The people of Rwanda have been through so much. In December, we met children from the country when Asante Children’s Choir came to our church and my sister was able to host two of the boys from the choir in her home for the weekend. That was an experience for a blog post of its own (to come).
This past weekend we watched a touching documentary called As We Forgive about a few testimonies of those that survived the horrible genocide in 1994. Miraculously, these people who have lost so much, including the members of their immediate family and other close relatives, are able to face the very people who took everything away from them. And as documented in this movie, they are able to forgive them. Only God can provide this type of healing.
Now I am reading a book that my sister got for Christmas called My Father, Maker of the Trees: How I Survived the Rwandan Genocide by Eric Irivuzumugabe (http://www.irivuzumugabe.com/). He was 16 when the genocide took place, and he spent fifteen days clinging to a cypress tree to survive, unaware of where his family members were. His story, and the stories of the few surviving members of his close family, are astonishing. They serve to bring hope to people who feel like they cannot live again after witnessing so much death.
It’s tragedies like these – the extermination of nearly one million people in just a few months – that are difficult to comprehend. It’s impossible to put into perspective how much pain and suffering those people endured. And this is something that took place less than twenty years ago. How can anyone move on after such evil overtook the whole nation?
I can imagine that having to experience something so tragic could harden your heart toward God. I can imagine that you could refuse to face Him after He seemingly abandoned His children for a hundred days of bloodshed.
But the author Eric tells the story of how his empty world changed when he found God after the genocide. He was given new life. He was given hope after the darkest of situations. He learned that God is always with us, though it’s hard to understand how He could be in the midst of something so senseless and painful. His loving arms are always reaching out to us, we can find comfort in the shadow of His wings. We can be filled with a peace that passes all understanding.
After all, it extends beyond reason and beyond all understanding that Eric should have peace after living what he has lived. It is unexplainable that the women whose entire families were murdered should forgive the men who did it. But,
What is impossible with man is possible with God.
It was late into the night a few nights ago when I was reading from some of the pages, my eyes getting sleepy. I was caught up in Eric’s story and the miraculous healing that God is granting him when something made me do a double take. He was explaining the day that he stumbled upon the church in Rwanda that brought him to God. Then he told of a call he had shortly after his newfound faith.
He writes, “I remember vividly the call I felt in April of 1999 to pray and fast for my life’s direction.”
This date reached out and grabbed me. As I wrote in a prior post, in one of my old Bibles I have documented the day I prayed for Jesus to save my life: March 1, 1998.
It seems so surreal that as I am reading about Eric’s journey and how far he has come – his experience growing up as a boy in Africa, feeling the calm before the storm of genocide, living the aftermath of the massacre, trying to rebuild from the ground up, finding hope in Jesus, starting a ministry to help orphans – I am reminded that he and I have such different stories to tell. But we are both part of the body of Christ.
Most of all, it blows me away that it was almost the exact same time that we both came to Christ. I had a beautiful, safe childhood. In March of 1998 I was probably attending Sunday school at Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor, and as a ten year old I was learning about the love of God, His promises, the sacrifice He made for my life.
Meanwhile Eric was trying to find meaning in all of the destruction, mourning the loss of his family, crying out to God for reconciliation.
It never ceases to amaze me the things that God is doing all around the world; He is reaching into the hearts of people, performing miracles and changing lives. I am so grateful to God for Eric’s story, for my story, and for the countless other stories of hope, love, and rebirth.
You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:2-3
Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.