The following is an interview between St. Peter’s Lake Mary and Matthew Vonherbulis, a missionary to Rwanda.
SPLM: What is your connection to St. Peter’s?
Matthew: I went to St. Peter’s preschool when I was 3 years old. Years later, returning to Sanford after college, I was reconnected with St. Peter’s through a close friend, Brendan Case, who was serving as the youth director. My family and I have lived all over for the last 8 years, but for the chunks of time we have spent in Florida, St. Peter’s has been our church home.
Tell us about your work in Rwanda. What is Hope on a Thousand Hills?
My family moved to Rwanda in 2016 in response to a call to serve the Anglican Church of Rwanda through a ministry called Hope On a Thousand Hills. HOATH was founded by an American priest, Brandon Walsh, serving in Rwanda as Archbishop Rwaje’s Ambassador. Brandon took to surveying needs within the diocese and started HOATH as a ministry to make perennial investments in the church’s health and growth. Two of the needs that he assessed were improved nutrition for students in the church preschool program to combat malnutrition, and agricultural training. I was invited to come and serve as the Director of Agriculture and Nutrition. My role currently includes building a research and demonstration farm, designing an agriculture training program, and managing a preschool nutrition program supplementing the diets of our students. I love my job! Hope On a Thousand Hills is also involved in evangelism, pastoral training, church and preschool infrastructure, and working with women in urban poverty.
Is there a story that speaks to the heart of what you are doing?
One day I stopped to get some lime in a small village where “muzungu” (white person/foreigner) are rarely seen. A crowd had already gathered as I stepped out of my car. A man greeted my Rwandan assistant and asked him what we were doing there. When I responded in Kinyarwanda (the local language) he was shocked and pleased. He led me into the shop, introducing me as “muzungu wacu” (OUR muzungu). Returning to the truck, he asked my assistant “Why does this muzungu have a hoe and machete?” When I answered (again, in kinyarwanda) “Because I work!” His eyes grew in amazement. He grabbed my hands and announced to the villagers: “This muzungu works! I have seen his hands and they are calloused!” This and other observations led me to the insight that physical labor and farming are looked down upon in Rwanda. So I am designing an agricultural training program to work to restore dignity to the important role of caring for the land as a farmer. My goal is to commission graduates of our program as ministers to the soil, or, as Fr. Charlie Holt calls it, “Dirt Deacons.”
How has St. Peter’s Lake Mary helped you pursue your work in Rwanda?
We are so grateful to have St. Peter’s as a financial partner; the closest thing we have to a “sending church.” For spiritual nurturing while back in Florida, and for prayers while in the field, St. Peter’s role has been a great asset to our work. That’s all to say, we are very thankful for this past year, and looking forward to future of our relationship with St. Peter’s Lake Mary.
How can others can support your ministry?
Our family is supported entirely by the generosity of friends, family and churches. Thanks to St. Peter’s support, along with others, our personal needs are met. So additional donations to go directly to the needs of our growing ministry.
We are currently seeking support for:
• $100/mo for my farm manager’s salary,
• $200/mo for farm expenses (labor, materials, etc.)
• and $400/mo for my assistant director’s salary
Donations can be made at:
We have a gift catalogue, allowing you to buy items like a chicken, chalkboard, water-filter, etc. The catalogue can be found at http://shoutout.wix.com/so/1LVwZpAE#/main/
For continuing updates on prayer needs, financial needs, and fun stories from the field, we would love to connect with St. Peter’s families through our blog: http://thehevonherbs.wordpress.com/
Our family’s missionary profile, and more can be found at: https://wwws.nmsi.org/give/matthew-karli-vonherbulis/
Anything else? Challenges? Blessings?
My family and I live in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. While most of my work is in rural areas, our home is on the outskirts of a big city. Raising a family in Rwanda certainly has it’s challenges. Our first 6 months were particularly challenging as my wife endured a difficult pregnancy as well as cultural and life-style changes. Being without running water for 3 weeks would be difficult for any American. Being without water while sick, pregnant, chasing a toddler, amidst culture-shock was especially difficult.
Living in Rwanda also has it’s perks. The weather is perfect; it’s 60 – 80° all year, food is cheap, people are friendly, no TV, and we already have a great community of friends. While the hard times have brought us together, the good times have been all the sweeter for it.