Reblog: In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder: 23 years later!

Resharing a blogpost I wrote 3 years ago:

Source: In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder: Two Decades Later!

Lighting candles in memory of our Loved Ones who were taken away from us so soon!

♫ Hear me God, God of Rwanda ♫: By A Grieving Rwandan Singer!

Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills

When I was growing up, just like most of Rwandans then, for some reasons, I thought that Rwanda was the biggest country ever. It goes way back in history.  “Rwanda” comes from “Kwanda“, which means “getting larger or expanding“. After I moved to the United States, I of course abandoned the idea. Rwanda is nearly the size of the state of Massachusetts.

Also, I am still convinced that everyone in Rwanda believed in God when I was growing up. Many songs and expressions in Kinyarwanda simply reflected “the God of Rwanda” that spent the day in other countries but definitely came home to Rwanda every night. In fact, most last names in Rwanda carried “God” or “Imana” in it. For instance, my maiden name Imaniraguha, means, “God gives you”, and many many others.

Unfortunately, Rwandan artists also later wrote that God didn’t come to Rwanda on April 7th, 1994. That Thursday morning (ironically this year 2016 exactly matches days of 1994) marked the beginning of an ethnic cleansing, the 1994 genocide against the minority Tutsi group (15% of the population of about 7 millions then).

Personally, as I have written in many posts, although the genocide lasted about 100 days, April is a unique month in mine and my 3 surviving siblings’ lives. By Sunday April 24th, 1994, I had already lost my parents and two of my siblings. One mourning song especially conveys the degree of my grief, my prayer, my hope. It’s called “Hear Me God, please Hear Me, God of Rwanda“. Click here to take a listen: Nyumva Mana (Hear me God) by Suzanne Nyiranyamibwa.

Unfortunately it’s in Kinyarwanda; however, below is my attempt to transcript the lyrics in English. Although the song is possibly nearly 2 decades old, it has been my favorite for so many reasons!

♪♫Hear me God, Hear me God, Please Hear me, God of Rwanda.

Keep me from having rancor and rid me of a heart of vengeance. Let Justice roll, and please end oppression in our country.

Hear me God (x2)!

Although many years come to pass, my heart is still stricken with grief! I look everywhere and my sight has no end. And when I call out for someone, echoes answer me, instead!

Hear me God (x2)!

My father! I didn’t bury him! My Mother! I didn’t see her on a deathbed! Many relatives, children and true friends, were killed without a crime and I was left all alone!

Hear me God!

One who could be on my side was taken away in this tsunami, too. They robbed me of love and wrapped me in sorrow. I escaped without hope as the enemy watched!

Hear me God!

Your chosen ones were murdered because of how you created them. Please seat them near you in Your Palace of Life, relieve them of pain and rest them in peace!

Hear me God!

Lord of Mercy, hear me I am begging You. Please come quickly, win over the enemy and protect me with Your Shield. Bless Rwanda with great things and get rid of all bitterness among us!

Hear me God, Please Hear me, God of Rwanda.

Keep me from having rancor and rid me of a heart of vengeance. Let Justice roll, and please end oppression in our country!

Hear me God (x4). Please Hear me, God of Rwanda ♪♫

Descent into the Kigali International Airport, Kanombe

Aerial View of Kanombe, near the International Airport in Kigali

“But those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

In Loving Memory: 22 Years Later ♥♥♥♥

My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

♥If tears could build a stairway,
and memories a lane.
I would walk right up to Heaven
and bring you back again.♥

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” ~ Matthew 5: 4

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.23.04 PM

My Family. Before April 1994

Jean Eric, Alice, Alphonsine, Mireille Noella

My Family, after April 1994: Jean Eric, Alice, Alphonsine, Mireille Noella

Grief is NOT Cowardice, Forgiveness is NOT Being Defeated: Rwanda, APRIL 1994

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”~ Revelations 21:4

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” ~ Mathew 5: 4

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”~ Revelations 21:4

It’s almost February and April is around the corner. Oh how I anxiously wait for this month all year around! Why is April a big deal? Because it will be the 22nd anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, in which I lost my beloved parents and 2 of my siblings. Unfortunately, although a lot has happened since then, it  still feels like it was yesterday to me!

Though I still grieve for them with a deep sorrow and always will, however, I have encountered someone who has deeply touched my shattered heart with a mighty healing power and gave me a reason to rejoice forever: my Lord and King Jesus! He has turned my mourning into dancing! Therefore, I grieve with hope!

