Earlier this month, teams from the Winchester Diocese Education Team and the Winchester School of Mission visited our mission partner communities in Rwanda. Read a day-by-day account of all their activity…
14 February 2023
Director of Education Jeff Williams and Diocesan Education Advisor Sue Bowen – who serve both Portsmouth and Winchester dioceses – worked in Rwanda in February, with a couple of church school headteachers from Winchester diocese. Rwanda is one of the provinces that is linked to Winchester, and the recent visit was part of the strategic development for education, particularly focusing on mutual benefits and reciprocity for children and teachers here and in Rwanda. Jeff was invited to preach at Gahini Cathedral and the team took part in church services, taught in schools, and as part of the wider focus on educating children about the ‘real’ Rwanda, saw a state-of-the-art medical centre, and planted some avocado trees at the diocesan social enterprise project centre.
Jeff and his team also visited the Kawingire parish where they saw some social enterprise projects including livestock care and farming practices. The highlight was being asked to plant some avocado trees – 27 parishes have been gifted these so they can generate money when each tree will be producing over 1,000 avocados within 4 years. We also saw the modern beehive project where families have been given a highly efficient and high yield bee hive to generate income in selling honey.
16th February 2023
The Education Team spent the day working in Buhabwa Parish school on a varied programme of creating friendship paperchains to link children at home and videoing children dancing to a well-known song in the UK so that it can be added to a school’s interpretation of the same dance. We also brought illustrated prayers written by some children to give to our Rwandan children to read on a screen so we can bring them back to show children in our schools. Outside we taught mental maths using skittles and had a huge sing-along accompanied by kazoos that we’d brought from home.
16th February 2023
Many parishes in our Diocese are engaging with our schools and participating in our 2023 Diocesan Schools’ Project :‘Everyday Ubuntu’. We are delighted that our Rwandan friends are supporting our project through prayer, participating remotely and promoting in their parishes and schools. Today we had conversation and fellowship with elders, pastors, teachers and parishioners sharing aspects of our Ubuntu project. The photo of Rwandan and British hands and arms, of varying shades and colours, wearing our ‘Everyday Ubuntu’ wristbands, is hugely symbolic. It epitomises what we are seeking to do : unite in our diversity; celebrate similarities; acknowledge differences positively, but above all allow ourselves to be formed and changed by one another.
17 February 2023
It’s important that our children appreciate all aspects of life in Rwanda as there’s a danger of assumptions and stereotypes sometimes reinforced by the media. We, therefore, visited a state-of-the-art medical Drone centre which has transformed the emergency (and scheduled) rapid distribution of blood, medication, drugs and other surgical items to remote areas. The ‘Zipline Centre’ operates around the clock, and the details and photos from our tour will help our children appreciate the technological advancements in Rwanda that lead the world in this area.
18 Februrary 2023
Gahini Diocese has a rehabilitation centre attached to its hospital. Adults and children benefit from staying, often for nine months, for intensive therapeutic interventions. The centre also makes prosthetics and splints that are otherwise expensive to import. We met patients, therapists and the Centre Director. This is a huge demonstration of the commitment of the Anglican Church of Rwanda to the people it serves.
19 February 2023
Over the weekend the team travelled for two hours with the bishop to attend the inauguration of a new church building. The diocesan band attended and we walked the steep route to the church with dozens of members of the Mothers Union and Fathers union flanking the route. The procession symbolically circled the building three times, after which the bishop cut the ribbon and the. Hammered on the door three times with his crozier. There were 600 people inside and at least 300 outside. The service included hearing seven choirs singing and dancing – including a beautiful children’s choir; lots of inspirational speeches; Jeff and the pastors presented new members of the Fathers Union with their ties; and the blessing of key areas of the church. Five hours later we were led down the hill by the band who were swaying and moving to their music in typical African style. The team led an impromptu singalong with the children who were as amazing as every child we’ve met so far.
A day later we worshipped for four hours at the Cathedral when representatives of the diocese celebrated their achievements over the past year. This was followed by a goodbye lunch with diocesan parish representatives at the side of the lake.
20 February 2023
On the final day the team visited the National Genocide Memorial. This is a very important emotional experience and links directly to the Education Team’s and our Schools’ commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day each year. It also directly relates to our Christian duty to learn from the ways that sadly, people throughout history repeatedly behave inhumanely to others. One of our permanent diocesan education priorities is about teaching and practising anti-racism in age-appropriate ways, and promoting global citizenship, rooted in John 10:10 It is enhanced and embedded in this aspect of our provincial partnership.
