SOS Academy Vision Trip Recap
By Josh Fikkert
Rwanda and the Easter Story: Reflections on the 2019 SOS Academy Vision Trip
I and the rest of the SOS Academy members recently returned from a 10-day vision trip to Rwanda. When asked to share some highlights and a reflection from our trip, I couldn’t help but think about our experience in light of the Easter story, in light of the Resurrection.
Most people only know about Rwanda because of the movie Hotel Rwanda, which tells the story of the infamous 1994 Rwandan genocide. But the movie doesn’t do justice to how horrible the genocide actually was. In 100 days, over 1 million people were slaughtered, and countless others were orphaned, raped, maimed, or displaced. Friends, neighbors, and family members turned on each other, committing acts of violence and brutality that are difficult to put into words. As we walked through the Kigali Genocide Memorial during our trip, I felt nauseous seeing images from the genocide and reading about the horrors of the event. I was also struck by our guide’s comment that many of those who committed acts of genocide describe what they did as an out of body experience. They describe feeling a cold darkness grip them and compel them to commit unspeakable atrocities. This has been interpreted by many as demonic oppression. After walking through the Kigali Genocide Memorial, I would have to agree with this assessment. In 1994, the powers of darkness descended on Rwanda and had their way.
I’m sure that what most Rwandans felt during, and even in the months and years after the genocide, mirrors what Jesus’ disciples must have felt on Good Friday. On Good Friday, all their hopes and dreams were utterly crushed. Just a week before they saw the long-awaited King ride into Jerusalem seemingly prepared to usher in a new kingdom of liberation. A week later they found themselves scattered as their hope was crucified on a cross. Jesus—the Messiah, the innocent one—was mocked, tortured, and killed in the most horrifying, shameful way. At Calvary, the powers of darkness celebrated their victory.
But something happened. On Easter morning, after three days in the tomb, Jesus’ heart began to beat. His blood began flowing through his veins once again. Breath filled his lungs, and his exhale punctuated the stale air of death around him. Suddenly, everything was changed. The powers of darkness did not win. Instead, Jesus rose from the dead as the victorious King, having “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 1:15 NIV). Risen and reigning, Jesus is making all things new again, extending the glory and good news of his reign over the entire cosmos (Rev. 21:5).
In Rwanda, the light of Easter morning is breaking through. While the scars of the genocide are still evident, just as they were on Jesus’ risen body, the reality of the resurrection, of the dawning new creation, is being made manifest in Rwanda. On our trip, we witnessed the remarkable social and economic transformation that is happening in Rwanda. Right at the center of this transformation is the church of Jesus Christ, which is making the good news of the kingdom of God and the blossoming of God’s new creation evident in Rwanda. One church leader we met with shared that before the genocide there were not really many Christians in Rwanda. Most people had a nominal faith, but not a deep faith and allegiance to King Jesus. He said that since the genocide, however, Rwanda has experienced a Christian revival. And indeed, it is through this Christian revival that the light of the resurrection is shining in Rwanda. Through Christian NGOs, like Hope International, the materially poor are being trained to save together to achieve financial stability. Similarly, Urwego Bank, a Christian microfinance institution, offers small business loans to the materially poor while providing them with discipleship, home health, and small business training. Moreover, the church is becoming a space where people from different tribes are reconciling and worshipping the King together.
In Rwanda, what was once dead is being made alive again. In Rwanda, the Easter story is alive and well, and the vision trip provided a glimpse and a reminder that a new creation is dawning all around us right now, all because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.