That’s my prayer for anyone who has lost someone close, especially tragically. I know how you feel!

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” ~ Romans 12:15

My Dearly Beloved Parents

My Dearly Beloved Parents

Today, I am again reminded that life is extremely short and that tomorrow is NOT guaranteed! I knew that already, but my weary heart needs a constant reminder. This evening, I learned of a death of someone so young and full of life. This young man was a newlywed to an extremely beautiful young woman who is a close friend to my family in Rwanda.

He died of a motorcycle accident, the most popular means of public transportation in Rwanda, besides buses. Quite frankly, a cruel fact may be that those commercial motorcycles probably claim more lives than any other cause of death in Rwanda.

I weep so deep with this very young widow. My heart breaks for her, her family and many whose loved ones have been taken away so suddenly. This life begs more questions than answers unfortunately. You may have many examples. My prayer is that the whole world will come to know how much God loves us despite our circumstances. That’s very important.

You see, the Bible tells me that one day, God will make everything new, and wipe away all our tears. Our mourning will be no more. This gives me hope! And that we will see again all those who died in the Lord, in the new life that knows no sorrow.

There, hatred, discrimination, accidents, killings, injustice, tragedies, natural disasters, diseases, illness, hunger, wars, all will lose battle. Love & peace will be victorious and eternal life will be our song forever!

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me,“Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” ~ Revelations 14:13

Father God, I pray that You’ll comfort all those who are grieving & hurting. You alone are their Strength, Shield and Salvation. You are capable of consoling them even when the outpouring sympathy & support is not enough. Will You send them Peace, surround them with Your unfailing Love and Kindness! Will You be their only Joy, Hope and Refuge! Now and always!

In Jesus name! Amen!

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”~ Revelations 21:4

The Art of Trust: Our Assurance!

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.Jeremiah 17:7-8

Sometimes, when I share my experience during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and its aftermath, my audience often asks me what I struggled the most with after the loss I endured. I have talked about the pain of watching my siblings especially my youngest sister Mireille who doesn’t recall much about our childhood or our loved ones we lost during the Genocide against the minority Tutsi ethnic group in Rwanda. This truly breaks my heart. I also talk about how God enabled me to forgive my family members’ killers. However, there is something else I don’t say often.

Trust2

Trusting people does not come to me easily. As I talk more about my personal life, my failures and fears, although I must admit that it has been both challenging and thrilling, it has certainly helped me with healing and forgiving. I am very thankful for another chance I have been given to life and the great opportunity to be able to share my story with all kinds of people. It may help someone. However, I still struggle to trust people.

It’s still painful to grasp that neighbors who spoke the same language, whose children we attended the same school and played together, worshiped at the same mass every Sunday, would murder their fellow neighbors, people who meant the world to me. It hurts so badly to feel abandoned by relatives when you’re young and need them the most. It changes everything when love is taken away from you at a very young age and people who should care don’t feel empathy toward your horrifying circumstances.

It absolutely hurts when a friend you trust so much lets you down or people you rely on are not there when you need them the most. It is disappointing when you share a personal struggle with someone but they don’t take it seriously. It hurts when you have expectations for certain people and trust them but they turn their back on you when you need them. It is heartbreaking when a religious leader you look up to turns out to be your worst nightmare.The list goes on..

trust

The truth is that, people will probably let you down. Unfortunately some people change and we often make wrong choices. We are human beings and the devil takes advantage of our weaknesses. But also, Timothy explains what is to come:

“But understand this, that in the last days, there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Nonetheless, you’re not meant to place your trust in your friends; there is not a single person in this world who is perfect. On the contrary, you are called to love everyone unconditionally and put your TRUST in GOD alone. He is the only one who will NOT: disappoint you, let you down, turn his back on you, forget about you, leave you as orphan, irritate you, or delay.

You can trust that God understands your pain better than anyone else and that He will come to your rescue. Even though people may not be there for you, God will never let you down! You can trust Him fully and fix your eyes on Him! When you feel all alone and disappointed, remember that you are not into this alone. You can trust God with all your life!

