Author George R. R. Martin once wrote, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.” When I first learned how to read, a whole new world opened before me. Through the pages of my favorite novels, I could go anywhere and see anything. To me, reading is a particular kind of wonder and magic.
This is especially true for the women of Burundi. In fact, it is transforming their lives.
In 1993, a horrifying civil war broke out in their country. Like in the neighboring country of Rwanda, the war was between two different people groups — the Hutu and the Tutsi. Unlike Rwanda, whose conflict lasted only four years, Burundi’s war continued until 2005. The country enjoyed 10 years of relative peace before tensions rose again in 2015 with riots and outbreaks of violence, leaving hundreds and hundreds of widows and orphans in the wake.
But rising out of the ashes of war came a sense of hope — hope found by learning to read the Bible.
Learning to read, learning to live
The aftermath of Burundi’s civil war is ongoing. A generation of children grew up in the conflict — meaning a generation of children never had the opportunity to attend school.
“People were traumatized,” Bosco, our partner in Burundi, shared. “They were unable to go to school, and the trauma impacted their mental abilities.”
But even before the war, education was not something every person had access to.
Burundi is considered one of poorest countries in the world. In fact, the poverty rate is currently 74.7 percent. It is also the second most densely populated country in Africa, meaning there are rarely enough resources to go around. Because of this, many women in Burundi never had the opportunity to attend school.
Without the ability to read, these war widows had no way to provide for their families.
“When a man dies, the woman doesn’t have anyone to call and come and help,” Bosco said.
Mama Rufis is one of these widows. When her husband died in the war, Mama Rufis struggled to care for her family. She couldn’t even afford the $10 a year it cost to rent their home. She did not have an education, so she took the only jobs she could find — she became a prostitute and began selling illegal liquor so she could feed her children.
But then, something changed. Mama Rufis heard about a Bible study class conducted by Bosco and his team. Although she was not a believer, she went, curious about this Book that she had never been able to read. Every week she came back, and every week she listened. Eventually, Bosco’s wife, Danella, asked if she wanted to learn how to read the Bible for herself.
“Literacy is very important to us because when you want to empower someone, you teach him how to read and write,” Bosco said. “It’s part of empowering his skills, his God-given talents that he’s able to in the future get a job or maybe create one.”
Danella began teaching Mama Rufis how to read using the Bible. The widow quickly began to pick up the skill and even began to memorize passages. As she struggled through the words, Mama Rufis began to hide them in her heart — allowing the message of hope to sink in.
The people of Burundi have been without hope for a long time, and although they have many other needs, Bosco and Danella believe that teaching the Bible is a great foundation. The message of God’s Word is teaching the people of Burundi how to love one another — squelching the racism that has torn the country apart for decades. They are learning to value one another and work together, something that is particularly important for the widows. Best of all, it is teaching them that they are deeply loved by Jesus.
As she read about Christ, Mama Rufis discovered a new life. Suddenly, she had access to hope and to joy and to peace like never before. She knew she had to share that with others.
Today, Mama Rufis’ has left behind prostitution and selling liquor, and she now teaches other women how to read using God’s Word. Every week, she meets with other widows and instructs them in literacy and disciples them in the faith. These women have begun to work together and support one another, building homes and planting gardens. Slowly, this community is changing for the better — all because women are coming together to learn to read the Bible.
Numerous people across the globe have never had the chance to read the Bible — some because it is illegal or difficult to purchase. Others, like Mama Rufis, simply cannot read. When you help provide Bibles for people around the world, you come alongside Christians like Bosco and Danella. Your gift helps them minister to people like Mama Rufis, and the Bibles you send will help transform entire communities through the message of Jesus Christ.
You can become a Bibles for All Ambassador for a monthly gift of just $25, which will provide ive people with God’s Word every month. Over the course of one year, you’ll put Bibles in the hands of 60 people who have never owned a copy before.
And your impact doesn’t stop there. Those 60 people will share the Good News with friends, family, and neighbors. Who knows how many people will come to faith in Jesus Christ because of your compassion and generosity!
Your gift will have a lasting impact — more than you will ever know this side of heaven.