My experience in Rwanda is life changing. It was heartbreaking, yet inspiring to listen to stories and testimonies of the people on how their Christian president uses knowledge, gender equality, unity, and forgiveness to heal wounds that could have left many hearts bitter. Instead, they pull together for the better. Their stories may have started with separation, pain (emotional/physical), and anger, but as they turned each chapter I could see forgiveness and love working together as they (the survivors and the perpetrators) united in rebuilding their country.
As a minister of the gospel and a registered nurse, my duties and responsibilities were to work in four different communities for two days ministering to their health needs and giving different gifts to the children. We served 472 adults in screening for high blood pressure and diabetes. This resulted in the findings of 20 adults with very high blood sugar and fifteen with very high blood pressure, and they were advised to see their physician as soon as possible. Many were recommended to go immediately. Two hundred and thirty received reading glasses. It was incredible to see the brightness in the eyes as the villagers gave their testimonies on how they could read their Bibles immediately.
We served two hundred children in the villages, donating toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, and other treats. We also visited the children unit at the hospital where we gave pens, pencil, pencil erasers, and treats. There were over fifty children in an overcrowded unit with two kids in one single bed. This was devastating for me, but the children’s smile and their “thank you” brightened the moment. I was so amazed at the love that I experienced and the appreciation that was shown to us (ABSW students Kwee Say, Peter Ngong’s wife and myself).
You should have been there. Please plan for the next trip, next year; I will see you there.
ABSW Graduate 2017
Master of Divinity Program
Through this amazing mission trip and beautiful people of Rwanda, God reminded me what it means to forgive like no other and the importance of forgiveness with intention and a willing heart. On a beautiful day, July 6th, our mission team walked into the Kigali Genocide Memorial building, a place for remembrance and learning. The Rwanda Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the genocide against the Tutsi and honors the memory of more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994 in Rwanda.
A receptionist warmly greeted us at the front desk. Before we entered into the exhibitions, we had to watch a short video clip in the front room. We could hear the stories of genocide survivors in the short video clip. The voices of survivors touched me like no other. I had to control my tears while watching the testimonies of the survivors. I kept asking myself how could a human being do such horrible killings; and to other human beings? What struck me most about the testimonies of the survivors and the victims of the genocide was their conversation about forgiveness. Their family members and loved ones were killed in such horrible ways; I did not even have the courage to picture it in my mind.
Most of the survivors in the video clips suffered from physical torture and were emotionally traumatized by the 1994 genocide. However, they now speak about forgiveness, peace, unity and reconciliation with the people who committed the horrific acts in 1994.
After watching the video clip, we walked to the exhibitions. There were three different exhibitions in the memorial center. Exhibition 1 documents the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The first part of exhibition 1 gives an outline of Rwandan society before colonization; the second part of exhibition 1 gives the horror of the Genocide against the Tutsi as well as the stories of survival. The last part of exhibition 1 details the post-genocide reconstruction and reconciliation. The second exhibition documents the massacres of Namibia, Cambodia and the Balkans as well as the Holocaust.
The third exhibition is the Children’s room, which is dedicated to the memory of children killed in the Genocide against the Tutsi. This exhibition shows how a generation’s dreams were stolen by the horrible genocide and honors tens of thousands of children and infants, who were slaughtered by aggressors. I vividly remember a picture and a very short biography of a 2 year old little girl, Uwase Fillette. Fillette’s favorite toy was a doll, her favorite food was rice and chips, her best friend was her dad, and she was remembered as a good girl. I broke down when I read the cause of her death – she was smashed against a wall. There were no words for me to describe how I was feeling at that moment. I stood in front of Fillette’s picture for a while and thought to myself “How could someone take the life of an innocent little girl in such a brutal and unimaginable way; and is it really possible to forgive Fillette’s killer or killers?” I did not have the answers to my own questions at that moment.
I dragged myself away from Children’s room and went in to the next room. There I saw many powerful statements from Genocide survivors regarding forgiveness. One of the statements said, “I was ten when the genocide began. The day we heard that my father had been killed we all started crying. My mother told us to pray. I asked God to help me to take revenge. My mother told me to remove the part about revenge from my prayer. She said, ‘Even if I die, do not take revenge. It is not good.’” In the midst of the persecution and suffering, this mother reminded her son not to take revenge.
