Can you imagine losing every member of your extended family in a matter of weeks? To be the only survivor among the people you loved the most? This is exactly what the young man in this picture experienced and I sat there listening to him sing about it. Through the help of a translator I learned that the lyrics went something like this;
When I remember my past My heart is filled with praise Because God did the impossible for me I remember the people who died all around me But after they tried to kill me several times I survived And that is impossible This young man was only 4 years old during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The scars remain on his neck and shoulders, reminders of the way that the perpetrators mutilated their victims gradually before killing them. Somehow he survived this brutality and through the comfort that he has found through Solace Ministries in Kigali, Rwanda, he has forgiven his offenders and is finding healing. Can you imagine surviving such tragedy physically, much less mentally and emotionally? How would you go on in the face of such total loss? The people of Rwanda are showing us the way.
I saw a young lady with a prosthetic limb for an arm stand up as her story was explained. The perpetrators cut her arm off as well as her brother's legs during the violence. She wanted to escape but could no longer carry him. He begged her to go and hide but she refused to leave him. Amazingly the two survived and after Solace helped them to bury their parents, they found new family that loves them and the assistance needed to continue their education. I still cannot think of this story without breaking down…
A widow explained how for many years she felt a "sickness" in her heart that could not be healed. She was losing flexibility in her body and the medication that she had tried was not helping. When she was encouraged to thank God for what he had done she couldn't think of anything for which to be grateful. During the genocide her neighbor killed her babies and this was the reason for her grief. Yet gradually through the counseling and support of Solace, she has found healing for her heart and body.
One widow, also the lone surviving member of her extended family, explained that when people first come to Solace Ministries it is to cry for their lost families together. Through mourning together, they begin to feel like family because they share the same problem and can pray together and comfort each other. Slowly live moves on and they gain hope from God and start to believe that they have a future. Many of them used to pray that God would kill them but through hearing each others' stories, they began to build hope again. Their lives are changing and when you meet many of them, you would never know that they are widowed and orphaned, the survivors of such tremendous grief.
People come to Solace Ministries to find family again. After the meeting where I heard these stories, three widows came up to greet me. They shared how grateful they were that I had come because since they do not have family, the visitors that come to see them become like their family. It is hard for me to imagine the pain that they have experienced but even harder to fathom how they found such healing. The work of Solace Ministries is truly extraordinary and deserving of our support. I would encourage everyone to look into what they do and to consider how you might assist their worthy cause. These survivors have life changing stories that we need to hear and needs that we share.