Winchester School of Mission
15 Feb 2023
The team visited a remote school in Kagitumba Parish- the grounds of the school are overlooked by the forests of Tanzania’s national park on one side and the hills of Uganda on the other! As always, the children and teachers engaged enthusiastically in our group and whole class activities. Jeff was asked to bless the foundations of a new church building. Swithun, our Diocesan bear is with the team and is a focal point for explaining to Rwandan children how we use school bears to help in our geography, global citizenship and other curriculum areas. Swithun particularly enjoyed parachute goal scoring when he replaced the ball – the photo shows him flying, which captivated everyone and caused much hilarity.
Meanwhile, with the Winchester School of Mission team…
A plaque carved by prisoners where Kevin works as a chaplain is presented to Bishop Jean Pierre Methode, of the new missionary diocese of Karongi.
Kevin said when presenting the plaque:
“Bishop Jean Pierre, it was made with love and respect and hope.”
Then Bishop Jean Pierre responded: “The plaque has touched my heart, the words , the wood and the way letters are engraved in the wood, the message of forgiveness have really touched my heart. Lord have mercy.”
The WSM team are learning how God is growing the church in Rwanda. In the past three years, two new missionary dioceses have been created out of existing dioceses in the south and west of the country.
Karongi borders on DRC with Lake Kivu in between.
The Bishops took the WSM team to some local schools. A lovely video of the Bishops, the little children and the bubbles.
“Didn’t Jesus say ‘let the little children come to me’ not sure he added ‘ and blow bubbles ’”
Watch the video here.
The WSM team went to visit Pastor Laurent. The church there was just starting to be built back in August 2023. We looked around the school next to the church, pastor Laurent calls out ‘the nursery of the church’.
In 7 years she has grown the church from 16 people to 140, which is one of the reasons why they need a new building. The other reasons are to comply with the strict new building regulations for churches.
People are coming to faith as Christians help them in practical ways with micro finance saving schemes and they explain the gospel at the same time.
Take a look at the progress pictures below:
15 February – Visit to Cyangugu
“Cyangugu is the most beautiful place, and bishop Frances gave us a presentation showing us, how the church in this diocese has grown since he has been here. What is different about this Diocese to Karongi is that bishop Francis is building on the work of previous bishops who were also men of faith and vision.”
17th February 2023
We visited the parish of Birenga, right at the top of a mountain, as remote a place as I have ever been. Rwanda splits its population into 4 categories, cat 4 is the wealthiest, cat 3 with paid employment and owning their own land, cat 2 being able to feed themselves and cat 1 needing assistance. This village is almost exclusively cat 1 and cat 2.
What we noticed about this village was the lack of hope in people’s faces and actions. They are too far from market to be able to sell any goods they make and so rely on subsistence farming.
The pastor, Peter and his wife, came to Birenga as missionaries from northern province and have built up a congregation in the village. Pastor Peter’s started a to build a church building and it is now one of the parishes the bishop is putting his energy into. Pastor Peter’s and his wife jane have already started a preschool and savings group.
+JP says that when he visits the parish, 2 hours hard driving from his home, each month and knows that as the church is developed it will bring hope to the people.
18th February 2023
A rest day. We went for a boat ride on lake Kivu, saw monkeys, bats and lots of cows on the islands.
Jean D’Arc joined us, after travelling down in the bus from Muhanga, Debbie and I met the leaders of the MU in the parish. They are right at the start of the process of setting up the MI here and so they only have a few members. They are currently looking for projects and thinking that they may begin giving piglets to families as a way out of poverty.
Apparently, to join the MU or FU people need 6 months training and preparation before they can join. We reflected on whether the lack of commitment asked for by English churches impedes growth. No cost , no value?
19th February 2023
This morning we went to the top of the mountain to visit the community at Birringa. Pastor Peter is a missionary from the northern province serving the community here. We meet the nursery children in the church and Christian’s involved in small finance groups. It is a very remote area without many opportunities for work, but + Jean Pierre is sure that there is hope for the community as the church preaches the gospel and brings social transformation.
This afternoon we met some of the Deaconesses de Rubengera who live in a community next to the guest house. They are a group of Protestant nuns from many denominations who serve God, work in the community and serve the local churches. They are a joyful group of women who have invited us to join them for prayers this evening, and we are very glad to be doing so.
Prayers with the sisters yesterday evening was a highlight of our trip. There were 42 nuns, mainly younger women.
Kevin preached at the cathedral, and Ian at the confirmation service in Rubengera.
17 confirmed at the parish church of Rubengera, just down the road from the guesthouse. The whole congregation was invited to the pastors house for lunch, beans, rice, chips, cassava, pumpkin, goat, greens, vegetables, It was an amazing feast.
It is an Evangelical church but they allow the Anglicans to use it free of charge. Usually the Anglicans have their service in the afternoon from 12-2 I think Jean – Pierre said and they have their own service in the morning, but as it was a special occasion they graciously allowed the Anglican Church to have the service in the morning.