Rev'd Jackie's Mission to Rwanda

The Rev'd Jackie Sellin, Curate in this Parish, took part on the Winchester School of Mission  placement in Rwanda in February 2019 . The placement provides the opportunity of learning alongside Rwandan laity and clergy who are being trained by fellow Africans in how to participate in the mission of God. 

Revd Jackie in Rwandasunday

This opportunity differs from many parish-to-parish relationships, which often focus on practical help to further God’s mission. We believe that God has given Africans all that they need to join in God’s mission and we want to go and learn with them and through this cross-cultural learning enhance our own mission in the Diocese of Winchester.

Bishop Tim encourages you to participate in this opportunity. He says, ‘If you want to know more of Jesus, then find out what other people know about him – especially in other cultures. Our mission partners provide an unrivalled opportunity to get to know Jesus through our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ and to get to the heart of the gospel.’ 

The group were invited as guests of Bishop Jared Kalimba, of Shyogwe Diocese, which is about an hour’s drive west of Kigali. Shyogwe is developing as the second city of Rwanda with a rapidly expanding population. The programme that we took part in is a Mission Conference and will be run by CMS-Africa’s Karobia Njogu, who is based in Kenya. He will be equipping around 40 church leaders of Shyogwe diocese with the tools that can help them be catalysts for social and cultural transformation. This involves helping them to critique their own evangelised cultures and develop a mind-set that seeks to develop seed projects that meet the social, physical, spiritual and educational needs of the local area. Shyogwe diocese already has some large scale development and environmental projects. The aim is to  develop smaller projects that connect with local churches. 

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The following daily reports were received during Rev'd Jackie's time in Rwanda.

Saturday 16 February: The Rev'd Jackie has now reached Kigali after a good flight. Apparently "Rwanda is wonderful - It's lovely and sunny, although we have had rain."

Sunday 17 February: After a long but good flight, we arrived in Kigali Airport at 7am, Rwandan time. We got through security well, but there was a bit of a wait for our bags. We were then driven to the Scripture Union building for breakfast before being taken to a lively service at a local church. We were made very welcome, and the singing and dancing were superb - they had 3 different choirs including a children's choir. After the service we were given lunch and lots of photos were taken. We then travelled to our accommodation which is a Christian Conference centre. There are lots of birds, including kites and black and white crows, who enjoy tap-dancing on an unfortunate roof. We are now settled for the night, although we were joined by a little lizard during our evening prayers. The people are wonderfully helpful, and I am picking up a few Rwandan words, although I need to work on my pronunciation. I am now lying under my mosquito net listening to insects singing outside.

Monday 18th February: Today has been inspirational. We met the Bishop of Shyogwe who told us about their projects and theology. They work with neighbours in communities to bring about reconciliation following the genocide in 1994. They also support people by teaching them about agriculture and providing credit facilities for water vats. We also visited a local diocesan school where we met the children in one class, and saw the facilities they had, which included wooden desks and benches, a blackboard and very little else. The whole school gathered on the playground and sang songs for us.

Then we toured themes technical school, the church at the top of a steep hill and the small fruit processing facility run by the diocese to support fruit farmers and the local community. After lunch we met the Mothers Union and saw their sewing and knitting, which they teach women to give them a skill. Finally we visited a local town and it's market. Tonight there were 2 lizards in our prayer room: the word is obviously spreading about us! The good is plentiful and includes much fresh fruit and vegetables. We have had passion fruit, pineapple, little bananas and watermelon today. We also were given some of the fruit juice made in the fruit facility, and it was very tasty. I am particularly partial to the ginger tea they give us at dinner. Everyone we meet is friendly and helpful. We are getting tuition in Rwandan words which I will include once I've learned how to spell them. The general greeting in the church is muraho, and I hope to learn more during the stay here. Rev'd Jackie.

