Twenty-two years ago this month, one of the worst ethnic crises occurred during three months in Rwanda. This tragedy has been documented in many forms (Sixty Minutes, Hotel Rwanda, Sometimes in April, etc). Last summer, however, I read Immaculee Ilibagiza’s memoir of the Rwandan genocide, Left to Tell. In her memoir, she chronicles, with specificity, the impact that the Rwandan genocide had on her, her family, the Rwandan community, and even the world. She grew up in a devout Catholic family where she learned to have faith in Jesus through prayer. In 1994, her country experienced the genocide of approximately one million Tutsis in response to an ethnic war with the Hutus. Her family raised her to not value others based on artificial classifications, but on their actions. Unknowledgeable about her own cultural classification for many years, when she did come to learn about the classification system, she experienced discrimation to a high degree. Highly regarded in their community, her parents taught her that faith in God and service to others were the answers to life’s problems. Never did she fathom, however, that her faith would be tested and subsequently sharpened. Given the opportunity to attend college away, Ilibagiza did not hesitate to take advantage of an excellent opportunity. While attending college, there was an exacerbation of the conflict in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. Not realizing the conflict’s severity, she came home to celebrate Easter with her family. While home, the death of Rwanda’s Hutu president ignited a machete driven slaughter of Tutsis for the next three months. Ilibagiza lost her entire family except for one brother who was away from home at the time. Thanks to a Hutu pastor who covertly hid Ilibagiza and seven other women for ninety-one days in a tiny bathroom (hidden and unknown to most), she survived. During this time they experienced the following harrowing conditions: limited food, limited toilet use, no contact with the outside world, anger, and no bathing (they could not run the water because visitors would hear the water or the toilet flush). They also experienced severe emaciation, dehydration, and despair as they heard of the death of loved ones.
Throughout this time, however, Ilibagiza learned to call upon the name of the Lord. She prayed, without ceasing, that God would deliver her and the others during this crisis. At the time, she did not imagine that God would take ninety-one days to deliver them. Day by day, her faith grew. God sustained her and developed her faith to the extent that He could use her to minister to hurting people everywhere, and to teach reconciliation to the Hutus and the Tutsis. The entire time, God’s hand was upon her and the others. After her rescue and learning of the deaths of family members, God began restoring her manifold, although the process was not easy. The horrors of the conflict and the conditions under which she lived during those three months and after would likely cripple most, but God revealed himself to her and strengthened her faith. Her life was spared and now she is left to tell the world about how God “delivered her out of the mouth of the lion’s den.” Reconciliation through forgiveness for most Rwandans has been difficult, but Ilibagiza is committed to putting a fractured people together. She travels throughout the world giving people hope from sorrow and encouraging forgiveness. Several years ago, she appeared on Sixty Minutes. That is when I first heard her story. Her message of faith is timeless. As difficult as her experience was, the Bible tells us in Romans 8:28, that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
Most of us might never be in such horrific situations similar to Ilibagiza’s; nevertheless, our God is waiting on us to call upon his name. Sometimes it takes a mountain to realize who God is. God uses life’s situations to urge us to seek his face. He is waiting for us to pray, to ask him to meet our needs and to deliver us from situations; however, it is through these situations that we learn true faith. Many of us have difficult situations that rob us of joy and weigh us down. All we have to do is relinquish control, and give God the situation. If we ask anything in God’s name, we know he hears us and will grant our petition ( John 15:7). Furthermore, the Bible tells us that our weapons of warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4,). God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). And, eyes have not seen, nor ears heard, what God has in store for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). God has great things in store for us. Let him use us in a great capacity.
I encourage you to read Left to Tell. Giving hope in the midst of life’s difficulties, is a major benefit to reading this memoir. It will strengthen your faith. I pray that God’s purpose in your life will be revealed to you and that your faith in him will increase. Let’s remember to be fishers of men.
For personal growth and development, read: John 15; Colossians 1.