When I think about Easter, I think about "re". Rebirth. Restoration. Reconciliation. Redemption. And I think about where I have seen these beautiful things in action.
I fell in love with East Africa while working in Rwanda in 2011. Beyond the rolling hills and picturesque landscapes, the true beauty of Rwanda was in the people. Wide, bright smiles greet you everywhere you go and sweet children hold your hand as you walk down the street. It’s a country that has the sneaky ability to totally and completely capture your heart.
Most importantly, I have never experienced such an incredible picture of restoration and reconciliation as I did in Rwanda.
In 1994, the country was ravaged by genocide. Split along the lines of people groups, Rwanda broke into unprecedented violence following the assassination of their active leader on April 6, 1994. What followed was unimaginable. Neighbors killed neighbors and friends killed friends. Refugees fled the country. Families hid in churches, only to be met by militia and slaughtered. Radio programs encouraged people to kill their neighbors. Nearly a million people died in 100 days.
As I wrote in my journal after visiting the shallow mass grave at the sight of one particular massacre, “My heart hurts and my head cannot begin to understand.”
Less than 20 years later, I experienced peace in Rwanda. More than that, I experienced forgiveness. I met a woman living next door to the man that killed her husband. I heard stories of unimaginable pain and suffering, followed by grace and release. I witnessed a broken place being healed from the inside out.
I cannot claim to know why Rwanda has been able to experience restoration and reconciliation. I imagine it has something to do with necessity – being willing to do the hard work of forgiveness because there is simply nowhere left to turn. What I do know is that I’m thankful. Thankful for the lessons that Rwanda taught me, and thankful for the country that is now becoming a leader in Africa. I’m thankful to work for Opportunity – an organization who believes in and invests in this redemptive process by creating jobs for incredible, hardworking survivors.
One such hero is Beathe. Watch her story – learn her story. She inspires me and, this Easter season, reminds me that reconciliation is possible.
Rwanda broke my heart and and then filled it right back up again. It made me fall in love with East Africa. It taught me so much about peace and justice and forgiveness and love. And it’s a story that everyone needs to know.
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