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day five

It’s the end of another tiring day, and with preaching tomorrow I won’t stay up long.

After breakfast, I spent the morning working on the sermon, resting my eyes a little, and doing some reading. Vinoth and his wife, Karin, arrived today after a long journey from Sri Lanka. Vinoth is one of the main speakers for the conference, and it was good to chat to him and Karin a little today.

Phocas then transported us over to KIST for the opening ceremony. Not all of the students have arrived yet, but there were plenty of other guests there, including the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of education, the national director of World Vision, the director of a micro-finance scheme, and the president of UGBR. Plus others. The minister of foreign affairs is a UGBR graduate, and it was exiciting to see other Christians holding significant positions of influence.

At the end of the ceremony some students took the stage to display some traditional Rwandan dancing. Unfortunately, towards the end they started taking international guests onto the stage with them, and being the token white man, they took me too. And I really did dance like a white man. Anja would be proud.

Over dinner I got to meet a UGBR student who is currently studying in South Africa (on a placement for her course in public health), and a graduate who has set up the International Business Centre – an organisation to foster entrepreneurial initiative amongst Rwandan graduates. I had many questions for him, and realised the idea of microenterprise in developing countries really excites me. I worried I was exhausting the poor guy with my many questions, and was beginning to tire myself, when Phocas offered me a ride back to the guest house.

So, here I am, looking forward to getting some good sleep, and praying God helps me tomorrow. I spent some good time in preparation this morning, but still feel a little daunted about preaching after a such a long time, and in a very different context. I also found out this evening that I will be preaching at Phocas’ church. He’s a very encouraging guy, and I know I have nothing to worry about – but still praying God gives me clarity and wisdom to speak.

On that note I really ought to sign off, and also pray that I find some internet access tomorrow. I believe we’re back on site after church, so will see what I can do.

day four

I don’t think I will write too much tonight. The day has exhausted me in different ways, and I’ve just found out I will be preaching on Sunday, so am going to try and get some rest and spend tomorrow morning in preparation before the conference starts.

I had the opportunity to visit one of the genocide memorials today. I was met by one of the UGBR volunteers, called ‘Bien-Fait’ – what a great name – which is the French translation of his father’s name in Kinyarwanda. We walked up the road to where many of the government ministry buildings are found to catch a ‘taxi’ – which in reality is a small Daihatsu van with 4 rows of seats crammed into it. I thought the taxi was packed, until we stopped again to let another two people on!

As we walked the last part, up hill to the memorial site, I asked Bien-Fait if he was living in Rwanda at the time of the genocide. It was at this point, only yards away from being confronted with the details of Rwanda’s horrific recent history, that I discovered that Bien-Fait lost both parents and siblings in the genocide. I think that just about set the tone for what was to be a difficult and moving experience.

The memorial site is a fantastic resource and a great tribute to Rwanda, tracing its history from pre-colonial times, through German colonialisation in 1895, to the genocide and beyond. It was shocking to be reminded how avoidable this devastating event was, and how much blame the international community must take for ignoring what happened here, and responding in an unhelpful and untimely manner. It is said that the number of troops that evacuated expatriate workers and dignataries of the regime that orchestrated the genocide, would have been enough – given the proper mandate – to have stopped this terrible event from happening in the first place.

There was a room that contained the remains of some of the unidentified victims, another room with rows and rows of photos of victims, and another with some of their last belongings, which included a child’s “Superman” duvet cover. Upstairs there was a tribute to some of the children, some as young as 9 months old, who were tortured and killed in unimaginable ways. Walking around it is difficult to believe that humans are really capable of this level of brutality to children, some of whom were considered family friends.

Outside I discovered that this site is the burial place of more than 300,000 victims. There is a wall that holds the names of some of those who have been identified, but the scale of the remainder of the wall is a painful reminder of how many people are buried here without even the dignity of their identity.

There was simply too much for me to comprehend and accept, both intellectually and emotionally. Bien-Fait had been my guide, but for nearly two hours barely a word had been spoken between us.

I don’t think I am going to write much more than that today – I think I need a bit more time to fully appreciate what I have seen and heard.

The afternoon was spent in a meeting of the regional staff and general secretaries. I’ve been doing my best to follow the discussions in French (and even contribute in a couple of places!), so I am just about spent.

The day has been a bit overwhelming, and I returned to my room feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted. It’s strange how times like that can affect you, and I sat here – having spent nearly all day with people – feeling lonely.

I would really appreciate your prayers over the next couple of days. I really don’t feel capable of preaching on Sunday (so maybe it’s good I’m preaching on 2 Corinthians 4!), and I’ve realised today how tiring it is going to be observing and participating in a conference conducted in French. However, on the positive side, I am so grateful that at the times when it has really mattered, I have known your prayers in having the confidence and ability to converse in French.

