Monday, April 30, 2012


Sometimes the biggest stories of a week are the ones no one reports. I observed one a few months ago. I was in line at Banque Commerciale du Rwanda (BCR) on a busy Friday afternoon. The lines were long. In front of me was a Rwandan man dressed in a casual business manner. He was a little shorter than I, but about my age. I have never seen his face in the newspapers so I assume he’s not a known public figure. Most of us were trying to make the transactions go as quickly as possible. 

I did not first see her, but the gentleman in front of me noticed at the back of the line a short pregnant woman. I assume she put on her best clothes to come to the bank. However, she was the most poorly dressed person in the room. The gentleman after noticing her asked for all of us to surrender our place in line. We cooperated. He brought her to the front. She made her transaction and left. I was embarrassed that I the pastor had not noticed her. I was too self absorbed. I was impressed with the Rwandan gentleman’s chivalry.

Two thousand years ago my boss was asked who qualified as a neighbor to love as one’s self. He told an unforgettable story about a Jewish traveler who was ambushed by thugs. A pastor and seminary professor came across the wounded traveler. Both were too busy to help. Then a member of the Jewish traveler’s historic ethnic enemy, a Samaritan passed. As my boss told the story I imagine the crowd expected for him to conclude the historic enemy saw an opportunity to settle a score as the road was deserted. Instead the Samaritan applied first aid. Then he transported the wounded traveler to a hotel. He paid the bill and even left a deposit. My boss left the crowd speechless. All humans are our neighbors. Kindness, compassion, and chivalry are the marks of being a good neighbor. These are enduring traits of humanity. Selfish prejudice is humanity’s demon.

Several times over the last few months I’ve mentioned the story. I’ve heard two other stories.
A friend of mine once served in Rwanda as a diplomat. He and his wife returned to their nation’s capital city. His wife was pregnant with their first child. She rode a bus to work. The last people to get on the bus would stand. As her pregnancy became apparent none would give up their seat for her.

Another friend of mine once served in Rwanda as an NGO worker. His family returned to their home nation. His wife noticed an old woman standing on a similar bus. She was frail. Those who were physically strong chose to sit when they could have stood and given up their seat.

The Rwandan gentleman in front of me at BCR showed remarkable chivalry. He lived out my boss’s story.
Prejudices are dangerous matters. We have experiences which teach us how to categorize the world. Without basic categories life can be completely confusing. Yet sometimes our prejudices cause us to make poor judgments. We come to inaccurate conclusions and wound our neighbors.

I never heard either my diplomat or NGO friend describe Rwanda as a deeply divided nation. Yet, I have heard others describe Rwanda in those terms. Sometimes the easiest way to understand Rwanda is to read a history book or political commentary, develop categories, and start interpreting.

My family has lived in the Great Lakes region for some time. With experience come some prejudices. At year 8 in Uganda I began to hear accents. Some times as I met someone I could hear their first words and know in which region of Uganda they spent their childhood. In Rwanda occasionally I hear a Uganda accent.

The Rwandan gentleman in front of me spoke English with a Kiyankole accent. He had a thick mustache. I assumed his childhood was spent as a refugee in Western Uganda. By having a bank account and standing in line on a Friday I assume he has many dependants and wants a little cash on the weekend. He may be helping a relative through a problem. He may want to make a contribution at church on Sunday. He may just want to have a little extra fun with his wife and children. I assume he’s seen Rwandan women mistreated as he lived as a refugee. I assume a male authority figure taught him Rwandan women are worthy of dignity (after all Rwanda’s history books conclude Rwandan women were given far more dignity than the neighboring kingdoms). He probably would humbly describe himself as lucky whey he compares himself to his peers. Yet, he’s not so well known that his face is in newspapers. Something inside him was different than all of us that day at BCR. He noticed a short poorly dressed pregnant woman, and used his moral authority to treat her with dignity.

He practically lived out the old parable my boss told about a Good Samaritan. My prejudices from living in Uganda a few years and reading the stories of Jesus made me interpret the events as being different from some other prejudices about Rwanda. Most of us that day in BCR were too self-absorbed to see a woman deserving extra dignity and kindness. However, a man who could have seen the world through a lens of hateful prejudice and revenge saw Rwandan unity and female dignity. He responded as a gentleman. Not only is unity alive in Rwanda. Chivalry also is alive and well.

