The certainty of friendship in uncertain times

by Colton Parks, Communications Fellow (HOPE Rwanda)

Everyone has their way of describing the unique times we find ourselves in today. For me, like many, the word is uncertain.

Uncertainty underlies my thoughts about job security, schools re-opening, the timeline for the virus spread to wane, the stock market, and a host of other facets of life I previously took for granted. I feel uncertain about what this pandemic means, and that feeling is present when I fall asleep, and it’s there when I wake up.

A few months ago, I was in a village called Mugina, visiting savings group members and hearing their stories. My third interview of the day was with a woman named Speciose. After greeting us, she guided us gently down a hill to her home, a small building nestled in the shadow of a much larger structure that was without a roof. The larger, open-air home stood empty, a shell of a house, exposed to the rain and wind. Almost a year before, a storm had pried off the entire roof and sent it flying, and the smaller house had served as a temporary shelter for Speciose and her husband ever since.

Never breaking her soft smile, Speciose told me her story of joining a savings group (pictured above) called Dufatanye, which means “Let’s work together.” She explained that she joined because she thought it could be a way for her to fight what she called a “boring and purposeless life.” She told me, “Being with people in the group makes me forget about my loneliness.”

As Speciose and I talked, we were interrupted every two or three minutes by women arriving in colorful kitenges, circling the room to greet each other, Speciose, and me. I figured that the women were gathering because their group was about to have its weekly savings meeting. But I soon realized that the actual reason they were showing up that day was to deliver funds—as a gift, not a loan—to Speciose so that she could replace the destroyed roof of her original house.

Speciose shared with me,

My friends are coming to help me rebuild the roof, so it’s like [my] problem is being solved as we speak. I have no more challenges.”

This COVID-19 pandemic has cast uncertainty over all of us. We all feel a little vulnerable—economically, emotionally, relationally. The experience of watching a dozen women walk down a hill to give their own painstakingly saved funds to support and care for their friend has caused me to consider how I can show up to soothe others, especially in these days of uncertainty.

At a time when we all feel nervous and vulnerable, Speciose’s story reminds me that maybe one of the best remedies is for each of us to show up for those around us in the ways that they uniquely need. When we do, then even in the face of great uncertainty, each of us can say, like Speciose, “My friends are coming to help me … I have no more challenges.”

For the families and entrepreneurs HOPE serves around the world, the consequences of the COVID-19 economic fallout are coming. Yet we know that when equipped with the simple tools of discipleship, training, savings, and loans, their ability to outlast severe disruptions vastly improves. Through our COVID-19 Response Fund, you can help us build up the resilience of the families we serve.

Colton Parks lives in Rwanda with his wife, Erin, where he serves as a communications fellow for HOPE International. He and Erin are currently weathering their quarantine with two Kindles, a guitar, and a couple of pet goats.

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As Christ’s followers responding to His great love, HOPE International seeks physical, social, spiritual, and personal restoration in places of brokenness. Through Christ-centered economic development, we empower men and women to strengthen their families, build their businesses, and unleash their dreams.

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