In 1994, I vaguely remember some short news clips regarding Tutsis and Hutus and machete warfare. In the summer after it was over. I was busy being a camp counselor and my biggest worry was my weekend plans. I had no idea that this genocide would someday intertwined with my future.
You see, no matter which way we spin it, there isn't any denying the impact of this piece of history in my sons lives. Most likely, their birth parents were orphaned by the genocide. There are is very real chance that their own birth families were killing each other during those horrifying few months.
Can you imagine how we will tell their story? How will we explain that it is was only pure evil that led to the massacre of 20% of the population? As they get older, I think a lot about this. Ryan and I try to absorb anything Rwandan-movies, books, presentations, groups; because we love Rwandans but also because we want to know as much as we can about our family history. When God chose Rwanda for us, we knew our family would forever become Rwandan-American. And so we crave anything we can get our hands on, whether painful or joyous.
Joyous. I absolutely use joyous when I describe Rwanda's history. Let me explain.
As we traveled the streets of Rwanda in 2009, we noticed the men in baby pink jumpsuits, filling pot holes, tending to gardens or loaded together in the backs of trucks. We knew that these men had been convicted of war crimes. The man driving us around, he was a survivor. A survivor with machete scars on his face that made it impossible to ignore what had happened to him. Yet one afternoon, as we waited outside a passport office, I watched as that kind man, that man that snuggled my skinny blond son and greeted my Molly with a kiss on the head each morning, shake hands with a man in a pink jumpsuit. He shook his hand and exchanged pleasantries. I don't speak Rwandan and it doesn't matter what they said. It was this act that is burned into my memory forever. This act of forgiveness.
I am sure that our driver wasn't confronting his perpetrator when he shook that man's hand. Yet he was, wasn't he? Showing kindness to a group of people that he killed his parents. Who does that?
Rwandans do that. Everywhere. Those men in pink, they are on the streets intentionally. They are there so that reconciliation can and does and will continue to happen. And that leads to healing and recovery and growth. And that is one reason that I am in love with the land of a thousand hills.
And that is the part of the story that I will so proudly tell Etienne and Ezekiel. That their family is part of a story of forgiveness so remarkable that the rest of the world has paused to soak it in. That their birth country is a place of a thousand hills, with a history of heartache but with even more with hope.
“What I learned in Rwanda was that God is not absent when great evil is unleashed. Whether that evil is man-made or helped along by darker forces, God is right there, saving those who respond to His urgings and trying to heal the rest.”― James Riordan
“In all my travels, I've never seen a country's population more determined to forgive, and to build and succeed than in Rwanda.”― Rick Warren, The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones
“Wherever God spends the day, He comes home to sleep in Rwanda.”― Naomi Benaron, Running the Rift