CCCW Director reflects on recent visit to Rwanda

Jesse Zink was in Rwanda in early June

CCCW Director Jesse Zink spent the first week of June in Rwanda as a guest of the Anglican Diocese of Kigali. He shares some memories from the trip.

The CCCW has a special connection with East Africa and particularly the East African Revival. Our archive contains the papers of Joe Church, the missionary who did so much to promote the idea of Revival. So it was a particular highlight to spend time at Gahini, site of the first Anglican mission station in colonial Rwanda and birthplace of the Revival. I was given a tour of the various places of significance in Gahini by a young man who has taken upon himself the task of interviewing surviving elders who remember the Revival and writing a history of the Revival in Kinyarwanda.

When I asked him why he was doing this, he said, “When you search the Internet, there is nothing about the East African Revival in Kinyarwanda. I want to change that so we can know our history.”

I also had the opportunity to visit with a few people who had clear memories of the Revival themselves. This included Cyprian Kabenga, a retired Anglican pastor, to whom I gave a copy of The East African Revival by Kevin Ward and Emma Wild-Wood. It was a wonder to him that the Revival he knew so well was the subject of study in other parts of the world. I also spent time with Marian Kajuga, who is 93 years old. In her life, she has seen the flourishing of the East African Revival and the growth of Christianity in Rwanda. But she also survived the 1994 genocide, during which her husband and oldest son were killed. It was remarkable to think about all that her life has encompassed, all sustained by her life of faith.

One of the most surprising—and delightful—parts of my time in Kigali was the opportunity to explore the Anglican Diocese of Kigali’s impressive archive. Over the last 18 months or so, a few hard-working souls have taken what used to be a pile of old papers in a shipping container and turned it into a working archive. They’ve sorted the material and organized it in binders. The range of material is astonishing, from early documents related to Anglicanism’s arrival in Kigali in the 1940s to parochial reports, correspondence with government officials, letters between bishops, reports on the church’s work of reconciliation, and so much else. Had I been able to read Kinyarwanda, I’m sure I would have uncovered even more. The CCCW is storing a copy of the archive’s catalogue and will be thinking of ways to support the Diocese as it continues to add material.

It was also good to visit Kigali Anglican Theological College and learn about the ministry there. As the Cambridge Theological Federation reflects on its own future, it was helpful to hear how another theological college, albeit one in a different country and cultural context, had recently rearranged its delivery of teaching to be more cost-effective and responsive to the needs of the church.

There were many other memories of this visit, of course, including visits to genocide memorials and the opportunity they afford to remember the deeply painful past while also looking towards the future. I had glimpses of that hopeful future in the church services I attended and in the incredible range of ministries in the Diocese of Kigali.