Tuesday 19 February: today was the start of the conference on The Samaritan Strategy. We had breakfast, which included fresh mango (which was delicious). There is always an omelette and sweet white bread and today we had the chance to try some of the jam made at their fruit processing facility. We then had morning prayers. The conference started with a rousing Rwandan Christian song and prayers. The Samaritan Strategy is the diocesan project to get pastors and lay people to engage with their local communities and empower them to transform their lives through tangible practical means. It also encourages them to be concerned about the environment and the dangers to it from pollution and mismanagement. They see the church as an agent for transformation, changing the mindset from defeatist negativity to positive engagement solutions to people's perceptions of their position. For the church in Rwanda, all aspects of life need to be considered: social, poverty, economics, business, politics. Nothing is outside God's concern if it is harmful to God's people or causes need or injustice. We had a late lunch, which included baked cassava and beans, before the afternoon talks. We had an interesting talk by Bishop Simon on Hope for Africa. After the day's talks, the Winchester group went for a walk to a local village, where we were stared at and waved to. People seem genuinely friendly and interested, and seeing the village, with its rough brick houses and dirt roads, but a mobile phone data shop, was interesting. Dinner was various vegetables and fried tofu chunks (I'm vegetarian) and passion fruit and watermelon. We also had the hot ginger tea which I am getting quite fond of. Tomorrow our group splits in the morning: those with an interest in education are visiting a local school, the others are staying for the final morning of the conference.”

Wednesday 20 February:Today has been quite busy. We had an early start at 7am for breakfast. Then most of our group went to the conference, whilst four of us who were involved in education waited to visit some schools. We were late getting away as our guide and interpreter, Marcel, had to go to hospital with his wife as she was in Labour (we found out later that they had had a little boy). Jean Pierre took us on our visit instead. We first went to a health centre supported by the diocese and partly by the government. We met the accountant who told us about the work of the centre. They have 15 nurses (no doctors) who serve 24000 people. Everyone who has health insurance (3000 Rwanda pounds each) can attend and be seen and helped for £200. They do go into the community too for vaccinations, nutritional advice and to teach healthy cooking. Their worst disease is malaria and they can have up to 4000 cases a month. At the centre people get treated for malaria, minor ailments, injury and HiV. We were given a tour of the centre, including their maternity rooms and blood testing lab. During our visit rain started falling heavily which developed into a thunderstorm. Next we visited a secondary school, again jointly funded by the diocese and the government. It was relatively well equipped, with a room of computers, science labs and a library for textbooks. The computers and textbooks were shared by 3-5 children at a time. All lessons and exams are done in English. The school had 803 children, 800 of whom were boarders, and 24 teachers! After this school we visited another secondary school solely funded by the diocese. There was definitely fewer resources and those they had were older. They had old-fashioned English reading books, culturally different to their situation, and their textbooks were older. However, the head was positive about his staff and pupils, and even offered us a cold drink before we left. We returned for lunch, which included fresh pineapple. In the afternoon we had the chance of a walk through the local villages, with banana and avocado trees on their plots of land. Finally we got together to reflect on the day before dinner - which began by phone light as the electricity in the dining hall had failed. One thing I have noticed is a distinct lack of non-standard animals. There are cows, chickens and goats, but no obvious wildlife except some rather beautiful birds. We wonder if is because do much of the land is cultivated by individual families for food. Oh, and of course there are the insects.


Thursday 21 February: Today we joined in morning prayer with the diocesan team - a song, a reading, bible study and prayer. We then went to breakfast: pineapple and mango, which were fresh and very juicy. After that we set off to the diocesan-supported teacher training college. We were met by the principle, Jeanne D'arc, who is the wife of the pastor of the church near our accommodation. The students are aged from 16 to 24, and having completed 3 years they can either teach in a primary school, go to university to train as a secondary teacher or train for another career. About 75% become teachers. We had a tour of the college, especially the ICT rooms and the library, which had up to date text books including music and art (the first time we have seen it positively recognised). We saw the refectory - again maize was the menu, with cabbage. The food is all cooked in huge vats stirred with large wooden paddles. Whilst on our tour we saw a group of teenagers singing and dancing an African chant song. It turned out they were the school scout group. We then returned to the principal's office where we were offered African tea (very milky), green tea and a cake. Hospitality is very important to the Rwandans. Five of us stayed at the college to talk to the principal and then with some students whilst doing an art project for the Winchester education team. The others visited the health centre from yesterday. After the art, we left to go to a ceramics factory. The factory uses local clay to produce ceramic water filters to provide clean water in a simple but effective way. They also produce stoves which use 70% less fuel (wood) and produce less smoke thereby reducing respiratory infections and pollution. We had to dodge heavy tropical downpours throughout the morning. The ceramic factory is another diocesan supported project.

