My friend Patrick is on a trip to Rwanda, he sent back email reports of his trip and he graciously authorised me to post portions of them while changing the names of the people involved. This is Patrick’s account.
‘Yesterday was my first church service here and what a difference it was too. The majority of the members are survivors and orphans of the Genocide. The singing was absolutely amazing and a blessing. You could truly tell the grace of God was there.
Then came the testimonies.
What the leadership has found over the years is that testimonies have a variety of benefits.
- First, to give glory to God and thank Him for what He has done in saving and healing people.
- Secondly, the public testimony helps further remove the poison and damage in the testifier’s life.
- Finally it means that new people coming to the church who have been very damaged can see that there are people like them who have been through hell, this gives them hope for their own solace and builds up trust so they can start to open up.
Mama Jo and the young woman
One of the elders, Mama Jo was encouraging and exhorting us all to worship and praise God with all that we’ve got. Mama Jo was widowed during the Genocide and lost eight of her children during this period.
Mama Jo gave an account of how a young woman exhorted one of the churches to praise God with all they’ve got and there is something wrong if they can’t or won’t. The young woman concerned was happy and grateful to praise God by lifting up her fingerless hands to him.
During the Genocide she was a house girl when the mobs came to kill the Tutsi family she worked for. She fled with one of the babies and she being Hutu thought she’d be safe. Unfortunately the killers counted the victims in the house and concluded that one of the babies had been stolen away for safety. They found the girl and baby. They murdered the baby and then punished the girl by chopping her fingers off.
Another young woman
One of the young women gave her testimony before singing a song of praise to God. She was staying in a household that didn’t want her after the genocide; the man of the house had decided to kill her. Sometime later he phoned her asking her forgiveness and wanting to give his life to Jesus. This was the gist of it -the translator was making a valiant effort to keep up.
Towards the end of the service we prayed for around 12 widows over 50, they had lost every member of their family including in-laws along with everything they ever owned. In spite of all this they could honestly put there trust in and praise God for their lives.
We went to the Kigali genocide museum in the afternoon and then went to the site where 10 Belgian soldiers where murdered when guarding the prime minister in April 1994. One of the soldiers was responsible for saving Alex our guide, who himself is a survivor, and is a senior Solace ministries member.
Alex’s house had been surrounded by militia intent on his murder as they suspected he was an RPF infiltrator. He called his Methodist bishop who essentially told him to trust God and die, he called Compassion International who said they couldn’t help him because it was too dangerous, finally he called a cousin who in turn contacted the Belgian soldier who in turn told his fellow soldiers, they decided that they would break the rules and rescue him.
This occurred before the death of the Rwandan and Burundian president. Alex lost 152 members of his family. He and Aline his wife, whom he met and married after the genocide, have 4 natural children and at least 2 others by adoption. One of the adopted girls saw what happened to some of his family but still can only express it in tears. Only recently could his wife smile and laugh again.
Solace Ministries Centre
Afterwards we went to a Solace administration center in Kinykinyi about a 10-minute drive out of Kigali. There we were met by a very grateful crowd where sang songs of praise and had two solos, Alex did the preaching and translating. Many of the congregation are HIV positive due to rape during the genocide.
There a young man named Philippe described his journey in hell as an 11 year old. His family was all killed, his mother was stripped naked in front of him beaten and molested with sticks and his father beheaded. He managed to escape but was later caught through deception by some women who tied him up and did terrible things to him. He was rescued by the RPF and found 2 of his younger sisters whom he has looked after ever since.
We concluded with songs and thanks to God.
I spent the evening with my Solace contact and his wife at the Kigali Novotel where I became quite emotional and nearly broke down in tears whilst describing how gradually I had become interested in Rwanda.’
This is sobering, it reminds me of the pettiness of my complaints and problems. What a challenge it must be to pastor people who have been through so much, and what an inspiration it is to see them praising God. What excuse do you have?