What an amazing trip I've recently had to Rwanda! I went out with a team led by Ric Thorpe, the Bishop of Islington to see some of the work with which Tearfund is involved.
Rwanda is a small, fertile and beautiful country in East Africa. It's one of the smaller African countries (about the size of Wales) and yet quite densely populated, especially in the capital, Kigali. The Rwanda of today is highly influenced by the terrible events of 1994, when a million people were killed in the Genocide. The people are doing all they can to ensure that such events will never take place there again and so there's a strong emphasis on reconciliation and unity. There's been a huge investment in the infrastructure of the country, from education to health care and the churches in particular are playing a key part in its future. I had the privilege of preaching in one or the parish churches in Kigali last Sunday and it was wonderful to see vibrant worship and people coming forward for prayer as they responded to the word of God.
Whilst there we visited a number of different parts of the country, meeting local people who'd encountered Christ and put their faith in him. But more than that - they'd begun to see their lives differently, embracing a new identity and realising that they'd been given God-given resources to transform not only their own lives and those of their families, but their communities too. Story after story was the same - in the cities and in the rural areas.
One man we met in his home was called Augustine. He was married with three children. He told us that his life had been rather meaningless and that he felt lonely. He was encouraged to join a small group in his church and they were trained and envisioned to see that together they could do great things. They read bible stories together and each committed to investing a very small amount of money each week to help each other. As a result of their savings over the last couple of years each group member has received a pig and then a goat (which all have bred). Now his small business is beginning to thrive. His children are going to school and the family receiving health care. In his back yard he'd just built two small buildings. One was for local evangelists to gather to talk and pray as they come and go to local villages to tell people about Jesus. The other was just finished. It was a cow-shed, but we noticed he didn't yet have cows. He said he knew one was coming soon and so he'd built the shed ready - in faith and anticipation!
When one of the Bishops we met was asked what God was doing in Rwanda he said 'God is showing us that we are rich.' He went on to tell us that the Lord had been showing them that transformed lives, rather than dependence on aid or hand-outs was the answer to their problems. This mind-set change was beginning to see remarkable fruit. As the church engaged in mission, and was trained (by organisations such as Tearfund) to lead small local groups so people were being empowered and lifted out of poverty. Churches were growing. Communities were being transformed.
The quality of the leadership in Rwanda was impressive - from the Vice-Chancellor of the University and Archbishop, to the local pastors and community leaders who were looking out for the poorest of the poor and helping them to think differently and through the help of local churches begin to make a living, feed their children, build a home and live for Christ.
I believe we saw glimpses of a remarkable move of God in Rwanda (which is also taking place in many other parts of the world too). It's a work happening at the grass-roots of society, often stimulated by tragedy, envisioned by the Scriptures and empowered by prayer, equipping transformative leaders who rely on the Holy Spirit. It was an honour to behold.
We at The Belfrey are a people similarly committed to transformation - to serving God's transformation of the North of England. We too need to be envisioned by the Scriptures and empowered by prayer. We need to be equipping transformative leaders who rely on the Holy Spirit. As we do these things we should also be expecting a remarkable move of God in our region and nation, in our day. We have all the resources we need to see this happen. As Jesus said, 'Do not be afraid, little flock, for the Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom' (Luke 12:32).
This is a reproduction of Matthew's recent Friday Message to the church family at The Belfrey. You can receive the Friday Message every week by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
'...they've begun to see their lives differently, embracing a new identity and realising that they've been given God-given resources to transform not only their own lives and those of their families, but their communities too'
'God is showing us that we are rich' (Rwandan Bishop)
It's a work happening at the grass-roots of society, often stimulated by tragedy, envisioned by the Scriptures and empowered by prayer, equipping transformative leaders who rely on the Holy Spirit.
Matthew Porter is Vicar of The Belfrey in York.