Heaven's Family Magazine
May 2011 Issue

Colletta Survives, then Thrives

The Widows & Abandoned Women Fund at Work in Burundi

Becky Servant, Widows & Abandoned Women Ministry


Colletta and Julienne Barigendera

The shrill screams of terrified women and children filled the air, as sharp cracks of gunfire pierced the darkness. The village was under attack. Frantically clutching her children, Colletta Barigendera bolted for the safety of the bush. When they finally reached a place of safety, she realized that her husband was not with them. In the panic of the attack, he had fled in a different direction.

Three days later, Colletta and her children received tragic news. As he fled during the attack, the man they called husband and father had been shot in the back of his head—killing him instantly. He was one of thousands who perished in Burundi’s fifteen years of civil war between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes.

Colletta and her children were devastated. She found some comfort, however, as she remembered something that had happened to her husband a few weeks earlier…

Colletta had traveled from her village to Burundi’s capital city of Bujumbura, where she heard a Heaven’s Family-sponsored national missionary preaching the gospel in the streets. Her heart was touched, and she responded with tears of repentance. Born again and filled with joy, she returned home to share the same message with her husband. He too repented and believed. It seemed as if their lives were starting over. Colletta never dreamed that he would be in heaven so soon after his conversion. At least she knew he was safely there. His untimely death, however, was just the beginning of her trials.

Not long after that, Colletta’s in-laws forcibly took all her possessions, claiming that they belonged to her deceased husband—an all-too-common cultural practice in some parts of Africa. They also took her two oldest children, leaving her with only her youngest daughter, Julienne.

For the next two years, Colletta and Julienne barely survived on what Colletta could earn as a seasonal farm laborer, living in a tiny, mud hut among other destitute families outside of Bujumbura. And then, as if life wasn’t hard enough already, their “home” was destroyed when a rainstorm flooded their low-lying slum. Colletta and Julienne found themselves living along a highway, exposed to the elements.

When the national missionary who had led Colletta to Christ learned of their plight, he contacted us to see if we could help. Thankfully, because of gifts to Heaven’s Family’s Widows & Abandoned Women Fund, we could.


Colletta Barigendera beside what remained of her mud, stick, and cardboard shack

Through our special gift, Colletta was able to buy a simple but adequate home and start a small business selling rice. She now earns enough money to supply her and Julienne’s needs, and her business continues to grow and prosper. She also knows that she has spiritual family members—some of whom live across the ocean—who love her. Even more, Colletta knows that God is the Husband of the widow and the Father to the fatherless. Thanks for caring.

The Bigger Picture:

Your gifts to the Widows & Abandoned Women Fund help meet very pressing needs of Christian widows, like Colletta, who are facing daily struggles to survive. The Widows & Abandoned Women Fund also capitalizes micro-banks in developing nations that exclusively serve poor widows with loans to help them start self-sustaining small businesses.

Help sustain Christian widows


This Month's Articles

Strategic Stewardship

Charitable Gift Annuity

Parting Shot: The Graduates

We received this photo from a Heaven’s Family-assisted Christian School in a heart-breaking Nairobi slum. As best we can understand, these children are all graduating from kindergarten to first grade.

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