“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Isaac is a young pastor in Rwanda who has a passion for educating and caring for vulnerable children with disabilities. Pastor Isaac greeted us, an Orphan Care PEACE trip team of men from Saddleback Church, with his infectious bright smile, he graciously showed us the Presbyterian church that he pastors, and the adjoined school for disabled children that he started as a ministry of his church. He was unashamed to share that although he does not have much experience with disabled children, he knows he has been appointed by God to help them. Isaac walks by faith in obedience to Christ, ministering to his community in a very real and powerful way. He has a vision to grow the school, to expand the hours, and to be able to offer more help for disabled children who come with all sorts of special physical and mental needs.
We followed Isaac down the red dirt roads in the community he serves, and he led us to a very small residence. We were welcomed inside a dark, small living room that was lined with a small couch, a few chairs, and a wheelchair that sat in the corner. This is home to a young mother, Yvonne, and her two children, ages 11 and 7. This brave young woman welcomed 8 strangers from this PEACE team into her humble living room and began to share her life story. Brave and vulnerable, this young woman did not hesitate to share her story of pain, fear, poverty, rejection, desperation, and the hope that the local church now gives her.
Yvonne mother became pregnant as a teenager and gave birth to a disabled son who did not make a sound for the first 3 months of his life. As a teenage mother, she remained in the hospital with her newborn son for 3 months, without work and without support. Miraculously, an anonymous person paid for her very costly medical fees and she was released from the hospital with her son. Not willing to bear the burden of raising a disabled son, her husband left her to raise her son alone. This caused her to take extreme measures in order to provide for her family. Yvonne admits to having to lock her son in a room so that she could go find work. While her son was caged, she would sell drugs in desperation to earn money. Four years later, she gave birth to her second son and continued to sell drugs. Eventually, she was arrested and was sent to prison along with both her sons. Once released from prison, she would continue to lock her children up so that she could go find work. Prostitution eventually became the way that she would make ends meet. A life of prostitution led to fear, anger, and shame, but it was the only way Yvonne knew how to provide for herself and her children. She was hopeless, yet she desperately fought to survive.
Pastor Isaac and his church learned of this situation and wanted to offer this family real lasting hope. Pastor Isaac invited Yvonne and her children to his church. Together, the church was able to come alongside this struggling family, piecing together the funds enabling her son to enroll in the school for disabled children. The church is also ensuring that this young mother has her basic needs met so that this family will remain intact. Church volunteers help teach her how to care for her children, with training they have received from visiting Saddleback Church volunteers. Without hope, many families abandon their children, leaving them as orphans; but the local church, the hands and feet of Jesus, offers hope.
The church works with families in order to prevent anyone from becoming an orphan. As the local church rises up, encourages, and helps support struggling families, many children (especially disabled children) are able to remain in their family of origin. Making sure that children remain in their family origin is a key strategy of the Orphan Care Initiative of the PEACE Plan. This young mother can now be a mother to her children, she has hope, and her disabled son has recently been able to learn to sing and is learning to write! Praise God!
The church in action brings amazing hope, transformation, and healing. This family is now tangibly receiving physical, spiritual, and emotional support because their local church stepped up and was equipped.