(The Rev. Noel G. L. Hutchinson Jr., mission director for the Progressive National Baptist Convention), visited Rwanda from December 3-8 for a leadership conference with 200-plus pastors from throughout the African country. The Memphis-based organizer of Greater Works Fellowship taught, preached, blogged and vlogged along the way. This installment notes his last day.)
RWANDA — I attended Sunday worship at a local church. Its pastor is Sam Birondwa, who is my host, and also the principal of the Cornerstone Leadership Academy, the leading high school in Rwanda. On this particular Sunday, he had a Rwandan version of a pastoral installation and blessing.
Well-wishers and congregants were there in great celebration. Pastor Sam’s boyhood pastor was also present. His spiritual father, Bishop Charles, a pastor who – as a type of apostle/evangelist planted 200 churches in three countries – performed the ceremony by anointing him with oil.
I met Bishop Charles the day before and was impressed. Over lunch, he told me his story. While living in neighboring Uganda, he became a Christian, then accepted his calling to preach. Through being faithful, he organized a church and placed a pastor there while he moved on. Many of these churches flourish and have produced pastors, who have begun other plants like their spiritual father Bishop Charles.
In traveling with him, it was evident that he is revered and respected. Bishop Charles, according to many, also has the gift of healing. I noticed that several persons asked him for prayer and brief consultation, even as he, Pastor Sam and I made a visit to the local seminary.
Africans generally and Rwandans in particular worship from forms that are a part of their culture. I saw the ring shout in its original form, as well as worshippers leaping from worship excitement.
While in the midst of worship, I remembered the Bible talking about David dancing before the Lord with all his might. I’ve seen this type of worship in several places on the African continent and it is very present in Rwanda.
Indigenous African worship is so omnipresent that I heard a worship song here that I first heard in Cape Town years earlier. When I mentioned it to one of the local pastors, he confirmed that it originally came from South Africa and said that countries/regions then takes these songs and make them their own.
During this last day in Rwanda, Pastor Sam, Bishop Charles and several pastors had a fellowship meal at Simba supermarket/restaurant. It was truly Rwandan style, and I loved it.
People from all walks of life were in the restaurant section. Bridesmaids coming from a wedding, a family stopping for lunch while shopping, some men gathered to watch soccer and a couple on a date were some of the groupings I saw while sitting with the pastors.
We talked about the week and the future of this impending work. We also let our “hair down” and cracked jokes. It was a great time.
As much as I will miss Rwanda, it’s time to go home.