Que Dieu vous benisse. A demain.

day three

Looks like I’m not going to get online today, so thought I would write this post anyway, to publish whenever I next get opportunity.

The meeting with Antoine Rutayisire happened today. We drove out to the office of AEE (African Evangelistic Enterprise) via the UGBR office to collect Syldio.

The UGBR office is literally round the corner from the president’s “office” (more like a large compound), which I think is where Charlie and Ewan met him. Lambert explained a little about how Paul Kagame is viewed within Rwanda (mostly very positive), and told me he is now 4 years into a 7 year term. He can be re-elected into office at the end of his term, and 7 years – while longer than you might expect – does seem to be a good idea for a country finding its feet after war. Particularly when the president is universally liked.

While we waited at the AEE office for Antoine to finish in another meeting, I was shown around the buildings by Emmanuel, vice-chair of the UGBR national board. Emmanuel is a graduate of UGBR and is now involved in evangelism training and arranging conferences for pastors. AEE works both to develop and train leaders, but also in areas of social need, such as with street children and those infected with HIV/AIDS. A lorry was being loaded with various equipment for a school of childred orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In another classroom, a group of adults infected with HIV was receiving some training. There was also a guest house on site, dedicated to Israel Havugimana, one of the first UGBR staff who, along with his family, was killed in the genocide. He is buried at this site, and there is a plaque in tribute of him and his work: lived what he preached, died for what he believed – reconciliation.

Talking further with Emmanuel I found out where other UGBR graduates are now working, and was surprised to hear of those working in government and other top levels of leadership who meet once a month to pray together, and to study the Bible concerning their particular contexts. The president, Paul Kagame, who openly supports the work of the Church in Rwanda, is known to attend these meetings at least once a year.

When Antoine finally arrived I was suddenly overcome with the significance of the man I was about to meet, the work he is involved with, and the influence he carries in this country. He is a very visionary man, who spoke passionately about the difficult lessons learned through the genocide, and of the power of God at work here. It was a great meeting, with Antoine answering many of my questions before I had even asked them. I really hope the material gathered will be useful in exciting others about the work here.

After lunch there wasn’t much else planned for the rest of the day, so having caught up on a few things in my room (transferring photos and audio files to the laptop), and spent a good amount of time on the balcony watching the world go by, I decided it was time that I ventured out on my own for a walk. Although a little nervous, I hoped that the walk would provide opportunity to get some good, unplanned photos of Rwanda.

I did feel rather conspicuous walking down the hill, and could tell how much I stood out when three children playing in a gutter across the road called out in a strong accent: ‘Good morning!’ At the bottom of the hill I turned away from the tarmac road into a dusty track which I thought lead down to a school. If I felt conspicuous earlier, it was even worse now.

I slowly walked about half a mile down the road, with various children quietly following behind me short distances. The younger, less fearful ones would try to touch me as I walked past, or reach my hand to shake it with a little ‘bonjour’. At the point I turned around there was a family harvesting maize in a field opposite the school, and I decided it was time to take the camera out. Trying to be as discreet as I could I took a few photos before being spotted by two young boys who wanted to have their photo taken, and were pleased to see themselves as I showed them the picture.

Having been spotted with the camera, an old gentlemen with deep, wrinkled skin and the light smell of alcohol on his breath came to introduce himself in French. He was from Congo, and made traditional crafts, of the sort he thought I would like to take home with me. He pointed to where he lived, and as I hadn’t plucked up *that* much courage just yet, I explained I had to return to where I was staying. Not to be turned away so lightly, he wanted to know when I would be leaving, and to give me his phone number so I could call and arrange to see his handiwork. On discovering that neither of us had pen or paper, he promptly leaned over and began writing his phone number in the dusty road together with his name. I duly photographed his particulars – maybe I can add him to the IFES mailing list now – and after being introduced to his brother (who also didn’t live far away), we parted with a handshake and big smiles.

A little further along I found some nice fencing dividing the road in two, that would provide a nice focal point in a photo of the road as children carrying bottles walked along it. But of course, as soon as I was spotted, the children broke out into a run towards me, and then all jostled for the attention of the camera. Having taken a few photographs and appeased the children by showing them their faces now imprinted on the back of my camera, I began to walk away but was stopped by a woman who wanted her daughter to be photographed. With mother making sure the other kids kept out of the way, I managed to get capture one of my favourite photos of the trip so far. Just what I had hoped for, and now the walk was a complete success.

I can have been back only 30mins when I heard a car arrive. Phocas and his daughter, Jessica, and popped in to see how I was doing. We sat on the balcony and chatted a while. Jessica can only be about 8 or 9, but her English is great. I’m sure this young lady is going to go far. It was lovely to have met Phocas in Oxford, but equally as good to see him here in Rwanda. He has invited me to visit his house – just up the road – and to spend some more time with his family; his wife Jackie and twin sons Eben and Ezer.

