In 1994, I remember sitting in church listening to our associate pastor speak about the horrible genocide happening in a country called Rwanda. I had never heard of the country of Rwanda. And I didn’t understand what he was talking about. I don’t remember hearing anything about this horrendous episode on the news or in my high school classes. As a teenager, I didn’t read the newspaper much, so I know I never read anything about it either. It is sad that my only recollection of hearing about the brutality that took place in that country 15 years ago was from my associate pastor. And when he talked about it, the whole thing went right over my head. (Ahh, but at least he talked about it, right?)
It shocks me to think that such a horrific tragedy took place in my lifetime. And it upsets me to think that I didn’t know more it. Was I that naive? Was I that self-absorbed? Was I just not paying attention to anything other than graduating from high school and going off to college? Or was this devastating holocaust really being ignored by the entire world? Perhaps it was all of the above.
Fast forward 15 years. Last week, I checked out a book from the library about the Rwandan holocaust, which left me overwhelmed with numerous questions, emotional heartbreak and amazing inspiration.
Left to Tell is the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza. I am sure many of you are familiar with her story. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to check it out at your library, order it on amazon.com, do whatever it takes to get your hands on this book. It is a must read!
I won’t go into the details of the story here, but throughout the book, there is experience after experience of God protecting Immaculee from the evil that surrounded her, and just how much she trusted and surrendered to God completely. The book is also filled with the message of forgiveness and the essential nature of forgiveness in everyone’s life.
In addition to this book I recently saw a very good movie about the Rwanda genocide called Beyond the Gates. And just last week, I rewatched Hotel Rwanda, because my mom had not seen it but had wanted to for a long time.
I don’t know why this book and these movies are all coming into my life now. Is it because I knew nothing about this holocaust 15 years ago when it was actually taking place? So I’m now catching up? Yes.
But I also think God is using Immaculee’s story in particular to encourage me to ask myself how the lessons she learned relate to my own life:
First, to be completely grateful for the life He has given me, especially for those things that I often take for granted. And to have that attitude of gratefulness more often. Also, to put my own “hardships” in perspective from time to time … and try to learn from them, rather than just complain about them.
Second, to ask myself, what seems to be impossible for me at this very moment? What in my life have I not surrendered completely to the Lord? Why? What is holding me back? What am I afraid of, that I don’t trust God completely with?
These are the lessons and questions I have been pondering lately. And I will continue to ponder them in my prayer time with the Lord …
(Immaculee has two more books: Led by Faith, which I have just started, and Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World From the Heart of Africa, which is on my to-read list, too.)