Monday, April 23, 2012


A firestorm of debate has been swirling in Rwanda the last few weeks related to abortion legislation. A study, conducted by the National University of Rwanda’s School of Public Health and the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, concluded that an estimated 60,000 induced abortions occurred in 2009. This translates to a national rate of 25 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. These estimates of abortion incidence in Rwanda project that one in 40 women aged 15-44 had an abortion in 2009. The researchers gathered data from a nationally representative sample of health facilities and knowledgeable key informants to draw these conclusions. It appears that from the representative sample more than 40% of women who had an abortion – suffered complications that required medical treatment.
Many pregnancies, especially among youth, are unplanned. (file photo)
Many pregnancies, especially among youth, are unplanned. (file photo)
Let me make these estimates practical. At the church I pastor there are about 100 women between the ages of 15 to 44 each Sunday. By these estimates at least 2 had an abortion and 1 suffered health complications due to the abortion in the last year. I lecture at KIST. In 2010 with my 143 female students 4 would have had an abortion and it is likely 2 of them suffered health complications. At first glance this does not seem like a statistical “big deal” until you start multiplying by the years of female reproduction. With a 29 year window of reproduction the number becomes catastrophic with 29 out of 40 women having an abortion in their lifetime and 11 of them having health complications.

I am consistently pro-life. I’m troubled by both the loss of unborn life and the loss of health (and occasional life) by unsafe and illegal abortions. What do people with strong pro-life convictions do with such statistics?
First, courageously pursue truth. This research was done by gathering a representative sample and then multiplying. Was the sample truly representative? If they are accurate we need to do some deep soul searching. If not, the statistics are not accurate. I’ve asked to see the research details, but so far do not have a copy. I would like a copy, and I think many others also would like to read the details of the research.
Until I have a copy I will still trust my pastoral intuition. My experience concludes there are many unplanned pregnancies in Rwanda (after all young people have sex and sex produces children). Many young women wrestle with idea of abortion. Some abort and face horrible consequences. However, most do not abort.

The religious among us sometimes spend far too much time and energy handing out blame. The practical result is in the process those of us who are politically pro-life are practically abortion advocates. We don’t deal well with paradox. Sometimes, we substitute rule-keeping for beauty. For instance, in advocating for abstinence we forget to be gracious when reality knocks.

In 2005 I was at a Groupe Biblique Universitaire (GBU) function at KIST. The organizers intended to encourage abstinence. They used a drama that poked fun at a pregnant university student. The students roared in laughter. I was aghast. If there was 1 young woman in the audience facing an unplanned pregnancy our humor had just told her to have an abortion. We had communicated we were not gracious enough to deal with reality.

Since then at least once per year I speak publicly at church and on campus that if you are pregnant and unmarried you can talk to me. I won’t hand out blame. I won’t solve all your problems. However, together we’ll find a solution that protects life. I’ve had a few people leave CCR when I preach that message. I’ve also had a few parents hold their teenage children’s hand and cry. Later, they’ve told me they are thankful a religious authority told their children that though we preach the beauty of abstinence we live the beauty of forgiveness. We would choose to have an unexpected grandchild over an abortion. I also mention that if your father is a leader in a Balokole church the unspoken pressures to abort are immense. I’ve watched young women nod their heads and after the discussions double check with me that “you won’t blame.” Exactly, I preach and live the pro-life virtues of truth and forgiveness.

Honestly, I enjoy holding babies whether they have a legal father or not. I’ll do all I can to help each one of those youthful friend’s children. I’ve performed a multiple of weddings where the bride was pregnant and I knew it. I’ve also hurried up my schedule with a “desperately in love” couple who had a full-term baby 6 months after the wedding. I had a suspicion, but chose to be discreet. I’m aghast when I hear of pastors debating whether they should perform weddings for pregnant brides. When most seasoned pastors double check their marriage registry records against their birth registry they find a surprising number of current church leaders who had children 6 months after their marriage dates. Truth and forgiveness are pro-life virtues.

