I had some major gaps in the development of sport for Rwanda. In truth, Rwanda Taekwondo Federation had very little form to go with its intense functions. It was expanding quickly and it was performing well, easily defeating the surrounding nations in a sport the other nations had competed in for more than thirty years., but it was lacking structure, and in truth, at that time I had no idea how to identify or develop those missing elements.
The best things happened, though. I had hired a coach and an administrator from within Taekwondo and I was training them to replace me. We had always known that our time in Rwanda would be limited and we worked very hard to ensure that all we did was sustainable and that the locals had full ownership. In other words, we saw it as our role to equip and empower. The problem was that this was my first stab at sport management, especially on a national and international level. Two wonderful things happened to stretch me and equip me so that I could equip Rwanda.
I was appointed to join the executive committee of World Taekwondo Africa by the Vice President of World Taekwondo. I look back at this now and still cannot believe this happened. I knew so very little about the work of Taekwondo even on the local and national levels, much less the continental and world levels. Yet, there I was sitting on the committee and wondering what next. At almost the same time, I was asked to become the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee. Without a doubt, I have no idea what prompted the then President of Olympics for Rwanda, Robert Bayigamba, to ask me to fill the role, except for the obvious answer, God. As I saw opportunity, though, to influence sports for the entire nation of Rwanda by overseeing not only the Olympic development and preparations but also the sum total of all sport federations for the country, I agreed.
In process this caused a chain of events within the sport I was developing for Rwanda, Taekwondo, that revealed several structural and administrative deficiencies. Additionally, I was pressed to evaluate and strategize all the efforts for sports in Rwanda as well as Taekwondo for the continent. I was able to see the good as well as the bad of sport in Africa and work towards low cost solutions. Probably the one thing that stood out most was the lack of competitions available that elite national athletes could take part in both locally and abroad. For most athletes in all sports of Africa, in order to compete at a high level event the average cost of travel and participation ran about $2000 as most events were held in Europe or Asia. For an athlete in Europe or Asia to attend those type events travel costs would average around $500. Developing the infrastructure necessary to host such high level events became a priority and the success in participating became a driving force to develop sport on the national level.
We suffered a little in Taekwondo during those years, but after my tenure was up with Olympics in 2015, we were ready for the next phase in developing the sport. The spiritual element of discipleship was always present and we continued to evaluate how to best present this to the many clubs and masters. Most, were already praying together when they gathered for training and some had made studying the Bible part of their weekly times together as well. Still, though, we needed and wanted to do more to maximize the impact that the opportunities for community had been afforded to us through Taekwondo.
Looking back now I realize that I needed that time, particularly as Olympics CEO to become a professional in sport management and to establish sport in Rwanda in such a way that it would be sustainable and grow. Now, also, I can look back and see the impact of salt and light. I wasn’t planting churches as I had been in Togo, but we were definitely preparing fields of faith in which God’s Word would be planted.