Sometimes transformation is physical: a school with new classrooms, sturdy desks, and paint still wet to the touch. Sometimes transformation happens within groups: a community learns to work together toward a common goal. But the most intoxicating transformations happen when hardened hearts change.

“You see in every country, people get wounded. People get hurt. They need to forgive. They need to reconcile,” says Antoine, who today is a pastor in Kigali, an author, and an international speaker. “Your life becomes better when you repent, confess, and reconcile.”

After working with World Vision in the beginning, Antoine chose to minister to the church. He was asked to stay on by World Vision International’s then-President Graeme Irvine, but he had other plans. “I’d like to go around and bring together pastors, build some hope, and put them back into activity,” he told Graeme.

Rwandan churches were in a terrible state. Many had been used as staging grounds for killing. There was mistrust among the congregants.

Before the genocide, more than 80 percent of Rwandans said they were Christians—which meant that many of the perpetrators thought of themselves as believers. Antoine knew the church had failed Rwandans, and he was bent on setting things right.

World Vision funded his work. “I remember the first money we used for reconciliation with churches was given by World Vision,” he says.

In 20 years of ministry in this shattered country, World Vision has provided practical aid and programs that brought people together. Sponsorship focused on children, the hope of the country. But the real progress is something that might only be detected in the laughter of friends after church on a Sunday afternoon, or the sight of children kicking a handcrafted soccer ball, or in a calm moment when wind whispers through the leaves of a tea plantation.

“World Vision has done many things in this community,” says Jonathan Gahima, an early church partner in southern Rwanda, “but to me as a pastor, the most important thing was healing people’s hearts.”

Martin Tindiwensi of World Vision in Rwanda contributed to this story.

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