Mary Munyangaju was born in Tanzania, East Africa, to a family of refugees from neighboring Rwanda. Her family fled the ethnic tensions of their homeland in the 1960's, long before the atrocious genocide their country suffered in 1994. Today, Mary is a Charis Bible College graduate and the founder of the United Kingdom-based, Bird of Paradise Ministries Rwanda (BPMR).
Although Mary grew up in extremely poor conditions, she is thankful to have survived, as this was not the case for many in similar circumstances. Not only did she survive, but Mary thrived. By 1993 she was married with two children and had become a born again believer. Mary's husband, Jerome, was in full time ministry as a church pastor, and he was interested in world-wide missions.
In the early nineties, the couple had the opportunity to move to the UK to study at Christian college near London. While there, Jerome studied missions, and Mary participated in cross cultural studies. When they graduated in 1995, Jerome was invited, by the Association of Church Missionary Societies in Ireland, to work with the organization to encourage local churches to take part in the group's global mission efforts. The Munyangajus then moved to Northern Ireland as missionaries.
Ten years later, Mary was employed in a nursing care and residential home for the elderly, but there was a new fire building in her heart. Mary had a burning desire to draw closer to God and to study His Word in more depth, but because her three children were so young, her family responsibilities made formal studies seem impossible. It was during this time that Mary found Andrew's program on GOD TV.
After hearing Andrew mention CBC, Mary found there was an extension school in Northern Ireland. She visited the campus, and while the school was only an hour away, it was still too far to manage with her other responsibilities. Mary said, "I came back that day, disappointed and I had given up the hope to attend CBC." At the same time however, Mary heard God say 'This is your College.' Only able to see the obstacles in her path, Mary couldn't figure out how this was to be her school, and the desire to study the Word intensified.
Her longing to draw closer to God led Mary to apply to a different Bible school; this one in Belfast—half the distance of the CBC campus. She was turned away however, because she failed to meet the school's academic qualifications.
Two years later, as Mary sifted through her mail; she came across an envelope from CBC. Inside was a very simple card with the words, “CBC is moving to Belfast near you.” Mary's heart with excitement! "I understood then, what God meant when he told me that was my college. I felt that God had relocated CBC just for me," she said. The new location proved to be a manageable distance, and allowed Mary to meet all of her obligations.
During her two years at CBC, Mary realized the potential and power that God had poured into her to minister to the elderly, but, because of her childhood, she had a distorted perspective of this type of missionary work. In her eyes, mission work was only for wealthy, well-educated, westerners. Mary's thinking, to this point, had limited her view on what God could do with and through her.
"I was completely wrong," Mary said. "Praise God, my two years at CBC got me out of the box and exposed me to the unlimited power of God, which works through all His children who are willing, trusting, and obeying what God tells them to do, regardless of their background. CBC switched the light bulb on!"
As a second-year student, Mary understood the call on her life. God gave her the vision and the passion for her own ministry. "I was always aware of the homeless and vulnerable elderly in Rwanda because of the effect of the genocide. However, I didn’t think much about it because I thought there was nothing I could do. I thought it was someone else’s responsibility," Mary said. As she worked in the nursing and residential homes in Northern Ireland, Mary developed a deeper passion for caring for the older folks. These people have become so close to her heart that no matter where she sees them, she feels drawn to help them.
Looking at the homeless elderly in Rwanda, Mary was overcome with the largeness of the need and still questioned whether there was anything she could do. Where would she begin, she wondered? "I just love them. However, loving them, without doing something to meet their needs was not giving me peace," Mary said with notable passion.
It was during CBC instructor, Dr. Delron Shirley's class, “Passion for the Harvest” that God spoke again to Mary's heart that caring for the elderly was the harvest He had for her. Mary realized that God had made her a history maker, and that the Spirit of God is in and upon her to accomplish what He asked her to do. "Everything I learned in the “Passion for the Harvest” confirmed my vision and I knew that God was speaking to me," said Mary.
At the Lord's leading Mary established BPMR in her family's hometown in Rwanda. Through BPMR, Mary and her staff have been able to begin to respond to the call of taking care of the vulnerable, and they are addressing the physical and spiritual needs of the weakest in their community.
For more information visit Mary's website and follow Bird of Paradise Ministries Rwanda on facebook.