World Relief

The Church in Congo

By James Misner and Marcel Serubungo In the Democratic Republic of Congo, some say that you can find all of Africa’s problems: weak national leadership, eroding rule of law, HIV/AIDS and protracted tribal conflict. Warring militias use rape as a weapon of war and perpetrate other human rights violations. Children are stolen, forced to become soldiers and used as proxies between fighting groups.

Congolese civilians are caught in the vicious cycles of conflict and disease. Millions have died as a result. Refugees and internally displaced people number into the millions.

But even in the world’s most war-torn regions, the power of Jesus can overcome the horrors of conflict. After years of warfare, the Church in DR Congo is the only social structure standing. It is the only hope of true peace for survivors of violence.

This is the reality of the Church in DR Congo:

  1. The Church is traumatized. Many people in the Church have been displaced from their homes. They’ve fled as refugees, survived grave atrocities, lost entire crops and ran through the night in search of safety. Our Christian brothers and sisters in DR Congo face the same situations that their greater communities face — they’re not immune from struggle.
  2. The Church is resilient. Even in the midst of adversity and unspeakable hardship, the church in DR Congo stands strong! Despite ethnic divisions within the nation, the church builds unity and reconciliation. They’ve refused to give up the pursuit of peace. They continue meeting together, praying together and worshiping God together. In some of the worst poverty and injustice on the planet the church gathers to proclaim the greatness of God! We have much to learn from them as they restore their communities.
  3. The Church is redeeming suffering. None of us can explain precisely why God allows suffering. But we do know that God redeems it — through his hands and feet, the Church. When a woman survives sexual violence, the Church will take her in, provide food and shelter and help her to care for her children. When cultural norms say that husbands should abandon their wives after rape — the Church works to debunk this lie and to reconcile marriages. The Church stands in the gap and speaks out against this injustice — teaching boys and men that women are created in God’s image and are to be respected and treasured.

Wherever there is suffering in DR Congo – the Church is right there, too. And World Relief is there to empower the Church to fulfill its mission: to bring hope to the hopeless and restore justice to the oppressed. As the people of the Church endure suffering, they faithfully follow in the steps of Jesus – bringing healing to their communities as they themselves are healed.

Would you consider making a gift to empower local churches to prevent further gender-based violence and care for women survivors? All donations will be matched by One Day’s Wages. Your gift will be used to provide medical care and trauma counseling for the victims of sexual violence and to raise community awareness about violence against women. Give today at onedayswages.org/worldrelief.

James and Marcel are both members of the church team at World Relief. James serves as the Global Director of Church Partnership. Marcel serves as the Director of Church Mobilization and Peace Building in DR Congo.

Celebrating World Food Day: Farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo Fighting Hunger

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When fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reached Viviane’s village, she and her children were forced to flee from their home and into a camp with many other internally displaced people . The camp was crowded with others who also sought refuge from the ongoing violence. Unfortunately, without employment or reliable access to food, they all were at greater risk of suffering from food shortage and hunger.

When Viviane was finally able to return to her home, the extreme challenges of everyday living remained. “We came home with no seeds or farming tools and no money to buy these things,” Viviane said. Although she had the desire to provide for her family in a sustainable way, the violence and displacement left Viviane without the means to begin rebuilding her life.

“But God sent World Relief to help our [farmers’ group] by providing Irish potato seeds, vegetable seeds and farming tools,” said Viviane. In farmers’ groups in the DRC, World Relief equips farmers with tools to begin family farms and the necessary training to make their harvests successful. Farmers are trained in crop diversification, resource management and other ways to increase the productivity of their land.

Viviane’s yields have indeed grown as a result of the support she received when she returned home even though devastation from instability and armed conflict are still felt in large areas of eastern DRC. This year alone, she harvested over 1900 pounds of potatoes, more than four times more than last year! A portion of her earnings will go towards her children’s school fees and to buy other supplies for her family. Next year, Viviane plans to rent a larger plot of land so she can grow even more potatoes.

Because of Viviane’s agricultural skills, she and her family have been able to overcome many of the challenges related to hunger and malnutrition. Viviane has also planted a vegetable garden outside of her home that adds essential vitamins and nutrients to her family’s diet. “This is the first time my family is able to eat three meals a day,” Viviane said, “I praise God for this. May our Lord Jesus bless you all who have helped us during this time and for helping us find a solution for feeding our families.”

Throughout the month of October we’re celebrating World Food Day with farmers like Viviane who are empowered to lead their families out of poverty through agricultural training and development. In DRC, World Relief is empowering local churches and farmers to work together and earn a greater income from their crops. By participating in farmers groups, some of the DRC’s most vulnerable are empowered to sustainably support their families and local economies while laying the building blocks for peace in the midst of the destruction of conflict.

Serving the Most Vulnerable in South Sudan: Nama's Story

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Nama is a mother of four and a member of a local savings group in South Sudan. She first attended one of the weekly meetings with some of her friends. “We felt challenged to save our money,” she said. “At the moment, we did not see the money to save.”

Nama first believed that a humanitarian organization would provide loans to members of the group. When she and her friends found out that members actually loaned money to one another from within their own pooled resources, several people declined joining. Nama, however, wanted to learn more.

She was sick at the time but could not afford treatment. “One needs about SSP 100-150 to get proper treatment,” she said. That cost is the equivalent of about $30 USD.

“We started saving our income little by little with the hope that we could give assistance to ourselves.” Said Nama. “By this time, we had given up all the initial thinking that we would get any money from the organization.”

When borrowing began, Nama was the second to receive a loan from the group. Two others applied for loans on that day but declined and agreed to wait in order to protect Nama’s health. She was approved to receive SSP 100 for her treatment. In the same time period, she lost a relative and the group gave her SSP 25 as a form of condolences.

