The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi left behind many broken hearts, frustrated families, and an almost hopeless generation.
In its aftermath, Rwandans were converging from different nations where they had fled to come back to their country, and among them was a group of young Christians who upon arrival realized there was a need for healing among the people, and “something spiritual had to be done.”
These are the early beginnings of the widely-renowned Rehoboth Choir. Recently, the choir celebrated 25 years since it was founded. To date, when you look at the feats they have achieved, including releasing over 8 albums, organising massive concerts and countless charitable missions, one may miss out on the fact that the team had very humble beginnings.
Pioneered by youths, mostly aged between 18 and 25 years, the group used to fellowship from Evangelical Restoration in Kimisagara, a church newly established by fellow returnees including Simeon Mukwiza among others.
The church was small at that time but had a lot to do in the starting of the choir that would later become a popular worship team that has brought hope to many nationwide.
The President of the Ministry; Patrick Munini recalls that the youth had their first meeting aimed at forming Rehoboth on October 16, 1994.
The following week, they had their first rehearsal and were able to perform in church the following Sunday. Of the few founding members was James Mwungura, Lillian Kabaganza, Alexis Mbanza “Myma” who is currently a famous gospel music instrumentalist; and Beatrice Nyirashikira “Yaya” who presently serves on the Ministry’s administrative committee.
The name ‘Rehoboth’ was chosen in reference to the Old Testament scriptures when Israelites who were travelling among nations made it to the promised land Canaan and named a river they found there “Rehoboth” meaning a broad place.
According to Munini, the Ministry chose Rehoboth as the name since the story of the Israelites looked a bit like that of the Rwandans that had to leave their country and later managed to return.
25 years on, they have recorded about 100 songs; released eight albums; scooped local and regional awards; and have performed in Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The ‘mother’ of biggest gospel groups in Rwanda
As one of the first choirs in Rwanda, Rehoboth ministries lays claim to having given birth to several big gospel groups in Rwanda, which include the renowned ‘Alarm Ministries’ which came five years after Rehoboth was established.
Bishop Douglas Kigabo, one of the first members of Rehoboth, claims that the ministry has been an inspiration and source of advice for other Gospel Music Groups that came up later including ‘Gisubizo Ministries’ and ‘True Promises’.
“All these youth ministries who are engaged in the ministry of the Lord are people who were inspired by us. They often came to seek our advice before founding their own ministries. They came to us as people who are more experienced than them,” he says.
Today, several founding members of Rehoboth Ministries are pastors, singers and overseers of different churches in Rwanda and abroad.
Kigabo says that Rehoboth ministries has played a significant role in the growth and expansion of the Restoration Church.
“From 1994, anywhere the church wanted to establish a church, we got there first. Therefore, among more than 100 Restoration churches in Rwanda, we have exercised the basic role in their set up,” he says.
Unity and reconciliation journey
Rehoboth’s journey has always been about evangelising about unity and forgiveness.
From 1997, the church has mainly worked with Ibuka and staged many concerts sensitizing Rwandans about forgiveness and reconciliation.
Rehoboth Ministries has been visiting genocide victims and perpetrators to preach reconciliation.
The Ministry’s Vice President; Aimable Rugari says that every year, they organise concerts to evangelize about unity and reconciliation.
“Some were carried out in public areas and the rest were carried out in prisons where we focused on genocide perpetrators and we saw some of them being converted, got confessions and others asked for forgiveness”, he says.
The choir visited the former Gasabo district prison (Kimironko) two times in 2016, and went to “1930 prison” five times in 2017 before it shifted to Mageragere.
The Ministry is also engaged in several activities of putting a smile on vulnerable people’s faces. In 2014, they visited vulnerable residents of Nyamirambo sector and helped the needy by providing domestic animals like cows and goats, in addition to visiting and reaching out to patients in different hospitals like CHUK, Kibagabaga and Muhima.
They have also paid tuition for children orphaned by the Genocide, and two of these chose to become strong members of the ministry.Follow ByishimoBertra3