Training spreading from diocese to diocese in Rwanda

BUILD training is spreading steadily and successfully from diocese to diocese in Rwanda. Butare diocese is a neighbour to Shyogwe diocese, where BUILD training was first established. It now has a team of trainers who have been trained locally and who are now training others. While the spread is exciting in and of itself, the way in which it has spread – or, indeed, the way it has not spread – is even more exciting.

Butare has not sent trainees to be trained centrally in Uganda, although that is one way in which such spread is being encouraged. Neither does BUILD Partners provide a large budget for the work: certainly not one that begins to approach the scale of other ‘NGO’ style educational initiatives. Nor have teams from Uganda visited the diocese to train leaders. Teams from Uganda have visited Shyogwe on a number of occasions to establish the work, and they have laboured with their Rwandese brothers and sisters, despite testing conditions at times. Nor have BUILD Partners sent trustees or associates to teach at workshops in the diocese, although that has happened in Shyogwe and elsewhere. In fact, we have had little contact beyond a breakfast with the outstanding and energetic bishop there, Nathan Gasatura, in his home. So how has this happened?

First, it has happened through sharing fellowship. There is genuine partnership between the leaders of the dioceses. Butare and Shyogwe are part of a group of four dioceses in Rwanda, together with Kigeme and Cyangugu. The bishops share very real fellowship and support one another, something that we have witnessed first-hand. Rather than competing, they share resources and encourage one another, which sets a pattern for the dioceses. Their Rural Development Inter-diocesan Services (RDIS) is one example: a genuinely Christian enterprise promoting gospel-centred holistic mission, which helps to drive and promote BUILD as a form of church mobilisation strategy.

Second, it has happened through sharing trainers. Flowing from their mutual understanding, trainers are shared within the network. The flat, missional structure that BUILD seeks to promote is working in practice here, with trainers coming from Shyogwe to Butare to help with the training, and making sacrifices to do so. First, they trained a group of 17 individuals at the diocesan level in August 2014 (ten pastors, six catechists and an evangelist). Then, towards the end of the year, 75 local church leaders were trained at the archdeaconry level, including 12 pastors, 33 catechists and 30 evangelists/lay leaders.

Third, it has happened through sharing resources. As they said in a recent report that I received from Faustin Niyindengera: “At the archdeaconry level, the training sessions were conducted in an extremely interesting and encouraging way” before going on to explain that, “It is important to note that as far as financial resources are concerned, there was a significant financial input at local church level to ensure that the training is successfully conducted. The local churches, in collaboration with the trainees, have contributed to the training participants’ meals, transportation and accommodation for few of them coming from distant parishes. This has not only contributed to the efficiency in terms of resource mobilisation, but also is a way of reinforcing the ownership and sustainability of the programme. It also creates a sense of responsibility and active involvement in the implementation of the programme.”

So what has been the impact of all of this? While the structure of BUILD is designed to promote a range of outcomes, preaching and teaching of the biblical gospel is central and ongoing. It is no surprise, therefore, that RDIS reported this: “We are getting testimonies from the people who were trained and they stipulate that in the local church the preaching of the Word of God is more effectively and adequately done”.

Likewise, Aimable Mutabaruka, the diocesan Mission Coordinator and designated BUILD Officer in Butare, shared: “At the diocesan level, we have started seeing and hearing a change in the way messages are delivered. All the servants of God who have been trained declared that they have been touched and challenged by this Biblical way of interpreting the Bible in the right and true way”. He added that, “those who have been trained are training others and as a result the number of trainees is increasing continuously”. Finally, he affirmed that, “the BUILD Programme trainees are organising themselves to ensure that even those at the grassroots are equipped with knowledge and skills in biblical understanding, interpretation and message delivery.”