This year, 2019, the Seventh-day Adventist Church marks one hundred years of its existence in Rwanda. A celebration was held on August 31. It was a high Sabbath. About 50,000 Adventists packed into the Mahoro stadium in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. Ted Wilson, the General Conference president, along with many other General Conference leaders, was present.
It was an exceptional blessing for me to attend and experience such a once-in-a-lifetime event. Praise God, who has done great things for Rwanda during the last 100 years! The church has grown and has achieved wonders through His grace. The church membership has reached close to one million in a population of about 13 million.
Before Pastor Wilson started the Divine service, he spoke a word of appreciation, telling the church in Rwanda that he is “proud of them.” His sermon, from Joshua chapter four, encouraged every member to be a “living stone” that bears testimony to the great things God has accomplished in their lives.
God gave Rwanda two dedicated pioneer missionaries after World War I. These were difficult times, but the Adventist Belgium Soldier, David Elie Delhove, and a Swiss brother by the name of Henri Monnier, arrived in Rwanda in 1919 to launch their mission work. Finally, after many difficulties, they founded their first three mission stations, Gitwe (central), Rwankeri (northern) and Ngoma (western), in spite of the opposition by the Roman Catholic Church, which was dissatisfied with the new rival church.
Despite the church being shaken by the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994, it revived miraculously, is rebuilt and is progressing fast. Following that horrific event, the Adventist Church has grown in membership from 300,000 to 962,000 members. In the last 10 years, from 2009 to 2019, the membership has more than doubled!
They approached the church for baptism and confessed the crime that led to their repentance.
Henry Monnier was the first pioneer who mastered Kinyarwanda, the local language, and produced literature for the advancement of the gospel. He translated passages of the Bible, hymns, the baptismal manual, instructional booklets, doctrinal and devotional literature.
Today, the translated material sent from Light Bearers is still doing pioneer work and contributing to the success of the membership growth in Rwanda, touching many lives. The impact of the Bible lessons from Light Bearers has been felt these last four years and is greatly appreciated by the leaders of the Rwanda Union Mission. Just in the last two months, before the 100-year celebration, 15,600 people were baptised, mainly as the fruit of church members giving Bible studies with the literature in the Kinyarwanda language provided by Light Bearers. Rwandans are hungry to hear the truth of God’s word. The Holy Spirit is moving mightily.
But not just in Rwanda!
God works in mysterious and sometimes humorous ways. During the celebrations, I greeted the Union President for Tanzania, whom I had met when I was reporting on the progress of Light Bearers literature in Tanzania. I laughed as he told me what had happened to one of the containers of Bible lessons, which had been on its way to the West Kenya Conference in Kigoma. The container was cleared in Dar es Salaam and the boxes were loaded onto the train for transportation to West Kenya. On its way, the train had a breakdown. While waiting for repairs, thieves started raiding the cargo of the train. They offloaded boxes of Bible lessons, hoping to find valuable content. Little did they realize that they have just “stolen salvation.” Great was their surprise when they found the Bible lessons instead. They started reading the Bible lessons and the Holy Spirit convicted their hearts. Months later, the church was conducting meetings in the district where the thieves live, using the same Bible lessons they had stolen. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit had changed their hearts through the stolen literature. They approached the church for baptism and confessed the crime that led to their repentance. Now they know that salvation is free and can’t be “stolen.”
Satan has tried to steal salvation from Rwanda, the greatest blow being the horrific genocide of 1994. But God’s free gift of grace has produced an abundant harvest!