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

 

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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, “Why is she saying all this?” 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.

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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!

♫ 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

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

She Is A Princess! The world deserves to know!

If you have visited my blog more than once, I’m sure you have met my siblings that I honorably call my children. This is not by coincidence. Since after God spared my life during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, He entrusted me with the 3 most amazing siblings on this planet. Although they were all less than 10 years old at the time, I cannot imagine my life differently. Even though I have never been young and never got a chance to be selfish, I don’t have a regret.

This year, 2014, marks 20 years since after we lost our parents and two siblings, and how long I have been raising my siblings: Eric, Alice and Mireille. If I had to start all over again, I would do it in a blink of an eye. These 3 are the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Every single moment and breath I take, I praise God for honoring me with such great and important responsibility: to love and be a mother to an incredible man and two beautiful women anyone can ever wish for in their lives. I call them my TREASURE! Just shortly after the Genocide ended, the day I learned that my 3 siblings had survived, too, was my first sunshine of hope to give me a reason to live for, thrive and strive in this life.

It was the best day of my life!

My Adorable Baby. Isn't she a beauty?

My Adorable Baby Mireille Noella. Isn’t she a beauty?

You may have read the article I wrote about my brother Eric “Inconceivable Heroism Amid Horror” and another post about my sister Alice “She is A Pure Beauty. And a woman of God“. However, this specific post is unique in its own way, because I get to talk about my youngest sister, our princess Mireille Noella. She is my baby and I don’t feel any different than if I had birthed her myself!! This is very true. During the Genocide, Mireille was only 3 years old. I certainly owe everything to my little brother Eric who, at 8, kept both Alice (6) and Mireille (3) safe, when it was a matter of life and death and everyone running for their own lives. He sure is my hero!

When I share my story, people often ask me what I struggled most with since after the loss of my parents. My audiences wonder if it has been forgiving those who killed my family members or raising my siblings. Surprisingly, it is neither. My greatest life challenge has been to slowly realize how much Mireille doesn’t have many memories about our parents or life before the Genocide. Sadly, things she can recall most about is during the Genocide. For 13 years that my life was a paradise with the most incredible parents that ever existed, my baby does not remember much about her portion.

It can range from simple things like our family childhood dog’s name. Or routine things like the fact that we used to pray together every night as a family. She absolutely doesn’t remember this at all. When I sing our Mom’s favorite Gospel songs that she always sang to us when we were little, it sounds made up to her. Instead, she randomly remembers things that none of us knows where she got it from.

Few treasured photos we have of our parents and two siblings we lost in 1994, my little sister is unable to connect those images to our childhood before the tragedy. She’s completely disconnected from memories I hold onto so dearly! It breaks my heart. This is the deepest wound that I will probably carry for the rest of my life.

I will never find words to express to my readers that can accurately describe how much it hurt when Mireille speculated her greatest wish in this life: to see our parents again so she can get to call them “Mommy and Daddy“. Undoubtedly, this is a precious part of her life that has been snatched from her before she could get to live it. No wonder why she didn’t really talk much until after high school. It’s very touching when she calls me MOM; it absolutely melts my heart.

Very Stylist and Chic. She can easily be a model!

Very Elegant. She can easily be a model!

Mireille and I are almost 10 years apart; for this reason, she will always be young in my eyes, and simply a PRINCESS. I already accepted the fact that I can never replace our parents’ empty spot in her heart, but I know one thing: I love her with all my heart, for the rest of my life. There is simply nothing she can ever need that I am able to provide. She’s not only the youngest of 5 siblings. I watched her growing from a malnourished 3 year old out of the orphanage where the government placed my 3 siblings after the Genocide ended, to the most beautiful woman she is today!

Absolutely gorgeous and a fashionista from head to toe that I often wonder how we are possibly related, she is smart, a hard worker, intelligent, creative, loves God and people, very funny, although she may appear to be shy sometime. She is also spoiled, not only by me who would give her this planet if it was mine, but also by Eric and Alice who love her endlessly.

I will probably never fully understand why my little sister had to grow up without parents, but there is one thing that sustains me: GOD Who has been our Father, Comforter, Redeemer, Provider and everything we ever need to this day. I owe to the Lord every good possession and health that my siblings and I have.

Mireille may have been deprived of her precious childhood and forced to grow up in a hurry, but today she is finishing up her college senior project to graduate this December with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. And there are so many opportunities that await her ahead. I know very well that she will do amazing things in life!

Even if I have children of my own in the future, Mireille will always remain my oldest child as long as I shall live! Her, Eric and Alice will never, EVER need anything within my capability. This is my standing PROMISE to my parents in heaven and Jesus who has them with him. The Holy Spirit bears me witness! Although it may sound unreasonable to say, I praise God who has allowed me to somehow remain single this long so that my siblings can enjoy my full attention, which I certainly have for them, undivided.

I love them beyond comprehension. Mireille will always be my baby and spoiled until God calls me home. When I will see my parents in another life, I will be eager to narrate everything to them!

My love for my 3 siblings is unconditional, all my days!!

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

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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

The Power of A Small Act of Kindness!

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan

I have had the privilege of living both in the first and third world countries. Although the cultural differences are too significant to ignore, all human beings have a lot in common, regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, language, or lifestyles, just like Joshua said it well in the below snapshot. Whether poor or rich, strong or weak, important or nobody: we all get sick, feel hungry & thirsty, desire to be loved and respected, and eventually die. This life has an end; even the most wealthy person on earth cannot vouch to bypass death.