Although it is a great weakness of mine to open up and trust easily, God Has been patient with me. He Has enabled me to trust Him completely first and foremost, and to forgive when people I am able to trust let me down. His Grace has also been overflowing through seeking forgiveness when I am not there for those who need me the most. Thank God for His wonderful promises we have been given:

Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49: 15-16

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” Psalm 125:1

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”. Isaiah 43: 2-3

Grief is NOT Cowardice, Forgiveness is NOT Being Defeated: APRIL 1994

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (ESV)

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14 (ESV)

Dear Father GOD in heaven, thank you for accepting me for who I am. Since no creature is hidden from your sight, this is the truth in my heart: APRIL reminds me of the terror that engulfed my beautiful country, the shameful death my loved ones died 21 year ago: April 7 (Marie Claudine, age 11), April 17 (Dad, 43), April 24 (Mama, 40 & Jean Felix, age 15). This month brings back horrific memories to relive nightmares that filled the emptiness followed their departure from this world.

I often wonder why they were gone so soon and how could anyone harm them!! I tearfully wish they lived to see and be proud of who I am today. I truly hate when doctors here ask me about my parents medical history or how they died; what am I supposed to say? It’s hard to let go of the fact that my parents weren’t there to see their youngest son Eric getting married last December. When I am struggling, I miss Papa’s voice telling me that everything will be okay.

My Dear Parents!

Mama (photo taken in 1976; she was 22) and Papa (1985: he was 34)

Dear Lord, it’s not easy to accept that their grandkids and later generations will only meet them in my pages. My heart wanders each time I need someone to remind me of things from my childhood. I can’t help but wondering how my parents would have loved to see my place, meet my friends, see my new car, and hear about my job and stories of places I travel to on business. Father, I think that they’d have been proud. I am so sure of this!

Jesus, I very well know that where my loved ones are in your heaven, they’re no longer worried or suffering!

Will You please tell them that Miette, Alice, Eric and I miss them so deeply and love them very much!! Will You delegate your angels to narrate to them everything You had done for us for the past 21 years? Will You please assure Mama that You have been everything we ever need, that Your richness in us surpasses all our understanding? Will You tell Papa how your Protection keeps us safe, Your Love is our shield, Your Glory our success, Your grace our happiness?

Will You tell them that You have been our Provider, Defender and a shoulder to cry when we miss them? As I wrote last year this time that You and I would take care of their son’s wedding, will You please tell them for me that everything was perfect because You were our Guest of Honor? You are able to explain it better than I could ever do.

Father, will You again read the below TRIBUTE I wrote last year to Mama, Papa, Marie Claudine and Jean Felix? Thank you so much for putting an end to their pain and suffering of this life, and for making them dwell in your heaven and resting them in your eternal peace! And thank you for enabling me to honestly forgive their killers! You alone can make broken lives beautiful!

A Tribute to my Loved Ones on the 20th anniversary (2014)

In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder: Two Decades Later!

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24

Is it Always Possible to Forgive? This is how I understand it!

 

bene3

This year, I have especially had a great privilege to speak and share my experience through the genocide in Rwanda (1994) and its aftermath to much younger audiences: middle school, high school and college students. I have been amazed by their curious and honest minds.

At Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill, NC, I had an opportunity to speak to the 7th grade group, about 100 of them. I have never felt so comfortable to talk about my life story to younger people than this time. When I mentioned that I was their age during the genocide, they were appalled. Needless to say, I believe that it made the talk easier as we tried to related to each other in terms of age.

Prior to the speech, their teacher briefed them about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Their response: “it’s impossible to forgive someone who has committed genocide crimes. Later after the speech, some of them came to talk to me. I was very touched.

After speaking at Philips Middle School

@ Phillips Middle School, Feb 2014

One high school I spoke at, Trinity Academy of Raleigh, NC, students (9th-12th grade) have had a chance to read my story ahead of the talk; they posted more than a hundred questions prior to my session. All of their questions were very interesting but I’d like to share a few:

  • Do you believe, in this circumstance, that forgiveness is an intelligent decision?
  • How do you help others learn to forgive? 
  • Just wondering, but Jesus said forgive 70 x 7 times and then that again, is that number larger enough to accommodate for the amount of deaths?
  • What has been your greatest struggle since your trials in 1994?
  • How do you keep your strength in forgiving your enemies? I understand God gives you strength but the event of your family being killed is still a hard thing to coup with.
  • How are you able to cope with talking about this horrible event over and over and not react to it in a negative way? But be able to find the good in the situation?
  • Is this similar to what is happening in Syria right now? A civil war containing of family and neighbors and friends fighting each other? 