We then returned to our base for lunch - ripe avocado, vegetables and the inevitable chips and rice. A group of us met after lunch to go for a walk along the main road and Pastor Jean Pierre insisted one of his staff come with us, so Jean Marie accompanied us. He took us along the road and down a side road to the drone base. We had seen drones the previous day, and Jean Marie explained they were used to carry medical blood to health centres and hospitals quickly. Whilst we were outside, we saw a fixed wing drone catapulted off on its journey. Once back, we met to hear Jean Pierre's story of his life growing up in difficult circumstances, his experiences during the genocide and why he ended up as a pastor. Then Marcel arrived to take us to see his new baby son. Again, we were offered hospitality by him, as well as meeting his son and his wife. Finally we returned for dinner and the day ended with our prayer session - it was my turn to give my "testimony" about how I came to faith. It has been a long but interesting day. The people are keen to share their hopes for their country, and it was wonderful to see the diocese of Shyogwe involved in such practical ways of improving lives and life chances.

Friday, 22 February: Today we started with morning prayers with the Shyogwe diocesan team. It was quite a long session with two songs, one being "Trust and obey" sung in Rwandan. We then met the Mother's Union leader again before setting off for Hanika Polytechnic and associated secondary and primary schools. This involved a 2 hour drive through Rwanda past bicycles laden with cyclist and passenger, often carrying huge bags of cassava, a goat or just the cyclist and a cupboard or mattress, or even chickens and turkeys. It is quite amazing what they can carry on a bicycle! We arrived at Hanika and were met by the chaplain who introduced himself and some of the staff. We were then offered refreshments before splitting into two groups to tour the facilities. My group visited the polytechnic's woodworking, metalwork, plumbing and electrical workshops and the car mechanic lesson. The polytechnic is very much a technical school. We met some of the students who demonstrated some of what they were doing. We also saw the library and computer room. Then we headed off to the primary and secondary schools, at which we caused great interest - they had not seen many mzungu (foreigners) so they crowded round us. We talked to the head who told us that they had 2400 children and 24 teachers.

The primary students attended either in the morning or the afternoon as there were not enough classrooms or teachers. There were no fees, so many students who attended were very poor, but they never turned a student away as that would be "against their duty to God". We visited a classroom where children sat 3 to a 2-person bench desk, and shared an exercise book between them. However, the children were polite and talked to us about their school. During this time, more and more children crowded into the room to meet us, until we had to squeeze our way out and go to lunch at a local cafe with some members of staff. I was at a table which included the librarian. During lunch we found out that she had taken in her orphaned nephew following the genocide. He had lost all his immediate family. Once lunch was finished we went to the King's Palace museum where some went to see the old and new palace and the king's magnificently horned cows. The monarchy had been deposed in 1959. We then had coffee and tea and a rest before setting off home. The views on our way showed how densely populated Rwanda is - there is not enough land for people to cultivate food to feed themselves. However, the land is also covered in each family's crops on their small plot of land. Once back, we had dinner, the meat tonight for meat eaters was rabbit. Finally we had evening prayers. Luckily for us today the weather forecast proved wrong as we were supposed to have rain but it was actually sunny and warm.


Saturday, 23 February: Today was our rest day. We had to get up early as we had to finish breakfast before 8 o'clock as all Rwandans are expected to get involved in doing activities to improve their village, town or city between 8 and 11am. We were not allowed to be involved so a small group went for a walk up the wooded path to the church and then back along the red dust road to our guesthouse. We passed groups trying to fill in dust made by cars and motorbikes on the dirt roads, and others carrying machetes to sort trees and plants. It was slightly unnerving to see people carrying machetes and curved knives until we realised that these were normal agricultural and daily tools. We returned to our accommodation, dodging the motorbikes and bicycles which are the main means of transport after legs. Rwandans also use the minibus into which they cram as many people as possible. There are some cars and lorries, but certainly fewer than in Britain. At 10am we went down the road to visit a German pastor and her family who were staying in Rwanda until May. She is studying church attitudes to aging. We had a good chat, with refreshments that included fresh mango and pineapple. Her 8 year old son has joined the Zion School, which is one of Shyogwe dioceses' projects we visited earlier this week. He was playing with some of his new school friends when we arrived. After our chat we all, including the German pastor, returned to meet our minibus for our trip to Lake Kivu.

