by Raymond Mackereth, Major –
Majors Ray and Mavis Mackereth join Bridgebuilders following commissioning. “Their session name is very apt as much bridge building is still needed in Rwanda,” said Mackereth.
For the past 10 years The Salvation Army has been at work in Rwanda, providing humanitarian aid and building a church in a country that has endured inconceivable tragedy. In the 1994 genocide, approximately a million Rwandan people lost their lives in 100 days—the Army arrived to help in September 1994, and has been there ever since.
The Army first registered as a non-governmental organization in Rwanda in August 1995 and in 1996 submitted documents for registration as a non-profit church; we were finally registered as such in July 2003. We have worked consistently with the government for the betterment of its people.
The Army has assisted wherever needed: clean water projects, house building, alleviating poverty, upliftment of women, education, child sponsorship, vocational training, local leadership training, community capacity building, animal and land husbandry and emergency feeding.
Although funding has ended, we continue to work with local authorities in Kayenzi on a vocational training center. We are also concentrating on child sponsorship in Kayenzi, Taba, Mugina, Runda and Kigali so that secondary school children, mainly orphans or semi-orphans, will be able to receive an education. Our pre-school program for about 40 children has just expanded to include an additional 40. We offer adult literacy programs in Kayenzi and Bitare, and we just concluded a sewing project for the upliftment of 30 women. Our self-reliance project for the elderly is also underway.
We just finished building three halls and three quarters; the U. S. Western Territory provided funding for the three halls and two quarters, with additional funds from International Headquarters.
In Kayenzi, Taba and Runda, we are teaching community capacity building for dealing with HIV/AIDS. We have just received funds to provide health care to child-headed households, where no adult is present either because of the genocide or from HIV/AIDS, which is claiming the lives of so many.
Our church work continues to grow very fast—the problem is we do not have the leaders to put into every situation. Recently we welcomed back three new officer couples. They had traveled to Congo Brazzaville for training since the only accessible French-speaking training college is there. (Rwanda has three official languages: French, English and Kinyarwandan.) They were commissioned in March and are the first indigenous officers for Rwanda.
We now have four corps, one society, one outpost and other ongoing outreach work—very vibrant and with great needs. We could do so much with more personnel! Currently at Rwanda headquarters we have two officer couples: my wife and myself and an officer couple from Kenya. We have plans to open our own training college for local leaders but this requires careful planning. The work is growing fast, and we want to insure that it is built on a solid foundation and will not collapse in time of testing.
We ask for your prayers as we continue our work in Rwanda—pray that God will bless this nation and these people who have experienced such horror.