Rwandan leader tours Golden camp

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

While President George Bush was making a six-day tour through Africa, one of east Africa's religious leaders was visiting southwest Missouri as a guest of Kids Across America (KAA) Kamps, based in Branson.

On Feb. 18, Bishop John Rucyahana and his wife, Harriet, of Rwanda, toured the KAA camp in Golden with Gregg Bettis, KAA president. The couple were invited to visit the camp, because it will be a model for a Kids Across Africa Camp (KAAC) that will be built in northern Rwanda.

The Rucyahanas serve on the KAAC board of directors and have been instrumental in helping Bettis and His Kids Across Africa Foundation get their camp project off the ground in Rwanda.

John Rucyahana is a native of Rwanda and served as a leader in the Anglican Church of Uganda during the genocide of his people in Rwanda. In 1997, he returned to Rwanda and was named bishop of the Shyira diocese of Rwanda. He has founded an orphanage and school in northern Rwanda and is involved in the ministry of reconciliation among his people.

Kids Across Africa Camps-Rwanda was founded on the dream of transforming the young people of Rwanda into Christian leaders. According to Bettis, KAAC is dedicated to bringing the hope of God's love to the countless number of Rwandan young people who are growing up in a country where genocide claimed the lives of over 1,000,000 people in 100 days.

"My heartbeat is for kids and seeing them experience an intimate relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ," said Bettis.

Plans are already in place to build a camp and retreat facility on 200-plus acres of lakefront property located on the shores of Burera Lake in northern Rwanda.

The goal of the camp's leadership team is to host approximately 3,000 Rwandan young people and their group leaders by the camp season of 2010. This effort will be funded through a $4.7 million capital campaign, which was launched recently. KAAC-R is being designed to host approximately 250 kids, 75 counselors and summer staff and 50 group leaders during each camp session, which run seven days. Young people and their leaders will attend from communities and villages all across Rwanda and East Africa.

In addition to the opportunity for campers to develop close relationships with each other and their leaders, the camp in Rwanda will offer 25 sports and activities with outstanding facilities and equipment for aquatics, basketball, boating, soccer and tennis.

KAAC-R will also include a gymnasium, outdoor

church, office, nurses' station, maintenance garage, boat dock and cabins and lodging for camp friends and families.

The KAA camp in Golden will serve as a model for the camp that is being planned in Rwanda. When Bishop John visited the camp during his recent visit, he described the facilities as "grand." He said he could envision the camp as being "a tool and a channel" for bringing kids to the Lord and discipling them in the love of God.

"The camp will prepare them to be free thinkers and doers," said Bishop John. "It will prepared them to be servant leaders."

Bishop John also spoke about how a camp setting offered a unique opportunity to reach young people, especially those growing up in Rwanda.

"The camp grows children through teaching but also through having fun; it opens up their thoughts; it's good and it's wonderful," said Bishop John. "It will be beautiful for African children to learn good things and to have fun at the same time."

After touring the camp in Golden, Bishop John and Harriet were the guests of honor at a Kids Across Africa Camps Rwanda dessert briefing held in Branson and attended by about 50 KAA and

KAAC-R supporters.

"Bishop John travels all over the world and so we're grateful he could carve out some time to be here," said Bettis. "His love for education, his love for the kids, his love for the Lord are so obvious."

According to Bishop John, the vision of KAAC aligns itself perfectly with the miracle of reconciliation and renewal that is transforming Rwanda.

"I'm convinced that by Gregg (and KAAC) joining us, he's coming to join God in what He's already doing," said Bishop John.

"We want first and foremost to transform the minds and souls of the people," said Bishop John. "We have to start with the youth. They will be our servant leaders of tomorrow. We have to start the transformation from the inside outward. We need to teach them to love the Lord. And we need you and your support."

For more information about Kids Across Africa Camps-Rwanda or Kids Across America, contact Bettis at 417-266-3123 or at

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