A sinking feeling began to wash over Janelle Lang as her eyes scanned the streets of Rwanda for the first time. The billboards lining the streets warned women to protect their children from human trafficking . . . it was everywhere.
The utter destitution following the genocide left families vulnerable to fatal lies—promises of their children working as household servants, but in reality, they would become enslaved in the sex trade.
The cycle of poverty had become an inescapable prison for thousands, and its suffocating hopelessness would continue to paralyze future generations until someone provided a way out.
How should I respond? How can I help?—a slew of dizzying questions circled heavily through Janelle’s mind until five powerful words finally put them to a halt.
It was these five words which inspired Janelle to purchase 100 hand-made bags from the vocational school.
“When I saw the Anglican Vocational School, I knew I wanted to be involved…” Janelle said. “I wanted to help ensure women could learn to support themselves and not fall prey to lies.”
It was certainly a step of a faith, but it was what she could do, and therefore, what she felt called to do.
“God was challenging me to a new level and faith of trust . . . the same faith and trust I had seen in my brothers and sisters in Rwanda,” Janelle explained.
Janelle brought the Rwandan bags home, sharing the compelling stories of the artisans with her community. When her friends began stepping forward with donations for each bag, she knew God was honoring her faith.
Through her willingness to trust, transformation began to unfold.
Those first faith-purchased bags became the start of a desperately needed Vocational Scholarship Fund. Today, as a result of her efforts, 10 Rwandan women have been rescued from human trafficking and are now enrolled in culinary school.
“God knew these 10 women would be in need of a new life . . . and what a blessing the money was there for them to go to school,” she said.
In addition to providing support for the vocational school, Janelle also wanted to reach out to local pastors struggling to minister to their broken communities.
In lieu of Christmas gifts, she asked her friends and family to provide bikes for pastors in Rwanda. Promoting her campaign through her personal blog, she raised enough funds to deliver 39 bikes to pastors who had no other means of transportation.
It was a gift that changed everything.
Pastor Eric of Ntarama Church was so filled with joy upon receiving his bike that he jumped up and down and even began to dance. To him, the bike was more than a means to minister more effectively, it was a reminder God’s faithfulness and provision . . . a sign that his labor had not been in vain.
“I love thinking about all of the pastors who are riding bikes, knowing that somewhere in America people are praying for them and cheering them on,” Janelle said.
Since her first, life-altering trip to Rwanda, God has continued to fuel Janelle’s efforts to provide healing and restoration to the Rwandan people. Today, she owns and operates Shoppe561 in West Palm Beach, Florida, where she continues the fight to end human trafficking through selling local artisan goods.
Janelle held tightly to Bishop John’s powerful words, and she continues to do what she can with the gifts and resources she has been given . . . this is how transformation happens.
There are countless ways to join our efforts and help rebuild Rwanda.
What can you do?
Will you carve out time in your schedule to pray for continued healing and reconciliation in Rwanda? Will you utilize social media platforms to share stories of transformation and inspire others in your community? Will you give to support the ongoing projects in broken Rwandan communities?