Our Response coming to FL

Thursday’s event at Immanuel spotlights organization’s work


Rachel Kytonen
Isanti County News

Over 500 children are now sponsored in Kivuruga, Rwanda through the generosity and support of the people of east-central Minnesota. Our Response, formed in 2009, is a partnership between Minnesotans and World Vision.

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

Our Response is holding four evening events as part of its third-annual celebration featuring the Asante Children’s Choir from Rwanda. The 90-minute events will include an update and celebration of the work of Our Response, followed by performances from the Asante Children’s Choir. The Forest Lake event will start at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10 at Immanuel Church.

“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.”

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. We are also planning our third trip to Rwanda this coming summer.”

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

“People literally burst out in tears of joy and singing and the mention of the impact we have had in their community,” he said. “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.”

Our Response’s Goal

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.”

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.

To Get Involved

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

Many 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, eye glasses, raincoats).

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