Voices from Africa’s Great Lakes Region

‘In our region, Jesus is our Messiah, our provider, and we trust in his supernatural power and mighty hands despite all the inconveniences and harm we go through’,  said a Rwandese pastor recently.

Any reference to Africa’s Great Lakes Region triggers a wide range of reactions, many of them negative. But as someone who has enjoyed 20 years of involvement in the region, it is the rich faith of the believers that first comes to mind. Believers have shown me, someone from the so-called “developed” world, what a developed faith looks like. I asked 35  Christians what it means for Jesus to be their hope in an area that has more than its fair share of economic and political turbulence. Two themes stood out: hope in the present and hope for the future.

Hope in the present

While there is extraordinary wealth and development within the region, the leaders I approached stand alongside the marginalised and excluded and are caught up in the hardships they face. Repeatedly, individuals emphasised how this is the reality of life in a ‘fallen world’ – it is the fall-out of a world gone wrong, where the devil is working hard. Any physical challenges that they face mean that they value the hope Jesus holds out all the more.  One pastor from Rwanda shared: ‘We had hope in our extended families but all was in vain. There was hope in political leadership but it failed,’ and as a result, ‘those who are blessed to know Jesus Christ make him their only hope: we have seen him providing food, shelter, restoration, inner healing and a clear future and eternity’. In fact all those who responded centred their present hope on Jesus. They pointed to him repeatedly as the one who ‘is a great ruler who brings justice to the nations’, who ‘himself dwelled in a world of insecurities’, and who ‘today is our refuge’.

This living hope was a rich seam in a region that has been deeply impacted by revival and personal testimony. As another leader testified: ‘When a group of people surrounded me and my friends wanting to kills us, we were helpless and could not save ourselves. It is only at this time that one understands what it means to trust in Christ. He is powerful when we are weak’. In other words, this certain hope, rooted in God’s word and founded on Jesus, is something that is to be enjoyed today.

Hope for the future

While this living hope clearly energises believers in the region daily, it is always with an eye to the future, knowing that Jesus will defeat the enemy forever. It is a hope in the ultimate defeat of evil and a world reborn that keeps God’s people going. Leaders shared how their present hope always looks to and will be eclipsed by the future that God has in store.

A pastor in Kenya drew these ideas together: ‘Through the work of Jesus on the cross, death and sin were defeated and I am looking forward with great hope to when he will come again and take me to be with him in a place where there will be no pain, no troubles, no tears, no suffering, no terrorists, no hunger, no poverty and no sickness. That reality of what Jesus has done and will do gives me hope daily.’

These leaders labour with God in his mission today, in the sure hope that he will one day flood the earth with his knowledge and his glory. And so must we.

Written by Jem Hovil