Archives For hope

by Lauren Sheard, HOPE Burundi Program Manager

Two years ago, soon after I first moved to Burundi, I was chatting with another expatriate I’d just met. Explaining what I do, I described the basic premise of HOPE International’s savings group ministry, how rather than giving out money or goods directly like a traditional charity we’re teaching people how to save their own money to make a difference in their families and communities. I was pleased with my elevator speech but was caught off guard when the expatriate and his Burundian friend laughed! “This is Burundi,” they said. “That sort of thing can’t possibly make a difference. People don’t have anything, and you’re trying to teach them to save? Maybe in a few decades when the country is better off.” And at that, the conversation ended with another laugh and a sarcastic “good luck!”

I am not one to be offended easily, but in that moment I felt rather indignant. Not only is it rude to laugh at what I just said I do and believe in, but to so easily brush off even the thought that Burundians could have skills and abilities to help themselves was discouraging to me. Continue Reading…

by Lauren Sheard, HOPE Burundi Program Manager

Last month, a new report hit the proverbial newsstands, ranking the countries of the world in order of happiness. My native United States ranked 13th, but my new adoptive home of Burundi came in dead last. Or, for the glass-half-full people, first in sadness.

How could Burundi be the saddest country in the world? Even lower than war-torn Syria? I have only lived here a couple of years, but my image of Burundi is not one particularly marked by downcast faces or depression. Continue Reading…

Burundi has changed. And perhaps I’ve changed, now seeing this country and its people through different, older eyes. But perceptions aside, the people of Burundi now approach uncharted territory, collectively gathering their breath for a series of tests to the country’s democracy. And as the powers that be move and countermove in these weeks prior to national elections, I’m reminded of the proverb: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

From the air, Burundi is an undulating patchwork of greens and browns—that much hasn’t changed. On the ground, the changes are a bit more evident—and it feels different from six years ago. The capital city, Bujumbura, is still its tropical, charming self, but with even more cars, moto-taxis, bicycles, and people navigating the clogged, albeit newly paved, roads. Signs of increased commerce are everywhere, with more air conditioned restaurants and swanky cafes—not to mention internet speeds that no longer rob users of their youth and sanity. These mostly urban developments impact only a small percent of Burundians, but something deeper is taking place throughout the country.

When I lived in Burundi from 2008 – 2009, I spoke with many families just returning from refugee camps and other camps for internally displaced peoples. They were starting their lives again after Burundi’s long civil war, and while many expressed hope for the future despite their present reality, others feared for their survival without employment or land to cultivate. Today, traveling outside of Bujumbura with my HOPE Burundi coworkers, I’ve met some of the people—church partners, pastors, field coordinators, and participating groups and individuals—that are part of HOPE’s savings and credit association program. And I’m hearing a different, more hopeful narrative.

Continue Reading…

by Brant Wilson, Seventh Grader and Experience HOPE Trip Participant

In January, Doug and Amy Wilson traveled with their three sons—Brant (11), Sam (9), and Nate (8)—to the Dominican Republic on an Experience HOPE Trip to learn more as a family about global poverty and ways to address it. Since returning from the D.R., Brant (pictured above, second from left) has spoken on a number of occasions about his experience, and here he shares how the trip shaped his perspective on poverty.

In January of this year, my family and I were sitting in our airplane in Indianapolis, waiting for takeoff. We were first going to fly to New York, then from there we would go to the Dominican Republic. At this point our whole family didn’t really know what to expect, or at least I know I didn’t. It was as if we were about to walk into a cave. We knew we were going in, and we knew nothing bad would happen, but we couldn’t see what was in there. We were venturing into the unknown.

wilson-family-eddWhile in the D.R. we were transported in an old school bus. We traveled on dirt roads, feeling every ditch and crevice, and headed to our first bank meeting. As we pulled into the town, I was shocked by the poverty. Every floor literally was dirt, and the roofs were made out of that wavily bent metal that you pretty much only see on roofs of small huts. As we came to a stop, many Dominican children peered into the windows of our bus, some jumping up and down in excitement. As we were exiting the bus, I remarked to my mom, “I thought this was only in the movies.”

