This small group at PEACE Lutheran Church supports the growing vision for Christ in the central African nation of Rwanda.
The Lutheran Church of Rwanda was formed in 1995, bringing a message of life, peace and hope out of the horror war and genocide. Peace Lutheran Church members were instrumental in encouraging some of the early founders of the church. They have continued to support the young church’s work ever since by contributing to the building of schools, dormitories and health clinics, and helping to educate leaders in the inspiring movement.
Rwanda Connection Committee hosts the visit of Rwandan church leaders to our area. Members meet occasionally as needed.
We sell Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate, nuts and other products on the second Sunday of every month to support the work of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda.
Update: February 2015
No public libraries
Rwamagana is a commercial and coffee hub 30 miles east of the capital of Kigali. Despite the city’s size, it has no public library; the Lutheran School’s library draws “voracious” young readers, Petty said.
The library and new lab anchor the school’s mathematics and science focus, which recently won government accreditation, Petty said. That core focus is forming young Rwandans who will be able to lead their country into sustainability amid deforestation and water scarcity.
“We want to teach the next generation to be good stewards of the Earth,” Petty added.
About half the students at Rwamagana Lutheran School are girls – unusual in a country where poor families favor educating their sons, Petty said. About half the students also receive financial aid, mostly from American donors.
Yet academics flourish.
“Our students participated in the national exams last year, and 98 percent passed. Most were in the top two tiers of academic performance,” Petty said. “We’ll have 130 to 140 students this year… It will be our first year of graduating seniors. Hopefully, they will go on to college.”
Science and technology books, scholarships and a boys’ dormitory are next on the school’s list of needs, Petty said.
But her visit isn’t just about seeking help.
“It’s about empowering,” Petty added. “We use local builders, local accountants. This school is run by Rwandans. It’s their school.”
PEACE members know they are fostering “leadership by young people with strong critical thinking skills, sound academic and moral training, good science and math ability and a good understanding of teamwork and self-discipline,” said Siri Fenson, who is organizing the event.
PEACE Lutheran Church’s connection to the school goes back two decades.
PEACE member Tony Waters was the first Nevada County resident to meet the Rev. John Rutsindintwarane, a Rwandan pastor living as a refugee in neighboring Tanzania. (Rwandans had fled to Tanzania, to the east, since violence erupted in 1959.) After the genocide of 1994, “Pastor John” and other Lutheran leaders returned and re-formed the Lutheran Church of Rwanda.
In 1999, Rutsindintwarane visited the United States, including Grass Valley; at the time, he was general secretary of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda. Members of PEACE formed the Rwanda Connection Committee and have supported the purchase of land for the Rwamagana School, its construction and student scholarships. In addition, the committee supports projects of the Lutheran Church in Rwanda, including the education of church leaders at the highest level.
In 2004, the Sierra Pacific Synod (the Sacramento-based regional organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) became a partner with the Lutheran Church of Rwanda. The school’s construction started in 2006 after the synod bishop visited “and learned of the need and vision for the secondary school, especially for girls,” said Pat Baker, a long-time Rwanda Connection Committee member.
The school is largely the vision of American Robin Strickler, a talented educator and administrator who met Rutsindintwarane through her Lutheran church in Virginia while he was studying there. Back then, she imagined “a much-needed secondary school that would bring together students from all levels of society to develop the leaders Rwanda badly needed after the genocide,” said Baker, who has followed the school’s progress since its earliest days.
Rwamagana Lutheran School demonstrates how God uses people to work out his plans, Baker added. “The things Robin mentioned (back) then have now come to pass: practical skills, a school built with sustainable systems and teaching students how to do the same when they graduate,” she said.
Strickler remains the school’s program director, working for a board of Rwandans who run the school. A second board composed of Americans assists with finances, Baker said. Strickler is married to Rutsindintwarane.