Lastly, is the pro-life virtue of compassion. Some conclude that children conceived in chaos are best off not to be born. Some conclude that a child with certain medical difficulties caused by a crisis pregnancy and a premature birth are better not to be born. I respectfully disagree. The best evidence I can offer for the virtue of compassion is found in families and churches in Rwanda. Our churches and families have nurtured children born in chaos with medical difficulties back to astounding health. Who are we to conclude that they were better off not born? To do so would take the place of God. All children deserve a life in a family. Thus I am clearly pro-life. My community is one that practices the pro-life virtues of truth, forgiveness, and compassion.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


History shows that during times of great society building the key turning points are choices of the next generation. What will those who follow the original vision bearers believe, become, and do? Sometimes, they are spoiled brats who want their seemingly entitled privileges. Sometimes, they squander opportunity. However, sometimes they catch a vision; and build it to places their predecessors could not dream. Sometimes, it is the youth who provide zeal, energy, ideas, and inspiration. I believe Rwanda’s youth inspire.
Clarisse Irabagiza won $50,000 at the Inspire Africa competition. (photo Dave Jenkins)
Clarisse Irabagiza won $50,000 at the Inspire Africa competition. (photo Dave Jenkins)

Rwanda has a lofty vision for the year 2020. Many of us currently providing some measure of leadership will be in our 50’s to 70’s in 2020. It will be a season of transition. The key question in the year 2020 will be what does Vision 2040 look like. Rwanda’s youth must inspire us to 2040.

I have the privilege to know some of the leaders of Rwanda’s 2040 Vision. They inspire. Some are youth at a church I pastor. Some are students and former students at a school I was fortunate to found. Some are Presidential Scholars. Some are students and former students at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST). All inspire.

A few months ago, I noticed Facebook buzz among several former KIST students about an event called, “Inspire Africa.” The buzz was coming from some of my more inspirational former students. I did not understand what the entire buzz concerned. A friend provided Jana and me invitation cards. We came eager to be inspired.

The event started with drinks and conversations. I met a few of Rwanda’s leaders at the Serena reception. I felt privileged in the conversations to be able to mention some of the participants were former students who I now called friends.

It’s dangerous to admit that professors have favorites. However, if you sit near the front, make me laugh, have the courage to stand up to me, and talk to me after class, you will become one of my favorites. Clarisse Iribagiza is one of my favorites. She was one of three Inspire Africa finalists on Sunday, 1 April. The grand prize was US$ 50,000.

Clarisse faced off against two equally youthful opponents from Uganda – Davis Musinguzi and Manuela Pacutho. Davis brought charisma and assertiveness. Manuela brought beauty and passion. Clarisse brought humility, vision, pragmatism, and character. I whispered to all near me, “I know her. She’s the real deal.”
Davis was leading the competition, but when the eliminated contestants were polled Clarisse was their favorite. Tough questions were asked. Davis gave populist answers that would stir misplaced hopes of a desperate crowd. I worried a bit that his populism would carry the day.

The final judges were RDB’s Claire Akamanzi; South African billionaire, Graham Power; and Inspire Africa CEO, Nelson Tugume. Graham Powers asked Clarisse a tough question about her “being swallowed up.” She kept her dignity while speaking straight. She spoke of delegation and team work. Then she spoke of inspiring young Africans. It was classic Clarisse. Those of us that knew Clarisse cheered for her not because she was the home town girl. We cheered because we knew Clarisse’s character.

During breaks the moderator would ask the night’s VIP’s and celebrities their perspective. I was seated one row behind the VIP’s, and never was asked to speak. I would have preferred to have been quiet until Clarisse was misjudged as “being swallowed up.”

Following is the response I was not given the opportunity to speak:

“Mr. Powers, with all due respect allow me to speak to the perception that Clarisse was “swallowed up.” We expect the diplomats in our midst to be diplomatic in their responses. They have succeeded. We expect the political leaders to endorse their home people. They have succeeded. I am only a pastor. This crowd expects me to tell the truth about my friends. Truth and friendship become biased. Davis is obviously charismatic. Manuela is obviously beautiful and passionate. Clarisse has traits that endure beyond the strength of youth. She is a character-led visionary. I once was Clarisse’s friend and professor. Today I am only her friend.

