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Aunt Hildy’s Vision – The Holy Places in Cancer and Grief

 

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Marlowe, Hildy and me the summer after Grandma died

The night before my surgery, I received this email from my great-uncle Marlowe.

HILDY HAS BEEN FEELING PUNK THE LAST FEW DAYS AND WENT TO BED EARLY TONIGHT.  I WAS WASHING DISHES WHEN SHE CALLED ME TO THE BEDROOM.  SHE SAID THIS IS STRANGE. “I’VE BEEN HEARING THE VOICE OF MY FATHER PRAYING FOR KIM AND HER SURGERY. WRITE THEM AND EMAIL AND LET THEM KNOW THAT ALL IS WELL AND THE SURGERY WILL GO WITHOUT INCIDENT.  NOW I CAN GO TO SLEEP”. YOU HAVE BEEN UPHELD AT THE THRONE OF GRACE. PEACE, MERCY AND BLESSING.   MARLOWE

I didn’t respond.

A few days after surgery, I received the following email.

ADDITIONAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE ABOVE.     “HILDY’S VISION”

WENT TO BED, THINKING ABOUT KIM AND TOMORROWS SURGERY. WAS VERY TIRED AND FELL INTO A SEMI-SLEEP.

I WAS AWARE OF A WIND OR SPIRIT SHOWING ME A ROOM, THAT WASN’T A ROOM. THE SETTING WAS VERY BLEAK. COMING INTO VIEW WERE THOSE PEOPLE THAT HAD A SPECIAL CONNECTION TO KIM.

IN SHARP FOCUS WERE MY PARENTS, GOTTLEB AND FRIEDA. BEHIND THEM, MORE OBSCURED, WERE GERT AND ALVIN SWANSON, HENRY AND LOTTIE SWANSON AND LORRIE SWANSON. I WAS OBSERVING FROM A DISTANCE AND I HEARD MY FATHER START TO PRAY. “O DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER” —JUST AS I REMEMBER HIM PRAYING GROWING UP.

KIM WAS NOT DIRECTLY MENTIONED, BUT THE ESSENCE OF THE PRAYER WAS “THE SURGERY WILL GO WELL AND WITHOUT INCIDENT”  I WAS FILLED WITH AN AWESOME SENSE OF PEACE. AS QUICKLY AS THE ‘VISION’ CAME, IT LEFT.

I CALLED MAR TO LET HIM KNOW, AND ASK HIM TO SEND THE ABOVE EMAIL TO JAN AND KIM. (THIS WAS A VERY EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE FOR HILDY SINCE THE PRAYER AND GATHERING WERE EXPRESSLY FOR KIM.)

I didn’t respond. I read it through tears, but I didn’t respond.

Two weeks later, my aunt Hildy died.

I didn’t go to her funeral. It was so soon after surgery that I didn’t know if I could physically handle the long car ride or emotionally handle the service.

So I missed it.

And until today I haven’t really grieved her, because I haven’t had it in me to enter into that sadness.

When I was 13, Hildy became a surrogate grandma to me.

I have wonderful memories of my summer visits to her home in Omaha. I can still hear her voice saying my name. I can feel myself cocooned her great big papason chair. I can remember how the heaviness of  her breathing when she rested was so soothing because it sounded just like Grandma. I can close my eyes and get lost in her amazing flower garden in my mind. I can even remember the scent of her car.

I loved her.

And I love it that God would give her that vision for me.

That he would give that picture and those words to my Aunt Hildy in her frailty. Just for me. Just when I needed them. Just before she died. It was like receiving an invitation into a private holy place.

And though it weighs so heavy on my heart that I didn’t respond to her messages, and that I didn’t attend her funeral, and that I have pushed her death to the recesses of my mind until now because grieving her and dealing with cancer was just too much, I know she knew what she meant to me.

Today I sit at my table, a pile of tissues beside me, and I write and I grieve her as if she just died yesterday.

In many ways it’s too late, but today I respond. Aunt Hildy, I love you and I miss you.

 

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A Little Farther

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Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed. Matthew 26:39

I’ve been thinking a lot about a little farther.

When Jesus was preparing for his death, he took his close friends with him to Gethsemane to pray. Three of those friends he took with him further into the garden. But even those three couldn’t go as far as Jesus needed to go.

Where he was heading, he had to go alone.

I am definitely not Jesus, and my circumstances are a bit less consequential.

But I am beginning to understand a little farther.

