❤️ Impore Rwanda; 26 Years Later, We Still Remember! ❤️

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

A memorial wreath laid on one of the graves at Kigali Genocide Memorial, Gisozi, Rwanda. Feb 2019

This specific Wednesday night, my parents and 4 of my siblings, we all went to bed, completely unsure of what even the next day would look like; you see, earlier that evening around dinner time, we suddenly heard loud explosions nearby, and saw flames in the sky. We then rushed to listen to our home radio receiver only to learn that the plane carrying the president of Rwanda had just been shot down as it landed at Kigali International Airport; the announcement added that the president died, along the president of Burundi and everyone onboard.

That night, all of us kids slept together in the same bedroom with our parents; we were too terrified to sleep anywhere else. 

Reflecting on Memories of my Family and Childhood in what used to be our home. Feb 2019

The next day brought a usual warm and sunny morning, that’d have otherwise been a great opportunity to be outdoors. Unfortunately, nothing could ever have prepared my family for what was about to unfold before our eyes. My little sister Marie Claudine (I had 5 siblings) had been visiting her godmother, Theresa, who lived about 15 minutes away, for Spring/Easter Break. All of the sudden, Theresa, showed up at our house unannounced. She wasn’t alone, but not with my sister either; instead, behind her were men carrying a dead body –my little sister’s, we found out! Theresa informed us that Hutu militiamen attacked her home that very morning, killed her 2 kids and my sister, and looted her house. Theresa had been in hiding at the time of the attack.

With our world crumbling down piece by piece, it was as if a double edged sword has cut deep, deep, through our hearts. Unbeknownst to us then, this very Thursday morning, April 7th, 1994 would mark the beginning of the genocide, an ethnic cleansing in Rwanda. Theresa’s kids and my little sister were the first victims in our area. The next 100 days would cost 1 million lives of men, women, children, young, old, strong, beautiful. Their crime? The way they were born, something they did not get an opportunity to bargain with their Creator during their births!

That staggering number would include my parents, and 2 of my siblings, neighbors, classmates, friends, amazing people who had an entire future ahead of them!

Beautiful Kigali, the Capital of Rwanda. Feb 2019

Fast forward to 26 years later, today, our whole planet is reeling under a devastating COVID-19 outbreak, a global pandemic that had brought our normal daily routines to a near standstill, my beautiful home country Rwanda included. Countries imposed lockdown to stop imminent spread of the virus. Families are huddled in their homes, some with the possibility of dying of hunger especially people whose income was based on jobs that cannot be done remotely. The losses of lives are astonishing, and no country is immune to the impact.

Somehow, unfortunately, this danger and fear feels all too familiar to me, although not to the same extent. My eyes have seen things that no young child should ever have to endure. The people of Rwanda have been through so much already, and my heart is heavy for them, especially around this time of the year, during this unprecedented time.

So, will you allow me this opportunity to pour my heart out for my people in the Land of a Thousand Hills? Will you indulge me for a moment, while I weep, grieve, remember, honor and commemorate innocent lives that we lost, the shameful death our loved ones died in 1994? Spare me a moment of silence, to reflect, to pray, to cherish memories of the people who meant the world to me, whose lives were cut short!

Allow me to ponder on the dates that are forever a reminder of the horror that descended on Rwanda, scars that no lifetime can ever heal: Thursday April 7th, my little sister Marie Claudine (11) was killed. Sunday April 17th, my Dad (43) was killed. On Sunday April 24th, my older brother Jean Felix (15) and my Mom (40) were killed together.

Here is tribute I wrote for them on the 20th Anniversary of their death: In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder!

The Kigali Genocide Memorial, the final resting place for 250,000+ victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi. Feb 2019

Today Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

  • We remember, commemorate & honor all those Tutsi who died in shame! They didn’t choose to be born the way they were born. May they rest in Eternal Peace with you Jesus, until we will see them again, in a life that knows no sorrow or pain! 
  • God, we pray for Your comfort and love wrapped around every Rwandan genocide survivor. Please Lord, give each and every one hope, endurance, strength, prosperity, courage, a voice, healing, ability to forgive. You alone can heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.
  • We remember & pray for those left vulnerable—widows, orphans, women who were raped and left with pregnancies and diseases, and those inflicted with physical scars that bring emotional trauma and recurring nightmares.
  • We remember those who were not a target but chose to hide Tutsi, risking their lives. They are heroes of our survival stories!
  • We pray for the leaders of Rwanda, the president, and everyone around him: for wisdom to lead the country with justice and fairness, and continue to move Rwanda forward.
  • We pray for peace over Rwanda; and for genocide perpetrators that themselves will receive forgiveness, come to know the Lord, and repent. That we will leave vengeance to God, as it is written that vengeance belongs to Him, He will repay.
  • We thank you Jesus for the unity, renewal, and healing, progress, prosperity, that has been bestowed upon Rwanda and her people. Amen!

