Rising Above the Storms: a Name and a Personal Story!

With some of our kids at the center in Rwanda. Jan 2017

Never in a million years have I ever thought that I would start a nonprofit, leave alone sharing personal, painful wounds of my past with strangers on the cyberspace, or in person for that matter. It has always been a challenge for me to comfortably talk to people I just met, and it still is the case today unfortunately. The idea of starting a nonprofit first came to mind in 2012. I felt urgency and a desire in my heart; I could sense something bigger than I had ever imagined was about to unfold. Soon, it became clear to me that this was what God Has been preparing me for all along.

Losing parents at 13, surviving a genocide with younger siblings who were all under 10, juggling life, pain, loss, poverty, betrayal, disappointment; it has been a long journey to recovery! However, from the very beginning, I perhaps understood that the idea of starting a nonprofit that is centered around my personal journey may possibly mean opening up about my past and personal experiences, something that is extremely difficult for me to do.

You see, I come from a culture that is famous for keeping things to themselves. In Rwanda, you don’t talk about your personal life to people who aren’t your close friends or family members. When you make a casual conversation with a Rwandan around their personal life, they’ll become suspicious of your motives in asking. It is still true today.

Kids in our program during the celebration of International Day of the African Child, July 2017

In fact, more than a decade here, the thought of learning about a stranger’s marital issue or not getting along with a boss during an hour plane ride is still appalling to me today. Don’t get me wrong, I really love listening to others and learning more about their personal stories. My challenge is the other way around; talking to strangers, especially in a group setting, about anything, especially sensitive topics such as 1994 in Rwanda. It doesn’t matter if those people seem harmless. So, when God laid this idea of starting a nonprofit on my heart, I felt equally scared and excited!

RAS Facilities in Rwanda

Summing up my life story and what God has done for me and my siblings, I couldn’t imagine a better name to call my nonprofit: Rising Above the Storms. I chose “Rising” instead of “Rise” as many tend to think of R, to emphasize on a continuing journey, a work in progress. The journey began when the most devastating atrocities of the 20th century hit my beautiful home country on April 6, 1994. By the end of 90 days, my parents and 2 of my siblings have been killed. You can read more on my recollection of their final moments that I wrote on the 20th anniversary of their death: In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder: Two Decades Later.

I like how some people think S means Stars. I will take it ūüôā

It’s been a wild ride since the official launch of RAS, in 2014. Combining the expectations of what it takes to get a startup off the ground with my busy engineering career has been close to impossibility to say the least. I now understand why every person I have met who is an executive director of a nonprofit is their full time job. It’s impossible to do anything else.

Earlier this year, we launched our first partnership with a local organization in Rwanda to start a mobile based classroom for street children. We currently have 17 kids in our program, 11 of them back in school. It’s been an incredible journey to get to know these kids, through our team on the ground. The kids who visit the center on weekly basis receive care through therapy sessions after a meal. This allows them to express their challenges and struggles as we walk with them through life.

Group Photo after Launching Treasured Learning Center

There are multiple ways you can become part of this amazing experience: you can sponsor a child for $50 a month. This amount covers their school material, tuition, school uniform, therapy sessions, meals and clean cloths they receive when they come to the center on a weekly basis. Click here to pick one of the 9 children we have remaining that need sponsorship on our website: Sponsor a Child. Or you can simply donate on our website: Donate to Rising Above the Storms.

Rising Above the Storms is my personal story, my non profit and my life’s calling and God’s mission for my life. I can’t imagine doing anything else. This is without a doubt what I am meant to do for the rest of my life. Caring and loving vulnerable children & youth is something that moves me to tears and keeps me up at night. I weep just looking at hungry, abandoned children that I don’t even know; it could be on TV or newspaper. I could have easily become one of those children; it’s not because of anything I did to be very fortunate.

As the Bible quotes in Isaiah 61, I hope to spend the rest of my life striving to be their voice!

Will you join me? Add your name here!

God bless you

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!

