In Rwanda, a theological college is a rare jewel - as are well-trained Bible teachers. A handful of colleges do exist but most, if not all, are in Kigali, the capital city, and they all charge fees. These two facts - location and cost - greatly limit the possibilities for pastors to receive training.
Well over 80% of the country is rural and a similar number of citizens rely on subsistence farming. Some rankings place Rwanda among the 20 poorest countries in the world. The Gross Domestic Product per capita last recorded was 765 US dollars in 2017 (in the UK it is 39,954). Also, most Rwandan pastors do not receive any kind of financial support from their congregations. In fact, it is common for congregation members to run to the pastor for financial assistance. To be a pastor is to be a father.
These two factors further make it very difficult for a pastor to travel to Kigali to get training. They can’t raise funds for transport to the capital or to pay course fees, besides all the other expenses connected to learning.
Our eyes were opened to this reality and so we came up with a plan to mitigate it: we started taking training to the communities, teaching six foundational courses in bible and Christian ministry over one year. (This ministry is now registered in Rwanda.) Through this, our hope is that the Church in Rwanda will grow in prayer, worship and passionate preaching that has biblical depth.
However, in 2018, several things happened to prompt us to develop the ministry further. To start with, the government closed down over 8,000 churches nationwide. The reason put forward was low safety standards - my church was closed down because our building did not have soundproofing or pavements. Then, the government introduced a new law that set a minimum standard for theological education among preachers and pastors. Shortly after that, theological schools offering Diploma and Bachelor’s degrees were ordered to suspend their activities until they met the educational standards for local universities. No theological school has yet been able to reopen again.
These changes have meant two things: firstly, the demand for our training has increased considerably. Secondly, we must somehow raise the standard of training we provide so that it meets the requirement for preachers and pastors demanded by the legislation. Because of this, I am now going back to Bible College in South Africa to study for a Masters. The ecclesiastical climate reigning in Rwanda conveys the unmistakable message that at least some of us must pursue theological education as far as possible.
Fred Kiiza studied for a Bachelor of Theology through the South African Theological Seminary (SATS) from 2016-17, supported by a Crosslinks bursary. To get involved with this important work, why not sponsor Innocent Manirafasha as he studies with SATS?
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