Christ’s church in Rwanda meets in a large, modern building that would be the envy of many congregations in sub-Saharan Africa.
More impressive was the guest list for the church’s recent inaugural service two Rwandan Cabinet members, five presidential staffers, representatives of the nation’s education ministry and supreme Court and the U.S. embassy counsular, to name a few.
Among the 332 attendees were “at least 40 children between the ages of 3 and 9 … who will likely do more good for the future than any of us who pretend to be influential today,” missionary Dave Jenkins said.
The group chose the name “Christ’s Church in rwanda” because another religious group is registered under the name “Church of Christ,” Jenkins said. The new congregation is the first to be registered by the Rwandan government in four years.
Many religious groups were silent and a few even assisted as machete-wielding militias slaughtered 800,000 people in 1994, Jenkins said.
The genocide “soured Rwanda’s attitude toward those of faith,” he said, but now “we are being given a new opportunity to speak and act in faith.”
That opportunity came through the relationship between U.S. church members and Rwandan President Paul Kagame. A delegation of members, including Jenkins, a former missionary to Uganda, and Mike O’Neal, president of Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City, visited Rwanda in 2004.
Jenkins and his wife, Jana, have since become missionaries to Rwanda along with Kyle and Luz Beard. Additional church members, including Oklahoma Christian staffers Bryan and Holly Hixon, plan to move to Rwanda soon.
Last April, Kagame visited Oklahoma Christian, where he and O’Neal announced plans to offer scholarships to Rwanda students on the condition that they return home after graduation to help their country. The first 10 Rwandan presidential scholars complete their first year at Oklahoma Christian this month.
Kagame, Rwanda’s first democratically elected president since the genocide, offered church members the chance to purchase three buildings at the center of Estate 2020 Caculiro, a middle class, planned housing community in the capital, Kigali.
The development is part of Kagame’s Vision 2020, a strategy to rebuild and expand the country’s infrastructure through urban planning, investment in technology and education.
In addition to serving as a meeting place for the church, the Gaculiro property will become home to the Kigali International community school, launched under the Jenkins’ leadership last year. The school, with 45 students from nine countries and a lengthy waiting list, offers a faith-based curriculum and operates in partnership with several non-governmental organizations and ministries in Rwanda, O’Neal said.
Supporters of the work recently established the nonprofit Rwanda Outreach and Community Foundation, or ROC, to invest in projects to serve Rwanda’s people, said O’Neal, who serves as a chairman of the nonprofit. board members include Jenkins; members of his supporting congregation, the Quail Springs church in Oklahoma City; and church members from Dallas and Lubbock, Texas
The nonprofit’s main task is raising the $1.35 million purchase price of the three buildings. The group made an initial payment of $50,000 recntly, but a second payment of $750,000 is due in late May.
“This property is a great way to establish an influential beachhead for the kingdom,” O’Neal said.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, see www.rocfoundation.org.