I’m so glad Alphonsine and I happened to sit at the same lunch table in the cafeteria at Wheaton College last summer. She had on this beautiful dress and spoke with this incredible accent and I had to learn more about her. When she told me she was from Rwanda, my first thought was Hotel Rwanda, a based-on-a-true-story movie that came out a few years after the genocide. Isn’t that just like an American to relate everything to a movie…I will not forget what she said when I mentioned the movie. “A movie cannot show anything like what really happened.”
To me, the genocide had been a tear jerker of a movie. Something that saddened me for a moment and then I went on my merry way. But this genocide was no movie. And it tore Alphonsine’s world apart. And the amazing thing is that she trusted her Savior to put her world back together and she understands the love of God so intimately that bitterness and anger are not a part of her. If you could spend five minutes with her, you would love who she is, and you would see Christ through her eyes.
Here is the rest of her story. (If you missed part 1, check out Monday’s post.)
As for me, I have never been young. I never knew what it was to buy fancy clothes or wear pretty shoes. I never spent money on trinkets or jewelry like other girls. And I never dared to shop just for the joy of it. The awareness that I had to save every coin for the well-being of my siblings was always with me. I never had the freedom to complain or whine like more fortunate children. I was grateful to just have something to eat, and a place lay my body and close my eyes.
Many wonderful people have helped me along the way, but God has been the “crew chief” on this journey. He revealed Himself not only in times of joy but in the most devastating of situations. Although I struggled to pay for food, clothes, medical expenses, and find a place to live, I was able to win a full scholarship to college in Rwanda where I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics Engineering, and in the United States where I earned a Master’s Degree in Telecom Engineering.
Although the genocide left many scars that I still carry to this day, my gratitude to God is immeasurable. For years I struggled with stomach problems that started shortly after the Genocide ended. After being treated with every stomach drug available in Rwanda between 1994 and 2004, a doctor at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Kigali (CHUK), where I was transferred as the only option left, shocked me with news I wasn’t prepared to hear: “You have an ulcer. It seems like you have been drinking alcohol and smoking for many years.” I could not help but laugh. “But doctor, I’ve never smoked or drank alcohol.” I replied.
A surgery that was then scheduled didn’t take place for reasons I don’t remember. I was instead prescribed more medication which was by then my daily diet. Then one day in the beginning of my senior year (2004), I noticed I was pain free. At first I thought it was just a break from the pain. Then more days passed and before I knew it, my stomach problems were completely gone. No more sickness, no more hiccups, and no need for a special diet. After many years of stomach pain and abdominal burning, God had listened to my cry and put an end to my sickness. Several years later, I consulted an American Gastroenterologist to be on the safe side. The results showed there was nothing wrong with my stomach.
God is the great I Am. Not only has He been my protection, healer, father and a friend, He is also our provider. I will never be able to explain how my siblings and I got where we are now. At this writing, my brother Eric and my sister Alice are both expecting master’s degrees in 2014; and Mireille is a junior in college. I have no doubt these three are the reason I am alive today.
One night after the genocide ended, trying to grasp what just happened to my short-lived life, I had a dream. In it, I was talking to my father, Alphonse, and I promised him I would love and care for his surviving children as he would if he were alive. I am grateful to God who has instilled in me the love I have for my siblings. I will never be able to put it in words.
I have one answer for those who ask me why I am not bitter or why I forgave those who made me an orphan. Knowing that my parents are in heaven with God, I will do whatever it takes in this life to please the Lord, because I live with the sole hope that I’ll again see Colette and Alphonse, my life’s inspiration, in the new life that knows no sorrow or separation. I love my parents deeply and often wish they could see what their little girl has become. They would have been proud. For all that’s worth, I’m willing to sacrifice everything to please the GOD who has my parents and two siblings with Him.
I have not only been a parent, but God blessed me with people who call me their daughter. Robert and Glori Lovall, whom I met shortly before graduating from RIT in Rochester, New York, have nothing in common with me through flesh’s eyes: skin color, background, lifestyle, social or economic upbringing, but they call me their daughter. For many years, no one extended such an offer, not even my relatives in Rwanda. No one had called me daughter since I lost my parents.
“Wherever you will be in the world, remember that you have a home here,” my new mom said. I was forced to became a mother as a teenager, but now at last I have a place where I feel young and spoiled. A place where I am constantly told that I am loved.
This is my story; how I was not only able to survive the loss of my parents and a country torn apart by genocide, but to succeed and become the woman of faith I am today – and the promise of the person I hope to become tomorrow.
You can learn more about Alphonsine and her non-profit organization here.