An Important Reminder for Stressful Moments: “Be still, and know that I am GOD” ~ Psalm 46:10

 

moi

Posing for a photo shortly before our gala. Sept 2016

It has been a busy few months, or year for that matter. What a journey! Since January of this year, I have traveled to more than 20 US states (many of them first time), dozens of cities, and three European countries (mostly for business), as well as working 50-80 hours a week on average for my full-time job. If that was not enough, add planning, thinking, worrying, coordinating, and struggling to keep up with what it takes to coordinate our very first annual gala, on top of being the founder of a startup nonprofit.

Let me first start telling you a little bit about me: I am a female engineer; I speak English as a third language. I am terrified by asking people for money, even if its sole purpose is to help orphans out of hopelessness and enable them to dream.

I am not eloquent by any means; I am a nervous wreck before speaking to a large audience. I don’t know how to talk to people I just met. A group of strangers terrifies me, even if they are all friendly. I grew up in a third world country and moved here later in life, but certain aspects of the American culture still puzzle me a decade later!

I dislike conflicts; I don’t like it¬†when someone is mad at me! I can’t keep up when humor revolves around the art of slangs, cursing or sarcasm. I have never met anyone in the same situation as me: running a nonprofit with another full time, technical job. Oh, and I have zero talent!

Well by this time, if you are still reading this, you are wondering, ‚ÄúWhy is she saying all this?‚ÄĚ I have a point, I promise!¬†Now, if you can tie it back to everything I lack or my busy life, you may wonder why anyone like this would want to start a nonprofit. Well, that makes two of us. I have a secret though! This one may make you think over everything that makes you doubt yourself.

My friends and I performing a traditional Rwandan dance at our gala. Sept 2016.

I lost my parents at the age 13. Though I was absolutely alone and left to fend off myself at that young age, I encountered someone who became my hope in trials, my refuge in time of trouble, my comfort in sorrow, my counselor in hopelessness, my provision when no one cared, a father to the orphan, a friend in need. That is Jesus, my Savior and King, my God!

You see, all these things I lack, and many more I didn’t want to bore you with, He’s taken upon Himself. Before God, I am warrior, victorious, loved, a daughter of the Most High. I am able to do everything through Jesus who strengthens me. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what keeps me pressing on in spite of my lack of experience in nonprofit management and many other things¬†in life.

So, circling back to my nonprofit: YES, it was very stressful to combine my schedule and responsibilities as I got pulled in many directions. It still is and I often wonder what I got myself into. However, a constant reminder as I navigated a busy schedule this year has been a reassuring voice telling me to be still and know that God will be glorified as David quoted in Psalm 46:10 NKJV.

This¬†is what kept me calm even when¬†people and promises fell through and schedules didn’t align with our planning needs and requirements. After all, this vision is God’s work; I don’t really need to worry, as long as He is on my side. Obviously, He doesn’t need my skills or experience. All He wants is¬†my¬†obedience!

I have been fortunate enough to understand my life calling, the reason God spared my life from the machetes and bullets of 1994 in Rwanda. I may not accomplish much in this life, but as God has been to me, so I will be to others.¬†Today, I can afford anything I need, and my siblings feel the same way. God has been everything we ever need, up to this very minute as I type¬†this. My prayer and hope is to be God’s hands and feet through loving and being a blessing for those who have not been as fortunate.

Matthew 25:34-36 (NKJV) gives me a glimpse of how things will look on the judgement day, when God will impartially judge all the nations. This long chapter is wrapped in the true meaning of LOVE. Also, Paul said it well: although all these three are excellent: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of them is LOVE.

rasgala214

Sharing my story and our vision at our gala. Sept 2016!

Through God’s¬†LOVE that spoke the earth into existence, I hope to spend the rest of my life striving to learn and practice¬†what it means to love everyone unconditionally regardless of who they are or their life choices: race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry etc.

I am really thankful that our first annual gala was a success, and we are currently almost halfway to our final goal in terms of raising funds for our first learning center in Rwanda to benefit street children and at-risk-youth. God has been great to me, and blessed me with a great team of volunteers who are very passionate about my vision and cause.

