How could you possibly live with and work with someone who has murdered your sister or your father or your mother, or all of them? This is the challenge in Rwanda every day, where in 100 days during 1994, more than 800,000 people were killed by their neighbors. Since the end of the killing, survivors and former perpetrators have had to live side by side again, earning a living, shopping, and worshipping with one another. For Christians, it is becoming possible because they are living the reality of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 5:18:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18
It isn’t easy but it is possible. I know because I live with these folks and work with them in ministry. I teach English and Theology at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences, (PIASS), in Butare, Rwanda. I am part of a team training pastors for the ministry of reconciliation. It begins with practical experience as survivors and former perpetrators live and study together in dorms and in classrooms. It carries over into their work in the churches, where they put the gospel into action in development events within the congregation. Out of those projects come opportunities for forgiveness.
One of our pastors began in a poor parish on the Burundi border by bringing solar power to the church. But more than installing lights, they opened a booth to charge cell phones and cut hair, equipment powered by the solar cells. They trained both victims and perpetrators to operate the equipment. From the money earned, the church began livestock breeding programs for the poorest farmers from both groups. They then began beekeeping businesses and sold the honey. From there women learned to make baskets to sell outside the community. Bible study and discussion was at the center of all these activities. In all of this, the two groups worked together and learned to know each other and begin to forgive. Today the church is growing and ministering in the community in new and energizing ways. They are modeling the ministry of reconciliation.
For a year and a half, one of your own, Meg Knight of First Presbyterian in Ballston Spa, and I worked together in Rwanda with the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda. She also has stories to tell of all that God is doing in healing deep wounds from the genocide of 1994. So through her, you have been part of this reconciliation ministry. I invite you come and hear more of all that God is doing. I will be at First Presbyterian in Ballston Spa on Sunday, May 29th at 10 a.m. sharing some stories. You are invited to come and worship with us. Then I will be available during the week to come to your church and speak to a group that might be interested in hearing more of this amazing ministry. Finally, I will be with the Albany Presbytery at their annual retreat at Silver Bay on Friday. I am excited to share stories and answer questions about God’s working in Rwanda.
Rev. Catherine (Kay) Day, a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), has been serving for the past three years as a mission co-worker in Rwanda, Africa. She is a lecturer in Practical Theology and English at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences, in Butare, Rwanda, a school that trains pastors from five different protestant denominations, as well as offers degrees in education and development studies. Prior to going to Rwanda, she served as a mission co-worker in Malawi, Africa for four years. At present, Kay is traveling and speaking in the States about her part in PC(USA) World Mission’s role in world mission partnership around the world.