Rwanda: World Relief Recap #4 – MY BUDDY!!!!

March 5, 2009 at 4:40 pm (Uncategorized)


As promised, this post is on my buddy from Rwanda and some of the things I learned from him.  As I mentioned earlier, we were all paired up with a staff member from World relief, of whom we were to get to know before we left, spend time learning about their job while we were there, and find ways to encourage and support them. As you can imagine, working for an organization with such a large mission while trying to support a people group that has been through so much trauma can be quite a daunting task. My buddy’s name is Celestin Gatera and he is in charge of the Micro-finance division of World Relief. What does that mean? Let me explain.

Most people in Rwanda have little to no money, and when they do have it, they spend it. Unlike in the States, the mentality in a lot of places in Africa is “If I have it, use it OR give it away to someone who needs it.” They don’t believe in saving or insurance because there’s too much of a possibility of not ever using it (i.e. what if something happens to me tomorrow? I will have saved for nothing!). Now of course EVERYONE doesn’t think like that, but a very large majority does. Also, if people wanted to save or even apply for a loan, they generally don’t make enough or even have enough collateral to have either approved. I tell you this to help explain what Gatera is working to help. World Relief has created a savings program called “Savings for Life” which is a church centered program that enables families to learn how to start saving small amounts of money and apply for loans to help make purchases. They also do a lot to educate families about how to manage finances effectively AND biblically. Basically, they do this through volunteers who collect and record savings primarily from the wives in participating churches (the wives typically manage family funds and enroll in the programs). Then the program can go to a bank and deposit all the deposits in order to have a large enough account to be active. Then they can make withdrawals and apply for loans that can be divided up between all the parties that want to apply for smaller loans. In a nutshell, it’s like having a bank within a bank.

Now Gatera specifically oversees this program, not just in Rwanda, but also in Burundi and The DR of Congo (now that’s a scary job!). Gatera does a lot a traveling within these three countries, as well as all over the world to speak at national conferences. He showed me his passport and I couldn’t believe all the Visas and entry stamps he had! Oddly enough, he hates traveling because it takes him away from his family. He is married to Josephine and they have 6 kids, Dorcas, Deborah, Nehimiah, Issac, Boaz and Claudine, who they rescued from the bush and took in as one of their own during the genocide.

Talking about his family is a great segue into some of the things I learned from Gatera while I was there. From day one I could tell that he had a lot he wanted me to leave Rwanda with and I’ll do my best to summarize some of that. Community in Africa, means so much more then we ever view it here in the US. In Africa, a family doesn’t raise a child, the community does, and that can mean A LOT of people. I’m talking discipline, special events, going to church…you name it EVERYONE is involved! Everyone chips in to help out and they share EVERYTHING like its no big deal. As I mentioned earlier, if you have something and someone else needs it, they give it to them. If you visit someone UNANNOUCNED and don’t stay for dinner, it’s even more disrespectful then not finishing the food on your plate. I got to see this all first hand because Gatera had me come spend the night at his place one of our last nights in Kigali. As soon as I walked in the door his wife took me by the arm, back into the kitchen to see all the other people that they had helping out to cook and do other chores, and who were also eating with us that night (about 3 large family’s worth!). It was incredible. They are SO passionate about others that it made me think about how we don’t care enough about those, even in our closest community.

Africans also have a great saying that Gatera shared with me that speaks about their pace of life. They say “Americans have watches, but Africans have time.” It was so true and SO refreshing. People there aren’t in a rush and time is relative. One of the reasons we stood out on the street (aside from all being white…) was that we walked super fast! I have to say that one of the things I really miss the most was being able to enjoy every moment of life when we were there instead of rushing to get as much done as possible. It was SO refreshing!

There were so many more things that I took from him and his family that I will never be able to write about, but what I can say is that I’m so thankful for the time and life we got to share with each other and because of it, I have left Africa Forever Changed. Does Africa get everything right? Heavens no, but there are many things we can learn from them if we would only take the time to investigate rather then carry on our American mentality that we know the best ways to fix everyone else’s problems. Thank you Gatera for everything and I can’t wait to see you on your next US Visit!!!


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