February 24, 2019

Is This the Same Man?

My name is Alfred. I was born in the Northern Province of Rwanda. Life was so difficult for us there that my parents decided to move to the Eastern Province in 2009 when I was just 14 years old. It was there that I met my wife, Betty. She grew up there in her village. 

That part of Rwanda is very dry. In fact, it is considered to be the driest region of Rwanda. When it does rain there, the land is very productive. We are able to grow cassava, maize, beans, even rice down in the valleys. But this lasts only about four months out of the year, and even that is in a good year. Many years it has been even less than that.

Most of the families who live there are just not able to grow enough food to last through the year. We have to try and supplement our income by doing day-labor jobs, when they can be found. In this area, a day laborer makes 1,000 Rwandan francs (about US$1.20) per day.

Before joining the ADRA Men’s Club in our village, I was a drunkard. I would spend all of our income on alcohol. I would beat my wife every night when I came home from the bar. She finally left me and went to live with her parents. She was pregnant with our first baby at the time, and she was worried that she might lose the baby in one of our fights. 

I am not sure why I beat her. It is something that I saw a lot when I was growing up, not only in my own family but also in the homes of a lot of my friends. It seemed very common and a part of normal life for a husband to beat his wife. It was one way that a husband could show that he was the “man of the house,” that he was in control.

A Club for Men

After my wife left, I continued to get drunk every night, but then something happened. Some of my friends in the village had joined the ADRA Men’s Club and had made some significant changes in their lives. They kept stopping by my place and telling me about the things they had learned. 

They told me how they had stopped drinking and how they were now spending time playing with their children and helping their wives around the home! They were no longer beating their wives; they were working in the family garden, cleaning around the house, washing clothes, washing dishes, even cooking meals! 

At first, I wondered what had happened to my friends. Had their wives bewitched them? Were they under some kind of spell? But then they told me how, by doing all of these things, they were much happier now. They had not been bewitched; they had learned these new ideas from the training that they had gone through at the ADRA Men’s Club they had joined. They told me about all of the things that they had learned about human rights, gender equality, and gender roles. 

Something my friends said caught my attention. They said that life was like a farm. If you plant good things, you will harvest good things. If you plant bad things, you will harvest bad things. If you want good things in life, you need to live a life of good.

They kept visiting me every day, encouraging me to change my life, give up the beer, plant a kitchen garden, and start building my place. By this time my wife had had our first baby. My friends said, “If you start making these changes in your life, maybe you will get your family back!” 

A New Direction

It wasn’t easy for me. Babies don’t stand up and walk the first day. A long journey is made slowly, slowly with many small steps. I got so much support from the ADRA Men’s Club that, with their encouragement, I stopped drinking. They helped me buy my plot of land, build a small house, and plant a garden. They helped me convince my wife that I was a changed man and it was safe for her to come home.

My friends were right! Life is so much better for me now. My wife came back to me with the new baby, and we have fallen in love again. Because I am no longer spending money on beer, we are saving money and are planning to use the money to make improvements to our home. 

My wife and I now sit together and discuss all of our purchases and do all of our planning together. I now respect her as my equal. We now have a vision for a happy future. 

I have built a latrine, and we are observing all of the hygienic practices that we learned in the club meetings. I now fetch the water; I collect firewood, I sweep, I mop, I cook, I clean, and I work in the garden. I have become a champion husband! Our neighbors are amazed at the change in me. They say, “Can this be the same man?” 

My wife is very, very happy with the changes I have made in my life. We have become close. Our love has grown and is now like the ocean! We have joy in our home!

I am so happy with my new life that I tell every man I know about how to become happy! Truth cannot be hidden. How can I hide this joy? I am an example to all men around here so that even if they have many bad habits, they can change and find joy as I have. I am sharing my testimony everywhere. I am proud! Some men still laugh when they see me fetching water, but I don’t find it embarrassing. 

We are very thankful for all of the things that we have learned from ADRA. It has changed our lives! Even after ADRA has finished working in our village, we will continue the men’s club. We will continue to implement all of the things that ADRA has taught us.

The original version of this story appeared in the February 2019 issue of Canadian Adventist Messenger.