Nama has been repaying her loan since January. She says that the group not only gave her access to the resources she needs, but a group of new friends. “The group members kept on visiting me when I was sick,” she said. “They comfort me and I feel I have brothers and sisters.”

When asked about her future plans, Nama said her health will give her new opportunities. She plans on devoting time and energy to her garden and using her savings in eight months to start a kiosk so she can sell goods after farming.

Rwanda, Full of Heroes

Twenty years ago this month, a systemic and insidious darkness took hold of Rwanda. Conflict arising from post-World War Western interests manifested itself in the genocidal slaughter of as many as 1 million people. The wound is healing, but it is also spreading, reaching across borders into sister nations Burundi and the Congo. Since 1995, we have been pursuing restoration in Rwanda and her neighboring countries. At first, our presence involved immediate emergency response. Today, we are seeking to restore lives so the most vulnerable individuals and communities are empowered physically, spiritually, relationally, economically.

President & CEO Stephan Bauman writes, “Reconciliation doesn’t take place on a stage during a ceremony or in a courtroom. It takes place one community at a time.” The more we empower the local Church in Rwanda to restore the most vulnerable, the more we realize our role in the equation. We are not the solution, nor are we the heroes.

These local church congregation members are heroes. A widow in their community had taken in her grandson after his mother remarried and his stepfather rejected him. Together, the church members built the widow and her grandson a new home.

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They also began supporting the grandmother and grandson by providing resources that would help them thrive. They gave the boy a goat, which is a sustainable source of food and income.

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The young boy (left) is also a hero. When the church was able to provide him with a second goat, instead of keeping it for himself, he gave one away to a friend whose family was also in need.

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Heroes like these are supported, empowered and equipped through the local Church in Rwanda, a powerful force with the unprecedented ability to bring lasting transformation to the nation. This local Church places hope in the same Gospel and belongs to the same Body of Christ as churches around the world, even in our own neighborhood. We are intimately connected.

In 2 Corinthians 12:26, Paul speaks of the Body of Christ when he writes, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Today, as we stand alongside our Rwandan brothers and sisters in remembrance of the genocide, churches across the world enter into the suffering of the local Church in Rwanda. But we also rejoice, because the story of Rwanda is full of "heroes who make their lives the solution by daily choosing forgiveness and grace instead of retribution and bitterness" (Stephan Bauman).

EMPOWER a HERO each month.

GIVE a GOAT to a vulnerable family through our Catalog of Hope.

(Images by Sean Sheridan)

A Hero in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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The Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the second largest country in Africa, home to more than 70 million people and over 250 tribes and languages. It shares a border with eight countries, playing an essential role in the economic and social development across the continent. Its unique rainforest and river ecosystems, fertile grounds and high concentration of valuable raw minerals give it nearly unlimited potential. The Democratic Republic of Congo is also home to the largest conflict since World War II. Since 1996, over five million Congolese have died as a result. Others are vulnerable to rebel group activity, extreme poverty, prevalent diseases including malaria and HIV/AIDS, a high infant mortality rate and sexual violence against women and girls ages two to 60.

Where is God in a war-torn country like the DR Congo, where eight out of every ten women is a victim of rape? Psalm 72:14 gives us a promise of his faithfulness in regions like the DR Congo when it says, “He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight” (NIV).

Rutshuru is a town located in the North Kivu province of eastern DRC. Pastor Fabian is from the Pentecostal Church in Kelengera, Rutshuru territory. At 58 years old, he is the father of 7 children and a true hero in his community. He refused to flee when M23 soldiers advanced. He said he could not leave his congregation behind.

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(Image: Sean Sheridan)

On July 21, 2013, Fabian was taken by rebel soldiers from his home into the bush, without shoes, proper clothes or the ability to notify his wife. His feet were wounded on lava stone as he followed soldiers into the forest. After walking the entire night, he was brought before the Chief rebel and accused of espionage: he had hosted some Tutsi women who were passing into Rwanda, an act punishable by death according to rebel soldiers.

Fabian explained his role as a Pastor and a follower of Christ meant he had a commitment to all God’s children, regardless of their tribe. Fabian only asked that the soldiers not use machetes but a bullet to kill him, explaining that he was ready to be received in Heaven.

The soldiers held Fabian captive for ten days. Without a shirt, he suffered from the cold and insect bites that caused blood to cover his body. He was given two pieces of uncooked root to eat every day. He was repeatedly interrogated. Child soldiers guarded him by night, informing him that they were eagerly awaiting the command to shoot him. Fabian prayed aloud day and night, refusing to let rebels call his community for a ransom.

On July 31, a rebel leader told Fabian he could be free if he left his possessions, including his money. With only a cell phone and an ID card, Fabian was led blindfolded by child soldiers through the night. Fabian awoke the next morning weak, wounded and traumatized, but he was home. His family, community and church celebrated that God had delivered “Papa Fabien” from the “den of lions.”

Those with hope in Jesus Christ know how the battle ends, for Colossians 1:20 explains that through Jesus Christ all things shall be reconciled to God through the peace established for mankind on the cross. World Relief has been present in the DR Congo since 2002, responding to its Biblical mandate to empower the local Church to bring peace and restoration to torn communities through village peace committees.

In reality, World Relief has stepped into God’s pre-existing, ongoing restorative plan for the most vulnerable. And what an honor it is.

Empower a Hero like Pastor Fabian today.

Happy International Women's Day!

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Today on International Women’s Day and every day, we are proud to empower vulnerable women around the world with opportunities, skills, resources and a strong sense of their inherent dignity and worth.