I was fascinated by how much they were able to quickly grasp before I even had a chance to speak to their class. I do NOT claim to have answers to the above questions nor am I an expert in forgiveness. I am only sharing my life experience and what my eyes have seen.

This post is not intended to teach about forgiving genocide crimes, or forgiveness in general. This is my own story and experience, so please bear with me if you have different beliefs or opinion!

There is no question about this! The genocide has snatched the most precious part of my life: my incredible parents and two of my siblings, innumerable friends, neighbors, classmates. Undeniably, my peaceful world has been forever twisted and eternally shattered. The tragedy left me with deep wounds, permanent scars, unwanted injuries. I still tremble with great fear as I try to comprehend the cruelty, people who became ferocious animals, the stories of how my loved ones were shamed to death.

Speaking to Salem College Student about Forgiveness

@ Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC. Feb 2014

For a long time, I wanted to utterly blot out my past, and pretend as if the horror was simply a nightmare. I silently wished that the month of April would be completely removed from the Gregorian calendar. For many years, I didn’t believe that something good can ever happen to me in April. April in Kinyarwanda Mata means milkto perhaps trace back to the country that was once referred to as “flowing milk and honey.”  

On the contrary, in Mata 1994, streams of innocent blood rushed down the hills, rested in the plains. Corpses swelled rivers, mass graves, an effort to conceal crime scenes, devoured innocent souls. Sorrow filled highs and lows of Rwanda, weeping voices rang across the country of a thousand hills. It is when terror engulfed Rwanda, to introduce for the first time, longer daylights but shorter nights to reveal and expose unsafe hidings for those who run for their lives without an understanding to why they were being hunted to be hacked to death.

In that Mata, the soil of Rwanda opened to swallow the blood of innocent, amazing people who meant the world to me, without an explanation! Daily nightmares to keep reliving what exactly happened would soon follow, to awake me gasping for air, wondering if it’s Mata all over again. Those terrifying nights lasted for years before I could have a normal dream to calm my soul.

Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly forgave those who caused this misery, from the heart. The truth is though, an attempt to explain what it takes to move on past the genocide crimes, hatred, injustice beyond comprehension is impossible and an understatement! But this is why I did it. NO, scratch that please! This is what Jesus Has done in me:

  •  The genocide has done irreversible damage in my life

Four members of my family were killed, not because of a crime they committed. Their death sentence was their physical appearance, something they weren’t given a chance to bargain with God on their birth. With that said, there is nothing in this life that can ever be done to bring them back.

Not even if I was given the righteous power to kill everyone who is responsible and get rid of anyone who doesn’t wish me well. Howbeit, there is someone who leads the world with Justice and He sees everything. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

So, when I feel anger and hatred crouching at the door of my heart, I remember Romans 12:20: “To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” It is written and true! The greatest vengeance you could ever do to someone who has wronged you is to forgive them.

Speaking at the Summit Church

@ The Summit Church, Durham, NC. November 2013

  • My parents and two siblings are in heaven with God

Absolutely! It’s beyond the shadow of doubt! Their tears are no more, their pains have ceased to occur. They are no longer being tortured or grieving. Their journey on this earth may have ended sooner, but their life with Jesus will never have an end. I patiently wait for the day I will see them again, in a life that knows no sorrow or a broken heart. I miss them with a deep sorrow!

With that said, it is written in Hebrews 12:14:Strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. For all it’s worth, I crave for holiness because I long to see GOD who has my parents and two siblings with Him. Holiness includes forgiveness on my part, not only to those who made me an orphan, but also to everyone who has hurt me from small to great things.

  • Forgiveness benefits the forgiver more than the one who is forgiven

Besides the word of God, scientifically proven, when you love someone or people, you think about them all the the time and wish them well. The same way, when you have been wronged, each time that your wounded heart is reminded of the injustice that has been done to you or your loved one, unintentionally or aware, you react. The signs can be rage, frustration, nightmares, headaches, lack of trust, sleep disorders, depression, shyness, resentment and many more.

“Studies from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found forgiveness to be associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as stress relief. A later study found forgiveness to be positively associated with five measures of health: physical symptoms, medications used, sleep quality, fatigue, and somatic complaints. It seems that the reduction in negative affect (depressive symptoms), strengthened spirituality, conflict management and stress relief one finds through forgiveness all have a significant impact on overall health.”

Personally, I want to occupy my mind with treasured memories of hope. The wonders of God in my life overwhelm me with gratitude and humility. He held my hand and reminded me that I was not alone through trials and tribulations when no one else comforted me. My God and I are forever undefeated!!

