Joseph Nyamutera brings reconciliation and healing in Rwanda

Joseph Nyamutera is a large man with an equally large heart for the Lord who has used his gifts to bring fellow Rwandans out of an unthinkably dark time, leading them to reconciliation into healing and forgiveness; his greatest challenge! What has made this mission and ministry uniquely insurmountable is the fact of who Joseph is: a Hutu among an evangelical team of Tutsis in the Kigali offices of African Evangelical Enterprises (AEE) that was re-established after the Genocide of 1994 when over a million Rwandans were killed.

The genocide began when the then Rwandan President, a moderate Hutu, and the Burundi President’s plane was shot down over Kigali with no survivors. The Rwandan President was returning after signing an agreement for the creation of a transitional government. This angered the Hutu extremists so within hours of downing the airplane, they set up roadblocks and went out on foot to begin killing Tutsis. The killings lasted 100 days and over one million Rwandans were killed. In April 1994, the AEE team leader, Israel Havugimana, was killed along with most of his team. In July 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) liberated the country. The AEE was inactive until August 1994 when the new team Leader Antione Rutayisire (a Tutsis survivor) and a new team were installed.  Following God’s nudge, Antione courageously chose Joseph to head up the reconciliation and healing, a bold and risky move considering the deep wounds at that time.

The required ethnic identity cards of the genocide are now abolished and it is important to understand and appreciate the depth of the work involved. Joseph led the AEE Healing and Reconciliation team to help a country and its people heal from the untold carnage. Often, the perpetrators killed people that they knew.  Joseph brought the perpetrators in front of the families of the victims they killed to walk through three days of reconciliation, healing and ultimately to forgiveness. My husband Frank and I had the honor of witnessing his work while in Rwanda in 2006 and 2008.

After leaving AEE in 2010, Joseph along with his wife Esther founded Mercy Ministries, continuing the work of healing and reconciliation. They work in the Great Lakes region of Rwanda and in the greater Kigali area serving the entire community, both young and old.   They have added education and vocational training to the ministry helping Rwandans to find forgiveness and a hope for the future. Mercy Ministries has been and continues to be supported by BelPres.

In January of this year, Joseph and Esther’s attentions turned fully to Education. Rabagirana Bible College has now opened and registered its first class of students. With this school, they are raising up Rwandans, providing degree programs in Reconciliation, Applied Technology, Bible Courses, General Composition, English, and Computers.

Imana Inguhe Umugieshu! (May God Bless You!)

Life in the Dominican Republic

The first time that my husband Kyle and I went to the Dominican Republic, the country captured our hearts. After that Impact Trip, we spent a summer at the Children of the Nations (COTN) base working with their I Love Baseball (ILB) ministry and producing media for their marketing team. Children of the Nations is an organization that believes in taking care of people with food and education while sharing the joy of Christ. I Love Baseball is a branch of COTN that provides baseball training for kids and an opportunity to stay in school in their communities. This helps end the cycle of poverty in the Dominican Republic because the boys have something to fall back on if they don’t make it in the big leagues. At the end of that summer, we left with rich friendships and everyone’s last question was “when are you coming back?” That question was answered when we returned this past fall.

It was such a joy to see the COTN staff members again and catch up. On our previous trip, we built some strong mentoring relationships with the boys in the ILB program. When we pulled up to the practice field, I had butterflies of excitement in my stomach.  It was incredible to experience picking up right where we left off.   However, we immediately saw how much they had grown in character as well as in height.

In the prior summer spent in the Dominican Republic, we gave the ILB kids opportunities to teach the younger kids how to play baseball. Many acted like they were too cool for school at first, but eventually more and more joined us to teach. When we returned in fall, they had created an afternoon practice that was fully run by the older boys. They invited the younger boys to join and the older ILB boys to be volunteer coaches. This was a rare moment where we got to plant something and watch it grow at the same time.

One of the things that Kyle and I are drawn to in the Dominican Republic is how they do community. America can be a very individualistic culture and the Dominican Republic is all about taking care of the group. For instance, when Dominicans make dinner, they make an extra plate of food because they know someone will stop by and join them. One of the most eye-opening conversations Kyle and I had with the ILB boys was when we realized that they didn’t know what a homeless person was. Their response was, “so Americans just let people live on the streets rather than invite them into their homes?” After a pause, we sadly answered “yes.” The Dominican Republic is a very different culture than we live in, but it made us ask the question, “What can we take back with us to the States?”

The community we have in the Dominican Republic is special and we are very grateful for those friendships.  Maybe we can’t bring everything back, but we can bring how much they value community. Until the next time we go back, we’ll continue to work on making that kind of community a reality here.

Find out more about Children of the Nation’s I Love Baseball program.

Eastside Academy Student of the Month- Jason’s Story

Imagine the helplessness of teens who have found themselves in situations they cannot fix alone: abuse, neglect, addiction, homelessness, spiraling grades, and truancy. We have heard the youth describe their teenage years as a “dark pit of despair.” These youth, who God holds so dear, are in crisis, and we believe that we are called to help.

Eastside Academy is the Christian alternative high school with campuses located at BelPres Church and Overlake Christian Church. We offer teens a chance to turn their lives around through education, treatment, counseling, housing, mentors, and the love of Christ.

We realize – and deeply appreciate – that the blessing of providing for these youth is a partnership. This past Sunday, you heard from a brave student who is only able to attend Eastside Academy because he is offered a scholarship and safe housing at our Re:New Housing Program. Eastside Academy is able to bear this cost for all of our students because of the investment you make in these young lives.

Below is the story of another student, Jason (name changed), whose learning needs were not a fit with public school. We were able to provide him with an academic plan and small classes, which has made all the difference. Please take a moment to read about Jason:

“When I was in kindergarten, I came home crying because my teacher told me that I was stupid. I never wanted to go to school again. At a very young age, I started skipping school. I felt like I did not fit in and because of my attendance, I was expelled.

In middle school, I switched to another school and that was the worst experience of my life. I did not know anyone. No one was very nice. I just could not make any friends because I thought they would think I was weird. No one talked to me in all the years that I spent in that school. Of course, I started skipping again and got horrible grades. There were times when I would feel so bad about myself, that if I could, I would have ended my life.

At the end of middle school, the principal recommended that I attend Eastside Academy. After a few tours of the campus, I could not believe that this was a real thing! I knew instantly that this is where I would be for all four years of high school.

I had skipped school my whole life, so I got back into the bad habit even at EA. The teachers helped me get out of that habit. I cannot think of one thing that has not improved in my life because of this school. My attendance is now the best it has ever been. My teachers help me finish things in class and I get to stay after school to finish my homework with my teachers.

I just want to say that, if it were not for this school, my life would be a mess. Every penny that goes to this school makes my life better. I really appreciate this place from the bottom of my heart.”

We just completed our second quarter and Jason received the award for Perfect Attendance. THANK YOU for walking alongside Jason and other students like him. Our doors are always open, so please stop by and visit any time.

If you feel called to mentor an Eastside Academy student, please contact Get Connected.
For more information on Eastside Academy events or programs you can go to EA’s website or you may contact Elyse Nicholson, director of Development for Eastside Academy.