional coordinator for Africa, for a trip to Rwanda to explore the needs of the church in Rwanda and ways that the church in North America might walk alongside the church in Rwanda. Aaron Varner, from Central Community Church, created a Spark page with details about the church’s need; click here to explore that page.
Genocide and reconciliation. Government closing churches. These were the things I had heard about Rwanda prior to visiting this beautiful country in September this year. During my seven-day trip, however, I learned so much more. While these things are highly influential in Rwanda, the way they are connected is complex.
Rwanda is a country in the process of being reborn. It is true that new government regulations have shut down over 8,000 churches across the country, including all 16 Church of God congregations. However, this is generally seen as part of rebuilding communities in a country that was ravaged by evil and hate, rather than as religious persecution. We visited five or six Church of God congregations that have been banned from meeting, and while these faithful believers are in need of encouragement, they are coming up with innovative solutions. Individuals have donated land for new buildings. Church leaders are looking for ways to receive theological training. Congregants have ideas for small businesses and co-ops to help support the churches and their pastors.
Charles Nsengiyumva, national leader for the Church of God in Rwanda, is a gifted leader. The Rwandan Christians we met are hopeful, resourceful, and entrepreneurial. They worship God with enthusiasm and courage. The Church of God in North America is in a unique position to partner with the Church of God in Rwanda as we learn from and encourage each other towards faithfulness in challenging circumstances.