In late 2006, God had been stirring Rwanda in the very core of my being for about 2 years. He finally “connected the dots” for me with a former colleague from my years at Pitney Bowes. Phil Smith and his wife Becca were relocating to Kigali, Rwanda, where Phil had accepted the position of Country Director for World Relief Organization in Rwanda. After convincing them that God was indeed calling me to Rwanda, as well (and I wasn’t completely crazy), they agreed to host me for a vision trip. It was wonderful to finally know that something God had breathed into me was finally going to come to fruition.
I had already been volunteering my summers in Mozambique where I lead capital campaigns and mission trips to serve Chicuque Hospital, a rural hospital serving a community of over 500,000 people in southeastern Mozambique. In late 2006, I had made application to form a nonprofit organization to better support the work in Mozambique, knowing God was placing Rwanda deeply in my heart.
I was thrilled God was ready to bring me to Rwanda. I had enough frequent flyer miles saved (from flying to Mozambique) to get me to Johannesburg, South Africa, which incidentally, is the wrong route to travel if you are going to Rwanda. I now needed to raise the funds to get from Johannesburg to Kigali.
A very dear man, Garland Warren, is someone I had known for awhile. After hearing me speak about my plan to go to Rwanda, Garland quickly offered funds to help me with the rest of my ticket. Garland sowed seeds into True Vineyard Ministries before we were ever officially a nonprofit organization.
Many mornings after my return, I would go and have coffee in his restaurant at Centerpoint Station. We would often pray together and share what God was doing in our lives. What I knew of Garland Warren was that he pretty much sowed seeds anywhere he felt God led him, until his death in 2010.
Since that vision trip in June 2007, my life has never been the same. The future work of True Vineyard Ministries was imbedded deeply into my life. God had surrounded me with loving friends to support my efforts and more importantly, a family and husband who understood the incredible calling he had placed on my life. To date, True Vineyard Ministries is supporting 58 people in fulltime employment in Rwanda, 44 of those, women who were made vulnerable by genocide, subsequent civil wars and HIV/AIDS. Today, through seeds Garland planted in our ministry, 235 people are being fed, clothed, educated and counseled.
In 2009, after seeing the financial support that could be raised for TVM through reselling products we purchased in Africa, our Board of Directors prayed and voted to rent a small house on San Antonio Street in San Marcos. It was to be called The Vineyard Marketplace and its purpose was to help us cover the administrative costs of a local office for me. That was over 6 years ago. My, how God has changed the purpose of that little store!
The Vineyard Marketplace has become an arm of our ministry, now supporting organizations and artisans in nine African nations. Sales from the store support women in sewing cooperatives, which employ genocide survivors, women who have been made vulnerable by the sex trade, and women with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the store supports orphan-headed household organizations, one employing the deaf in Kenya, as well as individual artisans in all of the nations where we shop. It is remarkable how the store has grown. 100% of the funds produced by the store are reinvested in the ministry in some capacity.
About two years ago, we literally outgrew our space and had to move much of our back stock and fixtures to storage. We began searching and praying that God would reveal a “new” perfect place, at a price we could afford. Each time we thought we had found the right location, it didn’t work out, either because the price was too high or the location was not conducive for what we felt we needed.
In early January, my two incredible staff members and I went out of town for a 2015 strategic planning meeting. We spent a large amount of time praying for wisdom. We asked God to lead us to the place he wanted us to have as our new location. We promised to trust him, even if it meant we had to stay on San Antonio Street for another year. Within hours, God laid a very specific location on my heart – an old general store that Garland had moved behind Centerpoint Station and used as his private museum.
We began to pray over this location, knowing it was not available for lease, but knowing this is where God was calling us. I contacted Garland’s daughter, who I did not know and began to converse with her about the possibility. We prayed for God to open the door for us…and he did!
On June 1, 2015, we will be moving operations to Garland’s general store, directly across from Starbuck’s, behind Centerpoint Station in San Marcos! We are thrilled with the potential this will mean for the ministry and know that it will bless us, our women in Rwanda and the many organizations we support in Africa!
We ask for your continued prayers as we follow God’s leading for this miracle for our ministry!