Despite drastic conditions in Rwanda, Young Life began in 2009. Since then has reached over 42,000 kids, many of them directly affected by the genocide. With 47 ministries, Young Life in Rwanda is seeking to love those on the margins of society.
Rwanda is a country of much ethnic division, political tension and extreme violence. In 1959, just three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group in Rwanda, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries, simply because of their ethnic identity. The children of these Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group, and in 1990 civil war ensued. This culminated in a state-orchestrated genocide in 1994, in which Hutus killed up to a million of their fellow Rwandans, including about ¾ of the Tutsi population, over the course of only 100 days. The genocide finally ended when the Tutsis defeated the Hutus militias, and many Hutus fled. Most refugees have returned, but the country is still reeling from such a massive ethnic divide. The genocide decimated Rwanda’s fragile economic base, severely impoverishing the population – today 39% of Rwanda’s 12 million live in poverty.
Yet such drastic conditions can only be addressed by the power of the gospel. Young Life began in Rwanda in 2011, and since then has reached over 42,000 kids, many of them directly affected by the genocide. With 72 ministries, Young Life in Rwanda is seeking to love those on the margins of society. Josiane, a deaf girl from the city of Kigali, grew up stereotyped and stigmatized by families, peers and the community. People believed that deaf kids like Josiane had nothing to contribute to society. But after attending a Young Life camp (like almost 4,000 did in 2018), she was overwhelmed by the love she saw in her Young Life leaders. She says that she now feels valued like any other kid in the community, all because of the love of Christ that poured out from her amazing Young Life leaders.
Having fun at YL club
Small group time at camp
|Avg. Kids at Clubs||1,498||2,212||3,232||5,405||7,584||40%|
|Avg. Kids in Campaigners||589||952||1,881||2,754||3,017||60%|
|Number of Ministries||30||35||47||61||72||18%|
|Kids to Camp||3,405||3,385||4,131||3,413||0||N/A|
|Kids & Leaders to Camp||3,697||3,802||4,995||3,925||N/A||N/A|
According to the 2012 National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), 50% of the Rwandan population is below the age of 19 years. This gives Young Life ministry vital ground in contributing toward building a hopeful society regardless of past catastrophic experiences. Young Life Rwanda has almost 50 active Young Life ministries throughout the country.
One of the indicators of the ministry growth is the average number of kids who have said yes to Jesus and have been attending the discipleship sessions for their holistic maturity. We started with two Campaigners’ groups but now we have more than 45 groups across the country with an average of 3,017 kids meeting weekly. It’s out of these Campaigners that we now have commitments and active leaders who carry out the mission that God has assigned us to love kids regardless of all other factors that may seem to be a hindrance.
We have not started WyldLife yet in Rwanda but by June next year, God willing we hope to start at least one or two clubs. We will also need a short training from those who have been running this ministry for some time to learn from their experiences.
Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey of year 2014-2015 shows child teen pregnancy has been a huge problem. 6% of girls aged between 15-19 years old have started bearing children. This proved the relevance of YoungLives ministry in Rwanda. We have many teen moms among the kids, but we had not given it special attention as it is kind of stigma here. It was challenging to care for these women without them feeling stereotyped. But after Chimwemwe Siyabu visited and had some good discussions with the community, we felt the urge to establish the YoungLives ministry by reaching out to these teen moms with the love of Christ. We started by targeting around three teen moms and now we have more than 30 teen moms. We have started to journey with them and we look forward to having a day camp with them soon.
We have so far identified more than 25 kids with disabilities and we have been involving them in our YL activities but we are planning how we can launch the ministry and grow it consistently. This will need a passionate leader who can receive a short training to gain skills on how to affectively interact with these beloved kids with an awareness of their context.
We also have not started this ministry in Rwanda but based on the increasing numbers of our Developing Global Leaders (DGL) students, we think now is the right time to start targeting two universities through our DGL connections. This could be one of the better ways to keep the DGL students accountable and responsible in their schools while also extending the Gospel and Young Life mission.
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