Jilbert used to live on the streets in a small town in eastern Rwanda. He fled home because his parents were beating him – it was too much. He was just eight years old.
‘I didn't have anywhere to sleep. I spent seven years in that life. I had to steal food to survive,’ recalls Jilbert.
One night, he had a dream. ‘I saw a man clothed in white. He greeted me and said, "How are you?" I said, "I'm fine." He had something in his hand to give me. I didn’t know what it was. I woke up – the man had gone. I got up and carried on with my life, stealing food and trying to survive.’
A few days later, Jilbert had the same dream again. He decided to find a ‘man of God’ at the church nearby to help him explain what it meant.
‘I started telling him about the dreams, and he told me “God came to visit you to give you salvation, but you refused.”’
Jilbert decided he wanted to come to church, and was particularly interested in joining the choir. He got chatting with some young choir members and they invited him to the next Sunday service.
‘I was wearing dirty clothes but I came to the church and was welcomed.’
‘My wedding was very miraculous. The church was like a family.’
One of the congregation offered to buy him a new shirt and another got him new trousers. Before he could join the choir, he spent a year being mentored and discipled. ‘Because they knew my behaviour, they wanted to see if I'm really changing or not,’ Jilbert explains.
There was a woman in the choir who Jilbert got to know and began to date. They got engaged.
‘I didn’t have money and didn’t know how I would prepare for a wedding as it’s so expensive. So I approached the church and shared the problem I had. The church leaders told Jilbert: “We are like a family. We are going to support you. We have hands to help. We have the resources. We are going to support you.”’
Standing in the gap
Jilbert was asked to prepare a budget for the wedding and then the church’s self-help groups raised money for him. The church has had training from Tearfund partner the Anglican Church Kigali Diocese to help set up and facilitate these savings groups.
‘My wedding was very miraculous. The church was like a family,’ proclaims Jilbert. ‘They were standing in the gap of the family I could have had.’
Life was on the up for Jilbert. Someone from the church gave him a bicycle, which he committed to repaying the cost of within six months. This was what he needed to start a small business – a taxi cooperative.
There are now 71 members (including 18 from his church and 53 from the community) who can take one passenger at a time on the back of their bikes.
‘We are really thankful to the church and its small groups because they are always supporting us and training us.
‘We have a dream to one day buy a motorcycle,’ says Jilbert.
We give you praise for bringing new life and purpose to Jilbert, and for the faithful members of his church. Thank you that you are more than able to turn lives of despair into lives of joy. We ask that you would help other people in Rwanda who don’t yet have this hope and opportunity. May our church partners be able to carry on serving you, being your hands and feet in this nation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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