Will you join forces with me to share this hope, advocate for orphans, and empower the most vulnerable children through education? I am eternally thankful that the Lord would entrust me with this great mission! I still cannot believe that He picked ME!! Rising Above the Storms (RAS) is not a work I feel burdened to do, it is simply my life story, and a soul¬†that has been truly satisfied & touched by God’s Mercy!

‚ôę Hear me God, God of Rwanda ‚ôę: 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!

‚ô™‚ôęHear 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 ‚ô™‚ôę

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

Re-Blog: [When God Re-Booted Creation]

”¬†Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

I wanted to re-blog this¬†article {and I hope Pastor J.D Greear & his team don’t mind) that points out what¬†the Kingdom of God is about and shows important¬†facts that¬†most of us often miss out. In the end, it’s not how eloquent one is¬†at quoting¬†Biblical verses or religiously righteous¬†as much as it is for how our love and actions should¬†put¬†the LOVE¬†of Jesus on display! This is my opinion but Matthew says it so well too:¬†Matthew 25: 34-40

47115-ExcellentQuotations.com-Mother-Teresa

© Mother Teresa Quotes

Enjoy the reading..

***********************

I have one solution for every computer problem I encounter. Reboot it. And if that doesn‚Äôt work, reboot it again. The worst moment in my technological existence comes when I‚Äôve rebooted four or fives times and the problem is still there‚ÄĒbecause then I know it‚Äôs going to be a long, painful process on the phone‚Ķ

http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2016/03/when-god-re-booted-creation.html

“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.‚ÄĚ~ 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,‚ÄúWrite: ‚ÄėBlessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.‚ÄúYes,‚ÄĚ says the Spirit, ‚Äúthat 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.‚ÄĚ~ Revelations 21:4

The Covenant of Love!

For the mountains may depart¬†and the hills be removed,¬†but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,¬†and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,‚Ä̬†says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54: 10

I absolutely adore¬†these words and forever thank God for His unending love and amazing grace. In fact, the whole chapter 54 of the book of Isaiah is filled with God’s outstanding promises to His people. As some may think, God¬†is not a burning fire or an angry dictator who records our wrongdoing that we have to work hard to gain his trust, mercy and approval!! In contrary,¬†He is absolutely a tender Father, a matchless friend, Redeemer, Healer, Defender, Lord Almighty, the God of Love.

It’s no secret that I deeply love my three siblings that I call my children. ¬†If you have visited this¬†page more than once, I am sure you have met them through the pages of my articles. I often write about just their amazing lives that have changed mine forever, but today specifically I wanted to share what my little sister¬†told me a while back when I shared with her yet another healing miracle in my life.

Sharing God's Wonders

Sharing about God’s Wonders to His people. June 2014

After being diagnosed with an illness that puzzled my doctors a while back, I surrendered my life to God and believed that everything happens for a reason. Because I was devastated beyond imagination, I shared this with only one friend who prayed unceasingly with me, and left it to God. Three years later, the final test results showed that doctors have been somehow wrong all along, that I have been misdiagnosed.

To say that I rejoiced to the news is simply an understatement! The rest of my life is not just long enough to live for and praise God Who has not only redeemed my heart and soul, but also cares about every detail of my body and well being.

After the test results, I could no longer keep it to myself. As I shared the best news ever with my little sister who knew nothing about this along with the rest of my siblings, she broke into tears and said to me:

“As I pray everyday, I call out to the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus and Alphonsine”.

Then it¬†was my turn to weep,¬†that someone, especially my little sister would look up to the God she has seen manifesting in my life, and put my name on an¬†incredible list like this. THERE IS NO GREATER HONOR in this life!¬†I often ponder on that ever since, especially when I feel down. She may have forgotten this, but it’s eternally knitted to my heart.

If you know me personally and don’t know that I have been¬†obsessed with the song God I look to you¬†for couple of years now, you still don’t know me well :). ¬†If you see me with headsets listening to music, feel free to joke about it. Who listens to the same song over and over again for years??