Women are often marginalized in many ways, sometimes lacking access to the most basic services. We know that the women we serve possess nearly unlimited potential to be change agents in their homes, communities and nations. Depending on the specific needs in the areas we work, we establish home-based care groups to improve household nutrition, address the holistic needs of those at risk for HIV/AIDS, provide necessary skills and resources for mothers, prevent human trafficking, address the comprehensive needs of trafficking survivors, resettle refugee women and form local savings groups to bring financial services and opportunities to unreached women.

Our Savings For Life is particularly important in empowering women. Women work together to collectively save and provide loans to one another. The groups are sustainable, eventually becoming self-led, small financial institutions in communities where there are none. The groups provide women with the ability to establish financial independence, provide for their families and start their own businesses. Most importantly, savings groups become places of fellowship and community. Along with savings skills, women learn about the power of the Gospel in transforming their lives and address issues like HIV/AIDS and best practices for farming.

The following stories are taken from our field offices and provide just a small snapshot of empowered women in some of the world’s poorest areas. Help us STAND for and with women like these.

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Monica is from a small village in Kenya. A year ago, Monica joined a womens’ association called the “Good Hope” savings group. Since 2011, the group has been participating in village savings and loan associations, a program implemented by World Relief and local partners. Group members save and lend their funds among themselves and contribute a small amount to a social fund each week that can be used during times of need. Members are able to start projects for one another, providing the resources for needed home repairs and school expenses. Since joining this group, Monica has been able to use small loans to start her own clothing business. She is also able to set aside savings for her baby, Rachael.

International Womens Day DRC

Christine is from the DR Congo, where extreme conflict makes women particularly vulnerable to violence and extreme poverty. Christine watched a neighbor participate in a savings group and use her resources to buy a goat for the family and pay school fees. Christine decided to join a savings group and now invests some of the income she makes as a farmer. “I was taught by my field officer from the Bible that ‘whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously,’” She said.

Intl Womens Day Burundi

Judith is 40 years old and lives in Makamba province in Burundi. She is married with six children, two of whom are in school. She is the president of a village savings and loan association in her community. Prior to joining the group, she was unable to pay for needed home repairs, her children’s’ school fees or for medical care when her children were sick. She said, “We save our money, get credits and make a small business. This makes our family happy. If someone (a member) gets a problem, we help him/her with the social fund. We talk together as members of an association and study HIV/AIDS.” After witnessing his wife’s success, Judith’s husband also joined a local savings group.

Are you interested in empowering more women like Monica, Christine and Judith? STAND for vulnerable women with us today.

Happy International Women’s Day!

#Enditmovement: Meeting Survivors' Needs In The U.S.

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Why are we a part of #enditmovement? At World Relief we seek to empower the local Church to serve the most vulnerable, which inherently includes the oppressed and exploited. We work to prevent trafficking in high-risk cities in our Asia offices, but we also provide comprehensive services to survivors in our U.S. offices. We are excited to come alongside coalition partners The A21 Campaign, ECPAT USA, Free The Slaves, IJM, Love 146, Made In A Free World, Not For Sale, The Polaris Project, World Vision as well as millions of advocates worldwide as we shine a light on slavery.

The 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report defines human trafficking as “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” It is an under-reported, often invisible, global tragedy enslaving over 21 million people and grossing $32 billion each year. Despite the presence of state and federal laws addressing this crime, as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year for sexual and labor exploitation. Of the one million children exploited in the global sex trade every year, a staggering 244 thousand American children and youth are at risk.

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Jennifer Marks (right) is the Church Mobilizer and Volunteer Coordinator at World Relief Tampa, which has provided restorative services to survivors of human trafficking since 2004. She has agreed to provide a snapshot human trafficking in one region of the United States and what it looks like to mobilize the local Church and community in response.

Describe the state of human trafficking in the areas you serve.

J.M:The Tampa Bay region, Florida’s second largest metropolitan area, is renowned for its beautiful beaches, diverse cuisine, and thriving nightlife. Yet, beneath the surface of this vibrant community, the burgeoning criminal industry of modern day slavery thrives. In fact, Florida ranks third in the nation for calls placed to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and is one of the highest destination states for women, men, and children trafficked into the United States.

Who does World Relief Tampa serve?

J.M:World Relief Tampa assists men and women, both foreign-born and U.S. citizens. World Relief Tampa provides direct case management for adult survivors and works with local partners to meet the specific needs of trafficked children. In previous years, World Relief Tampa served exclusively foreign-born survivors, the majority of whom were male labor trafficking survivors.  However, due to expanded funding, World Relief Tampa is now able to serve adult female domestic sex trafficking survivors; a population which has comprised the majority of our case load since 2012.

Can you provide an overview of your office’s work and the services offered to victims?

J.M:World Relief Tampa has three staff members, including myself. In partnership with local churches, law enforcement and community groups, our team provide direct services and referrals to meet the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of human trafficking survivors. 

To address these comprehensive needs, World Relief Tampa relies upon pro bono partnerships and leverages community resources to provide transportation, food, health care, counseling, ESOL, housing, clothing, legal advocacy and employment services. Expanding our pro-bono networks is a high priority given the intense medical and psychological needs of clients and the expansive geographic circumference of the region.

In addition to client services, World Relief Tampa conducts community outreach. As the Church Mobilizer/Volunteer Coordinator, it is my responsibility to engage and equip the local Church, build partnerships, advance prevention strategies, acquire critical resources and increase awareness.

In what ways is the local church involved?

J.M:Church partnerships are critical to successfully addressing survivors’ comprehensive needs. One of the most important roles of the local church is praying for the rescue and restoration of survivors and for an end to the great evil of modern day slavery.  Churches also facilitate anti-trafficking awareness presentations to increase understanding and involvement within congregations and collect donations of money and needed items. Finally, churches assist World Relief Tampa in forming new relationships with pro bono medical professionals and life mentors.

