(Be a part of this amazing journey by applying for our next team to Rwanda in February. Applications due to missions@CrossRoadsChurch.ca by August 1st.)
Picture a village. Remote, undeveloped, overwhelmed by poverty and characterized by broken relationships. Where malnutrition, illness, and a small number of positive role models oftentimes leave children extremely vulnerable. And where the perpetual cycle of poverty cripples entire generations, decade after decade.
Now picture that same village in community. A community characterized by thriving relationships, strengthened families, spiritual richness, economic sustainability, and good health. Picture community leaders and church pastors, once isolated and fragmented, sitting together, in conversation. Learning, talking, sharing, and envisioning. Eager to connect, encourage, and challenge one another. Eager to love and serve the most vulnerable, to fulfill the Great Commission, and see the next generation renewed, restored, and transformed in Christ.
What if I told you about a unique and innovative model, pioneered by World Relief, that fulfills this very vision? A beautifully biblical and thoughtful process by which communities are truly being sustainably changed from the inside out. Where the cycle of poverty is being broken, and communities are beginning to experience a fullness of life unlike anything they’ve ever experienced?
Here it is. It’s called the Church Empowerment Zone (CEZ) Model. And it changes everything.
Pioneered by World Relief in Rwanda over the last 7 years, our CEZ model is a powerful, unique model that adopts best-practice thinking on “moving from [interventions] focused on community deficits and professional-client relationships to a model that empowers the community by building on local assets and professional community partnerships.”  We do so by establishing local ownership from the outset, focusing on leadership development and capacity building, and building upon our core tool: a transformative curriculum that works to eliminate the underlying causes of poverty and end the vicious cycle once and for all.
World Relief’s “Transformation Tree Curriculum” (TTC) focuses on better equipping local pastors—inspiring and faithful servants of the Lord, who are genuinely called to serve with all their capacity and might. They are resourceful, and their strength and enduring spirit blesses their communities abundantly. And so we stand with and alongside them, sharing in our knowledge and resources.
Our TTC grounds these leaders in the scriptural calling to care for and shepherd all people. It addresses foundational beliefs concerning God’s compassion for the poor, the root causes of poverty, and our call to love and serve one another. We teach pastors that in order for the vicious cycle of poverty to truly end, value systems, beliefs, and ultimately behaviors must change. We demonstrate that in order for holistic physical transformation to take place, spiritual transformation must first lead the way.
Impact is catalyzed as these leaders are brought together and equipped, not just as a distribution mechanism, but also as change makers and kingdom champions. They are developed as true leaders. They are inspired. They learn to shepherd and, in turn, teach others to be shepherds. They are equipped to transform their communities. And they themselves are transformed—as leaders, teachers, community activists, neighbors, wives, mothers, husbands, and fathers.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Once foundational beliefs and values are in place, and World Relief staff have served as initial trainers and catalysts, we equip hundreds of “ordinary people” to take part in this great kingdom work. Through our Outreach Group Initiative, we use local church volunteers to reach their neighbors and communities, enabling us to address the deepest of issues that extend beyond the ‘front door’ of the home. Lessons begin with biblical teachings that provide spiritual building blocks for our technical interventions. Parents are taught about the obligation to care for their children as a blessing (Psalm 127:3; 1 Timothy 5:8), farmers about the honor and privilege of tending to land (Genesis 1:28, 2:15), families about the importance of saving and sharing money (1 Corinthians 16:2, Proverbs 13:22), couples about respect and support for one another (Hebrews 10:24, Ecclesiastes 4:9), and many more.
With the building blocks laid and beliefs and values instilled, technical interventions become rooted in powerful scriptural support, and adoption for long-term behavior change becomes possible. We then see the gospel work powerfully through the servants, initiating transformation in their communities because the gospel has become powerful in them and among them.
Evidence of change is not simply anecdotal. Not only did our most recent evaluation reveal significant progress in health behaviors and economic standing (the use of clean latrines up 55.4% from 4.4%, and the expansion of income generating activities up to 90% compared to 67% outside our intervention areas), but also in family strengthening and relationships. 84% of beneficiaries claimed their spousal relationships had improved significantly, and 96% reported better relationships with their children. 75% of couples responded that they now made joint decisions, as opposed to 47% in the comparison area, and attitudes toward domestic violence changed drastically, with less than 15% of respondents justifying wife beating as opposed to over 45% prior to intervention. There is no doubt that these numbers showcase visible, tangible transformation in our targeted communities.
