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Rwandan returnees begin again with help from Baptists abroad

WASHINGTON (BP)–Baptists who have returned to Rwanda have been given beans to plant from Baptist World Aid to make a new start in their country. Already 3,667 people have received beans, while 7,000 more are waiting to be served.

Of a promised grant of $100,000, BWAid has sent $50,000 to the Union of Baptist Churches in Rwanda, and the rest of the money is needed for the other returnees.

“Those who have been served are very busy preparing the ground for the new seeds,” said Buzizi Claver, development manager for the union. “You can hardly imagine how the refugees are so pleased to receive a good quality of seeds to plant their lands.”

Claver reported after a meeting with other Baptist leaders they decided to give the returnees good seeds for planting but cheaper ones for eating, putting the emphasis on the future needs for rebuilding a country that has been torn apart by ethnic conflict.

While Baptists around the world are giving through BWAid, Claver reported an excellent working relationship with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, which also is supplying materials such as hoes, soaps and seeds to almost 11,000 returnees.

Foreign Mission Board workers, who have labored with Rwandans since before the refugees left the country, are spending $150,000 to help speed the process of rebuilding refugees’ lives. In addition to relief items, workers plan to provide more specific needs as they are determined by local teams surveying areas around the Baptist convention’s 56 churches.

Almost since the refugees fled, Baptists have been preparing for their return. Working with the Baptists in Rwanda and other Baptist partners from outside the country, they will help refugees re?establish themselves in the communities they left — starting with virtually nothing.

Missionaries have been assessing needs in Rwanda since the end of the war, which killed at least 500,000 people. Local Baptist pastors have already located returned widows and orphans and distributed food supplies, cooking pots, soap and blankets to them. Southern Baptist world hunger money has provided thousands of pounds of powdered milk, sugar, sorghum flour and beans for the Rwandans who stayed.

BWAid, in addition to beans for seeds and for eating, is supplying blankets and rice for returnees.

Funds from BWAid also are being used to transport the supplies as well as store them in a warehouse.

While Rwandan returnees are receiving other kinds of government aid, Claver said the aid that goes through the Baptist union is primarily for Baptists, but will not be limited to them.

The program of refugee resettlement with BWAid and the FMB is highly appreciated by Rwandan leaders, he said, “because this aid assists so many people with different items all over the country.”

Support for Rwanda resettlement can be sent to BWAid, 6733 Curran Street, McLean, VA 22101?6005 or Foreign Mission Board Human Needs Office, Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

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