So, as¬†Jenn Johnson sings: “Hallelujah OUR¬†God reigns, ….”, I tag along, ignoring¬†my vocal cords that cannot simply put¬†notes together even if my life depended on it and echo: “Hallelujah MY¬†GOD (or Father or DAD)¬†reigns, forever all my days Hallelujah”.

As I lift my hands¬†up high in worship, I don’t care what people around me may think, if they do. I give the highest¬†praises not just to¬†the God in the Bible or a Pastor or someone else told me about. I humble myself and bow¬†to the King of kings who calls me an oak of righteousness, a¬†planting for His glory, He who bestows¬†the crown of beauty for ashes, MY GOD and KING!

Re-posting one of my articles below:

Many many years apart. It looks like I haven't changed much!

1996 & 2013. Have I changed much?

I hope that you learn:¬†to trust God on your own, enough to not doubt Him when someone who led you to Christ messes up or lets you down. To know¬†God on your own that your happiness doesn’t revolve around¬†what other people say or think about you. To completely depend on Him¬†that when your church or fellow believers don’t turn out to be what they claim to be, you don’t become a victim.¬†
To trust God enough to know that when everything else falls apart, that His covenant of love and peace shall remain. To comprehend that there is a High Priest in Heaven whose name is love and has made an end to our shame, and that your name is engraved on his heart.
The song of every heart, the hope of every nation: God Who created the heavens and earth and everything in it, is My God, Father and Friend, all my days!

May you learn to trust Him on your own and be confident enough to call Him YOUR God and Father. Without further ado, head over to This Is Hope: God Is REAL. I hope and pray that you will be encouraged by the God who has simply captured my heart and won my attention, all my life!

‚ÄúNo one has the power to shatter your dreams, unless you give it to them.‚ÄĚ ~ M. Greyson

Google images

Google images

When I was a little girl, I was my Dad’s princess. As far as I knew, he was the most powerful man alive. I felt strong and safe. I may have been tiny in his arms, but my Dad’s confidence in me assured me that I could be anything I wanted to be.

In the 3rd grade, one day my teacher approached me on a Tuesday afternoon, to ask me if I could teach my class from Wednesday through Friday while she was away. She quickly navigated through what she wanted me to cover while she was absent. I am not sure what was in my mind but I agreed.

Reflecting back, I never needed help with my school homework. I am not sure how but I just understood my subjects very well. So, when I was asked to substitute for my 3rd grade teacher, I didn’t hesitate. I always enjoyed helping my classmates understand the subjects as much as I did. Later that week, perhaps a neighbor brought the news to my dad that instead of learning as a student, I was made a teacher.

If she has something to offer to others, I don’t see why she shouldn’t do it“, my Dad answered. He always believed in me. I knew I could become anyone I wanted to be. I was encouraged to dream, by the most positive influential and amazing father on this planet. My Dad was always proud of me, I could see it in his eyes, although I was young. No wonder why I enjoyed his attention so much.

From Google images

Google images

After I lost my parents to the Rwandan genocide, it was a remarkable change in everything that surrounded me. I was no longer a princess, smart, or allowed to dream. I was someone none of my relatives really wanted, of which to this day I still don’t understand¬†why. One of my aunts (mentioned here) told me that I had no future ahead of me, that I won’t be able to accomplish anything in life.

Also, one¬†religious icon¬†that we all looked up to in high school once told me that I am an orphan, and that is limiting. Or painful expressions like “orphans grasp from the crowd; they don’t really have to be told things”. As I left that cult, I was few inches close to denying God for good because of this false preacher. During high school and college, I didn’t have anybody to encourage me to stay in school, leave alone someone to cheer me when I did well in my tests. As I faced hardship, no one even whispered¬†to me that things would be okay. But Jesus did!

You may have been told some of these things and possibly many more. It may have come from family members, relatives or friends telling you that you are naturally weak or a failure, that you will never do well in life. It may be the devil’s voices that tempt you to despair, reminding you of your past mistakes. Or it may come from life’s trials and tribulations on the road to success. Or you may perhaps have been bullied in school because you looked, talked or acted differently, and that may have led you to believe that you are simply incapable of accomplishing anything major. The list goes on.