As for those who have hurt me, their bad intentions have no room in my records. As I extend forgiveness to them, whether they ask for it or not,  I feel free. As I forgive, my heart feels lighter as if a heavy burden has been lifted off my shoulder!

Speaking at the PKN Raleigh

@ PKN Raleigh, NC. May 2013

  • I make mistakes, too!

“I’m a sinner, FIRST, sinned against SECOND.” ~ The Summit Church

I have to remind this to myself all the time. Just like Jesus said that the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. I often find myself doing or wishing things that I wouldn’t normally want or do in my right mind, because of my sinful heart’s desire. When that happens, I am like, seriously? How did I possibly bring myself to think of this or do that etc.

Romans 3:23 goes like this: “for all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God”.

I don’t see where it says only those who shed blood. Everyone, including victims, we all need Jesus. So if we’re all in the same boat, how am I better to judge others and decide their fate?

In Mathew 18:21-35, Jesus tells us the Parable of an Unforgiving Servant after Peter asked him how many times he should forgive a brother who sins against him. The king had a servant who owed him 14 billion US dollars; since he couldn’t pay back, the king ordered him and his family to be sold until they could pay it off. Then the servant fell on his knees begging the king to give him time to pay everything off. Out of pity, the king forgave him the debt.

As soon as this very servant left, he encountered a fellow servant who owed him $2,000. He started choking him asking to pay it all, and when his debtor couldn’t pay, he put him in prison. As the story goes on, the master found out what the first servant did. Out of anger, the master put him in jail until he could pay off all his debt.

Honestly, if my past, present and future sins were converted in any type of currency, I’d be imprisoned for the rest of my life. They are too many to number, for sure. Because I’ve been forgiven too, I don’t want to be like this unforgiving servant. My only part in this all, is to forgive, even when those who have wronged me don’t deserve it or ask for it.

  • Everyone will be held accountable for their acts, someday!

This life has an end, no doubt about this one! One day, we will all stand before God, whether you believe in Him or not, and our work in this life will be measured and tried. Hebrews 4:13 states that: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”. God knows it all, and His judgement is beyond ACCURATE!

Our life example has been set on the cross where Jesus died in shame to reconcile the world to God. He is the finest example of what it is to forgive even when it hurts so much.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healedIsaiah 53: 4-5

 “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12: 19

Sins may carry different weights, but I am not the one to determine who has committed unforgivable ones. GOD sees it all, and He is the right Judge. Who am I to replace Him on that seat? I’m not skilled to thoroughly understand God’s ways, nor I’m qualified to question what He’s doing.

This is very assuring to me more than anything, and knowing that He will avenge on my enemies, I want to learn how to truly forgive, and leave the rest to God’s wrath. This is my understanding on forgiveness!

 “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.” – Lewis B. Smedes.

“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” ~ Catherine Ponder

In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder: Two Decades Later!

***

It is undoubtedly hard to believe that it has been indeed twenty years since you left us; the world will NEVER be the same without your beauty in it.

It truly still feels like it was yesterday when everything was normal, a happy big family of 8, when your love surrounded me to keep me safe and assured. It is extremely difficult not to weep. It is not easy to accept that I will never see you again on this side of heaven. There is not a single day that passes without thinking about you. You may not be here physically but your memories are alive and rich in our hearts, eternally.

But I also know that our dear GOD loved you so much that He wanted all four of you by His side. If I could ask Him one impossible thing though, it’d be to give me wings to fly over where you are, in a peaceful heaven, to hug you so tight and tell you that I love you, and that it is for always!

Although if that happened, I am afraid that I’d never let you go. So, until eternity, God’s mighty hand will keep me under the shadow of His wings. Only then, death won’t separate us anymore. Our tears will be wiped away, our hearts will cease to be heavy, for good.

A Treasured Garden of Fame!

A Treasured Garden of Fame!

***

My dearest little sister Marie Claudine “Magnifique”, you were an angel and died like one.

It is still heart-wrenching to know that you were among the first 3 people that were killed in our entire village after the genocide broke out on Wednesday night; what wrong could you have possibly committed? I am so thankful that I at least got to say goodbye to you, after you died with your arms wrapped as if in a prayer. Although I still remember blood pouring down from your throat as if a knife had sliced it, I hold onto God who loved you way more than I did.

