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

***

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

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

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

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

A Treasured Garden of Fame!

A Treasured Garden of Fame!

***

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

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

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

Magnifique2014

***

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

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

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

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

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

Papa2014

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colette_2014

***

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

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

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

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

Nkeke2014

***

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

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

Jean Eric, Alice, Alphonsine, Mireille Noella

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

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!

The Truth Behind My Smile

I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” Psalm 22:22

Thank you for stopping by. God has put something on my heart that I hope and pray will encourage you. Even if everything else I write here is forgotten, I hope this post forever remains a testimony of my gratitude to God Above ALL.

Bene

It is doubtful whether God can use a man greatly, until first He wounds him deeply.”
– A.W. Tozer

The reason that I am deeply rooted in God does not revolve around all the great opportunities and choices the first world countries have to offer. It is not measured by the credibility of schools I have had the privilege to attend, a job I always dreamed of, the greatest company I work for, the wonderful church I am honored to be part of or things that I achieved in my life. And it’s definitely not because I have nothing better to do.

My life song is about the God who picked me up right after I lost parents at a very young age, hopeless and homeless. It is about the Most High, the Father of the Fatherless who never left me alone. He was there as I juggled and learned what it was like to figure out life all alone when no one else cared. He is the strength behind my growing up in Rwanda. Through struggles of all kinds, He alone kept me going. He is the Comforter who walked with me through the days I spent in the college campus clinic. Attached to an IV, I could not attend most of my classes because of stomach problems resulting from the Genocide aftermath. Yet I graduated with best grades.

Most of the time, materialistically I had nothing, but Jesus shined through every little thing I possessed to make me look like I was just a regular happy college girl. When I didn’t have food for a couple of days, my physical appearance didn’t change a bit to reflect the starvation. It is God who provided for my siblings when I was a student and didn’t have any income. He was right on time and didn’t let them drop out of school or starve. He was our shelter when we’d have been homeless. It is God who patted my back, and with a soothing voice told me that I was not alone as I prepared for the state exam at the end of high school to qualify for college, when the only door to my promising future seemed to be closing.

He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.” 1 Samuel 2: 8

I have done nothing to deserve to make it to this day. My parents and many other nice people didn’t make it to see what I see today: It is GOD’S GRACE, LOVE & MERCY. He is my only REFUGE. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

My faith in Christ my Savior, is beyond the shadow of doubt. It has been perfected by the pain, suffering, loss, poverty, disappointment, shame. If there is one thing I am so certain about, it is the hands of the TRUE GOD on me. I am very grateful that I don’t have a “to-do list” to be accepted by the Lord. Jesus endured it all, on the cross, on my behalf. And GOD accepts me just the way I am. He Has won my full attention and captured my heart, for all my days.  To this day, what He has done in me is far ENOUGH to ensure me that every promise He made will be fulfilled, in His timing. Because God is not a human being that He should lie. However long it takes, I will wait. Yes, because the one who started the good work in me is capable of bringing it to completion. Until that day comes, I will still pray, love, hope, trust, seek and rely on Him.

This is what keeps me going, even on the worst of my days, when fear cripples me. I don’t have it all figured, but I have GOD.

What is the reason behind your courage, testimony, brevity? If everything else fades, where is your safe refuge? If it’s the true God, cling to Him, you will be truly SAFE in His arms when trials and tribulations come.

God bless you.