May 21, 2016

The Saddest Face at My Evangelistic Meeting in Rwanda

A young woman caught my eye in the crowd of Rwandan university students as the PowerPoint slide showed a touching image of Christ hanging on the cross.

She won’t look up. Shame and guilt seemed to be weighing on her heart. 

As I stood at the front of the crowd, I could see many hearts being convicted around her. People were weeping. Seeing the Holy Spirit at work, I began to cry. Never had I witnessed so many people so impressed by the theme of that day’s meeting, “The Cross and Salvation.”

This was my first evangelistic series.

Let me introduce myself. I am a 22-year-old nursing student from the U.S. state of Texas. It’s remarkable that I am leading a two-week evangelistic series at ESAPAG Adventist University in Gitwe, Rwanda. Only after a difficult youth did I decide to make God and missions a part of me. Now I try to go on a short-term mission trip every year. Currently, I am on a team of 11 Adventist young adults from GYC who have joined more than 2,200 people in leading evangelistic meetings at churches, school, and other sites across Rwanda. Local church leaders are praying for 100,000 baptisms when the meetings end on May 28.

ESAPAG Adventist University has about 2,000 students, 70 percent of whom are not Adventist. When I was informed that this would be my site, I was nervous yet extremely excited because these were people my age. The average attendance for every meeting is 1,500 people.

Many people stood to make a decision for Christ at the recent meeting with the distraught young woman. You could sense a feeling of relief and peace after they came forward.

Moments after the meeting ended, the young woman ran toward me. As soon as she touched me, she began to cry. Something was weighing her down.

We were escorted to a private room where we could talk. She introduced herself as Clementine, and we sat down.

The students who responded to Vanessa Rocha's first appeal. They went outside and took a photo. (Vanessa Rocha)

Tired of Hurting Jesus

I asked Clementine what was hurting her.

“I’m tired of hurting Jesus with my sin!” she immediately responded, tears in her voice. “Every time I try to walk away from it, it comes back. I am the worst sinner in the world, and Christ will never forgive me.”

Such perplexity and pain filled her eyes. I could see a battle raging inside her before my very eyes. I silently prayed for God to give me the right words.

I looked her in the eyes and said: “Clementine, for God so loved you that He gave His son for you. Even if you were the only soul in this world to accept His sacrifice, it would all have been worth it. The very fact that you are here with such a heavy heart and you realize your need of Christ is proof that He is calling you to Him.”

Clementine interrupted me.

“But how do I move forward?” she said. “How can I show God that I love Him and have the strength not to sin anymore?”

Her response brought me to tears, and I hugged her.

“First, you must realize that regardless of your past, God still loves you,” I said. “God is calling even the darkest of sinners to Him.”

The words began to flow from my mouth.

“Second, you must believe that by accepting His sacrifice you have been washed clean and you are a new creature,” I said. “Third, in order for you to be strong enough to resist temptation, you must spend quality time with God. Daily devotions and daily prayer.

“The only way Jesus was able to withstand temptation is because of the time He spent with His Father. We too, can have that strength. By doing so, when Satan comes at you and whispers that you are horrible, that you are the worst sinner in the world, you can claim the promises that you are a new creature, old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new.”

I was reciting 2 Corinthians 5:17.

“My God, You Are Able!”

A glimmer of hope shone in Clementine’s eyes. I immediately began to pray out loud for God to give her strength to fight the enemy and to deliver her from the chains that were holding her down. Throughout my prayer, her cries were deep and painful. As I came to the end of my prayer, she let out a long sigh as if a burden had been lifted.

Then she began to pray with her arms raised to the sky. She said: “My Jesus, my God, you are able! Rocks have been taken out of my heart, and I am so thankful for Your love and grace. Lord, I am tired of hurting You. Help me to be like You. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You! Thank You for this peace and joy that I have never felt before.”

She ended the prayer, jumped up on her feet, and gave me the tightest hug and brightest smile.

“Thank you! I already feel like a new person!” she exclaimed.

Since that day, Clementine has been the happiest and most cheerful person in the crowd. The power of God is real! Never in my life did I imagine I would experience something so profound.

After this encounter, I realize that I am so numb to sin and the pain that it causes our Lord. My daily prayer now is, “Lord, may this experience be ever present in my heart so that my appreciation for You will only grow greater.”

Friends, the power of God is real, and the mission field is large. Come and taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)!

Lives will never be the same.