Day: October 8, 2017




If you have an interest in helping Venantie Uwishyaka, a Rwanda native who holds two degrees from Hardin-Simmons University, with her family counseling ministry in Rwanda, contact her by phone or email. She will be in the United States until late October when she will return to Rwanda. Uwishyaka earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from HSU and was ordained in January 2017 at First Baptist Church. Contact her by email at or by phone at 325-320-0971 while in U.S. or +250780361238 in Rwanda. She also can be reached through her Facebook page.

By Loretta Fulton

In December 2012, Rwanda native Venantie Uwishyaka earned a bachelor’s degree from Hardin-Simmons University, vowing to someday earn a master’s degree in family ministry and start a missionary training center in her homeland.

You can put check marks beside those two goals. She got the degree in December 2015 and has established her Family Life Ministry in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, and another in northern Rwanda.

To make the Hardin-Simmons experience complete, two daughters earned bachelor’s degrees in May 2016, one in finance and one in economics, and both now are back in Rwanda. Uwishyaka also served a one-year internship with Logsdon School of Theology by working with African refugees in Abilene who have been resettled here through the International Rescue Committee.

When Uwishyaka began her ministry in Kigali, traveling back and forth to Logsdon while doing so, she mentored seven couples. She left them with a message:

“I mentored you, you have successful marriages,” she said, “now you owe me.”

Check that, too. When Uwishyaka returned to Rwanda 2013, after graduating in 2012, she discovered that 120 couples had been mentored by the original seven couples she trained.

“I know now this is where God wants me to focus,” she said.

The desire to make that happen longterm brought Uwishyaka back to Abilene in July to meet with old friends, professors, current and potential partners for her ministry. One of those partners is Trinity Baptist Church in Sweetwater. Four members, led by Derek Montgomery, visited in June and were met by a huge welcoming committee at the Kigali airport.

Another partner is First Baptist Church in Abilene, which provides some financial support, as well as prayer support.

“We’ve been very pleased to partner with her and the good work happening in Kigali,” said John Moore, pastor for missions at First Baptist.


Through partnerships, Uwishyaka wants to continue the mission work that led her to Abilene back in 2010. She had completed two years of higher education in Nairobi, Kenya, and was led to Hardin-Simmons by Baptist missionaries Stan and Marlene Lee, whose bravery still is revered in Rwanda because they chose to remain in the country after the 1994 genocide began.

Those were brutal years for Uwishyaka, who lost 28 family members in the mass slaughter. Those included one brother, one sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends.

The Lees now live in Fort Worth and Uwishyaka planned to visit them before leaving the United States.

Uwishyaka’s heart clearly is in missions. That desire to serve led her to Hardin-Simmons and that desire is leading her to reach out to as many potential partners as possible. A dream is that someday her daughters will use their HSU business degrees to help her.

Her ministry is interdenominational, despite her connections with Baptist missionaries, institutions, and churches. She grew up Anglican in Rwanda.

“I will be serving any church that wants to help,” she said.

One thing Uwishyaka is certain about is that her work is in her home country. She travels to the United States as often as possible, but with no thoughts of moving her ministry here. The United States already has many opportunities for families to seek counseling.

Uwishyaka believes that a strong church begins with a strong family and that is why she is focusing on strengthening families. She is needed in Rwanda for that work, she said, not in the United States. She knows because that is where God is directing her.
“I know he called me to help my people,” she said. “I have no doubt.”



By Loretta Fulton

Never talk religion and politics at a polite dinner party–everyone knows that adage–but what about discussing sex in church?

The thought of that is enough to make most people squirm, but Tom Copeland, a professor of psychology and counseling at Hardin-Simmons University, proved recently that it’s not only OK, but a good thing.

Granted, it wasn’t a Sunday morning discussion, but it WAS a Wednesday night discussion, the second most religious night on the calendar after Sunday.


Tom Copeland

Copeland was guest speaker Oct. 4 for the Wednesday night forums at First Central Presbyterian Church. Jacob Snowden, director of Christian Education at FCPC and a former student of Copeland’s, introduced the speaker and the topic.

“These are things the church might be able to say about sex, but isn’t,” he said.

And he was right. Copeland not only holds a doctorate in educational psychology, he also earned a master of arts degree in religious education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1984.

“I really like bringing all those things together,” Copeland said.

As a professor at a Baptist university, Copeland knows how the topic of sex is handled in many churches. He has heard stories from his students about how some youth pastors handle the topic with students, and it is concerning.

Copeland believes the church can, and should, do better. Church is the very place where an honest and straightforward discussion about sexualty should take place. Copeland suggested five points to consider when trying to talk about sex in church.

1. Good sexuality is very biblical.

Copeland used the word “sexuality” instead of “sex” for a reason.

“When you say ‘sexuality,’ it’s harder to make jokes about it,” he joked.

As if the audience weren’t already a little squirmy, Copeland read explicit passages from Song of Songs, holding up a Bible as he did so.

“I’m reading this out of the Bible, so don’t get upset,” he said. “That’s really sexual and sensual and it’s right in the middle of the Bible.”

In the Old Testament, the euphemism for having sex is “knew,” as in “Adam “knew” his wife, Copeland noted. The Hebrew word is “yada,” which has a deeper meaning than “had sexual relations with,” Copeland said. It means to know deeply or to be in a deep relationship with.

“You can’t ‘yada’ someone you pick up at a party,” he said.

2. The New Testament doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about sexuality, Copeland said, blaming it on writings by St. Paul and later emphasized by Saint Augustine, who lived from 354 to 430, and was bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Augustine did a “180” in his life, Copeland said, going from a playboy to a bishop with strict ideas about sexuality.

“We need to get over Paul and Augustine,” Copeland advised.

3. We need to work hard to rethink our concept of of purity, Copeland said. “Purity” has become an idol. The lives of many young people have been ruined by Christians who have idolized purity, he said. Too often, they are told by church leaders that losing their sexual purity is the worst thing they can do.

“We’re hurting lots of kids the way we do it,” he said.

4. Sexual diversity may be the most difficult issue facing the church, Copeland said.

“We have to figure out how Jesus would respond to those people,” he said.

5. The church needs to teach that good sexuality is not just good and holy but can be more.

“Good sexuality within a relationship can be transcendent,” Copeland said. “We have a chance to get over ourselves.”

By the time Copeland finished his prepared remarks and answered several questions from the audience, nobody was squirming. Instead, they were reflecting on what Copeland had said and perhaps agreeing with the closing comments from Cliff Stewart, pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church.

“I think I heard the gospel here tonight,” Stewart said.