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Aid and Relief7 min read

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This Church Not Only Survived the Rwandan Genocide — It’s Thriving!

Megan Stoia
Apr 08, 2024

 

A mango tree stood tall next to a destroyed building — the only source of shade to be seen. It was a necessity during the hot Rwandan summers.

A semi-circle of benches dragged out from the rubble sat under the canopy of leaves. These benches were the only salvageable items from the Blessed Mango Tree Church.

In the wake of a genocide that killed over 800,000 Rwandans, Hutu and Tutsi alike gathered on a Sunday morning.  

World Help employee Cyrus Mad-Bondo had a front-row seat to the healing process in Rwanda shortly after the genocide took place. We recently sat down with him to hear his firsthand account of what it was like in those early days, how far the Blessed Mango Tree Church has come since then, and learn about what World Help’s early involvement looked like.

Rwandan Church
Countless homes, businesses, and churches like this were destroyed during the genocide

Shuffling to their seats, people kept sneaking glances at where the church once stood. Before the genocide broke out, a church was considered a sacred space. In times of conflict, people could find sanctuary inside. Once the doors shut, soldiers wouldn’t come inside to attack.

Now, there was blood staining what remained of the pews. A line had been crossed, and not a soul knew where to go from there.

This is a glimpse of the Rwandan church in July of 1994, in the days following a horrific four months of killing. A group of broken people came together. Their loved ones were dead, their homes were destroyed, and their trust in the church was broken … but they had nowhere else to go.

In the aftermath of unspeakable horror, they needed to feel close to God. They needed healing that could only be found through Christ. But how could they possibly forgive their neighbors for the crimes they had committed?

Healing began with how many conflicts end: an apology. Church leaders publicly apologized for preaching hatred toward someone based on their ethnicity. They admitted that it was wrong to encourage the slaughter of Tutsi or Hutu people. Then, they began teaching the true message of the Gospel.

World Help founder in Rwanda
Vernon Brewer preached the Gospel in Rwanda over 30 years ago!

It was in those early days post-genocide that World Help founder Vernon Brewer and Cyrus Mad-Bondo visited the Blessed Mango Tree Church. Vernon shared his testimony about his battle with cancer, proclaiming that pain is pain. It’s something that everyone has experienced … and it’s something that unites us all. Cyrus connected with hurting people to listen to their stories and encourage them with the Word of God.

This was the beginning of the World Help family’s eternal impact in Rwanda after the genocide. Our incredible supporters came alongside Rwandans to help rebuild the country and facilitate healing.

But restoration couldn’t happen overnight. Government entities, nonprofits, and churches all needed to come together to create a fresh start.

Instead of government identification that included your ethnic group, everyone was simply declared Rwandan. In churches, appointed “lay leaders” provided trauma counseling and other resources. People came together to rebuild homes and businesses.

And as time went on, people began to heal.

The Blessed Mango Tree Church also began to grow. They used blankets and tarps draped over the mango tree to shelter people from the sun.

Wanting to help Blessed Mango Tree expand, one of our church partners decided to fund the cost of a new building! Using some of the bricks from the old facility, they built a beautiful house of worship from the ground up.

New Church in Rwanda
Our church partner has a wood carving of Blessed Mango Tree Church on display

To see such rapid growth after the deep mistrust of the church was truly a miracle. After what happened, the church couldn’t respond like it would to a natural disaster or another type of crisis because there was so much unresolved pain to work through … and simply going back wasn’t an option.

For example, when Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. in 2005, churches opened their doors to disaster victims. They provided food, water, shelter, and other essentials until people could get back on their feet. Once this need was met, church operations returned to “normal.”

This would be considered a traditional emergency response, designed to temporarily provide shelter and additional support until people can go back to their regular lives. But in Rwanda, simply going back to the way things had been before the genocide wasn’t an option. There was no “going back to normal.” Instead, the lifestyle of the church had to completely change.

Today, churches in Rwanda — including Blessed Mango Tree — actively seek to help the lost, the last, and the least. They provide food, birth kits, medicine, and more to those struggling to survive.

Once again, the church became a place of love, mercy, and compassion … and the Lord used the World Help family to help make it possible.

Church in Rwandan has a wonderful choir!
Churches like this one in Rwanda are now a center for help and hope

This April marks the 30th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. Over the past three decades, you have been a spiritual cheerleader for church leaders. You have helped meet immediate needs by providing emergency aid and so much more.

But the need is far from over.

Rwandans are still dealing with the long-term impacts of the genocide. The children who grew up during this bloody massacre are now adults. They have children of their own whom they’re trying to raise while working through their generational trauma. They also desperately need more infrastructure like schools, medical clinics, and wells.

With such a young population, there is also a desperate need for skilled workers. However, there are few opportunities available to receive vocational training.

And these needs don’t just exist in Rwanda — people all over the world are struggling with challenges like poverty, food insecurity, and a lack of access to God’s Word.

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, will you do your part to help people in need today? For just $24, you can provide essentials like food, water, medicine, God’s Word, and more to two people in Rwanda or another country.

We can’t make the mistake of thinking the need in Rwanda is less urgent because 30 years have passed since the initial devastation. We need to continue supporting the efforts in Rwanda so the people can confidently say, “Never again.”

Give your best gift now to help transform lives around the world.

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