Trosha’s story is one example of the powerful narratives of transformation behind these statistics. As I sat with him in a small community in Bushenge, Rwanda, he told me his story:
“My wife is HIV Positive. I am HIV negative. Three years ago, we were barely surviving. The conflict at home was unbearable. There was no peace. The issues of HIV in our home led to fighting so bad that we were close to killing one another. So the church came to us, and volunteers invited us into World Relief’s Mobilizing for Life Program. I began to learn how to treat people with HIV/AIDS, how to support them and give them hope. I began to understand my responsibility for taking care of my wife, and began to care for her and help her with her medicine. After 11 years of pain, we began to live together in peace. Since then, we’ve discovered many of our friends are facing similar issues, and we’ve gone to over 6 homes to share our lessons and council friends. Now, we join together as happy homes, transformed through our churches and this program, and in community together.”
I met Trosha and his wife sitting on a small wooden bench under a tree, just down the road from their home. At the end of our time together, Trosha invited us to see his humble home before we began the long trip back to Kigali. As he led the way through a small opening in the trees, a clearing came into sight, upon which stood several buildings. On this once small, rented plot, he had created a beautiful, thriving home. A house for his family, a kitchen garden for their food, an animal paddock for their livestock, a clean latrine, an outdoors space for friends and family. This was a little slice of God’s kingdom, here on earth, blessing Trosha and his family with riches, both spiritual & material, far greater than they could ever have imagined. What’s more? His neighbor’s homes were beginning to look strangely similar… And it was a beautiful, inspiring picture.
Trosha’s story is one of hundreds coming out of our Church Empowerment Zones. The evidence of visible, tangible transformation occurring across multiple domains of intervention, and the corresponding change in belief and value systems, are contributing to truly transformative outcomes in the lives of leaders, volunteers, and beneficiaries alike. Our CEZ model is empowering hundreds of local churches to begin building a legacy of hope, generosity, and self-reliance that sustains progress long after we depart.
“Jesus is the one that started the work we do, and we are told to do it. This is why I am doing it – because it is like Jesus.” — Outreach Volunteer
 J.P Kretzman and J.L. McKnight: Building Communities from the Inside Out: A path towards finding and mobilizing community assets. (Evanston IL: Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, North Western University 1993.)
 Integral Mission Outreach Groups. Pilot Project Final Report Evaluation. Bugesera, Rwanda. May 2017. World Relief.
Written by: Francesca Albano currently serves as Product Development Lead at World Relief. With a background in strategic marketing communications, she connects her interests in brand strategy, audience engagement, and storytelling around her passions—children, disaster and humanitarian relief, human rights, and poverty alleviation. Francesca best describes herself as a storyteller, writer, foodie, globetrotter, and humanitarian.
I posted this article a year ago at Ramadan and felt it would be good to repost. Note this year Ramadan begins 26th of June (evening) and goes through the 24th. Please pray for spiritual awakening and Truth to be found.
This time of year my mind wanders to my time spent working and living in Eastern Chad. While I served there, half of my staff were Muslim (as required by the Government). During the month of Ramadan I had to adjust my expectations of my Muslim staff as I knew they would be fasting during the day and having late night feasts and gatherings each night. Their productivity would definitely drop. It meant on those days when we would typically have a meal together or simply share a cup of tea, now for this month of Ramadan, I had to either abstain or do it more privately to not make them stumble as they were fasting. It also meant our cooks, who were Muslims, were preparing food for the lunch of the Christians but were unable to eat themselves. As I walked around my hot, sandy little town of Goz…
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It’s race time again!
Last year many CrossRoads people supported youth in our city by serving at Hope Missions Kids In Action 5K run as running buddies and route marshals, cooking up burgers, setting up and serving food and Cheering on the runners.
Would you consider being involved this year? Please contact Brittany as mentioned on the poster or myself if you are available to help in any capacity. These kids have been practicing all year and this is a very big day for them. Come on out and help them celebrate!
Last year was so much fun. Please email LaurieW@CrossRoadsChurch.ca if you are available to run, cheer or serve food.
