In this article, taken from our quarterly newsletter, Morten Kjær Kofoed, International Leader of the Baptist Union of Denmark, describes his work with some of the most vulnerable communities in Burundi and Rwanda. Click here to download the whole newsletter as a pdf.

By Morten Kjær Kofoed

“Dignified empowerment of the poor and Kingdom work. This is how we describe our engagement in Africa.”

Since 1928, the Baptist Union of Denmark (BUD) has been present, first in Burundi and later on in Rwanda, with the Good News for our African brothers and sisters. We adhere to holistic mission and consider mission and diaconal work as two sides of the same coin. In partnership with churches from the Baptist Union of Burundi and the Association of Baptist Churches in Rwanda – two networks that APF also works with – we support training of pastors and evangelists; we build churches and we do a wide range of development projects that all bring dignity to the least privileged and glorifies our God. It is our vision that all the pastors we train will be able to benefit from the resources available on APF’s eVitabu app.

One thing having most impact in our work currently, are the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs). Through the VSLAs we have seen great impact and transformation! Based in the local congregations, the VSLAs work in the local communities and embrace all vulnerable people, no matter their religious affiliation. In short, the groups are self-managed, they save money together, they provide loans and offer a social fund where needy people can apply for support in difficult times such as sickness in the family or the death of a relative. Normally participants get a return on investment of over 30% of their savings which is pretty good. But when we visit and talk to the participants, what they value even higher than the financial inclusion and empowerment is the sense of fellowship, the raised self-esteem and the belonging to a caring and loving group of people. This is where churches can make a real difference for the most vulnerable.

As children and illiterate women are the most vulnerable in Burundian communities, we include and embrace them in all our work. The churches establish care groups and literacy groups and include marginalised and broken people in the fellowship and community. Together we raise and dignify the people by offering them education, trauma-healing and helping to organise them in associations with a long-term goal of continuous support within groups. We have had remarkable results. Children remain in school and women can support their children with school work. Family relations have been restored and deeper engagement in church is seen. We believe the church can have an impact in all aspects of people’s lives. When honouring them and God
we can do great things!

We also engage in food security projects, prevention of HIV/AIDS, prevention of gender-based violence and family planning. We do it both by training and education but also by addressing the root causes, often related to broken relations with self, with others and with God. By empowering people and restoring relations, we see great impacts and we see that God and his Kingdom are being honoured.

This is an article from our quarterly newsletter. Click here to download the whole document as a pdf.