Rwanda children’s choir to visit Bethel

Over 500 children are now sponsored in Kivuruga, Rwanda through the generosity and support of the people of East Central Minnesota through Our Response.Asante-Choir-Poster

Our Response, which formed in 2009, is a partnership between the people of East Central Minnesota and World Vision.

Director Steve Fredlund explained Our Response is a local, grass-roots “response” to global poverty, disease and suffering through the coming together of East Central Minnesota churches, businesses, schools and individuals.

Our Response will be holding four evening events as part of its Third Annual Celebration featuring the Asante Children’s Choir from Rwanda.

The events will last approximately 90 minutes with half of the time spent updating and celebrating the work of Our Response, followed by performances from the Asante Children’s Choir. The events all start at 6:30 p.m. at the following locations:

Thursday, Jan. 10: Immanuel Church in Forest Lake.

Friday, Jan. 11: Oxlip Evangelical Free Church in Isanti.

Saturday, Jan. 12: Pine City Evangelical Free Church in Pine City.

Sunday, Jan. 13: Hardy Performing Arts Center at Cambridge-Isanti High School in Cambridge.

The Asante Choir will also be at Bethel Reformed Church in Princeton during their Sunday morning service, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

“As always, the Annual Celebration events are free and open to the public,” Fredlund said. “The Asante Choir from Rwanda is made up of 18 children, each with a story of their hope and struggles as a child growing up in Rwanda. The choir captures the passion that the children of sub-Saharan Africa have for music and dancing; and what an integral part of their lives it is. One of the things I miss the most about Africa is the joy and life of the children that I have met; I’m excited to recapture that feeling and also have our community exposed to their energy.”

Fredlund explained the idea and vision for Our Response started during a two-year period of wrestling with the question of “what should we do (individually and as a community) in response to the issues facing Africa (AIDS, famine, etc.)?” He explained this wrestling was a united effort between Pastor Mark Radeke of River of Life Church, Pastor Bob Jonsson of First Baptist Church and himself from New Hope Community Church.

Our Response launched in late 2009, with a focus on partnering with World Vision to bring transformation to the community of Kivuruga in northern Rwanda.

“With 17 sponsorships and about $3,000 in direct funding raised, we travelled to Kivuruga to solidify the partnership, build relationships and make our efforts personal,” Fredlund said. “Over the past three years, the focus has remained the same (partnership with World Vision in Kivuruga), but we have seen great expansion in both the ‘Our’ and the ‘Response.’ The ‘Our’ has grown as now over 30 churches, businesses and other organizations have been part of this effort.

“The ‘Response’ now includes over 500 children being sponsored and more than $300,000 has been raised in direct funding, including a Nutrition Project fully funded by Our Response and money raised for clean water projects and other efforts. The core purpose of Our Response remains what it was in 2009, but we have been blown away by the exponential growth in both unity and impact. We are also planning our third trip to Rwanda this coming summer,” Fredlund added.

Fredlund has seen the direct benefits from the work of Our Response.

“On behalf of the people of Kivuruga, I want to thank all of you who continue supporting the efforts of Our Response through child sponsorship, financial contributions to projects, sponsoring events, prayer and encouraging words. It’s not often this can actually be said truthfully, but the people of East Central Minnesota are saving and changing lives,” Fredlund added.