As Phocas and Jessica left I discovered that Augustin (IFES regional secretary for francophone africa) had now arrived and was staying here too. I joined him, Josue, Syldio, Pierre and Lambert as they discussed some of the final plans for the conference. I think I understood about 70-80% of what was said, but still found it difficult to find the confidence to say very much in French.

Once the meeting was finished and the others left, Augustin and I had dinner together. It was great to get to know him better, to hear of his dreams for the region, and of some of the steps they are planning to achieve those goals – some of which start tomorrow, as General Secretaries from many of the region’s movements arrive and meet during the afternoon and Saturday morning before the conference starts.

I believe I have a meeting with World Vision tomorrow morning, and possibly a visit to the genocide memorial. After which I may join the preliminary meetings to gather some more information and photographs.

On which note, I really ought to sign off and get some sleep. Breakfast at 7:30, then off at 8:00 to my meeting with World Vision.

day two

The morning was pretty much spent at the airport as we waited for 2 delegates to arrive from other parts of francophone africa. However, I got to meet Lambert (who has been the key staff worker responsible for organising the conference, and who has kindly given me his laptop and modem overnight), and James, a student here in Kigali.

Some amazing stories already appearing. Like James’ really. He was born and grew up in Uganda, although his parents were Rwandan. Then after the genocide in 94, aged 12, he and his family moved back to Rwanda. Most of James’ schooling has been in English, and this year he has just completed a 1 year intensive French programme to prepare him for studying biology and chemistry in French. And I thought I had it bad!

James speaks poignantly about the genocide, and powerfully of the depth of reconciliation experienced here since. A reconciliation I think it wil be difficult, even in these days here, to even begin to comprehend.

As it happens, the meeting with Antoine has not yet happened – I believe that it is now planned to happen tomorrow morning, but that could change again. The guys here are really busy getting ready for the conference, with people starting to arrive already. James has been assigned to look after me and other international guests. He is a quiet, thoughtful guy, and has really taken care of me today.

After meeting Pierre and Josue at the airport (later than expected), we drove them (I think UGBR have their own driver, who they’re keeping busy these days) to their host family. To get there meant leaving the tarmac road and heading into what can only really be described as slums. After an earlier rainfall the dust road had become a little muddy, and there was little other traffic on this route – other than an old truck laden with sacks of bananas, stopping every so often and unloading a sack or two at a local store. People were walking all over the road, as you might expect, and at times I was worried for their safety. As we turned into the final road, a vey steep uphill climb, we had to reverse out to let an old pickup truck down the hill first. I could see a group of people standing in the back of the truck, with a younger child holding a little cross in the air. I hoped my initial fears were wrong, but as the truck rounded the corner, loaded with a small crowd, I spotted the small coffin on the back. The child it held can’t have been any older than 8 or 9. It was a stark reminder of the reality of infant mortality here.

Having dropped our guests with their host family, and in the process enjoying a pinapple drink, we headed back to the Scripture Union office to collect my things. I have now been moved to the place where I will stay for the rest of my time here. It’s a little embarrasing to be lodged with the ‘international guests’, but very nice all the same. James and I had a late lunch of vegetable and chicken omlettes, before heading into the city centre.

The journey there was quite exciting. James hailed two moto-taxis (motor bikes that appear to be driven, at quite some speed and with incredible skill, by 16 year old boys), which I immediately recognised as the form of transport not advised by the guide books. However, 5 minutes later we were safely delivered to the city centre where I was able to change some money. This part of the centre was typical of most capital cities in that it housed many banks, ministry buildings, and insurance offices, but still looked very different from what you might expect otherwise. We walked down the tree lined Boulevard de la Paix to where the large, national hospital is found. Nearby is one of the most outrageously plush hotels ever designed, and two universities. The Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) is where the conference will be held, so I hope to explore these streets more in the next week – and in particular, find the Hotel des Mille Collines, which we know more commonly as Hotel Rwanda.

Having sped back on the moto-taxis, this time in the growing dark, I was left to a meal of rice, runner beans, carrots and fish! As I was the only one eating there was no way out of it, so managed to get most of the way through it before going to give my thanks to the lady who had stayed late to cook a lovely meal that could easily have fed 3 people.

As my phone isn’t working, James reckons that we can find a Rwandan SIM card in the next few days: mostly so that I can contact him if there is anything I need. That’s how well they’re looking after me.

