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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Mission co-worker sees hope and joy in her students and in Rwanda

‘Land of a thousand hills’ is among top 10 fastest-growing economies in Africa

September 12, 2018

“All of Rwandan identity and history is divided into pre-genocide and post-genocide,” mission co-worker Kay Day said at the 2018 New Wilmington Mission Conference at Westminster College.

“Division has been part of our history,” Day said. “You see, before the Germans and Belgians came, there were two people groups. There were the Tutsi who owned cattle, and there were the Hutu who had land.”

When the colonizers left, the Tutsi were in power. A new constitution was written, an election was held and — since the Hutu were 84 percent of the population, compared to 15 percent Tutsi and 1 percent indigenous Twa — the Hutu voted themselves into power and set about trying to dehumanize and eliminate the Tutsi.

On April 6, 1994, while returning from a peacekeeping gathering in Tanzania, the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, both moderate Hutus, was shot down and everyone aboard died.

The Hutu blamed the Tutsi, and genocide broke out.

“In 100 days over 800,000 people were killed, and not killed by a militia army fighting back and forth, but rather by neighbors killing neighbors with machetes and clubs, as brutally as they could,” Day said. “The country was left in shambles; infrastructure destroyed.”

“I want to tell you what’s happening in Rwanda today,” Day said. “And, I want to do it in the context of two of my students at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS),” a school founded and supported by five Protestant denominations, including the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda.

Jambo Ashimwe and Théogene Gasoro, students of mission co-worker Kay Day at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences in Rwanda. (Photo by Kay Day)

The lone genocide survivor of his parents’ seven children, Théogene Gasoro, is proud to be married. Day said that shortly after he and his wife were married, Théogene developed lesions on his cheek, which were diagnosed as cancer.

Doctors told him he’d need about 18 months of chemotherapy injections.

“That meant he would live,” Day said. “We praised God for that.” Healing can be seen from the outside, she said.

“That’s very much like the country.”

According to the latest World Bank report,  Rwanda is among the top 10 fastest-growing economies in Africa.

Day said infrastructure is much better, agriculture is flourishing and there is main road access throughout the country. The capital city, Kigali, is “one of the cleanest cities in all of Africa,” she said.

“It looks very good on the outside, but my friends, there’s the inside,” Day said. “And that’s where my second student comes in.”

About a year ago, a young man came up to Day after she preached a sermon on God changing our hearts and changing our identity, so we become new creations in Christ.

“Ntababazi Jean Baptiste said, ‘I want to change my name because I’ve been changed inside.’”

Day said naming conventions are different in Rwanda. “You have your Rwandan name and a baptismal name, and the Rwandan name is individual for each person.” Sometimes parents choose names based on what they want their children to be, or other times they may choose a child’s name based on the present circumstances they find themselves in at the time of the birth.”

This student told her, “I want to be a pastor. How in the world can I go to a congregation and say, ‘My name is ‘Ntababazi.’ My name is ‘merciless’? I want to change my name.”

Day did some research and found that Ntababazi would need to ask his parents’ permission to change his name. He would also need to complete forms, pay $100 U.S., and pay for ads in the newspaper and local media to let anyone who might have a case against him know of his intention to change his name.

“This has taken a year,” Day said. “Two weeks ago, I got this joyful, joyful message from him saying, ‘It’s final. My name has been changed.’

“He has gone from Ntababazi (merciless) to Jambo Ashimwe, which means ‘Praise the Lord.’ That is his new identity. It is his new name.”

“It is the long, slow process of changing hearts that is the difficult thing in Rwanda,” Day said. “It is at the heart of what I do with the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda and PIASS.”

Tammy Warren, Communications Associate, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Rwanda

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Hannah Truxell, PMA
Melonee Tubb, PMA

Let us pray:

Gracious Father, equip us to be an encouragement to those we seek to help, revealing Christ through the way we live. Form us, O God, into a people who praise your name in actions and deeds. Christ be with us. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 89:1-18; 147:1-11
First Reading Job 29:1, 30:1-2, 16-31
Second Reading Acts 14:19-28
Gospel Reading John 11:1-16
Evening Psalms 1; 33