Outside in the darkness, rain was descending in torrents, pelting the tin roof of my hotel room with a roar. As I lay under a mosquito net on my cushioned bed, I could only think of Mama Jeanine, her children, and their mud house with no roof.
I had met Mama Jeanine earlier that day as she was working in a field outside her home village of Mabayi, in Burundi’s Rugombo Province. She was helping nine Christian friends hoe a plot of ground that they jointly owned, courtesy of a group micro-loan from Heaven’s Family. I learned that she was a widow with five children, and that her actual name was Magdalla Uwimana, but that everyone had been calling her Mama Jeanine since the birth of her daughter, Jeanine. I also learned that she was not a joint owner of the field like the others, but that she always helped them, because together, they looked out for her and her children. They had, in fact, even built her a house.
Mama Jeanine invited me to visit that house, and when the hoeing was done, we walked towards her village. When we arrived at her place, there was something noticeably missing from her humble abode, namely, a roof. Mama Jeanine told me that her previous house on the same little plot had been destroyed during Burundi’s last war. Her brothers and sisters in Christ had built for her the existing roofless structure from self-made mud bricks. But they simply didn’t have the money to purchase the wood and tin to put on a roof.
We walked inside—under an open sky. There was no furniture in the three small rooms. Mama Jeanine and her children slept on thin straw mats directly on the dirt floor. I asked her what they did when it rained. She told me that they crawled under a plastic tarp and waited it out. During torrential downpours her Christian friends offered them shelter in their tiny homes.
Later, during the two-hour ride back to Burundi’s capital city, I learned what an extraordinary woman Mama Jeanine is. She spends time almost every day visiting the sick in the local hospital and going house to house sharing the gospel. By herself, she has planted 6 house churches whose members are widows, about 40 in all, whom she personally disciples. She has, she says, a special burden for widows.
I’m so glad I’ve found favor with the director of Heaven’s Family’s Widows & Abandoned Women Fund—a beauty named Becky to whom I’ve been married for 31 years. So I made the decision that afternoon to commit $450 from the Widows & Abandoned Women Fund for a roof for Mama Jeanine’s house. As you read this, she and her five children are now protected from the rain, and she’s started a small business that will provide for all of them—thanks to a $400 loan from a Heaven’s Family micro-bank established just for widows in Burundi.