Jesus said: ‘Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these.’ (Matthew 6:31-32)
There’s a familiar saying that money makes the world go around and this week our team has felt pretty de-motivated and frustrated by the obstacles and problems arising from budgeting issues with our project work. Now I know that God hasn’t promised any of us an easy ride through life but during the past few weeks I have truly struggled to understand God’s promise of provision. Daily, we are stepping out in faith to use what resources He has given us. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like we can offer a lot, and I wonder whether our prayers will be answered. I am learning patience in many aspects of my life and waiting on God’s provision for the communities we’re working with requires plenty. Even then, I anticipate that the answers and solutions will not necessarily come on our terms. And so we trust in Him and just are. The little we can do does matter to those with whom we work and so just being here, being with them, being interested in them, may not seem like a lot to us, but God can multiply our efforts when we trust Him.
As the sun is beating down relentlessly and Kigali’s pavements radiate heat upwards I feel a tug at my hand and hear the familiar Kinyarwandan, “Muzungu! Ufite amafaranga? Give me money!” I groan inwardly and look at the child next to me, hand outstretched. “Oya, ni mugende, ntamafaranga dufite.” No, go away, I don’t have money. I feel cruel and mean, tight-fisted and Scrooge-like. I know that most people don’t mean to be offensive - they think being a muzungu would be a very good thing and don’t understand why it would bother anybody to have their favoured status shouted out. But it can feel as though we’re being reduced to a stereotype and seen only as someone who is so wealthy and set so far apart from Rwandans that it’s okay to demand material goods upon first sight. It remains very disconcerting, yet we are reminded time and again, especially by AEE; give a man a fish you’ll feed him for a day but give him a rod and you’ll feed him for life. I, like my fellow team members, am here in Kigali to fight injustice and poverty through working alongside AEE in the local community, as their mission statement is: “To evangelise the cities of Africa, through word and deed, in partnership with churches”.
AEE aim to equip the community to help themselves out of poverty, but in order to be able to do this AEE also rely on funding and support, mainly from international donors in the US, Germany and Australia. However, what happens when one of these donors unexpectedly and arbitrarily decides they will no longer support a specific project? Suddenly there’s no salary for teachers and no school fees paid on behalf of those vulnerable and orphaned children. Consequently? No means to provide a much needed school to an impoverished community. Billy Graham said “We can be certain that God will give us the strength and resources we need to live through any situation in life that He ordains. The will of God will never take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.” However, offering prayer seems a futile response to the pleas and requests for help from the school Principal. I know handouts don’t work. I know as volunteers we are not here to offer money. The ICS website even states “You don’t need cash, skills or qualifications to take part in ICS – just the ambition to make a difference.” I wish I could offer a sustainable solution to ensure the future of the school. “Give me money!” is so much more than a cheeky attempt of an 8 year old to engage with the “muzungu”, it’s the true cry of many people in poverty, because despite guiding principles to insist it’s to the contrary, money does seem to make the world go around.
Driving along a bumpy, dusty dirt track we leave the concrete city behind us and enter the rural Kigali of rolling hills and maize plantations. A man pushes his bicycle up the steep slope, laden with bunches of green bananas, whilst another cycles by with jerry cans, hanging from the handlebars like saddlebags, on his way to collect water. A few women are carrying baskets on their heads, filled with ripe red tomatoes, freshly dug carrots, juicy mangoes and passion fruits. Children stop and stare at this 4x4 full of muzungus, cowering behind their mothers, slightly afraid. Others shout “How are you?” or wave and call out “bye! bye! bye!” whilst running alongside us laughing, their faces full of joy. We drive through small villages and I glimpse houses with mud walls and sheets of tin roofing. It feels like we’re seeing the true Rwanda, a city that sprawls out from its high-rise towers and wealthy neighbourhoods to these remote communities. After passing a trickling stream of water, where some women are washing clothes and young boys fill jerry cans with water, we finally arrive at the Mageragera sector and see thirty or more men and women sat under the shade of a tree, waiting for us. Alexis and Wherny are training them to set-up a self-help group focused on social funding through joining together to form a Savings and Loans Group. We’re introduced and Alexis explains that we are here to help them. “They are here to use their hands,” he insists, “they have skills and can teach you English or carry bricks or hoe your fields.” A murmur amongst these community members as they survey us smiling, and clearly amused but grateful, a representative stands up to ask us for money and materials to help them rebuild someone’s home that was damaged by fire. I sigh. Alexis re-iterates his point and our purpose. It is arranged that we will return to help them re-build this house, although we may have to wait until the community can source all the materials they need to begin. We wave goodbye, clamber back into the 4x4 and Faustin speeds away leaving a cloud of red dust swirling behind us like a curtain shielding the community from view.
If we assume we know how God will provide for our needs, we can easily develop attitudes of presumption, impatience, and ungratefulness. If the majesty, grace, and power of God are not being exhibited in us, God holds us responsible. “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you . . . may have an abundance . . .” (2 Corinthians 9:8). As volunteers then, we learn to lavish the grace of God on others, generously giving of ourselves. Then, perhaps, AEE’s vision will be realised:
“We want to see a country where God is honoured and people live together in peace and satisfaction of their daily need.”