Hope. We all hope in or for things. Some of us “hope” our favorite team wins the game, that the weather cooperates for that BBQ we’ve planned or that spring is here and we can put away the snow shovel. This is wishful thinking. Some of us are “hoping” that our loved one’s health will improve, or that the elusive job will materialize, or that our family member will return from the life that they are wasting. We use the word hope frequently and with varied degrees of fervor and meaning. Some of our hopes are for trivial things and others reflect the deepest desire of our being. It is said that we can last a certain number of days without food or water – but none without hope.
Holy week for me is a sacred time and a time I spend pondering a lot about hope. I meditate on the state of my heart, my brokenness and need for a Saviour. The ultimate sacrifice made for me by one who knew no sin yet took all of mine and the world upon Himself. I envision myself as Barabbas, a murderer being held awaiting his just reward and sentence. Sitting in a cell waiting…..for death to come. He knew the laws that he had broken and what his fate was. I imagine what it would be like sitting in that cold dark cell, the terror, the regret, the realization that this was the end. Or was he still rebellious, still hating and denying his wrongdoing. Barabbas hears the sounds of angry voices outside demanding justice. He hears them yelling “Crucify Him!” over and over. His stomach rolls, he is sweating and can hardly breathe. He hears soldiers coming towards his cell and he cowers in the corner. He has never been so afraid. The soldiers arrive at his cell, he hears the sound of the lock being turned and the door opens. He cannot look at them – the men who have come to take him on his final walk, and then he hears these words “Barabbas, you are released. You are free to leave.” What? Is he hallucinating? The soldiers become impatient – “Get out of here, go.” “You are free, the one they call Jesus has taken your place. He is to be crucified.” Jesus has taken my place? Imagine that…I wonder what Barabbas did after hearing those words? Did he high tail it out of the city and never come back? Did he stay and watch what happened to the one who took his place? Did he go on to live a life that was honorable or did he go back to his old ways? I don’t know for sure– but I can imagine the hope that burned in his heart as he ran out of that holding cell. A chance to live again, an opportunity to see another sunrise, to make restitution. To truly live life well. It does me good to put myself in Barabbas shoes. Me, a sinner, condemned to death being released from my chains because JESUS took my place.
Yes, this season takes me to this place, and causes me to reflect deeply. But there is another reason that this week causes me to pause and reflect . It was on a Good Friday many years ago I knelt in a windy country cemetery beside a little white casket and wept over loss. The loss of what could have been, of potential not realized, of dreams disappointed. A precious daughter Emily Jayne. The longest walk I have ever taken was the walk away from that gravesite. The loss of a child produces deep pain, it is a sacred wound that I bear and although the years have softened it and healing has come there will always be a scar. But I have this hope….
My husband gave me this picture a few months after that Good Friday goodbye. Jesus with nail pierced hands holding a little lamb, with a border in pink for her sweetness and gray for sorrow.
But I have this hope…..
My concordance says that hope is to desire something with confident expectation of its fulfillment.
Yes because of those nail pierced hands, because Jesus took my place and I have placed my everything on that finished work on the cross. Because of Jesus words “It is finished” I have this blessed hope. Because the grave could not hold Him I have this hope. Because He is a risen Saviour I have this hope. A hope that has carried me and sustained me. A hope that gives me purpose and compassion for those that don’t yet know it. A hope for an eternity of no goodbyes. A hope of a grand reunion. A hope of seeing my Jesus with nail pierced hands and a little girl named Emily.
April is the month to ‘remember’ the Genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. 23 years later our partners at World Relief invite us to pray with them this month.
I hope you are all well and hope that your families are well too.
Over the years, I have always sent out an email asking for your prayers during the month of April.
Kwibuka means ‘remember’ in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’s language. It describes the annual commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
More than one million Rwandans died in the hundred days of the genocide against Tusti in 1994 and it was one of human history’s darkest times. Twenty three years later we, Rwandans, ask the world to unite to remember the lives that were lost in places where they sought refuge in what they believed would be safe havens (churches, hospitals, schools, stadium and community centers).
The church continues to unite people and reaching out to the most vulnerable that maybe a result of the genocide against the Tusti or others. It’s in this way that we want to share with you some prayer request during this time.
