"They are Precious in His Sight" painting displayed in the walkway of Virunga Valley Academy.
“They are Precious in His Sight” painting displayed in the walkway of Virunga Valley Academy.

Our family has decided to walk through the open door to serve alongside the wonderful staff and teachers at Virunga Valley Academy in Musanze, Rwanda. We have been inspired by the vision for the school started by Matt and Andrea Miller in 2014 to develop young people into transformers of Rwanda and the world through academic excellence, growth in the character of Christ, and service to others.

In a country continuing to heal from one of the worst moments in history, the young people trained at VVA graduate equipped to make incredible impact on their community. The school has a focus on reconciliation between people to God, to each other, to themselves, and to creation. It is a unique academic community whose aim is to seek first the kingdom of God. We are excited to learn firsthand what this looks like and help put it into practice.


Hannah, Thom, and Mary Hope

We, Bekah and Thom Savage, met on a short-term mission trip to New Orleans. It was clear that we were glued together to work for something bigger than ourselves. We’ve found great meaning in investing in college students and serving in our local church communities. All of the relationships we’ve made along the way taught us the messy details of what loving your neighbor looks like when carried all the way through, from celebrating the delight of unexpected successes to trudging through the hour-to-hour grind of grief and loss.

Savage Family in 2022

We pursued parenthood in our eighth year of marriage, and in 2014 our first child was on the way. Our gender-revealing ultrasound uncovered that our baby was a very special little girl whose body carried the genetic condition known as Trisomy 18, which is usually incompatible with life. We made the decision to carry the baby to term, and Bekah delivered Elizabeth Glory Savage on August 5, 2014. Her underdeveloped brain prevented her from breathing and she passed away shortly after birth.

There’s nothing romantic about the incredible grief that our family endured processing the reality of death, but we can say now that we’re grateful for this experience as it shaped our family’s faith. In the middle of the valley of suffering is a crossroads where you get to choose whether to give up on faith or trust God anyway. We chose to trust Him, and it’s from that choice that expanded our appreciation for the hope that He provides. God has since given us the joy of three children, Hannah Joy (7), Mary Hope (5), and John Valor (3).

Bekah and John Valor

This year has presented another time of choosing. The door before our family is open to join the work in Rwanda. Should we stay on our current path of “the good life” in America, usually choosing to lean into our own comfort, or choose the challenging but worthwhile path to help build up the work being done to transform lives in Rwanda? We choose to trust Him. He hasn’t failed us yet.


Our work in Rwanda will be at the Virunga Valley Academy as teachers and supporting staff. The school’s not-for-profit structure provides financial support for local Rwanda staff; however, staff from other countries must raise their own funds. We are not affiliated with any mission organization and are funding ourselves independently through donations.

Donations are accepted via Pushpay provided by the Homewood Church of Christ. Use the fund “Savage Family Rwanda Mission Support” which passes through directly to support our family. We are in need of donors to help us raise $40,000 to fund our work for the next academic year.


Wait, where is Musanze, Rwanda?
It’s ok, we didn’t know either. Rwanda is a small country about 1/5 the size of Alabama in subsaharan Africa. Despite its small size, it is the most densely populated mainland African country. Musanze is a district in the northern region of the country, where tourists commonly visit to see the beautiful Volcanoes National Park and visit Rwanda’s mountain gorillas, one of the only places in the world that they live. It is near the equator, but has an elevation of Colorado Springs, CO, making the climate temperate with an average temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round.

Does the school pay you to work there?
The school will not be paying us. Our financial support is provided via our own fundraising from individual donors and our home congregation, the Homewood Church of Christ.

Will you be coming back?
We are committing to a minimum of one academic year of service for the 2023-2024 school year. After this year, we will assess whether it is sustainable for our family to commit to a second year. We desire to serve for two years but also understand that there are a variety of factors which may prevent us from continuing on for the second.

What will your kids do for school?
The Savage kids will attend VVA as students. John Valor will attend preschool, and Mary Hope and Hannah will attend elementary classes. VVA aligns educational curriculum to meet American core standards.

What if you get sick while you’re there?
We will carry an international health insurance policy. Pharmacies in Rwanda carry most common medications. For any major issues such as surgeries, we plan to escalate from the local hospital in Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) to care in more advanced countries such as South Africa if necessary. It is easy and inexpensive to obtain lab and imaging studies, and health insurance plans are not required for such services.

How will you get around?
We’ve bought a 1989 Land Cruiser that was maintained lovingly by a former missionary family that recently left Rwanda. It’s the first manual transmission car we’ve owned, so learning how to drive it alone will be an adventure.

Where will you live?
We are planning to rent a home in Musanze, near the school. Homes in Musanze are generally made of local bricks and have indoor plumbing. No air conditioning is needed given the temperate climate, and homes are most built with screened open ventilation windows.

Can Bekah practice medicine there?
Bekah does not currently plan on pursuing integration with existing providers when we arrive. We plan to leave the door open to discover the most effective ways to use her valuable skills to benefit the school and local community. For example, one first step may be to assist with medical needs of the students at the school including mental health training for teachers. She also may work towards establishing school health policies and assist in teaching health or science classes.

How will you teach without any teaching certification?
We are excited about the opportunity to try the new work of teaching! We plan on relying on the experience and community of teachers at VVA to help us as we learn by doing. We are not starting from scratch, as both Bekah and Thom have given many different lectures and training seminars during their respective careers in academic medicine and software engineering management.