I sat there for a while and remembered the story of a Rwandan woman who forgave her family’s killer. A friend of ours from Rwanda told us the story of this Rwandan woman on the night of our arrival in Rwanda. This particular man killed about 50 family members of hers. She went to the man who killed her family members and said she forgave him. What she said next was remarkable. She said to this man that since he killed all her sons she could no longer have her own children that she wanted the killer of her family members to be her son. To my surprise, this man became her son and his children have become her grandchildren; to this day. I was truly amazed by this Rwandan woman’s a willing heart and courage to forgive a person who wiped out her entire family.
What I found most amazing was that those affected by this horrible tragedy were able to forgive and move on. I have no doubt that faith plays a big role and indeed matters after the genocide. I felt that the Genocide survivors’ messages were not only filled with sad and unimaginable stories but also peace and unity for the betterment of their country and humanity overall.
The experience of visiting the memorial center is unforgettable. I was humbled by the testimonies of the Genocide victims and survivors and reflective on my own faith journey. I believe the key to forgiving our enemies or the persons who persecute us lies in loving God. The Rwandans’ forgiving attitude reminded me of how I should be living in my own faith journey. I believe it is really important to develop and cultivate the capacity to forgive. It is definitely something that Jesus wants us to do; our Savior proved it by his own example on the cross. Jesus Christ, the innocent Son of God prayed for his persecutors in painful agony, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus showed his love in action. I believe it is important to see the cross as the magnificent symbol of forgiveness.
On July 3, 2017 six students and one professor traveled from ABSW to Gahini, Rwanda, for a 10 day mission trip. While in Rwanda the group attended, as special guests of the Anglican Bishop, a provincial peace keeping service, met with the Minister of Gender and Family (one of the President’s Cabinet members), implemented a 2 day ministers conference for 220 Rwandan pastors, traveled to local villages to visit pastors in their homes and preach in their pulpits on Sunday morning, visited the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, visited local villages to celebrate the giving of the cows ceremony, met the governor of the eastern province and went on a one day safari. As you can tell the experience was rich.
As the leader/professor/and Academic Dean I write today to introduce the group to you, to share one of my most meaningful moments and to present the first of 7 blogs from the mission team. Each team member has been required to write a blog about one meaningful event/moment and each of these will be presented on the ABSW Facebook page; follow along!
On Friday and Saturday, July 7-8, the team led a pastor’s conference. Friday morning was spent presenting an overview of the prophets, Friday afternoon an overview of the book of Jeremiah. On Saturday morning the 220 pastors were divided into 8 groups to do in depth study on Jeremiah led by the ABSW MDiv and DMin students. At the close of Saturday I preached from passages of Jeremiah that we all had just studied together, after which the entire group of 220 pastors broke out into song, dance and worship.
As professor and leader of the group I was thrilled to see our students leading Bible studies in Rwanda through translation to hundreds of pastors that rarely have opportunity for such training. Later that day I watched as each student boarded a bus or a car with an overnight bag to travel with a pastor to their village, where they would spend the night with the pastor’s family and rise early the next morning to preach in that pastor’s church. Some travelled for several hours to get to their village, some had to transfer from bus to bus, and one had to be delivered to church on Sunday morning via motorcycle. Each then preached the next morning through an interpreter in the local congregation. The team travelled back to the Anglican Dioceses on Sunday afternoon –all arrived back safely, filled with enthusiasm and exhausted from their travels. As a seminary Dean I am mindful of the many levels of education that were occurring simultaneously; I found myself saying several times throughout the weekend “education doesn’t get any better than this.”
LeAnn Snow Flesher, PhD
VP of Academics and Professor of Old Testament
On Thursday evening, July 20, 2017 ABSW received this word pertaining to Professor Emeritus, Dr. James Chuck.
Our Hospice nurse transitioned James into a calm restful state by 4:00 PM today. He passed away quietly at 4:44 PM. The family had a precious week with him in Santa Cruz, the children were all present when he passed. We are so grateful for his life, and lift up praises and thanks to our God!!
Becky, Paul, Carol, John and the whole Chuck family
Dr. Chuck was a long time Professor of Theology and Church Ministry at ABSW as well as long time pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church of San Francisco. Even after his retirement from ABSW in ca. 2005-6 Dr. Chuck continued to serve on the Pacific Coast Baptist Association (PCBA) board, hold theological workshops, and speak at public events. He will be missed.