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!)

Families Reunited with D.A.D.S.

William was raised from an early age to survive “on the street” though criminal activity. This resulted in him living with 17 aliases, multiple children, multiple women, multiple incarcerations and the accumulation of over $100,000 in unpaid child support. William found Divine Alternatives for Dads Services (D.A.D.S.) based on his mistaken belief, from “word on the street,” that D.A.D.S. would help him avoid the obligation to pay child support. Marvin and Jeanett Charles welcomed him with open arms as they do every new D.A.D.S. client.

As time went on, William found that instead of avoiding his child support responsibility, the D.A.D.S. experience helped him learn the importance of living in community and assuming responsibility, not just for child support, but also for his entire life. William received assistance to establish a parenting plan that allowed him to make regular child support payments and establish regular visitation with his three children. William discovered hope for a new future. Like so many others, the love William had for his children became a profound motivation to break the generational cycle of incarceration and destructive behavior.

During this period, William demonstrated an aptitude for fixing computer hardware and software applications. He applied those skills in a small business as a computer service handyman. He began attending community college and studied Information Technology(IT). At the same time, William was helping other D.A.D.S. clients go through the same process he did. He became a driving force behind a group of D.A.D.S. former clients who run a mentor program called Connie’s Urban Brothers (C.U.B.S.) at a city alternative school for youth who are at high risk of drug abuse, street violence, teen pregnancy, dropping out of school and incarceration.

Almost all of the men involved in C.U.B.S. have been incarcerated for extended periods of time and all of them have children. These men speak with authority, they know the dangers involved in taking the at-risk path – they have lived it. The school principal says that these men are the best thing that’s ever happened for the kids. She reports that school attendance has risen and attributes the rise in attendance to the regular presence of the C.U.B.S.mentors. William went on to graduate from community college with a degree in IT. Upon graduation, he applied for a job with a corporate executive he met through his work at D.A.D.S. He is now a highly respected IT professional at one of Seattle’s most recognized companies. He is married, in relationship with his children, is a homeowner and pays taxes.

William’s story is typical for many D.A.D.S. clients walking through the doors for the first time. Without D.A.D.S., William would have continued to search for ways to avoid his unpaid child support, continuing to live his life on the perimeter of society and ultimately returning to incarceration, self-destructive behavior and separation from his children. Now instead of being supported by society, he supports others. In January of 2015, William Hughes was elected the President of the Board of Directors of D.A.D.S.

Click here to go to D.A.D.S. website

Racism and the Gospel, a visit with Dr. John Perkins

Racism: the belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them. Racism breeds fear and distrust, robbing everyone involved of their identity in Christ, created in God’s image, to know God, to love and bJohn-Perkinse loved. Racism is hateful and evil, pitting one human against another human, destroying relationships and ultimately bringing death. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I bring you news of great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).  All people. Racism steals away the good news of the gospel.

John Perkins began his life in 1930 in Mississippi as the son of a poor sharecropper. When he was seven months old his mother died and his father abandoned the family, leaving the children to be raised in poverty by their grandmother and extended family. John was seventeen when his older brother was murdered by a town marshal, and John’s family became afraid for his life. Vowing never to return to the place of his birth, John fled to California.

Fast forward to 1957 when John, through his son’s encouragement, attended a church service and encountered the Lord, giving his life to Christ. Though he had vowed never to return to his boyhood home, God had a bigger plan for John. In 1960, John moved their family to Mississippi to share the gospel of Christ with those still living in that area. John became a vocal supporter and leader in the civil rights movement, was beaten, arrested and tortured in jail, but never lost sight of the call on his life or the love of God in his heart. He came through this experience with a vision of a holistic ministry designed to remove the bondage of racism from all people, the oppressor and the oppressed.

Through the next four decades John wrote, spoke, taught, earned degrees and became an international leader in the church. He authored nine books, created non-profit ministries, joined boards at World Vision and Prison Fellowship, and became a leader in community development for impoverished people in urban and rural settings.  In 2004, Seattle Pacific joined with now Dr. John Perkins to launch the campus-based John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development.

Dr. Perkins was in town last week. On Monday, I had the privilege of joining a small gathering of urban leaders for lunch and teaching with by Dr. John. We met at Urban Impact and for two hours we sat at the feet of the master of reconciliation. At 85 years of age, he is an energetic man with a gentle demeanor and an incredible heart for God’s people. Moving around the room as he spoke, he made eye contact with each person. Words of scripture flowed effortlessly from him as spoke about the utter devastation racism had on our country, our communities and our churches.

He asked, “What is the time in which each of us is living? It is not the time to profile and hate, it is the time to start reading the word of God and believe what it says!” God has not designed us to be defined by race; we are all members of one race, the human race. We come from different ethnicities, cultures, lands, and we are all one race under God.

Dr. John spoke on God’s call on our lives to love. He said, “Love is the best chance…people get trapped in their own cultures…we have to love their eyes open…to look for ways to serve both sides.” The Gospel is the power to reconcile people together, and as the church we are called to reconcilers, to let the God of Reconciliation live in our hearts and walk out reconciliation in our lives. As Dr. John stated, “Let’s enjoy loving each other across all lines that divide us.” How do we do this? By coming together, working and learning together, and by staying together no matter what.

Have you experienced racism in your own life? If so, how did it impact your faith and your understanding of reconciliation?

Are you interested in further conversations on race and reconciliation? If so, BelPres has a Justice and Reconciliation team that meets twice a month. For more information contact me,  Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach at mmccracken@belpres.org.