I haven’t slept well for months. Early on because of the fear of the unknowns. More recently because of the physical discomfort that comes with the breast reconstruction process and the anxiousness that comes with not knowing whether or not chemo is in your future.

When it’s 2 a.m. and I’m on my recliner in my dark living room, frustrated about cancer and trying to get comfortable enough to sleep, I am a little farther.

I have some close friends who have walked with me into the garden. We group text on an almost daily basis. We have laughed, cried and prayed together through little blips of conversations on our phones. Some days they have been my lifeline. But they can’t do 2 a.m. with me.

There is a dear soul to whom I can shoot the craziest texts or call at any time knowing she gets me. Even when I’m completely out of my mind she gets me. But she can’t do 2 a.m. with me.

And then there is Corey. Who sees me at my worst and is still crazy enough to love me. Who puts me first always. Who tells me I’m beautiful with my scars when I look in the mirror and see ugly.

But though he would let me stay back and go a little farther for me if he could, he can’t. He would take my fears, my frustrations, my stress, my pain, my sleeplessness upon himself if it was possible. But it’s not.

So here I am. 2 a.m. A little farther.

I try to be like Jesus, who pleaded with the father to take the cup from him, but followed his plea with “Thy will be done.”

I get stuck at “Take this cup.”

I want to say “Thy will be done.” But quite honestly, in this moment, I can’t.

What I do instead is barter for my own will. I promise I will…if you will just…

I know that’s not how it works.

I want to let go and I want to trust. I just can’t.

But I will.

Just not this night. Not at 2 a.m.

My comfort in those middle-of-the-night moments is in knowing that even when I can’t pry my hands from my own will, God doesn’t bow out. He knows how hard this is for me. He knows I don’t want my flesh to defeat my spirit. He sees my battle, and he doesn’t leave me. He waits.

And when eventually the sun comes up, and the world looks different, and I am able to at last say “your will be done,” he doesn’t punish me for my delayed trust.

Instead when I open my Bible he speaks to me with something like this.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he. I am he who will sustain you. I am he who made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:4)

And that makes a little farther beautiful.

(BTW – Though I will be on a drug called Tomoxifen for 10 years, I do not need chemo. Hallelujah!)

 

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The Rwandan Genocide – 20 Years Later – Alphonsine’s Beautiful Tribute to Her Family

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Sharing a link to Alphonsine’s tribute to her family 20 years after the Hutu’s murdered her mom, her dad, her sister Claudine and her brother Jean Felix. Makes me want to hug my kids.

In A Garden of Fame Where Their Treasured Memories Grow Fonder: Two Decades Later!

 

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Getting Uncomfortable – Guest Post by Felicia Alvarez

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From the wealthy, to the unborn, to the hurting, to the poverty-stricken, God has placed a value on human life far above any other piece of his creation. This month a group of guest-bloggers will share a variety of stories that will cause us to think about the amazing worth of life.

Thanks for joining our Sanctity of Life journey.

***

I met Felicia Alvarez a couple years ago at a writer’s conference. An excellent writer with a heart for leading people toward Christ, I’m excited to share one of her stories here today. 

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“The girls sleep on the bunks on the right wall and the boys sleep on the left,” Jessica, the volunteer coordinator of the teen shelter explained as we walked through the room and into the hall. “Sometimes we have sixteen kids, but usually it’s ten or twelve. The volunteer on duty sits in this chair to make sure everyone stays in their own bunk.”

“Most of the kids take the bus to school in the mornings, but right now we have one girl who can’t leave campus. Her former pimp knows where she goes to school, she’s been giving the police information to help them apprehend him. So, for her safety, she is only allowed to leave with a staff member or the police.”

“That’s so sad,” I replied.

“Yeah.” Jessica turned to face me. “All of the kids have a story, and each story is uniquely tragic. Jon’s parents are homeless, and he’s here because he doesn’t like being at the adult homeless shelter. Robert’s brother is in jail, and he doesn’t have anyone else to live with. Pauline and Priscilla are sisters that were horribly abused by their parents. They’re here temporarily, waiting for grandparents from another state to come sign papers and pick them up—”

When the tour ended, I walked back to my car with a heavy heart. I unlocked the door, sat down, and cried.

These kids were too young.

Too young to be abused.

Too young to be abandoned.

Too young to be prostituted.

Too young to be homeless.

Often we associate child poverty with other countries like India or Uganda. But all of this goes on in a normal, beautiful city in the U.S. Everyday, children in AMERICA—in my state!—are hungry, lonely, battered, and on the streets. And, until that moment, I never knew.

