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As Loots & Nancy Lambrechts prepare to hand their ministries on to their Rwandan brothers and sisters, Nancy reflects on the time they have spent there.
They say that Rwanda has a specific smell, the smell of burning, of fires. Perhaps because most households cook or boil water on wood or charcoal. But when I think of Rwanda it is my sense of hearing that is aroused. The birds! Their song is more sweet and more strident than anywhere I have ever lived.
Serving in Rwanda
Loots & Nancy Lambrechts and their three children have been living and serving in Rwanda for almost eight years. They pioneered the Preach the Word Training Course in Kigali, teaching students how to read and teach the Bible faithfully.
Nancy’s main involvement has been discipleship among the women. She has also written Bible study materials that have been translated into the local language. Loots & Nancy also facilitated a church plant in Kigali that commenced in January 2017, under the leadership of Innocent Manirafasha. They left Kigali in May, in order to support Loots’ parents, living in South Africa. Loots will return regularly to Rwanda over the next two years as he phases out of the ministry and hands over to the local leadership. As they look to the future their hope is still to be involved in seeing Christ-centred churches among all African people.
When you speak of Rwanda, what comes to most people’s minds is not the bird song or the smell of fires, but the genocide of 1994. That’s understandable. When we first thought of Rwanda as a place we could live and serve, all I could think about was the history, the horrors, the bloodstained ground and the stench of rotting flesh that once so overwhelmingly marked this land. This history has significantly impacted most people who live here. What I once read in books became very real and personal over the years as I got to know Rwandan sisters who had the most dreadful stories to tell.
I have always thought it to be a blessed coincidence that the genocide memorial week usually coincides with Easter weekend on the calendar in the most glorious way. As the country remembers blood that was once poured out and the cruel death of so many, it is hard to remain there without looking towards the cross, and the innocent blood that flowed from our Lord Jesus for us, without having hope. God is at work in Rwanda, I have seen it with my own eyes and bear witness to it. What others meant for harm, he has turned to good. After the slaughter there was only hopelessness and despair. The ground was fertile for hope and good news. And what good news the gospel is in a context like this. Not only has your God suffered and died, not only can he sympathise with your pain, but he has promised those who believe in him that one day he will make all things new! One day there will be an end to our suffering and pain.
I have seen this good news shape my Rwandan brothers and sisters as they have been keen students of God’s word. Not happy with only an hour of Bible study, they beg you to keep on teaching them the glorious truths from Scripture. I have seen them grapple with how the gospel should impact their lives, their decisions, their money, their marriages. God has raised up Rwandan leaders to keep teaching, training and discipling others, and he has even built a church. A small, humble church of faithful believers, who love God and love one another.
As we prepare to leave Rwanda after nearly eight years, our hearts are encouraged by what God is doing and will continue to do. But the truth is, amidst the challenges of those last eight years, the most significant work God has done has been in my own heart. As I listen to the birdsong, I’m reminded that during my years in Rwanda the Lord has humbled me to sing a new song with all my heart: “I trust in you Lord… You are my God… My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:14-15).