Redeemed – On Mission in Rwanda
(Inside: Redeemed – an African story of love and redemption.)
Redeemed: A Boy’s Story
He was 9 years old in April of 1994. He and his 8 brothers and sisters lived with their parents in a village not far from the capital city of Kigali in Rwanda. 100 days later, he, his older sister and his younger brother were hiding, trying to survive, the only members of their family left alive. The only reason they were still living, is because when the Hutu’s came to kill his family, their mother pleaded for them to run away, to hide. In part to spare them from watching her be killed, but also to protect their lives.
His older sister did what she could to earn money and take care of him and their younger brother. It had become a generation of children taking care of children. There were no grandparents or aunts and uncles to take the children in. They were part of the 800,000 Tutsis murdered during the genocide. The children just needed to survive.
When he became of age, he went into the military. It was a reliable job and steady paycheck. Finally he would be able to help support his siblings. He became a leader in the military. Then he was injured… shot through the hip and paralyzed from the waist down. His military career over. He would spend the next two years in and out of hospitals, until finally he was healed. His time in hospitals were so impactful that he decided to become a nurse. Another reliable job with a steady paycheck. He knew relative wealth. He employed a housekeeper. He had a home and personal belongings. He cared for his family and eventually have one of his own.
Redeemed: A Country’s Story
This story, or a version of it, is the story for many, many women and men in Rwanda. Often, when I began to get to know someone, the topic of family would come up and they would begin to share their story. At times, it was just a little piece… the whole story still too painful to discuss. Other times, it would be in heartbreaking detail, describing a life I couldn’t even imagine.
And yet, I felt a sense of God’s redeeming grace from many, many people. When you visit Rwanda, you don’t immediately sense that this was a place of horrific hate, evil and murder. You see a country that is being redeemed in front of your eyes. You see a country that is beautiful, and clean; where the citizens take pride in themselves, their property and their land. You see military and police presence and understand that they are there for everyone’s protection. Strangers on the street and new friends that you meet are warm and kind and friendly. Hospitality is ever felt in the homes, churches and businesses. God is redeeming the country of Rwanda and it’s people.
The president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame loves God and loves Rwanda. He is being used by God to help redeem the vicious evil that was done to it’s people. He is using his position to show the love of God to his people through fair laws that favor independence, prosperity, religious freedom and gender equality.
“We want to make the kind of programs that will make Rwanda unrecognizable to those who define us by our tragic history. The future we are building is the future Rwandans deserve.” President Paul Kagame
Many in Rwanda are turning to alcohol to ease their pain and dull their memories; even though, ultimately, true healing can only come from God.
God is using the churches of Rwanda to spread the redeeming power of Christ through the country. People are coming to know God as their Savior. They are crying out to Him and are experiencing the redemption that only God can bring.
Redeemed: Our Story
We all have a story. We all have something in our lives that has hurt us deeply and may still impact us significantly. It may have been something someone did to us, or it may be a consequence from out own bad choices. Hopefully it is not something as horrific as the Rwandan Genocide. Whatever the details, God is still our Redeemer. He still has power over our circumstances, our pain, our fears and our abuse.
We may not acknowledge God as our Redeemer at first. Have you ever tried to overcome in your own power? I sure have. I think, “if I just behave this way it will all be OK.” Or, “if I just push my pain away and act as if it doesn’t exist, I will be able to go on normally.” “If I just keep myself busy enough, I won’t have to think about it.” I think that I can make things better.
What I didn’t realize is that true freedom, true healing can only come from God. He is the only one who can take my story, take your story, redeem it and use it for good. He is the only one who can help us become smarter, stronger and free from the pull of the past. He is the only one who can separate our circumstances from who we are in Christ. God can even lift us out of the dullness and listlessness to renew the vigor we once felt and restore our energy and enthusiasm for life.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. Psalm 103:1-6
God is our I AM.
He is everything we need, including our Redeemer. He takes what is painful, evil and shameful and replaces it with His everlasting love; restoring us back to the women he intended us to be.
If we let him.
If we let loose of the grip we have on our situations and our pain. If we surrender to the unending grace and mercy our Father offers. It’s not easy, but it is necessary if we are fully become the women God wants us to be. If we are to fully experience the freedom God has for us.
The 9 year old boy, turned genocide survivor, turned soldier, turned nurse… he would go on to give up his generous lifestyle to become a pastor. He and his family are serving the people of Rwanda by teaching them the Word of God. They are helping other pastors build churches in their communities. It’s easy to see his passion for God just by watching him. God redeemed this man’s past is using it for good. The gospel is spreading through Rwanda in-spite of the evil that once occurred.
Stop struggling in your own strength. Stop trying to just get by. Turn it over to God and let Him redeem your story. Drop the chains that bind you to the past and embrace the freedom that God offers. He wants to restore you to the woman of your youth. He has plans for you.
Note to readers: The story of the boy in this blog is based on a Pastor I met in Rwanda. Some details may be missing or changed, but the story is similar for so many survivors of the 1994 Genocide.
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