At 17 Claude Nikondeha fled from Africa determined never to return to the country that brought him hopelessness and despair. Read his story to learn how his encounter with Jesus changed his viewpoint, and how his inspirational faith changed his actions towards Africa.
‘You can take the man out of Africa but you can’t take Africa out of the man’, I love Africa but it wasn’t always this way! When I first left Africa back in 1992, I was few months shy of being 18 years old; I saw my departure as an opportunity to exit poverty, despair and confusion. At that time I promised my parents that I would never return to Africa - they were proud of me. They believed (and I did too) that this was my way out of extreme poverty. Their hope was that I would leave Africa so I could make money to send home and help the family. I just wanted to get out and leave this hopeless place behind me.
It took me traveling to France to meet Jesus. When I did meet Jesus, I came to understand that transformation is integral to who He is and what it means to follow Him. I learned that He did care about what was happening in Burundi… and that changed everything for me! He loved the poor, cared about the sick and longed for peace between tribes. His compassion was extended to me, my family and my countrymen. Jesus grew a new love for Africa and my family in my heart and for the first time, I loved Africa.
"The Amahoro Africa Gathering was a direct result of this new love and commitment that I have for Africa and its people. God loves Africa and so do I. The Gathering was a time to have a serious conversation among others who share my love for this vast continent.
"The Gathering was more than what I dreamed! It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of imagination, but it was the beginning of a journey for 200 leaders from around the world. This journey will take those who can muster a little bit of courage to a place they never dreamed of before.
"For many years now in the West, thousands of people have been part of a conversation about what it means to follow Jesus in today’s world. In many ways, that conversation has been trying to paint a picture of what it may look like and I have been captivated by the brushstrokes. The picture that emerges is also a constant challenge to me and other young leaders. I am continually encouraged by what I read, hear and experience with my ‘emergent’ friends. But then the rich young ruler comes to mind. He, too, had many good questions about how to best follow Jesus. But the picture Jesus painted was shocking. It was a hard word to hear, so he walked away saddened, as many western believers do. We are frightened to hear the hard words and take some action steps.
"In Africa on the other hand, there is a lot of action and very little talking. In my judgment, this might be worse! Every single leader from Africa who attended The Gathering is doing some radical transformation in his or her community. They are involved in caring for the orphans and widows, they are engaged in the economic empowerment of their communities, doing community development in the worst slums on earth etc…but when you ask them why they do what they do; their theology is very disconnected from their actions. They don’t have the theological base that explains what they do and why they do it. Some of this maybe related to who we are as Africans, as we are raised with the very idea of community symbolized by the concept of UBUNTU. “I am only good (single) when we are good (plural) - in the collective. I am who I am because of who you all are, I can’t do it alone and every member of the community is important.” Maybe they just do it because someone has to do it, which is good. But the danger of not having deep theological roots about what you practice is that you become like the people Paul referred to; who were pushed around by all kinds of doctrines.
"This time as I boarded the plane that would take me from Africa, the sensation was different. I love Africa and I know I will return soon. I will return to friends scattered across East Africa to be encouraged and challenged by their tireless Gospel actions. I will return, bringing friends, in the hope that they will fall in love with Africa too. I love Africa, and I know Jesus does as well. As our conversation continues, may our love for Africa continue to deepen!"