“It’s time to cut down the tall trees…”
With these words on 6 April 1994, a genocide of brutal ferocity and speed was inflicted upon the people of Rwanda. The tall trees comment was the code word for a carefully calculated campaign that saw one million people butchered by the crudest of weapons – mostly the machete – within 100 days.
Throughout rural Rwanda you will espy men dressed in dark pink overalls working on farms and other projects through the countryside. These people are considered category three prisoners (category one being planners and organisers, category two being those who oversaw the massacres) and they committed acts of murder during the genocide. It was as if these leaders had personally handed machetes for the murderers to do their worst.
One of the most potent reminders for visitors are the numerous genocide monuments that scatter the country. One cannot travel far without seeing a memorial that recalls those terrible days. This was an event meticulously planned, and despite the warnings emanating from the country from informants who alerted the world community before the event, nothing was done to prevent these horrors. However, the more powerful memorials are those of the sites themselves. Ntarama was the location of a church where 5000 people huddled to escape the surrounding violence. Despite the brave efforts of the menfolk of the region, the padlocked doors were eventually breached on 10 April 1994, and almost every woman, child and elderly person was murdered amongst the low wooden and concrete pews. Nowadays, the tattered clothes of the deceased hang in clumps around the walls and the stench of decay is sickening. Skulls and other bones lay in rows at the back of the church, whilst the front contains the belongings of the victims including their shoes and schoolbooks. The scale of the genocide is almost incomprehensible, for though one can visit this church where 5000 were killed, one would need to call upon another 200 sites like this to fully understand what transpired
It is within this backdrop that Harvesters gathered 26 motivated church leaders and church planters in Kigali, Rwanda to learn the finer craft of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Evangelism and the Harvesters Church Planting model was taught over two days. It was quickly evident that some leaders were anxious to plant their first churches. A Muslim pastor who converted to Christianity, quickly responded as she eagerly got up during the training as she said: “I am surrounded by two mosques and I never knew how I could make a difference in my community who needs Christ. After having the tools to plant churches I am confident that I will be able to plant 3 new churches around the mosques.” Rwanda, being a police state has many challenges and church planting is not an easy endeavor. But after teaching the Evangelism model we use it was amazing to see pastors running into villages to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Within 2 hours pastors brought 42 new souls into the church of which were 3 muslims dedicating their lives to Jesus Christ.
The presence of the Lord was tangible during the meetings and all the training sessions. Spontanious song erupted often as we shared the vision to plant 200 000 churches all over Africa by 2020. Rwanda and Burundi leaders gathered together as we planned a strategy to plant at least 40 new churches for when the follow-up training commenced.