We all love a good friendship. The Bible is full of stories of how friendships can be transformational, including unlikely ones.
Take Jesus and Zacchaeus – the sinless man and the allegedly corrupt tax collector. There’s also Ruth and Naomi, one of few stories with the mother-in-law cast in a positive light! And Jonathan and David, rivals to the throne turned best friends.
At Tearfund, we’re passionate about building and restoring relationships: bonds between people and God, people and other people, and people and our planet. We believe this is key in the fight against poverty. With that in mind, and with International Day of Friendship on 30 July, we’ve been celebrating some unlikely friendships of our own…
Lazaro and Abdou
You may have read this story already, but it’s so good we’re telling it again! Lazaro and Abdou grew up amid bitter and violent conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). From rival villages, they were taught from a young age to fear one another.
Our local partner staff are committed to building peace and restoring unity in CAR, using many creative means, including sport. Through their love of football, Lazaro and Abdou are coming together, learning slowly to trust one another by playing on the same team. They even meet between matches to train and plan tactics.
Through sport we can come to understand each other more and have a common goal – to win the match,’ says Lazaro. ‘We want to heal, and we want to live in peace,’ Abdou adds.
Hannah, Grace and Dy Wen
When Hannah and Grace travelled to Cambodia to volunteer for Tearfund partner Cambodian Hope Organisation (CHO), they expected language to be a barrier. As it happens, language wasn’t much of a barrier at all, and the girls formed bonds deeper than they could have imagined.
Hannah and Grace met Dy Wen working at a community cafe run by CHO. Dy Wen seemed shy at first, but the girls soon became firm friends. ‘Through outrageous facial expressions, unspoken games and laughter, we have found a way to communicate,’ says Hannah.
It feels crazy to think of the stark differences between us and Dy Wen – how many worlds apart our childhoods were, how much harder she had to strive to be where she is now and how much more uncertain her future is,’ says Grace.
But, ultimately, if you forget everything else, we’re just teenagers who love to laugh, pull faces at each other across a café and are united in the silliest things. This is a friendship we’ll cherish for years to come.
Christophe, the Hutus and the Tutsis
Christophe Mbonyingabo is a Tearfund Inspired Individual who specialises in cultivating friendships where before there were the deepest of rifts.
Twenty-three years on from the Rwandan genocide, inspired by the gospel message of forgiveness, Christophe has started a powerful ministry to bring about reconciliation between the Hutus and Tutsis. One of his projects is Cow for peace.
We provide one cow, which is shared by these two people, a perpetrator [of violence] and a victim,’ says Christophe. ‘They take care of the cow together, and this becomes a bridge that allows them to meet on a regular basis and continue their journey of forgiveness.’
Christophe admits that this journey can be tough for everyone involved. ‘But the community sees how former enemies now are working and visiting one another and that has a powerful effect – they see what’s possible.
When the cow has a calf, victim and perpetrator share the milk. And when the calf has grown, the survivor gives this calf to the offender as a sign of true forgiveness.'
So let’s give thanks for these and countless other friendships being birthed, nurtured and cherished through the work of Tearfund’s staff, partners and volunteers around the world as they follow Jesus where the need is greatest. And let’s pray that we’re never closed to the possibility of a new friendship – even an unlikely one.