My entire life, I had lived my happy little suburbian life while teens only thirty minutes away didn’t know where they would sleep. My biggest decision each morning was whether to get up a little earlier to stop at Starbucks. These kids had a whole different set of questions: Would they eat that day? How would they shower and look normal at school? How would they do their homework? What if their friends found out they were homeless?

Yikes! A pretty stark contrast.

But what would I do with all this new information?

Honestly, part of me didn’t want to do anything.

I didn’t want to go back; I wanted to curl up and hide. I wanted to run away from the sadness and pain, run back to my comfortable home and forget such misery existed.

But Jesus didn’t stay comfortable. He sought the hurting, sick, and homeless. He sought the people with burdens and scars. So, shouldn’t we seek to minister to those people too? Why don’t we?

Why don’t I?

Frankly, I think it’s because it’s hard. It’s messy and inconvenient. It’s dirty and uncomfortable. And it hurts to see people in such difficult situations.  Besides, I typically try to stay as far away from trouble as possible.

But when I signed up to be a Christian, I signed up to be crucified with Christ.

I agreed to serve, to love my neighbor—homeless teens and anyone else—as I loved myself (Mark 12:35). Since I don’t ignore myself when I am hurting, I shouldn’t ignore them.

Jason Carr in his book, Orphan Justice, shares:

“The gospel always calls us out of ourselves and our self-constructed world. It calls us to care, to sacrifice, and to reach out to orphaned and vulnerable children and become the face of Jesus.

Jesus came and died for those with HIV/AIDS, no matter how they got the disease. He died for those living in poverty. He died for the teenager who is selling her body tonight so she doesn’t starve. He died for the young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy. He died for every little boy and girl who is orphaned. He died for every angry, confused, and scared boy and girl in foster care whose earthly possessions fit inside one black trash bag.

Not only did Jesus die for these orphaned and vulnerable kids, but he also defeated death, hell, and the grave to rise again. He now offers them the glorious gift of the gospel through us.”[i]

If we just look around, we will find children everywhere who need to see Jesus through His servants. So the question is: Are we ready to get out of our comfortable lives and be the hands and feet of Christ?

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Hope Realized – Guest Post by Tara Livesay

sanctity
From the wealthy, to the unborn, to the hurting, to the poverty-stricken, God has placed a value on human life far above any other piece of his creation. This month a group of guest-bloggers will share a variety of stories that will cause us to think about the amazing worth of life.

Thanks for joining our Sanctity of Life journey.

***

My guest blogger today is Tara Livesay of Port au Prince, Haiti.  Tara and her family serve Heartline Ministries in the small Caribbean nation where they have lived for eight years. The following is the success story of one young Haitian mother.

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As we meet with women, some young and some not so young, we often hear stories that leave us speechless. The women of Haiti that we serve have often experienced pain, suffering, and trauma that we cannot easily imagine.
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One such young woman, “Rebecca” came to us early in her pregnancy.
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As Rebecca opened up about her situation we grieved with her over what she had lost and what she still needed to face.  At the tender age of 15, Rebecca had been hurt.  An older man forced himself on Rebecca and assaulted her right in her neighborhood.
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The community was upset, the police were notified, and in a rather unusual turn of events in Haiti, the assailant ended up fleeing Haiti to hide in the Bahamas in order to avoid the consequences of the rape. Soon after, Rebecca learned she was pregnant.  The day we heard her story we sat quietly listening to her resolve and her strength and her plan of action.
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“It is not the baby’s fault that I was forced. I will love this baby,” said the incredibly mature young woman sitting with us.
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Rebecca came to our program at the Maternity Center faithfully all throughout her pregnancy.  She missed only twice, but both times she let us know she had a counseling appointment and would be absent due to that important prior engagement.  We had the honor of helping Rebecca through hours of labor and eventually welcoming a baby boy into the world.
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Instantly Rebecca proved that teen-mothers often have the ability to bond, love, and serve their children every bit as well as an older, more mature mother.  Rebecca’s baby grew fast and became a very sturdy little guy. He looked even larger in his Momma’s thin arms.
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When Rebecca’s son reached six months of age we hugged, talked and said our temporary goodbyes on the day she graduated from the program. Rebecca graduated in January of 2013 and asked about going back to school in the future.  We encouraged Rebecca to spend the next six months focusing on parenting her son.  We told her that if she would come back after his first birthday in July, we would discuss school for the 2013-2014 school year.
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Just as expected, in July Rebecca came to see us. She held her giant one-year-old baby boy on her hip.  In October of this year she returned to school. Her mother is caring for her son while she presses on toward the goal of finishing high school.  This is no small task in Haiti.  The testing process is difficult and the work load heavy.  From the first day we met Rebecca, we knew she had a unique spirit, one that would allow her to fight the most difficult battles and not give up.  It was clear to us that sending her back to school was the right thing to do.
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Heartline doesn’t budget for these situations.  When we meet a pregnant woman we are thinking about the immediate health-related needs.  We are thinking about nutrition and vitamins and blood work. We are thinking about education throughout pregnancy and building relationships.  Later we are thinking about emotional support during the difficult hours of labor and delivery.  We are focused on breastfeeding and helping make the immediate connections between mom and baby.  Those things are the core of our program. They are the core of what we do.
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When we enter into these stories with women, we often end up knowing that our commitment to encourage, advocate, love, and serve does not end on graduation day.
While we don’t technically have a “send teen moms to high school” program and therefore had not budgeted for the more than $1,000 in fees to make it happen, we knew that Rebecca needed to be given this opportunity.  We will continue to ask God for direction in the unique situations that He brings to our Maternity Center, and we will continue to ask God to provide for the needs of the women through your generosity and love. (originally published at livesayhaiti.blogspot.com)
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*I urge you to visit their website and even to donate to their ministry if you are so led. It is a beautiful thing that they do.*
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Troy and Tara and family have been living, working, and learning in Port au Prince, Haiti for the last 8 years. One thing they have learned: God is not made manifest in our ability to “fix” or heal, but in our need to be healed. Recognizing this weakness leaves us in a position of having nothing to offer, but reveals our need to be loved, healed and restored.  The Livesays work with Heartline Ministries and attempt to love God and love others.
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Pain – Guest Post by Elizabeth Flesher

