Jerry’s 3rd and final trip blog from Africa (Rwanda)
My final blog brings us to Rwanda. We have two Farming God’s Way trainers and two model farms in Rwanda, one in the eastern part of the country and one four hours south. Peter trains in Bugesera (in the east) near his home and has multiple God’s Love Groups there. This is where the GLGs started their own savings program and bought all the members animals to continue to grow their businesses. The general in that area under Peter is Theoneste.
Theoneste, who has experience in Disciple Making Movements, responded energetically to the training we provided. I asked him what was different from what he had previously learned. He said “I now have tools to grow disciples.” Previously, his team did a lot of evangelism, got people baptized, and then moved on. There was no discipleship. Eventually he said to himself, “People still need food.” He became involved with Farming God’s Way nine years ago.
In his first year, Theoneste farmed 1/10 of an acre and got 60 kgs of maize. Nine years later, he is farming one-quarter of an acre and getting 700 kgs! He is now leading 23 families in two GLGs. His wife just started a chicken business and the Lord has recently blessed their family with two more children. But the thing that encouraged me the most about Theoneste’s story is the fact that even though they just harvested their maize, they still have four bags left over from last season. No more hunger season for those who practice FGW!
The next day, we went to see Peter’s model farm and training center. The local GLG met us there and we visited several farms. One of those farms belonged to a man named Christoff. His farm was on the side of a steep hill full of large rocks. The soil was not great, the terrain was not ideal, and yet the Lord used Christoff to redeem the land. He had invested 7 dollars into a small plot, but he was able to sell the maize it produced for $45. That may not seem like much to us, but if you were to invest $7,000 in a business venture and it made $45,000, I bet you’d be as excited as he was.
When we returned to the training center, the village headman told us he was concerned when brother Peter bought the land in his community. He thought that Peter might bring harm to the area. So Peter told him, “Send one person to come and see what I’m doing.” That person was Christoff. Peter began to train him in FGW. Christoff helped on the model farm and then went home and applied what he learned. After seeing his harvest, 13 people have followed in his footsteps and he is now their GLG leader.
The next day, we traveled to Karama (in the south) to see what our trainer Venuste had been up to. As we pulled up to the training center, the van stopped and we saw a choir dressed in blue and white robes, singing along both sides of the road. As we walked between them, we came to some young men and women dressed in their African traditional clothing. They held up sticks and formed a tunnel for us to walk through. Once we got to the top of the hill, I saw the clean water source that recent donations to the Safe Water Ministry helped provide. The drummer started playing, everyone was singing, and the youth dressed in their traditional clothing began to do their traditional dances. It was absolutely amazing to see. I cried because of the thought and time they had put into welcoming us, but also because this is a part of my heritage. I felt honored by and connected to the African culture in a way I haven’t experienced before.
After this incredible welcome, the tour of Venuste’s training center began. We were led into a classroom used to educate and feed children. There were 35 to 40 kids seated on the floor. Around them stood at least 20 members of Venuste’s team who fulfill various roles at the training center. Because of this model farm and feeding program, these youth no longer suffer from the effects of severe malnutrition. A smaller connecting room housed five sewing machines where teenage single mothers learn to sew. Venuste’s wife trains them in FGW, sewing, and discipleship. These moms make the uniforms that the kids wear to the feeding program and classes.
Next, we went outside to see the area where carpentry skills are taught and practiced. A retired carpenter, now a pastor and teacher at a technical school, volunteers his time to help improve the lives of others.
Finally, we returned to the water spout where this castaway community of 208 families now has access to safe, clean water. They had been fetching water from their own contaminated water sources. They now unite and congregate around this fresh water source. The community was overjoyed and praised God that they would no longer suffer from waterborne illness.
Karama is the community where Venuste’s family was killed during the genocide. They weren’t killed by a foreign invader; they were betrayed and killed by their neighbors. That type of trauma would make it extremely difficult to trust the people around you. His desire was to bring reconciliation and to be that city on a hill that shines for all to see.
This water project was funded by you, but it became a reality due to the sheer grit and determination of Venuste and his GLG. To connect to the municipal water system, which was much cheaper than a borehole, Venuste and his GLG dug a two-foot-deep trench almost a mile long and laid the pipes. This was not along flat terrain, but rather through the hills and valleys Rwanda is known for. This man’s desire to bring healing and restoration to a broken community is truly inspiring.
I remember Venuste saying in July 2017 that he needed to go back to Karama and face his giant. As an orphan who had seen his family brutally murdered, he had every right to never return home. Not only did he return, but he has trained people in FGW, started GLGs to provide a family for people who lost their own family in the genocide, and planted a model farm and training center. He teaches and feeds the village children, trains neighbors in trades to enhance their earning potential, and now has brought safe water to those whom he could have declared his enemies. The only thing that can drive a man to work so hard to love those he should despise is the love of Christ.
May we examine ourselves, face our fears, and become giant slayers like our brother Venuste.
Thank you for your time. God bless you.
Grace and peace,
Director, Farming God’s Way Ministry