Traude Schröttner
Traude Schröttner

God filled my empty hands again and again to help people in Rwanda

Many years ago I had an encounter with a woman named Dr. Christa Kübler, who had told me about her experiences as a missionary in Mexico. This had made a deep impression on me at the time. I felt a great longing to help other people in their difficult living conditions and to tell them about the loving God. But it took many years until I was able to do this. In our parish in Graz, a working group "Weltkirche" was founded by Mrs Kübler with the aim of supporting the mission. The support was not only related to material goods and donations, it was also very important for us to pray for the many concerns of the mission.

The first priest supported by our community was Father Ubald from Rwanda. We had financed his priestly training. A separate testimony should be given about Father Ubald, who is a man blessed by God (Weitlaner Jakob). Since 1984 there has also been a partnership between Father Ubald's parish of Nyamasheke and our parish of Karlau in Graz. This partnership soon extended to the whole diocese of Cyangugu under Bishop Damascène. I must also explain that in the genocide of 1994, Father Ubald's entire extended family was killed, a total of 84 people. He himself had fled from Rwanda to our partner parish in Graz, where I had adopted him as son. I offered to be his mother from now on because his whole family had been killed. His fate and that of his homeland were therefore always very important to me.

When I visited Rwanda after the genocide in 2003, I experienced a bitterly poor country in which the civil war had left traces of devastation and cruel mental and physical injuries. We were travelling with Father Ubald and his bishop Damascène, and he showed us a parish with about 15,000 inhabitants that had no rectory and therefore no priest. The population had tried to build a small house for a priest, but had no money or material to finish it. When I asked how much it would cost to finish it, I was told 17,000 Euros. This answer triggered an inner struggle in me. I was a payroll clerk by profession, had retired a month ago and had received a severance package. I decided not to keep this money for myself, but to give it to this poor parish.

A few days after my return to Austria, I was able to report on the situation in Rwanda in a radio programme, and I also told about the half-finished parish house. More in jest, I said that this house could be completed if 17,000 people would listen now and each of them would donate one Euro.

Shortly afterwards I was called by a Mrs Ostermair from Germany who told me that she would pay these 17,000 Euros. To my extremely surprised question why she wanted to do this, she told me that her family had been saved from a great misfortune. She wanted to thank God in this way. However, Mrs Ostermair was not wealthy herself. She lived on a small farm and had 8 children. Her husband had received 17,000 Euros from the insurance company after a serious accident, exactly the amount that was needed, and so they donated this money.

Two years later I had a similar experience: Father Ubald showed me Gisangura, a place where the people's willingness to be reconciled out of faith was strongly felt, the people had tried to build a big church with their own funds. In their poverty, however, they had neither the money nor the necessary materials to complete this church. I decided to give them the necessary 15,000 Euros from my savings. Shortly afterwards, an Italian who had travelled with us decided to finance the completion of the church. I learned from this that God does not want to use my money, but that he wants my inner willingness to support the projects that are brought to me. I now had the inner certainty that I should not refuse any request for help in Rwanda in the future, because God would help me to raise the necessary funds. This was indeed the case.

I am in Rwanda almost every year, and each time Father Ubald and Bishop Damascène showed me various urgently needed projects that could not be realised because of a lack of money and material. I always responded in the same way, promising to take care of this concern. However, I always added that I myself did not have the necessary means for this and also did not know where to get the necessary money for this. If these projects were a real concern for the people in the parishes, then they should all ask Mary for her intercession with God so that everything that is necessary can be fulfilled. Now it was amazing that time and again, often at the last moment, the necessary funds or donations of material goods arrived, so that all the often unbelievable projects I was asked for could be built. The number of people supporting me in this task also grew in a wonderful way. As a result, in the period between 2003 and 2020 alone

  • 19 churches were built, some of them very large,
Image: Image for the entry: God filled my empty hands again and again to help people in Rwanda
  • a large centre for peace and reconciliation was built,
  • 4 schools were built and two more large schools are under construction in 2022
  • 6 Training workshops for tailoring, locksmithing, welding, carpentry, electricians and for bricklaying were built, equipped with machines and materials.The graduates of these technical schools were and still are given "starter kits", sewing machines, tools and equipment for the tailors, electricians and carpenters, so that they are able to set up small workshops themselves and in this way earn a living for themselves and their families
  • We are financing a school kitchen on a permanent basis, where 760 children get a warm meal every day.
  • We were able to finance the construction and operation of a large kindergarten and a separate centre for the care of disabled children.


Image: Image for the entry: God filled my empty hands again and again to help people in Rwanda
  • For the countless widows and orphans who have to live in miserable conditions after the genocide, the construction of well over 760 small houses was financed. These houses were allocated, for example, in such a way that widows and their children were then given one of these houses with a small garden if they were also prepared to take in homeless orphans.
Image: Image for the entry: God filled my empty hands again and again to help people in Rwanda

In addition, we were always able to distribute very large quantities of donations of material goods to provide people with a source of income, such as sewing machines, power tools, bicycles, computers, goats for the widows, and much more. Many sponsorships were also arranged, with European sponsors paying for around five years of schooling for poor children, and much more.

This whole effort, which will be continued in the coming years, was and is supported by many people in prayer. We were able to experience an abundance of unbelievable coincidences. Improbable events often interlocked seamlessly and led to exactly the results that had been prayed for. A few examples of such events will be described in another testimony.