The other night I spent time with friends from church, having a great discussion on the wonders of God. We talked about many things including faith that moves a mountain and trusting in God. One man shared a story about a couple that I personally know too. This family recently decided to start giving to church and God’s ministries not only 10% of their household monthly income, but 20%. Shortly after they made this commitment, the husband got laid off from his job.

Surprisingly, they decided to continue on giving the same amount, even if it meant exhausting their savings. Several weeks later, the husband was offered a job that was way better than his previous. I was deeply touched! This couple remarkably puts God on display. I have seen it with my own eyes. It takes a special person to have that kind of faith, that God would still provide even in tough times like during the loss of employment.

Children Autographs at the Museum of Life and Science

CHILDREN AUTOGRAPHS @ THE MUSEUM OF LIFE & SCIENCE

I have witnessed God’s provision in my life, too. Right now I won’t be able to list every door that God opened in my life only because of the “YES” I put on the table. Jesus is my witness. As I pour my heart out to God, I am eternally honored to be His messenger to my siblings I love with all my being. Seeing a poor person or someone in need breaks my heart, especially when I cannot do anything about it. I simply cry. Out to God!

Long time ago in college, without a job or any income, I cried to God and He answered my prayer for one of my two other boys I call my sons. His name is Gilbert and you can read his story here. I humbly praise Jesus each day for the last 8 years, for this young man’s life. Gilbert is now a senior student in college. Yes God listens and answers our prayers, even when we just cry or don’t know what to ask. My life has been changed, for ever!

And I see God’s miracles everyday. This next story, I am only sharing it to encourage you who are reading this, to trust God. If boasting, I will in Jesus Christ, for it is written: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6: 2-4

Like many middle class citizens, I have my own financial struggles to make ends meet. However, I am thankful, very grateful beyond measure, for every blessing from heaven in my life. Recently though, I met someone who did not ask me for a help but I knew that this person was struggling after losing a job. I closed my eyes and gave more than I normally can afford to give at once. I trusted God for the next part of my regular responsibilities. After that, to make things even worse, a personal need immediately arose, that changed many things in my financial plan. Honestly, I wondered if I would be able to take care of another project that I had previously committed to and there was no other way around it.

Just a few weeks later, out of nowhere, I received a message stating that I was expecting an amount, that turned out to be over 10 times more than I had given away, and NOT as a loan. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe what just happened. While what I gave away wouldn’t be nearly enough to sponsor this other project, God gave me what I spent and way much more, just like that. All other doors I fixed my eyes on were shut the same way they opened. GOD DOES NOT DO IT MY WAY, BUT HIS WAY! And this is the God I willfully share and worship, as long as I breathe!

The Reeds & I, 07/04/2013. Their beautiful faces melt my heart, to this day.

WITH THE REEDS CHILDREN, 2013.

HONESTLY, I am not saying that it feels easy to freely give. BUT all acts of kindness you do are eternally engraved before God in the book of life. I hear many people being skeptical about giving to charities and non profit organizations. I came to a conclusion that if I give and the recipient misuses the donations, they will face God one day, there is no doubt about it.

If I give to a homeless guy across the street and he turns out to be feigning it, it’s his problem, not mine. My part has been done, and the Lord sees it. Of course it’s important to use your own judgement and see if an organization does what it claims to fund raise for. However, in the end, it’s between you and GOD.

I HAVE SO MUCH RESPECT FOR PEOPLE WHO ADOPT CHILDREN, ORPHANS. I selfishly tear with joy when I hear their stories. I have been dying to share some of the stories, and I am so honored and grateful that they graciously gave me the permission to write about them.

ONE OF THEM IS THE REEDS. I met them about 5 years ago, and they had already adopted 7 kids then, ranging from 9 to 15. They are currently in the process of finalizing the process of adopting 4 more, to make it 12, ranging from 4 to 20. I remember when I first heard some of their children’s stories when they were first adopted. Some would hide food under the bed, afraid of it being taken away.

I immediately pictured the dialogue between these wonderful parents and their children, assuring them that all their hard work is for them, that all the food in the house is theirs and that they are there to stay and be loved all their lives. During the visit when I first met them, I excused myself to go to my room to cry and thank God who placed my little brothers and sisters in the hands of the most amazing parents: SCOTT & DEBBIE REED. They are incredible. God only knows how much I love this family!

WITH THE TUMEYS, 2013.

WITH THE TUMEYS, 2013.

I AM ALSO HONORED TO WRITE ABOUT THE TUMEYS. I met them about 3 years ago through mutual friends. As of this writing, they had already adopted 5 children in addition to their biological 5. You can call them daring, I call them brave, amazing, selfless, loving. Through the eyes of these children, you can clearly see God.

Without their obedience and brevity, those 5 children might have died in the Ethiopian orphanages. I praise God, for the compassion He bestowed upon ROBERT & MAUREEN TUMEY. I always pray for patience, strength and grace upon all those who are moved with compassion to extend love to those who have no one to love them. Blessings will follow them all their lives.

THE BIBLE HAS ALREADY GIVEN US A SNEAK PEEK INTO WHAT GOD HAS FOR ALL THOSE WHO ARE WILLING TO DO GOOD IN THE NAME OF LOVE!

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to meMathew 25: 31-40

Be encouraged, and eager to help. It will be returned to you, in abundance!