Giving Thanks for His Abundance in 2017

Before I began writing this update on our year, I prayed for His direction on how I could possibly convey all the ways God has blessed True Vineyard Ministries over the past year. It is impossible to consolidate all the blessings into a single-page letter; for when you ask God to “expand your territory” to reach, serve and love more of the poor, He responds in abundance. Thank you for answering God’s call to support our endeavors.

For a decade we have been working in Northern Rwanda with widows and other vulnerable women to teach them the age-old craft of spinning wool into yarn. This was the vision God gave me in 2007 and it is still the vehicle He is using to reach more women today. Over the past 10 years, we’ve asked many experts, from sheep shearers to knitwear designers, to come to Rwanda and help teach our women and farm staff the skills required to make beautiful organic yarn. In 2017, after developing designs for the ladies to hand-knit, God decided we were ready to introduce Handspun Hope to the world.

To say 2017 has been a year of exponential growth for True Vineyard Ministries is putting it lightly. The yarn is just the beginning!  Below are just some of our accomplishments over the past 12 months:

·  Reached an agreement to sell Handspun Hope at Purl Soho, a fiber store based in New York and considered to be one of the finest in the world.  Later gained additional agreement to give  them exclusive rights to sell Handspun Hope online.

·  Marketed our knitwear line at four wholesale shows and secured our first orders, now being  sold in several boutiques.

·  Partnered with a local deaf school to employ 2 young women and provided an onsite optional  class for our other employees so they could learn to sign and communicate with our new employees.

· Gave an additional 67 women temporary employment, bringing the total number of women we serve to 120. 

·  Successfully imported three German Angora rabbits to Rwanda from the U.S. in order to  develop a new raw material source for creating an ethical source of angora yarn.  We are  expecting our first litter of bunnies next week!

·  Assisted in the education of 86 school children, which included school fees, materials and other related expenses.

·  Conducted our 5th Lay Counselor Training class, bringing our trained lay counselors to a total of 102 individuals who offer trauma counseling to those in need of healing. The class and  service are always offered at no cost.

·  Obtained a grant from Fordham University whereby an in-depth assessment was conducted of our Lay Counselor program, which confirmed that at least 2,141 individuals have received  counseling from the TVM trainees since 2013.

Our greatest desire in 2018 is to find a way to keep 100% of the temporary women employed in permanent positions, giving them the same benefits as existing employees.  This includes healthcare for themselves and the children under their care, fees associated with the education of all primary-age school children and access to counseling and micro-finance loans. Although we are now generating revenue from our Handspun Hope sales, this only covers a portion of our program costs. Our additional goals for 2018 include the following:

·  Develop new designs and continue marketing our products at wholesale shows

·  Employ additional support staff in Rwanda including 2 counselors and a quality-control  supervisor

·  Partner with businesses, individuals and churches in the U.S. to build safe housing for many of  the women in our program. The homes we are now constructing cost approximately $3,200,  which is an increase over 2017. This is due to a change in the housing regulations in our district

As we mark our 10-year anniversary, we are extremely thankful for the progress made in 2017 and hopeful for what 2018 will bring.  The doors that have opened through our Handspun Hope initiative are enormous. However, sustained progress will not be possible without your continued prayers and financial support.

Presently, we want to safeguard what God has already given us by making certain we can fully employ all 120 women. In order to accomplish this, we need sponsorship for all of the new ladies as well as the existing ones who have lost sponsors through attrition. It will continue to take all of us to support the program as we grow into the next era for True Vineyard Ministries.

The employment of each woman requires monthly-pledged funding of $150. Sponsorships are available at 3 different levels, starting at $50 per month. Additionally, donations of any amount will be greatly appreciated as we continue to follow God’s call in living out the Gospel in Northern Rwanda. A contribution may be made online at www.truevineyard.org.

May you find the joy and love of Christ in this greatest season of Advent. On behalf of the Board of Directors and our entire True Vineyard family, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and abundant peace in 2018.

Blessings,

Diana Wiley

Executive Director

 

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A Transforming Christmas

I have been tremendously blessed to have had the pleasure of bringing so many wonderful and talented people with me to Africa over the past 12 years. This number has now reached into the triple digits…wow. Most of these individuals, I am happy to say, I have managed to maintain a relationship with.  Although my prayer for team members is not that they will maintain a relationship with me or the ministry - it is that they will maintain and develop a relationship with Christ and understand why God called them to Africa in the first place. I do pray that each will continue to be a voice for what they have witnessed.  Often, it’s not about Rwanda, or our women. It’s about leading them to a place where God is calling them to serve in their own lives.

When someone asks to join a team and travel, the very first thing I tell them is pray about the opportunity. Let God reveal if it is indeed the time. People struggle with this. They struggle with not knowing the reason God is calling them. They struggle with believing God for provision in fundraising. They struggle with all sorts of things.

I struggle also. I struggle with the discernment I believe the Lord has given me regarding team travelers.  I remember well when God taught me this… when I took the very first team to Mozambique in 2004. Enough said. One of the most difficult tasks I face is telling someone that I don’t believe it is the time for them to go with me or with TVM. It’s hard.