Anyway, I guess I ought to think about heading to bed. Lambert is popping by at 6:50 to collect his laptop, and then I can get a little more shut eye before breakfast at 9. Last couple of days before the 7am breakfasts and 7:30 bible expositions.

safe arrival and warm welcome

I’m incredibly grateful to God that the journey here was so straight forward – there were no significant delays, all connections were made, and both my bag and I made it safely. It’s really nice that Phocas (who I had dinner with a few weeks ago) has managed to come over for Christmas, and he met me at the airport with Syldio. I’m quickly learning what it is to be welcomed so warmly in an African way! Big smiles and hugs!

Syldio brought me to the Scripture Union office which also has some guest accommodation, where I’ll be staying for the next few days before the conference. Then I’ll join the regional staff for the conference. I’ve not been able to see very much of Kigali yet, but I can tell you it’s warm (25 degrees when we landed at 8:30) and hilly (yay!). The electric has just gone off, so I guess that’s my cue to sleep.


As it happens, 10 minutes later a generator managed to get the power running again, but as I’d packed the laptop away I decided I might just head to bed. Woken this morning to a very sunny Kigali. One thing that lets you know you are somewhere different, even when your eyes are closed, is bird song. It sounds so different here, it’s hard not to have that inate sense of travelling excitement stirred, excited by what the day is going to hold.

The heating not working at home was, of course, fantastic preparation for being in Rwanda, in that the shower here does not seem to be working. So back to my stand up baths by the sink. It is nice being able to step out into warmth though. I’ve just enjoyed a breakfast of 2 finger rolls and – what I would call – fritered egg. I was so worried I was going to get fish for breakfast, I had another reason to praise God! :) Syldio will be here soon to collect me. I think we’re heading to the UGBR (IFES movement in Rwanda) office first, to meet the small staff team there (and hopefully get some internet connection), before hopefully meeting with Antoine this afternoon.

4 days to go

As preparations continue, I’ve been reflecting a little on one of the questions I’m expecting to ask people I have meetings with before the conference: what is so strategic about student ministry?

Why do so many people give up so much for the sake of the gospel, and for student ministry in particular? What is it that drives me in the work I do? Why will people be travelling so many miles to congregate in Kigali next week?

I’m convinced the answer is based on taking a long term view, and I hope to post more thoughts in the coming days.

In the meantime I’ve come across some notes from the talk Antoine Rutayisire gave at World Assembly, speaking poignantly on the base problem of sin.

“Sin leads to four levels of alienation: alienation from God, from self, from each other, and from nature/creation.”

“The cross of Christ is at the centre of reconciliation. And therefore, reconciliation for the Christian is a lifestyle, not an event.”

I still have very mixed feelings about the trip. I am on one hand very excited, and recognise what a privilege it is to be going to an event like this, in a country like Rwanda. On the other I am, in equal parts, both tired and anxious about all I need to do before I go. And it doesn’t help that the boiler is still not working in the house. I need to recognise God’s hand in the different ways he is teaching me things, and shaping me for the weeks to come. And I need to chill. I always do.

christmas travels to rwanda

This Christmas I will be travelling to the East African republic of Rwanda to attend this IFES region’s first ever missions conference.

I have been working with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) for nearly two years now, and I praise God for the enjoyment and satisfaction this job gives me. I work with a great team in communications and fund development, and through this work have already had the privilege of meeting some extraordinary people living and ministering in far-flung places of the world.

IFES exists to reach students in every nation with the gospel and to send them into the world to bear witness to Christ and his teaching. This upcoming missions conference is one way of contributing to that purpose, and will be attended by representatives of more than 20 countries from across French-speaking Africa. The conference title is ‘Developing capacity in servant leadership: go into all nations and make disciples’. Participants will look together at the topic of mission in the areas of African conflicts, prayer, fund development, and Islam in Africa.

Many of the students attending will have been young children at the time of the horrific genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Rwanda’s first staffworker, Israel Havigumana, along with his wife and three children, were beaten to death. Many IFES staff and students were killed within the first 24 hours. This upcoming conference is a testimony to God’s faithfulness in the ensuing years.

how you can be involved


Most of all I would really appreciate your prayers. Please feel free to download the IFES regional prayer sheet for Francophone Africa (PDF), which I trust will help focus your prayers for this region. In particular, please pray:

  • for safety in travel for the many participants travelling across large distances;
  • that participants will grow in their desire to serve their fellow students on campus;
  • for my final preparations in the busy weeks before Christmas;
  • that my French refresher lessons will enable me to make the most of this fantastic opportunity;
  • that the experience gained from this trip will prove beneficial in the coming months.


The cost of my attending the conference (including travel) will be in the region of £1,000 – £1,500. Any gifts towards these costs would be very much appreciated. Gifts can be made online by visiting or by sending a cheque to IFES, 321 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7JZ. Please make cheques payable to ‘IFES’ and mark them for ‘Rwanda Missions Conference / Andy Moore’. In the event that gifts exceed these costs, the surplus will be used to support student ministry more generally in Francophone Africa.