You went like an angel, and I know that lots of them gathered to welcome you home early morning that Thursday, April 7th. I can only imagine the party that was held in your honor! You will tell me more about it in heaven, after I complete the reason my life was spared this very same month 20 years ago. I will catch you up on everything you have missed, okay? I will love you all my life!

Magnifique2014

***

Daddy, you left so soon but the confidence you always had in me, as a little girl, keeps me going.

I vividly remember the day you surrendered your final breath, on Sunday afternoon, April 17th. That is when we overheard the Hutu interahamwe militia boasting that they cut you into 3 pieces and they were looking for us (my Mom and 5 children) to finish the whole family. How could anyone on this planet possibly harm you? You may have been tortured in the flesh, but I know that your sweet soul is safe with the God you taught us to pray. Do you remember how you always beamed with pride when I did well in school?

Well, I know you’d have been proud to know that I finished all the way to grad school. I also landed my dream job and work for a great company, in a far away foreign country that has become my new, comfortable home. Can you believe that you were not present to be proud of me? I miss you but Jesus, my Savior and King, is always there on yours and Mom’s behalf. I don’t feel alone. He comforts me when I am scared and applauds when I do well. He also still loves me when I fail too.

By the way, I had a dream shortly after 1994. In it, I made a promise to you that I will love your surviving children as you’d have done if you were alive. I’m very humbled to say that I’ve never withheld anything from your son & two daughters, within my ability, even if it meant starving myself for their well being. And they will never need anything, as long as I shall live! When Jesus will return in his glory to judge all the nations, I will not be ashamed to stand before him and the heavenly congregation that you, Momma, Marie Claudine & Jean Felix will be part of. The Holy Spirit himself bears me witness.

I’d love to tell you so much right now but I will let God tell you everything, okay? I miss you Daddy, but I am strong because of who you raised me to become and the God you always worshiped. P.S: Thank you and Mama for giving me the name “Alphonsine” or a “warrior“. I have become one; you surely prepared me for what lay ahead. Rest in heavenly peace. I will love you Papa, eternally!

Papa2014

***

Dear Mommy, when I remember our final moments together, it reminds me how you were always honest even if it’d cost your own life.

As we waited for our death sentence by the mass grave, I recall when the blood-shedders asked you if you had more children not with us so they could hunt them down and bring them to die with us, on Sunday afternoon, April 24th. You didn’t lie. Because you were ready to walk into God’s heaven. I remember pleading to the merciless killers, as if they’d listen, to not kill you before I came back with an armed soldier as an escort, to bring Eric, Alice & Mireille: my plea was my final words with you. Miraculously, all 3 of them and I survived.

I am their Mom now, and I love them more than anything in this life. I do everything that I can think of that you and Dad would have done for us. Them and God are my witnesses. I wish you could see them now. They’re all grown up, beautiful and incredible. Can you believe that Alice and Eric will complete their Master’s degrees this year, and the baby Mireille will finish college? Those three are the best thing that has ever happened to me!

Oh, by the way, your youngest son Eric is marrying the love of his life and the most incredible woman on this planet, late this year. You’d have loved his fiancée, too. GOD and I will take care of every single detail in the wedding. We’re very sad that you and DAD will miss it! And also, Mireille doesn’t really remember how any of you looked like :(. But it’s okay; she has me now. She will always be a princess and spoiled as long as I breathe. This is my eternal promise to you and Daddy!

Did God tell you for me that He has blessed me with another Mom? She is just like you. You don’t look alike on the outside but she may as well be your little sister because she just sounds and does things like you did. I have so many amazing friends in this foreign land that I am honored to call my new home. They make me feel loved and special. I know you’d have been proud to know and see all this!

Although I have only known you for just few years, your love was so real and true. I still feel your comforting voice when I am sick and remember how you used to ask me how I was doing. Then I’d simply break into tears instead of responding as a result of being overwhelmed by your caring, spoiling nature and love. I will tell you so much when we see each other again in heaven. I will love you Mommy, always!

Colette_2014

***

My dear big brother “Nkeke”, I’ll never forget that you were my bodyguard at school and no one would come close because you were there, tall and all.

I am so sorry that my last memory of you is not good. I wished I was stronger to stop the infamous Hutu interahamwe militiamen who beat you with sharp wires and blood poured down your beautiful face. The film “the Passion of Christ” reminds me of our last moment together. Jesus was beaten and killed when he indeed didn’t do anything wrong; and in the movie, his broken face reminds me of yours.

