‘When I slept, I would lay down on old clothes. I didn’t have a mattress. I was really desperate, I was very poor. I didn't have a life at all.’
Valerie is 65 years old. She lives with three of her grandchildren on the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda. Valerie was widowed in 1997 when her husband was murdered for his bike – just after he'd bought it. It left Valerie in a dire situation, sad and struggling to make ends meet.
‘I felt shame coming to church because I didn't have good clothes to wear', she says. But in the end she was glad she came along, because it was at the Good News Church where she met a group of women who helped turn her life around.
The Tuzamurane group, which translates into English as ‘Lifting Each Other’, meet regularly to read the Bible, chat and pray. They all look out for each other.
'The first thing I did when I woke was to praise God.’
Tearfund partner African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) has been working with the church to help set up and train self-help groups like this one. Known as Church and Community Transformation (CCT), the programmes began here in 2017.
When the Lifting Each Other group met Valerie, they heard of her plight and reached out to her. They offered her new clothes so she felt confident in coming to church without any shame. They also bought her a mattress from their own savings which they pooled together.
It was a special moment, as Valerie recalls: ‘One day they came as a group to my home. We took time to sing and praise God and study the Bible. Then, after that, they asked me, “Where can we put your mattress?" And I showed them my room. They made my bed with good sheets and put the mattress down.
‘It was like I was on the top of the ceiling because I was so happy for what they did for me. I hugged them and we sang and praised God.’
And did she sleep well the first night?
‘With my grandchildren, we slept very well on that mattress. Imagine sleeping on a mattress for the first time. We slept like babies. The first thing I did when I woke was to praise God.’
The group also taught her new cooking skills, so she had plenty of nourishing food for her grandchildren.
Valerie is keen to tell her story of how she joined the Lifting Each Other group, so that others can share the hope she has found through this church community. ‘They are there for me, and I’m there for them,’ she says.
- Thank God for how he’s helped Valerie to turn her life around through the friendship and support of the Lifting Each Other group.
- Pray that Tearfund’s partner, AEE, will be able to help more groups like this one, to form in churches across Rwanda.
- As Rwanda marks 25 years since the genocide, pray that God will continue to heal this nation and bring people together.