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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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(The Rev. Noel G. L. Hutchinson Jr., mission director for the Progressive National Baptist Convention), will be in Rwanda from December 3-8 for a leadership conference with 200-plus pastors from throughout the African country. A keynote speaker, the Memphis-based organizer of Greater Works Fellowship will also be teaching and preaching and blogging along the way. This is the second installment.)


Noel G. L. Hutchinson Jr.,
Mission Director, Progressive National Baptist Convention; Organizer, Greater Works Fellowship. (Courtesy photo)

It’s time to go! I’m in Memphis International Airport, and make it to the gate. My journey takes me first to Atlanta, then Amsterdam, and finally Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

When I prepare to sit before departure, I see Yvonne Matlock, the former director of the Shelby County Health Department, traveling with her husband, Lawrence. During a brief conversation, I learn they are going to Ghana and are involved with several entities that provide health assistance. I also know of others from Memphis who do the same thing.

It dawned on me that we seldom realize the type of people (Memphians are) and (the) impact we make from Memphis. On this very aircraft are people going out to make a difference in other places. Often, they operate outside of and ahead of their local church. In reading the book “Strategic Disciple Making” by Aubrey Malphurs, I came upon this:

“I have assumed in the past that those who drop out of church are mostly unbelievers or carnal Christians… while some are carnal Christians, a growing proportion (perhaps the majority) are deeply committed believers who leave their churches because they want more of God but are not getting it in their local church. When Willow Creek Community Church surveyed their congregation, they discovered much the same. The segment of their spiritual continuum that consists of the most mature people in the church reported, “My faith is central to my life and I’m trying to grow, but my church is letting me down.”

My trip, and seeing these persons that I know, tells me that the church has the potential for more local and international impact.

I’m also reminded of the story of Elijah: when he ran and hid out of depression, he told God, “They have killed the prophets, and I’m the only one left!” After God helped to restore Elijah’s balance, God plainly told him, “I have 7,000 prophets who haven’t bowed to Baal.”

In other words, you’re not the only one on the job. Even as I travel in potential creation of something that doesn’t exist, these words encourage me.

Long travel is interesting. You sleep in shifts, watch movies you missed in theaters, pray and think. After 32 hours, worn from the journey but excited, I landed in Kigali.

In walking in the airport, I had flashbacks of traveling to Montego Bay and Kingston in the 1980’s as we left the plane on an old-school, although modern, ramp and walked to the terminal. Even as I walked, I remembered that Rwanda is about three years away from building one of the largest and most modern airports in Africa.

(Photo: Rev. Noel G.L. Hutchinson Jr.)

When I made it through customs and walked to the curb, I expected to see my host and possibly a driver. What I actually saw blew my mind. It was my host and about 15 pastors. The host’s wife and daughter greeted me, and the little girl gave me a bouquet of roses.


In about 15 minutes, I leave for the genocide memorial. From here on out, I’ll pick up the writing pace, but I’m grateful to The New Tri State Defender for allowing me to take you on this journey.

Until later.

The Journey: 

An unexpected opportunity in Rwanda


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