On March 21, Food for the Hungry (FH) hosted our Hope and Courage conference with participation from Phoenix pastors and church leaders and FH staff from all over the world. One of our keynote speakers was Anglican Bishop Laurent Mbanda, who is bishop of the Shyira Diocese in northern Rwanda.
Mbanda (as he prefers to be called) shared a powerful story of hope and courage about Rwanda’s rise from the ashes of the genocide that destroyed the country in 1994. He serves on our board of directors and provides an important voice as FH strives to fulfill our calling of “inspiring hope … walking with communities … ending poverty …” all in the name of Jesus.
It has been said by a prominent evangelical church leader in the U.S. that “the local church is the hope of the world.” This statement has a context in which it conveys much truth, but the fact is—and the author of this statement would agree—Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. The church, both locally and in its wider forms, though central to God’s plans for the world, is not the center of God’s plan for the world.
What do I mean? “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son …” (John 3:16 NIV)
This broken and needy world is the object of God’s love and the reason Jesus came. The body of Christ then (during Jesus’ life) and the Body of Christ today (the Church) are for the sake of the world. The Body of Christ today is central to what God is doing in the world, both through the Gospel lived out and the Gospel proclaimed, but in a particular way.
Rwanda today is a beautiful example of this way. The country is literally rising out of poverty before the watching world. It has the fastest growing economy and is the best governed, least corrupt and certainly the cleanest country in the region, if not all of Africa.
The church, both locally and worldwide, has played a very important role in this reconstruction of Rwanda. Widely criticized for having lost its voice during the genocide, the church in Rwanda also is rising from the ashes. Christians complicit during the genocide, and many were, have sought and received forgiveness and are participating strongly in the reconstruction of the country.
But there is more.
The government, too, is a major factor in this turn around. Committed Christians, including the prime minister, are playing a leading role. Of the 22 minister -level positions in the government, a high percentage are occupied by Christians, both men and women. These sisters and brothers in Christ are leaven—a vital ingredient to finding solutions for helping Rwanda. They are influencing and transforming the government by their active presence. But they are leaven, not the whole loaf. They are salt, but not the whole meal. They are central to what God is doing in Rwanda, but not the center. God’s love is for Rwanda, all of it, not just the Christians in Rwanda.
According to Mbanda, what God is doing in Rwanda cannot be done without the church. Nor can it be done without groups like FH, walking with communities in Rwanda. Nor can it be done without what God is doing through the government, seasoned by and with Christians. They are fulfilling God’s purpose for them, that they be leaven. At the same time, God’s purpose for Rwanda is being fulfilled as it, by God’s grace, becomes all that it can be. Will you join us by “inspiring hope … walking with communities … ending poverty …” in Rwanda, rising through hope and courage, and throughout the world?