I’m currently sitting on a plane, flying back from a week of experiencing Rwanda and all the beauty that is held in this land of a thousand hills. It has been a week of experiencing “beauty over poverty,” as my colleague Chris Horst describes it.
Behind Rwanda’s surface-level reputation for genocide and desolation is a thriving and ambitious country full of hard-working people and innovative ideas. Rwanda is blossoming; it is being restored. It is a beautiful thing to witness. In the folds of poverty, individuals are finding dignity. They are experiencing fullness of life.
A sense of community runs deep in Rwanda, even between those whose ethnic differences once tore the country apart. Those relational ties come into play in a magnificent way as community members join together in the context of HOPE’s church-based savings programs to pool their resources, encourage each other, make loans, and start businesses together—all without outside capital.
It is one thing for people living in extreme poverty to come together to support one another, but I was deeply struck when I learned of a story of support reaching well beyond individual savings groups.
Timothy is a field coordinator with HOPE’s savings program through the Anglican Diocese of Kigali. He oversees 468 savings groups—more than 8,000 individuals, most of whom live on less than $1.50/day. Recently, Timothy was in a near-fatal accident. By the grace of God, a modern-day Good Samaritan came to his rescue as he lay unconscious on the side of the road. Timothy spent the next few weeks in a coma as doctors worked desperately to save his life.
When the 400+ savings groups Timothy works with caught wind of his situation, the groups decided to act on behalf of their beloved associate and friend. Each member of the savings groups throughout the villages surrounding Kigali began to save an additional 15-20 cents each time they gathered together.
After a lot of prayer and community collaboration, these “poor” groups had come together to save 3 million Rwandan Francs, the equivalent of US$5,000! With no outside help, those from whom society expects the least came together to put $5,000 toward Timothy’s medical expenses. What generosity!
By God’s grace, Timothy is back in good health and doing well today. He was the one who, with his scarred left eye and smiling, joy-filled face, took us to meet one of his savings groups—a group that meets down a long dirt road, plastered with signs of poverty, yet shining with beauty.
Let us not underestimate the power and potential of God’s people, to whom He has given His Son, Jesus Christ, that we may have life and have it to the full. Let us not expect too little of our amazing God, and let us not expect too little of those who bear His image, no matter how small their pockets.
Erika Roberts is a regional representative serving HOPE International throughout the Southern Mid-Atlantic region, and is based in Durham, North Carolina. She enjoys the opportunity to connect local supporters with the entrepreneurs and hard working individuals HOPE serves around the world.