Christi Whitekettle

Rwanda, East Africa

Christi Whitekettle

From the time I was a little girl, I was drawn to the idea of missions and to service in general. In college, I studied Sociology and Urban Studies, with a desire to serve the poor. I was thankful to have the opportunity to put that passion into action by serving neighbors in Norristown following college. 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 — serving the poor both physically and spiritually in an integrated way, 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. We now have not only the crafts business, but also a business bringing visitors to experience rural life with the artisans, another business working with beekeepers, as well as a small Rwandan not-for-profit organization, and a small not-for-profit organization in the US. We believe that we are a part of Jesus’ kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. Our faith is integrated into all of our work, and we seek to be used by God in the lives of the artisans and also of our customers. I never thought that the way that God would call me to serve would be through business, but now over 400 people and their families are further from poverty and experiencing God’s love through his work in Azizi Life.

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 want to share Jesus’ love and his Gospel in everything that we do. The work we do with Azizi Life enables rural artisans to rise as leaders for the development of their cooperatives, homes, and communities. We estimate that among the 400+ artisans with whom we work, there are over 2000 family members who have better access to nutrition, health care, education and overall wellbeing because of the increased family income. We also began in 2017 to offer classes in literacy for artisans and their neighbors. These adults have dreams of being able to take leadership roles, join their church choirs, complete their own documents, and vote without assistance. We are excited to give Bibles to a graduating class of about 180 new readers in December 2017.

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Photos from Christi Whitekettle