Please pray for:
- The Nation of Rwanda and it’s leadership for they have done great works to unite and develop the nation.
- The Churches and church leaders that share the message of unity and love.
- Pray for the people of Rwanda during this time as many of them still need comfort, love and help.
Bob Allan Karemera
Strategic Partnership Officer
World Relief Rwanda
There is a beauty in being able to gather with women of all ages from different parts of the world and enjoy an afternoon of laughter, good conversation and expressing our creativity through painting! On March 25, a group of women from CrossRoads, International Newcomers and throughout Red Deer, spent the afternoon together for a Paint Nite! We didn’t know what our masterpieces would end up looking like but we had a lot of fun during the whole process!
Before we picked up our brushes and began painting we spent some time mingling and getting to know each other. After spending time in great conversation and observing the interactions amongst the group, I had a greater appreciation for the two amazing women, Laura White and Brooklyn Capton, who planned this great afternoon. Their hearts are truly beautiful!
After everyone had arrived we began our painting process! Our talented instructor led the group through the steps to create the beautiful image above. There were a lot of laughs and smiles as everyone attempted to re-create the painting while adding their own personal touch.
Once we had completed our paintings, we were able to talk with each other again and share what our wonderful masterpieces looked like! What fun!
This was a great afternoon of meeting new women here in Red Deer, painting and new friendships forming! Thank you Laura and Brooklyn!
We have been blessed here in Red Deer and Central Alberta to have International Newcomers calling this area their home. There are people within our congregation here at CrossRoads, as well as various organizations throughout Red Deer, who are involved in different ways with International Newcomers and would love to have you involved! If you would like to know the different ways you can be involved with working with International Newcomers here in Red Deer please contact: ChantelleS@CrossRoadsChurch.ca or 403-347-6425.
Last year about this time I was on the island of Lesvos, Greece experiencing things I hope I will never forget. Myself and the team I was with spent time watching for people coming over on rafts from Turkey. For those who made it to shore we spent our days feeding them, the hungry. We did our best to clothe them, the oceansoaked, the shivering and the naked. We sat with them, held babies, hugged some and tried to comfort them, the scared, the grieving, the traumatized within the confines of Moria camp – a prison. We did this in Jesus name. Literally living out Matthew 25.
It seemed like the right context to be doing those things. We were in a foreign place with people in crisis, fleeing persecution, refugees, orphans, widows, those with haunted eyes with no place to lay their heads except the ground, homeless. I gave with all I had and more importantly with the compassion, strength and grace that God gave me. Everyday I was there I asked God to use me.
And now a year later here I am back home in Red Deer, in a wealthy province, a free and prosperous country from the rest of the world’s perspective. In fact this month according to a new study, Canada was ranked as the second best country in the world to live. And rated #1 for quality of life out of 21 countries that were studied.
“Canada boasted the highest quality of life of any of the countries, meaning it is economically and politically stable, family friendly, and has well-developed public health and education systems”. *
I know I have often taken for granted the many good things of life that I enjoy because I was born and raised in this country. I have come to understand that I am placed here for a reason and that it is God who placed me here. And in that place of understanding my eyes and heart see things through a different lens. When I take a closer look around my city, when I hear reports from agencies that I visit, and talk to leaders in our schools and nonprofits I come away with a different perspective and more than just a little ache in my heart. In fact – my heart is broken and I think God wants it that way because His heart breaks too. Superficial glances around our community can be deceiving – look a little closer. What lies just visible amidst the affluence, what tries to rise to the surface, whose quiet cries are calling out to be heard? The invisible neighbor, the hungry children, the lone and barely making ends meet parent, the mom and children at the emergency shelter, the refugee family trying to adjust to a new country and culture, the new immigrant struggling to adapt and learn so many new things.
And so I ask myself why do I look at the situation here differently than I did in Moria? Why do I not live out my day to day life in a Matthew 25 attitude like I did in Moria? Well a number of reasons run through my head. The situation isn’t quite as desperate and we are a long ways away from an ocean and threats of death and bombs. We have great agencies in Red Deer who are on top of all of this. And really there is so much help available if people looked, or just asked.
