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.