sanctity

From the wealthy, to the unborn, to the hurting, to the poverty-stricken, God has placed a value on human life far above any other piece of his creation. This month a group of guest-bloggers will share a variety of stories that will cause us to think about the amazing value of life.

Thanks for joining our Sanctity of Life journey.

***

Though I have not met today’s guest blogger, Elizabeth Flesher, I had the opportunity to spend many hours in a car with her mom, Mary Potter Kenyon, as we traveled together to and from a writer’s conference in Chicago a couple years ago. I was so encouraged by Mary’s faith in difficult life circumstances while on that trip and have since been encouraged my Elizabeth’s faith and “realness” on her blog Trenches of Mommyhood.  The following repost from her blog is filled with the raw emotion of losing a child. Her son, Jacob went to be with Jesus in August.  I can’t even begin to imagine her pain, but I do know the indescribable  gift God has given me in my own children.

PAIN

Animals will often chew their own limbs off in order to get out of a trap.

I only wish it was that easy. 

I would gladly chew off a limb to get away from this pain. I feel trapped. No matter what I do, where I turn, where I go this grief stays with me. There is no getting away from it – I need to trudge, waist deep, through it and hope I can drag myself safely to the other side.

Today I had to make the decision to put our dog to sleep.  At 11 years old she was way past her prime. Arthritis in the hip, congestive heart failure. Today I found a large lump on her chest. While she had two similar lumps last year that turned out to be benign she is too old to go through surgery and this lump apparently was growing quickly (since I hadn’t noticed it before). She acted like she was in pain the past few days and that made up my mind. While I sat in the room with her, waiting for the medicine to take effect, I rubbed her ears and wondered how one comforts their dog as she’s killing it (I realize euthanizing is not murder, per se, but it feels like it). 

That brought back feelings of how one comforts their child as they are dying.Because as bad as it is to lose a child, to have that child gone from your life, it may be worse to be losing a child. Watching a child, your child, slowly die is the most gut wrenching, twisted pain there is.The only thing worse than watching your child die is not watching them, die day after day. To watch their pain linger.

That’s not to say that much of Jacob’s journey home wasn’t holy and beautiful. I think, and pray, that the medicine kept him pretty comfortable those two months.

But it was a solo journey for him, one that I couldn’t walk step for step with him. I couldn’t take it all away or make it better.

When a child lays dying, when a child dies, a piece of you leaves with them. Each of my children are literally a piece of me and one of those pieces is now gone. The pain of that is as physical as it is emotional.

If only the answer of escaping that pain was as simple as chewing off a limb. Because I know that would hurt a lot less. 