You didn’t do anything wrong to those who hurt you, and that is why I know beyond the shadow of doubt that, on Sunday afternoon, April 24th, Jesus welcomed you and Maman in his beautiful heaven where you all belong. I cherish those memories, and knowing that you are no longer in that pain brings me hope and courage.

I know that I will see you again with Mommy, Daddy and Marie Claudine, when I finish the work you all started and accomplish the tasks God entrusted to me. That is the reason God didn’t call me to heaven with you, okay? Rest in God’s peace. I miss you so much. I will love you, all my days!

Nkeke2014

***

Dear loved ones: Jean Eric, Alice, Mireille and I, twenty years later, our memories of you are intact and daily watered by your love that keeps us strong. They are forever engraved on the pillars of our hearts. You are our heroes, and we hang onto your word and pride. As we celebrate your lives cut short this month for the 20th time, we again choose to forgive your perpetrators who hacked you to death, your crime being your physical appearance that you didn’t ask God to be born with.

We pray that they will find God, and repent their wrongdoing; otherwise they will face the Redeemer & Father of the Fatherless, because vengeance belongs to Him, and He will repay. We are stronger, your legacy remains. Our goal is to make you proud everyday. We miss you with deep sorrow! Feast and dwell in heaven where amazing people like you deserve to be, we will finish what you started. You are all our heroes, and alive in our hearts as long as we shall live. We will love you forever and always!

Jean Eric, Alice, Alphonsine, Mireille Noella

Jean Eric, Alice, Alphonsine, Mireille Noella. 03/10/2014

Inconceivable Heroism Amid Horror

My siblings and I grew up in a large family: two boys and four girls. I am the second and oldest girl; but this post is not about me. I want to share with the world about the fourth child, my little brother Jean Eric Claude. I vividly remember when he was born, I was almost 5 years old. He was a big baby (about 10 pounds), extremely beautiful with chubby cheeks and so much curly hair. I asked my mother if I could hold him, but I was unable to because he was too heavy for me. I am sure you are wondering if I am describing the right person basing on the below picture. By the way, that makes two of us! I am not sure how he grew up to become thinner than the rest of the family.

When Eric was young, him and I used to fight a lot. I am sure I provoked him but he was not that easy either. He played outside always, and was injured all the time from different utensils he collected or perhaps some fights he may have been involved in. He was a stubborn little guy.

On Sunday afternoon, April 24th, 1994, exactly 17 days since the Rwandan Genocide began, everything changed! God must have stirred something unimaginable in this 8 year old’s heart after my Mom, my old brother Jean Felix, my cousin and I were led by the infamous interahamwe militiamen to the mass grave in the lower Kanombe, suburbs of Kigali, to be killed.

Sparing you the details for now, I miraculously survived but my Mom, brother and cousin didn’t. Although death was everywhere, I undoubtedly cherish that afternoon because God gave me another chance to life. However, the same day I got separated from my brother Eric, and sisters Alice and Mireille, who were all under 10. At this point, they were so certain I was dead, and I thought the same for them.

My handsome brother
My handsome brother, now a grown up man! I’m eternally honored to be called his sister.
With no instructions on what to do next or a moment to think about it, my baby brother immediately assumed the role of a big brother and a parent. Fleeing amid rain of bullets, blood thirst machetes and hiding in unfamiliar areas, he tied up a piece of blanket around his neck so his two sisters could hold on to it.

Sigh…

I often wonder how the blanket didn’t choke him or how he figured out that this would be the best approach for his dear sisters. Few times, the youngest Mireille who was 3, got separated from them; unable to decide what to do, she would simply stay wherever she was left. Was she scared? When you are aware that death awaits you any minute, the sense of feeling becomes numb, even at such age.
As soon as my brother realized that she was missing, when parents left babies to cry to death and everyone was just running for their life, my brother turned around to look for Mireille. No wonder why their hearts have been knitted together ever since!
Also each time they found something to eat after days, my little brother would let my sisters eat first. After they have had enough in their little tummies, only then he would grab some.
Their stories after we got separated still wound my heart greatly. It certainly is where my forgiveness is tried the most. But I praise GOD, for keeping them safe, allowing me to be part of their precious lives, and His amazing Grace!

