The following blog post was written by Timothy Hall, Africa’s regional field specialist for VisionFund International, the microfinance subsidiary of World Vision.
On my final day in Rwanda, I attended a wedding. Weddings in this part of the world are a blend of the traditional and the modern. The celebrations begin in the morning with negotiations between the two families’ representatives. There are dancers, drums, and traditional costumes throughout. This is followed by lunch, and then progresses to a church where the ceremony is much closer to a typical Western wedding — complete with a white gown, attendants, candles, and a priest.
The bride was a young woman who worked for one of VisionFund’s microfinance banks, translating and posting information for World Vision Micro. I assumed the man representing her in the negotiations was her father, and I asked a friend if this was the case. “No,” he told me, “I don’t think she has any parents left.”
Tempering the joy at this occasion was the memory, etched in the mind of every Rwandan, of the ferocious killing of the 1994 genocide, during which as many as a million lives were ended. The bride and groom were pre-teens at the time, and it is statistically impossible that there was anyone (aside from myself) at the wedding who did not personally witness a murder or other act of extreme violence.
As easy as it would be to succumb to despair, these two young Rwandans, and many like them, are forging ahead on their own; they do not have the support and advice of parents, and they are starting a family in a place where the life expectancy is 52 for women, and 49 for men, and 60 percent live below the poverty line.
Yet in spite of these sobering realities, we must recognize the miraculous in the micro, rather than just the macro: a couple who chooses to start a family in a region torn by war and poverty, a family who is able to afford education for their children, or a woman with a sewing machine who can now give a job to one of her neighbors.
Writing during the waning days of World War II, German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about Christians getting married in time of war:
“It was always very clear to me that a person could take this step as a Christian truly only from within a very strong faith and on the basis of grace. For here in the midst of the final destruction of all things, one desires to build; in the midst of a life lived from hour to hour and from day to day, one desires a future; in the midst of being driven out from the earth, one desires a bit of space; in the midst of widespread misery, one desires some happiness. And the overwhelming thing is that God says ‘yes’ to this strange longing.”
We take steps like this — marriage, or doing what we can to give to those less fortunate — not because we think they will magically solve the world’s problems, but because God gives us the opportunity to worship him in these ways.
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This post originally appeared on the World Vision Micro blog. Micro gives you the opportunity to fund small loans for entrepreneurs living in poverty, who have sound business ideas but lack access to credit or collateral. Fund a small loan for an entrepreneur today.
How do you find small miracles in the midst of suffering? Are there experiences you’ve had that help you witness to the micro instead of the macro?