In what ways are volunteers from the local community involved?

J.M:Volunteers assist with fundraising, collection of donations, awareness, mall outreach campaigns, birthday and Christmas collection drives for survivors and mentoring on a case-by-case basis (preceded by specialized training and background checks).

From where does most of your financial support come? How is that changing?

J.M:Prior to 1994, World Relief Tampa focused on refugee resettlement and equipping the church to “welcome the stranger” into our congregations and our hearts. Funds provided by the US State Department Refugee Resettlement Program and church donations allowed World Relief Tampa to reach hundreds of vulnerable refugees.

In 2004, World Relief received a grant from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to serve victims of human trafficking in the Southeastern United States through the “Network of Emergency Trafficking Services” (NETS) program. World Relief Tampa became the pilot site for this program and has continued to receive federal funding to expand anti-trafficking activities in Tampa for the past 9 years.

This federal funding will end in April 2014. As a result, World Relief in Tampa must increasingly rely on the local Church to fund the expenses associated with meeting the vast needs of human trafficking survivors in the Tampa Bay region.  However, as awareness grows, local churches are increasingly sharing a vision for their indispensable role in demonstrating God’s love for victims of exploitation and abuse.

What victories have you witnessed at your office over the past years?

J.M:The last couple of years have been marked by change, creating a host of challenges and blessings. In 2012, World Relief Tampa began ministering to domestic victims of human trafficking. Over the next year and a half, 90 percent of World Relief Tampa’s clients would be female American sex trafficking victims, a majority of whom lack basic life skills and struggle with crippling drug addictions, PTSD and trauma bonding. Additional training bolstered staff competence (and confidence), but nothing brought peace like the power of prayer. As the World Relief team experienced a deeper understanding of the intense spiritual warfare surrounding service to these women, churches launched prayer groups to stand with staff in this battle for the restoration of bodies, minds and souls.World Relief Tampa is confident that God will move mountains to defend the vulnerable as the Christian community moves out in His strength and provision.

In addition, World Relief Tampa has initiated a Mall Outreach Campaign to equip churches to launch awareness and prevention ministries in local malls, a documented venue for trafficking recruitment.  Malls are being prayed over and employees at over two hundred stores have already been educated on what to do if they witness suspicious behavior. To further target those on the front lines, World Relief Tampa is traveling throughout the region to provide domestic minor sex trafficking training to mall security teams.

What are some of your goals for the future?

To better meet the comprehensive needs of human trafficking survivors, we will continue to build our community of church partnerships and expand pro bono serve providers. In particular, we hope to add pro bono trauma counselors to guide clients in their restoration journey. Similarly, we will develop strategies to better connect clients with church congregations and healthy mentors who are trained and equipped to provide long-term guidance and friendship.

To meet the needs of survivors and ensure the long-term financial security of the World Relief Tampa human trafficking ministry, we are also developing a plan to broaden the support base through monthly financial donors.

When asked to share a piece of scripture integral to the mission of World Relief’s Tampa office, Marks shared Matthew 25:34-40. The passage is a reminder of the necessary changes we must make in our lives to advocate for the oppressed. It ends with Jesus’ words: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Learn more about World Relief.

Learn more about #Enditmovement and how you can get involved!

Give the gift of hope to survivors of human trafficking around the world.

(India) Pastor Daniel's Story

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This is Pastor Daniel Jayachandran, a local pastor in India. He is pictured with his wife, Amutha and their three children. In 2012, he attended World Relief’s Families for Life training and was so moved by the message of healthy marriages that he appointed a new pastor over his church and moved to an unreached area to plant new churches. He disciples other pastors and trains them using the Families for Life curriculum. These pastors often go on to reach thousands of congregation members and people living with HIV. We are proud to empower pastors like Daniel who go on to change their communities with the holistic Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ending Poverty Means Ending Violence

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“Without an end to the violence that plagues so many in slums, labor camps, brothels, villages, and neighborhoods, our work to end extreme poverty, stop senseless disease among children, and create sustainable economic solutions could erode and even altogether unravel.” –Stephan Bauman, President & CEO of World Relief

As World Relief empowers the local Church to serve the most vulnerable, we come face to face every day with the reality that poor people are extremely vulnerable to violence. Many of the countries in which we operate are war-torn and lack a just rule of law. Around the world, nearly 30 million children, women and men are held as forced labor slaves. One in 5 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape – and sexual violence makes everyday activities like going to school, gathering water, using a communal restroom or taking public transport dangerous.

At World Relief, we see firsthand that those without protection often lack access to the opportunities, services and materials required to meet their most basic needs. In fact, four billion people – most of the world’s poorest people – live in places where their justice systems do not or cannot protect them from these crippling forms of violence. To advocate for the impoverished, we must also be advocates of peace and protection.

We are joining hands with our friends at International Justice Mission to address the violence directly contributing to poverty around the world. Today, IJM President Gary Haugan and co-author Victor Boutros are releasing their new book, The Locust Effect, to explain why the end of poverty requires the end of violence.

Learn more about The Locust Effect and ways to get involved with the fight for peace. Don’t miss IJM’s unforgettable new video showing what the world is up against as we work together to help the most vulnerable.

