After the genocide in 1994 that took the lives of 800,000 Rwandans in 100 days, the country was completely broken and in great need of rebuilding, especially emotionally. For the second time this year, Liberty University has responded to that need by sending counseling and psychology students on a short-term mission trip.
Partnering with World Help, a team of 19 Liberty students and two professors spent 10 days in Rwanda last month, traveling to different villages and counseling victims and perpetrators.
The team included undergraduate students in the Psychology department and graduate students studying counseling online and on campus.
Dr. Kevin Corsini, dean of Liberty’s graduate school in the Center for Counseling and Family Studies, led the trip along with Marlene Carrilho, chair of Liberty’s Psychology department.
Corsini said the team’s purpose in Rwanda was “two-fold.”
“We heard their stories of the genocide and how they are working through reconciliation,” he said. “We offered support and spoke on trauma care and counseling. A lot of times we listened to people, shared the gospel and loved on them.”
They showed the powerful documentary “As We Forgive,” a story about the process of forgiveness for the Rwandans, and traveled to many of the locations shown in this film.
Students also had the opportunity to hear one of the key leaders responsible for rebuilding Rwanda, Bishop John Rucyahana, tell of his personal loss and the efforts he has taken to heal his broken country.
The team visited the Church of the Massacre, where 5,000 Rwandans were brutally murdered while trying to seek refuge in the church. Corsini said witnessing this memorial helped to “redefine the power of the gospel” through true reconciliation.
“When you walk in [the church] there are rows and rows of human skulls. It is a memorial now. You can see how they died with machetes in them,” he said. “We left that church and drove to the Village of Reconciliation and we met the people who did many of the murders at the church a few miles away. When you say ‘born again,’ these people are new creations living in peace with the people they tried to kill.”
Junior Jennifer Allen said the trip was a life-changing experience.
“The Rwandans have suffered a great loss, but they have great hope - a hope in a God that forgives, and because of this, they are working in their lives to forgive the people who have hurt them.”
Carrilho said the trips are a unique opportunity for online students who wouldn’t normally have the chance to join classmates for a mission trip. Students came from as far as Texas and Ohio.
“It’s so much beyond what you can get in a classroom or teach … being able to experience and meet with the people far beyond the classroom setting,” she said.
In March 2010, campus pastor Johnnie Moore traveled to the country with World Help president and Liberty alumnus Vernon Brewer to meet with political and spiritual leaders, laying the foundation for the first team of Liberty students to arrive there in March 2011.
Corsini said future trips to Rwanda are being planned.