Rwandan Memories Sheltons Visit Eagles In Kigali

By Dawn Shelton (90)


Video Interview with Brett Shreck

Last Christmas in Kigali, Rwanda, Keli (Hopkins 92) Shreck set her table with napkins bought more than 20 years ago, when she was an OC student on the Vienna Studies Program, at the renowned “Christkindl” market. 

They were a present for her mom, who thought they were too pretty to use. So the package of napkins (serviettes) ended up in the Shrecks’ shipping container in 2010 for a trip across the ocean to Rwanda, where they would live as missionaries with their four children. 

When I asked Keli about those napkins as we spread out the fare for our “Rwandan-American” Christmas feast (complete with green bean casserole with the French-fried onions that my daughter and I brought in our luggage), I marveled at how God had planted the longing for mission in the hearts of Keli and her husband Brett (91). 

Brett and Keli moved to Rwanda not long after adopting two sons from an orphanage in Kigali. 

  • The Shreck family
The Shreck family

The son of former OC faculty members, Drs. Gary (62) and Paulette (Patten 75) Shreck, Brett serves as the lead minister at Christ’s Church Rwanda, an English-speaking congregation of about 300 believers from Rwanda and all over the world. 

Keli leads the children’s ministry. And their family has grown by two more children they hope to soon adopt, a precious newborn girl (now 2) who was abandoned in a field, and a sweet newborn boy (also 2) who was abandoned in the jungle outside of town. 

As the practice of adoption grows in Rwanda, the Shrecks are able to model the joy of bringing more children into their family. 

The Shrecks work on a team with several OC ties. Dr. Holly Hixson, former chemistry professor, and her husband, Bryan, who ran OC’s North Institute for Learning, moved to Rwanda six years ago. Alumnus Rusty Linden (07) and his wife, Onawa, have been there for four years. 

This spring, the team began shedding a few tears when medical doctor Dr. Brian Robinson (92) and his family, prepared to head back to the states. 

  • Choir from Christ's Church Rwanda during the Christmas Day service.
Choir from Christ's Church Rwanda during the Christmas Day service.

The team does life together with many families, government officials, business leaders, expatriates, neighbors, and a growing number of native Rwandans who have moved back home to Kigali after graduating from Oklahoma Christian. 

It’s a rich life of church activities, school events, projects, Bible studies, small group meetings, and getting pizza or Chinese food together. It is a very cosmopolitan city! 

They also have come to do life, patiently, with the power outages, intermittent Internet and water scarcity issues that are part of the growing pains in a developing nation. 

Still, Rwanda is making advancements in technology, business, agriculture and infrastructure, which led to the opening of an OC MBA program in Kigali a year ago. It’s so successful that it has a waiting list of students who want to enroll. 

Jean Rindiro (11), the director of the OC MBA program in Kigali, has an endearing smile, resolute eyes and a heart of forgiveness. He was 12 years old during the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of almost one million Rwandans. 

After losing most of his family, Jean survived for months alone in the jungle – nourished with nothing more than twigs and leaves – until the Army found him, clothed him and taught him again how to eat and live. 

He proceeded to get his education, including an MBA degree from Oklahoma Christian. 

In a country now 20 years removed from the war that claimed nearly a million lives, there is reconciliation and forgiveness – just as there remain grim reminders and pain. 

This pain – and an inspiring hope – is what captured the hearts of so many in the OC community when the first students came to campus in 2006 as part of the Rwandan Presidential Scholars Program. 

  • Dawn Shelton with Alain Shema's parents, Celestin Sekagilimana and Marie Mukamana
Dawn Shelton with Alain Shema's parents, Celestin Sekagilimana and Marie Mukamana

One of those students, Alain Shema (10), became part of our family. That’s when I began yearning to go to Rwanda. 

Although he was in the U.S. during our recent trip, one of the most precious moments was walking into his family’s home and seeing a picture of MY three children along with Alain in his OC graduation gown and cap. 

On the wall in their home. Across the world. 

Recently, Christ’s Church Rwanda embarked on 30 days of prayer from Ephesians 3:14-19. Brett asked everyone to pray that God would give us inner strength and that we would be transformed by God’s love. 

Dear Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that from your glorious, unlimited resources you will empower Christ’s Church Rwanda with inner strength through your Spirit. That Christ will make his home in their hearts as they trust in him. 

May their roots grow down into your love and keep them strong. And may they have the power to understand, as all your people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep your love is. May they experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then they will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from you. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

The Shrecks do not know how long they will be in Rwanda. They have built a beautiful life and rhythm, interspersed with the normal struggles of fundraising for missionaries. 

But they are committed to go where God sends them; a fine example of how OC is both home and mission. 

Summer 2014

View more stories from the Summer 2014 issue of Vision magazine.