Muraho! It’s a lovely sunny day in Rwanda. I invite you to journey with me to a savings group meeting in the hills of Byumba, Rwanda.
First, we hop in a truck with Verene, the field coordinator for the Byumba diocese (each region has a Savings and Credit Association field coordinator chosen by the Anglican Church); Musoni, the driver; Garrett, the HOPE microenterprise technical advisor who is experiencing the second week of his two-year stay in Rwanda; and Matthew Rohrs, the HOPE director of spiritual integration. As we make the two-hour drive from Kigali to Byumba, you may be as awed as I am at the beauty of this country known as the land of a thousand hills. The pictures that we bring home just don’t do the scenery justice!
As we arrive in Byumba, even more beauty awaits us. We see the beautiful, smiling faces of about 40 women dressed in the vibrant, joyful colors typical of Rwandan clothing. The savings group is meeting in a picturesque brick church with mellow sunlight streaming through stained glass windows.
The worship time begins with prayer and enthusiastic singing and dancing. We take a quick video to post on the blog and share with people back home.
It is then time to study the Word. Everyone circles up in a large group around one of the SCA members whose turn it is to read the Bible and facilitate discussion. He turns to Jeremiah 13:1-14, reads it, and then asks another group member to read it again to give us all time to think about the meaning of the passage. After an engaging discussion of the Scripture reading, we end this portion of the meeting in prayer.
Now it is time for the specific savings activities. As the names of members are read aloud, each person calls out how many shares they are saving at this meeting so that the treasurer can record that amount. One share is 200 francs (about 30 cents). Most people save two or three shares, though one person saves five.
Then the letters of the savings group members who are requesting credit from the group are read aloud for the group to consider. The first letter explained that one member needs the loan to cover hospital fees. The second letter holds a request for school fees for her son. The group decides to grant the credit to both women to be paid back in three months’ time (the group had decided on the loan terms during the formation of their group). The remaining money is counted by the cashier to be put in a safe box that has three keys—one key each for the secretary, president, and another member. As their savings grow, the group hopes to soon be able to open a bank account and keep their savings there.
After the group closes in prayer, we have to run to go meet with the bishop of the Byumba diocese to continue to discuss how HOPE and the church can best work together to serve the Lord and the people of Byumba. By the time we get back to Kigali that night, we are tired but are filled with joy at the beautiful things we have seen and encouraged by the opportunities that lie ahead.