Allow me to tell you about the first day I met Clarisse. On the first day of class I suspected the attendance list would be a forged document. The only way I would know was to allow the students to sign a list, and then I would count to see if the number of student bodies matched the number of signatures. Thus I refused to lecture until I had a list of student signatures in my hand. Clarisse watched me with a puzzled look. I suspected she on one hand thought I was wasting time, but on another wanted to know why I was so stubborn. As the attendance list was placed in my hand I began counting student bodies. Clarisse was the first to begin a nervous giggle. I suspected she knew exactly what I was doing. My intuition was confirmed. We had a class made up “ghost students.”

I would not tolerate forged documents in an ethics class. Yet I also believe sound ethicists are willing to listen. I asked the students how long they had been ghosting. The answer was years. I asked, “Why?” I heard many responses. The responses were eloquent and wordy. Clarisse cut through the chase. “We have ghost students because we have ghost lecturers,” she said. The class roared in laughter. The issue for both students and faculty was accountability. At the end of the class I had promised the students that they could expect me to keep time, come prepared, and never bore them in a lecture. The students had agreed to take responsibility for their attendance.

We were “swallowed up” by Clarisse. She did not need to be the center of attention. She just made us all better people with pointed insight and a desire to live in community.

Mr. Powers you should declare Clarisse the winner for the very reason you sought to criticize her.”
Clarisse Irabagiza won $50,000 at the Inspire Africa competition. The Ugandan newspapers were astounded. The Rwandan newspapers hardly noticed. My Rwandan bzee friends spoke with me as we left. They were wise enough not to cheer for Clarisse just because she was the home town girl. They cheered for Clarisse because she represented all we admired about Rwanda’s youth. She was humble. She did not need to be the center of attention. She was practical. She did not pander to our selfish whims. She was concerned with our community first. Her vision was for our good. Clarisse represented what we find so inspiring about Rwanda’s youth. In her most recent statements Clarisse deflected praise to her fellow youth. She does not need status.
Rwanda’s youth inspire.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for your prayers, support, and encouragement. This month we ask your prayers for the following matters:

1. Rwanda is currently in the Week of Mourning to Commemorate the lost lives in 1994’s Genocide. It is a somber week of reflection. Please keep Rwanda in your prayers this week. May healing take place. May both reconciliation and justice reign. May institutions be built in this generation which proclaims enduring hope.

2. Our prayers for many months have been answered. Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs is home with his forever family and healthy. May God be praised for so abundantly answering our community’s prayers.

3. Our family plans to leave Rwanda on June 4 to begin living in Wheaton, Illinois. It is very difficult to say good bye to Africa’s Great Lakes after 19 years. We hope this call is only temporary. May God’s glory be the utmost through this transition.

Imana ikurinde (May God Stay with All of You),

Dave and Jana

P.S. To read more about Mugisha’s transitions see


Monday, April 9, 2012


When we began our Mugisha journey we were convinced of several things. One, every child has a right to be in a family. Two, Rwanda’s Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion’s (MIGEPROF)/ National Child Commission (NCC) policy of de-institutionalization of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) was the most biblical response. Three, Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) Senior Pastor (us) must lead by example. Thus we chose to make our journey a very transparent and public one. Many insights would come later, but these were the core convictions.

After our Mugisha Gabriel Adoption Hand Over at CCR on 24 March 2012 we traveled with the Jacobs family to Nairobi as they processed Mugisha’s USA immigrant visa. Again, Mugisha was captivating. It went quick. We saw the pediatric neurologist, Dr. Osman Miyanji who was so helpful in December 2011, and he was astounded at Mugisha’s health. Then we returned to Kigali. The Jacobs spent their last days traveling around Rwanda. Then we said goodbye to them on Wednesday, 4 April. We held Mugisha for the last times. He knew Jana and I well. Mugisha snuggled. We made our silly boy noises at each other. However, he never took his eyes off of Mark and Chelsea. They were his mom and dad. Jana and I were his Bzee. The theory had worked. Old African wisdom mixed with good Bible study had triumphed.

