A Tree of Life in the Rwandan Forest

October 6, 2023
By Caitlyn Harding 

The car’s tires crunched the gravel of a dirt road as it curved upward through the Rwandan trees. To any passerby, this would simply be another slightly beaten-down vehicle making its way through a small town in Rwanda.  

But to the dozen Christian school students who eagerly awaited their teacher’s arrival, this was a moment of pure joy. 

Beatrice, a Rwandan native, fled the country for safety during the genocide. Afterward, she felt God calling her back to bring Christian education to the local children. 

She returned to Rwanda and, with a handful of children from the opposing tribe, began a school out of her car’s trunk under a tree. That’s correct—its trunk. 


Tears stung the corners of Todd Marrah’s eyes as he reflected on the memory of meeting her for the first time. 

“I was serving as a speaker during a Vision Tour trip,” he shared. “In Rwanda, we got to meet this incredible lady who was so committed to Christ-centered education, she discipled these children each day out of her car until, after a few years of hard work, she was able to open a school in a building. She then went on to serve hundreds of students and grew into two school buildings.”  


Her commitment to Christian education inspired him. 

“Christian schools get to love students into loving Jesus, just like he did for us,” Marrah shared. “This pertains to hundreds of Christian schools that are reaching millions of kids—globally.” 

Marrah, a lifelong advocate of Christ-centered education, has led Tree of Life Christian Schools in Columbus, Ohio for 35 years. He and his mother, the school’s founder, believed fervently from day one that Christian schooling is God’s idea and that it plays a key role in the future of His body around the world. 

He expressed his excitement and gratitude to employ this passion as the new ACSI Board Chair. 

“We are already learning amazing things about what the Lord is doing around the world in His schools,” Marrah shared. “ACSI is Jesus’s organization. Just as He’s the head of the church, He’s the head of ACSI. He’s brought us the right leader in Dr. Larry Taylor and an incredible leadership team and staff.” 

ACSI President & CEO Dr. Larry Taylor served alongside Marrah on the ACSI Board. 

“Dr. Marrah has served faithfully on the ACSI Board for nearly 6 years,” Taylor shared. “We have spent the last 18 months as a Board intently assessing our direction for 2030. I believe Dr. Marrah will be an invaluable asset as we truly embrace the ‘I’ in ‘ACSI,’ seeking to more effectively serve our Christian schools across the globe.” 

Marrah shared that his international experiences have only solidified the fact that God is truly on the move. 


“For reasons only the Lord knows, my dissertation was on spiritual transformation in Christian schools and ended up being among the first looking to measure how schools could be used by the Spirit in student transformation,” he shared. “My key finding was this: All spiritual formation happens in relationships. That research changed my life, and it has been my privilege to see how it has impacted other countries. When visiting Rwanda, I was so blessed to learn that African Christian school leaders are using it across the continent.” 

Stories like Marrah’s exemplify the heartbeat of Christian education.  

Marrah began his role on Oct. 2, 2023, and will serve a two-year term following Dr. Jay Ferguson’s two-year term as ACSI Board Chair.  

To learn more, read the press release

About Tree of Life Christian Schools: 

Tree of Life Christian Schools began in 1978. School leadership believes in the notion of “loving as many kids into loving Jesus—whatever it takes.” The school currently serves 1,000 students on five campuses. Learn more on the school’s website