It was almost all I could think about when we moved here. The Genocide Against the Tutsi. Everywhere I went it seemed dark brown eyes stared back at me from hollow looking faces as I passed them on the street. Eyes that seemed full of pain. Eyes that seemed to have seen terrible things. Eyes that had looked in the face of Evil–and lived. A great, great Evil. And I did not know, nor could I ask, just what those eyes had seen. What kinds of pain and tragedy they knew–indeed, still know.
I thought often of the valley of dry bones and Ezekiel, and that here in Rwanda, there were many, many valleys filled with them. Although they wouldn’t have been dry. They would have been wet bones. April, they tell us, is “rainy season.” Torrential downpours flood the streets, homes, and valleys. Usually the rains stop everything. People don’t leave their houses when it rains here. But not that April. In April of 1994, not even the rains could stop the madness.
After living here for eight months, I’ve somewhat lost sight of this great Evil. I am not quite sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing–or a little bit of both. I have met so many joy-filled people since we moved here. So many bright white smiles meet mine. Everywhere we go this country is bustling with life. At least five new houses in our neighborhood have been built since we moved in. Construction is happening all over the city. People are everywhere: walking, driving, riding, talking. People who are very much alive and living and well and working.
Dry bones, walking again.
The longer we stay here the harder it is to imagine this place a wasteland. This green and growing world, a place of death and destruction, reeking with the stench of rotting bodies. Harder still to imagine the Evil that paraded through the streets waving machetes and shouting obscenities. It’s not possible. Not here in this beautiful place. How could it have been?
And yet, for those horrid 100 days from April to July when ONE MILLION Tutsis were killed, it was very much a reality. A terrifying, obscene, incomprehensible reality. One that so many still live with today, 28 years later. Those big brown eyes live with scars. Scars that I can only imagine break open and bleed every once in a while, especially in April.
There is a genocide memorial at the entrance to our neighborhood. Unlike so many memorials you visit elsewhere, there aren’t any names on this one. They do not know exactly who, nor how many, are buried here. It is simply a mass grave covered with a cement platform. The final resting place for too many bones.
Our neighborhood, once just a field and a few mud homes, became something no human eyes should ever see.
A field, a slaughterhouse, a wasteland, a graveyard—-a neighborhood. It is hard to imagine now.
Yet, how many places are like this in Rwanda? Life where there had been death. Joy existing with pain. Present mixed with the past. I am guessing most. They all speak this same story.
As we enter this season of remembering, mourning, promising never to repeat, and looking hopefully to the future, would you remember to pray for the wounded? Those living with unimaginable scars from the ravages of Evil. Pray for healing, for unity, for forgiveness and for Jesus to continue to make His presence known in the darkness and among the suffering. He is the Only One with the power and ability to Redeem.
And as I think about what this land was and now is, I am reminded of these wonderful words that Jesus spoke. The Light Who came into the darkness. The Light that cannot be overcome by it. He said:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3
Oh thank you Jesus! Oh may these things be true of Rwanda. A redemption story revealing His love and glory. A display of His splendor.