Teaching women to sew was an important element of helping to pull them out of poverty.
When Expedition Church in Payson, Ariz. began a partnership in Rwanda seven years ago, they envisioned a lasting influence on one community.
“As far as our method for missions, this is the most effective way to have a significant impact,” said youth pastor Lance Chabot. “I’d rather look back in years of giving and generosity and see a whole community transformed rather than lighter impact. It would look different, and to me it’s more satisfying to be more effective in one place.”
Over the years of the church’s relationship with the community of Rwimbogo, Expedition Church has partnered with Food for the Hungry to achieve the vision for permanent change.
Two Families Transformed
On Lance’s first visit to Rwimbogo he met Leonita, a widow who had four children. As a single parent without a steady source of income, Leonita struggled to provide for her children. Expedition Church’s team built a home for Leonita and her children. They visited with her and encouraged her from Scripture.
During the home visit, the team recognized that Leonita’s needs went deeper than the need for the shelter. She needed a steady income. Leonita had an interest in sewing, and so the team arranged to purchase a sewing machine for her.
Weeks after returning from Rwanda, Lance and his wife, Nichole, stopped by the child sponsorship table at the church. He recognized one of the faces on a sponsorship packet as Naome, the 13-year-old daughter of Leonita. They sponsored Naome immediately.
The year after starting the sponsorship of Naome, Lance returned to Rwimbogo. He took photos of his children with him to share with Naome’s family. Throughout the year, the Chabots write letters to Naome and her family, and they write back.
“From the very first contact until now, there is a total life transformation,” said Lance. Leonita was a widow who lived in abject poverty with her four children before Expedition Church got involved in their community. “Now they have a comfortable home and the ability to take care of their daily needs. Leonita has a sewing business, and the family has a bicycle that helps them fetch water and get around in the community.
Through their sponsorship relationship, Lance and Nichole’s family has also been transformed. “Every day my kids see pictures of Naome and think of her as a sister,” said Lance. “My kids’ paradigm is challenged all the time because of Naome’s circumstances. When they’re complaining about what they’re eating, they get reminded of Naome. It builds character.”
Lance says that ss long as you have a relationship with Jesus, everything else is secondary.
A Church-Wide Vision
Expedition Church’s relationship with Food for the Hungry is a 10-year commitment to partnering with what God is doing in Rwanda. Over 100 children have been sponsored by Expedition Church members, creating personal relationships that span the globe and providing important funding to the program.
Bicycles provided by Exposition Church help people fetch clean water as well as take products to market.
The funding provided by child sponsorship helps to ensure that children will grow healthy. It provides training and support in health and nutrition, education, income development and disaster risk reduction. The sustainable approach ensures that families in the community will not be dependent on aid for generations to come. Instead, when today’s children grow up, they will be able to provide fully for their own children’s needs.
The church also partners through annual short-term team visits and special projects. They have purchased bicycles for community residents, provided clean water and donated livestock for income generation, among other annual projects.
Lead pastor Donovan Christian has noticed a significant change in the community because of the church’s livestock donations. “There are lots more livestock now,” he said. “This is a direct result of when we first gave cows seven years ago and goats four years ago.”
When they receive donated livestock, community members agree to give the livestock’s first offspring to another family in the community. As a result, the impact on the community is substantial. “It’s multiplying, so there’s more livestock, which improves health and the economy,” said Christian.
The Impact at Home
Expedition Church’s partnership has changed Rwimbogo permanently, but the relationship has also changed their church body. As the church’s lead pastor, Christian has witnessed the transformation of his members first-hand. “The more inward focused a church becomes, the more complaining, negative and critical it becomes,” he said. “When you’re self-centered as an individual, you begin to analyze your life on a selfish level.”
However, he noticed the opposite effect when his church decided to focus on others. “The more outward focused you are, the less you worry about yourself. It helps us to be less concerned about personal comfort and preferences.”