Some time ago while training church planters in Rwanda – a curious pastor caught my attention. He spoke English well as he cornered me. “What if we are unable to plant small churches? What if I found converts but due to their work-schedule it is impossible for them to come to church. They work at a bus stop you see – nearly 7 days a week. I taught them discipleship (you helped me through Harvesters) and my group has increased but what now?” I listened carefully to pastor Rodrique Sebineza from the Nyamata District in Rwanda. I was pondering on his request when his face lit up and he asked: “Do you think I could plant churches in Bus Stops?” “Of course”, I said – wondering how that would look like.
Fast forward the clock 18 months later as I return to Rwanda to check-up on the church planting in various areas. Pastor Rodrique greeted me with a contagious smile. “The churches are waiting”, he said still smiling.
The trip was not the easiest one. Early Sunday morning took us on a motorbike out of Kigali into rural Rwanda. Nyamata to be exact. I had my best church shoes on as we tried to escape the rainy clouds building up. After a high speed chase to catch the bus we were on our way. Rwanda is beautiful – the country of a thousand hills many calls it. It has a green, mountainous landscape. Its renowned Volcanoes National Park is home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. I seem to never get enough of Rwanda – rich in people and history …… but underlying always the sadness of the devastating 1994 genocide.
As we arrived at the local municipal bus stop we were greeted by hundreds of commuters trying to find their way. There were more than 12 various bus stop sites that greeted me. Pastor Rodrique quickly showed me the way through the busy hustle and bustle. Waiting for me were 10 young men. “Welcome to our church”, one 20-year old boy greeted me …. hugging me. “Please a word of HOPE … a word from God if you please ….”, pastor Rodrique asked. It was fully church at that moment. One had a song, one had a testimony …. there was an organized prayer …. and even ushers. “This is our church …. we even baptize here”, one boy replied. I was blown away.
I shared a short scripture on the prodigal son. One boy knelt down and said: “that’s me pastor … that’s me”. Within a few minutes I was amazed as more than 20 other “commuters” and bus stop workers surrounded me. “Hey man of God … do you think there is hope for us? How do we change our hearts? Why have no one told us this?” My sadness for their lost state turned into joy as many knelt and asked for the Savior to enter their lost hearts. A 23-year old young man stood up …. looked me into the eye and said: “I am lost … I have no family my greatest desire is to have a family. My whole family was wiped out in the genocide” I looked at him as he sobbed. I grabbed him and held him close. “Your family is here rafiki (friend) ….. the Church is your family …. welcome.” Applause erupted from the local Bus Stop church. He was hugged by many. If the church wasn’t planted there …. many would still not hear the Message of Hope and Restoration.
After spending more time with individuals the Bus Stop church was never going to be the same. It was planted all across the city in many other municipal bus stops through evangelism and discipleship. Many were baptized in the local municipal swimming pool. God has many kinds of churches ….. I realized. All kinds of shapes and sizes all over the world … even in a country which wiped out more than 1 million of their people in less than 3 months in a genocide. And I realize again on my way back on a bus ….. the CHURCH is truly still the HOPE of the WORLD.