IJM Locust Effect Graphic

World Relief in Burundi: Maternal & Child Health

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In Burundi, approximately 58 percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. Malnutrition is associated with serious medical issues later in life as well as lower education attainment, lower earnings and more prevalent violence. It is a result of poor nutritional practices, limited access to food, minimal dietary diversity and chronic illness. Because 80 percent of Burundians live on less than $1.25 per day and have limited access to the most basic financial services, poverty compounds these vulnerabilities and contributes to a cycle of malnutrition in households. World Relief is empowering the local church to serve the most vulnerable in Burundi and meet the holistic physical, spiritual and relational needs that exist. World Relief provides long-term training and supervision of staff and government officials, who in turn train Health Workers and mothers to promote better health practices in the community through behavioral transformation. Concurrently, World Relief works with the Ministry of Agriculture to train Community Health Workers on the operation and development of small gardens for women to grow food and improve household nutrition and dietary diversity. World Relief also works in partnership with church network Dutabarane to provide crucial financial instruments to the poor through Village Savings and Loans Associations.

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Marasmus is a form of severe malnutrition caused by a deficiency in calories and energy.Félicité Havyarimana, a young woman from the central province of Gitega, had witnessed the effects of the disease in the life of her son, Alfred, ever since he was one year old. She said, “I was sad and desperate, not knowing what to do. In my despair, I turned to traditional healers, convinced that someone had cast a curse on my child.”

When a volunteer from World Relief’s Child Survival Program visited Félicité and examined her son, she explained that Alfred was suffering from malnutrition and that it could be cured. “I didn’t believe her, of course,” said Félicité. “Nevertheless, since nothing had worked so far, I started to follow her advice on health and nutrition, even if I wasn’t really convinced”.

A month later, Alfred began gaining weight and his health began improving. Encouraged, Félicité began participating in World Relief’s cooking workshops, where she learned about the components and preparation of well-balanced meals. “The lessons were really helpful to my children, especially to Alfred who was totally cured and went back to his normal weight,” said Félicité.

Almost three years old, Alfred is now a healthy child who, like many of his peers in the province, has benefited from World Relief’s Maternal & Child Health program. Félicité said that the program opened her eyes to the mistakes she did not know she was making when it came to the nutrition and health of her children. “Now,” she said, “I try as much as possible to keep them on a healthy and well-balanced diet, and I take them to the hospital to see a doctor at the first sign of illness, instead of seeking advice from traditional healers.”

At the root of the program is the long-term goal of Integral transformation of not only behavior, but beliefs, values and attitudes that bring Burundians to a place where they can experience the kind of life Jesus came to bring – life to the full (John 10:10).

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Savings For Life: Financial Opportunity for the World’s Most Vulnerable

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The world’s poorest have a tremendous capacity and willingness to save and protect assets when financial institutions cannot serve them. They save to meet social obligations, to prepare for emergencies, to start or expand small businesses and to respond to seasonal changes in cash flow. However, the lack of banks in rural areas often leads to high fees and unattainable minimum balance requirements, leaving savings vulnerable to loss and theft.

Since piloting the Savings for Life program in 2008, World Relief has empowered more than 100 thousand participants across six countries through the facilitation of effective and impactful community-based savings and credit groups. After years of testing and expanding, World Relief has developed a program that offers safe and reliable financial services to people who are otherwise excluded from formal banking institutions. Through regular savings and access to appropriately sized loans, group members can meet daily household needs and establish their own income-generating activities.

The Savings for Life program, like other World Relief initiatives, is also one of spiritual transformation. It is integral to the fulfillment of World Relief’s mission to “empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable.” Churches are the point of contact in communities where World Relief is present and pastors work to identify the most vulnerable within those communities. Church volunteers serve as field agents to mobilize and train the savings groups. Finally, World Relief promotes Savings groups because of its commitment to the holistic Gospel of Jesus Christ, a message that leads to transformation in every area of life.

Often, World Relief implements the Savings for Life program alongside other interventions. In Burundi, care group volunteers who bring life-saving health messages to more than 30 thousand mothers every month are invited to participate in Savings for Life groups. In Rwanda, Savings for Life is combined with leadership training so that church and community members can take initiative to meet the needs of vulnerable neighbors with their own resources. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, farmer group members involved in Savings for Life can buy better seeds and fertilizer with their own resources to produce greater yields.

Some of the most vulnerable in Kenya have also benefited from Savings for Life. Compared to other countries in East Africa, Kenya enjoys the largest, most diversified economy (USAID, 2013). Because of its location, the country serves as a place of transport and therefore plays a vital role for much of sub-Saharan Africa. However, decades of unjust governance have stunted economic development. About 60 percent of Kenyans live on US$2 or less per day (USAID, 2013). Kenyans facing poverty often lack access to the most basic financial services. Supplementing the life-impacting work of economic development, Savings for Life groups in Kenya educate members in managing their own savings. As savings accumulate, group members have access to appropriately-sized loans with which they can finance business or personal needs.

In 2011, a women’s group registered with World Relief in Kenya and Fadhili Trust to participate in a village savings and loan association in Ongata Rongai in Kajiado North. Group members save and lend their funds among themselves and also contribute to a social fund to assist with emergencies. When the group began to grow, the women registered with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development to be recognized by other institutions and gain negotiation power for development. Now, they plan to begin using savings to purchase land for various group members. In the last two and a half years, not one of the members has defaulted on a loan or payment. This is the story of just one of several groups operating in seven regions across Kenya.

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The groups also provide discipleship for members through regular Bible studies. World Relief believes that God’s restorative plan for mankind includes, among many things, character development with regard to stewardship, personal finance and attitude towards work. The goal is not wealth, but worship – pointing the most vulnerable to a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ and empowering them to live in a way that brings Him glory.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

World Relief in Fort Worth: A Refugee’s Final Destination

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When refugees enter the United States, they are still a long way from their “finaldestination.” Arrival marks the beginning of physical, social, financial, relational and spiritual challenges that threaten this vulnerable population’s ability to be self-sufficient in an unfamiliar culture. World Relief in Fort Worth is empowering the local Church to meet the holistic needs of this group by resettling and meeting the holistic needs of several hundred refugees a year.

