Inside a church sanctuary, five caretakers, not older than 15 or 16, are involved in a bakery project started in partnership with World Relief. They are all smiles as the smell of freshly baked bread fills the room. As they learn how to bake and sell bread and pastries, they anticipate a brighter future: in three months, they will be able–just like the group before them–to sell bread to support their families.
Today, Rwanda has one of the world’s largest populations of parent-less children. There are approximately about 42,000 child-headed households that include more than 100,000 children. In Rwanda, an estimated 43% of these children have lost their parents due to the AIDS pandemic. Yet in the midst of this situation, there is hope for a new future.
The local Church of the Nazarene is committed to building up the community, helping those affected by AIDS to stand on their feet, and lending a helping hand to those taking care of children who are orphaned. Many of these children already have the responsibility of heading and caring for an entire household. The church also enables people living with AIDS to generate an income while giving and restoring their dignity through showing them the love of Jesus Christ and his transforming power.
Gathered outside the Gisenyi Church of the Nazarene, a group learns to make blankets, tablecloths, kitchen towels, and all kinds of utensils that can be manufactured and embroidered. There is a large market for embroidered items in Gisenyi. In teaching this skill, our Nazarene brothers and sisters have started a sustainable business project. Through this project, they can provide their children and the orphaned children for whom they care with schooling, nutritious meals, and birthday gifts such as a new sweatshirt or T-shirt.
The compassionate members and leaders of Gisenyi Nazarene Church are spreading hope in their community. With very little outside help, the church operates six maternal institutions and eight literacy centers, as well as micro-businesses such as bakeries, embroidery projects, soap-making, and postcard manufacturing. The church also manages agricultural projects, breeds domestic animals, and operates a technical school that trains skilled laborers. God has blessed their efforts. For example, because of the school’s excellent achievement in government exams, the government has awarded the school ten new computers.
How is all this possible? The church is embodying the compassion and reconciliatory character of our God. Through these people, God is restoring the people and communities of Rwanda.
Adapted from a story that originally appeared in NCM Magazine (Summer 2011).