ROSEBORO — It is a long way from Roseboro to Rwanda, Africa.But, for a group of Christians who call themselves Rwanda & Company, Inc., it’s not as far as one might think.
The group has joined forces with Bishop Redias Nkundabera to help meet the needs of the people of Rwanda, bridging the gap in distance and faith.
The name Nkundabera means “I love the Holy One.” The group members say that is truly a fitting name for the bishop, who was in Sampson County last week.
Nkundabera has been in the United States for a couple of weeks to attend the Church of God of Prophecy annual conference in Kentucky.Before the bishop returned to Rwanda, he accepted an invitation from Rwanda & Company to come spend some time with them and share his story with some of the area churches.
It is his fourth trip to the United States.
Rwanda & Company, Inc. is a non-profit organization that was been traveling to Rwanda to minister to the people. The group started under the leadership of Clinton physician Dr. Larry Watts and is planning to return to Rwanda again next month. Several members of Rwanda & Company met with Nkundabera and shared their story during an interview. Those members included Denise Naylor, Hailey Stewart, Sheryl Beasley and Rhiannon Honeycutt.
On this trip, the group is planning to minister to the children, paint classrooms, help in efforts to rescue homeless children, help in building a high school and assist in digging two wells. Members said they are busy trying to raise funds to help support the ministry. A pancake breakfast at Andy’s of Clinton is planned for Saturday, Sept. 8, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and Rwanda’s First Annual Walk-a-Thon is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15 at Midway High School. For more information regarding these events contact Stewart at 916-0541 or Naylor at 627-2141. Other teams members include Shelton and Danette Rogers, and Travis Sampson along with others.
Nkundabera is 45 years old and followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the ministry as is the custom in Rwanda. He became a Christian at the age of 12 and has served in a number of positions during his brief lifetime. The bishop has served as children’s minister, Sunday school teacher and choir leader, and he was ordained as a pastor in 1992. He was appointed an evangelist in 1995 and appointed overseer for Rwanda, the Congo and Burundi in 2006.
Nkundabera was ordained as bishop after his father passed away in 2005.
“I was very fortunate to have been born into a Christian family and raised with Christian values. My life has been a struggle many times but God has brought me through it so that I may continue to serve him and his people,” explained Nkundabera.
The bishop is married and has three children. It was during the mission team’s first visit that one of Nkundabera’s sons was killed by a car. During the funeral, Dr. Watts was introduced to an African doctor who helped to open doors for their medical ministry that had been closed to them the entire time they had been there.
Rwanda & Company, Inc. has established the Joshua Fund to assist in rescuing homeless children in Rwanda in honor of the bishop’s son. To date they have successfully rescued six young children.
“Homeless children in Rwanda do not have Social Services or Child Protective Services to assist them. If it is discovered that a child is homeless, they will be beaten and/or imprisoned with the adults. It is very sad to see and we are grateful to bishop Redias for allowing us to honor his son’s memory,” said Naylor.
Stewart traveled to Rwanda two years ago when she was only 15 for the first time. She was one of the last to leave a school they were visiting and she took a picture of a young boy standing outside the gate. His name was Joe. Her grandmother, Denise Naylor, went back to hurry her up and saw the young boy they thought was about 5 years old and they gave him some bottled water and crackers. It turned out that Joe was homeless and was actually 10 years old.
“After we returned, Joe weighed on my heart and mind,” explained Hailey. “My grandmother felt the same way; we contact Bishop Redias and asked if he could find Joe and help us to find him so we could find some place for him to live and pay for his schooling,” added Stewart.
Nkundabera said it took about a month, but he was able to locat e Joe and the team found the $400 needed to get him in school. He was the first child they were able to rescue.
“It was not until the bishop told Joe it was American women who wanted to do this for him that he agreed to go with them. He is now attending school and is living with one of Bishop Redias’ church members,” expressed Naylor, adding that school in Rwanda is not free.
Nkundabera shared that life has definitely been difficult and trying to stay alive in Rwanda has been a challenge, much as it was growing up when the Rwandan genocide took place.
“I had two brothers killed by the genocide and all my mother’s family was killed. It is only because God wanted me to do something in my life for him that I am still here. He rescued me many times during those 100 days of terror,” cited Nkundabera.
According to the bishop, it was very difficult to know who was a Tutsi and who was a Hutu and often it did not matter. “One day you may be Tutsi and the next Hutu. It was hard to know exactly where you stood. It was a very dangerous time and many people fled the country as refugees,” remarked the bishop.
As Nkundabera was visiting in the home of one of his church members, he said he learned of the genocide and they allowed him to stay with them for a day. He could not go home because it was too dangerous. The family decided to hide him for a while because they were part of the president’s family and knew he would be safe with them for a while. The bishop stayed for about two weeks, until it became unsafe for the family to hide him any longer.
“I asked them on Friday if I could stay until Sunday and they said yes. So on Sunday I left and prayed for God to lead me to safety. I eventually found someone that was willing to protect me for 5,000 franc, (about $10 in U.S. currency), but that lasted only a short time. I was taken one time into the river and they told me that I was going to die but someone in the group said ‘Don’t kill him today’ and I was able to get away,” remarked Nkundabera.
The bishop continued to hide out and attempted to make his way back to an uncle’s house. “As I arrived at the house, I was taken into custody and they stripped me of my clothes and told me everyone in my family had been killed and showed me the list with my father’s name on it. I asked them to look in my bag and I had two Bibles; they let me hold them, one in each hand, and I prayed. I do not know from whence the bomb came but it hit the house where we were and all my captors ran in fear and I was spared. God had saved me once again,” shared Nkundabera.
His testimony has touched members of the local Rwanda group.
“After speaking with and getting to know Nkundabera,” said Naylor, “you would never think that he has been through such a difficult struggle in his life.”
“It is because of my struggles that I can better identify with the struggles of the people of Rwanda, The Congo and Burundi,” interjected the bishop.
“God has spared my life so that I can help to make the lives of many of his people better. I am so grateful for Rwanda & Company, Inc. for all they are doing to help our people. It has been amazing to be here and visit with them and see what they are trying to accomplish before this next trip in September. Through much prayer and much sacrifice they are helping the children and people of Rwanda. I pray that God continues to bless them and their work,” shared the bishop.
While in the area, Nkundabera has been visiting various churches and other organizations, sharing his testimony and spreading the work of Rwanda & Company, Inc.