If we approach life as an extended family(expressed through a local church) God will take care of us. Children who are raised in a family full of love can rapidly bond with another. The Jacobs staying with us for a few weeks like a good African extended family had allowed them to bond with Mugisha. He now accepted them as his parents. We said our goodbyes with tears.

We now have to complete the task of leadership. We must answer our community’s question. What was Mugisha’s departure like?

We’ve never experienced anything like it before. The closest similarity I’ve experienced is the death of a believing grandparent whose life was lived well, a time had come when the best of earth was to transition to heaven, but the temporary separation was almost unbearable. We cried because of the separation, but we knew this was the best.

Mugisha is home. I stalk him on Facebook everyday just like I do Sophia. The Lord has given him double measures of Rwandese charm. All who meet him are captivated. I’m very thankful he once slept in my home.

During Hand Over Sunday the Jacobs gave our family a large photo of us all at CCR on Christmas Day, 2011. Sophia was home from Wheaton College and Mugisha was still part of our household. On the photo is the verse, I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him (1Samuel 1:27, New International Version.)”

The last few days have felt like deaths of hope. I’ve hardly been able to function. I find myself sitting and staring into space. I cry easily. I can barely move and think. Emotions race through my body, mind, and spirit. I feel lonelier than I have in years. I am in grief. I stare at my running shoes, bike, and a weight room remembering joy; but I can’t find the strength to try.

I can do a few mindless tasks, but little beyond. Saturday, I sat and read my Bible. The only story I could remember that was similar to our experience of saying goodbye to Mugisha was in 1 Samuel with Hannah and Samuel. I found myself back with the verse the Jacobs gave us as they blessed our family and CCR. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him (1Samuel 1:27, New International Version.)”

Ekitukuvu. (It is true – Luganda.) During Mugisha’s stay in our family we prayed like never before. I read God’s word and trusted it as a little child like never before. God has fulfilled all of our prayers. Our community begged God for two matters. One was for the convulsions to stop. We quit counting the days without a seizure after 40. Mugisha may have a health struggle his whole life, but the convulsions have stopped for this season. Two, we begged God for Mugisha to be placed with a forever family. He is now Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs, resides in Irving, Texas, and worships at The Branch Church. God has been faithful.

(To remember the journeys of prayer check out and

In the beginning chapter of 1 Samuel there is a crisis. Hannah has not produced a child. Her rival wife provokes her. Her husband cannot console her. The text has these awful words, “The Lord had closed her womb (1Samuel 1:6.)” Hannah’s barrenness and suffering seems to have been for a season a choice made by God. Does God bring these dreadful seasons upon us where we publicly cry out to him?

Hannah went to worship in “deep bitterness of soul.” She begged God to “remember her.” Then she made a deal with God. If God gave her a son she would “give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.”

I’ve several times made deals with God. I think negotiating with God is part of being called. I didn’t negotiate with God related to Mugisha as I have in the past. However, from the beginning of our shared journey I gave him to the Lord.

My friends frequently asked, “Why don’t you adopt Mugisha?” I never said, “No.” Yet, I never said, “Yes.” I waited and prayed for the day and circumstance to become clear. I clung to the belief that God had a forever family for Mugisha. His extended family may be found. They may have been looking and could have given him the nurture he needed. Another family may have arisen who could care for him in a better way than I. Mugisha needed to be with a family who had access to the best medical care in the world. Our family did not have that capacity. Lastly, Mugisha Gabriel Jacobs is a blessed messenger. There are hundreds of children like him in Rwanda. If we could find a model that combined MIGEPROF’s / NCC’s De-institutionalization policy with good Bible study it would be transformational for many Rwandan children.

We may have kept a “foster like boundary” with Mugisha for some months. We loved him, fed him, nurtured him, etc… but knew he would likely go with another. On 17 November when the seizures began we removed all emotional boundaries. We loved Mugisha as our own child.

