Payson’s Expedition Church members strive to love people — and act on that love.
Locally that love in action can be found through its contributions to Time Out, Inc., the area food banks and more.
That action went global about three years ago when the congregation agreed to adopt the village of Rwimbogo, Rwanda.
The church’s minister, Donovan Christian, explained the “adoption” was made through the Food for the Hungry (FH) organization.
Food for the Hungry was founded in 1971 in California and is now headquartered in Arizona. It is at work in more than 26 countries worldwide. Initially the primary focus of the organization was on responses to disasters and emergencies, providing immediate and practical relief help such as food, water, clothing, medical care and temporary shelter.
That early work evolved into long-term development work: helping poor communities improve their way of living through sustainable programs in areas such as education, agriculture, health, water, and leadership training.
Christian said the organization’s “holistic” approach is one of the reasons it was selected by the congregation for support. “It was a good fit for us,” he said.
The members of Expedition Church have made a 12-year commitment to Rwimbogo, he said. By the end of that time, it is expected the community and its residents will be self-sustaining.
Since affiliating with FH, the congregation has helped the people of Rwimbogo — which has a population of about 3,000 — build a well to replace the seasonal waterhole from which they were drawing water; buy nine cows; get desks for the school; sponsor nearly 50 of the village’s children providing them with health care, education and more; and now has just launched a campaign to raise $21,500 to build six houses.
The six houses to be constructed over a three-month period will provide shelter for 48 people. Women will head 60 percent of the households assisted.
Rwimbogo was “settled” in 1994 by refugees returning after a conflict in Rwanda had forced them to flee the country. They were essentially “squatters” in the Akagera National Park, which is located near the original site of their community, so there was no infrastructure to support a population.
The FH organization has a representative living and working in the community to make sure the projects go as planned. For Rwimbogo that staff member is Evariste, who visited Expedition Church in October. He was here to give the congregation an update on Rwimbogo.
Evariste’s family survived the initial genocide in the early 1990s that drove the members of the community from the country, but his father was killed a few years later in a subsequent attack. An American who knew his father from work at Akagera, agreed to pay for his university tuition.
Members of Payson’s Expedition Church will be making a visit to Rwimbogo in July, Christian said. He will be among the visitors and is looking forward to it.
“We will be working with the residents in our areas of expertise. For instance, if a teacher is with us, they will work with local teachers; medical people will work with the health care workers; construction people will help with building projects.”
Christian doesn’t know if he will be called upon to do any special training, but he is hopeful the opportunity to work with spiritual leaders in the community will present itself.
To help the congregation with its fund-raising efforts for the building project, contact Christian at (928) 978-9158.