More than 40,000 Seventh-day Adventists in Rwanda flocked to the Amahoro National Stadium, located in the capital city of Kigali, to celebrate 100 years of Adventism in the country. Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson, regional church leaders, and government officials also attended the event on Saturday (Sabbath), August 31, 2019.
In addressing the congregation during the worship-service sermon, Wilson called the event “momentous” and reminded the guests of God’s leadership throughout the ages.
Reading from the book of Joshua, Wilson took the crowd through the experience of the children of Israel and the crossing of the Jordan River. He focused on the stones of remembrance each tribe had to bear as a reminder of God’s miraculous salvation. Drawing from the theme of the celebration, which was “In God’s Hands,” Wilson urged Adventists in Rwanda to remain in God’s safe hands while preparing faithful reports for when He comes.
The centennial celebration was also a time to pay tribute to the first Adventist missionaries in Rwanda, who arrived in 1919. Looking back on their commitment, Hesron Byilingiro, president of the Adventist Church in Rwanda, affirmed their legacy. “They will never be forgotten,” he said, as he explained that the missionaries had to integrate into a culture they didn’t know and learn a new language.
Byilingiro said that the gospel the missionaries carried through education and health was, in itself, a language that needed no translation and that he was thankful for it. “I praise God for the Adventist message that transformed many lives in this country,” Byilingiro said. He also commended local Rwandans who assisted foreign missionaries with whom they pioneered.
Since all of those who carried out mission in those years have since passed away, awards were given to their descendants. Those whose relatives couldn’t be found were honored in absentia.
The government of Rwanda was represented by two ministers and the chief executive officer of the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB). In the name of her government, Judith Uwizeye, Minister in the Office of the President, said the Adventist Church is a good partner of the government of Rwanda because of its role in education, health, and development.
Revisiting the gruesome genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, she said that “even though the church was not spared, I thank God for saving the nation.” Uwizeye joined Wilson in asking Adventists to continue being good citizens and a source of healing to the community.
The following day, the delegation from the Adventist Church headquarters and the leaders from East-Central Africa Division joined Adventists in Rwanda for their monthly community service known as “Umuganda.” While all Rwandans do community service on the last Saturday of the month, the government has allowed Adventists to do their part on every first Sunday of the month. The minister for local government, Anastase Shyaka, reiterated to Wilson that his government will always uphold religious freedom.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Rwanda has more than 900,000 members and is expecting to reach one million members by the end of 2019.