Sanctity of Life Month post #5 – I had the privilege of meeting Alphonsine at a conference in Chicago last June. Beautiful on the outside and even more beautiful on the inside, I am so blessed to have met her. Her life is an incredible God-story and I look forward to the day a publisher picks it up and puts in book form. I know you will be blessed by this small piece of the big story of God’s work in her life.
My name is Alphonsine. I was born and grew up in Rwanda, a tiny country in the heart of Africa. During the 1994 Genocide, I lost my parents and two siblings, neighbors, friends and fellow citizens in the period of 100 days. I survived with three younger siblings who were all less than 10 years old at the time. It’s been 18 years. God has been not only a Father to us, but also a Comforter, Provider, Best Friend and everything to us.
There are so many days that I did not think I would make it to this day: finish school, get a job that I had always wanted and so much more. But here I am, trusting, loving and believing in God more than ever. Even if things don’t go well today, I know tomorrow will be different. I certainly don’t know what my future holds, but I sure know the One Who Holds my future, and that’s God.
I hope that you are encouraged. Know that it is possible to rise and soar above life’s challenges, and to make a difference. You are not in this alone. (Bio taken from here)
My search for employment began shortly before graduation. I focused my efforts on finding an off-campus position in co-op education to gain experience (as well as improve my finances), but it was no use. I upgraded my resume, networked and did all that I could to seek employment but still couldn’t find a job.
Staying positive is important, and I refused to accept that the economy wasn’t improving. I had several interviews, but the answers were always the same. Unfortunately, your application cannot be considered at the moment, we hired someone else, or we regret to inform you that you were not chosen for this position etc.
Meanwhile, I had to finish my graduate thesis and present before the end of the year. Even when the situation is not well and stable, the clock does not stop running. No one can tell the days and months to not fly by, unless they are perhaps like Joshua at whose request God caused the sun to stand still over Gibeon and the moon stop over the valley of Aijalon until the nation avenged itself on its enemies. (Joshua 10: 1-15 ESV) Sometimes I wished I could tell the days to stop rolling. I wished they could listen and obey.
Before I knew it, it was December and time for my siblings to return to school as the new January 2009 school year was approaching. I still did not have a job or money. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my siblings that they may have to drop out of school or there may not be money for food. I consistently prayed and asked God to never let my eyes see my siblings drop out of school.
During my two years of graduate school, every month I’d gather all the money I had made from my on-campus job and send it all to my siblings, my children, in Rwanda. Every academic year completed, I’d sigh with relief and praise God for another completed year. But, this year, my job had ended in August along with my student status. I had struggled in the past and could starve myself to save for their schooling, but this time I did not even have a job to save money from which to save money. I left it up to God. My daily prayer was the same. “Those orphans belong to you God. They are yours, not mine. I am just a messenger.”
My routine schedule is speaking to my siblings on the phone every weekend if not twice a week, in addition to e-mails throughout the day. The whole week, I just could not wait to listen to their beautiful voices of hope. Their sounds constantly remind who I am and why I am alive. The reason I escaped the edges of machetes. And one Saturday my brother asked,
“Béné (short for my middle name Benefice), where are you going to get this amount? Our schools increased the tuition. It is beyond too much for you this time. We are a burden to you.”
The men of God in the Bible are my role models in life. I reflected back to when Abraham was told to take away his only son to sacrifice him as a burnt offering (Genesis 22: 1-18 ESV). The son, Isaac, had no clue about his father’s plans.
“Father, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Isaac asked.
I felt the same way. I could not open my mouth to tell my only brother that I won’t be able to take care of their schooling expenses.
“God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son,” Abraham answered.
“God is capable. Do you think He can fail to help His orphans? It will never happen,” I replied to my brother. Abraham knew that even if Isaac died, God was capable of raising him from the dead. I was very confident that God would not let me and my children down. He always finds a way of doing wonders.
During these days, I chatted on the internet with my best friend and college roommate, Zeljka, from Croatia. As always, she asked me how I was doing with the job hunting and how my siblings were doing. I told her that they were doing well and said, “However, the time for them to go back to school is approaching, and I need a large amount of money for them, and I do not know where it will come from.”
“How much do you need?” she asked.
“It is a lot. You don’t even want to hear; around two thousand dollars,” I told her.
“I understand that it is a big amount of money, but I will see what I can do to help with it,” Zeljka said. As always, I thanked her for all her help and placed my trust in God.
She was finished with her schooling and her job in America and was preparing to return home for good. She was also in the process of closing her US bank accounts. She called me the following day.
“Alphonsine, can I bring the check to you so you can deposit it as soon as possible before I close my account?” Then she drove all the way from her place to see me and took me to the bank.
As I was filling out the deposit slips at the bank, I opened the sealed envelope that she had given me and could not believe my eyes. My vision blurred and I almost passed out as I read nineteen hundred dollars. I turned my head to look back where she sat and could easily see her embarrassment. Perhaps she had wanted me to deposit the check alone. She did not have to explain. We knew each other well enough to understand this was true.
Zeljka is modest and does not like praise. She knew I might cry; sensed she might too, and was looking at the other side of the hall with her innocent eyes.
My eyes were filled with tears as I walked to the counter to deposit the check. After the transaction was completed, I walked speechless to where she was sitting. I could not contain my tears.
“Don’t say anything. Do not thank me. And please, stop crying. Do you want to make me cry too?” she said.
How could I react any differently? Such a selfless heart! We went for a cup of coffee, and of course, she did not let me pay. As we sat over our drinks, I began to sob.
“You deserve good things like this,” she said. “You are not working, and your siblings deserve to go back to school. I always know that I have my parents as a backup in case things go wrong. You have no one. My parents raised me this way. That is how they are. I am just following the example they set for me,” she concluded.
I always wanted to meet her inspiring parents and was aware that they knew of me. “Keep me posted about everything. Let me know if you need anything,” she said as I hugged her goodbye.
We parted, and as she headed back home for good, I knew that though my best friend would be far from sight, she would never be far from heart and mind. I know my God will watch over her every move. She obeyed the Lord as He used her to help me in many ways. It is engraved on the pillars of my heart forever.
Alphonsine is a Network Engineer with Cisco Systems in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was born in Rwanda where she lived until moving to the US in 2006. She is a motivational speaker through her non-profit Rising Above the Storms (R.A.S) with a goal to teach forgiveness, love and hope. You can find out more about R.A.S. at http://www.risingabovethestorms.org/.