Each year your giving makes a difference all over the world. As you spend time looking through this information, begin to pray about how God can use your finances to make a difference.
Swaziland (Now renamed Eswatini by the King), a small, predominantly rural, landlocked country surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique, suffers from severe poverty and the world’s highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. A weak and deteriorating economy, high unemployment, rapid population growth, and an uneven distribution of resources all combine to worsen already persistent poverty and food insecurity, especially in rural areas. Erratic weather (frequent droughts and intermittent heavy rains and flooding), overuse of small plots, the overgrazing of cattle, and outdated agricultural practices reduce crop yields and further degrade the environment, exacerbating Swaziland’s poverty and subsistence problems. Swaziland’s extremely high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate – more than 28% of adults have the disease – compounds these issues. Agricultural production has declined due to HIV/AIDS, as the illness causes households to lose manpower and to sell livestock and other assets to pay for medicine and funerals. Swaziland has a population of just one 1,000,000 with the majority under the age of 50 years old due to the low life expectancy rate. Over 68% of the population is dependent on some form of aid and lives below the poverty line.
The Bridge is dedicated to feeding the children across Swaziland and providing for basic preschool education. This vital investment provides a level playing field for those in extreme poverty that otherwise would likely go un-noticed repeating the cycle of poverty. Currently, we feed over 2,200 children two meals a day each and every day. This is accomplished through 11 care points that provide clean water, food, education and jobs for local teachers, and cooks.
Currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has experienced political instability for most of its history. A massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010 with an epicenter about 25 km (15 mi) west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Estimates are that over 300,000 people were killed and some 1.5 million left homeless. The earthquake was assessed as the worst in this region over the last 200 years.
Haiti is both abounding in beauty and entangled in turmoil, hunger, and poverty. Alcoholism, drugs, and prostitution run rampant in Haiti among the nearly 11,000,000 people living in Haiti. The life expectancy is short with the average age being just 23 years old. Only 9% of the population is over the age of 50. 60% of the population lives below the poverty line with an unemployment rate of 40%. For those that are employed, nearly 66% have no formal jobs and are taking different opportunities as they arise.
The Bridge is making a difference through our partnership with Rendezvous Church. RVC not only is a church lead by a Haitian national but it currently runs anywhere from 1,300 to 1,500 people on a Sunday. RVC has also launched many initiatives with the intent to build up the people of Haiti from within. Some examples of this are Haiti Teen Challenge, two separate homes operating to rescue boys and girls from drugs, alcoholism, and prostitution and to introduce them to Jesus. RVC has started an auto repair shop to teach the necessary skills to men in order that they can make a living. RVC has two schools with nearly 60 staff and 600 students. Through the schools, they teach biblical principles, invest in the families and the communities and provide jobs that in turn reinvest in the local economy. RVC is an innovating ministry and The Bridge is proud to be providing nearly 23% of the Churches operational budget.
With a population of 322,833 year round residents and a swell of that number half the year made up of people fleeing cold northern weather, the Bridge has a huge missions field at home. Over 62% of the population claim to have no religious affiliation at all. If you do the math, we have a lot of work to do. The Bridge believes that people don’t care what you know until they know that you truly care. We have a saying at the bridge, we like to show others God’s love in a practical way. This means we are constantly building relationships and seeking ways to love on this in our community, to build our community and make the quality of life better for everyone. This isn’t about growing the ministry but it is about growing the kingdom by pointing people to Jesus.
Some of the ways we are doing this is with our “Arms Around Bradenton” initiative. We provide clean safe spaces for children and students who have been removed from their homes due to unsafe circumstances. The spaces are a waiting area until they can be placed with a family or foster home. We are providing support for several area schools in the form of mentoring programs, teacher appreciation and support and more. We are in the planning stage in a few key initiatives, one such initiative being a plan to be a summer feeding site for children in the public school that normally would not get a lunch meal when school is out.
God is inviting us to create the future with Him and calling us into a new season of spiritual transformation as a church and renewed focus on reaching families and people in our community.