Sarah Ruguru is one of the world’s poorest people. She lives in a slum called Mita Moja, a jumble of tiny mud-and-stick shacks on the outskirts of Kitale, Kenya. Trash is everywhere. Open sewers flow through channels cut along unpaved streets.
Besides being born into unimaginable poverty, Sarah has faced additional challenges. She is a widow with six children, and she lives with HIV. As I listened to her story, however, a picture emerged of a woman undeterred by her lot in life. Sarah is a fighter—not just for her own family, but for the other women in her community who face similar struggles. I began to realize that Sarah, who is so poor on earth, is surely a millionaire in heaven, and that God not only works in cities and suburbs, but also in the worst of slums.
With her broad, joyful smile, Sarah told me how she met the Lord in 1993 through a church outreach in her neighborhood. It wasn’t until 2005, however—after her husband died of AIDS and she learned that he had infected her—that Sarah began reaching out to other HIV-positive women in her community. Like her, many have acquired AIDS because of unfaithful husbands. Sarah explained how she offers them a homemade vegetable drink that reduces HIV symptoms as she presents the gospel. After telling them about Jesus, she invites the women to her small home for weekly Bible studies.
Sarah is serving women on the edge of eternity. Last year, five of the seventeen women who attended her Bible study died from AIDS. So Sarah works with a sense of urgency. She told me that her goal is to reach as many women as possible with the gospel “so they may have true love in their hearts and live with expectations of meeting the Lord after this life.”
I asked Sarah what kind of business she would start if she had the money. She told me that her only marketable skill was sewing, and that she could make women’s clothing. So I made her an offer: “If Heaven’s Family were to provide you with a sewing machine for your business, would you train other widows to sew?” Sarah heartily agreed, and she offered her little home as a sewing training center. Upon graduation, we hope to provide hardworking students with micro-loans to purchase sewing machines by which they can start their own businesses.
Sarah has since also requested funds to lease farmland on which her band of disciples can grow spinach, kale and other greens. Heaven’s Family granted the requested funds in August through gifts to the Widows & Abandoned Women Fund. We’re also funding a group micro-loan to Sarah’s widows for the startup costs of their wholesale farm business. They will market some of their produce in their neighborhood, but their ultimate goal is to open a vegetable stand in Kitale’s central market, where profits will be higher.
Sarah’s joy stems from both her love for Jesus and her service to other needy women in her community. There, serving Him as she serves the “least of these,” she is considered to be a saint. Thanks to all the other saints who, through their gifts to the Widows & Abandoned Women Fund, are helping “Saint Sarah” lay up more treasure in heaven!