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Compassion: Stories from Rwanda

In September 2017 Tim Frisby, our Social Action Coordinator, and Joel Wade, our East Service leader, travelled to Rwanda to visit the Compassion projects that Christ Church London support. We asked Tim to tell us about the trip.

My wife Jacs and I heard about Compassion years ago, but only made the decision to start sponsoring when we had our own children.  We chose to sponsor two girls from Rwanda the same age as our daughters, with the hope that they would grow up together as friends. Consequently, for the last three years we have had pictures of Francoise, 5, and later Leah, 2,* on our photo wall at home alongside our own family, and have regularly prayed for them with our girls.

So you can imagine how excited we were as a family when Compassion invited Joel and I to Rwanda, not only to visit the projects Christ Church supports, but to meet our sponsored girls. We spent ages making cards, drawing pictures and choosing gifts for me to take that would be both practical and special. We settled on paper, pencils, wind-up radios and torches, toothbrushes and toothpaste and a copy of the Jesus Storybook bible, all packed in a backpack the girls could use for school.

The day I met Francoise started out with a visit to the Child Survival Program (CSP) that her mum, Roselyn*, had been enrolled in when she was pregnant. At the time she was living in a friends house with no income, no health insurance, and no hope. The local church heard about her situation and enrolled her in the CSP. They bought her a plot of land, which her community then clubbed together to build her a mud-brick house on, and provided health insurance, medical assistance, food, clean water and a mattress to sleep on. Like many of the pregnant women referred to Compassion, Roselyn had previously been sleeping on the floor.

Through the CSPs, Compassion also invites women to join collectives where they pool their resources and are given the tools and training to provide for their families. Roselyn is now an accomplished seamstress and has been able to open a bank account out of her earnings.

As we pulled up to the church in our minibus, we were welcomed by a group of the CSP kids singing, clapping and dancing their welcome to us, all dressed in their uniform of bright orange t-shirts. We were then led into the church where dozens of the families had gathered to meet us. A choir of mums, dressed in the same bright pink fabric, many with their babies on their backs, also danced and sang their welcome to us, pulling us up to join them as they praised God. Around the edge of the room different groups of women displayed the things their collectives had produced; fruit and vegetables, chickens and rabbits, coffee beans, wicker baskets, bags and clothes made on hired sewing machines and looms.

It was incredible to see the difference that our money is making in the life of this community. We heard stories of women who had been ashamed to come to church because of the appearance of their families, who are now at the heart of the community. One mum spoke of the difference being part of church had made to her marriage and another told us of the support she had been given when she was diagnosed with cancer of the womb. The community rallied around her and the compassion staff drove her into Kigali to receive treatment. She gave birth to her third child last year. And then there were the kids – safe, healthy, joy-filled, and receiving spiritual direction and an education that is preparing them to contribute to the flourishing of their community and nation.

The gratitude shown to us throughout our week there was overwhelming, and it felt completely undeserved. For what is only a relatively small contribution from us – equivalent to a couple of coffees a week – we are able to support local churches do what they do best; holistically transform the lives of hundreds of people in their communities, and these churches are changing forever the trajectory of some of the poorest children in the world.

The most moving part of the trip for me was visiting Francoise in her home. Roselyn became emotional as she listed all the ways our support had changed her life and the life of her kids. She then asked her children to pray for me and I found myself sitting on a bench, in a mud-brick room not much bigger than my dining table, hearing this precious family pray for God’s blessing upon me and my family. To say it was a humbling experience is an understatement.

Roselyn, and all the other mothers we met, want what any parent wants for their children; for them to have clean water and enough food; to be able to receive medical treatment when they fall ill; to go to school and fulfil their potential; to come to know Jesus. We have an incredible opportunity to support dozens of families give their children those things through the work that Compassion is doing in Rwanda. I would really encourage you to get involved.

ChristChurch London financially supports two Child Survival Programs from its Missional Giving Fund. In addition, members of CCL sponsor approximately 50 children in a third project. That project currently has around 30 children who are yet to be matched with a sponsor. If you would like to find out more about sponsoring a child in Rwanda through Compassion, check out the Social Action page of our website or get in touch with Tim directly.

A young Rwandan boy in an orange T-shirt.