Our Reponse plans celebration featuring Asante Children’s Choir from Rwanda

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

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 hold 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 re-capture 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.

“I have been to Kivuruga twice and met so many of the people who are impacted by the people of East Central Minnesota through Our Response and World Vision,” Fredlund said. “People literally burst out in tears of joy and singing at the mention of the impact we have had in their community. I have seen new clean water systems, schools being built and children getting fed and nourished with milk from dairy cows. I have seen the passion of the people for each other and their community; these are a beautiful people with the same hopes, dreams and wishes for their children that we have — that they will grow up healthy and be a contributing member of their community.

“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.

Highlights from 2012

Fredlund explained last January, Our Response had about 500 people attend its second annual celebration with Sara Groves, which built even greater momentum as several people who attended that became passionate about Our Response and became heavily engaged.

• In April, Our Response conducted the 14 percent challenge in an effort to raise the final remaining funds needed for the Nutrition Project in Kivuruga. Americans, on average, throw away 14 percent of the food they purchase, so Our Response challenged people to spend 14 percent less on food purchases and put that money away for the Nutrition Project. This was a huge success and ultimately led to the completing the funding.

• In September, several people ran, jogged and walked their way through a half marathon to raise awareness and money for clean water projects in Rwanda, including Kivuruga. Between the Our Response team in Cambridge and a team of Allianz employees in Golden Valley, they raised well over $20,000 for these projects.

• The biggest impact for Our Response was its nine-day Step into Africa at the Isanti County Fairgrounds. Their goal of 3,000 visitors was blown away, as over 4,100 people walked through the experience, with many people having their eyes opened to the issues facing children in sub-Saharan Africa. Over 200 new child sponsorships began during Step into Africa, as well as over $3,000 being raised to provide medical kits to volunteer AIDS caregivers in Rwanda.

Overall goal of  Our Response organization

Fredlund explained the vision that was set when Our Response launched was to one day, by the year 2025, hold a celebration in which it celebrates the self-sustainability of Kivuruga, Rwanda.

“We will hold a massive party when we can withdraw our support knowing that the community has transformed and is set up for generations of improved standard of living and health,” Fredlund said. “Supporting this vision was a goal that in our first 10 years, we would be able to provide $1 million in support of this effort. This is still the vision and goal that drives us each year, but as momentum has built beyond our wildest expectations, we continue to look to the future to even greater unity and impact.”

Fredlund there are many organizations that people can financially support that are involved in alleviating global poverty, disease and suffering; and Our Response encourages support of whatever organization people feel connected to.

“Our Response is unique in that people throughout the community in different schools, businesses and churches are all working together to transform the same community,” Fredlund said. “Rather than different people sponsoring children in Peru, South Korea and the Sudan, we are all sponsoring children in Kivuruga, Rwanda. And even more, a group representing East Central Minnesota is going to Kivuruga every one to two years to continue building relationships, seeing impact and meeting with so many of the children that are being sponsored. Our Response helps make the fight against poverty personal, while also building unity at time when division seems to be the ruling context. We are excited that we can have such impact both ‘here’ and ‘there.’”

To Get Involved

Our Response is an entirely volunteer-driven organization, fueled by the passion of the people of East Central Minnesota.

There are so many people who have been creative in how they can contribute to their efforts, such as sewing dresses, making and selling jewelry, running races and establishing donation programs (soccer balls, eyeglasses, raincoats).

Fredlund said Our Response would love to continue seeing people being creative and engaging in ways that align with their interests and passions. They also invite churches, businesses and other organizations to consider how they might be part of this effort that has impact but also builds unity.

If interested in getting involved or finding out more information, contact Steve Fredlund at [email protected] or call 651-587-5435.