Catalyst Perspectives: No More Double Life
After growing up in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi1, Onesphore Hakizimana enrolled at the University of Rwanda with hopes of becoming a doctor. But God had different plans for him. In the second blogpost in our Catalyst Perspectives series, Onesphore explains how he said goodbye to his “double life” and is discovering the richness of God through his graduate studies in animal science.
I went to university to find myself. I wanted to become a doctor. But human medicine wasn’t available on my campus so I had to study animal science instead. Disappointed, I asked myself: “What is this subject going to contribute to the great life that I dreamed of?”
I soon came to realize that I was using academics for selfish gain. Through my involvement with GBUR Rwanda (my national student movement), I learned that the purpose of life is to serve God and to live for him alone.
My perspective changed but I was still left with the problem of a dichotomy, or divide, between my studies and my faith. I viewed my academic studies purely as something which gave me the opportunity to be on the university campus and witness to students. I didn’t know how to glorify God through my studies.
After graduating, working as a GBUR campus staff member only added fire to my problem. Once again, I saw this dichotomy in the discipleship we were doing. We told students that to live is for Christ but we didn’t show them how to do that practically.
God challenged me. Jesus said “Go and make disciples of all nations.2” But did he mean for us to do that by bringing people into the four walls of the church or a Christian meeting? Reading the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 also made me realize that God gave each of us a ministry according to our abilities. Everyone is a full-time minister for the Lord.
I decided to go back to university to earn a master’s degree in animal science and to learn how to serve God through my academic work – although I still didn’t know how to do that.
When I heard about IFES’ Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI), I celebrated that this was an answer from God. I became a Catalyst in 2021 and we started with a course called “Engaging the University.” I discovered that if my old self has died and “Christ lives in me3,” then it means that when I am on the campus, it is as if Christ is on the campus in order to reach the people he loves. And more than that, we can redeem science and its outcomes for the Lord.
“As an animal scientist, the creatures I study were created to glorify God. When I study them, I can see that science itself has a way to express God.”
An article by Christian philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff4 introduced me to the idea of developing a Christian mind. As Christians we have “the mind of Christ5”, enabling us to see the created world through the eyes of Christ. As Christian academics, if we are both studying the Word of God and immersing ourselves in our discipline then we will be able to discover the richness and wisdom of God embodied in creation. We will be able to draw out the treasures of God hidden in our academic discipline and then use these insights to bring created things back into their original purpose.
My view was also broadened by John Stott’s idea of double listening6 – listening to both God (through scripture) and to the cries of the world around us. Our role is to connect those two voices through our discipline so we can answer the needs of the world around us.
In this way, science can help us follow The Great Commandment (loving God and others). When God created the world, he didn’t reveal everything to us. But he gave us analytical minds that we can use to study the world and find answers that will help to restore creation and help it flourish.
As an animal scientist, the creatures I study were created to glorify God. When I study them, I can see that science itself has a way to express God.
The book of Genesis describes how God created animals and told humans to rule over them and subdue the earth. People rely on animals for food, livelihood and companionship. I can use my expertise to manage animal breeding and animal performance so we can provide food for people at a time when we are facing global challenges such as land scarcity, food insecurity and a growing population. For example, for my master’s thesis, I researched how to use insects as a food source for poultry. My thesis was considered by the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture and this year, they are going to adopt it as a way to feed their animals.
Connecting my academic discipline and my faith has also helped me with The Great Commission (making disciples). I am able to bring out the wonder of God that I find in my discipline and show it to my fellow students. I can talk to them about faith in a language they understand. While studying genetics, I talked to one of my friends about God and he became a Christian.
Over the next year, my project for the LCI will be to work with my national movement to lead a series of workshops and debates on the topic: Seeing God in Animal Sciences. This will inspire and create awareness among students, ministers, and professionals about how God can reveal himself through any discipline and how we can redeem our disciplines. My hope is that my project will equip Christian students to discover their God-given calling to use their academic work to reach their fellow students and transform their communities by restoring the creation.
We were all put here to work in the garden of God’s creation. How can you change your perspective on your work or academic discipline? How does your area of expertise connect with your Christian faith? What are the treasures of God hidden there?
2Matthew 28: 19
3 Galatians 2:20
4 Wolterstorff, Nicholas (2019) “In This World of Wonders: Memoir of a Life in Learning” WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
5 1 Corinthians 2:16
6 Stott, John (1992) “The Contemporary Christian: Applying God’s Word to Today’s World” Chapter 6: The Listening Ear.