But God’s call to me to give generously, love in His name, feed, clothe and visit is not reserved for short term outreaches on the other side of the world or in cases of natural disasters or acts of terrorism. It is a call to a lifestyle that reflects God’s heart every day wherever I find myself. And yes there are great agencies in our city that are doing their best to feed and clothe and minister to those who enter their doors but nowhere in scripture do I read that the job is to be left to them. It is God’s call to His people to care for the last, the lost, the least, the little and the nearly dead. It is God’s call to me after rescuing and redeeming my life to live in such a way that I reflect His character to the world around me. It is my grateful response to God who loved me when I was lost, without a true home, without knowing Him as a Father, hungry and thirsty for water that could truly satisfy, yes it is a very grateful response that compels me to look at my neighbor with Jesus eyes of compassion. It should be my grateful response to rise up to meet the need of the hungry children and those in need of warm clothing in our schools. It should be my grateful heart that reaches out to those new neighbours in my community that need a friend to invite them in, get to know them, hear their story and tell them mine.
This month of March our church prayer has been for educators and students within our local schools. Within these places of learning there is much need that we as a church have become aware of. Basic needs of food and clothing – and the hands and hearts to prepare and distribute these offerings. There is also a need for us to give of our time. There are students in large classes who need one on one attention from someone who will listen to them read and encourage them. There are teachers with many students who need some one on one time and they cannot possibly give what is needed to each student who needs it. Here presents itself a great opportunity to do what love compels.
On Sunday, March 26th please take time to read the bulletin insert, stop at the tables in the foyer and learn how you can act on what God is asking – on what His love compels you to do in His name.
The team has arrived back safely! We made it back home yesterday and everyone is resting after the long journey home.
Please keep us in your prayers as everyone transitions back into life at home while also processing the experiences in Rwanda.
Thanks for all the prayers and support! We have been truly blessed.
Dear Friends at CrossRoads Church,
World Relief Rwanda sends you warm season’s greetings from our Church Empowerment Zones in Musanze, Bugesera, Kicukiro and Nyamasheke. It was wonderful to be with you recently during my time in the US and share together about what the Lord is doing both in CrossRoads Church and Rwanda.
As we begin a new year, we are even more so determined and encouraged as World Relief staff to increase our impact and work towards uplifting the local churches’ role to promote sustainability when working with the most vulnerable in their community. We thank you for continuing to be by our side, your friendship, support and commitment to helping the world’s most vulnerable is what makes this great work possible for yet again another year.
As we began this New Year, this scripture has been our guide, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV). For sure He will not
let His Church down.
Joyfully serving the church,
World Relief Rwanda
Monday was a very busy but great day for us! Our morning began with the opportunity for us to go and see a water project known as 20 Litres. This project is through Mars Hill Church in the U.S. and its goal and purpose is to bring clean water through a filtration process. We visited Gahanga and were able to see them assemble the filtration system and give us a demonstration of the process. It was very interesting to see! There isn’t a filtration system in every home yet and those that do have them have been recognized by the church as being the most vulnerable therefore they have received them. However, the homes that do have them share the system with their neighbours. This helps bring community and friendship amongst one another.
In the afternoon we met with a church network. This group was composed of pastors and volunteers. They talked about how they are bringing different lessons, information, etc throughout their communities through volunteers. Each church has 10 volunteers that are trained and equipped. We were able to hear some of the volunteers share their experiences with this program. One thing we noticed was that the majority of the volunteers are women! We were told that they are wanting to equip and empower women and that is why many women are becoming these volunteers and helping their communities.
After the meeting we split into two groups and were able to visit two different homes that have been impacted by this program. Myself, Monika and Nathanial visited a home where we were able to hear the testimonies from two different families. We were told by both families that before this program came into their homes there wasn’t much care about how their money was spent and the majority of money earned was spent at the bar by the men of the homes. Once the volunteers came into their homes things started to change. The change first started with the women in the home and through them the men started noticing a difference in their wives. The men began staying around for the teachings and God did a great work and has transformed their homes! It was so beautiful to see the smiles and joy light up their faces as they talked about what God has done!
One thing that has been so beautiful to see and has brought joy and fullness to my heart has been the smiles and joy that fills the people we get to talk with here in Rwanda when they talk about what God has done in their lives! We serve such a beautiful and big God!
Although our day was long we all enjoyed it greatly and it will be a great memory for us that we will hold dearly.
Thanks for the prayers and love:)