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'Divine Appointments' in Rwanda

'Divine Appointments' in Rwanda

By Jeffrey Walton
May 16, 2023

This past April I traveled to Rwanda to participate in the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a renewal movement within the family of churches descended from the missionary activities of the Church of England.

Anchored in the Global South where churches are growing fast, GAFCON emphasizes evangelism, discipleship, and contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

The decision by GAFCON leaders to host the conference in Rwanda served to spotlight a changing center of gravity for Anglicans away from the Global North. Additionally, Rwanda has Anglican ministry in a land that is not a former British colony, one that experienced horrific brutality during the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and still confronts a complex legacy.

Following the conference, I traveled across Rwanda for a full week, visiting those engaged in ministries of reconciliation, care for the disabled, and to observe teaching about spiritual gifts.

Intercessory Prayer

This second week in Rwanda was purposefully unplanned, leaving room for what my friend Jenny Noyes of the New Wineskins Missionary Network terms "divine appointments," meeting with other persons that God has specifically and unmistakably arranged.

Among the opportunities was travel to Rwanda's South Province alongside a short-term mission with Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA), a mission agency serving the Anglican Communion "by building up and equipping the Body of Christ; through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit."

The team, consisting of Anglicans from New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, was invited to provide teaching in two archdeaconries by Bishop Jered Kalimba of Shyogwe Diocese.

I am not a charismatic Christian nor a cessationist. But, friends who have had "spirit filled" experiences share about the need to be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. In Shyogwe diocese, I observed parishioners watch intently as the SOMA team modeled intercessory prayer to minister through the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit. These prayers were for physical healing, deliverance from spiritual oppression, and even prophecy. There was conversation around best practices (team members shared that prophetic words don't, for example, prescribe who to marry).

Global South Christians seem more likely to have an expectation of God's supernatural work in the life of their community. The SOMA team sought to share their experiences from the Charismatic revival: that the Holy Spirit moves in response to prayer, as seen in the Book of Acts, with a power to heal and restore, drawing us closer to the heart of God.

Hope for the Future

Separately, I was connected by family in Washington State with the work of Gilbert Kubwimana, an Anglican who serves as Executive Director of Love With Actions in Kigali.

Founded in 2017, Love With Actions provides physiotherapy and occupational therapy for children with disabilities.

Kubwimana shared of meeting a family living underneath a mango tree, homeless and ostracized from their community because of misunderstanding about disabilities their child was born with. Kubwimana saw that disabled children and their families were living in shadows of rejection, shame and neglect. It was a transformative moment: he saw an opportunity to bring these children into the light and nurture of God's love.

Love With Actions is purposefully located in two under-resourced neighborhoods where those participating in programs are within walking distance. I met the family of Arafat (pictured above), a boy with muscle weakness and stiffness who is in the process of developing the strength necessary to walk. Other children manipulated objects to build fine motor skills.

"We seek to overcome the limitations placed on children with disabilities and their families caused by prejudice and misconceptions, so that they can more fully participate in developing a society that loves all children equally," Love With Actions describes its mission.

Good Shepherd Academy, established by Love With Actions for children with disabilities unable to attend conventional schools, has classrooms where children with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome and epilepsy learn alongside able-bodied children in an integrated setting.

"We give them hope for the future through the word of God and prayers," Kubwimana's organization describes.

Journeys of Forgiveness

Following the 1994 genocide, convicted offenders were imprisoned (in 2023, Rwanda has an incarcerated population of 580 prisoners per 100,000 population -- substantially higher than any of its neighbors). Some have been released to return to their families, living alongside survivors.

Families of survivors and their offenders struggle to reconcile and live in harmony. The genocide affected the socio-economic status of survivors, and I'm told that offenders and their direct families hardly socialize.

Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance (CARSA) works with genocide survivors and their direct offenders, "accompanying them on their journeys of forgiveness, reconciliation, and holistic development," the organization describes.

Executive Director Christophe Mbonyingabo and I met in Shyogwe Diocese; I was later able to connect with him in Kigali to learn about the trauma healing and reconciliation program of CARSA.

Among CARSA's work is a novel project called "Cows for Peace."

Reconciliation requires addressing poverty, malnutrition, and family relationships. The Cows for Peace project aims to attend to each of these.

The program begins with trauma healing and forgiveness workshops and ends by providing an offender and survivor with the shared responsibility of caring for a cow. It stays with the survivor's family, but both share the responsibility of caring for it. This creates opportunities for the offender's family to visit the survivor's home regularly.

Through the guidance of a cell group, the survivor-offender pair continues to rebuild their relationship as they care for the cow. The first calf that is born is given to the offender's family.

"Former enemies are enabled to cooperate in trust and to rebuild relationship," CARSA describes this project.

The opportunity to witness the work of those ministering in a Global South context is something to be grateful for. As Anglicanism's future grows in this region, we can be encouraged by those taking their Christian faith beyond their sanctuary walls and into the public square, where it contributes to social flourishing and builds up people in knowledge and love of the Lord.

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