The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Meet Pastor Akayesu - a Spiritual Pillar in a Male Dominated Field

Many women have too much on their plate; having to juggle their work and family obligations while still finding time for themselves. Pastor Venner Akayesu of Faith Centre Ministries is no different. This was revealed during her interview with Women Today.

"I was lucky I was born in a God-fearing family," says the Pastor who was born in Kampala, Uganda in the late Seventies. "With both my parents, four brothers and one sister at my side, I got the right education and good upbringing", she recounts.

On how she ended up being a pastor she says, "becoming a female pastor was a distant dream but deep inside I had a deep longing for serving God. I used to go to church with my parents and admired how the nuns, altar boys and priests carry themselves. I vowed to become a nun myself".

That dream was shattered when she was later told that it would be impossible because she was born out of wedlock. But that did not stop her.

"I resorted to singing in the church choir. When I came to Rwanda in late 1994 I got saved and was baptised. Since then I never looked back", she recalls.

"When I got married, I didn't slow down on my church roles. I continued to grow spiritually and shared my knowledge with women around me. It's these women together with Bishop Kamuzinzi Peter, my pastor, who encouraged me and helped me realise my calling. It's now four years since I was ordained a pastor," she says.

Her life as a pastor has not always been a bed of roses.

"At first there were many people that weren't really sure that a woman could do the job of a pastor. They would ask, can a woman handle it? Are they going to take the jobs from the men," she remembers. "But now I can say there is nothing we can't handle; an elephant's tusk can never be too heavy for it to carry," she says proudly.

But she still admits that there is a long way to go in the fight for gender equality in the Church. "Of course there are still people who feel only a man can coduct a particular wedding or memorial service.

But I think as the people get to know the individual women, who are ordained as pastors, the barriers break down," she asserts.

"Today if there were comments made that may be a little demeaning or insulting, I let them slide because if I react, people will say 'Aha! You see? That's what you get from angry females"!

"My number one advice to fellow women pastors is to keep strengthening their spiritual roots and foundations," she says.

"Women in this country are very lucky that the government supports every positive move we make. So let's not just lay back and relax but use this chance to spread the Gospel and change the world for the better.

How does the busy pastor balance work and home life and what advice would she give a woman in similar straits? "It all depends on you and your ability to juggle. But first you need to be true to yourself. Know who you are and what you want in life. If you are going to manage a job and raise a family, stay true to what's most important to you.

There will be days when attending your kid's speech day will mean you need to take time out of the office. Don't be apologetic about that. You need to find a workplace that allows employees to be honest about their lives.

If someone is going to give you a hard time, deny you a promotion, or reprimand you in any way because you're living a full life, find a new place to excel," she ends.

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