Google images

Google images

Today I have good news for you. It does not matter how disappointing your past may have been, it is not too late to keep dreaming. It may not be what you had wanted to become when you were young, but today is your day. Remember this: God is not dictated by bad wishes directed to you from the devil or people.

Don’t let what others¬†say or think about you shape¬†your life decisions. Don’t spend time contemplating on your past failures; things, plans, projects, people, friendships, relationships that didn’t work out. Use it as stepping stones to navigate the road to a hopeful future. God’s plans are to prosper you, not to harm you.

Do you have something that you have been praying for and wishing for a long time? Keep asking. GOD’s ear is not deaf, I am sure of this. While you are waiting: pray, love, work hard, dream, believe, hope.¬†I CANNOT promise to you that you won’t encounter challenges or delays, life is very unpredictable. Satan¬†prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,¬†to extinguish and squash our hopes, but God Almighty is STRONGER. If one door closes, knock on the next. Keep climbing, keep walking, keep striving.

Don’t give up, do not lose hope!¬†A small, slow progress is better than a lost dream. Great things happen to those who persist. If you look around, some people have made it, and you, too, CAN!

But they who wait for 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 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 fianc√©e, 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

Rising From Ashes: Beyond Broken Memories!

“Lord, I have treasured your word in my heart, that I may not sin against You”¬†¬†Psalm 119:11

Growing up in a happy family with the most loving parents anyone can wish for, nothing could ever have possibly hinted for an imminent danger or prepared me for what was about to unfold before my eyes as a little girl.

For those new to my posts, I was in the 7th grade when Rwanda descended into the worst atrocities of the 20th century, the Genocide against the minority Tutsi group. Over a million citizens were mercilessly slaughtered in a little over three month. This staggering number includes my parents, two of my siblings, friends, relatives, neighbors, fellow citizens.

9th Grader

Sometime between 1995 and 1996

Before this worst nightmare could be over, all seemed surreal for lack of a better term. Absolutely alone and abandoned, the first person to shelter me was my uncle’s wife whom we met in a refugee camp in the heart of the capital as we were being evacuated. After the Genocide ended, little did I know then, Shelia had found herself a nanny, for her two children under the age of 2, and a¬†maid for her house: Hard labor, house keeping, watching kids, lack of sleep. My nightmare was too far from over.

Many months later, unaware that I had survived, on my way home from school, my mom’s youngest sister Beata spotted me. After learning my living situation, she sneaked me out and took me to her house. Beata worked for the government and her husband worked for the United Nations. Yet another expectation of love was as harsh as a death penalty. For many years I lived there, not only that she didn’t think I needed sanitary pads for women, my aunt waited until she didn’t like her clothes and shoes to pass it on me when she indulged herself with the most expensive outfits.

Inside the mansion’s brick walls, I was nothing but a slave as I dealt with emotional abuses at the hands of my so called aunt. As each day turned me into a hopeful young woman who’s thankful to have a roof over her and lived one day at a time, the hatred of a relative intensified, afraid that as a teenager, I may become her rival. Soon after that, my every single move was controlled. I was not allowed to eat with the family, or talk freely and my empty wardrobe was supervised. Slowly, I became a prisoner in my room as I was ordered to stay out of sight. I was accused of stealing grocery money as I shopped and carried heavy groceries by myself despite that the family owned a vehicle.

Then one day, Beata told me to leave her house. Honestly, I wondered what had taken her so long, leave alone knowing the crime I committed. As I embarked in a long road to recovery, it would be a long time before I would be convinced that NOT ALL married women are evil. Entering years of darkness and college, every day revealed mysteries as I begged people to give me a shelter for the night and wandered by day. I surely came few inches close to making streets my night shelter or perhaps selling myself for money to survive.

