Yesterday I needed some tortillas. So I walked to the widows’ ministry bakery next door and bought a package of 20 whole wheat tortillas. I had to smile when I thought about the history of tortillas becoming available in Kigali.
Fifteen years ago when we first moved to Kigali, Rwanda there were very few things available in stores. The items that were available were very expensive. I made everything from scratch and taught my house help all my recipes. Some of the missionary ladies really liked some of our homemade juice concentrates, peanut butter, jams, breads, and tortillas. So we started selling them from home. Eventually we couldn’t keep up with the demands and had to hire someone to help us. As things evolved, I turned the business over to a trusted Rwandan family and eventually (after 7 years) they moved out of my kitchen and rented their own space. Today they sell their products through the store and restaurant next door that trains and equips widows.
It’s been amazing for me to watch how much hope comes from starting a small business like this one. Many of the people we work with are extremely poor, but they want to work, they want to have something productive to do to provide for their families. Providing an opportunity of work is a ministry of love to our friends and neighbors. Today this business supports a family (the owners) and two other families through the two full time employees that make the products on a daily basis. All three of these families are faithful Christians, and the money they make is used to help feed and clothe their children, pay for the kids education, tithe to their local Friends Church, etc. I can’t say that starting that business was easy, it wasn’t. But the joy of seeing these three families making a living through good hard work, and the joy they have with the opportunities they have been given, make sharing my kitchen for 7 years worth it.
A large part of our work of reconciling people with God has to do with helping them find ways to make a living and support their families. How can a man have peace knowing that there is no way to care for his family? Surely God intends for every person to have productive work. Business and missions go hand in hand. Creating jobs is part of sharing the hope that Jesus has for us as his children.
Contributed by Debby Thomas, Rwanda, Africa