On a snowy January morning, Jean Baptiste Bugiruwenda, General Secretary of Scripture Union Rwanda, arrived in Scotland. After a brief sightseeing tour of Edinburgh, he headed out to the countryside and built his first ever snowman.

Jean Baptiste (2)

The idea to invite Jean Baptiste to Scotland came following the Respond Rwanda 2013 trip – a new venture for SU Scotland in which we partnered with Urban Saints Scotland in taking a team of 10 young people for three weeks to work with, and learn from, SU Rwanda staff and volunteers. We wanted to build on those relationships by inviting Jean Baptiste to spend time with our organisations, and meet the recruits for Respond Rwanda 2015.

We reflected on what worked well previously, discussed new approaches for the coming trip and explored how our partnership could develop in years to come. The 2015 team had the privilege of meeting Jean Baptiste at their first team training day and benefitted from having a glimpse of life in Rwanda ahead of their arrival in July.

Deep Impact in Aviemore provided a perfect opportunity for Jean Baptiste to witness the range and nature of youth work in Scotland, as well as share the work of SU Rwanda and the experience of hosting a Scottish team. At the end of the Conference we popped over the A9 for a visit to Alltnacriche, giving Jean Baptiste a chance to see Alltnacriche “in the snow!”

The Glasgow staff enjoyed hosting a lunch during which Jean Baptiste shared the joys and challenges of SU ministry in Rwanda. Like many other SU movements, they produce Bible reading notes in the local language (Kinyarwanda), run camps for primary and secondary aged children, support Christian teenagers in schools through SU Groups, help train Sunday school teachers and support churches in their children’s work. They also have a ministry to widows, orphans and vulnerable children, as well as a Life-Skills programme with a key focus on preventing the spread of HIV.

Recently the Rwandan Government has had a big push towards early years education with the setting up of nursery schools – so we planned a visit to a Glasgow nursery with a unique church connection. Jean Baptiste also had opportunity to meet International Christian College staff, speak at a large youth event, worship in a local church, as well as eat haggis, drink our national drink (Irn Bru!) and attend a Burns' Night ceilidh.

Commenting on his time here, Jean Baptiste said "I thank you very much for the time you gave to me, that I think helped all of us to cover all the programmes planned for my stay. I wish all blessings to all of you. Our Lord was with us, and for sure he will continue strengthening our friendship and partnership."

Enola Butler, Urban Saints Scotland
Phil Wray, SU Scotland 
Respond Rwanda Planning Group

This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of @SU magazine.