The year 1944 found Rwanda rife with violence and upheaval when an estimated 800,000 were killed in just the space of three months – Africa’s worst genocide in modern times. Now, time has brought about healing and has ushered in a new government, bringing with it hope for peace and prosperity.
This new hope for the future is embodied in the Rwandan government’s Vision 2020 Project, which has provided an opportunity for rebirth, re-growth, and the return of once-fled Rwandan citizens ready to help rebuild the war-torn country.
Joining them are missionaries and non-profit organizations like Edmond-based Rwanda Outreach and Community (ROC) Partners who recognize the chance to get in on the “ground floor” of reconstruction and make a real difference.
“We’re getting to participate in a country that’s building its institutions from the ground up, much like our grandparents did on the American frontier,” says Dave Jenkins, board member and co-founder of ROC Partners. “Sometimes there are unique places in the world that are especially receptive – and you have the opportunity to go in and make a big difference.”
Some missionaries go to Africa for weeks or months, but several Edmond families are in it for the long haul. What started out with six guys from Oklahoma, ROC Partners has since become a full-fledged non-profit humanitarian organization providing aid to a recovering Rwanda.
Operating out of their headquarters in Edmond, the ROC Partners have on-site missionaries providing educational programs, a church and a school in Rwanda. They also assist in the adoption of Rwandan orphans, mentoring youth and helping women achieve higher education.
Jenkins was on a missionary trip in Uganda when all the turmoil in Rwanda was occurring, so he saw some of the refugees firsthand. But it wasn’t until 2005 that he, along with his wife, Jana, began his own missionary trip when he moved his family to Kigali, Rwanda.
By 2006, along with four other humanitarian aid families in Kigali, the Jenkins had founded and registered Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) and received approval to start a school.
Jenkins soon met up with John Osbourn, the director of international programs at Oklahoma Christian. Jenkins, Osbourn, and other collaborating members, worked with OC and Quail Springs Church of Christ to form ROC Partners in 2007 as a means for obtaining a community hall and school buildings in Kigali to build a church and school.
“When you get introduced to a place and you meet the people and their needs, you’re confronted with the question: ‘Are you going to do something about it?’” says Osbourn, who has served as president of the board for ROC since it was formed in 2007.
Kigali International Community School (KICS) began in a garage with less than 30 students – now the school hosts more than 200 children from over 30 different countries in two school buildings purchased by the ROC Partners. Almost half of the students are Rwandan.
In Kigali, the Jenkins rapidly-growing work began to demand more manpower. They were soon joined by Bryan and Holly Hixson and their children, who eagerly accepted the call for help in August 2007 and have lived in Rwanda since.
Bryan Hixson, the school board chairman and executive site director, manages the three buildings, which includes of two school structures and the church. Both of the Hixsons’ daughters attend KICS along with the Jenkins’
The Shreck and Linden families, currently residing in Edmond, will double the ROC Partner’s task force in Rwanda by joining the team in Kigali in early January 2010. Onawa Linden also plans to move with her husband and the other families to Rwanda for at least three to five years. “If you never thought that you could make a difference, try being a part of something different and let God use you and he’ll blow you away.”
Mark Henderson, director of development at ROC Partners, first went to Rwanda in 2007. “It broadened my view of the world. I am much more tuned in and sensitive to the plight of orphans and issues of injustice in the world. I’m more committed to be involved in things and to try to make a difference.”
Currently, ROC Partners hope to raise enough funds to build a secondary school in Kigali, in addition to continuing to expand other education and humanitarian aid projects. To see how you can help ROC Partners, visit www.rocpartners.org.