For the past decade, my community of faith, Journey, has been in partnership with Pastor Steven Turikunkiko, his wife Providance and their family, friends and neighbors. We have shared stories and written letters and supported one another in doing the work of building communities of peace and generosity and reconciliation. Mostly, we have been in awe of all they have done to be forces for good where they live. They have been at this for fifteen years, and I’m amazed at all they have done, what beauty they have curated, the vast amount of love they have given and shared.
It all began after the 1994 genocide, when Pastor Steven would walk through his village and see children sitting alone. So many had lost all of their families and older siblings, not to mention their homes. Steven’s own story is heartbreaking, and because of that, he had no intention of leaving any of those children in the street to fend for themselves. He brought them home. He brought them all home. In addition to their own children, Steven and Providance have taken in up to 20 children at one time, filling those spots every time one of them leaves the nest for adulthood. The orphans number close to 80 now, and they live in cooperative houses where the children work together and care for one another. They call it the Togetherness Cooperative. There is Steven’s church, and a school, and so many projects and initiatives I cannot ever quite keep up.
In addition to his work as a pastor and their lives as very busy parents, Steven and Providance have encouraged, supported and started many other ventures. Providance founded the New Destiny Widow’s Cooperative, which for 15 years has brought 60 women together to find sustainable work in community. The youth banded together to raise goats which provides milk and meat and income. They farm and they share and they trust they have what they need to do what is needed. And over and over again, they prove that to be true.
The corner store is their latest adventure. As Steven and Providance move toward full sustainability, Providance is planning to open a corner store. You can read all about it here, and if it’s something you’d like to support, it would be a great way to give forward in the spirit of Thanksgiving or put on your Christmas list.
Steven is currently finishing up his first ever trip to the United States. I was so honored to have the opportunity to meet him after all of these years of partnership long-distance! It really was such a joy. I took him (and Kelly Bean, a dear friend I got to catch up with as a royal bonus) to a bona-fide Texas steakhouse, and he showed me pictures of the kids and updated me on all that is happening in Kigali.
When dinner was finished, I asked Steven what he missed most about being away from home. He paused and looked in the distance for a moment, gathering his thoughts. Then he turned to me and he said, “The sharing.”
Isn’t that just beautiful?
His answer points to the heart of what African Road is about. It’s a community of people who truly share. Co-operative is not just a word they use, but a reality they embody. They live together, work together, farm together, play together, brainstorm together, worship together.
I love partnering with African Road because it is this lovely way Steven and Providance have opened up what they are doing to the rest of us, so that we may share their stories, share their joys and sorrows, and share in their future.
I’m so honored to call Steven my friend. And I couldn’t be more thrilled that we finally got to break bread together and hug each other and talk face to face after all this time. I hope you’ll get to know them more. You can find so many wonderful resources to do so here.