REDEEMER’S RWANDA TIMELINE
Church of the Redeemer has been connected to Rwanda since before our founding.
Here is a brief timeline of some of the key events of that relationship (edited from a presentation by Michele Becker).
1998: Redeemer begins raising funds for Sonrise school.
A small group of about 30 people gathered in the basement of Glenview State Bank to learn about Bishop John Rucyhana’s ongoing project of building Sonrise School brick by brick. We have continued to raise funds for the school for almost 20 years. At the Sonrise School is a plaque honoring the tireless fundraising efforts of one of the founding members of Redeemer, Irene Bauer, who is now deceased. Sonrise has grown as the needs have changed, and we continue to engage in a meaningful relationship with the school.
Every year we continue to hold a fundraising event to raise awareness and needed funds for the school’s operating budget. Read more about Sonrise here.
2000: Redeemer welcomes a refugee family of 5 into our midst.
Redeemer’s involvement in this family’s life over the years has been faithful and steady, extending hospitality, friendship, and ongoing financial support. The struggles continue to be challenging: this family of 9 is surviving in Uptown on two minimum wage jobs. The children are still too young to work. This family still prays for the “good people of Redeemer EVERY single day”!
One of the children, Clementine, is now a graduate of Yale, the youngest member on the board for the national Holocaust Museum, and a human rights speaker and activist. Another of the children lived with Dan and Michele Becker in Glenview while attending Loyola Academy, where they helped to provide a structure conducive to her academic and emotional growth and well being. Although she herself did not experience the Genocide this young woman has unique scars that have been caused by the traumatic and devastating events her family has experienced. She is also now attending university in the States.
2006: Our refugee family is reunited.
By the grace of God and the work of the Oprah show, this small family was reunited with their parents and surviving siblings here in Chicago. Each believed the other had perished in the Genocide of 1994 (for more on this story, talk to Michele Becker).
2009: Robert Becker,collects over 2,000 pairs of socks and underwear for Sonrise School.
Robert, a member of Redeemer’s youth group, collects these items as part of becoming an Eagle Scout. Not a very glamorous project for a young teen, but so desperately needed by students at Sonrise.
In 2009 (or 10): Matthew Andris moves from Redeemer to work with International Justice Mission in Rwanda.
Matthew worked as a lawyer with IJM for several months. While there he was accepted into the State Department, and now serves in another global location.
2009: Jenny Montgomery writes a play based on interviews with 20th century Genocide survivors.
Jenny, a former Redeemer member, playwright, and Fulbright Scholar, wrote “Raining Season” for the United States Holocaust Museum using the transcribed words of five 20th century genocide survivors from Darfur, Germany, Cambodia, and Rwanda was a member of Redeemer. The play is part of USHM’s Teen Committee on Conscience. A local group of high school students presents this powerful play to local area high schools to challenge their peers to NEVER AGAIN allow these atrocities to happen.
Originally, Clemantine, one of our Rwandan family members, played herself in this moving play but soon went away to university. Her niece, Mariette, the young woman who lived with the Beckers, also played Clemantine’s role. This play has personally transformed Mariette’s life. Speaking of the Genocide within the family has been taboo: it is too painful and is simply repressed. This play gave Mariette’s feelings and struggle for identity a powerful voice. It is easy to forget that these atrocities against humanity have deep and long-term repercussions. We also brought this play to Redeemer.
2011: Dan Hanlon and his wife, Kari, move to Rwanda to teach history at the Kigali International Community School (KICS).
The Hanlons served as Redeemer’s youth pastors, and then discerned the call to go to Rwanda as an extension of Redeemer. Dan was later ordained as a priest in Rwanda. Since that time Dan and Kari have welcomed two children (Josiah and Norah), and continue to work, live, and serve in Kigali. Read more about the Hanlons on their blog.
2012: Susan Greener travels to Rwanda on a Wheaton faculty mission trip to help design early childhood development programs.
Her words in the Wheaton College Alumni Magazine after that trip resonated with Michele Becker’s direct involvement with our Rwandan family here. Susan said, “The lack of loving parenting these teachers received has crippled their own ability to parent well.” This phenomenon has serious consequences for the future not only in Rwanda but also for the refugee family Redeemer supports here in the states.
Summer 2012: Laurie Nelson and her team began an outreach selling Rwandan coffee at the Highwood Farmer’s Market.
Each week Redeemer set up a booth selling Rwandan coffee, sharing Rwanda’s story of reconciliation, and making connections with the community. We continued this project the following two summers.
2013: Heather and Renjie Abraham step in to replace Kari Hanlon at KICS while Kari was on maternity leave.
The Abrahams also served as Redeemer missioners during their time in Kigali. They returned to the Chicago area in 2016.
2013: Fr. Jay Greener is made a canon in Rwanda’s Shyira Diocese.
This was a great honor, effectively embedding him (and Redeemer) in the life and ministry of that diocese.
2016: As part of our Homeward campaign, Redeemer commits to give 1% of all funds raised to build a new church in the Shyira Diocese, Rwanda.
2017: Ethan and Natasha Carlson move to Kigali to work at KICS alongside Kari Hanlon.
The Carlsons are the most recent Rwanda missioners from Redeemer. Follow their journey on their blog.
Two students who have graduated from Sonrise also attended university here in the Chicago area.
Both have spoken about how important Redeemer has been in the life of Sonrise and its students at our fundraising events. Joris Cyizere graduated from Northwestern (IL) in 2016. Richard Ndekezi graduated from Wheaton College (IL) in 2017. Joris and Richard are currently living and working in Rwanda.