It was supposed to meet us at 11.15, but because the driver was unable to get a motorbike taxi until our guide, Jeanne D'Arc, got one organised, we set off an hour late and had to get a packed lunch from a local supermarket on our way to save time in Kivu. It took 3 hours on very winding and increasingly bumpy roads through the steep hills, although the views were stunning and we spotted an eagle at one point. We eventually arrived, and unfolded ourselves from the van. We decided to take a boat trip on the lake - which is vast and had borders with the DRC - to monkey island. We saw traditional dug out canoes as we were driven across the lake. Once we landed, our boat guide picked up his plate of bananas and we set off up a hill through some woods. Suddenly, a monkey wandered into view, sat down and looked at us. When it realised we didn't have the bananas it went further up the hill to find the man with the plate. We only saw one monkey, but apparently there are four, only the other three don't like humans. On returning to the mainland, we had 20 minutes left to have a coffee, chai or tea before clambering back into the minibus for our journey back along the winding roads, this time in the ever-increasing darkness! There were still people walking by the road between towns in the dark, and at one point along the road there had been a landslide, which had been easier to pass in the light rather than the dark. After about two and a half hours, we got back safely, and in time for dinner. We finished the day with 2 more testimonies and then compline. It has been an interesting day, which gave us a chance to get into the taller hills of Rwanda. Tomorrow is church, and we will be split between three services. 

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Sunday 24 February: Today is Sunday so we were off to church. We were divided into 3 groups with one member from each preaching at the church they attended. My group were at the church furthest from the accommodation, so the others were dropped off first. We arrived at Ntenyo church at 9.40 for a service we were told started at 10am. It had actually started at 9am! No matter, we were greeted outside by various officials and even the pastor came out of the service to great us. We entered and the preacher sat with other officials behind the table whilst me and our third member sat to one side. The service continued with exuberant dancing and singing by 3 different choirs. Then guests and groups in the church were welcomed and notices given, including one exhorting those who could to help finish building the pastor's house on Thursday (he is in rented accommodation next to the church at the moment). Just before the preaching, Gerdine and myself (Gerdine is one of our group) were asked to go with the Sunday School, so we did. We were surrounded by about 120 children all trying to hold our hand or ask us questions. We finally made it to the classroom where we were told we were to teach them! Gerdine told them the story of Jesus welcoming the children, I was asked to ask them questions on it, then they sang us some songs. We then had to teach them a song - we chose Give me joy in my heart, which I made up some actions to and led the singing. They seemed to enjoy it. Finally we returned for the end of the service. We were then given a tour of the pastor's new, unfinished house before having lunch at his current house along with representatives of the PCC. We then returned to our base, collecting the others en route. In the afternoon some of us went for a walk - we felt we'd spent far too long on the minibus! Then we were taken by Pastor Jean Pierre to one of his parish cell groups. They meet as a credit savings group supported by the church and also as a bible study group. We joined in with their bible study and prayers. Then we walked back for dinner, packing (we go to Kigali for the day tomorrow) and prayers. All in all a most interesting day. The only downside is the lack of water! From this morning, our accommodation has not had running water, which has made us very aware of the importance of having access to clean water for washing, as well as drinking. We hope it is back tomorrow!


Monday 25 February: This was our last morning in Shyogwe. We met for breakfast at 7am, having brought our luggage down for packing into the back of the pick up van. They gave us pineapple for breakfast, along with the bread, omelette and bananas. After breakfast we chatted with the bishop and reflected with Jean Pierre about our visit. We all agreed that seeing the way the diocese and parishes were at work in their communities was inspiring, as was the importance of all people being one as members of God's family.  Finally, we made our goodbyes, and each of us was given a bag of passion fruit as a goodbye gift. Our journey to Kigali was interrupted en-route for about an hour by the Tour Rwanda cycling race, which was quite exciting. We finally made it to Kigali, having got behind every slow-moving lorry on the way. We dropped our bags off at the Scripture Union guest house and then went to the Genocide Museum. 


This was very moving and quite shocking. Over 1,000,000 men, women and children were killed in quite horrific ways, often by those who had been friends and neighbours. Many others suffered horrendous injuries, both physical and mental. The propaganda, political, social and economic conditions that caused the events were sobering. It is remarkable how Rwanda is working to overcome this legacy, promoting unity, reconciliation and development of the economy and social projects. It is this legacy that is behind the church's determination to unite people, to emphasise our oneness in God, and bring social and economic growth to their communities. We were all stunned by the museum and memorial.  Jean Pierre then took us to the Hotel De Mille collines, where in 1994, the Hotel manager prevented the massacre of around 1000 people by paying off/bribing the militia.  The meal was very good and have us chance to process what we had learned from the museum. Finally we went to a coffee co-operative run by Rwandan women and bought ground coffee. We returned to the guest house for our evening meal and early night as we leave for the airport at 5.30am tomorrow morning. My time here in Rwanda had been very special. I have met some amazing, inspiring and enthusiastic people, and have been made very welcome wherever we visited. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and I hope to return with ideas to help my ministry and that of St Michael's.