After the Rwandan genocide of 1994, 70% of the women in the country found themselves widows. Josse was one of them. Drunk and overwhelmed by life, she stood on her usual corner waiting for customers. She traded the use of her body to feed her starving infant and fill her own empty stomach. An unprotected client impregnated her, resulting in morning sickness and dry heaves, but every night she performed. It was hard to look alluring after two children and four years of hardship.
A Helping Hand
Burdened for women like Josse, Bishop Theophile Rugubira formed the African Hope Initiative in 1998. He combed the streets, determined to help these trapped, desperate individuals find hope. One night he felt drawn to Josse and handed her five dollars. The following week, Theophile approached Josse again and offered her an opportunity. He would give her a $50 microloan to start a legitimate business if she felt she could pay it back in weekly installments over the next four months. Wide-eyed and smiling, she accepted the challenge. After that, Theophile met her weekly and discussed income possibilities, money management, and Jesus.
Encouraged, this young woman rose early, walked to produce wholesalers outside of town, returned to a different corner near her home, and started selling them retail. She had newfound freedom. Doing something good filled her with dignity and added confidence. She repaid her loan, making her eligible for another one.
Other women in her situation also received loans, so she approached three of them with a bold plan. “If we pool our funds, we can start a beauty salon,” she proposed. They agreed, bought a small building in a decent neighborhood, and furnished four stations with pink chairs. The business became a great success.
Theophile continued to demonstrate God’s love and share the message of salvation in Jesus. Hearts softened, and many women of the streets accepted God’s gift of grace and salvation in Jesus. The transition to their new identity as daughters of their heavenly Father far outweighed going from prostitute to business owner. The women experienced emotional and physical healings, and Bible reading renewed their minds.
A Better Life
Today, Josse is 52 years old and married with four children and three grandchildren. Her pink chairs are worn, but her business thrives. Laughter fills the small space as neighbors catch up on each other’s lives. People wait outside for an empty chair. She is an active member of the local church and leads the choir.
Some evenings she returns to those lonely corners to tell sex workers about the loans available and share the gospel. Over the years, more than 50 women have come to Christ and gotten loans because of her witness. With heartfelt thanks, she says, “I feel such joy. I thank the donors who partner with Theophile and African Hope Initiative. The loan changed my life and gave me hope for tomorrow. Please know my family, and I pray for you.”
Today Theophile’s loan program serves more than 100 women, and more than half are former prostitutes. Hundreds more are waiting.
You can help others to earn income, especially women, by purchasing the gift of a sewing machine here from ANM’s Gift Catalog.
Header image: Stock photo.