My favorite song, for you Rwanda 🇷🇼: Muririmbire Uwiteka (Sing to the Lord)

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 (NKJV)

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 🙂

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!

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

Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear me God (x2)!

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

Hear me God (x2)!

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

Hear me God!

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

Hear me God!

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

Hear me God!

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

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

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

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

Descent into the Kigali International Airport, Kanombe

Aerial View of Kanombe, near the International Airport in Kigali

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

In Loving Memory: 22 Years Later ♥♥♥♥

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.23.04 PM

My Family. Before April 1994

Jean Eric, Alice, Alphonsine, Mireille Noella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Dearly Beloved Parents

My Dearly Beloved Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Jesus name! Amen!

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

God is Exalted: My Blogging Experience So Far!

When I started this blog back in July 2012, unlike most bloggers and writers I know, I honestly didn’t have a goal in mind that I wanted to achieve with it; for instance, reaching a specific type of demography, audience, how many people per month/year, or what type of posts to focus on, not to mention that English is not my 1st or 2nd language, can’t you tell ;).

Back then, I didn’t know how to work on a website, leave alone writing a blog that people would be interested in visiting and reading. I didn’t really have an exciting adventure to share with the world. I didn’t just move to a new country or enter a new era such as motherhood, a new career or discover a hidden talent. I was not a blossoming writer who was embarking on this journey with skills to enlighten people’s ears, hearts and minds.

Thankfully none of my friends asked me what I wanted to achieve through this blog. I honestly wouldn’t have had an answer to that. I mean, who else starts something without short/long term goals in mind? Anyway, now you know who I am, a blogger without blogging goals. Well, may be not so fast. There is one important thing that I haven’t noted here yet, it can may be help you judge then?

Part 1: Most visitors on this blog are located in United States, then Rwanda, India and so on.

Part 1: Most visitors on this blog are located in United States, then Rwanda, India and so on.

As a Genocide survivor and orphan by definition, God Has done so much in my life that I was feeling selfish to keep it to myself. If I started writing one by one, it will not be just one book, but multiple. Because God is great in me, that’s why I started this blog. If you look close, I have no talents! The credit goes to GOD.

I hope that this is convincing enough to you; I am very grateful for your time reading this. Oh by the way, although I must say that I have been learning a lot about blogging since 2012, I am still a work in progress. My full time job? I am an engineer, hopefully that explains it, or may be not.

What the above stats mean, it’s not about numbers; absolutely not. It’s a prayer to each and everyone who reads this blog that they will learn and/or be encouraged by the God who changed my life for good. I am so thankful to all my readers in the listed and unlisted countries.

Part 2: Continuation from Part 1

Part 2: Continuation from Part 1

My prayer today is that God who has been amazing to me in Rwanda, United States and other places, that He will build his kingdom wherever you are as you read this, win all the nations back to him and that his name will be lifted high.

Am I allowed to have favorites since I am the one who wrote these articles? May be! I love every post I have shared but here are the top 10 among my readers (statistics) and myself. Click on any of these below to read details and you will understand the reason I blog:

  1. In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder
  2. “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.” — Maya Angelou
  3. Inconceivable Heroism Amid Horror
  4. Rising From Ashes: Beyond Broken Memories!
  5. Is it Always Possible to Forgive? This is how I understand it!
  6. Hope
  7. God is not “Fair”, He is JUST!
  8. The Truth Behind My Smile
  9. It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ~ Mother Teresa
  10. My Soul Magnifies the Lord: Now & Always!

God bless you,

Alphonsine

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

 

bene3

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

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

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

After speaking at Philips Middle School

@ Phillips Middle School, Feb 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking to Salem College Student about Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

  •  The genocide has done irreversible damage in my life

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

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

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

Speaking at the Summit Church

@ The Summit Church, Durham, NC. November 2013

  • My parents and two siblings are in heaven with God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking at the PKN Raleigh

@ PKN Raleigh, NC. May 2013

  • I make mistakes, too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

A Treasured Garden of Fame!

A Treasured Garden of Fame!

***

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

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

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

Magnifique2014

***

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

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

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

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

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

Papa2014

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colette_2014

***

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

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

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

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

Nkeke2014

***

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

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

Jean Eric, Alice, Alphonsine, Mireille Noella

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