This brings me to my second point. The people we met in the D.R. are, in many ways, very different than us. We don’t ever really see poverty like that, except in the movies. None of us have to worry about the kitchen floor turning to mud every time it rains or all the flies on our food. One of the biggest things that I noticed, though, was how similar we are. Before I went there, I guess I didn’t really view them as people; I viewed them more as numbers. But when I was with Dominicans and heard them speak and saw them play and learn at school, I realized that there really isn’t much difference between myself and them. They all have passions, hobbies, personalities, dreams, and hope. Yes, hope!

This was, I thought, the most amazing part of the trip. No one I met was in despair at their conditions. They all had hope. They all were ready for change, and they all knew what it would take. They knew they would have to work, and they knew it would be hard, but they knew they could do it. This is something we–we who think we have everything compared to them–need. No one I have ever met has had such a beautiful desire in their heart for anything. So next time you look at a chart about poverty, or hear someone talk about how much you have compared to those people, I encourage you not to think about them as numbers, but as people, people that you could probably learn a lesson from. A lesson about hope.

Visit HOPE’s website to learn more about how you and your family can participate in a similar Experience HOPE Trip.

brant-wilsonBrant Wilson is a seventh grader at The Oaks Academy, a Christ-centered school in Indianapolis, IN, that is intentionally racially and economically diverse. He loves music, writing, and most of all, his friends.

This April marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which claimed the lives of approximately 800,000 Rwandan men, women, and children. We join our brothers and sisters in mourning the traumatic events of those weeks, and as we witness reconciliation through our partner programs there, we thank God that brokenness is not the end of the story.

Please join us in praying for Rwanda in these six specific ways.

Rwanda-Prayers_01
Join us in praying that God heals their wounds, guards them from bitterness, and causes them to flourish even in the midst of deep pain. Pray that, instead of reliving the terror of those violent months, they would remember God’s deliverance and “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). Pray that those who lost loved ones would be comforted in fresh ways this year.

Rwanda-Prayers_02
As they are once again reminded of the atrocities they committed, ask God to restore each one and soften their hearts. Pray that they would choose to embrace God’s forgiveness and move forward in obedience to God with full assurance of His love and acceptance.

Rwanda-Prayers_03
Lift up the women and children who lost husbands and parents in the violence. Pray also for women who contracted HIV/AIDS through sexual violence in that period and for children who have been orphaned by the disease. Pray that they will experience God’s provision and the healing power of Christ’s love.

Rwanda-Prayers_04
Pray that in each of Rwanda’s communities, the Church would be known as an instrument of peace, a champion of truth, and a protector of the defenseless. Pastor Joseph, one of HOPE’s partners in Gasharu, shares, “Even though we went through that traumatic experience, our people strongly believe that there is hope. There is hope that God is healing people’s hearts. And I’ve seen that our people have a sense of unity among themselves.”

Rwanda-Prayers_05
Praise God for the ministry of savings groups in Rwanda, and ask Him to continue using them to bring about profound change. As savings facilitator Christine Vuguziga explains, many people joined savings groups to improve their difficult financial situations, “but they also deeply needed community, forgiveness, and reconciliation. The Church believed that God would work through these small savings groups. And He has.” Watch “A Hope That Saves” to hear testimonies of this change.


Rwanda-Prayers_06
Thank God for rebuilding the nation in so many ways, and pray that the country’s leaders would promote equality, harmony, and justice for all people. Pray that the next generation of Rwandans would no longer see themselves in terms of ethnic differences, and ask God to renew each community in powerful ways.

Rwanda-Prayers_07
If you’d like to join with us in prayer more regularly, sign up for our monthly prayer update at www.hopeinternational.org/pray.

by Tracy Clark, HOPE Rising advocate

In August of 2012, one HOPE supporter began his exciting journey to use his gifts, talents, and passions to invest in the dreams of families living in poverty. A talented swimmer who’d served as a swimming coach, Zach McArdle put on an IronSeahorse swim and run at his local country club in Buffalo, NY, with registration fees going toward HOPE International. Not only did the event raise $1,050, it also created an opportunity for Zach to share with individuals in the Buffalo area about Christ-centered microenterprise. “I got to talk about a faith-based organization at a private swim club!” says Zach.

Through his travels to Africa, work as a full-time accountant, and interest in Christ-centered microenterprise development, Zach has developed a passion for the work of HOPE International. He decided to put this passion into action by becoming a HOPE Rising advocate.

Continue Reading…