Global Missions: Rwanda
Luther Place Rwanda Ministry
In August of 2006, a small group from Luther Place Memorial Church traveled to Rwanda for two weeks at the invitation of Pastor John Rutsidintwarane, General Secretary of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda. Pastor John had spent 6 months at Luther Place in 2001-2002, studying approaches that would assist in rebuilding efforts among the Rwandan population following the 1994 genocide that took 800,000 lives in a country with a population of 8 million.
We traveled there to learn about the reconciliation and community building processes underway in Rwanda, helping both perpetrators and victims of the genocide to live peacefully together in this small East African country. We experienced both the most tragic and most optimistic aspects of Rwandan life and talked to those at both the top and bottom of society. Our deepest impression was one of profound hope and optimism, of new life growing from unbelievable horror. The society is at a critical juncture and we are committed to doing our small part to help sustain the work of recovery.
Pastor John, since his return to Rwanda in early 2006, has focused on post-genocide reconciliation and community development projects working with local congregations. Luther Place has assisted in a number of ways including providing support to Pastor John for fuel costs associated with his ministries of reconciliation around Rwanda, helping a rural Lutheran congregation in Kirehe construct a church building, assisting with development of a medical clinic in rural Mumeya village (more information below), funding student secondary school scholarships, and other related initiatives.
New pastors training session at Kirehe church
Gary and Margaret Maring of Luther Place traveled again to Rwanda in late summer of 2011 to further assist with these ministries of the Rwanda Lutheran Church. Gary particularly focused on completing design for and fundraising for the solar electric project for the Mumeya medical clinic. Through various meetings with non-profit foundations and government officials a final plan was developed in which solar panels would be contributed to the project from another government site; combined with the $15000 already raised we hope to install the solar project in the next few months. Margaret served at the Rwanda School in setting up a library and tutoring/counseling students who needed special help.
Margaret and Gary also assisted with training of five new Lutheran pastors. Gary conducted a one day social justice session, particularly relying on Desmond Tutu’s teachings about justice. Margaret, as a professional counselor, conducted a one day session on counseling techniques for pastors. The pastors normally do not have counseling training and feel unequipped for the counseling demands of families in their congregations.
Mumeya Medical Clinic Project
Luther Place members visiting Mumeya Clinic site in 2006
Using community organizing techniques he learned during his internships at Luther Place and in Oakland, California with PICO, Pastor John particularly focused efforts on assisting congregations in rural Mumeya village in southeast Rwanda to come together to meet the community’s most pressing need, which turned out to be health care. Mumeya village is 25 km from any medical services and no transportation is available. The community suffers from malaria, dysentery, TB, HIV-AIDS, early childhood mortality, and other debilitating health problems but few can get to the distant health facilities. Our group visited the proposed Mumeya site in 2006 and heard firsthand about the community’s health needs and how they had joined together to make this happen. We saw their plans and were impressed with the large pile of rocks that had been carried by the community from considerable distances to be used for the clinic foundation.
Luther Place congregation thereafter committed to providing transportation funds to Pastor John to travel weekly to the village for project oversight and to contribute building materials which we have done annually through Gifts of Hope. After more than two years of careful planning and foundation preparation, the community has made good progress in construction of the clinic; the government has assisted with construction and staffing and the initial 3 rooms are in operation as an outpatient clinic and now an additional four rooms are near completion in September of 2011 (see photo below).
The community strategy is to start small with their limited resources but gradually work toward construction of a larger medical facility that could have up to 50 beds. Most recently, Luther Place members have also been investigating solar power options for the clinic as there is no electricity in this remote village. A benefit concert was held at Luther Place on March 26, 2011, to raise funds for a solar power system. The concert was co-sponsored as a project of Luther Place and Saint Stephen Lutheran Church in Silver Spring. Outstanding young musicians performed under the direction of Eric Maring. Many families of Luther Place participated, having scheduled this as their monthly outing. A fun time was had by all and over $7500 was raised for the solar project (See concert photo below). The project has now raised $15,000 and is seeking Rwandan government matching support to complete the project.
Kirehe Lutheran church
Luther Place has also been supporting our fellow Lutherans in Kirehe parish in rural southeast Rwanda, a congregation we visited in 2006 and committed to an ongoing relationship. Our most important commitment was to financial assistance in construction of a church building for the congregation that now holds services under a tent. While there, we helped the congregation in laying the foundation for the Sunday School wing of the building, see below.
Pastor Mugabo of the Kirehe congregation (now Bishop of the Lutheran church of Rwanda) sent the recent exciting news that they have completed the roof over their sanctuary. Pastor Mugabo Evalister’s message to Luther Place says: “Dear friends in Jesus Christ, we are really very excited to have the church with new roof, now we are anxious to finish. Thank you very much for the many contributions you have made even putting your hands to work when you were in Rwanda in 2006. May God bless you.” (Note: Luther Place provided $10,750 toward construction over the last 5 years including a recent gift for installation of doors and windows)
As a part of Luther Place efforts to strengthen our relationship with our sister congregation, the Sunday School students led by Krista Sickert-Bush have exchanged letters with the children of the Kirehe congregation. Luther Place has also helped support secondary school tuition for two children of the Kirehe congregation.
The Rwanda School Project
Pastor John’s wife Robin is a Lutheran Missionary and has led development of the Rwanda School Project, a parochial secondary school in Rwamagana. Secondary school capacity is limited in Rwanda so the churches have stepped in to help meet the demand. The Rwanda School project accommodates disadvantaged students including those orphaned or otherwise impacted by the genocide.
Pastor John Rutsidintwarane & Margaret Maring at the School
Although not a direct ministry of Luther Place, Jane Saari of Luther Place has been a member of the Board of the Rwanda School Project (RSP) and reports to our Rwanda committee and the congregation on progress in building a Lutheran Secondary School complex in Rwanda. The ELCA’s Sierra Pacific Synod in California is the primary supporter of that project and they have reported great progress in opening the first of the new school buildings in September of 2010. Luther Place has also recently collected books for the school children and has contributed to school supplies and scholarship support.