Book of Hope to Join Massive Cooperative Effort in Rwanda

An international Assemblies of God ministry that distributes scriptural storybooks for children will deliver more than two million to students in Rwanda in memory of the 100 days of genocide that killed more than one million people in the central African nation.

Book of Hope International, an organization with the mission to get the “Word of God into the hands of children and youth around the world,” will participate in a major faith-based initiative to bring hope and comfort to the children of a country suffering from painful memories. The project, titled “Hope: Rwanda,” will coincide with the country’s 100 days of genocide on April 7, 2006 through July 15, 2006.

“Our mission is presenting God’s word to children around the world,” said Calvin Ratz, the East African coordinator of Book of Hope.

“We are motivated in this particular instance because 12 years ago when the genocide took place and a million people were slaughtered, the world turned its back on Rwanda. We are trying to do this to make the statement that there are Christians in other parts of the world who want to do something to express Christ’s love to the people of Rwanda.”

For 100 days starting on April 7, 1994, the “streets of Rwanda ran red with rivers of blood” as more than one million innocent men, women, and children were slaughtered by machetes. Although the genocide took place more than a decade ago, the impact is ongoing, as can be seen in the 15 percent of children orphaned in Rwanda because of the genocide; the 2 percent of the population that are HIV orphans; the 250,000 women raped during the genocide; and the 85 percent of the population that live on less than $2 a day.

Hope Rwanda, founded by Mark and Darlene Zschech of Hillsong Church in Australia, is a response to this tragedy. The project helps bring together Christian churches and ministries - such as Book of Hope International, Hillsong Australia, Joyce Meyer Ministries, Saddleback Church, Willow Creek Church, Operation Open Heart, and the Rwanda for Jesus Revival Centre - to bring hope back to the country through construction projects, medical assistance, and educational aids among other efforts.

Book of Hope International will focus on the Rwanda children and distribute more than two million Books of Hope to students through the Rwandan education system. The scripture mission group will be helped by more than a thousand volunteers, the majority of which are natives. The distribution volunteers come from various churches and are recruited from 12 different provinces in Rwanda with 100 volunteers from each province.

“We are going to train 1,200 people in Rwanda, young people primarily, to go into the schools to distribute and put on a program – a dynamic program that explains the Gospel to just over 2 million students in schools,” Ratz explained to Mission Network News (MNN).

The project will be a “huge undertaking,” reaching out to all the schools in Rwanda – about 2,900 government schools – in 100 days. The project has permission from the Rwandan education department and the Rwandan president has given approval for the project.

“It means, when you take into account the weekends and so on, we have to do a distribution in 40 schools a day. It’s an unbelievable task,” said Ratz.

This will be the first Book of Hope mission to Rwanda, but the organization has worked in other African nations such as Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Congo.

“To think that the genocide could take place in a country that had nominal Christianity but no real faith, we want to go in and show that the Christian faith is more than nominal thing but it has a reality and life change aspect to it.”