Monday, June 23, 2014

What in the world am I doing here?

There are several logical answers to this question of course, however the fact that I am writing this to you from the edge of The Democratic Republic of Congo--the poorest nation in the world, while sipping from the fountain of high-speed clearly not logical.

I've asked myself this very question several times in the past couple of days as the newness of my adventure has worn off a bit.  After the initial high of charging off to Africa, I am quickly overwhelmed with the vast differences, the enormous need, and my own inadequacies.  Call it cold feet, sobering up, or just whiplash, what sounded like a good idea for the past 6 months all of a sudden is dwarfed by the reality of the actual work to be done and my smallness in a continent that has gone on without me for some time.  Since I've been asking myself this question, I thought perhaps some of you may be asking the same of I will oblige you :)

Logical answer #1: 
Hitching a ride in the land of a thousand hills.
I first became involved with Rwanda through the fortunate funding of a professional development fellowship offered by Fund for Teachers in order to gain practical perspective for a curricular expedition involving math and poverty.  Moved by my experience, I joined the Board of Directors of Arise Rwanda Ministries -- which was started by my fellowship host John Gasangwa.  If you haven't read his story then you simply must (stop now and go to, and then you'll know why I simply had to be a part of what was going on here.  As the last two years have carried on, I quickly saw my involvement increasing and my heart longing to see the educational opportunity grow for the poor children in Boneza.  We're talking about a region with 20,000 people, 7,000 of which are children who have no secondary school opportunity when they are finished with 6th grade.  That means back to the way things have always been.  I was approached by the BOD and asked to consider a month-long trip to really dig-in to what it would take to build a secondary school for a population that desperately needs it, but doesn't really need the status quo.  So that's what I'm doing here.

Logical answer #2:

John, Greg, and Kevin outside OI's Rwandan branch. 
Now that I'm here I've been learning a lot.  We've interviewed teachers, school leaders, the Dean of the College of Education, top scholars and their NGO sponsors.  I've been fortunate to get a hold of a resource created by an organization called Teach a Man to Fish which has done some amazing work with creating financially sustainable schools in rural contexts by using viable enterprises at the center of the curriculum.  Today we visited Opportunity International -- a microfinance bank which has provided opportunities for small-scale entrepreneurs and will likely be a partner in the school-based social enterprise.  We're identifying key people who we want to be a part of Kivu Hills Academy, and John (ARM's founder) and I have had countless discussions about the cultural context and possible considerations for a school.  It's all about gathering information and the deeper we look the more certain themes arise.  We're talking to the community to discern their values for the school and brainstorming ways in which the linkage between a sub-par primary education and a new secondary experience will work out the best.  So that's also what I'm doing here.

Spiritual answer #3:

The final reason I'm here is maybe not so logical as it is spiritual.  I would be remiss to have you think that this project and my journey this summer is motivated strictly by a secular desire for some naturalistic advantage (financial gain, status, career advancement, etc.) or even simply an un-tethered ethic toward "the greater good."  No, Africa is not a place to test your secular fortitude (defined as the will required to hold at bay any feeling or realization that the world may be actually more than what is seen).

Just some of the photos of children murdered during the Genocide.
I visited the Kigali Genocide Museum again yesterday and the Nyamata Mausoleum and it was a clear reminder that we live in a truly broken world.  Evil is not cliche' or fiction here, and neither is God.  Over 90% of the population follow Christ and point to Him as the source of their strength to forgive and pursue reconciliation instead of hate, revenge, and bitterness.  And this even in light of the fact that many Christian leaders were also key perpetrators of the Genocide.  "...for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God..."  (Romans 3:23)

Indeed it is remarkable that only 20 years after the Genocide, virtually all perpetrators have been allowed back into society via the traditional Gaccaca court system simply based on their willingness to confess to one another, and the reciprocated forgiveness of their victim's families.
A solemn parade of commemoration and mourning.
How can one explain this without supernatural mercy?  Perhaps some will try to explain it without God: (ie. altruism and cooperation as behavioral traits leading to favorable natural selective fitness for those who would pass on their genes within the population), but I dare them to make this case to the widow in Boneza who has chosen forgiveness for the man who killed 70 people including her entire family, and meets regularly with him to comfort his guilty conscience!  For me, walking the streets here, meeting the people, hearing their stories, visiting the sites of atrocious and devastating evil, I can not explain this outside of the reality of the spiritual.

The Nyamata Genocide Memorial -- Once a Catholic Church where over 40,000 Rwandans were locked inside and left for slaughter.
What am I doing here?  I am here because I believe God wants to tell this story around the world so that many will know Him and the account of his own forgiveness and love.  I am here because I don't want the Genocide to happen again.  I am here so that educated Rwandans may know they are loved by those who follow Christ, and that they may have a better chance to succeed and thrive.  Many of you do not believe as I do, and yet we still call each other friends, family, and colleagues.  I understand and respect that, and yet I wish you could be here to understand things through my eyes as well.  Perhaps you'll at least stick around on the blog! I'm not out to change your point of view, I just wanted to set the record straight for what in the world I am doing here.

Worship this Sunday at Christian Life Assembly in Kigali.  Africans sure know how to worship!

To God be the Glory!


  1. Amazing stories of forgiveness and reconciliation, Kevin. What an experience. Thank you for keeping us updated during this time. I know from being in Haiti that it's an effort to put into words your experiences and to find the time to post for all of us. Trusting God to continue to transform you as He transforms Rwandans and their nation. Blessings on all you set your hands to do!

    1. and this is Jill Bell, in case you're wondering:-)

    2. Thanks so much for your encouragement Jill! I hope your travels and work are going well this summer also. Can't wait to swap stories!