Saying Grace for the World

Saying Grace for the World

This Thanksgiving, as we each reflect on our blessings and the bounty we have, will you join me in also praying for the world? Below are five table graces incorporating prayers of thanks and prayers for service and justice. If you have a special Thanksgiving table grace, share it with us in the comments!

May this Thanksgiving be a time to recommit ourselves to empowering others, living compassionately, and putting God’s Spirit into action through serving and praying for the world. Happy Thanksgiving!

Different ethnic groups share a meal together in Rwanda

Different ethnic groups share a meal together in Rwanda - SIA creates community!

1. Give us grateful hearts, O Lord, for all thy mercies,
and make us mindful of the needs of others;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(1928 Book of Common Prayer)

2. To those who hunger,
Give bread;
To those who have bread,
Give the hunger for justice. Amen.
(Latin America Prayer)

3. Make us worthy, Lord,
To serve those people
Throughout the world who live and die
In poverty and hunger.
Give them, through our hands
This day their daily bread,
And by our understanding love,
Give peace and joy.
(Mother Theresa)

4. For food in a world where many walk in hunger
For faith in a world where many walk in fear
For friends in a world where many walk alone
We give you humble thanks, oh Lord.
(World Hunger Grace)

Women cook a meal together (Rwanda)

Women cook a meal together (Rwanda)

5. Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some cannot eat that want it;
But we have meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thanked.
(The Selkirk Grace by Robert Burns; Scotland)

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Don’t know much about the DRC

What have you heard about the Democratic Republic of Congo? Maybe you know that it’s one of the places where the Spirit in Action Small Business Fund gives families the opportunity to expand their livelihood. Or maybe you’ve heard about the many women there who are raped in the ongoing conflict over minerals. Did you read that actor Ben Affleck is calling for a US envoy to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)? Perhaps you know the country as Zaire, as it was called 1971-1997.

Rather than falling into the trap of lumping all of “Africa” together in my mind or only relying on stories of violence and hopelessness in the news, this week I set out to find out more about DRC.

Searching Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook, I found that DRC spans the equator in the heart of the sub-Sahara and is about 1/4th the size of the US. It’s the 12th largest country in the world by size and the fourth most populous country in Africa. French is the official language but there are 242 other languages that people speak in DRC, including Swahili. About 90% of the population is Christian.

Those are just some quick facts, what about stories of the people? “From Congo with Love” is a beautiful photo slideshow, put together by photographer Rankin and Oxfam, of ordinary people in DRC. (Click here to for 2-minute slideshow.)

In addition to taking his own photos, Rankin also gave out disposable cameras and taught them how to take photos. Through their photos of what they love  – families, people working, women walking – you can really see people from DRC through the eyes of their loved-ones.

The Spirit in Action partners that coordinate the SIA Small Business Fund (SBF) in DRC live in the eastern part of DRC, near the city of Bukavu and the border with Rwanda. Francois Hamuli, a SIA SBF Coordinator, lives on an island in Lake Kivu in the “Great Lakes” region. They have their mail sent to Rwanda because that is more reliable than the DRC international mail.

DRC veterans repair shoesAs “From Congo with Love” mentions, many people host non-family members in their homes and care for those who have been displaced because of the violence. Many returning refugees (like the men pictured to the left) seek SIA Small Business Fund grants eager to learn a new skill and find stability in their lives. They find hope through these new businesses.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look into the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is so much more to learn about DRC and the rest of the countries where SIA works!

Stay tuned, I’ll do another country profile soon!

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SIA SBF Coordinators in the DRC

Small Business Fund Coordinators in the DRC. L to R: Jacob Lipandasi, Benoit Malenge, Francois Hamuli

Old Laptops Gain New Life in DRC

DRC Coordinators using laptopLast year, just before Christmas, Jacob Lipandasi, the SIA Small Business Fund (SBF) Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) received a gift in the mail – a laptop computer. Since then, Jacob has used the laptop, which was donated to SIA, to greatly benefit his community and SIA.

As a SIA SBF Coordinator, Jacob receives a small stipend to cover office expenses associated with sending reports and keeping in touch with the SIA office, however, this amount is rarely enough to cover all costs. Before the gift of the laptop, Jacob had to travel a great distance and pay $1-3 USD/hour to use a computer at an internet cafe. As a result, his emails were brief and often a long time passed between our letters.

The laptop greatly improved his experience. Now Jacob can write his reports and letters to SIA at home on the laptop. He can take his time to write thoughtful responses and take time to figure out the English phrases he may not know (they speak French in the DRC). Then he puts the letters on a flash drive and brings that to the Internet cafe, which means he only has to pay for as much time as it takes to get online and send out his letters. I’ve been impressed by how much more thorough his reports are now that he can compose letters on his own time without having to pay for every second on the computer.

Not wanting to keep this great gift all for himself, Jacob Lipandasi gets together with his wife Jacky Buhoro and SIA SBF Coordinators Benoit Malenge (DRC) and Francois Hamuli (Rwanda) once a month to “Share the Gift” by giving them computer training lessons. Above they are pictured meeting to discuss their work with SIA, practice their English, learn to use Word and Excel, and pray together.

When Ric Shafer contacted us offering to donate his old laptop he warned that it worked fine but was slow. However, Jacob reports that the “laptop is doing miracles in our life”!

We never know how we are able to help someone else, or how much good a small gesture can do, until we do it – that’s Spirit in action!

Businesses Thrive in Rwanda

I am always so impressed with how a $150 grant can not only give a family a chance to learn a skill or trade, but also improve their quality of life. In June, I received One-Year Reports from the ten Rwandan small businesses started with SIA Small Businesses Fund grants in 2008.

These reports detail the progress of each business group under the guidance of Francois Hamuli, all of which are continuing to thrive and reinvest to expand their operations. Hamuli regularly visits the groups throughout the year, checking in with them and encouraging them. At the end of one year, Hamuli helps the group members, many of whom do not know how to write, complete their final report to the SIA Office. Once I receive the reports in French, Beatrice Easter, a native French speaker, translates the reports to English.

Women with cassava flour

That is all a lot of backstory to share with you these very exciting reports from SIA Small Businesses in Rwanda! Here are some highlights:

Turwenya Ubukene: Cassava Business

“After two years of activity the group has continued to provide the cassava [staple food] for my community. The members are able to educate, feed and clothe their children.”

Women cooking cassavaTujimbere: Flour Retail Business

In two years of activity the group is coming to share blessings with certain orphans. This month they visited two families that take care of the orphans.

fuel sales

Ibiza: Retail Fuel Business

Two members of this group came to buy everyone a little part of a field for a communal garden and two goats. What a testimony to the village! Transportation of the product to market is aided by motorized canoes.

woman has fresh fish for sale

Witonde: Sewing Clothes

The activities of this group are running. They bought two sewing machines. They nourish their families. Now members of my community can easily find clothes. It is the joy that reigns.

A B’mana: Fresh Fish Sales

Members of this group are happy to see that their children are healthy because they can eat fresh fish, which was reserved only for the rich before.

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