There are currently 15 to 16 million refugees in the world. Less than half of one percent of these refugees is offered stable resettlement in a developed nation, but the United States resettles the largest portion of these refugees. Most are given legal residency status and permission to work upon their arrival. They come seeking security, hope and community, but are less likely to experience social connection, more likely to have physical and mental conditions and are entering a country with few economic opportunities. Too often, refugees entering the United States are resettled into spiritual and physical poverty.

World Relief in Fort Worth is seeking to change that. From the moment refugees arrive at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, they are met with the relational, physical and spiritual love of Jesus Christ. The World Relief staff provides refugees with housing, medical services, cash assistance, ESL, case management, employment assistance and volunteer involvement. Additionally, by partnering with local churches and volunteers, World Relief Fort Worth connects refugees to the greater body of Christ. Often traveling from war-torn, oppressive communities, a refugee’s need for employment, housing and food cannot be separated from his or her need for peace, community and security.

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Jason, whose name has been changed for this story, is one such refugee. He grew up in Iran where he and his family practiced Islam faithfully. When he entered university and studied Islamic law in his late teens, Jason found himself drifting from particular aspects of the religion that disturbed him; meanwhile, his interest in Christianity grew. Jason worked in Iran as a human rights attorney and professor before leaving his country and spending two years as a refugee in Turkey. Because he had no family or relations at this point, the UNHCR decided to resettle him in the United States and in August 2012, World Relief Fort Worth welcomed Jason at the airport.

World Relief found him housing in an apartment and employment with AT&T upon his arrival. He feared his Iranian heritage would create tension with Americans, but he adjusted through the friendship of a World Relief volunteer who Jason now says is “like my brother.” Later, World Relief Fort Worth offered Jason a job as a Case Manager. He says his work with refugees at World Relief is much like what he did in Iran. His experience navigating through their challenges has provided him a special understanding of refugee clients. A.C. Musopole writes, “It is a transformed person who transforms his or her environment,” a compelling truth that is evident in Jason’s life.

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The same volunteer whom Jason describes as “family” invited the recent refugee to attend Gateway Church at Southlake. There, Jason made the decision to follow Jesus Christ and asked his friend to help him become baptized. During this interview, Jason’s joy was evident as he talked about the peace he has found in Christianity and how he knows that Jesus Christ is his “final destination.”

Child Care Centers are Vital for Malawian Orphans and Vulnerable Children

In the United States, where about 91 percent of children are covered under some form of health insurance (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011) and have access to health and social services, it can be difficult to acknowledge the stark, contrasting conditions for children in countries like Malawi. There, poverty, food insecurity, HIV/AIDS prevalence and weak social service capacity have led to child abuse, neglect and exploitation. The needs of Malawian children are physical, spiritual, emotional and social. However, care is limited: only six percent of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi receive medical support, four percent receive psychosocial support, nine percent receive material support and six percent receive educational support (UNICEF, 2011).

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Community-based child care centers serve as vital spaces for children to play, receive nutrition and hygiene education and access clean water. They are viable solutions for Malawian communities, yet only 30 percent of Malawian children have access to them. Local churches, in collaboration with key stakeholders, have the capacity to increase the provision of child protection and development initiatives in their communities through the establishment of more centers.

World Relief in Malawi is responding to God’s heart for justice, particularly for children. World Relief in Malawi is empowering local churches to create sustainable programs that promote self-efficacy, self-worth and hope for the future of 500 children between 3 and 18 years of age, most of whom are from HIV-affected, rural communities. Through the formation of 10 church-run, community-based childcare centers and the renovation of four existing centers, children will have better access to cutting edge, holistic services. At centers, volunteer caregivers provide children with nutritious food, facilitate games, assist with homework and provide life and psychosocial skill services. As an integral aspect of meeting the holistic needs of these children, caregivers also help children memorize Scripture and gain a better understanding of Jesus Christ.

Recently, World Relief staff shared its mission and vision for Malawian childcare improvement with Salima district’s traditional leaders, including Chief Khombedza. The Chinkhali Presbyterian Church decided to reopen its childcare center, which closed in December 2012 from a lack of resources, training and community involvement. “We did not know recommended ways of handling children at a childcare center,” said Paulina Katoma, one of the church’s volunteer caregivers. “We just did it anyhow.”

Now, through its partnership with World Relief, Chinkhali Presbyterian has access to the resources, training and empowerment necessary for meeting vulnerable children’s physical, spiritual, social and emotional needs. In word and deed, the church is able to share the transforming power of Jesus Christ with Malawi’s orphans and vulnerable children.

“In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:14

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United As One Body: The Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action

Gabriel and Vanesa Dávila-Luciano, a dynamic brother-sister music duo called Dexios, joined World Relief and other organizations on April 17 for the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action. Here, Vanesa shares her reflections on the day:

On April 17th, our music ministry, Dèxios was part of the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action in Washington, DC. As part of the Advocacy Week, this event called all those who were willing and able to join G92, World Relief and other organizations.

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After participating in worship sessions, visits to the representatives in the Capitol, prayer walks and dialogue with fellow participants that went there to share their personal struggles with immigration, Gabriel and I (Vanesa) are both convinced that being part of this event has been a transforming experience in our spiritual journey and our personal lives.

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That day was an inspiration to see the Christian community, in all its diversity, unite as one body to worship together and raise one prophetic voice in solidarity with those who have suffered rejection, the injustice and lack of compassion for being immigrants. That same voice resonated in the halls and offices of representatives and senators with over 80 meetings. We were part of the meetings with representatives of the states of Florida and Virginia (where we each reside).

