It’s been a difficult season here in Rwanda. Like many places around the world, Rwanda experienced a total lockdown from mid-March to mid-May as cases of COVID-19 began sprouting up in communities across our country. Today, though some communities have begun to reopen, things have not completely returned to normal.
Most church buildings are still closed. Weddings can only have 30 people in attendance. Everyone must wear facemasks whenever we are out and about, and a country-wide curfew that begins at 7 p.m. and ends at 5 a.m. is still in place.
It’s been a difficult time, indeed, but the hardships and restrictions have caused us to think creatively and find new ways to serve the vulnerable and meet their evolving needs.
At World Relief Rwanda, we currently run programs in six different communities through what we call Church Empowerment Zones (CEZs). CEZs are networks of local churches that have come together to serve the most vulnerable. It is through these CEZs that we are able to offer programs in savings, gender equality and agriculture to name a few.
One such community is Nyamasheke District in Western Province Rwanda. Many of our staff who work in Nyamasheke live in a neighboring district that is currently still on total lockdown because of the high number of COVID-19 cases in that area. As a result, our staff are not able to leave their district to go to work in Nyamasheke.
In addition, many of the men and women in Nyamasheke rely on daily wages to meet their basic needs. But when the markets shut down, they had nowhere to sell their goods and missed out on that vital income. It’s been heartbreaking for myself and the rest of our team to see vulnerable people becoming more vulnerable.
But in the midst of this hardship, our team has been so encouraged to see local pastors from the Nyamasheke CEZ come together to continue serving the vulnerable in their communities. Although these pastors rely on the regular tithes and offerings that aren’t currently coming in due to churches being closed, they’ve banded together, mobilized their members and said, “We are going to do the best we can with the resources God has given us to really care for the vulnerable.”
Pastors like the ones from Nyamasheke have really stepped up by providing food to those who have not been able to make an income. Since March, churches from across the six CEZs served 4,056 families. In addition to these families, World Relief provided support to 1,346 families as well as support for 350 pastors and their families.
As we continue to adapt to this evolving situation in Rwanda, our team has drawn strength from scripture like this one found in 1 Corinthians 15:58 — “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
We’d ask that you continue to pray for us in Rwanda — for the health and safety of our staff as they carry out programs in compliance with social distancing measures; and for the pastors with whom we partner, that they would continue to discern and pursue God’s will in this difficult season.
Moses Ndahiro serves as the Country Director for World Relief Rwanda. He is passionate about addressing the roots of human problems and unlocking people’s potential to fulfill their God-given purposes.