I was on an excursion that was offered on the cruise that me and my husband had taken in June 2015. He had gone zip-lining and I was with some of our group going tubing down a river. The tour guide brought lime wanting to give the tourists a spa foot massage. One of the ladies asked what lime does? I immediately said “it preserves things.” “What kinds of things does it preserve?” The first thought that went through my mind was dead bodies. There are some things in life that once you see, you can never forget.
November 13, 2010
We leave Nyamaseke today to go to Kigali for our flight tomorrow. We stopped at a genocide memorial. There are no words to describe how terrible it was. The memorial was at a school that never opened because the genocide happened. About 50,000 people hid at the school. The Tutsi’s came and at first cut the water off so the people would get weak. They surrounded the camp so the Hutu’s couldn’t leave, and they would come in day by day and kill people until everyone had been killed. They had made mass graves for the bodies, but over time at least one of the graves was dug up, and the bodies were preserved in lime and then placed in the rooms at the school as the memorial. In these rooms were the remains of men, women, children, and even babies.
On April 6th, 1994 a genocide that in a little over a period of 3 months, killed over 800,000 Tutsi’s and some of their Hutu allies. The genocide was caused when there was a power struggle between two dominant tribes in Rwanda, the Tutsi’s and the Hutu’s. A civil war had been going on between the two groups in the 1990’s but when the Hutu Rwandan president was killed when his plane exploded, the Hutu’s took that time to exterminate the Tutsi’s. Over 800,000 men, women, and children were brutally slaughtered.
In November of 2010 I had the opportunity to travel to Rwanda and during the trip, I had to privilege of meeting orphan survivors of the genocide. In remembrance of this week being the anniversary of when the genocide began, I wanted to share some of my journal entries from my trip and introduce you to a young man, named Emmanuel, that I met on my journey.
After one of the testimonies that was given today, one of the members in our group Emmanuel shared how the testimony impacted him. He shared how he needed to forgive his mom for abandoning him and his brothers to flee the genocide. He worked as a slave after 7 out of his 10 siblings died in the genocide. After that he started a business and began drinking and having sex with women to feel loved. This behavior lasted for years, but about a year ago he was in church, repented, and walked away from what was dragging him down. Emmanuel said he was in a place to finally forgive his mom. He said he almost didn’t come to the retreat because he had to work, but he felt God wanted him to come to share his story. Later on I was wondering about Emmanuel and if he had thought more about forgiving his mom. I went to find him to see if he wanted to talk more one on one and he wanted to. He shared more about how after the genocide he was homeless and made a bed in a tree where he slept at night. He would steal bananas for food. At one point he was so distraught that he tried to kill himself, but his neighbor heard him and came and helped save his life. He said that one of the reasons he drank so much was because he was so angry at his mom for leaving him, and he tried to fill the pain with alcohol. I asked him if he was ready to forgive him mom right then and there. He said yes. I then asked him if he wanted to forgive her in his heart before seeing her face to face. He said yes. I felt God begin to lead me here in a way that I have never been lead before. I felt Him lead me to really step out of the boat and trust Him to do something that I was not qualified for. I felt the Holy Spirit flow through my body, something I have never felt before. I told Emmanuel to look at me and pretend I was his mom, to tell her everything he felt about her, and then after he had to forgive her and pray for her. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if he would be angry and yell, or what! He closed his eyes, and took my hands and calmly let all of the words flow that had been held in his heart for so long. After, he squeezed my hands tight and prayed for his mom. When we said goodbye at the end of the night, which was hours later, he came over to me and was sobbing in my arms repeating something over and over again. Later on one of our translators came over to me and thanked me for what I did for him. I told her it was all God’s leading, and she asked me if I knew what he was saying as he was crying. “I want my mommy, I want my mommy”. She had a conversation with him that night and in talking he told her that he felt really good and that he wanted to see his mom really bad to talk with her. God, I beg you to let that happen, and to begin their relationship new!
I feel unworthy to be here. They are all going through tough stuff and nothing that I can share will measure up to the pain and loss they feel. I know they will never get over the genocide but I pray that God will release His peace over every victim. God’s mercy and grace are so amazing restoring. I am amazed at God’s power. When I get home, how will anyone understand what happened here? How do you explain that during a tree planting part of the trip a guy with a machete was helping me and the knife was inches from my face, and I had never felt safer? How do you explain the immensity of love between the students, and the humble way they have a relationship with God? How do you explain the joy that they have in the midst of terrible heartbreak? How do you explain the smiles on their faces when they have close to nothing? How when you worship with them in a different language and you have no idea what they are saying that we felt united? How beautiful that moment in time is, how special, and how we worshiped with freedom?
My time in Rwanda has always been a reminder to me that in the darkness, He brings light. In pain, He brings healing. In ashes, there is beauty. In hurt, there is forgiveness. No one is too far from His loving embrace.