OUR GOAL IS TO FULLY TRAIN AND EQUIP BELIEVERS TO MAKE JESUS KNOWN AMONG THE NATIONS, THROUGH URGENT AND INTENTIONAL DISCIPLESHIP FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.
In 2008, God birthed a desire to go to Africa through the Invisible Children organization. I began to study and pray for a way that we could get our youth ministry involved. We contacted a nearby church that had just returned from a trip to Rwanda and were put in touch with the missionary who led their trip. In March 2009, we took a group of 19 on our first trip to The Land of a Thousand Hills. Upon our arrival, we were introduced to an amazing pastor in Kigali named Jean Baptiste Tushimeyere. Unlike previous mission trips that I had been on, the Holy Spirit confirmed that our ministries would forever be connected. Upon returning to the US, the desire to return was overwhelming, so much so that another trip was made 6 months later. After serving in Rwanda on 9 separate occasions, through trust and mutual respect, the Rwandans have helped us to understand the needs of the church and their culture as a whole. In 2012, Jean Baptiste asked me to pray about establishing a mission organization that would create ministry opportunities for people from all over the world who have hearts to go and make disciples. In the fall of 2014, the Lord confirmed, in the middle of a church service, that the time was now. We have since partnered with Christ Community Church of Columbus, Georgia to launch this mission.
We know that not everyone that serves with Come Away missions will go again, but we strive to demonstrate to people the importance of long-term missions. Our heart is for a person to come build lasting relationships, find God’s calling, and invest in peoples’ lives. It takes time to build relationships, but once you meet the people, hear their stories, and allow God to move as he sees fit, you will be hooked.
Location & Geography. Known as the "land of a thousand hills," Rwanda is a mountainous country located on the far western edge of the Rift Valley, bordering on Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania. Rwanda rises from relatively flat plains in the east along the Tanzania border to steep mountains in the west along the continental divide between the Congo and Nile rivers. From the continental divide, the land drops sharply to the shores of Lake Kivu, which forms most of Rwanda's border with Congo. A range of high volcanoes forms Rwanda's northwest border. The mountainous topography continues in the North Kivu region of Congo, where almost half of the population identifies as Rwandan. A concentration of Kinyarwanda-speaking Tutsi, known as the Banyamulenge, lives in the high plains and mountains above Lake Tanganyika in South Kivu. The Bufumbira region of southwest Uganda is also Kinyarwanda speaking. The difficulty of travel and isolation resulting from the mountainous topography historically encouraged largely self-sufficient local communities and many local variations of the culture, but the modern centralized state implemented during the colonial period has encouraged a degree of cultural homogenization, at least within the borders of Rwanda.
Demography. War and political turmoil have led to radical population shifts in Rwanda in the past decade. According to the 1991 census, the total population of Rwanda was 7.7 million, with 90 percent of the population in the Hutu ethnic group, 9 percent Tutsi, and 1 percent Twa, though the actual percentage of Tutsi was probably higher. During the 1994 genocide, an estimated 80 percent of the Tutsi population living in Rwanda was killed, perhaps 600,000 people, but after a Tutsi-dominated government came to power in Rwanda in 1994, an estimated 700,000 Tutsi refugees returned from abroad. Meanwhile, several hundred thousand Hutu also died in the genocide and war and from diseases like cholera that spread in refugee camps when, at the end of the war, several million Hutu fled to Tanzania and Congo. Several million more were internally displaced within Rwanda. War that broke out in Congo in 1996 killed thousands more Hutu and drove most Hutu refugees back into Rwanda. As a result, the size and ethnic breakdown of the population are thought to be roughly comparable today to that before the 1994 war. Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa.
Information. Rwanda is among the most rural countries in the world. Most people live in individual family compounds surrounded by banana groves and fields and scattered across the hillsides. The hill—the collection of families living on a single hill—has historically been the central social and political unit. Each hill had a chief who linked the population to the monarch. Although chieftaincies were abolished in the 1960s, the new administrative units generally preserved the hill divisions.
The extreme violence that swept the country in 1994 devastated Rwanda's rural social structure. With millions of people uprooted from their homes, hundreds of thousands killed, and hundreds of thousands more returned from long exile, Rwandan society underwent rapid social change. Most of the returned Tutsi refugees chose to settle in urban areas, while most Tutsi in the countryside were killed or chose to move to the cities. As a result, urbanization took on a new ethnic character, even as the rate of urbanization jumped dramatically. Meanwhile, the government instituted a program of villagization in the countryside, forcing peasant farmers to leave their isolated homesteads to live together in small overcrowded villages. While the government claimed that these villages were intended to facilitate the administration of social services, many critics believed that the program was designed to facilitate social control.
Language. Kinyarwanda is a unifying factor within Rwanda, since it is spoken almost universally. Less than 10 percent of Rwanda's population also speaks French, and a small portion speaks English, primarily refugees returned from Uganda and Kenya. Kinyarwanda is the primary cultural identifier for Rwandans living outside Rwanda.
Food in Daily Life. Rwandan food is quite simple, with beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and sorghum being the most common foods. Dairy products are also widely consumed, particularly a traditional drink of curdled milk. Those who can afford to do so also eat meat, primarily beef, goat, and chicken. Sorghum and banana beers are common as well.
Do’s and Don’ts - (How to be an American African)
- Be eager to learn their culture. Ask questions, learn the language, build relationships.
- Be Flexible!
- Try the food, Eat everything! Please put a little bit on your plate and if you like it go back for seconds. Try not to leave a lot on your plate.
- If you eat snacks around others, please offer them some. Make sure you always shake hands at the end of a greeting.
- Don’t give anything away without permission. When we are at the appropriate places you will be able to give candy, stickers, etc.
- Please let them serve you. If you want to serve, ask before you do it.
- If we are in a crowd, please do not do anything to draw attention to our group. Such as bubbles, and giving candy. This could cause problems for Jean with the government and we want to be respectful and mindful of Rwanda rules.
"Hello, how are you?" - Muraho, amakuru
"Good morning!" - Mwaramutse
"What is your name?" - Witwande?
"My name is..." - Nitwa
"Yes" - Yego
"No" - Oya