Edith's Story - Written by Simon Dufitumukiza, Country Director


Edith Mugirasoni was born in the Bugesera District of Eastern Rwanda in 1977. She was the youngest of nine children. Edith had a very self-reliant family since they owned many cows and enough land to produce plenty of food. Her three brothers were teachers at a primary school and Edith loved studying very much. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi happened when she was in the second year of secondary school. Every child in Edith’s family had a vision for the future and her big vision was to study and have many degrees. These good people, who had been enjoying the blessing of being members of such a beautiful family, were forced to die. All of their visions and plans ended there. The entire family was exterminated except for Edith and one of her brothers.  They continue to live with terrible memories of the Genocide.

During the Genocide, Edith and her family went to hide in Ntarama Catholic Cathedral, only 300 meters from Edith’s home, with hope that no one would dare kill people inside a church. The church didn’t slow the perpetrators from their killing. God saved them that day and they fled to hide in the swamp of papyrus and marsh plants. The swamp was filled with snakes and biting insects and many people drowned in these swamps before they were killed. Edith and her family had no choice but to go into that impossible place. This is where most of Edith’s family was killed, along with thousands of other people. After torturing Edith in different ways, they cut her with machetes and threw her on the pile of dead bodies, believing that she was also dead. By God's grace she was still breathing! As the killers kept adding other dead people to the pile, Edith was buried and spent 3 days unconsciously hiding there. It is still very difficult for her have hope for the future even to expect that there are people who exist who can love her and give her a value as a human being.

As a result, Edith has been living with very serious trauma. Through God and the counselling program at True Vineyard Ministries, there is hope that she will slowly be healed.  Empowered by the counselling program, for the first time since she left Bugesera in 2000, Edith agreed to return during the memorial period this month, to join other people in remembrance.  This is something Edith has been avoiding for a very long time. The counsellors helped her understand it was important for her to return to that place and meet other people and hear other stories about the genocide.  Understandably, it was difficult for Edith. The counsellors tried to console her as she saw and remembered every place where she witnessed family members being killed. She believes it was helpful to return to the place where she survived.

Because of the tremendous trauma, Edith was not able to continue her studies even though she was a very intelligent student. This is something that troubles her very much. When she tried to study again, she couldn’t perform well because of post-traumatic disorders. Her hope seems to have been lost completely.  However, there is expectation that through continued counselling, God will restore her hope.

Edith joined True Vineyard Ministries two years ago.  She is a very good spinner of yarn and also has a gift of sewing.  Edith now dreams of owning a sewing workshop and we hope she will be encouraged to pursue this dream through our micro-finance program.

Below: Edith visits the papyrus swamp with a priest earlier this month


Marie Claire: The Story of a Counselor, Friend, & Caretaker


A few weeks ago, I was asked by a colleague to write an article about one of our two full time counselors, Marie Claire. From our limited interactions during our weekly staff meetings, I established a great deal respect for her and was honored to take on the task. After gathering the information needed to write the blog I came to the following conclusion: Her journey is incredible. Her strength compelling. Her faith extraordinary.

Marie Claire was born in 1960 to a large family. During secondary school, she found an interest in the field of education and pursued it throughout her career. Four years after completing secondary school, she was married and was abundantly blessed with four children (3 boys and 1 girl). In 1994 everything came to halt. With Rwanda’s tumultuous government and the Genocide, Marie Claire sought refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a challenging year living in a refugee camp, but through God she persevered.

After one year, she returned to Rwanda and continued her work with the Shyira Diocese Women’s Ministry. Marie Claire experienced many opportunities to enhance her professional and academic life. After she returned to Rwanda, she connected with World Vision.  Through their Healing Program, she was equipped to provide basic counseling services to her community.  She still yearned to learn English and increase her proficiency in the Bible. Through God’s grace, she received a scholarship and continued her education with All Nations Theological Seminaries (ANTS).

However, as the old adage goes “sometimes there is a tragedy, and it is then that we find our purpose.” In 1998 she tragically lost her husband to post genocide insurgencies and immediately became the primary caretaker and breadwinner of her family. She also began to care for a destitute widow with HIV and four orphans, increasing her household to nine individuals. Regardless of her limited basic and financial resources, she was compassionate, faithful and continued to submit all her burdens to God.

If we are aspirant, trials and tribulations can be our greatest asset. For Marie Claire, her trials and tribulations led her to True Vineyard Ministries. In March 2014, she began working as a part-time counselor. She had much to learn about our 44 widows and slowly began to establish the rapport needed to effectively console and counsel them. By January 2015, Marie Claire was hired as a full-time counselor. Her successful counseling methods positively impacted the widows and their emotional, professional, spiritual and interpersonal growth.


