‘Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart…’ (Psalm 24:3-4)
Who may go anywhere during coronavirus times? Hopefully he/she who has soaped their hands thoroughly!
Through Jesus, spiritually clean hands and a pure heart are quite straightforward. The cleansing has already been completed on the cross for us. It’s the ultimate one-time-washes-all blood sacrifice that we only have to accept in order for it to be eternally effective.
Cleaning actual hands is a little more tricky. They need to be washed well and often with soap and water.
For Bernadette in the Central African Republic (CAR), soap was about to be her lifeline. She didn’t realise it might literally be saving lives too.
Bernadette is 43. She’s a mum of seven and a farmer. That’s more than enough to keep anyone busy and Bernadette was struggling. Her husband is out of a job and though she worked hard, they just weren't making enough money to support the family. It was so frustrating.
Then Bernadette joined a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA).
These groups are supported by some of Tearfund’s UK Aid Match funding and we run them in partnership with another Christian nonprofit organisation. Their goal is to give 10,000 vulnerable women in CAR the skills and power to make changes in their circumstances.
In the groups, the women receive literacy, numeracy and career and business training, helping increase their ability to earn money and support themselves and their families. Through this, livelihoods are being restored and hope is being built where conflict and/or generations of poverty have stolen them.
Apart from the financial benefits, empowering these women is a vital tool for challenging underlying cultural discrimination – giving them a voice where they may not traditionally have had one.
Scrubbing up well
At first, Bernadette took a small loan to start a business selling cassava, but she soon realised that it wasn’t going to work. Too many other people were doing exactly the same thing and the market wasn’t big enough to provide her with a decent income.
The business training group encouraged her to look for new opportunities and gaps where there might be a demand for something she could supply.
‘I had to think how I could make more money,’ says Bernadette. ‘Then, I decided to start a different business of making and selling soap.’
Bernadette didn’t know anything about making soap, but her friend Synthia had learnt exactly that skill from a course Tearfund had run. Bernadette took another loan from the business group, bought all the ingredients she needed and, after a few demonstrations from her friend, started producing soap and selling it at her local market.
Not only is Bernadette able to afford the things she needs, but in a world full of the fear of coronavirus, Bernadette’s new skill is providing a product that is essential for the saving of lives.
In Tearfund’s coronavirus response in CAR, plans are being made for us to begin purchasing soap from women like Bernadette who have set up businesses through our programmes. It will then form part of what we distribute to schools and other public places, where washing hands properly is a huge weapon in the fight against the spread of the virus.
Bernadette says her hope has increased. ‘I once thought I was lost,’ she says, but now she thanks God for her life, her family, for the Tearfund project which provided training and a loan... and for the support of her good friend.
- Pray for Bernadette and her family – that they will all be healthy, that her business will continue to grow, and that using the soap she makes will help protect people from getting ill.
- Lift up women who are being empowered to start small businesses and earn an income in the Central African Republic. Ask God that their voices will be heard.
- Pray for all people in CAR as the threat of coronavirus grows. Ask God for his comfort in the face of fear and for his mercy that the outbreak would be halted.