Rwanda, East Africa
From the time I was a little girl, I was drawn to the idea of missions and to service in general. My parents integrated service into our upbringing, and I was given further opportunities through Fairview Village as a youth. In college, I studied Sociology and Urban Studies, with a desire to serve people experiencing poverty. I was thankful to have the opportunity to put that passion into action after graduation by serving neighbors at what is now The Village Norristown. All this experience humbled, taught, and prepared me for further service.
One evening in 2003, I was in a Bible study group where a friend shared facts on world hunger. Although this was information I had heard many times before, I was struck in a new way and felt compelled to action. So I began to pray that the Lord might permit me to serve the poor somewhere in the developing world — somewhere where the poor would literally be my neighbors. And I began to feel that God was shifting my path in that direction.
After much contemplation and searching, I felt drawn to the work of wholistic development — working with the poor to enter God’s wholeness in every part of our lives- physical, spiritual, and relational- using local initiative and local resources. Eventually, that path led me to Food for the Hungry (FH), a Christian relief and development organization and, in 2007, to Rwanda. During my first year in Rwanda, a FH colleague launched a social enterprise called Azizi Life. The goal of Azizi Life was, from the beginning, to share Jesus’ love by partnering with local artisans so that they could lift their families out of poverty through the beautiful work of their hands.
Since that time, Azizi Life has grown and multiplied our work. We serve primarily through fair trade social enterprises- businesses which function ethically with the ultimate goal of impact. We now have not only the crafts business, but also a business bringing visitors to experience rural life with the artisans, and another business working with beekeepers. In addition, we run a small Rwandan not-for-profit organization, and a small not-for-profit organization in the US. My role on the team is to provide leadership for Azizi Life US and to serve as a bridge between our teams and partners in the US and Rwanda.
My goal personally and our goal with Azizi Life is to partner with people in rural Rwanda who are working to rise from poverty through their own ideas, work, local resources and initiative. We believe that we are a part of Jesus’ kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. We want to share Jesus’ love and his Gospel in everything that we do.
Through their fair wage income with Azizi Life, rural artisans are able to rise as leaders for the development of their cooperatives, homes, and communities. We estimate that among the 600+ artisans with whom we work, there are over 3000 family members who have better access to nutrition, health care, education and overall wellbeing because of the increased family income.
Our local not-for-profit, Azizi Life Impact, also seeks to share God’s love in practical, sustainable ways. Since 2017 we have been offering classes in literacy for artisans and their neighbors, as well as in the local prison. These adults have dreams of being able to take leadership roles, join their church choirs, complete their own documents, and vote without assistance. More than 1500 people have now learned to read and write through this program.
In addition to all of this, God has led me to develop and direct a small ministry to other neighbors in need. This ministry is called Inzira: Agape, which means Pathway: Love. Our little team of three assists families, children and vulnerable people with urgent or enduring needs in the areas of education, physical and mental health, advocacy and resource access, work opportunity and readiness, and more.
The ongoing support of the Fairview Village community has been invaluable in sustaining me and my work here in Rwanda. Thank you for giving to Faith Promise, and thanks to all of you who have invested in my discipleship and in my ministry. Thank you also for your prayers! God is awesome and he is at work.
Whitekettle Photo Gallery
Photos from Christi Whitekettle