Marie Claire knows that counseling is her calling and gift from God. Through it she is determined to create long-term growth and healing. This is her way of testifying God’s grace and His truth. She remains optimistic on behalf of the widows and believes that through counseling and training other counselors, the ladies can be permanently transformed. Finally, she wishes to be a spiritual asset to the staff, widows and her own family. Marie Claire hopes that one day she can organize and facilitate spiritual conferences so that others might know Jesus and experience the life changing effects of salvation.  So who is Marie Claire? She is a dedicated Christian counselor, with the goal to set others free from the bondage of trauma and pain.

Sowing Seeds: Legacy of Garland Warren

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!

Many Blessings-

Diana


#LoveGives

February has already proven to be a wonderful month for True Vineyard Ministries! Our new flock of Merino sheep has finally arrived in Rwanda and we are very excited about finally having a good source of wool for our ladies! 
With more sheep comes the need for more land. We are presently working on collaborations with two other organizations who have a presence in Rwanda. We hope to announce these collaborations soon!  Thank you so much for your continued prayers for our organization as we seek to go where God is leading.

February also means it is time for our 13th  Annual Chocolate-covered Strawberry Sale! All pre-orders qualify to receive FREE delivery in the San Marcos/New Braunfels area! Please help us spread the word about this important fundraiser and hashtag #LoveGives on your social media!

Please stay up to date with all of your news by following us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/TrueVineyardMinistries

Sheep Update!

Our Rwandan team is preparing to receive 100 new Merino sheep arriving from Kenya in the next few weeks!  New collaborations regarding our arriving flock are currently in development and will be announced soon. We are looking forward to creating more job oportunites for more of the "least of these" in Rwanda. Stay tuned...

Merry Christmas From True Vineyard Ministries!

True Vineyard Ministries has had a phenomenal year! Under God’s guidance the organization continues to advance. I want to take this opportunity to update you on our successes in 2014 and also share the exciting developmental plans He has laid before us for 2015.

Currently, we support 44 widows economically through a program called Handspun Hope in Northern Rwanda.  The women earn salaries from crafting organically dyed yarn, produced from the wool of our own flock of Merino sheep.  The yarn is then sold to socially responsible business partners and at our retail store, TheVineyard Marketplace in San Marcos, Texas.

Last year, we began collaborating with Kate Spade & Company, a national design and retail business based in New York. Kate Spade & Company began their own cooperative, employing 150 artisans in Masoro, Rwanda in 2014. These artisans assemble products for the Kate Spade & Company On Purpose brand. The ladies employed by True Vineyard created the yarn used for a selection of their holiday products, which debuted in the Jack Spade  stores on November 14! In 2015, we will continue our partnership to create the only products completely sourced in Rwanda for the On Purpose brand.

   Due to an increased demand for our yarn, we saw a need to increase our flock of Merino sheep. In November, we launched a capital campaign through social media to fund the cost of importing new sheep. This campaign was so effective that we were able to purchase 100 more sheep for our flock in just seven days!  These sheep are currently in Kenya under quarantine and will arrive in Rwanda at the end of this month. With such a tremendous blessing, we are in pursuit of more land, fencing and sheds. Enlarging the flock will also require hiring two additional shepherds, bringing our current staff to 60 full-time employees in Rwanda!

Most importantly, our objective is to provide positive emotional, mental and spiritual support to our ladies who continue to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress due to genocide, extreme poverty, homelessness, HIV and hunger. For the past two years a focused team has worked to develop an intensive counseling program for our ladies. In August, we hired a full-time Rwandese Psychologist, Olive Muhanimana, who has continued to improve our counseling program. Olive has also continued developing the Lay Counselor Training Program, established in 2013, which equips local leaders to administer trauma counseling. Last summer, the second class graduated from the 10-week course and now there are 38 Lay Counselors offering counseling in their respective communities. Homeless children, persons with disabilities and families who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS are just some of the recipients of the free trauma counseling.

In 2015 we will be implementing a microfinance program that will encourage long-term financial freedom for our 44 ladies. For women who apply and qualify, True Vineyard will be granting individual loans. This opportunity will equip the women to create personal savings accounts, develop leadership skills, maximize profits, and invest more fully in the future of their families. The loans will be repaid with a low interest rate, ensuring the funds will continue to grow and be available for future business opportunities. Once a woman achieves financial independence, she will be encouraged to pursue her own entrepreneurial endeavors. True Vineyard will then fill her position with another woman who is marginalized and is seeking to holistically improve her life. This cycle of employment opportunity for impoverished women will ensure long-term impact and involvement in the surrounding community.

Our continued accomplishments in Rwanda would not be attainable without the financial support of dedicated donors. We humbly ask for your financial support in 2015 through a widow sponsorship or a year-end gift. Gifts may be made online or mailed to our office address below. There is no gift too small as we follow God’s lead to ensure these women are equipped spiritually, emotionally and economically through Jesus Christ.

On behalf of the entire team at True Vineyard Ministries, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Blessings,

Diana Wiley

Executive Director