The spoiled brat quickly became a MAN at that young age, a selfless one. I doubt I would have been able to put my life in danger to find my little sister or keep them safe, when sounds of terror and weeping voices of sorrow rang across all corners of the country. Only extraordinary, rare people would do that. I often wonder what was in his mind, but the LOVE he had for his little sister sure overcame his fear and selfishness of saving his own life. God Almighty knew well that I was incapable of doing such a heroic act and led me alone.

Mireille and Alice: My greatest happiness!
My Beautiful Girls, my Greatest Blessing, my Treasure! Mireille (left) and Alice (right).

Only those who have been through the Genocide can understand my inability to describe the cruelty of the humans who became ferocious animals: babies were cut out of their mothers’ wombs and smashed against walls; relatives denied each other, neighbors turned their back on their friends, husbands killed wives and children, hell engulfed Rwanda. Amid terror, my little brother didn’t care about death that surrounded him, and God used him to keep my little sisters alive. He is my hero, my best friend! If I could get hold of the whole world, I would freely give it to him; if I was part of the Nobel Prize organizing committee, he would get at least a few of those!

My brother’s last name “Mudacumura”, means “innocent in both English and French. This truly depicts who he is. He has every quality you can possibly look in a great man: selflessness, humility, passion, compassion, a big heart, brilliant, kindness, funny, sweet, down to earth, loves God, handsome, a true gentleman! Until this day, he puts his siblings’ interests before his. He is the rock of our family, an exact replica of our father.

I CANNOT wait already for the day he will tie the knot with this incredible woman of his dreams, probably the luckiest girl on this planet. No one deserves happiness more than him. And I can’t wait for the day we will again see our parents, so I can narrate all about a little boy they left behind, now the most amazing man in the whole wide world.

I love my brother with everything functioning in me. Him and his two sisters are the reason I am alive, there is no doubt about that.

They will never, EVER, need anything my ability can provide; God and my parents in heaven have my word!

It hurts my feelings when I think that one day I may not be the first person they all run to for help. Of course I work hard for their independence, but it will greatly shatter my heart. They will always be my children, little in my eyes. And they certainly have all my love and attention, all my days!!!

And this, my friends, is the source of my strength and hope: God, the great I am!

A Forgiving Heart

I don’t know about you but I certainly think that forgiveness is a hard thing to do: to be kind to someone who was mean or rude to you, and move on as if nothing happened. It definitely takes a brave person to do that.

I absolutely love the Bible. It’s my greatest source of inspiration. As I reflected to forgiveness, the story of a man called David came to mind. David was Jesse’s youngest of eight sons. While his three oldest brothers went to war, David tended his father’s sheep in Bethlehem. He also served Saul, the then King of Israel. God’s anointing was on David; but the king Saul rejected the commandment of the Lord and turned his back from following God. Eventually, Saul plotted with his servants and son to kill David; fortunately, Saul’s son, Jonathan, was David’s best friend and he revealed the plan to him. David fled for his life.

But one day, David got a chance to possibly revenge on Saul. Actually, not only once but multiple times.

David Spares Saul

7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. 8 Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” 9 But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” 10 And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. 11 The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.” 12 So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul’s head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them. (1 Samuel 26: 7-12 ESV)

Stephen Is Seized & Stoned

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6: 8-15 ESV)

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 8: 54-60 ESV).

The Crucifixion

26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23: 26-43 ESV)

It is extremely heart breaking to see how much injustice is all around these days. Watching the news channels make you sick to the stomach sometime, and you often wonder why such animosity happen. If I started to number them, I would run out of space: racism, segregation, rights suppression, unfair judgement, hatred, blood shedding of innocent lives, lies, abuse, power misuse, discrimination, selfishness and many more.

Just like Paul urged Timothy in his letter: “3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3: 3-5

Now let’s ask ourselves those questions:

– Would I want everyone I know to treat me with respect?
– If someone hurt me, would I want them to apologize to me and change their behavior?
– How do I like to feel loved and cared for?
– Do I like it when people pay attention to my needs and requests?

Now, let’s take the example of David, Stephen or Jesus. If you were faced with what happened to either of them, would you be able to forgive? It’s not easy, but if we treated others the same way we want to be treated, the world would be different. When I see/face injustice, I am consoled by knowing that there is a God who sits on the throne of Justice and He is full of Love and Grace. He sees everything, and will judge every individual, alive or dead, and hold each one accountable of their actions.

If today, you were given an open opportunity to avenge someone who wronged you, would you be able to, instead,choose forgiveness?