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Having listened and dialogued with people that live with the uncertainty of deportation, even after going through all the proper legal process, made us reaffirm the spiritual and moral obligation we have as Christians and human beings to put ourselves in the place of those in need of justice, to speak and fight for those who cannot or dare not.

As Dèxios, we recognize that there's much to do to reach the goal of a comprehensive reform that is just and compassionate. However, our ministry harbors the same hope as Jenny Yang, vice-president of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief: "... a bill that reflects the many principles that World Relief has supported…" is the commitment towards freedom and human dignity.

From "We lost" to "We arrived" - Refugees share their journeys

Every year, World Relief staff and volunteers help thousands of refugees - victims of war and persecution - replant their lives in the United States. With 24 offices across the U.S., World Relief is the biggest evangelical refugee resettlement agency in America. Our staff and volunteers come alongside America's newcomers, helping them adjust to the culture, find employment, learn English, take steps towards citizenship and build a future for themselves and their children.

World Relief has resettled more than 9,000 refugees in Minnesota since 1989. Here are a few of their stories:

 

Interested in volunteering with an office near you? Visit our website: www.worldrelief.org/US.

"This should not happen to people"

In honor of International Women's Day, our Country Director of Indonesia, Jo Ann de Belen reflects on those close to her heart and why she wants to be part of changing the world. I once knew a leper. He was close to me. Apart from his leprosy, he was just like any one of us. A creation made in the image of God. Without touching me, he taught me music, math, and how to laugh at myself. He contracted this dreaded illness when he was a child, at a time when there was no definite cure for it.

The stigma of the illness was so great, that his own family was ashamed to tell others. And so his parents kept this dark secret to themselves while they can. The teenage boy did not enjoy what others enjoyed. He was kept inside the house, not brought to big family gatherings or to be “displayed” publicly. He wore clothes that would conceal his open lesions.

Even when he was in a crowd, he felt alone. He suffered all this by himself, not understanding what it was. His parents, perhaps not knowing what to do, just pretended to the world that he did not exist. He grew up to be an adult and married and had children and tried to live a normal life. But the world wouldn’t let him. He died a lonely man, alone in a room, visited by only a handful.

As I remember this friend with leprosy and feel his isolation and pain, I remember the people we serve in the highlands of Papua. The ones infected with AIDS. What could they be feeling? Whatever it is, it couldn’t be much different from what the leper felt. Alone, isolated, shunned.

The stigma against AIDS is so strong, the oppression against people with AIDS so overpowering, that I ask…. What can we do? How can we change all this?

This should not happen to people, God’s own creatures made after His image and likeness.

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This is why I feel so strongly about God’s children learning to love those that the world has shunned, ridiculed, thrown away, isolated.

I long to see the church in Papua embrace back those who are afflicted with AIDS, to care for the children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS, and to make sure that this disease is wiped out of Papua.

I pray that God makes this happen soon. So that no one will have to suffer, and suffer alone.

Fingerprints.

by Maggie Utsey

fingerprints.They tell a story all by themselves.

Anointed and blessed are my days. His fingerprints are all over them.

This week began in a 15-passenger van packed with 8 languages and 7 eager faces ready to put their best foot forward. Hours and interviews later, I’d picked up new words in each language and forgot for a moment that people actually get paid to do this. I love teaching our clients and learning from them; the city is our classroom and it always feels like recess.

I love racing a child on his tricycle in the rickety WR van; rearranging car seats and buckling kids; making faces when words are few, lost in translation and teaching me to value the quiet. I love feeling like a mom as we adopt every person in love, as Christ adopted me. I love realizing that we’ve moved from strangers to family.

Looking through pictures of the refugee camp, S’s whole family, and his best friend’s wedding, my heart does not pity but rather swells as I see in his eyes that these are good memories, and this new season is good too. It’s amazing what our eyes can communicate without a word from our lips.

I love how much I’m learning and how much I still don’t know - about people, God, the world and its stories -and the hunger for more.

I love authentic Ethiopian food, eaten only with your hands, and the way I speak refugee on accident these days.

I love the story that unfolds over three glasses of peach punch around the dining table. The one that I’m so careful not to ask about. I love that the laughter is more powerful than the pain and loss - which are being redeemed. He is already made new, restored; he’s just figuring it out one day at a time.

Today I helped one of my favorite people apply for jobs, spent time looking at a map, meandered the international farmers market, wrote a letter in spanrwali (a delightful language that fits me perfectly - Spanish, Kinyarwanda, & Swahili), and tucked away a few smiles. I love those moments - when you don’t want the other person to know how much they make you smile so you wait until they’re not looking to let it light up your face. It’s a special kind of secret with God, and He smiles with me.

These are good days. He is in the details.

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Maggie Utsey is a volunteer with World Relief in Atlanta.  You can follow her blog here.

Changing the Reality in Haiti

By Jean-Baptiste Francois, Agriculture Manager, World Relief Haiti When I was a child, I had the opportunity to live in the rural area of Haiti with my uncle for two months every year during school vacations.  For two decades, I saw my uncle always laboring the soil with a rake, pickaxe, hoe, and a cow when necessary.  During that time, he was never able to buy a much-needed motorcycle to help him and his family because the income produced was not enough. 

He always talked about losses.  Many were the factors for the low income and the losses: lack of rain (because there wasn’t any irrigation system), pests and disease invading the plantation, among others.

Today, at World Relief’s Demonstration Farm in Christianville, we are producing vegetable seedlings (pepper and tomatoes) in one of the high-tunnels - similar to greenhouses, but made for warm climate, such as Haiti’s.  With this high-tunnel, the impact of pests and disease can be reduced and controlled.