But, when they are called… when they have that desire of burden placed so deeply in their heart…there is nothing like witnessing the transformation as they meet and get to know our amazing and strong women. From photographers to yarn spinners to other visionaries… I love seeing individual team member’s lives transformed. No one can meet our ladies and say this isn’t true. No one.

My prayer for the ministry in 2016 was to relocate to the new center and to work hard to bring all of our currently employed women to 100% pledged funding.  We moved into our new center last March and now have the physical room to expand and offer the ministry’s mission to more women.  Before we could do this, our team prayerfully decided to make certain we had committed funding for all of the ladies we currently employ in Rwanda.

As I write this blog, we only lack funding for ONE woman! God has been very faithful in helping us reach our 2016 goals for the organization. In 2017 our goal is to hire at least 20 new women and build safe housing for all of women needing this basic necessity. A new house in Rwanda costs approximately $2,500.

Last summer, Christina Lykken traveled with me to Africa for one month. Christina followed in her older sister, Laura’s footsteps, who spent a month with me in Rwanda in 2011. Both of them, like all visitors, fell madly in love with Rwanda and our women.

Two weeks ago, Nancy, the girl’s mother got in touch with me. She told me Christina and Laura asked to forgo Christmas presents and, instead, build a house for one of our ladies. I was a bit stunned but realized this decision was, in so many ways, an answered prayer. An answered prayer for me as I heard the heart’s desire of these two young ladies, but mostly an answered prayer for Bonafrida, who is currently in great need of safe housing.

God is faithful and I have only begun to see the gift of Christ’s transformation for Christina, Laura and Bonafrida.

Merry Christmas!

Diana Wiley, Executive Director

Laura in 2011 (Blue t-shirt)

Laura in 2011 (Blue t-shirt)

Christina in 2016

Christina in 2016

 

 

Meet Tentely

Madagascar is known for it’s beautiful geographical typography and the only place where many species of God’s creation dwell. If you have never been to Madagascar, your mind might be filled with images of rainforests, waterfalls, and lemurs.

At True Vineyard Ministries, our minds are filled with Madagascar’s people where 9 out of every 10 people live below the poverty line, surviving on less than $2 per day. We know, all too well, this country where 48% of the population is uneducated and under the age of 14. It is a staggering reality which forces many Malagasy people into crimes of desperation, often selling their own daughters into sex slavery. On the streets of Antananarivo, the capital city, live thousands of homeless street children, including prostitutes who are usually teenaged girls. It is a disturbing and harsh reality for much of Madagascar’s youth. This is the real Madagascar and the one, we at True Vineyard, believe matters most to the heart of God.

In 2010 True Vineyard Ministries began seeking Malagasy women to support through our fair trade store, Vineyard Marketplace. Unfortunately, it was a huge challenge to locate artisan cooperatives in Madagascar like those we found in other parts of Africa. The lack of these organized groups directed our path to the very crowded Andravoangy Market, in the heart of Antananarivo. This is where we met Tentely, a highly motivated and organized 28-year old seamstress and mother, with an eye for designing little girl’s smocked dresses. Tentely’s family, now along with 3 other families, create precious hand-smocked and embroidered dresses for Vineyard Marketplace.

On our earlier trips, we would purchase 15 or 20 dresses from Tentely, which was great, considering she normally sold 3 or 4 dresses on a “good” week. As her dresses became more popular among our customers, our orders have steadily grown. She is always happy and always grateful for this continuing partnership that has literally changed the life of four families.

Last year, our efforts focused on moving the Vineyard Marketplace to its current location and developing our online store. This meant having duplicate dresses of the same style in a variety of sizes. Through many coordinated efforts to translate phone calls and emails, we were able to place the first really large order for Tentely, preordering more than 200 dresses at one time. She met all of our high-quality expectations and again, just last month, we picked up an order of 330 new dresses!

Because of the divine introduction we had to this courageous girl with a genuine talent for business, we have witnessed Tentely empowered over the past several years. She has become a young woman full of energy and ideas for creating higher quality dresses for Vineyard Marketplace. Please consider supporting Tentely and True Vineyard Ministries through the purchase of one of these precious dresses for your favorite little princess. All styles and sizes now available online at vineyardmarketplace.org.

Tentely - 2013

Tentely - 2013

Tentely and her husband, Randria -  2016

Tentely and her husband, Randria -  2016

14th Annual Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Fundraiser

Our 14th Annual Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Fundraiser is less than two weeks away! This is our largest single fundraiser of the year. We're calling on the community to participate by purchasing our delicious strawberries or volunteering to help with the event.

Our fundraiser will take place at locations throughout San Marcos and New Braunfels on February 12th, 13th and 14th. Order online at www.truevineyard.org by Monday, February 8th to receive free local delivery. We'll be selling a dozen strawberries for $18, and a half dozen for $10. Net proceeds from the sale of our delicious chocolate-covered strawberries will be reinvested in the work of True Vineyard Ministries.

Come on out to support us and buy some strawberries for you and your loved ones!

Vineyard Marketplace - Now Online!

The new Vineyard Marketplace has launched online! Please consider shopping with us this Christmas and help us assist the artisans and other organizations we support in 11 African nations! Visit us at www.vineyardmarketplace.org or through the Marketplace tab at the top of our website. Give gifts that truly impact our world and give jobs to thousands across Africa!