Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sister Connection Tea and Update

When the Sister Connection Board of Directors was in town last week, we threw a party!

Invitations went out to folks in Washington State who sponsor widows through Sister Connection and, including board members, 75 people showed up! Our guests of honor were Joy Buconyori, the Burundian director, and her daughter La Cherete.

Joy (center) and La Cherete with a few of the staff and board of SC

The tea and goodies were tasty, but hearing from Denise Patch, Sister Connection's American director, was the main course.

Sister Connection  began as a way to provide help to the thousands of widows in Burundi who have experienced not only the loss of their husbands but  the loss of their support and dignity as well. Through the $30 sponsors provide each month, these widows are able to feed, clothe, and educate their children. In addition, many widows have received homes built for them by Sister Connection. (For a one-time gift of $600 these homes, which the women get to help design, are built by local builders.)

The monthly support and the homes they receive through Sister Connection  have significantly changed the lives of the widows and orphans of Burundi, but there are other urgent needs these families have that Sister Connection also addresses.

The spiritual needs of the women and their children are of great concern to the Sister Connection team.
Each summer Sister Connection holds a widow's retreat for the moms and camps for the children and youth. These are times of teaching about God's love, his care for widows, forgiveness (it was genocide that took the lives of thousands of the men in Burundi), and trust. They are times of great healing.

Denise shared at the tea about a young man who came to camp and had the opportunity to speak with one of the counselors."I am angry, always angry," he said. "Can God help me? Why am I so angry?" The counselor pointed out that since he had lost his father, his mother had died, and he himself had been a child soldier, it was natural that he would be so angry. Then the counselor told the young man to put all his anger in a ball and give it to Jesus. After the young man relinquished his anger he said, "This is the first time I have had no anger. It is the first time I have felt peaceful!"

We also heard reports of the women who are starting in business so that they can support their families. Most of the widows start as gardeners, feeding their own families and then getting loans to expand their gardens to sell their produce. Others raise chickens and goats and sell eggs and baby chicks. Still others are learning tailoring or have set up a shop to sell food they have made. Loans are available to help the widows grow their businesses.

This widow gave us one of her chickens
as a gift for visiting her home.
Some of the widow's beautiful baskets
Julie, with an armload of purses and aprons
made by Sister Connection widows

In Burundi, when you don't have a man you are the lowest of the low. But Sister Connection is changing that for widows. Presently there are 650 sponsored widows and 1100 homes that have been funded. (Not all of the homes have been built yet because the rains prevent building for all but a few months of the year, June through September.)

Not only do the homes provide a safe and comfortable place for the widow and her family, they offer protection from thieves who pass by the sturdy homes, thinking surely a man lives with his family in such a fine home. These widows, who are happy and healthy and have clothing and a home, are a testimony that God is taking care of them. After all, who else would have done this for them?

There are 2,100 moms, kids, and young people who will be attending camps this August. The cost for each one is $30. That's $62,000 they need to raise. Denise announced that $16,000 of that had already come in. But that was before those at the tea took an offering for camps. I'm not sure where we stand now!

If you are already a sponsor, consider sending an extra $30 for your widow and each of her kids to attend camp. If you are not already a sponsor, maybe this is the summer you can make a difference in the life of a widow and her family. Go to Sister Connection's website to see how to sponsor a widow!

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