Disrupted travel plans are frustrating, especially when it involves a missions trip that would have brought great blessings to people in need. Pastors Joe Strange and Greg Barnes, both of whom serve as associate pastors at different churches in eastern North Carolina, had been preparing for an August 2020 trip to visit three east African countries. They, along with others in their group, had been raising funds for several months and looked forward to serving through sports camps, pastor training, and other activities. Regrettably, with the rapid expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no choice but to postpone their August trip indefinitely.
Later, when the team learned of an immediate opportunity in a location that was part of their original travel plans, they felt it was God opening the door for them to have an immediate impact, even though they would not be personally ministering there this year. After discussing the need and getting concurrence with their pastors, it was decided that the team would send a portion of the funds they had raised to help build a new school in the Rwandan village of Rukumberi. The school will serve over 600 preschool and elementary students, some of whom previously walked over an hour to attend classes.
The impact of the school project extends far beyond education. In the partnership agreement, the school property will be owned by Harvesters’ partner, Siera Community Church, and also led by the ministry. Operational funds will be provided by the Rwandan government to support faculty, staff, and other expenses. The church will appoint the head of the school, hire teachers, and be able to provide biblical teaching and conduct evangelism among the students. Further, the church will be allowed to send a group of poor children from the congregation to the school without paying the otherwise required school fees.
Siera Community Church has been working in Rukumberi for five years. It was a difficult community where most people showed no interest in the Gospel. Persistent outreach and relationship building led to the formation of a small congregation. In early 2018, a church building was constructed (seen in the background of the photo to the left) and has been a great blessing to the congregation and community. Currently, there are about 250 adults and many children who are part of the Rukumberi church. The new school is an effective way to increase the ministry’s impact in that area. There is a persistent Islamic effort seeking to expand their presence in Rwanda, which includes opening Muslim operated elementary schools. We are thankful that in Rukumberi our Christian church will be leading the education effort.
Joe, Greg, and the other team members still desire to travel to east Africa to serve. When they do, they will be able to visit the school and minister to children there. Even though their travel might have been delayed, much good is already happening due to their efforts. Because of this, they consider it well worth the effort of having to complete additional fundraising to support their future trip.