April 10, 2014

Rwanda After 20 Years: Nothing--But Too Much

This week
marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide in
Rwanda. Twenty years is almost nothing -- but is also too much. I was 20 years
old. I had a very brave and beautiful Christian fiancée, who followed me to
'the ends of the earth'. Today she is my wife and has given me two wonderful
children. We are still brave, Christian, and a wonderful family, but today my
heart grieves for families that I left behind in Rwanda. I don't know if they
could start a family, or even if they are still alive. I certainly know of
several that no longer are.

It is
never nice to commemorate this kind of anniversary. Lots of names are piling up
in my mind. Dassany was the central story of a Mission Quarterly report many years ago, telling the story of his
conversion. He died dramatically in Kigali. Ranjan Kulasekere was a missionary, originally from Sri Lanka, he was
murdered on the stairs in front of his house, the same spot where we had shared
endearing moments.

there was Efrem, our tireless translator into Kenyarwanda and Swahili. Years
later I knew he got married and started a new home. Alfonsine, the cook,
widowed during the war, and witness of the horrible death of her own children,
right in front of her. Mass graves on the roadside, lifeless gazes, people
dragging their feet together with what little, if anything of their life was

This morning
my mind was blocked due to a flood of terrible images coming out of the
oblivion drawer, simply triggered by reading the news. The heist of a
15-year-old soldier, pushing the barrel of his machine gun against my face, my
angry reaction to that scared teenager.

fearful shouting of one of our translators when I lost track of the road and
ran the car into what he said was a minefield, carefully stepping back on our
own tracks. The 11-year-old child to whom we gave a ride from Mugonero, heading
to Kigali, who dropped a grenade from his pocket because of a pothole on the
road. Five hours to drive just 90 km.

Our team
was unique, Dolores Gascón (nurse), Miguel Gracia (paediatrician), Pablo Gracia
(logistics and laboratory supervisor), Susana De Madariaga (nursing assistant)
and myself (logistics and communications). We worked in situations that test
fortitude, that build, brand and model character for life, and make decisions
that will shape the future of many.

Where is
God's image in this nonsense, in this madness soaked in pain? Although it may
seem unbelievable, it is there, hidden, waiting. For I also remember the
beautiful smiles of children running and waving by my car window, despite their
eyes already showing the signs of having witnessed something that nobody should
ever see in their entire life. Children shouting with joy for life, suddenly
smuggling themselves quickly to the first hiding place, just because one of us
pulled his hand from the pocket to pull out... a gun? They know nothing, but a
camera suddenly can be perceived as a threat.

I also
remember Kigali marketplace the first week. Empty. Serious. Frugal. Scarce in
food and people. I recall also the same marketplace two months later. Bustling,
crowded, alive. One scream echoed across the street, giving me goose-bumps. I
turned my head, and after two seconds, I heard a loud cry of joy. Two ladies
had reencountered each other in front of the post office. Both were alive!

to the ADRA headquarters in Kigali, another joy: Monique, a secretary, had just
heard that one of her five children, a 12-year-old, was still alive in Goma.
She didn't care anymore about borders or distances.

stories told during morning worships at the dispensary were shocking. Tests of
faith. People who were faithful to God, to their wives and families, despite
the price of their entire family's lives. Others who survived at the highest
price, that of their own souls, agreeing to kill blood of their blood to save
their own life.

verses took on new meaning, "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and
I will give you life as your victor's crown" (Rev. 2:10 NIV), "while
we wait for the blessed hope ­ the appearing of the glory of our great God and
Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13 NIV), among many others. Hymns such as
“When the Roll is Called up Yonder” and “Shall we Gather at the River” became
our most sung favorites.

After the
genocide, even during it, new babies were born. Life bloomed once again. Twenty
years have now passed. I cannot, must not, do not, want to forget. We must
avoid the repetition of history.

days made my childhood dreams come true, to become a “missionary.” But you
never really know what is to come. I kept a diary over those months.
Today I realized that the diary has not been opened since. It has sat closed
for 20 years. It is somewhere at home but the things recorded in it have never
been forgotten.

Stanic, a
Bosnian friend of mine, messaged me in Madrid today with an interesting
question: "Pedro, what is your conclusion about all that happened?"
My answer: "All this pushed me to definitely study theology and become a
pastor." Stanic lives in a country with its own dramatic story, yet
launched a second question at me: "Is there any chance to understand all
that mess?"

tough question followed: "So you don't actually believe in social impact?
I mean, in all these ideas of reaching communities through different

My answer
reflects the personal drama of any Christian who is living their life in the
best way: "I do, but not as a solution. It is a worthwhile must, but
meanwhile we pursue our main duty, finishing the massive preaching of the gospel
to the entire world."

finished with a few words: "There are... and will be changes... just keep

Rwanda, 20 years is nothing but is also too much. And for me? The years fly by
with a longing for the soon return of Jesus to this world. That gives me
renewed energy for my task: communicating the good news.