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Agriculturally speaking, plants are similar to human beings, as they are most vulnerable during their first 30 days of life, a period called the ‘nursing stage’, which includes seed germination and the emergence of a new plant.  It is important to provide maximum care in order have healthy plants ready to be transplanted.  Often, crop deficiencies and diseases noted in the field initiate during this nursing stage.

As agriculture specialists, it is easy for us to understand the importance of producing seedlings in a controlled area. Plants are easier to manage, transport and transplant, develop a healthier and fuller root system to sustain the plant and provide ample nutrition for a better harvest.

However, small-holder farmers in Haiti, accustomed to using traditional methods, do not adopt these practices and technologies quickly. They require a much greater investment in the short-term than farmers are able to afford.  We continue in our work even if more time is needed for the farmers to both understand the importance and have the ability to adopt appropriate technology in the rural areas. We know it will be more beneficial and profitable for them in the long-term.

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We want the farmers to experience what can be accomplished by adopting appropriate technologies, so they can be as successful in agricultural production as farmers from other countries.

As Agriculture Manager for World Relief, I can now help small-holder farmers in Haiti, like my uncle, to change that reality of loss.

Following the Flood - Part 2

Paul Erickson continues his account of his journey through Gaza Province, Mozambique.  To see more pictures, click here.It will take months and months for everyone to establish their normal lives again, if at all.  But this will be unlikely if they don’t receive food and potable water and electricity soon.  Those who stayed behind or returned to Chokwe after the waters began to recede, are far from the relocation centers where at least some basic provisions are being distributed.

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As we leave Chokwe late in the afternoon, I notice with great sadness that the horrific sight that greeted me this morning while driving into town is still there – a precious life lost, the body still uncollected.   I can’t make sense of it.  All I’m clear about is that the residents of Chokwe and those thousands who fled the floodwaters and who have little or nothing to return to need our help.  In times like these, which seem ever more frequent, Christ calls us still to reach out with compassion to a world in need.

The latest figures reported by AFP are that at least 36 Mozambicans have been killed and nearly 70,000 have been displaced.

Later in the afternoon, as we make the return drive to Macia, we stop to drop off Maposse at his makeshift, under-a-tree shelter. Maposse is a local World Relief staff person and now also a displaced former resident of Chokwe who, together with his family, is himself sheltering in the temporary resettlement camp in Chihaquelane.

The vast increase in the number of relocated victims here now compared to when we passed by only several hours earlier is astonishing.  Initially set up to “house” perhaps 20-30,000 people, the makeshift camps have been burgeoning with people fleeing with their families and belongings.  In the hours between morning and afternoon, the numbers increased visibly, and as the waters recede further, relief agencies are predicting that more people will arrive from across the Limpopo River.  As the camps are just being set up today, systems for food and water distribution are still being prepared.  Key problems are latrines as well as shelter, as more and more people arrive to the site.  Without adequate sanitation, disease will spread quickly; and if cholera strikes, a new disaster may begin.

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Both in the camps and in the town, food is a serious issue.  Food stores in Chokwe and other affected towns were destroyed, and people – mainly women and children – are waiting desperately for distributions to reach them.

Aid is arriving.  While we were there, helicopters and trucks were passing through the area, leaving supplies, and seeking out still stranded people.  Those in the camp, however, must simply wait.  They will not be able to return to what is left of their homes for weeks or even months.  They will eventually receive temporary shelter – tents or supplies to build a makeshift roof – and they will receive stipends of food or water.  Children will learn to play between the tents and under the trees, and some lucky ones may even get to go to school, but life will never be the same for any of them.

Paul Erickson Maputo, Mozambique

Click here for World Relief’s response to the flood.

Transformation through Savings for Life™

In June, Second Presbyterian Church of Memphis, TN took a Vision Trip with World Relief to Mozambique and Malawi. One team member, Cory Brown, an attorney at Rainey, Kizer Reviere & Bell, PLC reflects on his trip: Our small team traveled to Malawi to explore a potential partnership with World Relief.  On our second day in Malawi, our World Relief hosts led us to a small village in the Ntchisi district to meet with staff members, local leaders, ministry personnel and volunteers.  We were introduced to numerous village program participants, dined with a local pastor and toured a small livestock operation.

However, the initiative that made the greatest impact on me was a small group of village women engaged in micro-finance.

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Gathered around the edges of a large blanket sat about a dozen women of varying ages.  The group’s leader opened a wooden box with multiple locks.  Inside the box were account books belonging to each member that recorded the respective member’s investment.  With the account books was a small stack of cash representing the collective investment from which the group gave out individual loans.

As we watched, the members engaged in a myriad of transactions: applying for loans, granting loans, rejecting loans, inquiring on the status of existing loans, detailing foreclosure rules and discussing interest rates.

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It was not only encouragement or hope that struck me - customary emotions for an outsider witnessing such an event - but humility.

As a transactional attorney, I often spend days drafting complicated agreements between sophisticated parties memorializing complex arrangements, purchases and sales.  The ensuing legal fees incurred by those parties are often substantial.  But here were a dozen parties, unrepresented by counsel, buying and selling shares in a business entity of their own imagination, borrowing funds, and paying back principal and interest all without lengthy contracts or corporate authority.

Fortunately, once back at home I was able to convince myself that business attorneys perform an indispensable service for the companies they represent, but I could not help but think that maybe the ladies of that particular village were better off without “advice of counsel.”

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Savings for Life™ works by educating trainers to mobilize and train groups of community members in how to build and manage their own savings fund.  As the savings fund accumulates, group members access small loans from the fund to finance business or consumption needs.  Loans have fixed terms and are repaid with a service fee, which is retained within the group in order to grow the group’s savings fund and provide a return on their savings.  Groups are self-managed and set their own policies for their operations. To support a Savings Group, click here.