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Elizabeth Flesher is a 31-year-old stay-at-home mama. She’s been married to hubby, Ben, for 12 years. She has 9 year old Rebecca, 8 year old Jacob in Heaven, 5 year old Joseph, and baby girl Amy. She homeschools. Jacob was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and relapsed in spring of 2012. He relapsed again in January of 2013 and after a drug trial and at home care Jacob passed away in August of 2013. We are battling our way out of the trenches after losing our dear son. You can find her at Trenches of Mommyhood, or contact her at babys_mama1@yahoo.com
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Forgiveness in Rwanda (part 2) – Alphonsine Imaniraguha

sanctity

From the wealthy, to the unborn, to the hurting, to the poverty-stricken, God has placed a value on human life far above any other piece of his creation. This month a group of guest-bloggers will share a variety of stories that will cause us to think about the amazing value of life.

Thanks for joining our Sanctity of Life journey.

***

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My first guest blogger is Alphonsine Imaniraguha. Though we have spent very little time face-to-face, we have grown a bond online. I have had the privilege of sharing pieces of her story on this blog and the honor of editing some of her work over the past couple years. The following is the second of a 2-Part post about her survival of the 1994 Rwandan genocide is both an atrocious story of evil and a beautiful story of forgiveness. 

Part 2

On Sunday, April 24th, as my mother, brother, cousin and I were gathered by a mass grave to be killed; the Hutu interahamwe militiamen asked my mother if she had any other children not there with us. My mother immediately said that she had a son and two daughters, and revealed where they hid.

My older brother Jean Felix, who was 15, was not trusted enough to go retrieve them because they thought he would run away and escape. The militiamen turned toward me and pushed me to go get them. I was given an armed soldier to escort me. Before I left, I pleaded to the killers, as if they would listen, to not kill my mother before I came back.

And that’s when the merciless killers started beating my older brother with sharp wires. The last memory of my brother engraved in my heart is of tears and blood streaming down his sweet face. And my plea was the final word with my mother and brother I loved so much.

The same soldier (my escort) who watched and possibly helped kill my mom and brother, urged me to leave my three younger siblings alone, and didn’t lead me back to the crime scene; instead, he escorted me to a place I’d never been before.I was so sure that he was going to rape me before my death, but I was determined to plead to be shot instead. At 13, I was convinced that he would listen, to make me an exception among hundreds of thousands of Tutsi women who were shamed before their death.

When we arrived at his house that night, he fed me and gave me his daughter’s clothes to wear and a headscarf to disguise myself. His home was near the main military camp in Kanombe. He also detailed the death of my loved ones, and told me that he only saved me to tell a story.

He mentioned that he sent his family to the western part of the country. This was because the Tutsi rebels, who later stopped the Genocide in July, were advancing from the north, towards the capital. The Rwandan forces were losing the battle and running towards the west. During my 2-3 weeks there, he didn’t touch me or show any signs of interest in me besides keeping me safe. One day though, as the rebels drew closer, he escaped leaving me alone in his house, unharmed.

Although my comfortable world has been twisted forever, I forgave all those who took lives of my loved ones, even though they didn’t apologize to me. Some may be already dead, and those who are still alive are probably in jail. Why did I forgive them? Here is why:

1)      I have no doubt that my parents and two siblings who perished in April 1994 are in heaven. I miss them a lot. But I know they are in a peaceful place with God. I patiently long for the day I will see them again. They will be proud of me! With that said, it is written in Hebrews 12:14Strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. For all that is worth, I will do whatever it takes to please God who has my parents and siblings with Him. That includes forgiving my enemies.

2)      There is nothing I can possibly do to bring back my loved ones, even if I could take revenge and kill all their murderers. However, there is someone who can avenge for me when I feel anger crouching at the door of my heart. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19). So now I know someone will repay all those who wronged me, my only part is to truly forgive them.

3)      I sin too. Romans 3:23 goes like this: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. I don’t see where it says only killers. Everyone, including victims, needs Jesus.

In Mathew 18:21-35, Jesus tells us the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant after Peter asked him how many times he should forgive a brother who sins against him. The king had a servant who owed him $14 billion dollars; since he couldn’t pay back, the king ordered him and his family to be sold until they could pay it off. Then the servant fell on his knees begging the king to give him time to pay everything off. Out of pity, the king forgave him the debt.

As this very servant left, he encountered a fellow servant who owed him $2,000. He started choking him asking to pay it all, and when his debtor couldn’t pay he put him in prison. As the story goes on, the master found out what the first servant did. Out of anger, the master put him in jail until he could pay off all his debt.