Over the last few weeks many of us have whispered our deepest fears. In Africa we don’t speak of our fears as they can become curses. We speak of our hopes as blessings. Some of us have now whispered, “We thought Mugisha may not live.” The thought crossed my mind also. I made a choice. If that day came I would hold Mugisha to his last breath. I would bury him in Rwanda on secure property with a tombstone that read, “Mugisha Gabriel Jenkins.” He would not pass from this earth to heaven without a family name. Yet, I begged God for that day never to come. God heard our prayers and responded. Mugisha’s seizures have stopped. Mugisha is now Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs. I imagine Easter Sunday at The Branch Church as Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs enters will be unforgettable.

In order to fully bless Mugisha and fulfill God’s intent we gave him to the Lord much like how Hannah gave Samuel. Hannah and Samuel’s story continued, But Samuel was ministering before the LORD—a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the LORD.” Then they would go home. And the LORD was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD (1 Samuel 2:18-21).”

Ironically, before Mugisha entered our home we had 3 sons and 2 daughters. God had blessed us with wonderful children before our Mugisha journey began. We entrust that Mugisha’s future will be much like Samuel’s. Mugisha will hear the voice of the Lord at a young age and lead many to victory.

As Hannah relinquished Samuel to the Lord she prayed,

“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted high.

My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

“There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

“Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD
is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

“The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.

“The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;
on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

“It is not by strength that one prevails;
those who oppose the LORD will be broken.

The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

We can offer no more wisdom than the prayer of Hannah. As in the relinquishment of Samuel so is the relinquishment of Mugisha.

My hope in the public Mugisha journey is that many will realize I am no hero. I may be a community leader. If so, I hope many will realize that God walked our family through the Mugisha journey with exceptional love and grace. His love and grace is available to all. Please join that journey. A friend of mine once served as a doctor at a hospital in Kigali. He told me the hospital has 2 or 3 babies abandoned each month. What if instead of those children being brought to an orphanage they were brought to a foster family?

I turned 45 a few months ago. Some adoption experts believe I am now too old to begin raising an infant. I am not convinced, but I will consider the counsel. However, I am still physically strong, wiser than in my twenties, and somehow God helps me pay my bills. I can foster children again.

The most rewarding matter that has crossed my path the last few months has been to have two Rwandan families tell me they would consider doing for an abandoned child what we have done for Mugisha. Both are a little wiser, wealthier, and older than I. Both acknowledge they may not be able to raise an infant to adulthood, but both are thankful for their current health and resources. If a few more of us in our forties and fifties in Rwanda could foster children until a long term solution for that child is found we could nurture the most vulnerable to a point of thriving just like Mugisha.

Many have told me that God will remember our Mugisha story. We will be blessed by God for our sacrifice. I am about to step forward believing a call that God has asked for our family to return to the USA for a season. I would rather stay in Rwanda. Thank you for that blessing. It gives me hope when I am afraid.

Yet, I want all to know I have already been immensely blessed to have once had Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs sleep in my home. I am forever grateful.

Friday, April 6, 2012


This week is one of profound paradox. On Friday, 6 April our Rwanda churches remember Good Friday. On Saturday, 7 April we begin the Week of Mourning to Commemorate 18 years since Rwanda’s Genocide. On Sunday, 8 April our Rwanda churches celebrate Easter Sunday.

It is inescapable as these days come together not to see the profound and at times both enraging and healing place of religion in Rwanda.

My family though relatively new to Rwanda has old roots in the Great Lakes Region. We remember Rwanda’s history as the leader of the East African Revival in the 1930’s and 1940’s. We remember a sense of hope in 1993 and early 1994 that the war in Rwanda would come to a negotiated end and generations of refugees would return home. We remember reading and listening to banter in the early 1990’s that we would far too late realize was genocide ideology coming from those who seemed reasonable. We remember not believing the early rumors after 7 April 1994. We remember realizing with shocked horror the rumors were true. We remember the ghastly realization that the genocide took place with complicit churches.

Most of our Rwandan friends are humble, reserved, and understated. Several times I’ve seen them explode with indignation as they processed the horrible history of churches in Rwanda’s history. One Rwandan peer of mine once slipped a remark, “I hate churches.” Another once was giggling with me about young people playing basketball inside the CCR assembly hall. When I remarked that I hoped I had not offended his sense of “a holy place,” he quickly spoke with anger about the horrors he had seen in church buildings. My two friends grew up in God fearing homes, but their youthful ideals were shattered by churches complicit in genocide. Their indignation is not only understandable. Their indignation is justified.

