Hearts Interwoven

In April, I was blessed to be able to travel to Oklahoma to participate in the graduation of the first 10 Rwandan Presidential Scholars at Oklahoma Christian University. 

One of the blessings in going was being able to hood our “daughter” Evangeline Rukundo, one of the 10 Rwandan students who were part of the largest OC graduating class ever. 

Also attending were Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and his wife, Madame Kagame, Dr. Charles Murigande, Rwandan Minister of Education and Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, mayor of Kigali and others. 

In 2004, OC President Mike O’Neal traveled to Rwanda at the invitation of OC Board of Trustee Richard Lawson (66) and his wife Pat (67). They were accompanied by Dave Jenkins, who was OC’s missionary-in-residence at the time after serving in Uganda for many years (and now serves in Rwanda). 

  • Front row, left to right: Arlette Umuhoza, Jean Pierre Karenzi, Christelle Lyiza, Evangeline Rukundo, Alline Kabbatende, Alain Shema.
Back row, from left to right: Philibert Girurugwiro, Placide Nibakuze, Alexandre Tulikumwenayo, Yves Mujyambere.
Front row, left to right: Arlette Umuhoza, Jean Pierre Karenzi, Christelle Lyiza, Evangeline Rukundo, Alline Kabbatende, Alain Shema. Back row, from left to right: Philibert Girurugwiro, Placide Nibakuze, Alexandre Tulikumwenayo, Yves Mujyambere.

Dr. O’Neal’s heart was touched, and sent a letter to President Kagame offering help in the area of higher education. The agreement that followed gave birth to the Rwandan Presidential Scholars program. 

My husband Bryan and I were blessed to travel to Rwanda in the summer of 2006, where we worked with the Ministry of Education and Dave to interview and to select the first 10 scholars. We welcomed them to OC during the 2006-07 academic year. 

The students were matched with host families who attended our home congregation, Quail Springs Church of Christ. The relationships that developed truly became special beyond our wildest dreams. 

  • Alain Shema, John Osborne (91), Christelle Lyiza, Yves Mujyambere and Placide Nibakuze.
Alain Shema, John Osborne (91), Christelle Lyiza, Yves Mujyambere and Placide Nibakuze.

At graduation, all of the host families were part of a special “blessing ceremony” that included the host families, actual family members from Rwanda, and the presidential delegation. 

Many tears of joy were shed as we hugged and prayed with the graduates. President and Mrs. Kagame were visibly moved by the way that the host families obviously have loved the graduates as their own children. 

President Kagame mentioned this on Friday evening at the Presidential Scholars Dinner. The best part for me is that this is true; all of us love the graduates as if they are our own children.

These 10 students impacted Oklahoma Christian in a very special way. The university community opened its arms wide to them. They have represented Rwanda very well. 

  • The Rwandan Presidential Scholars at “The Blessing” ceremony following commencement.
The Rwandan Presidential Scholars at “The Blessing” ceremony following commencement.

The students all graduated either magna cum laude or summa cum laude, with a combined GPA of 3.79. This year’s award winner for the outstanding Bible student who was not a Bible major was one of these 10, Yves Mujambere. 

The lasting impact of the students is their collective spirit. They set their minds on the task at hand and obviously did well in their classes, but the impact each one made on their classmates will be that they helped them look at the world through different eyes. 

The students made sure their new community understood the barriers they have had to overcome by holding a memorial each April to commemorate the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. They shared personal stories of what they had witnessed (all were aged 6 to 8 years at the time). 

The students signed a commitment to return to Rwanda for a minimum of five years to help in the nation’s rebuilding.

I am humbled and amazed at the way God has placed us in a position to work with such leaders. Working to bless the leaders of a country to the glory of God is something we could not do without His direct intervention. 

Our lives are incredibly busy as we juggle the school (Kigali International Community School) and the church (Christ’s Church in Rwanda), and facilitate the continuing and growing Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program and the Peace through Business Program. 

We often feel exhausted and sometimes weary, but we are blessed to see the fruits of our labor. We covet your prayers and we thank you for your constant words of encouragement.”

  • Graduates hooded during the afternoon commencement ceremony.
Graduates hooded during the afternoon commencement ceremony.

Dr. Hixson, former assistant professor of chemistry at OC, lives in Kigali, Rwanda, with her husband Bryan, former director of OC’s North Institute, and their daughters. 

Other OC alumni working for various ministries in Rwanda include Brett (91) and Keli (Hopkins 92) Shreck and their children. Dr. Brian Robinson (92) and his wife Kristin work in Kigali with the Africa Transformation Network. Later this year, Rusty Linden (09) and his family will begin their work there. 

In addition, many OC students have traveled to Rwanda on short-term mission trips and have begun ministries such as Wishing Well and Rwandans 4 Water to help the Rwandan people.



Summer 2010

View more stories from the Summer 2010 issue of Vision magazine.