Rwanda revisited

BUILD Partners recently revisited Rwanda to renew links and explore the next steps for BUILD. It was a powerful reminder of the commitment of churches and leaders to growing their Church, and to serving their local communities. And it was humbling to hear of the impact of BUILD, the potential for further programme development, and the fruit that will accompany that.

Some background. BUILD has been relating to a group of Rwandan dioceses for well over a decade. In 2011 the BUILD Unit of the Church of Uganda sent a team there to build relationships there in response to an invitation from the Diocese of Shyogwe, and then helped to launch the training.

Shyogwe itself was in partnership with three other dioceses: Butare, Kigeme and Cyangugu. All four lie to the south and west of Kigali, reaching to Lake Kivu and the Congolese and Burundian borders. And all came from an originally larger Diocese of Butare. The strong relationships continue, including through the organisation ‘RDIS’.

RDIS grew out of Butare Diocese’s own Rural Development Service, which dates back to the 1960s. As the new dioceses formed, over time RDS became RDIS: Rural Development Inter-diocesan Service. The dioceses have been working together in mission for over 30 years now, which has meant that BUILD has related to all of them in different ways over the years. Now two others are in the picture.

In 2022 the Diocese of Nyaruguru was created out of the existing dioceses with a view to increasing evangelism in that district. It too joined RDIS. And the Missionary Diocese of Karongi to the north has hopes to join the group, and to benefit from the BUILD programme. If it were to join it would mean that RDIS – and BUILD – have a hand in helping with the mission of 6 of the 13 dioceses of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.

In looking forward to imagining what the increased involvement might look like, it was good to look back by hearing from some of the old hands: those who had originally helped to implement BUILD. To be reminded of why the programme took root and of the impact it has had, and in their own words.

Pastor Manasseh shared, “When I met this programme it helped me get power to fulfil my duties. Before, when I was preparing a sermon, I didn’t know how it could be prepared well. But today I am able to prepare God’s word and to give it to the congregation. In that way my congregation gets to know the message which is in the Scripture. That is very important.”

Manasseh added this to make the point: “It has taught us to evaluate ourselves too, when we are preparing God’s message. Is this message from God? Is it in the Bible? Is it relevant and important for these people? Is it moving to the people clearly? And can the message continue on to other people, those who will teach others as Paul tells us? BUILD helps us to identify those who can pass it on.”

It was heart-warming to hear the outcome in his day-to-day ministry: “In my own parish, when I went there people did not know how to prepare the message of God, but today I have a group of ten people who can prepare God’s message and can give other people help in preparing sermons. When I reached there the congregation had 300 people but we are now 505 and the offertories are increased. We have the heart of helping all the people. We collect money and help them to buy some cattle and goats to get some income in their home, to help them with their children and orphans, and so that they understand the work of God.”

It was inspiring to remember how Manasseh and others had spread the work and how that might continue: “I went to many different places in my diocese and beyond my diocese. I went with this message from God’s word, with this programme of BUILD. Some we met with are now ordained, and when I meet with them now, they thank God for what he has done through us.”

Similarly, Pastor John shared that, “after learning about BUILD I came and put it into practice. I was sent to a new parish, and I saw that it is a big place to work. No one can do it alone and without creating a BUILD group. How you can understand the Bible; how to continue to tell the good news; how you can preach to the people; how you can marry the New Testament and the Old Testament. And as a conversation, a conversation in a small group: that works in our villages. Now they are starting to come, slowly, slowly, slowly; tomorrow it will grow better than today.”

Finally, Pastor Charlotte told me, “I want to share about BUILD in my life. It helped me so much because it gave me a way, very well, that I can prepare my sermons. And I train can others in my church: today I am not tied to preach every Sunday because I have many preachers who were trained on how to preach a good sermon, which is clear, which is true, and which is relevant: according to the context of the Bible and the situation as a Rwandan.  How to know how to help people who have passed through a genocide. And for different people, a child, or youth, or the elderly, or women and men. What kind of sermon is relevant to these people?”

And all that in a specific ministry context. “Many people are confused. We are in a time where people want to go where there is prophecy, but it is often a prophecy of prosperity. Someone stands in front of people and says, ‘take a car, take a house’, and people run to those people without knowing if it is true, without knowing if it is the word of the Lord. BUILD helped me through the training: I discovered that we only respect prophecy that is going with the word of the Lord, the message of the Bible.”

No wonder Charlotte and the team is determined to continue to grow the work. “We have new people in the ministry. If we can train them as we have been trained before it can also help them to use this programme in their areas. And it is good to renew people – refreshing those who have been part of the programme, in order that they can continue the work.”