Insanity is the only possible word to describe those who deny Rwanda’s tragic history of religion. Yet at the same time religion is where we find healing and hope. Further, history will show that the faith community is a key component to building an enduring society.

What do we say during a year where our religious and historical calendars collide?

First, we accept both personal and corporate responsibility. The portions of the Bible I find most relevant to contemporary Rwanda are the portions of the Old Testament where Judah returns after 70 years of exile. When exiled Nehemiah realizes the security of Jerusalem is threatened his prayers leave no one off the hook. He took responsibility for it all. His immense sense of responsibility resonates for generations as he prayed, “And I'm including me, my ancestors and me, among those who have sinned against you. We've treated you like dirt (Nehemiah 1:6, 7, The Message.) Rwanda needs more religious leaders willing to assume responsibility for the failures of generations whom preceded them. We are all human. Our humanity wrestles with lies, hatred, division, and destruction. Seeing our own failings, and even taking responsibility for sins we did not personally commit is a must.

Second, we build. Genocide ideology thrives in a strategy based on non-literacy and poverty. Our strategy must be to build education and business infra-structure.

Third, the old Passion story defines and heals. Palm Sunday is a joy, but it reminds us that religious crowds can be fickle and undiscerning. If our joy has no understanding our passions can be destructive. A few days after Palm Sunday religious leaders crafted a conspiracy of false accusations against Jesus of Nazareth. They were motivated by the fear of a loss of power and control. The final outcome of the religious leaders’ conspiracy was Roman government authorities brutally executing Jesus.

A question we all ask of God during the Week of Mourning is, “Where was He?” The best answer I can find is alongside and with Genocide survivors. They were killed much like Jesus of Nazareth by state apparatus conniving with morally bankrupt religious leaders seeking power and control. The presence of Jesus was with every victim of Genocide.

Yet, one matter still remains in the Passion story – Resurrection. Death stinks – both in our spirits and in reality. It is most awful when it steals away our hope. Jesus had spent three years explaining what was coming, but His followers did not understand. They were scattered and confused. Only a few brave women would even dare risk the association of caring for his body. Those brave women were the first to see Him alive. Then over time over 500 saw him alive. Not only did Jesus resurrection overcome death, it overcame the horrible systems of governance and religion that made His brutal death possible. Our world is forever changed by Jesus’ Resurrection.

So how do we face this strange coincidence of the calendar as the Easter season meets the Week of Mourning? By doing the most basic tasks of humanity – We remember. We grieve. We embrace. We heal. We change. We discover. We hope.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Dear CCR Family and Friends,

This weekend is one of great paradox for all. For Rwanda it particular it is a weekend commemorating the 18th year after the Genocide. Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) hopes our services this weekend can be ones of remembrance, healing, and hope.

We will celebrate our Good Friday service this Friday, 6 April at 7:00 p.m. On this day in history the hopes of man were lost. Jesus of Nazareth had walked the earth for 33 years. He had taught and healed for 3 years. He proclaimed His kingdom was near. Judea was living under an oppressive occupying foreign enemy. Jesus had entered Jerusalem as King. Hope for a restoration of the kingdom of Judah was eminent. Yet within just a few days, the crowd turned on him, he was falsely accused, and brutally executed. Hope seemed lost.

Our days during the Week of Mourning bring much the same emotions. These emotions are the emotions of God himself. Loss, suffering, and death are not His intent. Our humanity needs to grief. You are welcome to join us this Good Friday in grief.

Yet, grief is not eternal. Jesus proclaimed that the tomb could never contain His and our future. On Sunday, 8 April we will celebrate Easter Sunday at CCR. We will have 2 services at 9:30 and 11:30 with a break for coffee and te

a at 11:00. We will remember that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. There were over 500 witnesses to this historic event.

Our hope as we remember the past is in a future Resurrection. We hope you

can join us

Pastor Dave