And this brings me back to my point: if my past, present and future sins were converted in USD, I would be imprisoned for the rest of my life. And I never want to be like this unforgiving servant. My part again, is to forgive, even if it hurts so much.

4)      The final point is that we will all face God on the judgment day, where our work in this life will be judged. Hebrews 4:13 states that: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”. God knows it all, and to your advantage, if you feel like you are overcame by rage against those who have wronged you, remember at least this one verse: “To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20

You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.” – Lewis B. Smedes.

I pray that all those who wronged me find a way to the cross of Jesus, where sinners trade their filthy rags for the righteousness of God. If they don’t, they will face God, the Father of the fatherless, my Strong Redeemer. I have already forgiven all of them with all my heart and wish them nothing but the Salvation!

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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 organization, Rising Above the Storms.

Connect with Alphonsine on her blogs at Rising Above The Storms and A Soothing Voice. Or find her on facebook.

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Forgiveness in Rwanda – Guest Post By Alphonsine Imaniraguha

sanctity

From the wealthy, to the unborn, to the hurting, to the poverty-stricken, God has placed a value on human life far above any other piece of his creation. This month a group of guest-bloggers will share a variety of stories that will cause us to think about the amazing value of life.

Thanks for joining our Sanctity of Life journey.

***

My first guest blogger is Alphonsine Imaniraguha. Though we have spent very little time face-to-face, we have grown a bond online. I have had the privilege of sharing pieces of her story on this blog and the honor of editing some of her work over the past couple years. The following 2-Part post about her survival of the 1994 Rwandan genocide is both an atrocious story of evil and a beautiful story of forgiveness. 

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Those Who Have Been Forgiven Much

I was born and raised in Rwanda.  A country so beautiful that they would say: “The God of Rwanda spends daytime in other countries to come home in the evening, the source of the Nile River, the heart of Africa.”

I grew up in a large family with five siblings. My parents were very devout Roman Catholics, and the most wonderful people I had ever known. We were taught to pray, to love and to treat everyone like family. We read the Bible and prayed together as a family every day. When I imagined heaven and judgment day, I pictured my family lining up before God, and my dad introducing my mom and us children to God. Then God would wave us through to lead us into heaven. I could not possibly imagine things going any other way.

But around 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 6th, 1994 that changed.

My family gathered outside under the moonlight after dinner, with the exception of my little sister Claudine, who was visiting her godmother a half an hour away. Suddenly, we heard the unusual sound of big guns and explosions somewhere not too far away and saw flames in the sky. We rushed to listen to our radio receiver and learnedthat the Rwandan presidential plane had just been gunned down as it was landing at the airport of Kanombe.

I wish I had onlyknown what that would mean for me and my family. A very new page in the history of Rwanda was about to be unfold.

Within seconds, the Genocide began.

The next morning (Thursday) around 10 am, before we could truly grasp what was happening, my sister’s godmother, Theresa, appeared at our house unannounced.  With her, two men carried a dead body. Before dawn that day, Hutu interahamwe militiamen stormed Theresa’s house, killing her two children and my sister. Blood poured from my sister’s neck, where it seemed like a knife pierced, or if she was lucky enough, a bullet!

On Sunday April 17th, my dad went out to find a safe hiding place for his family while we cowered in an abandoned house in a town next to ours where people didn’t know us. While in the basement we overheard a large group of Hutu militiamen who roared like lions, passing by, boasting. “We just killed Alphonse and cut him into three pieces. He said that he left a wife and five children. We need to find them and finish them off.”

Fear gripped our hearts; but we were ready to die. However, death didn’t come, at least not yet.

The second part of Alphonsine’s story will post on Thursday, January 9.

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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 organization, Rising Above the Storms.

Connect with Alphonsine on her blogs at Rising Above The Storms and A Soothing Voice. Or find her on facebook.

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Rising Above the Storms – Alphonsine’s Story and Passion

If you’ve been reading 26 Letters for a while, you have met Alphonsine. She has shared bits of her story of surviving and overcoming the horrors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and of God’s awesome provision in her adult life.

Alphonsine now lives and works in the US and has a passion to use her life experience to help others.  The primary goal of her non-profit organization Rising Above the Storms (R.A.S.) is to “reach out, encourage and inspire people who are hurting, abandoned, or challenged in life in any way. We aim to bring hope and motivation to rebuild a brighter and more positive tomorrow.”

I recently came across a video of one of her speaking engagements on youtube. I’m sharing it with you so you can see and hear this fantastic lady. Be encouraged by her story and the way God is using her to help others.

Aphonsine Imaniraguha on youtube

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