Evangelicals Target Rwanda

Crosswalk reports on Hope Rwanda, the massive campaign of western evangelisation currently underway in Rwanda (and which was discussed by me here). The missionaries are offering substantial medical and development assistance to the country, but spreading the word is also a central priority:

The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, officially launched Hope Rwanda: 100 Days of Hope at an official function with over 800 dignitaries and guests in Kigali on 15 April. Leading the child and youth effort for the Hope Rwanda effort, Florida-based Book of Hope is coordinating the distribution of over 2 million books to each child [sic!] in Rwanda. “They have already distributed a quarter of a million books,” said Hope Rwanda Project Coordinator, John Fergusson. This week, Book of Hope brought in the first Impact Team from Church of the Harvest in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Team members spent ten days in the province of Butare, visiting schools in some of the farthest, most difficult-to-reach areas of Rwanda, where they met with students, conducted school assemblies, shared the love and healing spirit of Jesus, and distributed over 14,000 Book of Hope Scripture books to every student

The “Book of Hope” was the brainchild of Bob Hoskins (no, not that one), an Assemblies of God missionary. His website explains (links in original):

In 1987, missionary and evangelist Bob Hoskins was asked by the Minister of Education in El Salvador to provide bibles to the country’s 986,000 school children.

(This would have been just after the end of the state of emergency in El Salvador. The civil war was continuing, but there were human rights improvements in 1987. See this report.)

Hoskins was up to the challenge, but instead of bibles, he delivered what is now called the Book of Hope, with tremendous results. The country was caught in a wave of church revivals and students and their families committing their lives to Christ.

…The Book of Hope publication combines the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to tell the life story of Jesus Christ – the most important part of the scriptures. The book reads in chronological order and feature study questions that direct the reader back into the Word. There is also a clear plan of salvation at the end of the book so children know how to accept Christ as their personal Savior.

…To date, more than 270 million Books of Hope have been distributed worldwide, and we are well on the way to reaching our 2004 Faith Goal of distributing more than 56 million books to children and youth around the world.

In Eastern Europe, the books are distributed by Life Publishers. In 2002 Hoskins was particularly active in Chad:

Bob Hoskins says as the country recovers from civil war and faces incredible economic turmoil, opportunities for the Gospel abound. “Some of our colleagues got a license for what’s called ‘Hope Radio’. November the 15th, the Hope Radio station will begin to broadcast from N’Djananja, the capitol of Chad. In connection with the launch of Hope Radio, we’re launching the Book of Hope distribution in the schools there.” While Chad is predominately Muslim, Hoskins tells the government that the Book of Hope can help with AIDS and drug and alcohol abuse. “I say, ‘I know you don’t believe Jesus as God as I do, but your Koran says that Jesus is one of the greatest of the prophets and His teachings are acceptable in Islam. And so, these are the teachings of Christ on ethics and morality and because of the need and because of the rational, they’re accepting it’.”

The Church of the Harvest, meanwhile, which is doing the book distribution in Rwanda, is led by Pastor Kirk Pankratz, who was also the founder of Youth America. The church has interesting mission statement:

Position a People for a Harvest of Changed Lives, Miracles and God’s Promises.

Reproduce Christian Leaders in the Realms of Family, Business, Community, and Ministry.

Build a Progressive Church with Regional, National and Global Influence Founded upon the Word, Faith and Prayer.

Prepare a Prophetic Generation of Young People for Their Role in the Last Days Revival.

Meanwhile, neo-Pentecostal preacher Joyce Meyer is also doing her bit. The Australian Christian Channel reports:

Evangelist and author Joyce Meyer conducted a three-day national rally in Kigali from 28 to 30 April. Amahoro Stadium was packed with 28,000 Rwandans who had travelled to hear Joyce Meyer’s message of hope, making it the largest Christian gathering Rwanda had ever seen. Joining her was a 1,000-strong choir and almost 2,000 trained volunteers.

The previous week Joyce Meyer and her team had conducted outreaches to the country’s 16 prisons which house a total of 87,000 prisoners. They distributed over 70,000 hygiene packs to the prisoners. Hope Rwanda Project Coordinator, John Fergusson, reports that over 1,000 prisoners so far have made decisions to receive Jesus.

Hope Rwanda comes just months after Rick Warren declared his intention to make Rwanda into the first “purpose-driven nation”, following the lead of his best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life – I discussed that announcement here. However, an article by Andrew Paquin in Christianity Today raised a note of caution:

Warren’s relationship with Rwandan President Paul Kagame is also of concern. Kagame was the leader of the rebel Tutsi forces that brought an end to genocide in 1994. Yet as president, he has overseen a military that continues to occupy parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Human-rights observers such as Amnesty International and even the U.S. State Department accuse Kagame of not only stripping Congo of its natural resources, but also of mass rape, burning villages, and murdering civilians. Rwandan leaders reject these claims, yet the human-rights community maintains their accuracy.

Kagame has also faced the accusation that he ordered the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana in 1993, which sparked the Rwandan genocide. This uncritical enthusiasm for Kagame brings to mind evangelical support for the late Sudanese rebel leader John Garang – a phenomenon which was discussed by Jeff Sharlet here.

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