August 2012

August 2012

Nonetheless, I graduated among the top of my class with a Bachelors degree in Engineering, and was offered a full time job days before my graduation day. Only three months into the job, I won a full scholarship to grad school in United States, where I earned a Masters Degree in Engineering. Two years later, a job opportunity I have always wanted presented itself. Moreover, I was able to keep my 3 younger siblings in school, who were all under 10 during the Genocide: my brother Eric and sister Alice are expecting Master’s degrees and my baby sister Mireille will complete her undergraduate, ALL in 2014.

ALL IN ALL, I praise GOD Almighty, the Father of the fatherless who held my hand and reminded me that I was NOT alone as I witnessed the cruelty of the human kind, both relatives and strangers. I owe Him every great thing I possess, materialistic and life blessings. He never cease to amaze me. For that I am humbly thankful for:

  1. His unconditional love. I often think that God loves me more than any other living creature. By His Grace, I was able to forgive my aunts, those who killed my family members and everyone who has hurt me or was not there when I needed them the most. One by one, by name, I wish them nothing but the salvation revealed on the cross of Jesus.
  2. My brother and two sisters who are the greatest gift I will boast about, all my days. They are my sunshine on a cloudy day. God and my parents have my word, that, these three will always be loved as long as I breathe. There is nothing that will ever change this.
  3. That somewhere in a foreign land, thousands and thousands of miles away from my home country and people we share so much in common, I have at last a place I call home, where I feel young and loved. A country where I am no longer afraid of hunger and homelessness. I am incredibly blessed with parents who have nothing in common with me through eyes of flesh, but they call me their daughter. It is a place where my soul has healed, a country that showered me with love and hope. ¬†These two phrases from my new parents are engraved in my heart and I carry them with humility and gratitude: ¬†Wherever you will be in the world, remember that you have a home here, and a birthday card that reads¬†daughter, your birthday will always be special“.

    My New Family

    With my family at a cousin’s wedding in May 2012

  4. The coolest job ever and the most awesome company I work for.
  5. The most amazing community, the Summit Church family, that helps me growing into knowing God more.
  6. The most incredible friends in my life. I can proudly say that I know all the great people out there.  If I started naming one by one, we would be here all day, but let me say that my heart lives in many countries in all continents. They make me feel special.
  7. The opportunities I have had this year to speak in front of few small groups as well as large audiences, sharing what the Lord Has done in my life.
  8. Great friends who shared my story on their blogs or journals. I am very honored and indebted to:
  • Kimberly Kaye Harms. She¬†is an incredible woman of the King, wife and mother of 3 handsome boys. She hails from Huxley, Iowa. We met at a Christian Writers Conference in Wheaton, Illinois in June 2012. She has already shared several of my articles, not to mention her help and time editing some of my articles. I am truly honored that she is my friend.
  • Felicia Alvarez.¬†She is¬†an amazing and beautiful young woman of God. She lives in San Diego, California. We also met at the same Christian Writers Conference in Illinois in 2012.
  • The Summit Church Senior Pastor J.D Greear, from Durham, North Carolina. I am very humbled and honored to know J.D and to have met his amazing wife Veronica and their 4 beautiful children. Him and his family have contributed to my spiritual growth, not only by sharing my story with many people but also finding me opportunities to reach more audiences and new connections, their love and hospitality. God alone knows how grateful I am to them.
  • Andy Rogers at RBC/Discovery House Publishers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has been working on including a part of my story in Our Daily Bread journal.
When I look back in my past, it truly humbles me to I see where and who I am today. The truth is, even though I don’t know what the future holds, I know Jesus holds my future and that’s enough for me, even when I am faced with a dead end. My greatest dream is to be what God created and has been preparing me for. Without a shadow of doubt, I believe I had found my passion to cope with¬†Challenges of Life. I hope to be a blessing to many broken lives around the globe; some of them I have been in their shoes: homeless, poor, hungry, orphans, abandoned, however God will decide to use me. I put my YES on the table. I will not change my mind!
Don’t let bad experiences define you, overcome evil with good!
As I look forward to 2014 with a lot of excitement and what God has in store for me, I wish you and your loved ones a prosperous year.
God bless you
Alphonsine